Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Can you define prejudice?

Would this count as prejudiced?

Update: More of the same here. Of course, the author will dismiss this piece of information because of its provenance, but McKinney has a history of consiorting very closely with confirmed enemies of our long-time ally. She speaks about the U.S. being an "honest broker," but that presupposes an equivalence between Israel and those who dispatch suicide bombers to kill innocent civilians and who apparently will not be satisfied while the state of Israel still exists. She’s entitled to her opinions and her associations, and she should be held electorally responsible for them. And, unlike this vaguely sinister silliness, voters can actually do it by means that are perfectly legal and perfectly appropriate.

What do the accountants out there think of


Religion and politics in Ohio

Get Religion calls our attention to this piece about political ambivalence in three Ohio megachurches. There are even transcripts of interviews with the pastors. I won’t say that anyone breaks any new ground, or says anythng particularly penetrating, but it is worth noting that the talk about prophetic witness and not being yoked to a political party comes from folks who you’d generally find residing on the right side of the political spectrum.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for July

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

Debra Krupp

Carmen Beeding

Deanna Fraizer

Sandy Howe

Andrea Kushner

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 August’s drawing.

Rumors of demise

E.J. Dionne, Jr. asks whether--hopes that?--conservatism is finished. Not as an intellectual movement, mind you, but as a political force. Why? Conservatives can’t govern without moderates. Was it ever really any different?

Update: This paragraph is interesting:

Conservatism was always a delicate balancing act between small-government economic libertarians and social traditionalists who revered family, faith and old values. The two wings were often held together by a common enemy, modern liberalism certainly, but even more so by communism until the early 1990s, and now by what some conservatives call "Islamofascism."

Note, first, the omission of the "natural rights" alternative to Burkeanism and libertarianism. And note, second, his way of referring to "Islamofascism." What does he call al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and their sponsors? Does he not think that they pose a threat worth uniting against?

More secular arguments

Here are numbers 5 and 6 from Anthony Esolen. I especially like his ruminations on male friendship.

New Pew poll

Those of you who like poring over public opinion data will enjoy this latest Pew poll, which describes attitudes regarding hot button social issues. There are no big surprises here, though I didn’t expect there to be as little support for social issue federalism as there appears to be.

One Good Lesson from the Gibson Drama

Michael Medved has a very clear and very short (so read it all) article in USA Today on the Mel Gibson meltdown in Malibu. I agree with everything he says in it but I think the most important point he makes is this:

The "Mad Mel" Moment might change how we perceive Gibson’s character, but it alters nothing about the images and messages he put on screen in The Passion of the Christ. It’s still the same movie, frame for frame, line for Aramaic-and-Latin line. The millions of people who felt inspired and uplifted by a remarkable piece of cinema need not feel guilty because its creator insults a cop with ancient hatreds. In the same sense, moviegoers who are moved by the upcoming World Trade Center, with its stirring (and apolitical) story of heroes of 9/11, shouldn’t question their reaction because of past outrageous, America-bashing off-screen statements (and drug busts) involving its director, Oliver Stone.

I would only add that this all points to an irritating and counterproductive intellectual development in our culture. Why is it that we’re always looking for deep-seated psychological explanations for people’s behavior? Worse, why do we assume that once we have pegged down a person’s psychological profile (nevermind the question of whether we’re qualified or justified in doing that), we can view everything that person does through the prism of the profile? Gibson behaved very, very badly. He will be judged accordingly and he so he should. He did some very stupid things and said some hateful and outrageous things. Clearly, the dude has issues.

But don’t we all have issues?

If everything that everyone does must be viewed through the prism of their "issues" is rational conversation or dialogue even possible? Must every author be deconstructed and every artist given an enema before we can look at his work?

Is it possible that a person’s deep-seated hatreds or nuttiness could have some impact on his work? Sure. If it does, by all means we should point that out. But it is also (thank God!) possible to overcome one’s passions and prejudices and reach for truth in one’s work and art.

