Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bypassing tests

Tamar Lewin reports to the New York Times that many small, selective, liberal arts colleges are no longer demanding SAT scores (yet most students applying, submit them). While interesting enough, there are some sillies in the article. Note this from the VP for enrollment at Mount Holyoke:

"We hope that now that there are more test-optional schools, students will think about not taking it, and putting their time and money into other activities, like music or writing or community service. We hope they will have more interesting lives."

Challenging black lawmakers from the left

Not content with hectoring Joe Lieberman, the netroots are now demanding purity from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. I sense Karl Rove behind this, because there’s no better way of creating more black Republicans.

More Georgetown

The good folks at The American Spectator were kind enough to post a more formal version of my thoughts on the situation at Georgetown, first adumbrated here.

Update: AmSpec readers respond to my piece here and here.


Well, since everyone’s getting in on the act I may as well, too. I’ll be in Philadelphia along with Peter and Joe ("But who will be blogging?"--Ed. Schramm can pick up the slack, if someone will siphon Isabella’s gas tank), doing this panel on Churchill, and also speaking at the Churchill Centre’s annual APSA dinner at the Union League Club, which is described here,, on the topic, "The Use and Abuse of Churchill in History."

I better think of something quick.

Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2

The new issue of the journal I edit--PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE--is out!

It includes a symposium edited by the world famous DANIEL J. MAHONEY on the most prudent and still among the most profound of the French thinkers of the 20th century, RAYMOND ARON. The contributors to this symposium include Bryan-Paul Frost, Pierre Manent (!!!), and Miguel Morgado of Portugal.

As if that weren’t enough, there’s an article by me on "Tocqueville at 200" and a pathbreaking commentary on Locke, absolutism, and toleration by Christopher Nadon. There’s still more! Including review essays on Philippe Beneton’s EQUALITY BY DEFAULT by (distinguished NLT blogger) Carl Scott and on Mansfield’s MANLINESS by Ivan Kenneally. And a review of Mahoney’s book on Jouvenel by (NLT’s sagacious) Will Morrissey.

This wonderful journal is not available on-line, although all the articles will show up there in various places soon.

Meanwhile, you could subscribe or at least get your library to do so: HELDREF PUBLICATIONS, 1319 18th NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802. HELDREF does have a website that makes subscribing easier.

If you want a free, sample copy of this issue, email me at [email protected] and I’ll do my best to get one to you.


Let me piggyback on Peter L.’s post by saying that I, too, will be in Philadelphia, with the family in tow (a home school field trip to study American history). I’ll be on a panel with, among others, John von Heyking, discussing American civil theology; my focus will be on GWB’s religion. I’m also presenting a paper on Tolkien, using his reflections on human finitude to address one of the largest issues in the background of our current concerns with bioethics.

In general, I’ll be around in the afternoons on Friday and Saturday, and will make an effort to attend the Claremont reception.

Real Men Prove Darwin Wrong Again

If you’re in the Philadelphia area and are really bored, you might want to attend this
panel with the great title "The Power of Virtue" tomorrow at the American Political Science Association Meeting. My talk--now entitled "Real Men Prove Darwin Wrong Again"--will actually be on the manly dimension of virtue in the recent novels of Tom Wolfe and Harvey Mansfield’s MANLINESS, but it will also include a biotech conclusion. The actual manly Mansfield will be there, which could mean I’ll be in big trouble. Manly men, we learn from Wolfe, most of all fear HUMILIATION. This will be one of my least psychologically Christian talks in recent years, but I will balance it with a pretty darn Christian one the next day.

On Friday I will give some comments on a fascinating book by Thomas Pangle on the challenge revelation poses to the Socratic philosopher’s rational independence. These comments, which will explain why it’s reasonable to believe in a God who’s a "Who" or not merely a "what," are tentatively entitled "Against the Lobotomites." You can get the information about this roundtable by following the previous link to Friday at 10:45 a.m. and looking for Tom’s (and/or The Claremont Institute’s) name.

Godless Party

Ann Coulter caught hell for suggesting liberals and Democrats were "godless," and a few months ago Amy Sullivan wrote in The Washington Monthly that Democrats were poised to gain ground among religious voters. Today Sullivan admits in, that it isn’t working. Among the best lines in the story is "random-seeming insertions of Bible verses into floor speeches came off as Tourette’s syndrome for Democrats."

Kidney Markets

The just comment has been made that posting only Gil Meilaender’s article against selling kidneys was hardly fair and balanced.
So here’s the quite different view of Sally Satel. Sally is quite a brilliant, rather libertarian psychiatrist and public policy expert who is affiliated with AEI. She also received the life-saving gift of a kidney from the well-known libertarian author Virginia Postrel.

Don’t Go All Wobbly on Us George!

A few days back Peter related a private conversation that a skeptical liberal of some promience held with Bush recently at the White House. As I understand it, Bush told this person that one of the things he had changed his mind about was the environment, though no further details were forthcoming. Rumors are starting to swirl around Washington that Bush is soon going to do something large and dramatic "to take global warming off the table" as an issue in the 2008 presidential election, though why he would want to do this is beyond me, unless he supposes this will prevent Al Gore from running, and thereby deliver the nomination to Hillary, who will be easy to beat in November. (So goes the conventional wisdom on Hillary, even among many Democrats.) Is it all another Rove plot?

Comes now this report from Mike Allen in Time, with this tantalizing tidbit:

Previewing the final quarter of Bush’s presidency, officials disclosed to TIME that the Administration is formulating a huge energy initiative designed to "change the whole nature of the discussion" and challenge the G.O.P., Democrats, the oil and electricity industries, and environmentalists. An adviser said Bush’s views about global warming have evolved. "Only Nixon could go to China, and only Bush and Cheney--two oilmen--can bring all these parties kicking and screaming to the table," the adviser said.

A gentle response to the theocracy talk

John Wilson, hardly anyone’s idea of a foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing evangelical theocrat, upbraids Randall Balmer’s attempts at a caricature of his (Balmer’s, as well as Wilson’s) evangelical brethren. The concluding paragraph:

I hope that in time Balmer will write another book covering some of this territory, a book in which the moral passion that informs Thy Kingdom Come will not be dimmed but which will do greater justice to the moral complexity of the terrain, a book that will be likely to unsettle some of his university colleagues as much as it angers many on the Religious Right. That’s a book I’m eager to read.

I caught part of Balmer’s appearance on Michael Medved’s show. Balmer didn’t acquit himself well, constantly insisting against the evidence that theologically conservative evangelicals are incipient theocrats.

If you haven’t already read
Ross Douthat’s review essay, you should, posthaste.

Kidney Markets?

The issue before the President’s Bioethics Council next week is the case for and against developing a market in kidneys from the living as the only effective way to handle the growing waiting of list of people whose kidneys have failed and are stuck with dialysis and impending death. Gil Meilaender of the Council has written a moving and most intelligent essay on the violence to our self-undersanding that the acceptance of such a market (as opposed to organ donation) would require. But a student of John Locke might respond: Don’t we have property in our own bodies? And why shouldn’t I use that resource to both help myself and someone else? This may well be destined to become a tough and contentious issue, and its emergence is yet another sign of the creeping libertarianism of our time.

The "I Feel Old" Checklist

Courtesy of Beloit College, the annual "What Freshman Don’t Know" List.

It still has one Beatles reference, so There Is Hope.

Georgetown University and unofficial religious groups

Georgetown University is terminating its relationship with evangelical student groups (like IVCF). Your can read Georgetown’s letter here and other coverage here, here, and here. If you want to see what Georgetown says about itself, you can go here and here. Is it ironic or what that the link to a statement describing "Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity" is, at the moment, broken?

My own view is that if Georgetown wants to centralize control over the official expression and exercise of religion on campus, it’s certainly entitled to do so. After all, it is a religious institution (though the details are at the moment hazy because of the ironically broken link) and fidelity to its mission may require the sort of centralization and oversight it’s now proposing. But, still, I can’t halp thinking that the motives are a little less pure than that. Do they, for example, have a particular beef with evangelicals who want to evangelize, or with evangelicals whose theological outlook might be described as conservative? Inquiring minds want to know.

Update: Even though he didn’t know I was asking it, Joseph Bottum ventures an answer to my question:

The problem, of course, finally boils down to this: The evangelical groups represent only a few hundred students, but they are strongly pro-life and opposed to homosexual marriage. The mainline Protestant employees of Campus Ministry find such things embarrassing, and so they kick the evangelicals off campus, employing the power of the officially Catholic chaplain’s office and the rhetoric of the school’s Catholic identity.

There’s an obvious irony here—employed too often to be surprising—in which people begin by protesting in the name of diversity against centralized authority, and later discover, once they’re in charge, how useful those old forms of authority can be in controlling diversity.

But it also represents a tactic we’re likely to see more of: claims of old-fashioned Catholicism, used by people who are far from old-fashioned Catholics, to maintain control of officially Catholic institutions and to ban the people whose political opinions they don’t like. Watch for it at Boston College, and Marquette, and Notre Dame, and Loyola Marymount, and on and on.

Update #2:
This was in the Georgetown student newspaper, which I’m sure will cover the brouhaha, if any, in the coming weeks.

Last update: The link works again, so we learn this:

The vision of John Carroll continues to be realized today in a distinctive educational institution -- a national University rooted in the Catholic faith and Jesuit tradition, committed to spiritual inquiry, engaged in the public sphere, and invigorated by religious and cultural pluralism.


Assisted by Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, and Muslim chaplains, Director of Campus Ministry Rev. Timothy S. Godfrey, S.J., oversees Campus Ministry programs. From its inception in 1789, Georgetown has welcomed students of -- in the words of founder Archbishop John Carroll -- "every religious profession."

In the late 18th century, approximately one-fifth of the university’s student body were Protestant. In Fall 2004, 52.6 percent of undergraduates self-reported that they were Roman Catholic, 5.3 percent Jewish, 2.1 percent Muslim, and 24.1 percent another Christian denomination.

