Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Lieberman vs. Lamont

This is amusing. The New York Times a story page A15 this way: "Ned Lamont, who this week chastised Senator Joseph I. Lieberman for his public rebuke of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, wrote to Mr. Lieberman at the time praising the eloquence of his speech on the Senate floor." Read it all.

The front page story on Lieberman tries to focus on the "tricky path" the Senator is walking because (it seems) no one is on his side, no party organization, no labor support, no field workers, etc. The voters seem to be siding with Lieberman, and I think the tricky path is being taken by both local and national Democrats.

Democratic Assessment

The silly U.S. NEWS ranking of colleges and universities is challenged by the new ranking by THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY. There the standards are community service (including military service), production of Ph.D.s and so useful research, and contribution to students’ social mobility. Following Tocqueville, we can call these standards the characteristically democratic ones. We lovers of liberal education might fault the neglect of the Great Books, knowledge for its own sake, or, more generally, cultivation of the soul. But still, the anti-elitst standards do, to some extent, correct the empty snobbery of our politically correct enemies. At the very least, this survey reminds us of the heroic work sometimes done at our historically African-American institutions.

Senate Intel Committee Report

Here’s the report, and here’s the WaPo article on it, the most relevant portion of which reads:

Republican attempts to paint the findings as a partisan rehash were undercut by intelligence committee members from the GOP. The committee report’s conclusions are based on the Democrats’ findings because two Republicans -- Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) -- supported those findings.

Read that again: the "report’s conclusions are based on the Democrats’ findings," with "bipartisan" cover provided by Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe.

The stuff on WMD is basically old news, which will be resuscitated by the issuance of this report. Of course, bad intelligence (believed by everyone, including President Clinton and most western intelligence agencies) is different from lying, but that distinction is lost on the Bush-haters.

The discussion of ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is more nuanced in the report than in the news coverage I’ve seen and, again, is nothing new: everyone agrees that there were contacts and that there might be (or have been) cooperation where the anti-American interests of the two parties coincided.

Brangelina Barf Bag . . .

Can you believe this stuff is called "news"? But as long as it is, I can’t resist a comment. Brad Pitt won’t marry Angelina Jolie until "everyone" can marry. Gee, Brad . . . that’s a very convenient and socially forward thinking excuse. Except for one thing . . . everyone already CAN get married in America IF they get married to someone of the opposite sex. Angelina must be really gullible if she’s buying that one; particularly since it’s coming from a guy who once commented (just after marrying Jennifer Aniston) that he thought monogamy was "unnatural." But I guess a girl who once thought it was o.k. to wear Billy Bob Thorton’s blood around her neck in a vile is probably open to lots of stupid ideas.

A Word Fitly Written . . .

Tarzana Joe, the official poet of the Hugh Hewitt show, should have the final word on the continuing saga concerning ABCs willingness (or not) to air the much discussed "docu-drama" The Path to 9/11. His poem "Yes, Virginia" says it all and much more. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a poem like that is worth at least 10,000.

What Would We Do Without Studies?

Thank God we live in an age when cutting edge scientific discoveries like this one are at our disposal.

High Sierra Hi-Jinks

The long national nightmare that was our three-week camping trip to the High Sierras is finally over! Despite minor injuries to every member of our family (fish hooks, rocks falling on heads, falls into rivers, and agenda-driven picnic tables) somehow we survived!

The funniest of the injuries happened to my husband in Yosemite. As per the ADA, the campgrounds have equipped all the sites with wheelchair accessible picnic tables. Unfortunately for the able-bodied, this means that the table part sticks out a good three feet further from the seat. Late at night and in the dark, one can only see the top of the table and it is easy to forget things like that. While we were all sitting around the campfire, my husband backed up to sit down and found the reminder quite painful. As our campground host laughed knowingly about this accident, I am sure it is nothing unique to our experience. I am also reasonably sure that the number of people who have actually used the wheelchair feature of this table are fewer than the number of people injured in the way I described! But this was nothing compared to what happened to my in-laws on the way home.

