Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Public policy for parents

Yuval Levin has a very important and interesting article in The Weekly Standard. Arguing that it’s time for conservatives to develop a post-Reagan domestic policy to appeals to the aspirations of middle-class parents, he offers a compelling analysis and some interesting first steps. A couple of snippets:

[T]he "present crisis" Reagan addressed is long past. Because of welfare reform and conservative pro-family policies, it is no longer fair to say that government is the greatest threat to American families. In the wake of Reagan’s and Bush’s tax cuts, the federal government is not the drain on Americans’ pocketbooks or the deadweight on economic dynamism that it was in 1981. The federal government remains too big and overbearing. But opposition to government can no longer do as the primary means of advancing
the interests of families and markets--which has been and should remain the twofold aim of American conservatives.


The left, for now at least, offers little to oppose, and does little but oppose the right. American conservatives, in turn, are no longer primarily an opposition movement but a governing movement. That does not mean conservatives will win every election; but it means they will set the tone. And they will have to think hard about what advancing the interests of families and free markets now entails.

This means thinking afresh about the tension at the heart of the conservative worldview: between the interests of the family and traditional values on the one hand and the interests of the market and economic freedom on the other. Government was never the source of that tension, it was merely a common foe. Limited government is inherent to any conservative governing vision, but if those who run the government no longer explicitly seek to undermine capitalism and traditionalism--if government is no longer the greatest danger to both--then what is that greatest danger? And what is the best way to serve the causes of family and freedom?


Unease is perhaps the best way to describe the mood of American voters today. The terrorist threat and the war are of course primary sources of worry. But in survey after survey, there emerges a clear sense of disquiet about all manner of issues besides national security. More than half of Americans with health insurance expressed concern about losing their coverage in a USA Today poll in September. Exit polling in this fall’s election found that less than a third of all voters believe children born today will grow up to be better off than their parents. Similar signs of underlying anxiety emerge from countless other surveys.


In fact, today’s disquiet seems less the panic of a drowning man than the angst of an overachiever. The worry of middle- and lower-middle-class families arises from a genuine tension between the two things they most eagerly strive to do: build families and build wealth. That tension, and the disquiet it causes, is especially acute for parents. Indeed, Americans in the middle class and what used to be called the working class would be better conceived of today as the parenting class. Their concerns and aspirations are no longer focused on their standing in the workplace, as they were when our political vocabulary was coming of age, but on balancing the pursuits of family and prosperity.

The members of the parenting class do not live on the edge of poverty. But they are anxious about their ability to meet their high aims, like affording a decent college for their children, getting the most from their health care dollar, and (in our increasingly older society) meeting the needs of their aging parents.

This is the anxiety of a successful capitalist economy filled with individuals who want to lead good lives. It is an anxiety produced by the kind of society conservatives seek to promote. It therefore calls for a response from the right, from those who share the aspiration to balance families and free markets, not those who think the system is about to collapse (and deserves to fall).

There’s much more here, all of it thought-provoking. Read it and have at it.

Kidney Markets?

Here’s an article I just published on that issue. Also read the excellent article by Ben Hippen in the same issue of THE NEW ATLANTIS.

A Study Shows Giuliani in the Lead

Here’s an upbeat appraisal of Giuliani’s chances and qualifications for the nomination. He certainly has that most deserved good will and name recognition. Conventional wisdom is that he’s not conservative enough to prevail in the primaries. But if the choice narrows to between him and McCain, that’s far from clear. His record, charm, eloquence, and competence might carry him through. To repeat: All the active candidates have obvious and significant flaws. But it’s not so obvious that Rudy’s are more significant than any of the others.

New citizenship exam

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services has announced a pilot test of a new nationalization exam. The USCIS will administer the pilot exam in early 2007 to about 5,000 citizenship applicants in ten cities. There are new questions, an emphasis on democratic concepts and principles, rather just rote memorization of facts. This change seems quite good to me, but I will study the matter (after tomorrow’s Annual Dinner). This is the Fact Sheet on the exam. This includes all the questions and answers for the pilot exam.

Unnerving news

Here is a bit of unnerving news from Sky News (UK), via Drudge: "Traces of radiation have been detected at 12 locations by experts probing the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Home Secretary John Reid revealed 24 unnamed locations have been or are currently being monitored, including two British Airways panes." Read on.

A talk

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Heritage Foundation on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It was personal, informal, a conversational talk, and certainly not a lecture on the politics of the Revolution. It is longer than most podcast I have put out, but may suit you just in case you are taking a longer than normal walk with your iPod. (Of course you can listen to it at your computer too, just by clicking on the little mp3 logo). Next week I will get back to a regular schedule with my podcasts. Some of the things I will want to be talking with folks about include the following themes: westerns, especially John Ford movies; Shakespeare, and why he remains so popular around the world; Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln; Washington’s friendship with Jefferson; why Xenophon should be taken more seriously; why reading aloud shouldn’t be allowed to die a quiet death; is civic education making a comeback? There will be other topics, by and by.

Let Them Eat Cake

What price headbands?

The Chicago Bills signed center Ben Wallace in the off-season to a $60 million dollar contact, on the assumption that his dominant inside presence – he’s a 4-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – would elevate the team into serious title contention in the Eastern Conference. Wallace to date has been something of a bust, averaging just 9.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He has appeared disinterested. The Bulls have struggled, with a record at 5-9. In a game against the Knicks over the weekend, Big Ben wore a red headband. No big deal, right? While making his reputation with the Detroit Pistons, Wallace commonly wore a headband, along with an Afro that would make Dr. J proud, and various other creative hairstyles.

It turned out, however, that wearing a headband is against team rules. Bulls Coach Scott Skiles pulled Wallace out of the game. Controversy erupted. Skiles apparently established the rule because some malcontent players had worn goofy headbands in past years. Skiles is a graduate of the Tom Coughlin – or Captain Queeg, take your pick – school of coaching discipline. Sweat the small stuff. Rules are rules. Everyone is treated the same. No special favors. Wallace may not have known about the rule before he signed his contract but he was made aware of it long ago. It turns out that Skiles and Wallace have had other run-ins over team rules, including the mandatory taping of ankles and a headphones-only policy for music in the locker room. Wallace, who played only 20 minutes the previous game (zero points, zero rebounds), seemed to be picking a fight with his coach and the organization. Wallace protested that if anyone was being picked on, he was the offended party.

Spoiled athlete or over-controlling coach? The debate is a constant in modern, big-money sports. Most of us would happily wear a clown suit, or no suit at all, for a guaranteed $60 million contract. On the other hand, diplomacy may be in order. Wallace seems to have more than a bit of Manny Ramirez in him, with the constant need for special treatment and reassurance. Manny may have finally worn out his welcome but the Red Sox got a World Series out of him. Phil Jackson dealt with Dennis Rodman’s eccentricities by quietly fining him, early and often, and letting it go at that. Skiles admits that in his own playing days, he wasn’t exactly the model citizen. The key is how Wallace is viewed by his teammates – how disruptive he is – and that’s not easy to assess from the outside.

But the debate often has an interesting and troubling subtext. Wallace is black; Skiles and Bulls General Manager John Paxson are white. On more than a few radio talk shows and chat rooms, this is being portrayed by some as a racial matter – “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” The same argument was made about Andy Reid and T.O. Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans. David Stern and his dress code and crackdown on on-court misbehavior. The connection isn’t obvious to most of us. McNair’s shabby treatment seems to have been determined by class, not race – the lack of class by Tennessee. But not a few ordinary and high-profile blacks, hardly just the lunatic fringe, think otherwise. See William C. Rhoden’s recent book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete. Just something to keep in mind the next time a player-coach blowup occurs.


Steve reminded us that it is the great man’s birthday, and Rich Policz notes it too. When thinking of Churchill it might be useful to remember one of his great pleasures, and let’s do it using Kipling.
Here is his first speech as Prime Minister.

It’s That Day Again

Today is Winston Churchill’s birthday. I intend to take note by reading a few chapters of My Early Life, as all Ashbrook scholars are required to do before arriving for freshman year.

Meanwhile, why isn’t Young Winston, the film version of My Early Life available on DVD? (After all, The Wilderness Years is available on DVD.) Young Winston held up very well over time, and you can at least get used copies of the VHS version.

Free Frank Warner Strikes Again

Frank patiently presents plenty of evidence that leading Democrats are shameless or insane when they deny that al Qaida has a major role in fomenting violence in Iraq today. Plus (scroll down), Frank breaks the news that Castro will be dead within 40 days. His lung cancer has invaded his vital organs. Frank takes heart in the reasonable hope that the tyrants Fidel and Saddam will die in the same year.

Romney’s Faith-Based Initiative?

SLATE’s Dickerson says it’s time for Romney to "talk Mormon," to discuss his faith with the American people. Mere joking about misconceptions--Take my wives, please--isn’t sufficient. The emphasis should be on the relationship between his devotion to his religious duties and his conservative stands on political issues. But he shouldn’t have to talk about distinctively Mormon doctrine--such as the exaltation--or about his distinctively Mormon undergarments. Generally good advice...although I’d be more inclined to say that Romney could only benefit from getting everything out in the open.

Advice to Democrats: Stigmatize the South

to this NEW REPUBLIC article, studies now show that the Republicans have been reduced to a regional party that is primarily and increasingly animated by white racism. Democrats should be less reluctant to trumpet this fact and label Republican southerners as obstructionists impeding our nation’s progress. A decent party can’t carry the South, and it shouldn’t want to try. Instead, the way to victory is to mobilize the rest of the country against the recalcitrant region. (It goes without saying that I don’t agree with this advice, but it’s worth discussing.)

Democratic gains in the suburbs

This article takes note of this paper, about which I’ll have more to say when I read the whole thing. At the moment, note this:

Democrats made large gains in suburbia in this month’s elections, pushing Republican turf to the outer edges of major population centers in a trend that could signal trouble for the GOP, an analysis shows.

Democrats carried nearly 60% of the U.S. House vote in inner suburbs in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, up from about 53% in 2002, according to the analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

They received nearly 55% of the vote in the next ring of “mature” 20- and 30-year-old suburbs, with 45% going to Republicans and third-party candidates. In 2002, the last midterm election, Democrats received 50% of the vote there.

“Republicans are getting pushed to the fringes of the metropolis,” said sociologist Robert Lang, director of the institute. “They simply have to be more competitive in more suburbs,” he said, to win statewide and presidential races.

RCP’s John MacIntyre had this to say:

I think it is wise to be careful not to draw too many sweeping conclusions from the mid-term results, because of Iraq’s dominating influence over the election. There is no doubt that Republicans lost Independent and moderate voters, and that they lost voters in the suburbs. The real question is whether this is a one-time event or the beginning of a trend. Was 2006 more of a vote of no-confidence on U.S. Iraq policy, or was it the early stages of a real and sustained move among swing voters to the Democrats?

Sounds right to me, on first thought.

Update: I took a closer look at the paper and glanced at
this one comparing the 2000 and 2004 elections as well. There’s less new here than meets the eye. In 2000, Gore won 53.7% of the "top 50 metros’" vote; in 2004, Kerry won 53% of that vote; in 2006, Democratic Congressional candidates won 55% of it, a net gain of 1.3% since 2000. The change for various classifications of counties from 2006 to 2006 is as follows:

Core urban counties: 72.9% D (2000) to 76.4 D (2006)

Inner suburban counties: 56.3% D (2000) to 59.6% (2006)

Mature suburban counties: 51.7% D (2000) to 54.8% D (2006)

Emerging suburban counties: 44.4% D (2000) to 44.6% D (2006)

Exurbs: 40% D (2000) to 42.1% D (2006)

I’m inclined to think that the 2002 election understates typical Democratic support because of the lingering 9/11 effect. I’m also inclined to think that many of the Democratic gains in 2006 over 2000 are the result of the current unpopularity of the Iraq War, which I hope (but am not confident) will not have a lingering effect on the electoral prospects of the two parties. Bottom line: the "inner" and "mature" suburbs were already essentially Democratic in 2000, with only the inner really having become more so since then, and the mature only marginally Democratic in a year when "all things are equal" (as they clearly weren’t this year). It’s also worth noting that the population growth is almost all in the emerging suburbs and exurbs, which remain Republican strongholds, even in this relatively bad Republican year.

Politics on the web

This article describes some of the efforts, mostly of Democrats, to reach voters through the internet.

Hat tip: South Dakota Politics.

James Webb

This WaPo article on James Webb is worth reading. It gives a pretty good account of his style, even character. It won’t be easy, either for Bush, or Webb’s fellow Democrats, but it will be fun to watch.

It’s that time of year again

Chicago encourages organizers to drop New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story as a sponsor of the city’s Christkindlmarket

Consider this:

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, said in a statement.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the office, said the city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another. While acknowledging that there is a nativity scene on the plaza, Gatziolis said there also will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups.

"We’ve worked hard to make sure there is a fair representation of all those faiths celebrating something special," said Gatziolis, who stressed the city did not order organizers not to allow the studio to be a sponsor. "If you add more for one faith over the others, it does tip the scale to that faith."