You can also find something of a vision of faith and learning in the inaugural speech of Georgetown President John J. DeGioia:

Like all great American universities, we also live another set of tensions as we seek to fulfill our role. Enlightenment universities were established with the idea that there is a unity of knowledge, and truth is there for human discovery. The last 30 years of higher education has brought the development of multiple methodologies, schools of thought, and specialties, each with their own assumptions and inclinations. The university’s role is now to provide a home to a great multiplicity of what are sometimes called "interpretive communities." We are a community of communities.


I have talked about three organizing questions for Georgetown. Other universities have their own. I believe ours are uniquely rich, compelling, and difficult. The questions central to us carry powerful tensions and elude fixed, final, definitive answers. Our work is messy. Our business lies in disorder and conflict. But make no mistake, our responsibility is to preserve the tensions not to finesse them away.

Sounds to me like in this instance the University isn’t preserving tensions.

Thomistic Conservatives

If you’re not a Darwinian conservative or even a postmodern conservative, it may be because you really think that we must attend to both reason and revelation
to understand who whole human persons are. These Thomistic conservatives have mentioned us--and in a very classy and thoughtful way. So we’re happy to mention them back, although their real identity is very mysterious.

Update! Postmodern conservatives lighten up. It’s up to you to judge how light they’ve become.


Good News About Stem Cells

Here's an article by Bioethics Council member Robby George that explains both why the recent hype is bogus and why it's still the case that the good news is that current ethical dilemma involving the killing of embryos to acquire pluripotent stem cells probably is specific to a stage of scientific development about to be surpassed.
Categories > Bioethics

Forced stories about forced conversions about forced freedom

The release of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig has some interesting and dark undertones to it, as

Scott Johnson notes. This is N.Y. Times story on it, and the Washington Post quotes Centanni: "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. Don’t get me wrong here, I have the highest respect for Islam and learned a lot of very good things about it. It was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns and we didn’t know what the hell was going on." And now should I have the highest respect for Mr. Centanni?

The "Obama Democratic Movement"

Barak Obama in Kenya, supporting small-scale loans.

Knippenblog exclusives

A few posts over on my other site:

Compassionate conservatism doesn’t require government.

Reflections on efforts to charter new cities in the Atlanta metro area: rent-seeking, Tocqueville, or something else?

Thoughts about Walter Russell Mead’s essay on religion and foreign policy.

An updated lecture series schedule.

Plame leak solved?

Richard Armitage at the State Department was the person responsible for the Valerie Plame leak, according to a new book by Micahel Isikoff of Newsweek and David Corn of The Nation.

A distinction without a difference?

This WaPo article surveys the most competitive House and Senate races and finds that a number of the Democratic challengers aren’t willing to go out on a limb on Iraq. They’re happy enough to criticize the President, but hesitant to say what they’d do differently. That’s a clever enough political stance, but I can’t imagine that it satisfies the netroots. I also don’t think that it’s a particularly good indicator of whether or not they’d vote with their Democatic colleagues in ways that weakened our effort in Iraq.

Sex ed and the culture wars

This is an unpredictably interesting review of an unpredictably interesting book. One snippet:

Luker traces the debate about sex education back to its invention by the “social hygienists” of the Progressive era, but she locates the source of present-day hostilities in the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, which she calls as “disorienting and historically important” as the French, American and Russian Revolutions. “Like them,” she writes, “it will continue to reshape human life in profound ways for many, many years to come.”


The advent of contraception and abortion may have allowed some women to pursue their dreams, but “by loosening men’s ties to marriage and family” it made those more interested in marriage than careers more likely to wind up as poor, single mothers. Luker also thinks that marriage is under stress, although, being a sociologist, she ascribes that stress to socioeconomic forces — the impoverishment of the working class, which makes the poor less able to afford marriage; the rise of a wealthy elite free not to worry about the vicissitudes of single parenthood — rather than to declining American morals. Luker even sees merit in abstinence education. While researching her book, she was stunned to learn how much pressure teenagers now put on one another to have sex. By making it a virtue to refrain, she says, “abstinence programs may in fact provide valuable social support for the idea that young people (young women in particular) don’t have to be sexually active if they don’t want to be.” They could create a “zone of sexual autonomy.”

Fred’s 2006 advice

Fred Barnes offers this advice to the president on how to help his party keep control of Congress. He’s surely right that the battle is uphill at this point, but defeat is far from certain. He’s also right that the president’s strength is following his instincts and doing what he thinks is right, although I might add that some might say that most strengths are weaknesses too. Almost all of Fred’s advice amounts to looking and getting tougher on both Iraq and Iran. He does add, near the end, a quick paragraph on also becoming tougher on judicial confirmations and perhaps the repeal of "the death tax." Abstracting for the moment from foreign policy and military strategy, is it really true that what Fred recommends will be enough to produce electoral victory? If not, what else needs to be done? If I knew the answers, I would be happy to tell them to you.


It was unusually early for my ride. The darkness was trying to lift off the sleeping earth, but no sunlight touched ground. As light slowly revealed itself as fog, we were many miles from home. Isabel seemed to like the moist world. Fog had settled on her mirrors and on her once shining chrome. Enveloped, her purring seemed deeper, more throaty, maybe even dulled. Even our speed slowed. Everything became a languid and muffled thumping potato-potato-potato and we never wanted to go faster than forty five or fifty. And we didn’t. A nice slow clip showed us sixty miles of woods and fields, interrupted by only a handful of men, rising early and moving at our pace. Soft and peaceful. The mighty sun eventually intruded on the scene but by then we were home and clean. And now I am prepared to greet the twenty-five fresh Ashbrooks and their parents for lunch. A new day for the new year.

Another Pew poll on religion and politics

I like chewing over Pew polls, which provide some of the most thorough documentation of public opinion at the intersection of religion and politics. The latest one, released Thursday, is no different.

The most politically interesting finding is this:

The survey finds that the Republican Party is viewed less positively in its approach to religion by a
constituency that has played a pivotal role in electoral politics in recent years: white evangelical Protestants. Currently just under half of evangelicals (49%) say the GOP is friendly to religion, a decline of 14 points in the past year. Catholics also are far less likely to view the Republican Party as friendly to religion; just 41% say that today, compared with 55% about a year ago.

More broadly, the decline in the proportion of Americans who view the Republican Party as being friendly to religion occurred uniformly across the parties. The proportion of Republicans who say
the Republican Party is friendly to religion dropped by eight percentage points, while falling nine points among both Democrats and political independents.

As the ubiquitous John Green told the NYT:

“It’s unclear how directly this will translate into voting behavior,” Mr. Green said, “but this is a baseline indicator that religious conservatives see the party they’ve chosen to support as less friendly to religion than they used to.”

He speculated that religious conservatives could feel betrayed that some Republican politicians recently voted to back stem cell research, and that a Republican-dominated Congress failed to pass an amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

“At the minimum, there will be less good will toward the Republican Party by these conservative religious groups, and a disenchantment that the party will be able to deliver on its promises,” Mr. Green said.

Of course, the Democrats remain in much worse shape on this dimension, with only 26% of respondents regarding them as religion-friendly, this in a country where 71% of the repondents want more religious influence on the country and 51% want more religious influence on government (and 67% regard the U.S. as a Christian nation, whatever that means [and I’m not sure it means much]).

The report also attempts to explore the religious left, and discovers that it’s for the most part more religious than left. Stated another way, "On many matters of politics and policy, the views of progressive Christians are not much
more liberal than those of the general public." There’s a gap, in other words, between the left and the religious left, not to mention between the rank-and-file of the religious left and its so-called leadership, which has, I think, positioned itself closer to the secular left. How many divisions does Jim Wallis have?

If you want more, read this piece by the estimable Julia Duin.

And Steve, you’ll want to look at the stuff on religion and the environment, where I found this conclusion interesting but unsurprising:

very few
people say that their religious views are the most important influence on their thinking about environmental regulations.
Asked to choose among a list of five possible influences – what they have seen in the news, a personal experience, their
education, their religious beliefs, or their friends and family – just 8% said religion was the most important influence.
And the number who chose religion was basically the same for those who said environmental regulations are worth the
cost as for those who said regulations hurt the economy.

Update: Terry Mattingly and Rod Dreher have more.

TV’s Contribution to Liberal Education

Last weekend, we had a profound, subtle, and well informed--not to mention "cool"--discussion of the politics and culture of what became precisely defined as "rock." This weekend’s topic is the place of television in American political and even liberal education. Arguably the most profound form of culture we actually share with at least our more ordinary students is television. There’s more there there than in popular music. Learned professor Paul Cantor (in his book GILLIGAN UNBOUND) has found theological depth in the X-FILES, complex moral psychology with a libertarian spin the in THE SIMPSONS, and the display of the Socratic conception of the soul in GILLLIGAN’S ISLAND.
And Cantor and the brilliant Diana Schaub have disagreed over whether STAR TREK is about life at the end of history described by Kojeve and Fukuyama or a defense of the noble meritocratic principles of the American founding.

In teaching the Tocquevillian view of the way individualism creeps in a democracy, what better resources do we have than Larry David’s wonderfully ironic SEINFELD and CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM? Philosophic pop culture expert Thomas Hibbs’ criticizes SEINFELD as a nihilistic "show about nothing," but others disagree, reminding Hibbs that the show gets us to laugh at more than with pathetically self-absorbed human beings.

I could go on to say a lot about the conservative wisdom--even praised by the humor-challenged Crunchy Cons--of KING OF THE HILL and patriarchy night on HBO--which featured both THE SOPRANOS and the riveting, excellently performed and directed BIG LOVE. But mostly I’m out of touch and have little to say about, for example, the use of philosophers’ names on LOST (about which my students have asked me fairly often).

Can we conservative liberal educators afford not to be conversant about the most popular and accessible form of popular culture--a medium that is mostly, of course, but far from completely a wasteland?