Somehow my father-in-law lost control of his vehicle and jack-knifed his 5th wheel trailer along the I-5! It, and the truck, rolled over at least twice, pinning them inside and destroying everything. It is a miracle that they survived the crash without serious injury. But if you’ve never seen anything like this, it is difficult to describe. Think of an alien ship sucking everything up into the sky and then dropping it from several thousand feet! Then consider that trailers are made out of thin sheet metal, styrofoam, staples and the cheap pressed board they use for the backing of a cheap bookcase. It was quite a terrible scene.

But let me also say that if you know anyone who has one of these things and allows people to ride inside of it (or for that matter, in the non-vehicle part of a motorhome) please tell them to reconsider. Not only would no one have survived if he had been riding inside of it--neither would he be in one piece! The highway patrol officer called his wife from the scene to tell her that their plans for getting a 5th wheel so the kids could ride in the back were now off!

But, there was some good news. The fishing was fantastic, the scenery spectacular, and above all . . . the kids thought it was all one big adventure.

Now we are back to our more pedestrian existence, school has started, and the adventures must wait--at least until next summer.

What Grutter hath Wrought

The NY Times reports that about a dozen advertising firms in New York "have promised to set numerical goals for increasing black representation on their creative and managerial staffs and to report on their progress each year." Meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, the chairwoman of NYC’s Human Rights Commission, Patricia Gatling, said, "In a city where African-Americans make up one-quarter of the population, with billions of dollars in purchase power, the lack of representation in the advertising industry is completely unacceptable."

Just a week ago the Survivor tv series was criticized for grouping their tribes by race. The show’s producers claimed it wasn’t a stunt but a response to the criticism that the show was "not ethnically diverse enough." So they decided to make their fake tribes, well, more like real tribes--imagine that!

"Representation" and "diversity" no longer reflect the outcome of the equal protection of everyone’s individual choices. Instead of treating each person as an individual, with unique qualities, a multi-faceted identity, and a will of his or her own, the proponents of modern-day diversity insist that justice cannot be served for racial minorities unless they are sprinkled in sufficient quantities throughout the American landscape. I for one prefer to make America "the land of the free and the home of the brave": namely, a people free from government recognition of their race, and brave enough to insist they be treated equally before the law. If only lawmakers had agreed with the request of freedmen after the Civil War to be treated without reference to race, we might have avoided much of the mess that government use of race has produced thus far.

Update: I forgot to add yet another sign of how bad we Americans misunderstand what it means to be an individual. Anyone catch the NY Times brief feature entitled Questions for Gloria Steinem? When asked, "Is Condoleezza Rice an ally of women?" Here’s what Steinem replied: "I wish someone would write an article called ’How Did Condoleezza Rice Get That Way?’ She’s so separate from the welfare of the majority of Americans and especially the female and African-American communities to which she belongs." Wow, someone ought to tell Secretary Rice that Gloria Steinem knows better than she does exactly who Rice is and to whom she belongs. Last I checked, slavery was abolished in 1865.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for August

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

Sharon Howard

John Edens

Wade Sikes

Christopher VandeLinde

Ellie Lewis

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 September’s drawing.

Different Kind of Geekfest

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Star Trek. Oh happy day for us geeks! This article says the show was about "liberal imperialism", though it does take note of the Federation’s mindlessly relativistic "prime directive" (thank God the British rulers in India didn’t repair behind the prime directive when they saw suttee about to be practiced).

The best analysis of Star Trek remains Paul Cantor’s invaluable Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization.

P.S. Comedy Central recently held a William Shatner roast. It wasn’t very good--too much crude humor--but there were a couple of good lines, such as the comic, noting Shatner’s now-full figure, who said, "Bill--you have let yourself boldly go! You know Bill, they make 1 percent milk now.)

Lifestyles of the rich and famous Republicans; Or, What’s the Matter with McLean?

TNR writes about McLean, Virginia, with the none too subtle argument that Republicans are more vulgar than the Democrats they replaced in this posh suburb (which, by the way, was regarded as posh when I first arrived in the D.C. metro area in 1973).

Stated another way, Democrat elites wear their wealth with the gentility to which they were apparently bred, while Republican arrivistes can’t help but reveal their middle (or lower middle) class background by the excesses they practice.

According to TNR, apparently, we need a gen-yoo-wine ruling class, not the wealthy rednecks the Reagan Revolution and its successors brought to Washington. Democrats I guess know in their bones that "democracy" really can’t be run by common people.