I would love to say that the ridiculous sensitivity extends only to Chicago city officials, but, unfortunately the event’s organizers have gotten into the act. Here’s their explanation of the "Christkindlsmarket":

Since 1999 Christkindlmarket’s Grand Opening is a special highlight during the celebration of the City of Chicago Annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony which always takes place on the First Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The Christkindl, the Christmas Fairy, is a cherished highlight during the Holiday Tree Lighting. The Christmas Fairy proclaims the opening of Christkindlmarket Chicago. The Christkindl is a holiday icon of the Christkindlesmarkt Nuremberg, Germany, Chicago’s sister market.

The Christmas Fairy???? Das Christkindl, as any German speaker knows, is the Christchild. Unfortunately, even the folks in Nurnberg have succumbed to a kind of political correctness.
Here’s the English version of their description of the "Christmas Angel," which is at least an improvement over the "Fairy." By contrast, the folks in Kitchener, Ontario get it right. Here, for those who are still reading, is the Wikipedia entry.

In any event, to discourage any mention of the Nativity in a festival that commemorates that very event (as anyone in attendance, at least those who don’t get all their information from marketers, would know) is the height of ridiculousness.

My apologies for this rant, since this hits close to my old Austrian home. (My father still has the incriminating tapes of me, at age two, speaking in German about what "das Christkind" brought me.)

Update: Here’s the latest Chicago Tribune article, which reflects a change in the city’s story regarding its objection:

Stung by criticism that the film’s maker was dropped as a sponsor to ensure the event appealed to all faiths, city officials said Tuesday they objected to "The Nativity Story" because it was too commercial.

"This particular incident is about a movie studio aggressively marketing a movie and trying to sell tickets to that movie," said Veronica Resa, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.

They’ve backtracked into aesthetics, in other words, regarding something about which I doubt there was a constitutional or church/state issue to begin with. Consider, in this connection, this fact: the Christkindlmarket is put on by a private organization. Consider another fact: I’d bet that Daley Plaza would be considered a "public forum." Consider yet another fact: the market already offers a mix of secular and (other) religious symbols (Jewish and Muslim).

The Corner’s Kathryn Jean Lopez
is right: this is an opportunity for a politician closely associated with Chicago to step up to the plate about the city’s ridiculousness. If it isn’t Obama, then perhaps HRC ought to beat him to the punch, since she grew up in the suburbs.

Citizenship in Crisis

Travis D. Smith, from up north, thinks that the ISI sponsored study "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship" should be taken seriously, and he does. And I am glad. His long (Sunday op-ed kind) essay is very much worth reading. Just his comments on Canada--useful for the whole on understanding American citizenship--are worthy of two cofees! Enjoy, and pass it around.    

Bill McClay (virtually) in the flesh

You can view our friend Bill McClay lecture on "Red Republicans and Evangelical Conservatives: The Changing Map of American Politics" here. Here’s a prepared text by McClay on more or less the same topic, and my bowdlerized version of McClay’s analysis here.

Andrew Sullivan thinks, by the way, that McClay agrees with him.

Ecobabes Update

I forgot to provide the direct link to the ecobabes calendar: click here and help save the planet!

And if ecobabes aren’t your style, you can always try the Men of Mortuaries calendar. (Think "Chippendales with Shovels.")

From Ecosexuals to Ecobabes?

Well, since we have ecosexuals, how long was it going to take before we got ecobabes?

The Climate Protection Campaign of Sonoma County produced its own fund-raising calendar featuring well-photographed women in various diaphanous poses. However, as you might predict, some earnest people Are Not Amused:

Titillating as it is, the calendar has turned off some environmentalists. The Northcoast Environmental Center, based in the Humboldt County town of Arcata, refused to display the calendars in its popular eco-boutique. "I felt it was objectifying women and using their bodies to make money," said Alisha Clompus, 26, an artist and anthropologist who is office manager for the Northcoast center. "It’s like making money off another form of oppression."

As Christopher Buckley said at dinner the other night, the trouble with trying to write satire these days is that you have to compete with the newspapers. And the newspapers are winning.

Hamilton Center goes bust?

Apparently governance issues have derailed Hamilton College’s Alexander Hamilton Center, mentioned here. The attempt to protect the Center from a hostile takeover (at some point in the future) was too much for the Administration to swallow.

I’m all for collegiality and the importance of unity in the university, and I’m generally leery of efforts to impose "outside agendas" (which is how this might have been characterized), but there are also times when the only way to fulfill the collegiate mission of free inquiry is to provide support for "difference" that otherwise doesn’t find favor on the faculty.

Stated another way, if the only way to achieve and maintain genuine intellectual balance on campus is to set up this sort of relatively independent governing mechanism, I can live with it and indeed embrace it. It’s kind of like giving an institute tenure.

Alberta politics

Those of you who pay attention to Canadian provincial politics might be interested in this: Ted Morton, University of Calgary Professor of Political Science (Toronto Ph.D., where he studied with Walter Berns), finished a surprisingly strong second in the first round of balloting for the leadership of Alberta’s Conservative Party.

The second round of balloting will take place this coming Saturday (the procedure is explained

If you want some sympathetic insider commentary, you would be well-served by visiting our friends at The Politic. If you want an explanation of why we should all move to Alberta if this election goes well and the 2008 race here goes badly, you can read this piece, which I wrote after Stephen Harper, with whom Morton is associated, was elected Canadian PM.

And perhaps we can talk our friend John von Heyking into explaining it all for us.

Evangelicals at Brown University

I’ve written about this general issue before, but just came across this report of difficulties the Brown University chapter of Reformed University Fellowship was having with the chaplain’s office. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has gotten involved (see the most recent release here, replete with links), and the University seems to have stepped back just a bit, inviting the chapter to resume official status next semester, though with a few "special conditions." I don’t know all the rights and wrongs here, and this article in the Brown student paper suggests that the student leadership of the RUF chapter shares some of the blame for its strained relations with the powers that be.

But there remains something troubling about the way the Brown chaplain’s office handled the situation--offering shifting and unclear (not to say untrue) explanations for why it was sanctioning the group in the first place. The Brown Office of Chaplains and Religious Life is staffed rather typically, with representatives of mainline and black Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, among others, but without a theologically conservative evangelical. Might that begin to explain why there are misunderstandings?

Competing Visions of Europe’s Future: Both are Bleak

Steve Hayward pointed us to Ralph Peters’ new article spelling out his disagreement with the view that Europe faces a future of Islamification. Peters argues that Europe’s own versions of facism will, in the end, out-do Islamofacism. That view differs sharply from the one offered by Mark Steyn. Today the debate rages on and the link to Steyn will take you to his rejoinder. You can read more here and, as Peter Lawler pointed out, here. James Taranto, in the link to Opinion Journal’s Best of the Web, wryly notes, "Peters is predicting a rebirth of European fascism, possibly including genocide--and he’s the optimist of this pair."

These are Not Dark Days

"These are not dark days: these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived."--Winston Churchill

So ended a stirring talk delivered by Victor Davis Hanson at The Claremont Institute’s annual Winston S. Churchill Dinner. That said, Hanson (as Churchill before him) does not turn a blind eye to the difficulties and the challenges our country is facing. His description of these challenges and the striking magnitude of them is (to say the least) quite sobering. He does not believe our triumph is inevitable--but he does believe that we will triumph. More important, he believes that working toward that triumph is a challenge worthy of us and we of it. I had the pleasure of hearing the speech delivered a couple weeks ago. It reads almost as well--though I do wish they had provided an MP3 file!

Thermometer reading

A Quinnipiac poll ("thermometer reading") finds Guiliani the most popular, Obama beats Hillary, with Kerry bringing up the rear, for what it’s worth.


Interesting detective work. Two Hyperides speeches have been discovered in a palimpsest believed to have been created by Byzantine monks in the 13th century. Hyperides lived from 390 or 389 B.C. until 322 B.C. and was an orator who made speeches at public meetings of the citizen assembly. A contemporary of Aristotle and Demosthenes, he wrote speeches for himself and for others and spoke at important political trials. In 322 B.C. Hyperides was executed by the Macedonians for participating in a failed rebellion.  

Fatness and frailty

The Thanksgiving holiday has been a boost to well-being, the world slowed a lot, fewer men appeared in public, and those that did seemed utterly content and fat. My mother loves this place, the scale is understandable and feels right; people are so pleasant and friendly and personal. She can’t get over it. And then there is the weather! It’s been perfect for days--fit for idleness only--and Isabella and I have taken advantage of it. We have been together two or three hours every day, today almost four. Just cavorting and romping through all and any backroads in the state.

I stopped for a stogie and cup of coffee in Wooster and my eyes hit upon this in the New York Times. Fat and scholarship--or, rather, Fat Studies--is the issue. I would not have continued reading it if it were just another scientific study proving why it is better to have that lean and hungry look rather than one that is fatter (and more trustworthy!). So the American academy is now going to have something called "Fat Studies"! This is right next to queer studies, disability studies, ethnic studies, etc., and will no doubt have its "Fat Studies Reader," which will be breathlessly reviewed in fat and unread journals. Fat people are victims of prejudice, and are oppressed by mainstream society. They should be destigmatized, and so forth. You get the large picture, do you not? This explains (according to a professor) why Queen Anne has gotten so little attention, don’t you see. There is plenty more about the social construction of obesity, and even a dissertation "on the intersection of queer and fat identities in the United States in the 20th century". I cannot begin to recount all of it. It all seems so serious, so important, that after these past few happy days, I would just prefer not talking about Falstaff with such severity. I prefer to think of him as sweating and larding the lean earth as he walks along. I was almost depressed by the idea of Fat Studies until I remembered that having more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty, may make you more interesting, perhaps even an object of study. So finally, I will become an object of study, thought I. That could fun. We could talk about size acceptance, for example. Or why the wicked should be helped if sack and sugar be a fault! And then I thought about spending time with a sociology professor who represents the best work put out by the Popular Culture Association. Just couldn’t do it, I decided. I’ll just stick to thinking about plump Jack being the cause that wit is in other men.

In any case, it is almost certainly the case--unless those who study fatness be thin--that for the fat professor of Fat Studies, "The grave doth gape/For thee thrice wider than for other men."

Episcopalians Following the Example of the Shakers by Deciding to Disappear

According to Bishop Kate, they’ve become too well educated and eco-sensitive to reproduce. They do plan to leave the earth in good shape for other species to enjoy. The flaw in their plan is that most of the world’s women haven’t sign on, and it’s not even clear who the eco-stewards will be when the Episcopalians and similar purist groups are gone. (This is one of Mark Steyn’s more entertaining demographics-is-destiny columns.)

Seniors Actually Satisfied with Bush’s Prescription Drug Program!

It turns out that the overwhelming majority of senior Americans are satisfied with Bush’s prescription drug program. That fact--which was news to me--actually presents a challenge to any Democratic effort to reform it. And the Republicans, to say the least, have done a poor job defending what turns out to have been easily defensible. I’m not endorsing the program or anything like that, but you really do wonder why this couldn’t have been a successful campaign issue. Are the Republicans really so inept that they don’t even know how to take credit for their own big spending?

Money for insurgents

John F. Burns (NYT) reports that the insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining. Not good news. Also note that France and Italy paid circa 30 million dollars in ransom last year.

Muslim Expulsion?

The sometimes erratic Ralph Peters muses aloud about a prospect that has crossed my mind—that Europe might some day simply expel its Muslim population. Despite the ferocious history Peters lays out, I doubt today’s Europeans have the stomach for it: nihilist multiculturalism—what Malcom Muggeridge called liberalism’s death wish—is simply too deeply ingrained in Europe today. But still. . .

Peters does make the important point that Muslims in America have the prospect of assimilation, of participating in the American Dream:

American Muslims have a higher income level than our national average. We hear about the handful of rabble-rousers, but more of our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims are doctors, professors and entrepreneurs. And the American dream is still alive and well, thanks: Even the newest taxi driver stumbling over his English grammar knows he can truly become an American. But European Muslims can’t become French or Dutch or Italian or German. Even if they qualify for a passport, they remain second-class citizens. On a good day.

Then there is this deliciously ironic prospect: "I have no difficulty imagining a scenario in which U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe’s Muslims. After all, we were the only ones to do anything about the slaughter of Muslims in the Balkans."

They got me

I saw and enjoyed the James Bond movie last night. Pretty fantastic and weird and hard to believe stuff. Well, maybe not. Look at this Litvinenko affair in London. That the former Soviet spy was murdered is the only thing that doesn’t seem to be in dispute, although exactly how wasn’t clear yesterday; and by who is still not perfectly clear; but now it seems that radiation is involved; someone said it was like a tiny nuclear weapon going off inside him. Vladimir Putin (formerly of the KGB) says the guy’s death is a "provocation." Cold war ghosts are being seen. Michael Barone has just read Robert Gates’ (formerly of the CIA) memoirs and thinks that Gates understands that there are bad guys in the world. Artemy Troitsky is not an optimist about the way of Russia.

