Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Studies Show: The Emerging Neuro-Anthropological Science of Love

There’s mounting evidence that we’re far from the only species to "love." And, ladies, don’t believe him when he says he loves (or doesn’t love) you. Make him get a fMRI. (The same, of course, goes for you gentlemen.)

The Prediction Map

Here’s evidence that if the election were tomorrow control of the Senate would depend on the Tennessee result. It’s also evidence the Republican House situation has deteriorated significantly.

Does the GOP Deserve to Lose?

Instapundit has a very thorough "pre-mortem" explanation of why, although the Democrats don’t deserve to win, the Republicans deserve to lose. It’s easy to disagree with many, many of the particular details of Reynolds’ analysis (beginning with his view that the Terri Schiavo case was "the beginning of the end"), but only those in extreme denial can ignore the evidence that lots of voters seem to agree with his general conclusion. Reynolds’ presentation includes a link to the most recent polling data found at RealClearPolitics, which really is a sea of blue. I’m against political pre-mortems on principle, but there’s not much time left to explain effectively why we deserve to win. The most hopeful way to view Reynolds’ message is to take his corny football imagery seriously: Teams that fumble nine times and still are only down a touchtown in the fourth quarter sometimes end up winning.

UPDATE: Fred Barnes’ strong case against hoping for the fourth quarter rally It’s the enthusiasm, stupid!

Jimmy Carter Action Figure??

Isn’t this false advertising? Shouldn’t it be called the "Jimmy Carter In

DiIulio on religion and government regulation

While I’m on a faith-based roll, here’s John DiIulio on the NYT series I discussed here, here, and here. A snippet:

Times readers might be invited to imagine an America in which all of those ostensibly favored faith groups disappeared tomorrow. Who would suffer the most, and who would have to pay to replace the social services that they now provide? For instance, pick ten big cities, and ask how many low-income non-Catholics (Title I students, Medicaid-eligible patients, etc.) are served by Catholic elementary schools, high schools, colleges or universities, and hospitals? Next, try to figure out who is subsidizing or "accommodating" whom: How much would it cost to provide the same services without religiously mobilized volunteers and institutions in the mix? Studies being conducted by me and others at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University aim to estimate the "replacement value" of such Catholic "civic assets." Stay tuned.


Despite survey evidence, case studies aplenty, and personal experiences suggesting that most elite national media outlets are home to people far less religious than most Americans, I have always resisted the conclusion that their reporting is systematically biased against religiously observant people and institutions.

The Times, however, has very nearly converted me to that cynical view. By no objective measure is there any reality that could justify its "Religion Trumps Regulation" page-one headline.

Read the whole thing. 

Faith-based kerfuffle

Former Bush Administration official David Kuo is attracting some attention about his forthcoming book, in which he alleges that folks in the White House expressed contempt for the people they were politically manipulating.

Some of this we’ve heard before, though when Kuo first went public the explicitly political criticism he’s now making wasn’t part of the package. Here are some excepts from his original column:

I served in the White House for two-and-a-half years as a Special Assistant to the president and eventually as Deputy Director of the Faith-Based Initiative. I have deep respect, appreciation, and affection for the president. No one who knows him even a tiny bit doubts the sincerity and compassion of his heart. Likewise, the people around the president are good and caring people. I know this firsthand because I experienced it during a health crisis in my own life when their kindness was evident.


Between 2002 and 2004 more than 15,000 white, Hispanic, and African-American religious and social service leaders attended free White House conferences on how to interact with the federal government. The meetings, held regularly in battleground states, were chock-full of vital information and gave thousands of groups invaluable information about government grants. They were hardly pep rallies for the President. But the conferences sent a resounding political message to all faith-oriented constituencies: President Bush cares about you.

Some liberal leaders have been quoted as saying the administration was looking to "buy minority votes." Nothing could be further from the truth. There wasn’t enough money around to buy anyone. The conferences actually underscored how difficult it was to even get a grant. But by traveling across the country, giving useful information, and extending faith-based groups an open hand, powerful inroads were made to "non-traditional" supporters. One senior Republican leader walked into an early conference, stared wide-eyed at the room full of people of diverse ethnicities and said to me, "This is what Republicans have been dreaming about for 30 years."

Back then (February, 2005, to be precise), Kuo argued that the faith-based initiative was good politics as well as good policy, and that the Republicans didn’t sufficiently embrace it. And there’s not a whisper of the contempt he now ballyhoos.

The White House response can be found here and is described here and here.

I’ll note three things in all this. First, there’s Tony Snow’s response:

When David Kuo left the White House, he sent the President a very warm letter, talking about how wonderful it was. He said, "two-and-a-half years later," after joining the White House, "I’m proud of all the initiative has accomplished. Building on the extraordinary work that John," -- John DiIulio -- "started in 2001, we have advanced the cause of the faith-based groups, ensuring that they are treated fairly by the federal government and have the tools necessary to make their efforts successful. He said, "Ultimately, however, it’s your staff’s keen awareness of your unwavering support for this initiative that’s made the difference."