As The Dust Clears. . .

More and more sober voices are saying that Hezbollah--not Israel--is the real loser of the recent war. Amir Taheri makes the case in the Wall Street Journal, and Michael Young makes a similar argument over at Reason.

Islam, now and then

David Forte asks some very good questions of Islam. How did such a noble start come a cropper? "How did tolerance become intolerance? How did protection become persecution? How did the dignity of women turn into indignity? How did limited war become massacre? It is not enough of an answer to say that there have always been bad Muslims and bad Christians and bad Jews. For the problem in Islam is that intolerance and indignity and the murder of a person because of his changed religious belief have gained authoritative sanction from some quarters.

Three institutions have deflected the trajectory of Mohammed’s original message: the law, the empire, and the tribe." Read the whole thing.  

New faith-based chief

The WaPo’s Alan Cooperman writes about Jay Hein, who is the new head of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. A telling quote:

In contrast to his sometimes-flamboyant predecessors, Hein is a "very orderly and businesslike person" who is well-suited to run the faith-based effort for the remaining 18 months of the Bush administration, said William A. Schambra, an expert on philanthropy at the Hudson Institute, a think tank where Hein once worked.

Because the faith-based office "has a very poor track record when it comes to getting legislation passed," Schambra said, Hein’s task will be "to pull out of the wreckage of the faith-based initiative the pieces of it that really should be preserved as a legacy for the next Republican administration."

I’ve written recently about the faith-based initiative here and here.

Concentrating on Baghdad

This strikes me as in the neighborhood of being correct:

[Sen. Johnny]Isakson [R-GA], who had sat silent throughout the conversation with Frist, spoke up. ” I’m sorry, I can’t keep quiet on this,” he said. “The terrorists and those that are trying their best to attack us – and a lot of that is coming out of Iran – are concentrated on Baghdad. It’s a reflection of the success we’ve had in the majority of the country. If you confront that concentration now with the appropriate force and in conjunction with the Iraqi army and you can break its back, it has the chance to be a very optimistic result. If you turn the other way and say you’re failing, then you’ve handed them a victory. You have to remember the terrorists don’t have to beat us to win. All they have to have us do is quit and go home and they declare victory. You saw what Hezbollah did in South Lebanon.”

There are a couple of other hot spots, I think, but even Fallujah, as I recall, is peaceful now. One explanation for this may be that the religiously and/or ethnically relatively homogeneous places are relatively peaceful. And others may--fortunately or unfortunately, you be the judge--be sorting themselves out in that way, with some internal refugee flow.

But strategically it makes sense for all those who want the U.S. out and who want the Iraq experiment to fail to concentrate their efforts on Baghdad. That’s where the international press is. That’s the most target-rich environment. It can’t be isolated or circumvented that way other enclaves can be. And a Baghdadi "failure" can relatively easily be billed as a general (U.S. and Iraqi) governmental "failure."


Embryonic stem cells

Apparently, it might be possible to harvest embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. For more, go here and here. The NYT article has this:

Dr. Leon Kass, former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, said, "I do not think that this is the sought-for, morally unproblematic and practically useful approach we need."

Dr. Kass said the long-term risk of preimplantation genetic diagnosis was unknown and that the present technique was inefficient, requiring blastomeres from many embryos to generate each new cell line. It would be better to derive human stem cell lines from the body's mature cells, he said, a method researchers are still working on.

Wesley J. Smith is also unimpressed. What about Peter L.?

Update: Wesley J. Smith reads the article in Nature, not just the press release, and discovers, first of all, that the embryos from which the cells (yes, plural) were extracted were all in fact destroyed. So m-a-y-b-e at some time in the future (but not yet) we might be able to do what the articles suggested. A case of press boosterism, in other words. Smith also reminds us that the company (ACT) has profited from press boosterism in the past. Public opinion is trending in the direction of increasing support or stem cell research because of credulity among reporters, who rarely probe beyond the surface when claims of scientific advances of this sort are made.

Categories > Bioethics

2006 Realism

Maybe the most genuinely nonpartisan political analyst we have is Larry Sabato. If anything, he has a microscopic Republican tilt. His careful analysis of all the House races points to a Democratic takeover, and that’s based on a very cautious interpretation of the data he presents. He suggests the possibility of a genuinely "macro" movement in the Democratic direction. Nothing is inevitable about such results of course, and the Republican situation is far from hopeless (Paul!). Larry shows it’s POSSIBLE that Republican losses could be kept to a dozen seats or so. But unfortunately everything has been moving in one direction lately.

What’s next? Postmodern conservatism!

Not only are there Darwinian conservatives, there are postmodern conservatives! The earnest young man who presides over this fancy blog may need to lighten up just a bit, but, under the influence of the brilliantly dissident sociologist Phillip Rieff, he posts some pretty provocative commentary on everything cultural and political under the sun. Previous postmodern conservatives include some of the most able and courageous commentators on the 20th century, including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Walker Percy, and John Courtney Murray. Postmodernism rightly (get it, rightly?) understood is based on reflection on both the great successes and monstrous failures of the so-called modern project to transform the world. It points toward a recovery of genuinely realistic understanding of human nature that incorporates what’s true and good about the premodern (including "classical" AND Christian) and modern understandings of human purposes, hopes (Paul!), possibilities, and limitations. Some Straussians--such as Thomas Pangle and Catherine Zuckert--have even called, with some good reasons, Leo Strauss’s thought postmodern. I realize there are lots of books and authors I should have linked here, but it’s 9 a.m. and I’m off to a meeting.

Bush’s books

It turns out that President Bush reads books, and plenty of them (along with Rove). Of course, this could be a ploy, a kind of "gravitas campaign" to reveal to a sceptical MSM and academics (i.e., liberals) that the pres is a serious person. I talked with an academic (liberal, famous) recently who spent three hours with Bush (he was to be there for only one hour) talking about everything (including books). It turned out Bush did--according to the prof--about ninety percent of the gabbing! He was duly impressed (and surprised) by his intelligence and seriousness. Let’s see, Reagan didn’t read any books, or do any they said at the time. We now know different. Related, is this by Kathleen Parker.

Robber, pretty quiet

The Marines got here first, he said.

Sex and love in the contemporary university

Others may wish to dwell on the "sex" part of Thomas Hibbs’s essay--for which the biggest recent piece of evidence is this article in Rolling Stone--but I’ll stick to the love. Here’s a snippet:

In his classic statement The Idea of the University, John Henry Newman argues that liberal education can be justified only if "knowledge is capable of being its own end." Although Newman defended professional training, he argued forcefully that universities ought to develop in students a philosophical habit of mind, a habit of wonder and an ability to trace the relationships among different parts of knowledge. One of the reasons for the inclusion of all branches of knowledge in the university curriculum is that even though students "cannot pursue every subject, they will still gain from living among those who represent the whole circle."

There are manifold obstacles to realizing Newman’s idea in today’s university. Given the increasing emphasis on specialization in faculty research, few if any faculty can be said even to approximate representing the "whole circle." And of course students do not "live among" the faculty anyhow. The shared libertarianism of faculty and students results in a diminishing number of contact hours between students and faculty, and even between faculty, who rarely know colleagues outside their departments.

Specialization breeds an inevitable individualism and elevates narrow expertise over breadth of learning. Clearly a university cannot do without rigorous, specialized knowledge in its faculty. The challenge Mr. Lewis and others pose is whether universities can create incentives to balance focus with breadth.

This would entail another sense of liberalism. Such a liberality or generosity of spirit would revive a proper appreciation of amateurism – not in the sense of an absence of serious training but in the etymological meaning of the word "amateur," from the French for "lover."

In an academic context, an amateur would be one who has a passionate enthusiasm for knowledge, an infectious joy at human inquiry itself and a commitment to transforming students from dependent absorbers of information into colleagues in a shared pursuit of knowledge. This spirit of wonder is the most compelling embodiment of Newman’s claim that knowledge is an end in itself. Such a spirit knows no bounds – it can be equally present in an English poetry class, a chemistry lab, a music tutorial or a philosophy seminar.

The modern university seems to offer an excellent example of "the joyless quest for joy," for which genuine liberal education may be something of an antidote.

Read the whole thing.


Hat tip: Rick Garnett.

Man bites dog

In a weird sort of way, Bill McClay agrees with Mac Donald:

[T]he most important intellectual and institutional expressions of the Christian faith, including Rome and Canterbury, have found almost nothing of value to say about the current Middle East crises, and more generally about the West’s struggle against militant Islam and terrorism, and the terrifying possibilities now facing the entire civilized world. The patent inadequacy (to put it mildly) of the current cease-fire in Lebanon, which was precisely what the world’s most vocal Christian leaders had sought, is but the latest indication of all the reasons why no one in his right mind would go to them for counsel in these matters.

Someone in search of political and moral understanding would, in my opinion, be far better off giving close attention to the most recent of Norman Podhoretz’s series of superb analyses of the post–September 11 situation. Or the books and articles of Victor Davis Hanson, or Mark Steyn, or Christopher Hitchens. In other words, to non-Christian or secular writers. Even those who gravitate toward harsh criticism of the Iraq War and of Bush-era American foreign policy do not avail themselves, except in the occasional rhetorical flourish, of the pronouncements of religious authorities. Such authorities are pretty much regarded as irrelevant either way, and their views add little of value to the positions of secular authorities.

Read the whole thing.

Heather Mac Donald won’t give up

She responds to Michael Novak, who will doubtless at some point respond to her.

I’ll just note a couple of things in passing. The bulk of her response has to do with God’s apparent justice or injustice, evidence for which is, she assumes, exhausted by empirical data. An unjust God, she assumes, would not let an innocent person die, or, for that matter, come to any harm. Well...I know plenty of Christians who don’t believe that anyone is, strictly speaking, innocent (see Genesis 3), not to mention plenty who don’t look for God’s justice in this world, but rather in the next. The assumption that this world can, or ought to, or might, be perfectly just is, I should say, Promethean (which is to say modern--shared by Marxism and some strands of classical liberalism). An alternative is to look for perfect justice only in the City of God, which is not of this world.