Post-Thanksgiving (election) leftovers

John Podhoretz offers this interesting take:

Conservatives will be arguing over the meaning of the defeat and how to change things for the better. But we need to understand a key aspect of the defeat - a cultural aspect.

For decades, Americans whose lives did not revolve around politics believed that Democrats were trying to use politics to revise the rules of society - to force America to "evolve" in a Left-liberal direction.

They didn’t like the bossiness implied by this attitude and they were appalled by the unintended consequences of the changes instituted by left-liberals, mainly when it came to confiscatory tax policy and the refusal to maintain social order and safe streets. These consequences were marks of profound incompetence in the management of the country, and the Democrats were punished for it.

But over in the past few years, Americans began to get the sense that Republicans had become the party of social revision - that it had allowed its own ideological predilections to run riot and that a new form of political correctness had overtaken the party that had seemed more sensible and more in line with their way of thinking.

For JPod to make this argument, he has to buy into the potency of the "theocracy" snake oil being peddled on the Left, or at least to assume that that snake oil had been purchased by a significant portion of the electorate. This doesn’t square with the concerns about corruption that emerged in the exit polls, nor with the economic populism that seems to have marked some of the victorious, relatively socially conservative Democrats. Are we seeing a reemergence of what was once called the "Perotista" vote, a bloc whose anti-corporate feelings dominate any social concerns it might have?

The Case Against Romney

Our thread friend Clint makes the key points. He’s suspiciously "evolved" in a socially conservative direction; he’s governed the suspiciously liberal state of Massachusetts, and the evangelicals will never vote for a Mormon--suspicious or not. (Make sure you read the first response to Clint’s post for the complete picture.) As I said, all the active candidates have obvious and significant weaknesses.

Newt: Candidate as Movement

Here’s a sympathetic account of Gingrich’s unusual approach to pursuing the nomination. One good thing: He’s been studying his Lincoln. I have to admit I’ve never been impressed with his character. He’s too much about inventing and reinventing, and we in Georgia may just know too much to think of Newt as Oval Office material. But the pool is shallow enough that we have to accord his effort serious consideration.

More Thanksgiving

Here’s the text of the President’s remarks yesterday. He’s very catholic in his approach to giving thanks, and not at all theocratic.

The Power Line guys are worth a gander.

And while we’re being thankful, let’s be grateful for Bush 41, who knows how to speak to ingrates.

Seconding Peter’s sentiments

Gratitude is indeed our virtue, and it’s neither simply classical nor simply liberal. Hobbes does indeed endorse it, out of calculation, but that’s not the kind of thanks we have in mind.

So have a happy, humble, and grateful Thanksgiving!

Update: No, I’m not changing my mind about my wishes to you, but I am calling your attention to George Will’s piece on the Thanksgiving tradition and Jon Meacham’s, which tries to make the Thanksgiving tradition a little more anodyne than I’d like it. You might also be interested in this report, noting this poll.

Romney in 2008?

Let’s face it: There’s a real dearth of Republican presidential candidates, and the ones now active have pretty obvious and significant flaws. Now’s the time to begin giving Romney a serious look. Consider his claim, for example, that he’s the most conservative candidate and more honest than McCain on the social issues.

Have a Thankful Thanksgiving!

Today’s virtue is gratitude. It isn’t described by Aristotle, who claims the magnanimous man prefers to forget his debts. It isn’t described by Locke, who claims that God and nature gave us virtually worthless materials. But it is THE conservative virtue.

More Thanksgiving thoughts

Here. We have a lot for which to be thankful, as long as we remember what giving thanks means.

Science or scientism?

You be the judge.

Turkey Day Trappings

Joe asks what’s up on the menu at Schloss Hayward (not casa or chez Hayward, as will become clear momentarily), and indeed I am deep into preparations for a mondo-Turkey Day bash. Turns out I am hosting casts of thousands, as I decided to bring over the orhpaned foreign students from the TFAS Capital Semester Program that I teach through Georgetown University who wouldn’t otherwise have anywhere to to on Thanksgiving. I’m having four Germans (hence Schloss Hayward his holiday), a Lebanese, an Albanian, an Azerbaijani, and an Uzbeki over for turkey, along with a few other friends.

So I’m going to grill--as in barbecue grill, not oven-roast--two brined turkeys. One is being brined as I speak, er, blog in Victoria Taylor’s spicy brining blend, and I’m brining the second in traditional brining blend.

The white wine selection will be Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2005 "Karia" chardonnay, since proprietor Warren Winiarski was once a Strauss student (and Machiavelli scholar) who turned from scholarship to winemaking many years ago, and whose stunning upset victory at the 1976 Paris tasting put Napa Valley reds on the world map (and, as a special bonus, infuriated the French. If only they’d known Warren is a Straussian, they’d have arrested him, no doubt).

The red wine will beEtude 2004 Carneros pinot noir. I’m a big fan of Etude winemaker Tony Soter, but more importantly, I dated his very pretty sister a few times back in college. Nowadays she works for The New Yorker, so we have fine arguments while quaffing her brother’s even finer wines.

If I have time I’ll try to snap some photos of the action grilling and get them posted here on Friday.

Internet in a village in Bangladesh

Nice story in the WaPo on a village in Bangladesh and how it is now connected to the internet via cell phones. And this, in a place where no land lines exist, often no electricity or even running water. I am amazed by such reports. I encountered massive use of cell phones (if not for the first time, close) in Estonia, sixty miles from Finland, but still within USSR/Russia, a few months after the collapse of the evil empire and found people talking on the Finnish network. Even the bad guys couldn’t stop it. Very useful.

Life, Liberty, and Thanksgiving Day Football

Family, food and football. The great American Thanksgiving Day triumvirate. Not necessarily in that order of importance, of course.

The games themselves are often dogs (or turkeys, as my Maine correspondent points out). We watch, nevertheless, because that’s what we do, and hope for the best. The first game is traditionally in Detroit, where the Lions are traditionally, how shall we say, competitively challenged. This year we get Detroit versus disappointing Miami, definitely a turkey. The second game is always in Dallas. Cowboy lovers may rejoice but the vast majority of the NFL nation hates Dallas with a passion. Forget this America’s team business. (Full disclosure: Yes, I am a Redskins fan.) It’s hard to eat your stuffing when suffering from indigestion caused by the preening of T.O. or some other Dallas diva. Of course Dallas might actually lose, which would make the pumpkin pie taste just fine. But the NFL generally conspires to see that Dallas doesn’t, unless Leon Lett is involved or Jake Plummer has a career day. This year, with hapless Tampa Bay coming to Texas Stadium, indigestion looms.

The third game might save Thanksgiving. Yes, there is a third game this year, for the first time, a night game pitting two playoff-worthy teams and long-time AFC West rivals, Denver and Kansas City. You may not know this because a majority of the country will not be able to see the game. New York City, for instance, will be in the dark. Indigestion on a massive scale. The game will be shown only on the fledgling NFL Network (and on satellite TV), which is not carried by the nation’s three largest cable companies.

The biggest game as it turns out is not on the field but in the corporate suites. The NFL owns and operates the NFL Network and wants to build upon it as the centerpiece of a media entertainment empire that will generate untold billions of dollars in addition to the current rights and licensing fees. The NFL covets its independent control of that revenue stream so that it can continue to maintain its stranglehold on the American sporting public (and, not incidentally, maintain peace among the owners and with the players). The cable companies – monopolies in their own right – are not happy with the hefty additional fees that the NFL wants to charge. They see where
this story is going. At the very least the cable giants would like to put the network on their premium tiers, allowing them easily to pass on the costs, and then some, to their subscribers – something much tougher to do on the basic tier.

The NFL is betting that it will win this showdown; that fans will be so outraged at being denied their natural right to see all the football on Thanksgiving Day that Time Warner, et al., will come crawling back to the bargaining table. Ah, corporate monopoly capitalism, isn’t it wonderful?

In the meantime millions of Americans, full of turkey but still hungry for football, will have no choice but to see if perhaps "It’s a Wonderful Life" is being re-run on some channel or other. This recalls the Congressional hearings a few years back, when the NFL was warned solemnly that it dare not think about moving the Super Bowl off broadcast TV.

Fortunately, Charlottesville, VA is one of the fortunate few NFL Network subscribers, on premium service to be sure. I’d send you updates but I’m going to be too busy eating leftovers and watching the game. Happy Thanksgiving.

Multiculturalism or the law?

In Colorado, a Saudi man (a PhD student at CU) gets 27 years for sexually assaulting a woman and holding her as a virtual holding a woman as a slave for four years.
Unsurprisingly, the Saudi government is upset, and man claims anti-Muslim bias. The AP dispatch reads, in part:

Blaming anti-Muslim sentiment and denying wrongdoing, a Saudi Arabian citizen was sentenced Thursday to 28 years to life in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave for four years.

"Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit," Homaidan Al-Turki told the judge in a voice choked with emotion. "Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution."

Later in the story, we find this:

Al-Turki said he treated the woman the same way any observant Muslim family would treat a daughter.

"The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors," he said.

Atheist Wars are the Real Killers

Dinesh D’Souza writes a nice piece taking apart the oft repeated myth that religion is the culprit in all the most destructive wars of history.

This reminds me of a time sitting in one of the required (but not so interesting or rigorous) courses I took in graduate school. The professor, who was a nice man but not the most engaging teacher, made the point in passing that more people had died in the name of religion than anything else in the history of the world. It sort of woke up the room for one brief shining moment. The lefties in the class became engaged as they finally heard a claim being staked--something that was not milquetoast from their point of view. I looked around the room at some of my like-minded friends and we prepared to go to battle. But we overlooked one of our more quiet friends who usually sat in the back of the room and rarely made comments in class. To our amazement, he slowly raised his hand. When called upon he asked the following question, "What religion, exactly, were Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot working to advance?" And then he put his hand down, put his head down, and went back to reading whatever it was that he brought with him to pass the time. There was stunned silence in the room. Class was hurriedly dismissed.


Jeepers, Knippenberg must have had an extra bowl of Wheaties today.

New mag and website

Here’s the site of The American, the successor to The American Enterprise, edited by James Glassman, once of TechCentralStation. It looks like it’s worth bookmarking.

If you haven’t had enough about the election yet

Read this Pew analysis, which works through the exit polls in some interesting ways. A couple of highlights: the "God gap" didn’t really narrow all that much (indeed, in one way of looking at it, it widened); and young (18-29) voters went very strongly for Democratic candidates. Note also that Catholics were the swingers, though those who attend weekly still narrowly supported Republican candidates.

A question about this to which I don’t have the answer: were Democrats more effective than Republicans at revving up young supporters, or has the character of youthful political allegiance really changed that much?

If this doesn’t satisfy your political jones, Jay Cost offers one of his wonderfully wonkish analyses at RCP.

GWB’s human rights activism

In Vietnam. Sorry it took me so long to get to this.

Galston on Dworkin

This review, by Bill Galston, gives me some hope for the sensibility of the Democratic center, and even of the Left, on the most vital issue of the day. If we can get this one right, we’ll likely be around to argue about the other stuff.

Thanksgiving as a public holiday

Here’s President Bush’s 2006 Thanksgiving Proclamation, which contains two explicit references to God and one mention of "our Lord." There are four variations on the words blessed and blessing and two references to prayer.

If you don’t feel like calling the ACLU, you might read these two essays, which I wrote last year, having read all the Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations I could find.

GWB’s, by the way, are far from the most explicitly religious--that honor might actually go to FDR’s, though they’d have a few competitors. On the other hand, nothing surpasses the sheer banality of Richard Nixon’s 1971 proclamation:

One of the splendid events which shape man’s destiny occurred when a small band of people, believing in the essential sanctity of their own being, went in search of a land in which their individuality might be the highest national value, before any arbitrary limitation or duty placed upon some men by the whim or design of others.

They went in search of a land where they might live out their own commitment to their own ideal of human freedom. In the purpose of their search, the human spirit found its ultimate definition, and in the product of their search, its ultimate expression. They found the land they sought, and it was a difficult land, but it was rich. With their sacrifices they brought forth its riches, and laid the foundation for a new nation.

We now know the inspiration for Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruminations on the mystery of human life.

Update: The new and improved version of my meditation on the significance of giving thanks can be found here.

Hanson on the Will to Fight

Another brilliant, if not cheerful, piece by Victor Davis Hanson on our current struggle.   

And to think I didn’t believe them....

Well, I can’t say they didn’t warn me. They told me that if Bush was elected to a second term it wouldn’t be long before someone proposed bringing back the draft.

First Mel Gibson. . .

and now Michael ("Kramer") Richards. Check out this video of his racist tirade. I don’t know what he thought he was trying to do, but he’d better ring up Mel’s handlers real fast. Is there something in the water in Hollywood? (Yes, it’s called alcohol, and other substances—Ed.)

Giving thanks to...?