And that’s why I prefer "hypocrisy" to being "true to oneself." At least the hypocrite reaches for a higher standard.

Cultivating conservative intellectuals

I guess the NYT’s Jason DeParle wanted to spend some time in SoCal, so he pursued his apparently long-standing interest in the conservative cultivation of intellectual heritage by visiting the Reagan Ranch. There’s gobs of Russell Kirk floating around the article, but little mention of anything older. (The shining exception is Claremont’s Publius Fellows program.) Otherwise, one gets the impression from DeParle that there’s a lot of reading about old things through lenses supplied by Kirk and his rough contemporaries. I hope that’s not all there is.

DeParle quotes Charles Kesler and James Ceaser, the latter discussed here, here, and here.

Hat tip: The Remedy.

Marshall Wittmann on blogs

This is an interesting interview (available as a podcast and transcript) with Marshall Wittmann on the political impact of the blogosphere. Not surprisingly, he’s not happy with the left blogosphere.

Hat tip: The Corner.

This Either Tells Us Nothing or A WHOLE LOT

This Rasmussen poll (taken July 27, 2006) shows Ken Blackwell 11 points behind Democrat Ted Strickland in Ohio’s governor race. That sounds bad and, certainly, it’s not good news for Blackwell. Or is it? A July 23, 2006 poll done by The Columbus Dispatch showed Blackwell 20 points behind. So either something is terribly wrong with somebody’s polling or Blackwell made a 9 point jump in 4 days. It is still pretty early to be calling this either way--though Blackwell has some unfortunate numbers to overcome in Ohio that really have nothing to do with him (i.e., the popularity or, rather, unpopularity of Taft and Bush).

In the end, however, if it can be done Blackwell is the man to do it. He’s not your run-of-the-mill Republican, after all. My brief visit to the state last week afforded me the opportunity to talk to a number of typical but not necessarily committed GOP voters in the Southeastern portion who expressed deep dissatisfaction with do-nothing, weak-willed Republicans. When I pointed out that Blackwell was not part of that bunch and not really tied to the Taft bunch, they were clearly interested in hearing more. The more people realize that Blackwell is his own man and--more than that--a good man and a serious man, the better Blackwell will do. And if the poll numbers are correct, I am not really surprised to see Blackwell jump 9 points in 4 days. I predict we’ll see more jumping.

Give them some love

First Things is experimenting with something more closely resembling conventional blogging. If the members of FT’s editorial board can’t elevate the tone of the blogosphere, no one can.

Israel Winning?

Several folks have linked to sources that dispute Bret Stephens and other pessimists. And here’s another analyst who thinks Israel is winning. I link, you decide.

Cynthia McKinney

A reporter for a local newspaper asked me to watch last night’s debate between Cynthia McKinney and her challenger, former County Commissioner Hank Johnson. That spurred me to write this week’s TAE Online column on what I hope is McKinney’s last election campaign.

Here’s the AJC’s account of the debate and the current state of the campaign. I think that McKinney performed better than Johnson in the debate, since she stuck to her talking points. Her goal was simply to attack him relentlessly, driving fence-sitters away from him (though how anyone could be sitting on the fence with a polarizing figure like McKinney around is beyond me). Johnson, who isn’t terribly forceful or fast on his feet, responded moderately well, but not well enough to score points effectively. Of course, all that matters to those for whom McKinney is anathema is that Johnson is the anti-McKinney, which seems to be true. He comes across as decent, well-meaning, and hard-working--a conventional liberal who will work pragmatically to get things done for his district.

Everything will turn, I think, on who turns out. Will McKinney, with little new money since the primary, be able to get her supporters to the polls? (She has in the past had a pretty good organization.) Will Johnson be able to make effective use of the money that has rolled in since he earned a spot in the run-off? My crystal ball has never been very good, but I think voters will give McKinney the boot.

Update: Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the debate, written by a Weekly Standard guy who thought Johnson won, barely. As I said, I don’t think the debate matters.