I’m a little bit perplexed, because it does seem at odds with what he was saying inside the building at the time he departed.

Then here’s Jim Towey:

H. James Towey, who directed the faith-based office during Kuo’s time there, said yesterday that "it sounds like he worked at a different White House than the one I worked for."

Towey added that he, not Mehlman, decided where to hold conferences. "If a congressman in a tight race invited me, I went," he said. "But that was true of Democrats as well as Republicans."

Finally, here’s FRC President Tony Perkins:

Perkins of the Family Research Council said he would not be surprised if derisive comments were made behind Christian leaders’ backs.

"I have no misconceptions about how people in the Republican Party and the establishment view social conservatives. They are dismissive. I see how they prefer to work with fiscal conservatives," he said. "Having said that, I see it really as a marriage of convenience. We are not without significant gains by working with this administration."

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some people in the White House who weren’t singing from the faith-based hymnbook, or were only mouthing the words. But social and religious conservatives are, at least in this case, grown-ups.

And this kerfuffle, whatever the substance behind it (and I don’t think there’s really all that much), takes a good bit of the steam out of another critique of the Bush Administration--that they’re all a bunch of theoc---s.

I don’t blame Kuo or his publisher for the timing of this hit. Both want to sell books, and now’s the time that they’ll get the maximum attention for this supposed expose. But you have to wonder about someone who seems to have kept his powder dry for this long, and to have changed his tune so substantially in the last couple of years. Has the intelligence been "sexed up"?

Update: Here’s another story with more from Towey and Michael Gerson. Melissa Rogers, a stalwart of the separationist religious left, has lots on the book; just keep scrolling.

Update #2: Here’s a Focus on the Family press release responding to Kuo’s allegations. Let me repeat: I have no doubt but that, in any political undertaking, tempers will on occasion flare and people will say things that they wish they hadn’t. I also have no doubt but that all the parties involved are "sinful"; they’re human, after all. I’m thus inclined to regard Kuo’s examples as at best only a part of the story. Perhaps they’re put in perspective in the book, though, given the way in which it’s billed, I doubt it.

Terror supporter

In Lawler’s back yard.

Are Chimps People Too?

It’s a close call. Unlike the new-born babies of our species, they can brush their teeth. And women of our species may actually prefer the scent of their sweat. Somebody might ask: Where are the chimp philosophers, poets, physicists, presidents, physicians, priests, popes, and so on? But maybe they haven’t had the right opportunities. My serious view, of course, is tha chimps aren’t people, although they are fascinating, very social animals deserving of our protection and affection.
And we’re still stuck with reflecting on Walker Percy’s question: Is it better to be a dislocated human or a contented chimp? Not that we have the right to choose between the two options.

Tennessee’s Ford

Rich Lowry of NRO admires Ford’s inventive or reinventive electoral strategy. Certainly Lowry’s right that most southern Democrats and maybe most Democrats would gain from following Ford’s example. The question Lowry doesn’t answer: Is Ford really a "born again" moderate on both social and defense issues or is his evolution mostly astute calculation of what sells in Tennessee these days? Either way, the truth is that he’s a very intelligent and impressive candidate, and his victory (if the election were tomorrow) would likely tip the Senate.

Bully Pulpits and Flyswatters

Peggy Noonan’s latest examines four recent episodes of "free speech" that demonstrate the madness prevailing on the left--despite their apparent approach to electoral victory. She looks at a shouting down of Minuteman leader, Jim Gilchrist, at Columbia University; the outrage following a suggestion from a man whose daughter was killed at Columbine, that recent school shootings might be related to an overall lack of respect for God; Barbra Streisand’s cussing out a fan at a recent concert because he apparently did not wish to pay for her political posturing; and the latest of a series of verbal intimidations coming from Rosie O’Donnell on "The View" (which, in my never to be humble opinion is the most brain-dead talk show ever created). Noonan concludes that these outbursts of intolerance from the left are, in a certain sense, inexplicable . . . coming, as they are, on the eve of an apparent liberal electoral victory. Why are they so angry and so crazed and so intolerant unless, as she suspects, they can’t afford to be tolerant or calm. Noonan correctly notes that a liberal victory, should it come, will come in spite not because of folks like Steisand, O’Donnell and student activists at Columbia.

To be sure, there are some conservative nutters out there. But they never have garnered much respect, even in conservative nutter circles! If anything, conservatives and Republicans are too polite, too acommodating, and too civil. Genuine respect for debate and civility is fine, but why cede ground to loons? The loonier the liberal, it seems the more he is lauded by liberal partisans and the more he is feared by Republican lawmakers. Like Elizabeth Hasselbeck on "The View" conservatives often seem like token opposition--there but not with much there there. "Here’s my opinion . . . now please don’t beat me!"