Conservatives, especially the religious variety, who, according to Arthur C. Brooks, are more generous than secular liberals with their time and money. Here’s his website, where you can take a glance at the book and its arguments.

Hat tip: Mirror of Justice.

What are the odds?

Minutes after Ohio State’s 42-39 win over Michigan, the Ohio Lottery’s Pick Four game came up with 4-2-3-9 as the winner. The odds are 10,000 to 1. I believe the German word for luck is the same as happiness. It’s possible.

I had a very pleasant time with Hayward in the "insidious California sunshine", flew back to Cleveland, got my car in light snow and drove to Michigan. Gluck.

No Rematch

As the Buckeye and Wolverine fans recover from their post-game euphoria or depression, the drum-beat has begun for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. Actually the campaign began weeks before the game ("Let’s say it’s a close, exciting game and Michigan, the road team, loses . . .") The fact that Michigan remains #2 in the latest BCS rankings adds to the speculation.

I am opposed to a rematch, assuming there is another team available with strong credentials. USC clearly qualifies as such if the Trojans win out. I think they will, despite a scratchy game against Cal (the Bears had two TDs called back on replay reversals). I haven’t been impressed with Notre Dame all season. In fact UCLA might be the tougher opponent for USC given the unpredictability of rivalry games. The stat geeks seem to think that USC will move ahead of Michigan in the BCS rankings if that’s that case. The more difficult case is for the winner of Florida-Arkansas in the SEC Championship game, if that team finishes with one loss. Florida has won with smoke and mirrors all season and Arkansas was crushed by USC in its opener. I would still vote for that team. If Notre Dame wins out . . . that’s the toughest case to make, as Michigan beat the Irish like a drum in South Bend.

Yes, Michigan is arguably the second best team in the country – maybe even co-number one, if you use the typical (gamblers’) standard that home field is worth three points. A personal foul penalty on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Troy Smith late in the fourth quarter perhaps saved the game for Ohio State. But. The BCS is based on the premise that water rises to its own level, that games naturally occur late in the season that eliminate contenders. Louisville beat West Virginia, then Rutgers beat Louisville, then Rutgers lost its claim by losing to Cincinnati. Texas was in good position – for a rematch with Ohio State by the way – but lost to Kansas State. Florida will play Arkansas. USC will play Notre Dame.

For better or worse the second half of the regular season is the playoff. Michigan had its chance. It was in the Horseshoe, yes. The death of Bo Schembechler must be taken into account, yes. But life isn’t fair. I think a good standard for a national championship contender under the current system is that it must win its own conference (Notre Dame being the outlier – maybe use its record against other Top 10 teams.)

Do I like the BCS? No. But it is what it is. If you want a rematch and don’t get it, then revolt. Boycott the national championship game and all who sponsor it, and demand a real playoff.

A comment on the game itself – Ohio State won because Jim Tressel came out aggressively on offense and stayed that way throughout the entire game. The great fault of coaches in all sports is to tighten up in big games, especially when they have the lead and most especially when they’ve suffered a setback (in OSU’s case, three turnovers). This is true on offense, defense and special teams. One can’t be Jerry Granville/Mouse Davis crazy but close games between two good teams are typically decided by the team that is on the balls of its feet, not on its heels.

A Study That Shows That Some Human Beings Are Less Well Protected Than Endangered Species

Here are what should be some disturbing reflections on the near disappearance of Americans with Down Syndrome. This is, from one view, an example of eugenics that really works. From another, it’s early evidence of the misanthropy that animates our biotechnological quest for perfect babies.

Religion and the election, take 3

The Pew Forum has an interesting transcript up, featuring Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council and Eric Sapp of Common Good Strategies, which worked on religious outreach for a number of campaigns (about which more here.

I find many of Sapp’s comments quite interesting--especially when he discusses a strategy involving just listening to religious voters. Democratic outreach to these voters is in some ways the mirror image of Republican efforts to reach African-Americans (successful enough, perhaps, in 2004 to give Ohio, and hence the presidency, to GWB). In other words, Republicans ought to regard this as a serious threat.

Charmaine Yoest is, I think, rightly suspicious of whether the Democratic gestures are any more than that. We’ll see, and, as I’ve suggested before, the fate of the competing abortion reduction bills is a good place to begin looking.

But I’d add that the Democratic strategy of increasing the number of religiously-tinged issues (which I think is on some level right, but has to go against the grain of the secularists in the party) demands a response. Yoest talks about how religiously-inspired moral values don’t require statist responses, and about how the best "antipoverty program" is marriage, but Sapp is right when he responds that you’re kind of hard-pressed to find the proverbial concern with widows and orphans in the foreground of conservative religious messages. My advice: let’s talk more about the whole range of questions about which religions offer their opinions, but let’s also remind all the participants that prudence and social science can (and ought to) inform our discussions.

Hail the Buckeyes

Thoroughly enjoyed the Buckeyes’ impressive victory beneath what Wodehouse called "the insidious California sunshine" (about 80 clear sunny degrees here on coast today). Peter and guests are celebrating tonight with a barbecued pork shoulder roast cooked with a spicy hickory rub, along with some hot Italian sausages (we almost got French apple sausages, but realized we couldn’t live with the humiliation), accompanied by giant popovers and a 2000 Turley Heyne Vineyard zinfandel. Back home tomorrow.

Lincoln Bicentennial Approaches

David Shribman writes a nice remembrance of Abraham Lincoln and notes the coming, in two years, of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. A commission has been established in Congress to organize a national celebration but Shribman offers some other suggestions for celebrating including reading this and this. I would also add this with these lines especially noted:

I know the American People are much attached to their Government; —I know they would suffer much for its sake;—I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.

Here then, is one point at which danger may be expected.

The question recurs "how shall we fortify against it?" The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;—let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;—let it be written in Primmers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;—let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars

Doctrinaire rationalism in public policy

This WaPo article calls attention to this new public policy lobby which will aggressively promote science and secularism. They’ve issued this declaration.

Suburban Republicans

Julie called our attention to this piece, which reminded me of something Fred Barnes wrote last year about Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, whose suburban agenda may warrant closer scrutiny.

Get Religion’s Terry Mattingly also touches on these themes in a post about this WaPo article, which includes this priceless line about the relationship between northern Virginia and the rest of the state: "It’s as if you grafted South Carolina onto the suburbs of New Jersey."

Big Game Day

Schramm and I are watching the Big Game today from Cambria on the central coast of California, where is it going to be a sunny 72 degrees. Tootle-pip, as Bertie Wooster would say. (Can you tell we took in some Wodehouse last night?)

A Study Shows That Money Can Buy Happiness

The successful pursuit of wealth does make us more happy, if only temporarily. But it’s hard to tell whether the author is mainly empirical or moralistic. We SHOULD, he says, take pleasure in thinking about what we’ve achieved, as well as in not being docile dependents. AND most of all we should take time to CONTEMPLATE how the pursuit of wealth has improved the lives of our LOVED ones. We should remember how BLESSED we are because of what others have done. Excellent, if not altogether libertarian, advice.

Blair’s "Watershed" Interview on Iraq

The eloquent and courageous Tony makes four key points: 1. Our Iraq policy has been a disaster. 2. The failure is mainly the fault of willful and violent Iraqi minorities. 3. The stakes there are so high that we can’t withdraw. 4. There’s no alternative to not only talking tough to but also actually being tough with Iran. Thanks to Gary Seaton for deeming this postworthy.

Krauthammer’s Iraq Wisdom

Our failing policy there has little to do with troop levels and probably couldn’t be turned around with an increase now. We’ve made some key mistakes, as any Machiavellian could see. And there’s still a glimmer of hope. But finally the republic is for the Iraqis to keep (or not). I’m not saying Charles is right, but the truth is he’s never dumb.

Religion and the 2006 elections again

Here’s an oversimplified and deeply misleading article by Alan Wolfe, who cites this piece by David Kuo, who still isn’t quite ready to commence his fast from politics. of the two, I prefer Kuo’s, which doesn’t willfully over- and/or misinterpret the political significance of the Ted Haggard situation, identify evangelicals with two old-guard leaders, make too much of a swing in the Catholic vote (which I expect will keep swinging for quite some time), and assert that evangelicals are powerful "perhaps" in the Supreme Court (I guess Wolfe is thinking of those noteworthy evangelicals Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, joined by the liberalizing cousin Kennedy).

Georgia’s Buddhist Congressman

Cynthia McKinney’s successor, Hank Johnson (yes, he says he’s a Buddhist) apparently ran into the Capitol policeman with whom she had the altercation and "apologized to him for any embarrassment the incident may have caused him or his family." As he put it, "My style is not an upfront, in-your-face style." I think I’ll like this Buddhist.

Bo Knew Football

The Game of the Year, and perhaps the Game of the Decade (Century, Millennium) took on an even deeper meaning with the passing today of former Michigan Coach Glenn Edward Schembechler. In such circumstances one typically adds the obligatory disclaimers, "life is much more important than football," "this puts sports in perspective," etc. Sorry. No platitudes here. Not for Bo Schembechler. He’d tell you bluntly that Michigan-Ohio State was life. Perspective was beating Woody Hayes, Bo’s former mentor, the man who famously pushed his car rather than buy gas in Michigan, who went for a two-point conversion to run up the score against Michigan "because I couldn’t go for three."

I won’t pretend to tell Eskimos about snow or you residents of Ohio about the history and significance of this game. Peter Schramm reminds me that the inter-state rivalry goes back at least as far as the so-called Toledo War in the 1830s. This border dispute involved in various ways questions of statehood, slavery and presidential politics. My theory is that the Ohioans actually wanted to expand the territory in which Woody could safely buy gas when the Big Game was in Ann Arbor. (To give equal time, Congressman John Quincy Adams thought Michigan had a slam-dunk case.) In refreshing my memory on the conflict from various sources I ran across the following: "Both militias were mobilized and sent to positions on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo, but there was little interaction between the two sides besides mutual taunting." 19th Century trash talking! Don’t let NBA Commissioner David Stern hear of this.

My college coaching friend in Idaho and I usually make a milkshake wager on major sporting events. Good news for you Michigan fans – I’m picking Ohio State. I say good news because I am the Captain Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz of sports prognosticators (Rocky and Bullwinkle cultural reference). My coaching friend would weigh 500 pounds if he actually drank all the milkshake bets he’s won over the years. Yes, I took Detroit and he took St. Louis in the World Series.

My justification – I have a gut feeling that this is Ohio State’s year, when all the stars and players are properly aligned, just as it was Texas’ year of destiny last season. The Buckeyes have enough weapons on offense to overcome Michigan’s superb run defense. OSU’s defense is very opportunistic and games like this are usually won by forcing turnovers. Perhaps the key player is Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham. If healthy and effective, he changes the game.

This is definitely a couch potato Saturday. Enjoy!

Nothing "Happy" about "Happy Feet"

Or so says Michael Medved. And I’m very disappointed because after loving The March of the Penguins my kids and I have been looking forward to this film coming out. It sounds so awful from Medved’s review that I don’t think we’ll bother. I’m renting Cars this weekend!

Reading books out of season

One of the assignments in my parties and elections class was to read either Hugh Hewitt’s Painting the Map Red or Armstrong and Zuniga’s Crashing the Gate. We’re finally getting there after the election, which has proven to be an interesting exercise, as both books were written about a year out.

I asked my students how Hewitt, for whom I have a good bit of respect, could have been so far off the mark. Our answers: the "culture of corruption" line, which was getting next to no traction in late 2005, took off late in the campaign cycle, the cumulative result of Cunningham, earmarks, Abramoff, DeLay, Ney, and Foley, Foley, Foley; by late 2006, people had forgotten all about the purple fingers in Iraq and were just losing patience; and, perhaps most importantly, Hewitt to some degree assumed that his picture of the world either was or could be shared by large numbers of voters. The blogosphere is an "information-rich" environment, but that information isn’t really as widely disseminated as we bloggers would like to believe. Even with all that information out there, most voters operate on the basis of blaring headlines or news repeatedly scrolling across the bottom of the screen or what people happen to be talking about. Foley Foley Foley might not have all that important as an isolated incident, but it was a vivid (albeit to some degree misleading, but that doesn’t matter) story that could be used to exemplify and drive home the culture of corruption line. The week’s worth of simplistic coverage that that story got (and the apparently fumbling response of the House Republican leadership) surely contributed to depriving Republicans of any conceivable electoral advantage they could manifest in what HH called, following Republican strategist Matthew Dowd, "the values race."

There’s a lesson here: a party that appears complacent and ethically lax, that isn’t a party of principle, has big problems. In this connection, consider these two posts.

I also wonder, as I noted earlier, if HH didn’t overestimate the power of the blogosphere to challenge the mainstream media. I think that the most influential blogs have succeeded in getting the attention of opinion leaders and some journalists (who now have to write knowing that they’ll be subject to scrutiny by tireless and well-informed bloggers (the descriptors work collectively, if not necessarily individually). They’re compelled at least to think about how such critics will respond to their work and to understand that there’s a risk that a criticism can really catch fire. But the information and analysis that those of us who regularly read blogs take for granted rarely penetrates into the public consciousness. The most readily available headlines and easily digested thirty-second stories still matter all too much.