What does Lawler, the native northern Virginian (I’m right about that, aren’t I?), think?

Another good GWB speech (or two)

I don’t have much time to blog on this right now, but yesterday the President delivered another strong speech, detailing how intelligence efforts have paid off in the apprehension of terrorists and outlining a proposal for the organization and conduct of military commissions to try those who are allegedly attempting to kill as many of us as possible.

Today, he was up the road from me delivering this speech on lessons learned from 9/11 and calling for Congress to update FISA. Here’s the conclusion of today’s speech:

In the early days after 9/11, I told the American people that this would be a long war -- a war that would look different from others we have fought, with difficulties and setbacks along the way. The past five years have proven that to be true. The past five years have also shown what we can achieve when our nation acts with confidence and resolve and clear purpose. We’ve learned the lessons of 9/11, and we have addressed the gaps in our defenses exposed by that attack. We’ve gone on the offense against our enemies, and transformed former adversaries into allies. We have put in place the institutions needed to win this war. Five years after September the 11th, 2001, America is safer -- and America is winning the war on terror. With vigilance, determination, courage, we will defeat the enemies of freedom, and we will leave behind a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren.

The White House also released this White Paper, offering its view of the successes and challenges in the five years since 9/11.

Here’s the Democrats’ alternative.

For coverage, you can go here, here, and here. A useful passage:

By challenging Congress to immediately give the administration authority to try notorious al-Qaeda figures such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed by military commissions, he shifted the argument with Democratic critics of national security policies and competence. As Bush framed the choice, anyone against his proposal would be denying him necessary tools to protect American security.

His success in catching much of Washington by surprise showed that a president who polls show has his political back to the wall still has formidable tools: the ability to make well-timed course corrections on policy, dominate the news and shape the capital’s agenda in the weeks before Election Day.

Here’s the nub of the Democratic response:

As the president was speaking, Senate Democrats were holding a news conference on Capitol Hill to denounce his anti-terrorism policies as “tough but empty rhetoric” and offer a package of proposals of their own.

“Republicans have ignored the lessons of 9/11 and failed to make America as safe as we can and should be,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader. “They want to ‘stay the course’ in the face of failure. We won’t.”

Unless I miss my guess, Harry Reid has walked into the trap, accepting the identification of the was on terror with the war in Iraq by using the Democratic characterization of the latter and applying it to the former. And however one describes "the facts on the ground" in Iraq, it’s hard to redescribe the fact that there haven’t been any terror attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. If I had to bet, I’d bet that GWB will be seen to have won this round politically.

And it’s important that he win it politically because his continued poltiical success is essential for our security.

If you want to see what really exercises President Bush’s predecessors, read this and this.


Sen. Chuck Schumer, who controls a $35 million Democratic election fund, didn’t give a dime to help Sen. Joe Lieberman fight back against anti-war challenger Ned Lamont, federal records show. Schumer will not be the only red-faced Democrat when Lieberman is re-elected. Lamont will be lucky to get about 40% of the vote.

Latest Podcast

I talked with John Moser about acting and teaching. John is a professor of history and a wonderful teacher, and, a pretty fair actor. So we talked mostly about his hobby, acting, and some about how it relates to teaching. He has a play—a comedy—coming up this weekend and the next, and if you are nearby Mansfield, Ohio, you should attend. After all, as the Poet says in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, "How shall we beguile the lazy time, if not with some delight?"

Japan and normality

Japan’s Princess Kiko gave birth Wednesday to a male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne, ending a potential crisis of succession in the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. George Will notes that the famous pacifist Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution will end up (read, already has) bowing to normality (reality): Japan will become (is) a military power, with a military budget already larger than Britain’s or Germany’s. Will North Korea provoke it to become nuclear? Congratulations to Princess Kiko.

Five years after 9/11

A Zogby Poll shows that about 58% majority says the Iraq War has not been worth the loss of American lives, while 36% say it has. Here is the partisan breakdown: Among Republicans, 58% say the war has been worth the cost in lives, while among Democrats, just 20% hold this view.

Martin Gilbert (the official Churchill historian) has a new book out: The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War. The battle lasted four months. While by the end of the four month long battle it was fair to say--as a German general did--that the Somme became "the muddy grave of the German field army," (German casualties were over a half a million men) it is also worth noting that the British lost

nineteen thousand (19,000) soldiers on the first day. For the rest of the story see
this and this.