I realize that many ordinary folk respond (inconsistently) to horrible events in the way Mac Donald describes--thanking God for saving them and not thinking about others who were lost. But again, Christians are supposed to pray to God that His will be done and aren’t supposed to assume that that will is transparent and fully available to us here and now. This is no easy task. It’s impossible not to be thankful, for example, when you don’t lose or aren’t lost to a loved one after a close call. And it’s hard to find comfort after losing a loved one. We’re so constructed as both to love this world and to look beyond it. (I’m giving a paper that touches on this subject at the upcoming APSA meeting, drawing my inspiration, such as it is, from Tolkien.)

Let me now treat Mac Donald on the anthropological grounds she clearly prefers. Here are two statements she makes. First:

An elementary definition of justice is treating like cases alike and treating unlike cases differently. If a judge has two plaintiffs before him who are each suing for restitution under a contract, and each has met the conditions for restitution, we expect that he would award each plaintiff the remedy that he seeks.


Religious institutions and beliefs are, however, human creations. They grow out of man’s instinct for system and order, as well as out of the desire for life beyond death and a divine intervener in human affairs. Our striving for justice is one of the great human attributes. Far from imitating a divine model, man’s every effort to dispense justice is a battle against the randomness that rules the natural world.

I’ll go along with the rough-and-ready definition of justice (with certain caveats regarding what the relevant considerations are), but I nevertheless regard it as hard, if not altogether impossible, to achieve in this world. Perfect justice requires philosopher-kings whose vision is never clouded by the partiality born of love.

But I’m not sure how she can hold even this definition of justice if she seriously believes that "randomness rules the natural world." In a random natural world, "justice" is a human construct and is humanly imposed. If justice is altogether conventional (not guided by nature, which is, after all, random), then why should it necessarily be proportional in the way she suggests earlier? Why couldn’t "justice" be defined in any way we please--above all, preferring my good to anyone else’s? And in a random world, how would we single out "striving for justice" as "one of the great human attributes," rather than, say, "looking out for number one"? Does Mac Donald really not believe that nature is random? Or is her emphasis on justice evidence of a certain kind of "will to power"? Or of a certain kind of faith?

Update: There’s more at the AmSpec blog, provoked by Hunter Baker.

Our Friend Mr. Darwin?

If DelSol, Manent, and even Bill McClay are too wacky and way existential for you, you may be a Darwinian conservative. Out of vanity, I’ve linked the place where Mr. Darwinian conservative, Larry Arnhart, straightens me (not to mention Harry Jaffa) out. But you if you surf through his blog, you can see he does the same for a lot of our favorites here at NLT.
All in all, pretty thoughtful and serious efforts...

A couple of polls

Make of these what you will: NYT/CBS, in which folks who didn’t vote in 2004 (and non-voters altogether) are rather heavily represented; and Pew.

One interesting difference is that the Pew respondents want to see candidates focus on domestic concerns in 2006 (see p. 13 of the pdf), while the top two issues for NYT/CBS respondents are terrorism and the war in iraq (see p. 10 of the pdf).

Overachieving students?

Jay Mathews argues that "our real national problem is not that we ask most teens to do too much, but too little." A few are taking too many AP courses and not engaging in classically "leisurely" pursuits; most are watching too doggone much TV and playing too doggone many videogames.

The sovereign individual

Bill McClay has a nice extended meditation on some of the themes Peter L. brought up in this post. A sample:

The “progressive” view may seem coolly rational and unsentimental, the very picture of enlightened science. But its instrumental rationality actually operates in service to madness, to the most gaudily romantic and fantastical ideas of human selfhood. It regards the abstraction of the liberated individual, of homo invictus, as the benchmark reality, the only true source of moral standing. By grounding moral judgment in the self’s ability to stand alone and radically independent, it must try to deny history—and even deny time itself, seeking to freeze the present and then utopianize it, preserving the youth and beauty and strength that are one’s own, or that one can acquire for oneself, whatever the cost to the future (or to the past). But that state of independence is all-important. The minute one’s ability to be independent falters and fails … well, then the game is up, and all one’s entitlements are revoked, rendered null and void.

Banish the Bling

Juan Williams comes to Bill Cosby’s support. Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It is his new book and I’m betting it is related.

Home Alone

Loneliness grows. Studies show that Americans have fewer friends and are spending more time alone. I’m not posting this to embrace communitarianism (which I dislike as a word and as a movement) or anything else, but just to say this is evidence of the downside of understanding rights in too unmediated a way--or too detached from the truth about our social, political, and religious natures. Thanks to Paul Seaton for originally calling this article to my attention.

More Chantal

Although it didn’t provoke much of a thread, the quote I posted from DelSol’s THE UNEARED LESSONS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY was the subject of several private emails to me. Dan Mahoney suggests that I didn’t post the best quote, which I’m going to do now. (And it’s the one that fits best into my signature ALIENS IN AMERICA theme. It’s also an example, I think, of POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD.)

The emergence from dreams of utopia thus signals a return to age-old reflections on the human condition: "But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish." [a quote from Francis Fukuyama] Consequently, the human situation can once again be seen as what it has always been, although we have tried to ignore it as an inadequate situation. We are guests on the earth and will never be completely at home here. Human history has nothing in common with Ulysses’ voyage; at the end of which the heroes goes home to familiar surroundings and loved ones, who are always there when needed and never disappoint. The hope that we can nurture is not that we might achieve perfection, whether through a classless society or material well-being for all, but that we might manage to live better within our paradoxes.

GOP front-runners for ’08

Ryan Lizza says that Carlie Cook is reporting that George "Allen is no longer a real contender for the nomination." Cook asserts that in this environment McCain, Romney, and Gingrich are looking better. None of such opinions (even Cook’s) are persuading me of anything yet. Just passing along high-political gossip. And consider this opinion on why both McCain and Giuliani may be the real front runners in a post 9/11 world. Of course, Karl Rove is back in the game, to make it more interesting.

Religion and Late Modernity

Here’s a provocative statement on human liberty and dignity from a book I just got in the mail--Chantal del Sol, THE UNLEARNED LESSONS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: AN ESSAY ON LATE MODERNITY (ISI Books, 2006):

I would not hesitate to describe the climate that gives rise to pantheism as a wrong turn in the Enlightenment. "Wrong" as understood with respect to the points of reference we so want to preserve: the value of each human being’s dignity, an idea that in our societies is now hanging by a thread. Human rights will not guarantee the dignity of each human being unless they are grounded in an understanding of man that ensures his uniqueness....If one believes that democracy logically legitimizes an egalitarian individualism governed by common opinion, then pantheism supports and maintains this belief by expressing an egalitarian spirit in immortality--by crowning in death an individual both similar to and undifferentiated from all the others. If, on the other hand, one wants and hopes for democracy to be a society of unique persons endowed with free wills and minds, then the more appropriate religious partner would be a monotheism that preaches personal eternity, one in which each irreducible being survives in his irreducibility.

More Lebanon Post-Mortems

The idiosyncratic but always well-informed Edward Luttwak offers up "Misreading the Lebanon War" in the Jerusalem Post."  

Half empty or half full?

Donald Lambro finds that the polls perhaps don’t look as bad as we’re being told. Last week, Jay Cost had more, if you want analytical depth.

Fast moving weeks

The immediate past moved by too fast. The graduate class with Hayward was fun, but some of the days were short bits of fog that I seemed to move through all-too-fast. I sort-of remember trying to argue that Andrew Jackson had some virtues, but not quite what Sean Wilentz would have, that Lincoln was settled, and that’s all there is to that. I then spent the next two weeks showing the daughter of a Hungarian friend around the vastness of this unexplored country. She is a smart and hard-working sixteen year old who could have contributed with ease to the conversation on rock ’n roll on this blog since she knew every tune of the last fifty years (but, in the end, a true fan of the blues). Also every movie. So it came quite naturally for her to say, first thing, when standing at the Lincoln Memorial--"Oh, this is where Forrest Gump stood"! She was struck by the twists and turns in the freewheeling language that was now liberated from the classroom. Living in it, her good ear noticed how it jumps and shouts and turns and twists; she noticed its jazz-like incomplete vastness, and she liked it. Whether my trips are on Isabella or my VW Jetta (diesel, by the way, 58 miles to the gallon; although Isabella is faster!), I stay impressed by the vastness of the country and by the Americaness of it all, motley and sundry, but undeniably one. She also noticed this mysterious binding force and was sometimes awed by it, sometimes amused, yet always somehow comfortable and at home. The words stranger and guest have been redefined in this fat country.

It’s Breeding Obvious

Steyn explains to the Australians why only the United States and Australia have a mediated enough understanding of rights to avoid self-destruction. He’s really good on connecting the end of "breeding" with other ndividualistic or isolating tendencies. The problem is that sociobiology just ain’t true for the species that discovered the truth about sociobiology.

Ten Commandments displays again

Score one for the Alliance Defense Fund, as a federal judge in Oklahoma upheld a privately-financed Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Haskell County courthouse in Stigler, Oklahoma.

As I noted some time ago, the Supreme Court’s confusing jurisprudence invites the sort of challenge the ACLU mounted in this case.

Afflicting the comfortable

Michael Skube (scroll down), a rather cranky old acquaintance, reflects sadly on the (il)literacy of students with gilded high school gpa’s. Given how coachable the SAT is, I’m not sure I’m with him in trusting the SAT more than the gpa. But I do agree that a substantial part of the problem is that too many kids--even relatively bright ones--don’t read for pleasure.

Now I’ve Heard Everything

I’m in Seattle for a few days, partly to do this (in case any Seattle NLT readers would like to turn up), and the local alternative paper, Seattle Weekly, has a review of an opera based on Ted Kennedy’s infamous Chappaquiddick mishap called Black Water.