In this connection, I will note what I take to be a minor success in my parties and elections class: one of the assignments was to follow three different sources of election news and commentary (all available on-line: newspaper, periodical, and blog). All of my students reported that this exercise, in which they engaged during the campaign season, has had at least a modest impact on their newsreading habits. They’re digging a little deeper and are likelier to consult multiple sources.

Now on to Armstrong and Zuniga, which we’ll discuss next week. What strikes me about this book is the combination of partisan zeal and pragmatism exemplified in their willingness to support Jim Langevin’s ultimately abandoned challenge of the unlamented Lincoln Chafee. Langevin would have been a shoo-in, they argued, but, because he’s pro-life, raised the hackles of abortion activists. Instead of an easy pick-up, Democrats (as Armstrong and Zuniga wrote in late 2005) faced an unnecessarily expensive fight. Most interesting of all, given what has happened, is this line of argument about the impact the pro-life Langevin would have had in a Senate led by Harry Reid:

We want an America where a woman, not the government, has control over her own body. We want a world where a woman’s doctor, not the theocons, can care for her reporductive health. We support the party that has enshrined abortion rights into its platform, not the party that has vowed to criminalize it. And who is in a better positoon to protect those rights--a lone pro-choice Republican or two within a governing party hell-bent on destroying those rights, or a lone antiabortion Democrat or two in a aprty determined to protect those rights?


Was Langevin perfect? No, but who is? What candidate passes every single litmus test? No one, not even giants of the progressive movement like Russ Feingold, or Paul Wellstone, or Barbara Boxer. [Ed.: Boxer a giant???? Progressives would seem to have a pretty thin bench.] The fact remains that Langevin would likely never have gotten a chance to vote against abortion in a Democratic-led Senate, and otherwise would’ve been a huge boon to the larger progessive cause.

I don’t know that I need to comment on this, but, what the heck: Armstrong and Zuniga are perfectly willing to support pro-life candidates so long as their pro-life positions are utterly uninfluential once they’re in office. Let’s remember that the next time around, in case we didn’t know that already. And every Republican who challenges a pro-life Democrat can honor the position held by his or her opponent, all the while reminding voters that the Democratic Party is happy to support their candidacy, but not the position they hold: they won’t be permitted to vote on an issue that is allegedly central to their self-understanding and self-presentation.

I’ll let you know how our discussion comes out on Tuesday.

Watch Out for the Bus

Peggy Noonan thinks Republicans have a surprise coming from the Bush Administration. In a desperate attempt to reclaim the center of American politics, the Bushies will sell out the Republicans and work in league with the new Democratic majority--especially on immigration. I think she is probably right, but I don’t think it surprising.

People usually actually are what they say they are in their most honest moments. I don’t think Bush has many dishonest moments. About who he is, as in other things, Bush has not lied. It has been conservatives who have lied to themselves about what Bush is all about. Conservatives are bitterly disappointed but have no right to be so. He is what he is--a good man and a decent man, no doubt. He’s a man with an enormously difficult task and I think, generally speaking, he has done what he could. I find it difficult to assault him because I do not feel betrayed by him. He never promised us a conservative rose garden. Think back to the primaries of 2000 and recall the main reasons why conservatives supported him. Was he considered a pillar of Reagan conservatism then? No, we just thought he was better than most and, more important, that he could win. And, there was always a sense of his strong character and even a stubbornness that we have alternately admired and found irritating.

That is why I was (and am still) so surprised by the conservative over-reaction to the Harriet Miers debacle. What did ya’ll expect? Believe me, I’m glad we got Alito. But I still wonder if it wasn’t at a very high price.

The thing conservatives need to remember as we approach another big election is that there is still a lot of persuading to do. It’s one thing to say that the instincts of the American people are still conservative. That may be true. But that won’t be enough to bring forth a conservative golden age.

Bionic Hornet

"Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday."


We already know that red wine is good for us, but the more we know the better it seems to get; it does more than we thought (same with grapes and peanuts, apparently). Also explains why the French have fewer heart attacks (and live longer?). But I bet it doesn’t explain anything about the pre-wine Neanderthals.

Just Go Watch It!

Gotta go pick up my kid from school . . . but you’ve got to watch Mary Katherine Ham’s video on the various kinds of political exes. Hilarious!

Demographic Shifts and the GOP: How to Appeal to the New Elites

Jonathan Martin at NRO takes a thought-provoking look at the GOP losses in Virginia and Missouri this year and wonders whether the losses indicate something more problematic for Republicans than a temporary "Democratic wave." Could it be shifting demographics? In other words, are the politics of GOP stalwarts unsupported by the new voters moving into the large metropolitan areas of these and other states? Many of the analysts (Larry Sabato, Jack Oliver) discussed in the article argue that the GOP needs to emphasize the "compassionate" side of conservatism again in order to make in-roads with these voters. I see what they are getting at, but I must disagree.

We all know that negative campaigns work best--but how about a negative campaign that focuses on ideas instead of pornographic novels or 30 year old racist comments for a change? How about instead of coming off as defensive and qualifying what we are as "compassionate" (as if we should have to do that) we simply demonstrate how utterly lacking in compassion most liberal/Democratic policy ideas actually are? Why not make them defend their ideas by pointing out the damage they have always inflicted when tried? Why not insist that they distinguish themselves as "smart" liberals?

In any event, the article is worth a read and serious consideration. Demographics do shift and a political party ignores these things at its peril.

Milton Friedman-A Personal Recollection

As it happens, I am in San Francisco today to be MC at tonight’s annual dinner for the Pacific Research Institute, featuring special guest, Thank You for Smoking author, Christopher Buckley. Ordinarily I would convey our greetings to Milton from the podium, as he was a regular guest at these dinners. Now, instead, a eulogy.

The first time I ever spoke with Friedman was when I was an intern in DC right out of college, and I foolishly decided to get up and challenge him during question time at a large dinner about the gold standard (which he always opposed). I was swiftly, but nicely, dispatched into the shadows, where I learned that it was a stupid idea to argue with a Nobel Prize winner about the subject for which he won the prize. What was I thinking?

Years later after I went to work for PRI in San Francisco I got to see Milton many times, often up close and on intimate terms. Sally Pipes often hosted small dinners with Milton to which she would gracious include me, and I would try to follow Milton’s theological distinctions between M1 and M2. I once rode with him back to his apartment in his Lexis (Milton, remember, is a Hobbit: he sat on a telephone book). Behind the wheel, he seemed to forget everything he knew about cost-benefit analysis or risk assessment. It was more like riding with Steve McQueen in "Bullet." He sent me several kind notes about my work from time to time, especially The Age of Reagan, where I had included a number of the snide dismissals of Friedman that appeared in 1964 when he was advising Goldwater.

We all know who got the last laugh. Keynes famously said that in the long run we’re all dead. Turned out the long run belonged not to Keynes but to Milton. And it still does, even though he is gone. RIP.

Milton Friedman, RIP

America has lost one of its most influential thinkers, and the free society has lost one of its most passionate advocates.

And Now. . . Ecosexuals?

We’ve had homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and metrosexuals, but are you ready for. . . ecosexuals?

The latest edition of San Francisco magazine has a feature article, "In Search of a Nice Gaia," in which ecosexuality is the theme. It includes such horselaugh-worthy gems as:

But one morning they went out for breakfast and Mr. Right ordered an all-meat meal and doused his coffee with several packets of Equal. "I was dumbstruck," says Pearson. "I think I ate my entire meal in silence. Pork plus Nutrasweet? That was definitely our last date." I’m guessing for the fellow the silence at that breakfast must have been golden.

There’s more great stuff like this. Another couple who couldn’t work out their conflicting greenery summed it up thus: "I shopped at Rainbow; she shopped at Safeway," is how Monte Gores, a 33-year-old stock-trader turned-acupuncturist summed up his differences with a woman he once dated. "One night she told me she’d just eaten half a chocolate cake for dinner," he says. Not exactly a "mindful" way to eat. "If you’re thinking about a long-term relationship, that’s a red flag." They broke up within two months.

This one quote gets it all in a single sentence: "It wasn’t just the compost," Claudia says, "but it raised some control issues that we couldn’t resolve." Glad that composting is something that you might be able to work through.

Unfortunately the article is not available online, or I’d say Read the Whole Thing. All I can say is, if Evelyn Waugh or P.G. Wodehouse were still alive, they’d have to collect unemployment to get by. Julie Ponzi, over to you.

The Resurrection of Trent Lott

I think I was one of the first conservative bloggers to demand that Lott must go when he put forward his southern sympathies in his famous botched joke at Strom Thurmond’s going away party back in 2002 (he and John Kerry now have one thing in common), but let me now dissent from the near-universal condemnation of the right-blogosphere and say that he is a much better choice than Lamar Alexander to be the minority whip in the Senate. Lott is a master at backroom dealing and parliamentary procedure, which will be essential skills in opposition. I expect he will be a much better wingman for Mitch McConnell than Alexander would be. There should be a statute of limitations for exile for saying something stupid as Lott did.

Y’all come

I’ll be speaking at Mercer University in Macon at 4:30 p.m. today. (At the moment, the Mercer website seems to be down, but, trust me, the link has worked in the past.) I’ll speaking on Kant on federations, offering the first and roughest version of a paper that will eventually make its way into a book edited by these folks.

So far as I know, the lecture is open to the public.

Update: Good hosts, good audience, good conversation, good food. If this guy (or his friend in the political science department who doesn’t have a personal site) invites you to give a talk in Macon, accept with alacrity.

The Fight for the Minority

A good summary of the principals and their principles can be read at the link above. Also, see Dean Barnett’s description of his conference call with would-be minority leaders and number 2’s.

"For Us, It’s Her"

So goes the slogan for the favored French Socialist candidate for that country’s presidency, Segolene Royal. The party will make its choice today. A telling excerpt from the article: "Most predict Royal will emerge victorious, despite her halting performance at six debates leading up to the vote . . . The least politically experienced of the three potential Socialist leaders, Royal has struggled to articulate formulas for France’s deficit and stumbled in questions about
Iran’s nuclear program, but she retains widespread appeal . . . Polls show people like her because they think she understands the French better than any other politician — regardless of whether she has specific policies to run the country."

But even more telling are the comments from the French political analysts and voters interviewed for the article: "She has a unique card: She’s a woman. She says, ’I am modern, I am new,’" said Dominique Moisi, a political analyst. Or this beauty: "She does politics differently. With her, I rediscovered hope," said Joelle, a supporter from the southern town of Ariege attending one of the debates and wearing a sticker saying "For us, it’s her."

As few as 5 years ago one might have looked at that kind of Oprah-esque political insight, confidently rolled ones eyes and remarked, "Only in France." But here’s the rub: the French socialists hesitate to support Royal because they are uncertain of how she will fare in the general election against the candidate from the right. (Then again, they also think that discrimination is the cause of the Paris riots.) It is American conservatives, on the other hand, who seem to be ready to lead the retreat away from the equally vacuous--but obviously feared--Mrs. Clinton. Ms. Royal, in a remark that almost had me wanting to wear her buttons, had this to say about her coming fight for the presidency: "The battle of 2007 will be rough but beautiful . . . I don’t fear it." I don’t know about beautiful, but 2008 will be plenty rough for conservatives if we give in to fear. As the current White House occupant is fond of saying . . . "Bring it on."

There’s No Crying, or an Off Season, in Baseball

In Texas, they say there are two sports. Football and spring football. Baseball has three seasons. Regular, postseason, and hot stove. For those who are not baseball fans the last category can be rather annoying. Endless discussion of trades, free agents, who’s back from injury, what will happen with Barry Bonds, etc. I know, get a life or get ready for Ohio-State Michigan. But as a professor of political philosophy from my grad school days liked to say, it’s something to do.

Foreign-born and international players continue to be a significant and growing part of the mix. The Red Sox acquired the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka for a seemingly ridiculous $51.1 million (add on to that a salary likely to reach $50 million or so). The fact that they successfully outbid the Yankees for Matsuzaka’s rights may decide the balance of power in the American League East next season – one way or the other. I’m dubious. That’s a lot of money to spend on a pitcher who has thrown a staggering number of innings already in his Japanese professional career. Peter Gammons thinks otherwise, however, and until further notice Peter has forgotten more about baseball than I know.

Gammons stresses the larger factors that went into Boston’s decision. He notes that Boston GM Theo Epstein, the boy genius, believes that in the next decade the mass of baseball talent coming out of Asia will alter the American professional landscape, and his owners want to be entrenched in Japan as well as China; they signed three prominent Taiwanese prospects this spring and are looking into establishing complexes in Taiwan and mainland China. We are back to Michael Lewis’ thesis about how economics change sports. According to Gammons, the Red Sox want to cash in on Japanese marketing dollars and have already made plans for one marketing official to go to Tokyo after the first of the year. They expect that all of Matsuzaka’s starts will be televised in Japan, with the Japanese advertising superimposed behind home plate.