On the other hand, there is no evidence that this openess to liberal lunacy advances the cause of either liberals or of conservatives. In California, for example, Phil Angelides is actually running ads where an actor portrays a "young Phil" with love and butterflies 60s music playing in the background. Young Phil, a clean-cut little hippie in college, is learning more about a rally to oust Nixon. In another scene, he’s involved in actions against the (Vietnam) war. He continues in that tradition, even today as a neo-hippie pastes an Angelides sign on a college bulletin board. Yeah, he’s a real fighter. He’s sewn up that college protester vote. And . . . he’s way down in the polls! Now, true to his student protester form, he’s whining about not getting his 15 minutes on Jay Leno like Arnie did. Arnie laughs at him and, adding insult to injury, pointed out in a recent debate, that debating Angelides was like having dinner at Uncle Teddy’s house.

The desperation of the Angelides campaign is almost painful to watch. But Arnie has made it entertaining. Republicans can learn something from him. The desperation of other liberals--who seem to be losing despite winning--is even more painful to watch because conservatives--or, to be more specific--Republicans, seem incapable of exploiting it. Granted, all Arnie has to do is smile for the camera and throw out a joke or two about Uncle Teddy. Angelides is just a fly to be swatted for him. But the difference is that he swats! The lack of traction Angelides has in CALIFORNIA must show Republicans that if they lose this thing in November it will not be because of anything Democrats have done (the good news), but because of what they have not done (as usual, and the bad news). It’s time to get out the flyswatters!

Florida Again?

Last week a long-time Washington hand (former White House guy from years ago, etc.) told me that he fears that if Democrats unaccountably fall short in this election, they might launch a full scale attack on the integrity of the democratic process itself, with potentially disastrous effects for our politics. We’ve already seen the set up for this, with the ridiculous charges from RFK Jr. in Rolling Stone that Bush (with Ken Blackwell’s help) stole Ohio in the 2004 election.

Over on today there is this little nugget from Bruce Reed:

Ask paranoid Democrats their innermost fears going into the midterm elections, and you’ll hear two answers. First, that the Foley scandal will force another October surprise to come out of the Republicans’ closet: Osama Bin Laden. Second, that on Election Night, Diebold electronic voting machines nationwide are secretly programmed to stop counting Democratic votes as soon as Democrats pull within one seat of taking back the House or the Senate. . . Since 2004, many Democrats have become convinced that rigged voting machines in Ohio cheated John Kerry out of his chance to lose the popular vote and still win the Electoral College.

And they call themselves "the reality-based community."


Ryan Sager posts in its entirety a letter from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey telling off James Dobson.

Read the whole thing. Holey-moley indeed!  

Friday Fulminations

Back in the 1980s, BusinessWeek used to be known as the only anti-business business magazine, in part for its Keynesianism and parroting of the Democrats’ talking points about Reagan’s tax cuts. Vindication! The current issue of The New Republic offers lefty John Judis talking about how BusinessWeek was his favorite business magazine. Part of his explanation really gives the game away:

I have read BusinessWeek regularly for 30 years. I began reading it on the advice of the late Michael Harrington, the socialist agitator and author of The Other America. Mike used to pepper his speeches calling for capitalist reform with supporting evidence from this eminently capitalist journal, which he regarded as the best of the news magazine.

Meanwhile, head over to Michael Barone’s blog, where you will find the unexpected headline "Hurray for Hillary." Excerpt:

That’s a headline you haven’t seen before in this blog. But I mean it. It’s inspired by these excerpts from an interview she held with the editorial board of the Daily News in New York. What do I like about the interview?

No. 1, she avoids the "Bush lied, people died" mantra, which tends to delegitimize our effort in Iraq. Instead, she says, not unreasonably, "We have to deal with the Iraq we have, not the Iraq we wish we had." That sounds to me like someone who is thinking realistically about a responsibility that might be hers starting Jan. 20, 2009.

Happy Friday.

Studies Show Even More: The Emerging Science of Evolutionary Neuro-Musicology

"Mounting evidence suggests that human beings are hardwired to appreciate music." And it may be that the harmonization required for communal music-making "works as a sort of rehearsal for the teamwork required for high stakes endeavors such as hunting and common defense." Jimi Hendrix, it appears, exploited his musical status to relentlessly spread his genes, although he was thwarted to some extent by the unnatural barrier of birth control. But Pinker throws cold water on all such speculation with his suggestion that it’s very possible that our species’ musical capabilities are just a "useless byproduct" of the evolutionary process through which we acquired language.