Update #2: Here’s the analysis written by the reporter for the local paper.

Why Social Science Is Better Than Stand Up Comedy, Part 10,895

In a now notorious bungle, back in 1986 the CIA judged that real per capita income in East Germany was higher than in West Germany. In 1986. 1986. As Pat Moynihan mordantly noted, "Any taxi driver in Berlin could tell you that was utter nonsense." The trouble, of course, is that the CIA didn’t employ any taxi drivers in Berlin. Instead, they hired Harvard, Yale, and Princeton graduates who thought the idea that socialist economy in eastern Europe could produce a higher standard of living than West Germany was perfectly plausible. And in recent years the CIA thinks. . . well, no need to go there.

This week Nature magazine offers another example of science laboring to prove what anyone with some shoe leather to burn will notice in one evening of bar-hopping: Nicotene ’Sobers Up’ Drunk Rats. As the old saying goes, you have to read it, not to believe it. A sample from the lead:

A new study helps to explain why smokers tend to have boozier nights out than non-smokers. The work, done in rats, shows that a heavy dose of nicotene can cut blood alcohol levels in half. If cigarettes lower intoxication in people, it could mean that smokers need to drink more than non-smokers to get the same buzz.

Couldn’t any bartender tell you this?     (These mugs are substitutes for cigarettes, of course, since bars are going smoke-free.)

Lieberman’s lessons?

E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks that Joe Lieberman can "grow" as a result of his primary experience and that such growth would be good for the Democrats. Defining party purity in terms of pacifist internationalism and inveterate opposition to the Bush Administration, which Dionne by implication seems to favor, seems to me to be a return to McGovernism (with even less reason than in 1972 and likely ultimately with the same electoral results).

More secular arguments against gay marriage

Here’s Anthony Esolen’s second installment.

Prison Fellowship Ministries decision appealed

The Becket Fund has announced that it will lead the appeal in this case, about which I wrote here. I wish them well, even if all they accomplish is overturning Judge Pratt’s harshly punitive demand that PFM repay all the money (northward of $1 million) it has received from the state.

Update Chuck Colson offers other reasons to appeal.

Nevada: Cuo Bono?

There has been a fair bit commentary about the Democrats installing a caucus in Nevada between Iowa and New Hampshire in the next presidential cycle. There has been less commentary--none actually--about what the effect might be if the Republicans follow the Dems and hold their own early caucus in Nevada. "Helps neighboring candidate John McCain," you say.

Try Mitt Romney instead. Why Romney? Unknown to most national political reporters (Michael Barone excepted, of course), there are a lot of Mormons in Nevada. Assuming that many Mormons will chose to support their co-religionists, you can expect they would turn out heavily for Romney in Nevada. Unless, of course, the caucus is held on the same day as Family Home Evening. Hmmm. This will be worth watching closely.

Israel Losing, Part 2

This morning brings two very sobering takes on why and how Israel has let things slip away in Lebanon: J.R. Dunn and Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal. Could this be a preview of the course of the U.S. under our next president?

Compassionate conservativsm 2.0

After being subjected to a hatchet piece roughly six months ago, Sam Brownback is featured on the cover of the current Weekly Standard and profiled by Terry Eastland, who does quite a nice job. A snippet:

Brownback’s compassion agenda is still in development. The senator recognizes that "people can have good hearts," but "come out a lot of different ways" on policy means and ends. Brownback allows that policy abroad, whatever else it may achieve, is supposed to further the national interest. Asked why America should be so deeply concerned about Africa, he says we can’t deny our interest in a part of the world with so much suffering, especially when we have the capacity to address it, and especially when, if we aren’t there, making positive relationships, we will be ceding Africa to the Chinese, who are "all over" the continent in search of natural resources, and also to terrorists looking for headquarters. Neither of those prospects, he says, can be in our national interest. Meanwhile, Brownback tends to address the question of means from the standpoint of efficiency. For example, he wants to make sure that dollars appropriated to combat malaria are used not for conferences and meetings, but for bed nets and insecticide sprays.