Matsuzaka opened eyes with an MVP performance at the World Baseball Classic earlier this year. In a different way, so too did Manny Acta, third base coach for the New York Mets who managed the Dominican Republic team. Acta’s performance there helped him secure the Washington Nationals’ managerial position, replacing Frank Robinson. I could go on for many more paragraphs that you care to read about Robinson, a Hall of Famer and the first black manager, who is as Old School as they get. I had absolutely nothing to say about Acta, who I had never heard of until recently – until I ran across this item in the Washington Post.

Unlike most of the teenagers whom Linares encountered as a scout in the Dominican Republic, Acta was highly interested in school, where he wanted to study engineering. But once he decided to sign with the Astros, he applied his intelligence to learning English as quickly and as thoroughly as he could. Within a few years, Linares said, Acta was conducting impromptu English classes for his Latino teammates. "I couldn’t believe it when I found that out," Linares said. "He’s just an extremely intelligent person."

Years later, Acta would return to studying, this time for the U.S. citizenship test, and when he passed, he put in a call to Linares, the old scout who says he considers Acta a son. "He was very emotional," Linares said. "I think he was crying. It meant so much for him to become a U.S. citizen." A few years ago, when Acta was in Montreal, the U.S. customs office in Houston asked him to speak to a group of prospective U.S. citizens, most of them Latino, about the naturalization process. Acta’s speech was so moving and articulate, half the room was in tears.

I now know one manager I’ll be rooting for in 2007. I guess that’s what intense study during the hot stove league should really be about.

No timetables

Retired generals Zinni, Baptiste, never mind the still active Abizaid, are against setting a timetable to get out of Iraq. What is the Democratic position on timetables, by the way, I don’t remember. Note that Dem Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants Congress to cut off funds. Now it’s starting to smell like Vietnam! In the meantime, Bush is reported to be thinking of increasing the number of troops by 20,000 for one big push.

Somalis in Lebanon

The NY Times reports on a UN report that claims more than 700 Islamic fighters from Somalia to Lebanon to fight with Hezbollah against Israel. They got weapons and training in return, from Syria and Iran. And Iran now has access to uranium mines in Somalia. And this from a UN report!

Yuval Levin on Stem-Cell Politics

This is easily the most judicious and informed account of the politics of the stem-cell controversy that I’ve read. I would say more but I’m out the door to the Bioethics meeting at the Hamilton Crown Plaza on 14th Street in Northwest DC. You’re invited tomorrow and Friday!

Porky Murtha

is, as John Fund explains in incriminating detail, among the most ethically challenged members of Congress. If only Speaker Pelosi had anointed him prior to the election! That would have more than neutralized the corruption gap issue.

"I’m Blogging; It’s Awesome"

Nice bit of video sending up the obsession with blogging.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.

Testosterone Studies Show You Might Be Better Off Without It

Men who have high testosterone levels get to have more sex but end up dying earlier. And, from an evolutionary view, the male of our species is the most independent or lonely and criminal of the animals. Studies show he’s quite marginal to family life, while still being stuck with doing most of the protecting.

Apologetic correction

Writing this post, I misread this article, attributing to Stephen Miller a line that actually belongs to Stephen Hess. The two are neither the same person, nor interchangeable. I’ve read more of Hess in my lifetime, but plan at some point in the not too distant future to purchase and read Miller’s book as a non-Catholic act of penance.

Knight Court

It seems that college basketball begins earlier and earlier each year. For those of us in ACC country, it is still THE season, as the great expansion into football has led only to imperial overstretch. The conference was embarrassed last year as only four teams received NCAA tournament bids – the same number as the Missouri Valley Conference, as I recall. Horrors. This season the ACC’s North Carolina, with an influx of talent to go along with last year’s bumper crop of freshmen (sorry, once a sportswriter, always a sportswriter), is one of the early favorites, along with defending champion Florida and Kansas. Ohio State, Arizona, Georgetown, LSU, Wisconsin and UCLA are other teams to watch. Duke seems a little down. In March, a mid-major like George Mason will surprise us all.

The face of basketball has changed constantly over the past two decades. At first the top college juniors left for the NBA, then sophomores, then freshmen, and finally high schoolers (especially big high schoolers). Play suffered, yet it was always somehow better than the official pros. This is the first year of an experiment to reverse the flow. The NBA now requires players to be at least one year out of high school, or age 20, before entering the league. Some high schoolers simply opted to go to Europe or find other ways to kill time, but a significant number of big men decided to head to campus for the obligatory year in purgatory. The best of them is said to be Ohio State’s Greg Oden, although he is out until January with an injured wrist. We’ll see how it plays out. Maybe some of the one-year wonders will stay.

There is one constant with the beginning of any basketball season. Bob Knight is in trouble. This season was supposed to be a celebration of his coaching career at West Point, Indiana and Texas Tech. (Yes, Ashlanders, I know he played basketball at Ohio State.) He will become the winningest coach of all time in Division I basketball, passing Adolph Rupp (876) and Dean Smith (879). The record seems to mean a good deal to him. He probably won’t keep it – Coach K at Duke will get there if he stays in the business and there are other relatively young coaches who will log many wins with the expanded schedules. But Knight clearly relished the recognition that the record would bring him. It has been two decades since he won his third and last national championship. He has had some fine teams since, one of which could have won a championship had Alan Henderson been healthy. But for the most part, if you look at his on-court accomplishments since 1987, they have been good but not great. The sort of record that would keep a coach employed but hardly basking in the national spotlight.

Knight has stayed in the news largely for his non-basketball related behavior. I won’t repeat the litany of thrown chairs, choked players, fans put in trashcans, and obscenity laced press conferences. You can see them all tonight on ESPN’s Sports Center, along with the latest entry in the Bob Knight bill of particulars. Even on his best behavior Knight treats his players, well, loudly and unkindly. Last night Knight became upset with sophomore Michael Prince. As Knight began to berate him, Prince lowered his head. Knight popped him firmly under the chin. Look at me when I talking to you. The cameras of course were rolling, along with calls for Knight’s head to roll. The player and his parents said it was no big deal. (Here’s a newsflash: if you decide to play for Bib Knight, expect a firm touch). Most coaches and former players – but not all – who opined on the subject said, no big deal. But it is a big deal.

Knight is Shakespearean tragedy. By all accounts he runs as clean a program as is possible in big time college athletics. His players graduate. He contributes large sums to university libraries. His former players – those who don’t quit anyway – almost always remain his strongest defenders. That says a lot. (Dean Smith may have put you off with his overly-clever strategies and whining, but his former players, including those like Michael Jordan who have no incentive to suck up, remain close to him. That says a lot.) But then there is the ESPN highlight reel of Knight’s transgressions. And Knight refuses to apologize. He is never wrong. He is of the John Wayne school – real men don’t apologize.

These contradictions are detailed fully in John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink (1986), which is (or used to be) the best selling sports book of all time. Things haven’t changed much with Knight since then. But Feinstein misses one essential point by focusing on Knight’s, ah, vivid personality and motivational techniques. If you have ever heard Bob Knight talk in detail about basketball, either in person or through a coaching video, you will understand. I think you would understand even if you know little or nothing about basketball.

Imagine your best professor on his or her best day on their best subject. Knight is like that. He is smart and engaging. He doesn’t yell or humiliate you. It’s basketball like you can only imagine. The passing game offense. Man to man defense using zone principles. Angles. Positioning. Matchups. Why, in the 1987 championship game, when faced with a much bigger Syracuse team that was killing Indiana on the boards, he went small with a lineup he rarely if ever used. You realize that you really didn’t know much about basketball, even if you thought that you did. You would want to play for that man, or coach under him, or just hang around, simply for the joy of learning more about the unexpected, unseen complexities of a simple game. That, ultimately, is the fascination of Knight for basketball men.

But would you want to put up with him? Ah, there is the rub. Knight can’t recruit top flight players. He could and did, once, sort of, when tough coaching styles were more acceptable, when a quick jump to the NBA wasn’t an option, when there were fewer outstanding coaches to complete with, and when there was no ESPN to show the Knight horror show. He could recruit pretty well at Indiana, a traditional basketball power, but then he managed to get fired there and had to settle at Texas Tech, a perennial bottom-dweller in the (now) Big 12, which rarely wows big-time recruits with its ambience. The man can still coach. He took a so-so Texas Tech team to the Sweet 16 a few years back, a remarkable accomplishment. But he won’t win a national championship at Texas Tech. Can you imagine the levels of play that a team as talented as North Carolina or Kansas might reach under Knight?

No, you can’t. That’s the point. You can see it, maybe, when Duke plays. And no disrespect meant to Roy Williams or Bill Self. But it’s not quite what it might be. We’ll never know.

And so the all time coaching record is all there is left to Knight, in terms of the recognition of his peers, fans and the media. The curse of Knight is, it won’t be the first thing that history remembers.

November 7th by the Numbers

That’s the title of my relatively short, very preliminary consideration of the meaning of the election. I worked mostly from the election returns and so didn’t really touch directly on the substantive issues that may or may not have moved the electorate.

My basic argument is that the bad news is the good news. Republicans have received an electoral wake-up call and have lots of incentive to address it. By contrast, the leading Democrats are insulated from the electorate in deep, deep blue districts. As a result, they’re susceptible to being disconnected from the electorate, as well as from the newly elected members who gave them control of the House.

As Minnesota goes, so goes the nation??

MOJ blogger (and law professor) Gregory Sisk observes that winning pro-life candidates, who cemented DFL control over the state legislature, appear to be getting short shrift from the liberal leadership of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor party. Here’s the core of his post:

[I]n Minnesota (as in so many other states), Democratic gains in last week’s election, including taking control of the state house of representatives (and increasing a majority in the state senate), came largely in more conservative/moderate suburban districts and often involved Democratic candidates who described themselves as pro-life. As one Democratic pollster described it, the new DFL faces in the legislature tend to be people who “ran away” from the official DFL platform.

So, if Minnesota is the harbinger of the future, how are things looking so far in terms of prospects for a pro-life revival within the Democratic Party?

Well, just one day after the election, the assistant leader of Democrats in the state senate, Senator Ann Rest, pronounced: “We have a pro-choice Senate now.” Then, in a clear dismissal of human life issues as being worthy of any attention in the legislature, Senator Rest asserted that “[n]ow we can concentrate on the issues that bring us together, not the ones that divide us.”

Then, just two days after the election, the DFL in both houses of the Minnesota legislature proceeded to disregard the new blood in the party from the suburbs and rural areas and elect as their new leaders two of the most liberal (and stridently pro-choice) politicians in the state, both from the DFL stronghold of Minneapolis.

Interesting, eh? Will national Democrats behave the same way?

Chinese Submarine

Bill Gertz reports today in The Washington Times today that a Chinese submarine surfaced within weapons range of the U.S.S. Kittyhawk battle group in the Pacific last month, apparently undetected.

Karl Rove . . . The Uber Evil Genius?

So posits Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News. Rove meant to lose the election, you see. It’s all part of the Plan. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Thoroughly entertaining . . . if nothing else.

Hat tip: James Taranto.

The Dissident Option in Contemporary Thought

I’ve gotten a couple of emails on the thought of Solzhenitsyn as offering a real alternative to the choice between Strauss
("natural right") and Heidegger ("history").
This is a tough issue for blogging. But a new book by Mary Keys arrived in the mail! So I refer all interested to her AQUINAS, ARISTOTLE, AND THE PROMISE OF THE COMMON GOOD (Cambridge, 2006), 170-72. Let me quote one sentence: "In our times, the moral sensibility shown by dissenters in the former Soviet Union and its satellites offers strong experential support--generally from outside Thomistic circles and often from non-Christians--for the humanity of humility and its role in forming the character of the truly magnanimous person." Mary quotes the Czech dissident Havel at length, but Havel often acknowledges his debt to Solzhenitsyn for his conception of "personal responsibility."

Webb Watch, Part 2

Herewith a new NLT feature: the Jim Webb Watch. Andrew Ferguson has a column on him today, noting his heterodox views on, especially, the Clintons. Some Webb greatest hits:

"It is a pleasurable experience to watch Bill Clinton finally being judged, even by his own party, for the ethical fraudulence that has characterized his entire political career.’’ (From a 2001 article.)

Both Bill and Hillary, he wrote in 2001, embody a "a pervasive elitism, from people who were taught when young that the laws that applied to their countrymen did not necessarily apply to them.’’ Wonder how those cloakroom conversations with Hillary will go.

Then there’s this on affirmative action: "a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.’’


Time magazine’s Mike Allen reports that for House Democrats, The Honeymoon Is Over.

That was fast.

Baker’s Dozen

I’ve been watching with foreboding and dread as the expectations for the Iraq Study Group reach a crescendo, as the chattering classes clearly expect it to deliver us from the mess in Iraq by some talismanic formula. After all, James Baker is leading it! (Insert appropriate ooohs and aaahs here.) But this is the same James Baker who found inpenetrable the ethnic and religious fault lines in the collapsing Soviet Union; suppose he’ll do any better understanding Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq?