Sabato’s Update: More Republican Seats in Play

Here’s our friend Larry’s update on the election. It includes nothing we didn’t already know. Republican momentum has been reversed by Foley and and the perception of drift in and denial about the situation in Iraq. (Let me add again that the mainstream media is relentless and really good at highlighting these concerns.) Amazingly, the House still isn’t lost for sure, although the potential for a Democratic version of 1994 is growing. And though I tend to think that this is a bad year for Repubicans in OH and RI, the news from TN and MO may just be good enough for the Republicans to hold on to the Senate. All this speculation about Rove’s magic-to-come is silly. I don’t see the Republicans having a turnout advantage this year. Reasons for hope: Republicans will use their money efffectively to focus voters on the real issues in the key races. A minor Foley backlash might come from the shameless effort to turn a minor scandal into a national crisis.

Linker/Douthat revisited

TNR gives Damon Linker the last word (and I’m grateful, since I don’t think the exchange of letters was ultimately very productive). You’re probably not surprised to learn that I don’t find the ground of DL’s criticism of his former associates very compelling: as a "theorist of liberalism," DL is basically a slightly more readable John Rawls. There’s nothing there that I haven’t seen before, and nothing DL offers that leads me to abandon my judgment that the claims of non-comprehensiveness are any less mistaken.

Purportedly non-comprehensive (call them "political," if you must) liberalisms rest on the denial that a comprehensive view is necessary to guide us. Rawls’s liberal predecessors (John Locke and Immanuel Kant, for example) recognized a comprehensive religious view required a comprehensive theoretical response: they engaged, rather than simply evaded, religion, attempting to reconstruct it so as to make it "safe for liberalism." As such, they made claims about religious truths that can be examined and criticized. The claim about the possibility of a (merely?) "political liberalism" either acknowledges or fails to acknowledge these essentially comprehensive efforts, which are, in effect, a denial of the comprehensive truth of any religious view, a denial that is itself obviously contestable.

Truman revival

Let me piggyback on the early-rising (or was he just getting to bed?) Steve Hayward’s post. I just finished writing a review of Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s new book on Truman for the Claremont Review. (Review preview: good book; read it and wish that more political leaders had HST’s religiously-grounded moral fortitude.)

Spalding visited Ashbrook recently; you can listen to her talk here. Other useful glimpses into her analysis can be found here and here (where she shares the stage with, but does not directly confront, Peter Beinart). A snippet from the NRO interview:

Lopez: What can the Democratic party, in particular, learn from Harry Truman in the early days of the Cold War, as they approach the war on terror?

Spalding: Truman acted from permanent principles, and he understood the character of the regime — its government, constitution, and principles — as central to foreign policy. He was no relativist (like realists, whether liberal or conservative), nor was he a wishful idealist (aiming to replay Wilsonianism after World War II). Truman was a liberal internationalist — not an inflexible multilateralist. Like Bush, Truman was pro-international institutions when it came to trade. He was focused on key bilateral and regional relationships and created perhaps the most successful regional alliance: NATO, which was grounded, in a revolutionary way, in collective defense, rather than collective security. This sets Truman apart from Wilson, and it’s what many Democrats today fail to see.

Beinart appears to me too busy trying to score partisan (inter- and intra-) to get this. By Steve’a account (I haven’t had a chance to read the article, which isn’t readily available on-line), Gaddis is a surer non-Ashbrookian guide.

Thursday Thoughts

Over at The Corner, the NRO gang is rightly celebrating its magnificent 10th anniversary bash at Charlie Palmer steak house in DC last night. Huge crowd, good food (especially the mini-hamburgers, of which I ate a half dozen I think). The raucous crowd kept on buzzing and talking through the formal program, until Gov. Mitt Romney was invited to the microphone, where he performed an impressive feat: he managed to quiet the crowd so that he could be heard, and then he talked for about 45 seconds--exceedingly rare, but welcome, in a politician. He understands the principle that less is more, or, as Reagan used to say, always leave the audience wanting more. This man looks, and sounds, like a potential president. Keep your eye on him; I’m sure McCain is.

Not to be missed this week is John Lewis Gaddis in The New Republic, reviewing a new biography of Dean Acheson, but really looking at Bush and the present moment. Sample:

It’s strange, then, that so many Democrats today are outside this [Truman-Acheson] tradition. They have responded to the first Republican president to have become a liberal interventionist by quivering--and blogging--with rage. They have offered no plan for building on the Bush Doctrine and moving on. It’s as if they’re imitating the Republicans of the 1930s, who quivered with rage at Roosevelt (blogging had not been invented yet) while neglecting his warnings about tyrants, as well as his vision of what a world without them might be.

He concludes, "If Reagan and Bush could borrow from Truman and Acheson, then it’s hard to see why Democrats today should not borrow from Reagan and Bush." OMG--most liberals would catch the vapors at the very thought.   