An opera. About Chappaquiddick.

It is based on a book the same title by Joyce Carol Oates--somehow this book missed my reading list when it came out--and this operatic adaptation was first performed in Philadelphia almost a decade ago, proviong that the Left Coast doesn’t have a monopoly on loopiness. The review says little about Kennedy’s snakelike morals, and is instead portrayed as "a pointed skewering of the very class that’s traditionally supported opera." Yeah--that’s what we all think of when Chappaquiddick comes up.

You can read the entire strange review here, if you want. Up next: An operatic adaption of the murder saga of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel?

Bold atheists

Edmund Burke said:

Boldness formerly was not the character of Atheists as such. They were even of a character nearly the reverse; they were formerly like the old Epicureans, rather an unenterprising race. But of late they are grown active, designing, turbulent, and seditious.

I wonder what he’d think of this?

The Classics

I just returned from a wonderful concert by Jenny (Detra) and the Detranators, who are based in Rome, GA and are rapidly becoming the best cover band of classic rock ’n roll in the South. The performance inspired me with a few other experts to figure out the five best rock ’n roll acts of all time. There are a lot of complicated factors that go into the decision-making process, but one of them is a long and consistently popular career. Here they are, in no particular order: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen. In each case, there was a conservative factor involved in the selection--the artists’ choice of artistic truth over ideological trendiness. The case is weakest with repect to the recent Peter Seeger-loving Springsteen. But he still deserves the lifetime achievement award. Can this kind of popular music ever be called conservative?
Is it possible to be politically liberal--even stupidly liberal or loony Marxist--and still be aesthetically conservative? And of course, any such list is meant to provoke and not really to be definitive. Believe me, I know this is weekend fluff, and this thread must die before Monday morning.


I don’t have enough to do, so, on a lark, I started a personal blog--Knippenblog (thanks, Steve)--tonight. Comments are enabled.

My first post (other than a test) contains a list of speakers I’ve scheduled for the fall at my home institution. The highlight thus far is Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. I’m still working on lining up a few additional speakers.

I’ll cross-post some of what I write, save some of my longer posts for the personal site (linked here, of course), and put Georgia-focused stuff on the other site.

I have to say that Townhall makes it pretty easy to start your own blog.

Peter Lawler

For a particuarly noble example of unbelieving, conservative American respect for religion, let me remind you of the neglected tradition of Southern Stoicism, kept alive in our time by the novelist Tom Wolfe in A MAN IN FULL and I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS. But my favorite southern stoic actually appears in Walker Percy’s "The Last Phil Donahue Show" in LOST IN THE COSMOS. The character is "Colonel John Pelham, C.S.A., commander of the horse artillery under General Stuart."

How the colonel shows up on Phil’s final show need not bother us here. But he thinks that most of the people are on the show are "white trash." By contrast: "A gentleman knows how to treat women. He knows because he knows himself, who he is, what his obligations are. And he discharges them."

On the religion of John Calvin, who also appears on the show (don’t ask!), the colonel says: "Well, I respect his religious beliefs. But I have never thought much about religion one way or another. In fact, I don’t think religion has much to do with whether a man does right. A West Point man is an officer and a gentleman, religion or no religion. I have nothing against religion. In fact, when we studied medieval history at West Point, I remember admiring Richard Coeur de Lion and his recapturing Acre and the holy places. I remember thinking: I would have fought for him, just as I fought for Lee and the South."

Obviously, as Percy shows us, there are problems, especially when it comes to justice, with the southern stoic or any stoic position. But there is some American greatness there. If only our atheists were gentlemen!

This Week’s Podcast

For this week’s podcast, I spoke with frequent Ashbrook and NRO contributor, Mackubin T. Owens. Mac is professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. We discussed many things, but primarily the status of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. We also touched on India’s potential to be a world power within the next few decades.

The Empire of Consent

Well, I thought I’d introduce another passage from Manent’s A WORLD BEYOND POLITICS? to illustrate the concern that does or should separate the conservatives who favor mediated rights from the liberals who want rights derived immediately from the wholly abstracted or isolated individual. For conservatives, the freedom accorded by the proper understanding of the idea of rights is for performing one’s duties as a citizen, creature, parent, or child, and not an absolute "right of secession" from every tie to other human beings or to God:

The empire of consent spreads, the process of individualization intensifies, and thus the authority of different orders in which human beings hitherto found the meaning of their life--the nation, the family, the church--declines more and more each day. The nation is henceforth a community among others and no longer the community par excellence; the family is an optional, uncertain, and recomposed association; the church is the place where one tentatively looks for meaning, no longer where one recives it. The French and Catholic father of a family--the man who was defined by the communities to which he belonged--has become an individual in search of his identity.

Beinart on Lamont

Peter Beinart says that Lamont and his supporters are more opportunistic than principled. This is meant to puncture the McGovern-Lamont comparison and to encourage Democrats to think in a principled way. I fear, however, that if they find principles, they won’t be Beinart’s, but rather McGovern’s. (In other words, I don’t take as seriously the vaguely hawkish noises that punctuate the cut-and-run chorus.)

For a somewhat different view, focusing on how narrow the gap in 2008 will be between any two administrations, see this post by Power Line’s John Hinderaker:

As a practical matter, I question how much the Democrats’ apparent tilt to the left will matter in policy terms. It’s true, in principle, that a hard liberal like Feingold will be less inclined to use American military force in post-Iraq situations than a more conservative Democrat, or a Republican. But the reality is that no administration that takes office in 2009, Republican or Democrat, will have any appetite for another ground war in the Middle East. For the foreseeable future, that isn’t going to happen, no matter who inhabits the White House.

That leaves Iran, and the prospect of using force short of an invasion to prevent or deter Iran from becoming a nuclear power. What the Democrats intend to do about Iran is a dark secret, and, if they have their way, will remain one until 2009. Their only strategy at present is to be well-poised for second guessing. But it looks increasingly as though Iran can’t wait until 2009. One way or another, that problem will have been addressed by the time the next Presidential election rolls around, and the debate will have shifted in ways that we can’t now foresee.

So I think the most that can be said is that an antiwar Democratic administration will be somewhat less likely to use military force, as a general matter, than a Republican administration would be. But, given our experience in Iraq, that gap may not be very wide.

His assumption seems to be that events will compel GWB to come as close as possible to finishing the job before his successor assumes office.

Conservatism and atheism

There’s lots more on this subject over at The Corner. See especially Mark Steyn, Goldberg channeling Buckley, and Goldberg channeling Voegelin. (Von Heyking can tell us whether JG’s emailer got Voegelin right.)

I’d add this: a proselytizing atheist who exudes contempt for religious believers and wishes to debunk religion at every turn thereby gives evidence of a belief that society can prosper either in the light of reason or in the light of self-consciously understood myth. I don’t think that either stance is conservative.

On the other hand, a non-believer who professes respect for religion, either out of an acknowledgement of his own fallibility and finitude or out of a recognition that widespread enlightenment is impossible, is, for all practical purposes, a conservative.

The generic ballot

Jay Cost explains why we shouldn’t put too much stock in the generic voting preference questions pollsters ask this early in the season. The situation is desperate, but not yet serious.

Anti-neocon innuendo

Eric Alterman accuses the neocons of sacrificing America’s interests to Israel’s. Here’s a priceless line:

Kristol can title his editorial "It’s Our War," but Hezbollah was not shooting missiles into Manhattan.

Do we have to wait until they do?

1974 Midterm Elections

Andy Busch continues his series on midterm elections by considering the great Democratic victories of 1974. The "Watergate Babies"--the post-’60s, pro-counterculture, anti-military wing of the Democratic Party--would dominate the House until 1994. He thinks voters should think about what they accomplished before they vote this November. 

Delba Winthrop

Delba Winthrop died yesterday after a long struggle with cancer. She translated, with her husband Harvey Mansfield, Tocqueville’s DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. She was a first-rate and often quite innovative authority on Aristotle, Solzhenitysn, Tocqueville, and, more generally, on the most realistic and responsible currents of Western thought. Here’s a sample of her thought, drawn from the December, 2002 SOCIETY:

Tocqueville wanted to visit America, he said, to see what a great (grande) republic is like--and by that I doubt he meant "big." He was an unabashed lover of liberty and a hesistant admirer of democratic equality. The latter he endorsed in the end because in its justice he could appreciate "its greatness and its beauty." He, in a tacit departure from most liberals, does not ground democratic equality on natural rights discovered in a state of nature, but accepts equality as a fact and looks to the kind of life democracy may provide. In an explicit departure from them, he would gladly trade some modern virtues for the singular "vice" of pride....For Tocqueville, democracies must think about honor and greatness in addition to justice and interest because meaningful democratic self-government cannot long survive without this thoughtfulness.

The Spirit of Biocapitalism

For those who want some background on the conservative vs. libertarian split on bioethics that will drive the emerging conflict over organ markets, see Eric Cohen’s article in most recent THE NEW ATLANTIS. Either this won’t link or it just won’t link for me, but there is a webpage.
For libertarians, organ markets are, in a way, compassionate conservatism. They will increase the number of kidneys available for transplant, save lives, and free people from a miserable existence on dialysis.


Here’s a link every American should know about. Surf away. The biggest issue before the President’s Bioethics Council is now a market in kidneys from live "vendors." One version is that the price for such kidneys be "regulated" or set by Medicare. Read the eloquent if finally misguided testimony by Epstein and Hippen for more.

Ruling Class Rap

While we’re doing music video day (a commenter on my post below says that this is the greatest music video ever, and I have to admit it has strong credentials), have a look at how the ruling class raps.


My no doubt eagerly awaited response to Heather Mac Donald is here, though it pales before Michael Novak’s gentle but firm chiding.

Andrew Sullivan, predictably, applauds her contribution. Hat tip: Rob Vischer.

Update: More Sullivan, albeit nothing new, here.

Faith-based social services

The Lebanese way.

And Now For Something Completely Different

The. Best. Music. Video. Ever.