The old Michael Kinsley pops up today on this very subject in his WaPo column, noting the AARP-qualified membership of the Iraq Study Group (former Senator Chuck Robb, age 67, is the youngster on the panel), with the wry comment: "This is one torch that has not been passed to a new generation. . . The chance that this group of aging white men, plus Vernon Jordan and Sandra Day O’Connor, will come up with something original is not enormous."

Elegant evisceration of sulky Sullivan

Jonah Goldberg performs the operation on Andrew Sullivan’s new book. Here’s the conclusion:

Sullivan turns Oakeshott’s reverence for tradition and custom on its head: He enthrones the all-justifying righteousness of conscience, in particular his own, in a moral pragmatism that says that orthodoxies have no binding authority. Pragmatism was built on the arrogance of intellectuals who believed they were smarter than anyone who lived before; Sullivan’s divinization of conscience performs a similar task, with similar vanity. He dedicates page after page to illuminating the grandest mysteries of existence with the only lantern Sullivan trusts: his own conscience. Without this, we would all be lost. Indeed, he seems to believe that his own intense internal struggles (Sullivan always wins these fights, by the way) are mirrored in the struggles of the Republican party — indeed, the nation itself. The cover of the book depicts two elephants tied at the tail, presumably fighting for the soul of conservatism. This is, among other things, evidence of an enormous category error in which Sullivan endeavors to make the conservative temperament the foundation of a political program.

And it is here that the mansion of nonsense most obviously implodes. The notion that certainty is at odds with a just constitutional order, decency, and All Good Things founders on Sullivan’s own hypocrisy. Not only is it a Monty Pythonesque absurdity to imagine a serious political movement founded on such bumper-sticker slogans as “We’re not sure!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, certainty has got to go!” Sullivan himself proves that a politics based solely on one’s own glorious conscience is just as capable of the sort of rigid, moralistic, self-righteous preening and us-versus-them logic that Sullivan’s conservatism of doubt claims to stand against.

Of course, you shouldn’t just take Goldberg’s word for it. You should read the book, especially if you can find a way of doing so without lining AS’s pockets. (I have to confess that I actually purchased it, and am somewhere close to halfway through the thing. AS is a gifted polemicist, but surely not the fairest expositor of positions with which he disagrees.)

More Troops to Iraq?

That’s the only way Bush can show he’s changing the course in the direction of victory, according to Kagan and Kristol. These authors admit, in effect, that the recent Republican defeat was based on the perception of policy failure, a failure, they contend, that was in process for three years. Because I’m not a "strategery" guy, I welcome your opinions. What would the reaction be, to begin with, if the president were to go on TV to announce this policy change?

Solzhenitsyn’s Brilliant Boys

Here’s a moving and most informative interview with Solzhenitsyn’s two sons on the occasion of the release of ISI’s SOLZHENITSYN READER (edited by Ed Ericson and Dan Mahoney). This is a huge, beautiful, and altogether amazing collection of the writing (much previously unpublished) of one of the three most profound thinkers of the 20th century. Solzhenitsyn is also, of course, among the most courageous and truthful human beings of all time. I would link the book, but I don’t want to make the tough call for you on whether you should buy it off amazon or the ISI website.

Sunday Culinary Notes

In the interest of making the next two years pass as commodiously as possible, and keeping up my responsibilities as the NLT sommelier and grillmaster, herewith tonight’s gourmet menu as Casa Hayward:

A whole chicken, brined for 10 hours in Victoria Taylor’s spicy brining blend (very hard to find), and then barbecued, upside down, on a Weber Performer series charcoal grill for about 50 minutes (brined meats cook faster because of the water content), accompanied by this fine chardonnay from Clos Pegase, a rather pretentious Napa vinery (the winery building and surroundings were designed by Michael Graves, but what the heck, he does a line of pots and pans and small appliances for Target), but what the heck, their wines are good. (Pssst: I also cooked brown rice to go with it, but don’t tell the RNC.)

Clos Pegase still makes chardonnay slightly in the 1980s/1980s big style with malalactic fermentation, even though the recent trend in California chardonnay has been to move back to the more austere French Burgundy style. I know the Burgundy style is more authentic to the grape, but I still like the big brash buttery style of well-done fake California chardonnays from the 1990s. Besides, it annoys the French, and that’s always worth doing.

Up next: A barbecued standing beef rib roast on Tuesday night, when I have friends in from the Left Coast.

The short and the long of our rhetoric

Martha Bayles reviews a new book on "public diplomacy" by Carnes Lord and finds it wanting. She ends the short review by recommending that he recollect Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric (as Lord translates it): "What is crucial is to attain a proper understanding of the possibilities of persuasion in a given situation." I should mention that she began the review with this from Aristotle (another Lord translation): "The things that are truer and better are more susceptible to reasoned argument and more persuasive, generally speaking."

Regarding non-public diplomacy The New York Times notes how the careers of Markus Wolf (the late East German spy chief) and Robert Gates, former CIA chief, had crossed. The paper also takes a few excerpts from the memoirs of each that are worth reading. Note how the former chief of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung--the one who was afraid of dealing with the terrorists Carlos the Jackal--mocks the CIA. Wolf died last week, Communist East Germany died over ten years ago. Gates will become Secretary of Defense next week.

Whoa, Joe!

Joe Lieberman today, on being asked by Tim Russert whether he’d ever switch parties: "I’m not ruling it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point." That sound you heard was Harry Reid’s pucker factor going up one small notch.

Jefferson on Steroids

George Will offers his take on the new book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Lewis is the author of Moneyball, the 2003 bestseller that examined how the small-market Oakland Athletics stayed competitive in the financially top-heavy world of baseball and introduced "sabremetrics" to the general public. As Will notes, Lewis “is advancing a new genre of journalism that shows how market forces and economic reasoning shape the evolution of sports.”

Lewis’s latest case study involves college football, which has always been willing to accommodate the, uh, academically challenged but athletically able young men who serve as cash cows for the institution. Pro football then reaps the benefits of what is essentially a free farm system. In this particular case the efficient causes of change are Lawrence Taylor (the prototype athletic, pass-rushing outside linebacker) and Bill Walsh (architect of the West Coast and similar offenses, which spread the field) This combination can be lethal for quarterbacks unless their blind side is protected against freaks of nature like Taylor. This means the left offensive tackle for right-handed quarterbacks. Which means that the left tackle’s economic value has skyrocketed. Which means that freaks of nature are now being recruited to play what had hitherto been about the most obscure position on the field. Which means that colleges are willing to look the other way when admitting left tackles as well as quarterbacks and running backs.

Lewis’ book describes one of those freaks of nature – a freshman tackle at the University of Mississippi with an I.Q. of 80 from the mean streets of Memphis who bounced from foster home to foster home. At the end of the day much of the story revolves around the missionary spirit of the young man’s current parents – Ole Miss graduates and fanatic football fans, and evangelical Christians, who want to make a life for their foster son. The book is replete with colorful tales of creative recruiting and accreditation. Whether this is a depressing or uplifting tale will depend, I suppose, on how the young man’s life and career turn out. Be sure there will be a sequel if this one sells – Lewis isn’t immune to market forces either.

The NCAA has just come out with its latest study on the academic performance of college athletes, which indicates that they now graduate at slightly higher rate than the non-athlete student body (63-61%) after six years. The average for football remains below that level, 55%, as does basketball, 46%. The methodology used by the NCAA -- recently changed to accommodate complaints by coaches -- undoubtedly cooks the books, as does the federal methodology used to calculate overall graduation rates, so it’s hard to say what’s really going on. Here at the University of Virginia, we have just opened the posh John Paul Jones arenafor basketball – sorry, UVA hasn’t suddenly gone patriotic; it’s named after the father of a big donor. This has led to the usual criticism. One professor termed the new arena "Jefferson on steroids." He noted that 50 academic chairs could have been endowed for the money spent on the facility. As if John Paul Jones and the rest of the donors were going to do that.

Jefferson on steroids -- that’s about the only accusation that hasn’t been made against the Sage of Monticello. I wonder if the author of the Declaration could play left tackle?

Should be really be shocked that gambling is taking place in Casablanca? Lewis’ book is hardly a revelation. I would tell you some stories related to me by my great uncles, who were college athletes in the 1920s and 1930s, except they would get several universities placed on probation. My own view on the subject, as I have said, is that if it is corruption, it is magnificent corruption, and we should lose sight of neither element. Although there is great room for reform in college athletics, there is much more need for revolution in the colleges as a whole. Start there first. Somehow I don’t think Donna Shalala is doing much on either front.

Greening Election?

On Friday NPR’s "Living on Earth" show had me on with Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and you can listen to the podcast or read the transcript here. It was edited down from almost 40 minutes of back and forth, and unfortunately cut out some of the best of the debate between us, but such is life.

Veteran’s Day Nota Bene

In addition to the usual tributes owing today, a squib in the Washington Times yesterday notes that there are only 12 American veterans of World War I still alive, down from 25 last year. Average age: 108. This might be the last Veteran’s Day we will have them amongst us.

Is Jim Webb the New Zell Miller?

Quite possibly, as we and others have been suggesting.

Saletan on the Emerging Sciences of Research Cloning and Embryo Implantation

Here’s a remarkably, if not completely, fair and balanced account of the arguments on both sides of the so-called stem cell war. You may or may not think embryos are human beings with dignity and rights, but you only a fool would refuse to think deeply about the fact that we’re starting to mess seriously with the foundations of human life. On this issue, as on some others, the Democrats’ appeals to compassion and fundamentalist bashing are meant to stifle reflection.

Observations and Predictions

All of this talk about "bipartisanship," "working together," and "reaching across the aisle" has made me want to reach for my airsick bag, except that the chances of such nonsense actually occurring in in inverse proportion to the rhetoric of the moment. Remember the old joke: there are two parties in America--the Stupid Party and the Evil Party. And when the two parties get together and do somethine really stupid and evil, it’s called "bipartisanship." What’s going on right now is fairly understandable: a chastened Bush, and emboldened Democrats, are talking nice to get pole position with the public. Not to worry; they won’t be singing Kumbaya for very long.

Let’s offer here not one, not two, but three cheers for partisanship. While partisanship often manifests itself in unlovely and thoughtless ways, it does represent a division, as old as Hamilton’s feud with Jefferson at least, between two coherent philosophical camps in modern politics. Take prescription drug pricing: Democrats sincerely believe in the benevolent exercise of government power to regulate drug prices. Republicans just as sincerely believe that bureaucratically-controlled drug prices will distort the market in important and unwelcome ways over time. (Tie-breaker goes to that great cognitive dissonant, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who I heard say at a dinner back in 2000 that drug price controls were essential to containing health care costs, but that once we did so, "We’d better hope the Swiss pharmaceutical industry stays healthy." He, at least, was one Democrat who was clear that drug price contols will exact a cost in innovation.)

The point is, the partisanship of serious differences should be celebrated. If nothing else, they permit accountability. Everyone knows tax cuts are a Republican idea. If we don’t like them, we know who to blame, and who to turn to to fix it. Let the debates begin.

Predictions. Another issue like drug pricing is trade. A number of people have been predicting a rise of protectionism coming. Perhaps. Yesterday I spoke with a very very smart economist who calls the macro shots for one of the more successful hedge funds in New York, and he mentioned a prospect I haven’t heard anywhere else: Watch for a Democratic attack on the Federal Reserve six months down the road, especially if housing prices are still sliding or stagnant. It has happened before (see: 1982, when Reagan stood up to both parties’ attacks on Paul Volcker on Capitol Hill). Over the last few years, the Republican Congress has been assailing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which tend to be Democratic sinecures as well as the embodiment of Democratic economic policy ideas. The Fed is an outpost more of Republican economic policy, and as such a juicy target for populist liberals, who don’t like big banks and finance much anyway.

File this one away for the spring.

Painless Sex Change

SLATE’s fascinating Saletan keeps us up to date on the latest scientific breakthroughs. They’re several, but here’s two: It turns out we mated with the Neanderthals, and that made us smart enough to kill them all. And in New York City it’s now possible to change your sex after an appropriate waiting period simply by checking a new box on the form. No operation needed!

Podcast with Lawler

I talked with Peter Lawler today about the election, why the Republicans got a thumping, what it will mean for the President’s last two years, as well as for the future of the GOP. He even touched on what the Democrats are likely to do and how their actions will be received. Peter didn’t ignore Iraq in his conversation, nor did he ignore the future of Hillary Clinton. Smart guy, this Lawler.

Two books added to the pile on my nightstand

Paul Kengor was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, both escapism for these dark times and a reminder of the role Republican Presidents can play in articulating and carrying out a principled foreign policy.