True Theocons Found at NASCAR Races, Not in New York City

From THE NEW YORK SUN via Paul Seaton:

TOM Wolfe says a jarring scene he recently witnessed in Tennessee convinced him that writers who live in New York and on the Left Coast are out of touch with the rest of the country. In the upcoming book, "Telling True Stories," the "Bonfire of the Vanities" novelist says he watched in amazement at a NASCAR race last month as a National Rifle Association honcho got a rousing standing ovation, and was followed by a minister who "asked the Lord to look out for these brave drivers and these loyal fans . . . in the name of Thy Only Son, Christ Jesus." Writes Wolfe: "Anyone who introduced an event that way in San Francisco or New York would risk arrest for a hate crime. New York writers really must cross the Hudson River, and writers in Los Angeles really must go as far as the San Joaquin Valley. Most of the meaning of America lies in between the coasts, I’m afraid."

Nork Music

This post from Tim Blair on North Korean musical offerings is even better than my previous post about Kim Jong Il’s golf prowess. I’m starting to think the n-bomb test probably was a hoax.

Muslim Brotherhood in Minneapolis

USA Today reports: "Scores of Muslim cabdrivers in Minneapolis who say their faith prohibits them from driving passengers with alcohol have sparked a debate over how far a government must go to accommodate Islamic law.

Muslim cabdrivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have been refusing to take passengers who carry wine or spirits from duty-free stores or who are loaded down with bottles after visiting wine country.

They’ve also asked dispatchers not to call them to pick up passengers heading to liquor stores and bars."

And then note this: "One driving force behind the move to accommodate the drivers’ beliefs is the Minnesota Chapter of the Muslim American Society.

MAS was founded by U.S. members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which promotes the spread of Islamic influence through political parties and militant groups in the Middle East. MAS members say they do not promote violence."

Save Friday Night Lights

Here’s a case where a very good book about Texas high school football was made into a better movie (starring Billy Bob Thornton) and into an even better TV show. But so far the show’s rating are terrible. If you want a sympathetic, extremely well acted and directed, psychologically subtle portrayal of one of the most fascinating and, yes, manly aspects of small-town American life, tune in Tuesday at 8 on NBC. Following my wife’s good advice, I watched last night and was immediately hooked.

Blackwell’s two problems

A front-page Washington Post story on the Blackwell-Strickland race claims that Strickland has made serious inroads with the "values voters", hence his lead in the polls. Or, maybe the article claims that the economy is the major issue and Ohio seems to be in worse shape than the nation at large. The only clear thing about the article is that it is not pro-Blackwell. My view is that Strickland is the Dems version of Taft: pleasant, inoffensive, harmless; his opponents might say boring, but there is no theme to this pudding. No one denies that Blackwell has a theme, and is a smart, outgoing, and rhetorically very effective candidate. Yet, he has two problems: One, he hasn’t yet found his stride in the campaign, seems bored with himself even; perhaps his handlers are not letting him be himself (remember the problem with Reagan?), perhaps they are afraid that Ken will raise his voice every now and then. Two, the party establishment--a bit more moderate than Ken--has not yet seen fit to support him with any enthusiasm. Blackwell can have an effect on the first problem, but he has to act now. He should raise his voice and let people know he really wants to be governor. Show some ambition, growl a bit and let folks see the lion in him. Let Blackwell be Blackwell and his staff should step aside!

There He Goes Again. . .

Jimmy Carter turns up in the pages of the New York Times this morning to pat himself on the back for having "solved" the NorKo nuclear crisis back in 1994. Of course, Carter implies that the whole thing is George W. Bush’s fault for having called the Norks bad names ("axis of evil"). It is a classic example of Carter’s delusional state of mind.

Just deconstruct this graph, for example:

Responding to an invitation from President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and negotiated an agreement under which North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit inspectors from the atomic agency to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. It was also agreed that direct talks would be held between the two Koreas

Where to start. "an invitation from Kim Il Sung." Yes, and why do you suppose he wanted Carter so badly? ". . . with the approval of Bill Clinton. . ." Accuracy demands that it read "with the reluctant approval of Bill Clinton." Carter actually presented Clinton with a fait accompli--Carter told the White House was going to go hold hands with the Norks whether Clinton approved or not. Clinton, by the way, was furious with the outcome, which Carter announced on CNN before he told the White House. Clinton told Warren Christopher that Carter was to be stopped from making any further freelance trips of this kind. "It was also agreed that direct talks be held between the two Koreas." The Norks demanded a multi-million dollar payment from the South Koreans just to show up for the talks. In other words, the Norks turned it into a Jesse Jackson-style shakedown operation.

But remember--Jimmy is our best ex-president ever.