Regarding the domestic side of the compassion agenda, Brownback shows the influence of his late colleague Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who famously said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." Brownback agrees that politics can change a culture, and he believes that poverty can best be addressed through a politics that (in general outline) encourages people to get married, get a job, and not to have children out of wedlock. He wants policies with "measurable results" and cautions against ones that create "dependency." Here he may be trying to distinguish his compassion agenda from that being discussed among Democrats, at least some of whom (John Edwards, Barack Obama) are now invoking religious faith as the motivation for new action against poverty.

Eastland also calls our attention to
this speech, which lays out Brownback’s agenda and aspirations quite nicely.

The Battle for Connecticut

This Washington Post article details the all-out struggle that the Democratic Party’s left wing has been making to unseat Joe Lieberman. Some longtime Lieberman supporters have abandoned the incumbent in favor of his challenger, Ned Lamont, and just yesterday the New York Times threw its support to Lamont as well.

The stakes here are critical, not just for 2006 but 2008, too. If Lamont can pull it off, an emboldened left might well have the clout to have one of its own (in other words, not Hillary Clinton) win the party’s presidential nomination. This would, of course, be good news for the GOP--but is it good enough to offset the loss of a genuinely good man in the Senate?

The Gates Foundation and the Future of American Education

Diane Ravitch has an informative and thoughtful article in The Los Angeles Times about the good the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could do (or not) for American education now that they have such a huge endowment. With education one of the foundation’s top priorities, Ravitch examines what has been one of their guiding principles when it comes to "improving" it. It seems the foundation has focused on creating so-called "mini-schools" of 500 or fewer pupils when high schools are deemed overcrowded.

Read further into Ravitch’s article, however, and find out about the law of unintended consequences and rediscover the meaning or irony. Since one of the large purposes of Gates & Co. in creating these mini-schools was to improve math and science education, it is worthy to note that the results in many of places their formula has been tried are mixed at best. In many of these places, math and science electives have had to be cut. Students show improved English and graduation rates, but lower math scores than their peers at the bigger schools. For some students, that’s a good trade. For others, it could be devastating.

For my part, I will not argue for big schools or for small schools. I came from small schools and I’m choosing them for my own children--but I do realize that they have their limits. Some parents and students may find a large school more to their liking and better suited to their needs. I would not presume to tell Mr. Gates and his foundation how they ought to spend their money. But if I had that kind of money to spend for improving education in this country, I think I might refrain from presuming to tell school districts and parents whom I had never met what size of school best suited their children.

So many of these so-called "problems" in education could be solved by one simple thing: choice. If every parent had the same ability that I have to choose the kind of school he wants for his children, I think alot of this nonsense would work itself out in a way that suited the most people in the best possible way. Not every person will make the best choice (Lord knows the jury is still out for me and my kids!). But, in the end, won’t more of them be pursuing their own happiness and isn’t that what freedom really means?

Shouldn’t we trust parents and local school administrators more than we trust Bill Gates (or the Department of Education for that matter) with the education of our own kids? Bill Gates is a brilliant and generous man--but no genius (not Bill Gates, not a federal bureaucrat, not even my own mother) is brilliant enough to tell me what is best for my kids. Perhaps they can offer useful opinions, but I think I and my husband can decide what works best for us. At bottom, I think that presumption on the part of public schools and their administrators is the one thing that most drives me away from them. I resent having government experts telling me what to do with my kids. If I’m going to take that kind of condescension from somebody, I want to know that I am the one choosing them and I can fire them at a moment’s notice! I think that is the healthy attitude for all freedom loving Americans. But I also know that I am fortunate to be able to afford that freedom. But I don’t think one should have to be fortunate or think of freedom as a luxury. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that our public schools need less "help" from the experts and the do-gooders and more freedom and choices for the parents. When it comes to education I say, "Power to the People!" And especially, to the parents.