GWB’s Sunni/Shia terror speech

Here’s the speech.

A snippet:

Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We’re taking the words of the enemy seriously. We’re on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.


As we continue to fight al Qaeda and these Sunni extremists inspired by their radical ideology, we also face the threat posed by Shia extremists, who are learning from al Qaeda, increasing their assertiveness, and stepping up their threats. Like the vast majority of Sunnis, the vast majority of Shia across the world reject the vision of extremists -- and in Iraq, millions of Shia have defied terrorist threats to vote in free elections, and have shown their desire to live in freedom. The Shia extremists want to deny them this right. This Shia strain of Islamic radicalism is just as dangerous, and just as hostile to America, and just as determined to establish its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East. And the Shia extremists have achieved something that al Qaeda has so far failed to do: In 1979, they took control of a major power, the nation of Iran, subjugating its proud people to a regime of tyranny, and using that nation’s resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue their radical agenda.

Like al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists, the Iranian regime has clear aims: They want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East. To achieve these aims, they are funding and arming terrorist groups like Hezbollah, which allow them to attack Israel and America by proxy. Hezbollah, the source of the current instability in Lebanon, has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization except al Qaeda. Unlike al Qaeda, they’ve not yet attacked the American homeland. Yet they’re directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of Americans abroad. It was Hezbollah that was behind the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans. And Saudi Hezbollah was behind the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans, an attack conducted by terrorists who we believe were working with Iranian officials.

Just as we must take the words of the Sunni extremists seriously, we must take the words of the Shia extremists seriously. Listen to the words of Hezbollah’s leader, the terrorist Nasrallah, who has declared his hatred of America. He says, "Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute… Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America."

And yet another:

Imagine a world in which they were able to control governments, a world awash with oil and they would use oil resources to punish industrialized nations. And they would use those resources to fuel their radical agenda, and pursue and purchase weapons of mass murder. And armed with nuclear weapons, they would blackmail the free world, and spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to the American people. If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don’t uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act.

This is the sort of speech he should have been giving at least once a month. Great stuff!

Here, if you care to read them, are the WaPo and NYT stories, which bury the speech in partisan context.

I’ll dig up analyses when they’re posted tomorrow.

Democrats and religion yet again again again

This AP story tells us of this new website, representing "an online community of Christian Democrats." Among the folks who will be opining on this site are the ubiquitous Amy Sullivan, Mara Vanderslice (who had a very brief stint as John Kerry’s first Director of Religious Outreach), Randall Balmer (an evangelical so liberal he has become an Episcopalian), and Lauren Winner, who is a frequent presence on the pages of Books & Culture.

While it at the moment seems to be impossible to link to a particular post on the site (note to the site administrators: if you want to have a conversation with folks, make it possible!), Amy Sullivan did have a few interesting things to say on one post. And I quote:

A popular line of attack against Republicans has been the argument that Bush and his administration are in the thrall of religious fundamentalists and that our country is on the verge of becoming a theocracy. Books like Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy and Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming have promoted this thesis by exposing the extreme theologies subscribed to by some of Bush’s religious supporters.

It’s true that there are some disturbing theological views out there that need to be critically examined, and that Bush has been guilty of playing on those beliefs in order to mobilize his most right-wing followers. But aside from the troubling of area of public health -- in which religious views, and not science, have dictated policy -- there is no evidence that Bush’s actions have been influenced by religious conservatives. Is it hard to believe that he would have invaded Iraq anyway if fundamentalists didn’t have apocalyptic theories about the Middle East? Or that he would continue to oppose environmental regulation even if some folks didn’t believe that global warming was an essential part of the End Times? (For more on this, read Peter Steinfels’ excellent book review in this month’s American Prospect.)

The damning criticism of Bush is not that he is too religious, but that he is not religious enough. He used the faith-based initiative to reel in religious supporters and then slashed the funds available for faith-based and other service providers. He spent the campaign talking tough about protecting children from wireless porn and then backed down when cellular companies protested. And for all Bush’s talk about the culture of life, religious conservatives are starting to realize that the Republican Party doesn’t want to see Roe overturned. That’s what has damaged the GOP’s religion-friendly image -- not the idea that the party is made up of a bunch of theocrats.