Wednesday Wonders

Sometimes little things become fittingly symbolic of the state of play in politics. So yesterday House Speaker Denny Hastert had a televised press availability . . . in front of a cemetery.

Democratic Libertarians

Here’s the most thoughtful of the Democratic libertarian articles so far. The collapse of the corporate safety net--reflected, for example, in the replacement of reliable pensions with chancy 401Ks--will cause people to demand that government do more to provide for their security. Our sophisticates--our nouveau libertarian Democrats--favor increased personal permissiveness and the enjoyment of all the benefits of a meritocracy that lavishly rewards the smart and the pretty combined with government protection from all the downsides of individualistic erosion of all our social safety nets. Not to mention government protection from second-hand smoke and trans-fatty foods.

Podcast with Hayward

I did another podcast with Hayward yesterday afternoon. We discussed the Foley scandal, the danger to Democrats that they may get too carried away in it, and the fact that, unlike Congressional races, the GOP seems to be doing fairly well in several key gubernatorial races.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for September

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

Linda McCulloch

Susan Benedict

Ed Doster

Betsey Kelly

Linda Breckinridge

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 October’s drawing.

Manent: theocon or not?

I report. You decide.

More Schall on Benedict at Regensburg

This, via the Pomo Con.

A Canticle for Leibowitz

Hidden on the NRO page among the discouraging and apocalyptic messages is Thomas Hibbs’ fine appreciation of a neglected gem of a novel, Walter Miller’s A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. The genuine end of the world won’t be some nuclear catastrophe but the total forgetfulness of the wisdom embedded in a cultural tradition. And one sign that our tradition is already fragmented, if not forgotten, is our misguided view that, in the name of the truth, we must choose either science or religion. Miller’s novel inspired in several obvious and deep ways the two-part space odyssey that concludes Walker Percy’s LOST IN THE COSMOS.

Look out, Tiger!

Kim Jong Il is going to take you out at the next Master’s. To wit:

Pyongyang media say North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il enjoys golf, having shot multiple holes-in-one during his first try at the game. He reportedly aced five holes and finished 38 under par on the golf course. The "Great Leader" routinely shoots three or four holes-in-one per round, the government-controlled media reported.

Who knew?


Waller R. Newell (I never called him that) conclusively and chillingly demonstrates the debt Ahmadinejad indirectly owes to Sartre and Fanon, in which he resembles no one more than Pol Pot. Read the whole thing.    

Hat tip: Tom Cerber.

Studies Show: The Emerging Science of Neuro-Economics

Reason, emotion, and self-interest are sometimes in conflict, despite the efforts of the brain to balance them. And not only that: Our sense of injustice sometimes trumps our rational self- interest. The old-fashioned economists are not always right; they have a hard time explaining suicide bombers.

More Studies: Why We Wear Skirts

This new study seems to prove something I’ve long believed about women--when we dress up for "no reason" there is a reason. And, as you may recall, a couple weeks ago there was a study about how too much testosterone could kill brain cells. Now comes the flip side: a female hormone seems to repair brain injury! The mysteries of the universe unfold before our eyes!

Supremes and partial-birth abortion

Rick Garnett and Michael Stokes Paulsen urge the Supreme Court to follow Abraham Lincoln’s lead in deciding Gonzales v. Carhart (the appellate decision is here) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (appellate opinion here).

"I have in my hand a list of 57 names. . ."

Byron York is out with a new piece on how liberal activists are trying to start a "civil war" on the right by circulating a list a gay Republicans. Certainly this tactic may have an effect in suppressing the social conservativ vote in the election next month, but is this really serving liberal interests in the long haul? Andrew Sullivan in puzzled. . .

Diversity Update

Harvard’s Robert Putnam, of Bowling Alone fame, has a new study out on the downside of diversity. This should cause some consternation in the faculty lounge.

Berkowitz on Lakoff

Power Line calls our attention to Peter Berkowitz’s review of George Lakoff’s latest effort to advise Democrats. Some NLT readers will hope that Democrats continue to listen to Lakoff. I’m not one of them.

Catholicism and America

Ross Douthat and Damon Linker are midway through an exchange of views at TNR. Toward the end of his first contribution Linker articulates his view of the "liberal bargain" and the "theocons’" rejection of it:

In my book, I describe this bargain as the act of believers giving up their "ambition to political rule in the name of their faith" in exchange for the freedom to worship God however they wish, without state interference. What does this mean, in practical terms? It means that your belief in what the Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches is irrelevant, politically speaking. It simply shouldn’t matter whether or not you think that justice has a divine underpinning, anymore than it should matter whether you prefer Jane Austen to Dostoevsky. In a word, liberal politics presumes that it’s possible and desirable for political life to be decoupled from theological questions and disputes.