Brookhiser’s Summary View

Richard Brookhiser puts it altogether in the compass of his latest column in The New York Observer. Short, but worth reading twice.   

Lamont reintroduces himself to the voters

He’s a pragmatic entrepreneur, not a single-issue ideologue. Over at The Corner, Stephen Spruiell won’t let him escape his past.

Partial victory for free student speech

This past March, two conservative (and religious--one Christian and one Jew) students filed a lawsuit against Georgia Tech, alleging that a number of university policies violated the First Amendment. Well, they’ve won a partial victory, with Tech agreeing to alter its policies. (You can find the text of the judge’s order through a link in the Inside Higher Ed article.)

Tech officials are spinning it as a minor concession, affecting only students who live on campus. Does that mean we now have a two-tier speech code at Tech, with commuters subject to one set of rules and residents another? Or was there a two-tier policy before? Inquiring minds want to know.

Others will perhaps spin it another way, as the Atlanta paper’s headline does--"Insults allowed at Tech," which implies that all that the students sought was the "freedom" to insult and offend others. Inside Higher Ed, not exactly a conservative mouthpiece, plays it straighter with its headline--"Freer Speech at Georgia Tech."

Profiles in Courage

As most everyone knows, Al Gore traveled the nation mostly by private jet to promote his film deploring greenhouse gas emissions by us mere plebians. Comes now this report from WSPD TV in Chicago:

Illinois Senator Barack Obama warns citizens at his 50th Town Hall meeting about gas guzzling. It was among many points made to the standing room only audience at the Metropolis Community Center. Obama spoke on everything from DC politics to global warming. He says part of the blame for the world’s higher temperatures rests on gas guzzling vehicles. Obama says consumers can make the difference by switching to higher mileage hybrids. Today the Senator said, "It would save more energy, do more for the environment and create better world security than all the drilling we could do in Alaska.

The punchline: "After the meeting... Obama left in a GMC Envoy after admitting to favoring SUV’s himself."

Manent on Judicial Activism

Other than MANLINESS, the best political analysis I’ve read this year is the English translation of a series of lectures by Pierre Manent--A WORLD BEYOND POLITICS? (I should put an amazon link here, but that would encourage dependency and insult your intelligence.) One glimpse of Manent’s contemporary wisdom:

"...the power of judges today [in many nations] rests ulimately not on the laws of the nation, not on its constitution, but on the foundation of the laws and the constitution, that is, ’human rights’ and the idea of ’humanity.’ Setting aside local laws, accepted usages, and international conventions and treaties, judges more and more claim to speak immediately in the name of humanity....[T]he new power of judges illustrates our impatience with mediations, in particularly political mediations, and our desire to recognize and achieve humanity immediately."

We can, of course, recognize Justice Kennedy’s unmediated interpretation of the single world "liberty" in the Fourteenth Amendment here in Lawrence v. Texas.

We can also see that the true division in American politics might not be, as James Ceaser contends, between the foundationalist conservatives and the non-foundationalists liberals.

Instead, it might between the left that insists on transforming all of life according to an abstract understanding of rights unmediated by the social, political, and religious truth about human nature and a right that insists that our understanding of rights must be mediated by that truth. It is between the "Europeans" and their American imitators who live lost in a postpolitical, postreligious, and postfamilial individualistic fantasy and Americans and their European sympathizers who think realistically of themselves not only as free individuals by as citizens, creatures, parents, children, and so forth.

The understanding of our country as divided into those devoted to mediated and those devoted to unmediated rights explains why we conservatives, despite our differences, are united in our opposition to judicial activism.

Before being too convinced too fast, remember that Manent is a controversial figure among readers of The Claremont Review. (Here there should be a link to articles in that review dealing with Manent, especially the strident criticism given by Bill Allen.)

Apologies for deleted entry

I mistakenly deleted a post linking to this WaPo article detailing the way in which funds contributed to relieve earthquake victims in Pakistan were diverted to help finance the most recent airline bombing plot.

Apologies also to the commenters, whose remarks can be found by clicking on the "Comments by Our Readers" button on the let sidebar.

Michael Gerson on 9-11

Here. A taste:

There are still many steps of diplomacy, engagement and sanctions between today and a decision about military conflict with Iran—and there may yet be a peaceful solution. But in this diplomatic dance, America should not mirror the infinite patience of Europe. There must be someone in the world capable of drawing a line—someone who says, "This much and no further." At some point, those who decide on aggression must pay a price, or aggression will be universal. If American "cowboy diplomacy" did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.


Five Augusts from 9/11, in a summer of new fears, in a war on terror that has lasted longer than World War II, public weariness is understandable. And that exhaustion is increasingly reflected in our politics. In a conservative backlash against the president’s democratic idealism. In a liberal backlash that has moved from the fringes to the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Ned Lamont, in his primary victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman, summed up the case this way: "We are going to get our troops out of Iraq ... we’re going to start investing in our own country again." Lamontism—the elevation of flinching to a foreign policy—is McGovernism, and a long way from "bear any burden, pay any price."

Read the whole thing.

Neocons here and abroad

John Zvesper reviews a couple of not altogether inspiring books by British proponents of neoconservatism, and Norman Podhoretz reflects on the Bush doctrine. Here’s the conclusion:

So far as the implementation of this new strategy goes, it is still early days—roughly comparable to 1952 in the history of the Truman Doctrine. As with the Truman Doctrine then, the Bush Doctrine has thus far acted only in the first few scenes of the first act of a five-act play. Like the Truman Doctrine, too, its performance has received very bad reviews. Yet we now know that the Truman Doctrine, despite being attacked by its Republican opponents as the “College of Cowardly Containment,” was adopted by them when they took power behind Dwight D. Eisenhower. We also know now that, after many ups and downs and following a period of retreat in the 1970’s, the policy of containment was updated and reinvigorated in the 1980’s by Ronald Reagan (albeit without admitting that this was what he was doing). And we now know as well that it was by thus building on the sound foundation laid by the Truman Doctrine that Reagan delivered on its original promise.

It is my contention that the Bush Doctrine is no more dead today than the Truman Doctrine was cowardly in its own early career. Bolstered by that analogy, I feel safe in predicting that, like the Truman Doctrine in 1952, the Bush Doctrine will prove irreversible by the time its author leaves the White House in 2008. And encouraged by the precedent of Ronald Reagan, I feel almost as confident in predicting that, three or four decades into the future, and after the inevitable missteps and reversals, there will come a President who, like Reagan in relation to Truman in World War III, will bring World War IV to a victorious end by building on the noble doctrine that George W. Bush promulgated when that war first began.

I hope he’s right.

Welcome Peter!

Lawler, that is. (The Other Peter needs no welcoming.) Now Knippenberg has some competition! As soon as Lawler learns how to link, it’ll be all over. Sort of like when Paul Johnson junked his typewritter for a word processor.


Well, let me use this forum to get some help. I’m in the early stages of writing an essay for the Bioethics Council on the meaning of human dignity. One indispensable source, of course, is Mansfield’s MANLINESS--a book that has been widely but not yet very seriously reviewed. There, he says that men need to feel important, and that need, he suggests, is at the foundation of individuality. Manly men (and women, of course) dramatically and with exaggerated self-confidence assert their noble or "transcendent" and indispensable individual greatness. But asserting one’s own importance is not the same thing as actually being important. Is the real source of individual dignity more than dramatic individual assertion? Do we need revelation to give a positive answer to that question?

Conservatism and liberalism today

I’ve just begun to dip into this symposium on the state of conservatism and liberalism today. From what I’ve skimmed, I don’t expect to like much of it, but I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised. Any thoughts out there?

Update: Over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru and Heather Mac Donald are fussing at one another over her contribution to the symposium. I’ve put together some thoughts on it as well. When and where they’ll see the light of day, I don’t yet know.

For the record, Ponnuru likes the pieces by Austin Bramwell, the almost ubiquitous Ross Douthat, and Michael Lind.

The Truth at Last!

Peter Schramm has asked me to come out of hiding and actually or really or truly become a blogging man. No doubt I will be more effective when I figure out how to LINK. Here’s the issue at Berry College today: Why do good colleges put up with all this assessment, learning outcome, rubric stuff imposed on them by third-rate schools of education? I welcome other issues, marginalized voices, confused identities etc.


Mark Helprin is certainly one of the best writers still at work. Although everything he writes is interesting and thoughtful, I still think his best is A Soldier of the Great War. This is a good interview with him. Note this exchange on beauty:

DT: Why are you so obsessed with beauty?

MH: Because it’s beautiful.

DT: [laughs] This is something I’ve gotten from all your work, over and over again.

MH: That’s an interesting question. See, that’s one of the questions that I’ve never, never had put to me. So I’ll have to think about that for a second. I suppose it’s the inverse of why I am repelled by ugliness. One is attracted to beauty. Beauty is the coordination of things, in such a way, that it is what attracts you. It’s almost self-defining. I know at a personal level, I have always been interested in it, and I have always sought it out, and was comforted by it, because it was comforting. I think in one of my books I say it’s a promise that there is a purpose in life, because if things can be arranged, coordinated in a way that made you react in that fashion, then perhaps it means that everything has a purpose in the end.

Autorantic Virtual Moonbat

For some Saturday fun, check out the Autorantic Virtual Moonbat. Could save DailyKos and DDUnderground types a lot of time and their few remaining brain cells.

The "Upscale Left"

Don’t miss Thomas Byrne Edsall, writing in today’s New Republic online about the role of the "upscale left" in the Lieberman-Lamont duel, and why the result is bad news for Democrats in 2008.


The Lieberman-Lamont primary is a study, writ small, in what has ailed the Democratic Party over the last few decades. Simply put, Democratic presidential primary electorates continue to be dominated by an upscale, socially (and culturally) liberal elite. Democrats must first win the approval of this elite before they can compete in the general election. It’s a trap that no Democrat other than Bill Clinton has found a way to escape, and Lamont’s victory shows why.  