She also calls attention to this rather measured review essay by the NYT’s Peter Steinfels.

There’s also some pablum served up by Bob Casey, Jr., with links to more detailed documents (unfortunately unlinkable from the site), as well as the promise of a major address on "Restoring America’s Moral Compass: Leadership and the Common Good," to be delivered at Catholic University of America on September 14th.

All in all, a worthwhile site.

Studies Show That Marxism Is Still Bad

Here’s a remarkably sympathetic and subtle review of the profoundly critical and exhaustively detailed criticisms of Marxism and its history in the work of the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski. And it’s located in THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS! The reviewer means to counter the two main Western intellectual fantasies of our time: 1. That our present well-managed liberal or libertarian democracies are immune to radical challenge AND 2. Marx liberated from Marxism and communism might provide the foundation for such challenges.

My thanks to Ryan Rakness for calling this review to my attention. His hope is that the temptation to comment on its excellences and its deficiencies will draw the legendary DAN MAHONEY into our discussion.

Judicial abstraction from the war on terror

David Marion suggests that judges (as well as executives and legislators) drink deeply from the well of Madisonian and Lincolnian wisdom before absolutizing rights and abstracting them from the historical and political contexts in which they’re exercised.

It’s after Labor Day

Polls show that races are getting tighter. This WaPo article argues that economic woes will hurt incumbents (read: Republicans), though the issue cut the same way in 2004, and look how that came out. (Of course, without the President on the ballot, national security won’t likely be as big an issue.)

E.J. Dionne, Jr. thinks the North will rise again to help Democrats.

Stay tuned.

A quick note about Philadelphia

My wife and kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I was pleased by the tourist segments in which I participated. Philadelphia’s historic district is impressive, with all sorts of interesting and entertaining programming, thanks in large part to this organization. I liked the National Constitution Center well enough, as did the younger Knippenbergs, though dad and kids presumably had different interests and capacities for appreciating the exhibits.

One last point: in the historic district, ordinary Philadelphians were consistently friendly and helpful, one of them explaining to my wife that he tries harder because his city all too often gets overlooked as a tourist destination because of New York, Washington, and even Boston. I don’t know how widespread the attitude is ("the plural of anecdote is not data"), but we’d go back and recommend the experience to others.

APSA wrap-up

The Friar has a few things to say about the panels he attended. I made it to part of this one, in addition to the two on which I served. The part I saw was all about how Democrats could become more religion-friendly and, not surprisingly, Bill Galston’s list was comprehensive. Whether it’s achieveable is a different story. (Hint: Catholics are the key.)

I had some interesting conversations, learning, for example, about this program, which shows what an entrepreneurial professor can do if he encounters an administration that is willing to countenance "intellectual diversity."

I also bought a bunch of books, about which more later.

Patrick Henry College update

If you still care about Patrick Henry College, this relatively soft WaTi story has some information.

As for the fate of one of last year’s principal protagonists, you can go here.

Is Divided Government the Ticket?

As the discerning Kate has pointed out in a thread, the classic Cato (or libertarian policy wonk) case for divided government as the best or even only way to slow the growth in federal spending has been revived in many quarters of late. Friends of genuinely limited government, the argument today goes, should welcome and even help in the likely Democratic takeover of Congress as the most effective way to begin to deal with the fiscal damage done by our utterly undisciplined Republicans, both the president and in Congress. Here’s the most recent and pretty powerful if not finally persuasive (to me) version of the case for a calculated choice for the Democrats this time. (Actually, I might be persuaded if I thought fiscal policy is the main thing or the most important thing.) It’s certainly an argument the Republicans must begin to address to win in November. They have to start talking and acting as if fiscal competence and discpline, not to mention the idea of rigorously limited government, genuinely mattered to them.

Free Beer! (Or Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 3)

I just got back from the political science convention. For those of you who missed me, I’ll be in DC Wed. thru Fri. at the Bioethics Council Meeting. Wednesday night I will be speaking at that gourmet’s dream, a Thai-Italian restaurant, to conservatives young enough to be carded. Here’s your invitation. Just say you read about this on NLT, and you will qualify for the free beer.