But there is a complication: What if a faith forbids its adherents to accept the liberal bargain? What if it explicitly refuses to permit believers to decouple their political and religious convictions? What if it demands unity--unity in the name of one set of non-negotiable theological truths? Such a religion may be incompatible with liberalism. Whether Islam is inherently illiberal in precisely this way is one of the most pressing questions confronting the Western world today.

And Catholicism? Since Vatican II--and especially since the start of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate--the Catholic Church has staked out a novel position on these matters. Like most anti-liberal faiths, it has demanded a unity between politics and religion. But it has also maintained that Catholic moral teaching is perfectly compatible with liberalism--indeed, that it is the only solid and sure foundation for liberalism. By contrast, liberalism without Catholicism is, in John Paul’s arresting phrase, "thinly disguised totalitarianism."

Catholicism does not so much reject what liberalism affirms as it denies the validity of the distinctions liberalism typically assumes--distinctions between private and public, secular and sacred, reason and revelation. In place of these distinctions, the Church proposes a higher synthesis, all the while claiming that such a synthesis produces a purified liberal politics. This is pretty much what the theocons propose for the United States.

There’s a lot on which to comment here, but I’ll restrict myself to two points. First, Linker seems to concede that genuinely faithful Catholics (and I would add, any believer whose faith doesn’t permit the compartmentalization that DL says liberalism demands, which at least includes many adherents of the Reformed tradition) can’t be good American citizens, by his lights. So much for toleration and pluralism. (I can be as brief and oversimplified as he is. If you want my longer view, read my contribution to this book and/or this review essay.)

(I assume that Peter L. won’t disapprove of my discussion of DL if I refer readers to books and journals with which he is associated.)

My second observation is actually a question: does DL really believe that Roman Catholicism doesn’t accept the validity of the distinction, for example, between reason and revelation? Nominalists might come close to that position, but surely not the "orthodox" Roman Catholics (and others) associated with First Things.

I still haven’t finished the book, but I am on my way to forming a considered opinion, which I’ll inflict upon readers somewhere somehow.

Update: MOJ’s Rick Garnett has comments here and here.

Religious exemptions

I was going to blog about this NYT series over at my personal site, but it was being balky, so I’ll inflict my thoughts directly on NLT readers. (My comments on the first installment are here.)

The series, whose intent seems to be to raise questions about the "special favors" religious organizations are getting from government, purports to look at both sides of the issue, but Rick Garnett is, I think, right when he observes:

It strikes me that, in these first two pieces, there is inadequate attention paid to the distinction between accommodations and exemptions that are thought to be, or that could plausibly be said to be, required by the relevant constitutional text, structure, and history, on the one hand, and -- on the other -- those exemptions that are the permissible, but not required, result of legislative decisions to accommodate.


The first two installments, though, leave me with a sense of "they just don’t get it" unease. The storyline owes too much, so far, to the "religion is getting special treatment and is treating people unfairly" narrative, and not enough to the "religious organizations are not the state, and -- if we take religious liberty and limited government seriously -- must have the freedom to organize themselves, select ministers, etc., without being second-guessed by government" account.

The NYT reporter notes in today’s story that religious groups are expanding their missions to include retirement communities, gymnasia, bookstores, and even theme parks, raising the question if these activities are authentically religious. Interesting: she wouldn’t be likely to raise an analogous question if the state were undertaking them. We don’t worry about the limits of the state. But the more religious organizations (and other non-profits, which often also receive the benefits she describes) do, the less the state "has to do." A good thing, no?

Tuesday Thoughts

Some people are saying the Nork’s nuke test was a dud, while others wonder whether the Norks were testing a suitcase nuke. Whatever it was, Karl Rove’s October surprise sure comes at a good time for the GOP. Mastermind Karl must have slipped some mind-rays in the Diebold machines we sold to Kim Jong Il.

Before we get back to the 24/7 Foley scandal, don’t miss Robert Kaplan’s great piece on what might go down if and when NorKo collapses. Could be ugly. See also Fred Kaplan in (no relation to Robert? I don’t know), who is also pessimistic.

While we await further developments, time to go back and watch this movie.

Kristol on Foley vs. The Real Issues

Bill Kristol puts the Foley matter in its proper place for voters. At the end of the day, it’s unreasonable to allow it to determine how you vote, one way or the other.

Foley? Who’s Foley?

In the wake of the news that North Korea became the 8th member of the world’s nuclear club yesterday, Chris Cuomo’s desperate reporting on Mark Foley fell on some deaf ears in my household this morning. Of course, I grant that my house is a bit atypical in some ways. But c’mon!

Do people really care deeply about this stuff except in a freak-show, snickering, train-wreck kind of way? The latest is that a gay congressman may have had a rendevous with a gay 21 year-old former page. Shocking! Just shocking! But so what? The creep is gone. The grown ups have more important matters to concern themselves with now.