Moral equivalency = moral bankruptcy

Mike Wallace thinks it’s perfectly reasonable to demand that Israel be relocated to somewhere in Europe and Brian Williams thinks that suicide bombers are kinda like Navy SEALs.


Senate Baron

Back in 2001, when I was still teaching at the University of Georgia, I designed a political simulation for my upper-division course on the U.S. between the World Wars. It’s called "Senate Baron," and it’s meant to simulate the politics of the U.S. Senate during the 1930s. I tested it in the classroom, and realized it had some problems, which I’ve tried to fix in the latest version. Anyway, anyone who’s interested can find it here, at the site of the Academic Gaming Review. I wouldn’t recommend it for high school classes (except perhaps at the AP level), but I would welcome any comments--particularly from teachers.

Tough words, take 3

Newt Gingrich:

Defeating the terrorists and thwarting efforts by Iran and North Korea to gain nuclear and biological weapons must be the first goal of American policy. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if violence is necessary to defeat the terrorists, the Iranians and the North Koreans, then it is regrettably necessary. If they can be disarmed with less violence, then that is desirable. But a nonviolent solution that allows the terrorists to become better trained, better organized, more numerous and better armed is a defeat. A nonviolent solution that leads to North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons threatening us across the planet is a defeat.

More tough words from the WSJ

Daniel Henninger:

In a better world, the U.S. war on terror, at its core, would be bipartisan. That world was what Joe Lieberman’s politics represented. That world is dead. Democratic support for the Republican administration’s plans to fight these terrorists is down to about zero. This means the Democrats must have a plan of their own to defeat terror. Every Republican running for office at every level this fall should force his opponent to describe it. And if they aren’t certain about the details, they can call Ned Lamont.

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

If the religious left is serious about attracting more people of faith to the Democratic Party--Ms. Seger believes that even evangelicals will gather under the new big tent--its leaders might want to consider the kind of religion that people in America actually practice. Hint: It is judgmental. It sometimes involves public condemnation.

But of course, the religious left is less serious about a politician’s loyalty to religious belief than about his loyalty to the Democratic Party. "He’s going to run on the independent ticket," Ms. Sager notes of Mr. Lieberman, with disgust. "What kind of Democrat is that?"

Lessons from yesterday’s terror plot exposure

The WSJ has some tough words.

On Wisconsin?

The Alliance Defense Fund has written a letter to officials at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Superior urging them not to abridge the speech and associational rights of student religious groups. At issue is the conflict between university non-discrimination policies and the fidelity to their missions of groups like the Knights of Columbus and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

I noted the most recent such conflict here and wrote about a previous one here.

The Inside Higher Ed piece suggests that the only issue is access to funding, not recognition (and access to university facilities) per se.

I should also note that the fact that some groups prosper (by their lights) while conforming to the university’s non-discrimination policy says nothing about whether other groups ought to be required to do so. Different groups ought to be permitted to be different. Denying money to those who would be different does approach the kind of viewpoint discrimination against the Court ruled in Rosenberger.

Future Olympians

Here. If you care about all the gory details of the swim season, send me an email.

Prejudice, take 2

Watch the video here.

I wonder if Sondjata, who’s quite willing to accuse others of hatred, thinks this qualifies.

McKinney and her supporters continue to believe and continue to blame open primaries for her defeat:

Some voting rights advocates said that while crossover voting might be legal, it violated the spirit of the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution because it effectively negated the right of a group — in Ms. McKinney’s case, black voters — to nominate the candidate of their choice.

“There’s case law that says one party can’t interfere in another party’s primary,” said Mike Raffauf, a lawyer who filed a 2002 lawsuit in federal court against the State of Georgia on Ms. McKinney’s behalf.

So should we have whites only and blacks only primaries? If not, how far should we go in demanding that people prove their fealty to a party before permitting them to vote? Should we demand proof that they voted "the right way" in previous elections? Bring back the smoke-filled rooms, I say!

Is the New York Times next?

This morning, the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Espionage Act, which permits prosecution of anyone who knowingly publishes classified intelligence information. The challenge was brought by two lobbyists for AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) who received classified information from a Department of Defense analyst during the Clinton administration and who subsequently republished that information to others.

The ruling should make the editors and publishers of the New York Times extremely nervous. As I noted in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence this past May, the New York times can be prosecuted under other provisions of the Espionage Act for its publication last December of our highly-classified and operationally-sensitive NSA surveillance program. Copy of my testimony is available here (registration required for download).

The Coolest Wristwear in Town

At the risk of offending some, might I recommend this high-fashion accessory? The Adam Smith Institute is sending complimentary ones out to anyone who e-mails.

I can’t help it

Looking ahead to 2008, I mean.

At the moment, I can’t imagine that national security won’t be the biggest issue. At the moment, I also can’t imagine that anyone closely connected with the Bush Administration could win. But I also can’t imagine that the Kossacks will let anyone on the Democratic side with a sensible approach to national security policy come close to getting the nomination. (I find myself--shudder!--hoping that HRC gets the nomination, because I think she actually stands a better chance of ultimately being sensible on these matters than do any of her currently likely opponents. Lots of other stuff would be awful, to be sure, but we might still be relatively safe, in part because she’s brazen enough to pay lip service to the netroots and then think for herself. Indeed, with her in office, I’d worry more about Congress.)

Which brings me to the Republicans. Right now, 2008 looks like it might be the year of the "independent" on the Republican side, which means McCain among those with close D.C. ties and Giuliani for those who don’t have them. I know, I know, Giuliani has baggage, as does McCain. McCain has begun to try to mend his fences with religious conservatives, and Giuliani is trying to figure out how to talk the talk. Given the likely general election options, and the likely high national security stakes, I don’t think that religious conservatives will sit on their hands.

And if evangelicals are indeed softening, I have just the ticket: McCain or Giuliani, with Joe Lieberman.

Update: RCP’s Tom Bevan notes lots of speculation about McCain-Lieberman. I’ll take Austin Bay and Michael Barone, and even David Brooks, but Andrew Sullivan???

In Case You Care

I’ll be gone for about 3 weeks on the annual family fishing/camping trip--so probably not blogging. I hope we catch a bigger fish than this and I hope there is no news as big as Katrina while we’re gone. Since I won’t really have access to computers or newspapers (and only minimal radio) I’m bringing along my new MP3 player and I’ll continue listening to these fantastic podcasts--particularly the ones on Teaching American history. I’m new at this, so any advice from readers and fellow bloggers on other podcasts I can take would be greatly appreciated!

More on the Ned-Joe Smackdown

Jacob Weisberg at thinks the Lamont victory is a disaster for Democrats. This is significant because Weisberg is no Rove-bot. Money quotes:

The problem for the Democrats is that the anti-Lieberman insurgents go far beyond simply opposing Bush’s faulty rationale for the war, his dishonest argumentation for it, and his incompetent execution of it. Many of them appear not to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously. . .

We know this because we have been here before. The Lamont-Lieberman battle was filled with echoes and parallels from the Vietnam era. Democratic reformers and anti-establishment insurgents weren’t wrong about that conflict, either. Vietnam was a terrible mistake for the United States. But like Iraq, Vietnam was a badly chosen battlefield in a larger conflict with totalitarianism that America had no choice but to pursue. In turning viciously on stalwarts of the Cold War era like Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, and Scoop Jackson, anti-war insurgents called into question the Democratic Party’s underlying commitment to challenging Communist expansion.


Gloomy hawks

If you haven’t already read Stanley Kurtz’s "Hawkish Gloom," you should. And while you’re at it, read David Warren’s gloomy piece.

A cautionary tale from Precinct 6

My mom is an election official at local Precinct 6 in Norton Shores, Michigan. Her district is solidly Republican, but after yesterday’s primaries, she told me this cautionary tale: Dick DeVos, the Republican nominee for governor, ran very well in her precinct (and is ahead of Governor Jennifer Granholm in the polls); but Pete Hoekstra, the incumbant Republican Congressman, only garnered a few hundred more votes than the unknown Democrat in the opposite primary. DeVos is running a good campaign and Michigan is hurting economically, so his advantage is not a big surprise. But Hoekstra’s slim margin in a safely Republican district does not augur well for national Republicans around the country.

This little story is a prelude to explaining why Adam Nagourney of the New York Times is right when he offers a sobering note to the GOP after the Connecticut primary. As he says, while the Lieberman defeat creates a number of problems for national Democrats, Republicans should especially beware because "the Lamont victory suggested that many Democrats — stirred by their opposition to the war and hostility toward Mr. Bush — are as energized as any group of voters in years, enough so to move them to the voting booth in huge numbers." Of course, punishing Bush is not a political platform and really doesn’t play well with moderates and independents, but the ordinary person on the street also doesn’t like $3 gas and the perceived failure to win in Iraq.

All politics may be local, but not all the time. DeVos is strong but Hoekstra is weak. And if the Democrats can somehow marry liberals’ anger with moderates’ unease, Precinct 6 may be a harbinger of serious trouble for the GOP in the fall.

The Emerging Leisure Class

Maggie Gallagher marshalls up some more evidence in support of this growing thesis that men are suffering setbacks in education (particularly higher education) and marriage these days. In the course of her writing, I think she hits upon two important insights. First: Men don’t marry because they don’t have to. And second: The decline in marriage comes with a weakened inclination to work.

One of the guys she discusses has failed in two marriages, worked his way onto a third (a wife who--surprise--collects disability payments), and now spends the bulk of his time playing classical piano, reading history books and writing reviews for What’s wrong with this picture?

Plenty. First, it appears that despite setbacks in "formal" education, some of these guys still have plenty of mental energy. The guy mentioned above argued that he found all available work to be either "demeaning" or "underpaid." I don’t know what kind of work the guy was looking to do, but I’m sure that whatever it was, collecting his wife’s disability check is alot easier. After all, like all philosophical sorts, he places a high value on his leisure.

That’s all very nice, in its way, but I doubt the federal government can sustain very many of these philosophers. I further doubt that there are enough disabled women to support this emerging leisure class.

Yet another emerging trend is that of middle-aged single men who have very little inclination to change their situation--even if it does mean a disability check. These guys, according to Gallagher’s account, fear marriage and also doubt their capacity to be faithful in a world where uncomitted free sex is a smorgasboard for guys willing to take it. Gallagher titles her column: The Trouble With Men but I wonder if "the trouble with men" might better examined in looking at "the trouble with women." The sad fact is that men are capable of all kinds of wonderful things when properly inspired. But they have very little interest in doing those wonderful things if they don’t get the proper kudos for doing them. Remember, as Mansfield said in his book Manliness, men NEED to feel important.

Scoop Jackson Wing, RIP

From Robert Kaufman’s biography, Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics:

Lieberman may someday emerge as Jackson’s true heir in the U.S. Senate. His political perspective largely mirrors that of Henry Jackson: a liberal on domestic issues, an opponent of Affirmative Action; a staunch advocate of vigilant internationalism and a strong military. Sen. Lieberman confessed, however, that it will be an uphill battle "to reinvigorate the international aspects of the Jackson legacy in the Democratic Party."

Lieberman’s defeat

You can read about it here, here, here, and here. Democrats clearly don’t want Lieberman to run as an independent. But if Lieberman continues to poll well as an independent, what’s to stop him? Lamont received around 144,000 votes. In 2004, Christopher Dodd received over 923,000. In 2000, Lieberman received 828,000 votes. Surely the general electorate in Connecticut is not as intense as the primary electorate. Can Lamont really expand his appeal that much, running against a proven vote-getter and campaigner like Lieberman?

NRO has a symposium here.

Public opinion and the culture wars

In this week’s TAE Online column, I ruminate on the Pew poll released last week.

This is, for the moment at least, my last week column for The American Enterprise. James Glassman, the new editor, has plans that right now don’t include regular daily columns on the website.

I guess I’ll have to find other venues for my slightly more formal pontifications. But I am of course grateful for the opportunity I had there, and continue to have here.

Have you voted yet?

I was the only voter at my precinct this morning. But then, that’s not surprising, since, outside Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, there are only some down-ticket statewide races to which to give thought.

The 4th, where Cynthia McKinney has pulled out all the stops in her attempt to beat back a challenge from Hank Johnson (who, if elected, will likely be the only Buddhist in Congress). McKinney, of course, thinks President Bush should be impeached, thereby displaying her typically judicious demeanor. Turnout in the run-off may exceed that in the primary three weeks ago, which is almost unheard of:

In McKinney’s district, only about 8,900 voters selected a Republican ballot in July, which means there are 278,384 registered voters eligible to participate in the runoff. Nearly 62,000 voted in the Democratic primary.

There’s your benchmark.

I’ll also be watching Connecticut, but this one hits too close to home.

Update: This story suggests that some precincts in what would be McKinney territory haven’t seen much traffic yet. Note also that McKinney has returned to her old staple--allegations of voting irregularities. This in a county run by African-American Democrats.

Will Hinton is live-blogging the day. Turnout seems to be up in precincts likely to be populated by Johnson (or anti-McKinney) voters. No doubt there’s some plot here too.

Update #2: Here is the official site for GA 4th election returns. As of 9:40 p.m., Johnson is ahead, but no votes have yet been counted in Dekalb County, which is the lion’s share of the district. But if you compare these partial returns to those from the July 18th primary, you’ve got to like Johnson’s chances. He’s doubled his vote total in Rockdale County (home of the fair Mrs. Knippenberg’s family), and McKinney will be hard-pressed to match her total from three weeks ago.

Update #3: Apparently they’re having difficulty uploading memory cards from voting machines in Dekalb County. More grist for CM’s conspiracy mill.

Update #4: The latest results, with 89% of the precincts reporting, give Johnson what I take to be an insurmountable lead. Turnout will exceed the 62,000 who voted three weeks ago. And Johnson appears to be winning comfortably in Dekalb County. I wonder if there’ll be a concession speech tonight.

Last update: Johnson has declared victory. Here’s some instant analysis, which I don’t instantly buy.

A reason to elect a Democratic House this fall

If, that is, you’d like nothing more than a high-stakes game of chicken. Byron York summarizes this report, calling it "a detailed road map for the impeachment of George W. Bush, ready for use should Democrats win control of the House of Representatives this November."

While I think a John Conyers-led witch hunt would blow up in the Democrats’ faces, the distraction it would provoke would not be good for our efforts to deal with our determined adversaries abroad. So, despite my temptation, I think I’ll pass.

Feminist Grannies Gettin’ Busy?

Kay Hymowitz surveys a plethora of navel gazing literature (with titles like Sex and the Seasoned Woman and--I’m not making this up--Still Doing It, Better Than I Ever Expected,) from aging feminists that reveal something even more amazing about feminism than my suggestive title might indicate: feminism seems to have come full circle. Hymowitz notes that although they remain defiant in their attitudes and hyper-organized and effusing in their methods, the practical effect of their "politics" is now almost apolitical. ". . . their personal is no longer very political; even their political isn’t very political. Nobody’s putting it this way, but it seems that liberation politics have become irrelevant to what is now their most pressing concern, which – depending on your emphasis – is: how to bring meaning to their dwindling years, or how to avoid being mistaken for their grandmothers."

Put another way, after a lifetime of war against nature expressed in an attempt at cultural revolution (i.e., a kind of war on society and its perceived oppression of women in favor of patriarchy), it turns out that the battle must turn inward in order to complete itself. When your war is against Nature it (naturally) turns back in on You. So now feminists have turned their attention toward the best ways of fighting bad knees, bad hips, sagging skin, diminishing sex drives, and, of course (the perennial) "lack of fulfillment." All of which begs these questions: If feminism has been such a boon to women, why are these chicks still complaining? If careerism is as fulfilling as they claimed it was in the late 60s, why are they still unfulfilled? And if nature is irrelevant respecting sex differences, then why aren’t all the old guys writing exhaustive accounts of their exploits fighting impotence and night trips to the toilet? Finally, is the new feminist anthem: "I am Woman, Hear me Moan?"

There are a hundred other questions (both serious and not) this thoughtful essay brings to mind, so read it all. Worth a few mugs!   

Forget the Picture; What About the Words?

Michelle Malkin has a terrific summary of the details of the unfolding story of the Reuters photographer caught doctoring photos. Reuters has withdrawn all 920 photos they have used from this fellow. In an age of pixels, pictures do lie.

Good start. Now, when is Reuters (or al-Reuters, as some people perceptively call them) going to fix its doctored reporting? After all, if fiddling with pixels is deceptive and inaccurate, how about the way its correspondents fiddle with words (like avoiding the term "terrorist")?

Funny how Hezbollah never fires any of its rockets from near the Reuters office building. Just a thought.

Some NLT Cheesecake

Glenn Reynolds brought us "Hot Lebanese Protest Babes" in 2005; John Hinderaker at Powerline provides regular coverage of swimsuit competitions at beauty pageants around the world, so the least NLT can do is bring you Hot Babes of the Israeli Military.

Hat Tip: Tim Blair.

Peretz on Lamont, II, and Maybe a Heresy

The problem with blogging from the West Coast during the month of August is that Knippenberg gets a three-hour head start on linking to the best stuff like the Marty Peretz article linked on the previous post. (Of course, I’ve long started referring to NLT as "Knippenblog" anyway.) Peretz is a reasonable liberal who has learned from mistakes, including some of his own. After all, Peretz was one of the primary funders of the 1967 "New Politics" conference in Chicago that was a shot in the arm for the nutty New Left. Bet he wishes he could get his money back on that escapade.

One interesting tidbit in his article that I had previously missed is that Ned Lamont is the nephew of the old Stalinist Corliss Lamont. Of course, we don’t visit the sins of the uncle on the nephew, but both Ned and Corliss enjoyed their frivolous politics because of enormous inherited wealth. Remind me again, someone, why conservatives support abolishing the Death Tax? I know, I know, it hits small and medium-sized family businesses, farms, etc, would give more money to the government, is against justice, and so on, but for every John Walton who does something decent with his inherited wealth (or Martin Peretz, who bought The New Republic with his inherited fortune), it seems there are 20 Ned Lamonts and 200 Kennedys and 2000 Rockefellers who are mostly wastrels or who do relentless malicious mischief. I’m almost ready to flip on this one.

Peretz on Lamont

My sentiments exactly:

Finally, the contest in Connecticut tomorrow is about two views of the world. Mr. Lamont’s view is that there are very few antagonists whom we cannot mollify or conciliate. Let’s call this process by its correct name: appeasement. The Greenwich entrepreneur might call it "incentivization." Mr. Lieberman’s view is that there are actually enemies who, intoxicated by millennial delusions, are not open to rational and reciprocal arbitration. Why should they be? After all, they inhabit a universe of inevitability, rather like Nazis and communists, but with a religious overgloss. Such armed doctrines, in Mr. Lieberman’s view, need to be confronted and overwhelmed.

Almost every Democrat feels obliged to offer fraternal solidarity to Israel, and Mr. Lamont is no exception. But here, too, he blithely assumes that the Palestinians could be easily conciliated. All that it would have needed was President Bush’s attention. Mr. Lamont has repeated the accusation, disproved by the "road map" and Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, that Mr. Bush paid little or even no attention to the festering conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And has Mr. Lamont noticed that the Palestinians are now ruled, and by their own choice, by Hamas? Is Hamas, too, just a few good arguments away from peace?

The Lamont ascendancy, if that is what it is, means nothing other than that the left is trying, and in places succeeding, to take back the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters have stumped for Mr. Lamont. As I say, we have been here before. Ned Lamont is Karl Rove’s dream come true. If he, and others of his stripe, carry the day, the Democratic party will lose the future, and deservedly.

Read the whole thing.


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?