If today’s news isn’t news enough to make the "security moms" insecure again then I know not what to say. Bush needs to be sober and hard about this threat and, of course, to connect the dots between this and the other threats we face around the globe.

The party that is suddenly consumed with worry over the sex lives of Congressional pages and one wierdo Congressman from Florida who happens to be a Republican (but conveniently shuts its eyes when gazing upon its own collection of perverts) cannot be trusted to grapple with issues of this magnitude. Perhaps their massive powers of investigation can expose who it is that Kim Jong Il is bedding this week--but if you think they can prevent nuclear proliferation and disaster with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Charlie Rangel and (God forbid) Hillary Clinton . . . well, goodnight and goodluck.

Monday Musings

The economy continues to hum along with numbers that are arguably better than the peak of the Clinton years (i.e., more sustainable, not linked primarily to a sector-specific boom in high tech, etc), but the polls show a Republican defeat or rout in the works, which shows, if further evidence is necessary, that the economy is not the primary factor for many voters. (This was also true in 1994, when the economy, though a bit sluggish, was decent and trending upward.)

More straws in the wind

The WaTi’s Donald Lambro talks to a couple of analysts who think that the public is in a rotten mood: as the party in control, so to speak, Republicans suffer more, but Democrats don’t look like they’re regarded as a refreshing change of pace.

And the NYT’s David Kirkpatrick visits Pat Robertson’s backyard and discovers that conservative evangelicals are keeping their eyes on the ball:

Most of the evangelical Christians interviewed said that so far they saw Mr. Foley’s behavior as a matter of personal morality, not institutional dysfunction.

All said the question of broader responsibility had quickly devolved into a storm of partisan charges and countercharges. And all insisted the episode would have little impact on their intentions to vote.

I think that there’s some institutional dysfunction there, but, given this story, perhaps a little collegial self-discipline (or attempts at it). In Foley’s case, it proved ineffective, and those who knew seem not to have taken their concerns to the hierarchy.

I am however, waiting for stories about "inappropriate" Congressional heterosexual behavior regarding the pages. Is there none? Or would exposing that element of it point to bipartisan malfeasance?

A Democratic House?

Michael Barone thinks about what it might mean. For conservatives, the immediate prospect is mixed.

The Facts on the Ground

The polls this morning look terrible for the Republicans. If the election were tomorrow, they’d lose both Houses of Congress with room to spare. Two perceptions are crowding out all the others:
1. The Republicans covered up what they knew about the predator Foley to keep power.
2. We’re not making progress--in fact, we’re losing ground--in Iraq and not facing up to that fact. The MSM is reinforcing both security concerns relentlessly. The election is not tomorrow. What can be done to make, for example, the "Security Moms" that Joe discusses below once again connect their children’s safety at home and in the world with voting Republican? And we have to be thinking both of short-term electoral strategy and long-term policy.

The professoriate

These two papers, summarized here and here, offer a picture of the professoriate and of public impressions of the professoriate.

Both are intended to increase the public comfort level with professors and to indentify and counter "conservative" pictures of a godless and biased academy.

I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised by the findings on religion (which show, among other things, that faculty at elite institutions are significantly less likely to be religious than those elsewhere), and I haven’t had a chance to look too closely at the other paper. (It does note, chillingly but not surprisingly, that a very small proportion of the population thinks of universities as mechanisms for transmitting a cultural tradition: most people view higher education in largely instrumental terms, with a significant minority adopting an apparently content-free "critical thinking" view.)

More on evangelicals and politics

Given the size, complexity, and sometime intellectual/theological incoherency of American evangelicalism, it’s probably possible to find evidence for virtually any thesis regarding the political future of American evangelicalism. Howard Fineman finds some who are dissatisfied with the GOP, not for the reasons cited most frequently in recent days (a leftward drift among some evangelicals--see, for example, this piece featuring a triumphalistic Jim Wallis), but because Republicans are insufficiently morally and theologically pure, or perhaps insufficiently conservative across a range of issues.

My bottom line: a religious tendency as capaciously defined as evangelicalism is will inevitably come to be understood as less of a single-minded force in American politics, except with respect to the occasional galvanizing issue. A religion-friendly Democratic Party that accommodated itself to some restrictions on abortion (they’re not there yet) could eat substantially into the Republican advantage, especially if Republican miscues "demobilized" some portion of its religious constituency. In other words, politically evangelicals could come to resemble Roman Catholics--a narrowly divided swing constituency.

Insecurity moms

If this AP story is to be believed, the GOP has lost its substantial advantage among married women with children. The problems? Iraq and economic insecurity, both of which are reversible, if not in the short run. And then there’s the party’s handling of the Foley mess, which isn’t even mentioned in the article.

Speaker Hastert Ain’t Cardinal Law

Mark Steyn offers us some perspective, probably more than we can really handle, on our current crisis.