I also just received a review copy of Michael Keren’s Blogosphere from the good people at Rowman & Littlefield. The publisher’s promotional material describes the book this way:

Michael Keren compares bloggers to terrorists, arguing that while the methods advocated by the two groups are obviously very different, they both represent a similar trend, one of diversion by respected but disenchanted citizens from the norms of civil society to a fantasy world in which the excessive use of words—or bombs—would make everybody listen.

Provocative, eh? R&L, by the way, is offering a discount on web orders, so if you want to be provoked, go to their website to order the book.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for October

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

Carolyn Barnett

Jim Huff

Lisa Hatch

Grace Morgan

Kevin Gilhooley

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 November’s drawing.

Religion and the 2006 elections

I haven’t thought it all through yet, but it strikes me that a good place to begin is Terry Mattingly’s post at Get Religion. Mattingly points also to this Beliefnet piece by Steve Waldman, whose conclusions are worth noting:

To cement the gains with religious voters and Catholics, the Democrats will likely need to develop a more moderate position on abortion. These new pro-life Democrats will surely press the case; it’s an open question how the pro-choice Democrats who will still dominate the party will react.

Thanks to the Iraq war, Democrats now have an opening to win over more religious voters. However, the Iraq war won’t dominate forever and Democrats will now need to prove themselves worthy of centrist religious voters by altering their views on some social issues and dispelling the image that they’re hostile to faith.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts as I get the chance to look more closely at the data and at what the Democrats do.

I remain convinced that an early test, which President Bush can perhaps force by announcing that he’ll sign it if it crosses his desk, is the Democrats for Life’s
Pregnant Women Support Act, which is a classic pro-life Catholic/blue dog Democrat supported bill that needs more Republican co-sponsors. Supporting and, I hope, passing this bill would offer an example of principled bipartisanship. It’s absolutely the best thing pro-life folks can hope to get from the 109th or 110th Congresses. And it’s good politics, both for the message it sends about bipartisan cooperation and about the challenge it poses to the new Speaker about her commitment to both bipartisanship and a big tent Democratic party. She can’t be permitted any sort of fig leaf here.

Update: This article by the WaPo’s Alan Cooperman is disappointingly unilluminating. While we learn, for example, that Democrats won a marginally larger share of the white evangelical vote in 2006 than in 2004 and that Catholics swung to the Democrats this time, Cooperman says nothing about the relatively religiously conservative Democrats who won election. In a year where they faced a party that seemed intellectually and ideologically exhausted, saddled with an unpopular war, Democrats are not so religiously radioactive that some people would rather slit their wrists than vote for someone with a "D" next to his or her name.

I don’t think that Democrats should be too confident that the strategy they employed this year will work every time. Sooner or later, those morally conservative religious voters will ask themselves whether they’re really getting or going to get anything of substance from the party to which they lent their support this year.

James Webb: True Democrat

I think it is an interesting fact that James Webb now finds his home in the Democratic Party. No crazed liberal, for sure, people are remarking on his conservative leanings and how they may serve to irritate the liberal core of the Democratic leadership in Congress. I look forward to seeing that. On the other hand, there are apparently good reasons for Webb’s distancing himself from the Republican party in recent years and finding his way home to the Democrats. And they have to do with fundamentals and foundations stretching back to the origins of the GOP and the traditions of the pre-1960s Democrats. They have to do with fundamentals that Republicans would do well to think long and hard about before 2008. What is it that makes a James Webb want to be a Democrat and a Michael Steele want to be a Republican?

Matt Peterson over at The Remedy brings our attention to some recent comments Webb made about what I suppose Webb would call "The War Between the States" and the motivations for it. Good Republicans in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln cannot support these views. We may make common cause with Un-Reconstructed Southern partisans in fighting some of the excesses of post 1960s liberalism, but when it comes down to fundamental questions like the origins of sovereignty and natural rights--we must part company. He is right to be a Democrat. It is his natural home.


Scott Johnson has a few good thoughts on Rumsfeld, with a few appropriate links.  

Red States

Despite what you may have heard on Tuesday night, color the following states red: New Jersey, New York, California, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Indiana.

More accurately, color them scarlet. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ surprising victory over Louisville has thrown the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) into turmoil or talk radio and blogger heaven, depending on your point of view. Rutgers, despite its current undefeated record, has no chance to play in the national championship game against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan. That leaves, in order of current BCS ranking, the following one loss teams still officially in the mix: Florida, Texas, Auburn, USC, Cal, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisville (once it is re-ranked). My home state Boise State Broncos, even if they finish undefeated, have no shot. The number-crunchers seem to think that Florida and USC, because of strength of schedule, have the inside track over the other schools if they win out.

I have mixed feelings about Thursday’s game as I do generally about the current structure of college football. (Set aside the fact that money rules absolutely – if it is corruption, it is magnificent corruption – but that is a story for another time.) The games are always more interesting when the traditional power programs – Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Notre Dame, etc. – are competing for a national championship. On the other hand I dislike the fact that the BCS system is so openly an oligarchy, skewed to protect the big programs and power conferences from the upstarts, more so even than college basketball. Merit can only slowly overcome bloodlines and deep pockets, and usually not for long. Rutgers simply does not have the multi-year track record to convince the system that it belongs. West Virginia and Louisville, two other Big East schools with a chance to go undefeated, did have sufficient pedigree, but barely and then only because enough traditional powers had lost at least one game. And Rutgers will probably soon slide back into the equestrian class at best. Reality – and the probable departure of its outstanding coach, Greg Schiano - will out.

An example of big big school arrogance: those who argued that there should be a rematch of Ohio State-Michigan for the national championship if their first game was close, rather than allow an undefeated Big East team into the title game.

The best case scenario under the current system would have been a mixed regime, where a big name (Ohio State) played a credible, high-powered upstart (Louisville) for the national championship, with the other bowls having intriguing traditional matchups (e.g., USC-Michigan) and a mixture of the new (Notre Dame-Boise State). Rutgers’ win should be celebrated for its own sake but ironically it did not help the immediate cause of the less big guys. I say less big because in the world of Division I-A college football, there are no true Horatio Alger stories. Rutgers is as close as one can get, but the system won’t allow us to see it through.

Governing in the spirit of the concession speech

Peggy Noonan is at her moving best this morning. Can everyone remember what’s most important?

What it all means

I think that Charles Krauthammer has it about right. A few snippets:

[T]he great Democratic wave of 2006 is nothing remotely like the great structural change some are trumpeting. It was an event-driven election that produced the shift of power one would expect when a finely balanced electorate swings mildly one way or the other.

This is not realignment. As has been the case for decades, American politics continues to be fought between the 40-yard lines. The Europeans fight goal line to goal line, from socialist left to the ultranationalist right. On the American political spectrum, these extremes are negligible. American elections are fought on much narrower ideological grounds. In this election, the Democrats carried the ball from their own 45-yard line to the Republican 45-yard line.


[B]oth parties have moved to the right. The Republicans have shed the last vestiges of their centrist past, the Rockefeller Republican. And the Democrats have widened their tent to bring in a new crop of blue-dog conservatives.


The public’s views on what we ought to do with the war remain mixed, as do its general ideological inclinations. What happened on Tuesday? The electorate threw the bums out in disgust with corruption and in deep dissatisfaction with current Iraq policy. Reading much more into this election is a symptom of either Republican depression or Democratic wishful thinking.

Read the whole thing.



This is worth reading, carefully, on Lieberman, which phone calls he took on election night, which he didn’t, and so on.

A rare public admission

This, from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, MI5’s head, is sobering. "She said that, since the 7 July bombings, five further major conspiracies in the UK had been thwarted." Read the whole thing and wonder why this especially secretive person is speaking.

Gerson on the new evangelicalism

Is there a home for this Michael Gerson in the post-’06 election Republican Party, or in the conservative movement?

For what it’s worth, I think he’s right about the younger generation of evangelicals:

Republicans will find it increasingly difficult to appeal to the new evangelicals with tired symbols like school prayer or the posting of the Ten Commandments. And candidates like Senator McCain will need to be more creative in their outreach than an uncomfortable speech at the Liberty University commencement. These activists will expect serious proposals on an expanded moral agenda—as President Bush has delivered on human trafficking and global AIDS. And they will not respond to a crude libertarianism that elevates the severe pleasures of cutting food stamps or foreign aid over the pursuit of the common good.

Stated another way, what place does Sam Brownback have in the post-’06 election Republican? Party/conservative movement?

Life and marriage issues are important, but so is a concern with "widows and orphans." What strikes me as missing from--or at best implicit in--Gerson’s piece is a serious engagement with the question of whether government programs are always the best or the necessary instruments of compassion:

Hurricane Katrina revealed a kind of persistent poverty that leaves many Americans with no connection to, or stake in, the American economy. It also revealed a political class in Washington, in both parties, that seems to view this as an unfortunate fact of life, rather than a scandal that must eventually be addressed. A new faith-based agenda should include policies that provide help for overwhelmed pastors and neighborhood activists who are salvaging discarded lives; encourage mentors for abandoned children, and promote wealth-building to overcome the economic legacy of slavery and segregation.

He says he’s not a utopian, and I believe him. But he seems to take our wealth for granted and doesn’t say anything about the role of the market in addressing the problems he so eloquently characterizes.

Gerson is extremely smart, thoughtful, and sophisticated. I wish I could be confident that the "new evangelicals" he describes will have sound practical judgment to go along with their decency and moral energy.

And I hope--but am not confident--that Republicans and conservatives can find a way to converse with these folks, providing some of the soundly practical ballast that Democrats and liberals who can appeal to their decency and moral energy can’t necessarily provide.

Update: For a little more on Gerson’s article, go here, and pay attention also to Paul Seaton’s comment below. MOJ’s Rob Vischer gently tweaks me in his comment on Gerson. Here’s what I said in an email response to him:

Republicans--of whom I’m unfortunately one--deserve the tweaking. When I worked on Capitol Hill in the late 70s, liberal Democrats seemed tired and intellectually out of gas. Those descriptors could surely be applied to current Congressional Republicans at least. They’ve gotten away with it (until now) because Democrats couldn’t offer a plausible alternative. (I know that the strongest case I could offer for electing or reelecting Republicans was: look at the alternative. That doesn’t inspire confidence, and didn’t deserve to, but there was little to which I could point beyond that.) I’m not sure that that has changed, although there are some interesting sparks across the way.

I think stiff competition--as the enemy of complacency--is good for both parties. Democrats will have to think in order to hold onto power, and Republicans will have to think if they’re going to get it back. And I "think" that each party can help the other think. it will be interesting to see, for example, if the Republicans can force Democrats to choose between the two abortion reduction bills currently in circulation. If Republicans overwhelmingly supported the DfL bill, but not Rosa DeLauro’s measure, Democrats will have to figure out how big their pro-choice/pro-life tent is.

Let me add that I disagree somewhat with
Amy Sullivan’s thin argument. Winning back evangelicals and Catholics on essentially style grounds in Michigan and Ohio--in a very bad Republican year--doesn’t prove a thing. There has to be something substantive to close that deal. I nominate the Pregnant Women Support Act, which I discussed here, here, and (briefly) here, as an opening bid.

The Best Explanation of the Disaster I’ve Read

. . . is here. Mulhern is particularly apt when describing the actual (as opposed to the mythical) failures of Bush. A taste:

When President Bush cast the war in Iraq as a war for the benefit of Iraqis with vital collateral benefits for the U.S., sensible people recognized his argument for the nonsense it was and tuned him out. By choosing to cast it that way, President Bush guaranteed that the war would have shallow support at best. He also guaranteed that it would drag on long after that shallow support dried up entirely . . .Maybe we need to find an Iraqi version of Pervez Musharraf. Maybe we need martial law and an American military governor. Maybe we need a partition that rewards the Kurds and disappoints both the Sunnis and the Shiites. Maybe we need some combination of the above. In any case, we need to stop talking about how the war can serve Iraqi purposes and start talking about how it can serve ours. Republicans had their chance to do that and they squandered it.

I would only add, by way of softening Mulhern’s blows and perhaps reminding us that politics is never simple, that the real failures of Bush became ever more difficult to condemn because he was under constant assault for imagined failures. Defending him against those imagined failures and character attacks (e.g., Bush lied, Bush is arrogant) made it difficult to spend much time on the real problems. Besides, he was the belle we brought to the ball. I do hope we fill our dance card better next time.

More required post-election reading

This, dashed off before turning in after a night on television looking at returns, is why Michael Barone is peerless among psephological pontificators and pundits.

The Thumping and its consequences

Andy Busch thinks that the "elections have put American politics back on its normal historical trajectory." Jonah Goldberg writes: "These elections were neither a repudiation of conservative values nor an endorsement of the Democratic Party." John Moser remembers the 1946 mid-term elections how Harry Truman looked at his predicament and what he did about it. He also has some very specific recommendations for what George Bush should do during the next two years.

The Inmates are Restless

In my last posting I commented on the National Basketball Association’s crackdown on unsportsmanlike conduct on the court. The athletes are unhappy about it – and predictably the Players’ Association is threatening to appeal to a different sort of court. "I really think it’s incumbent upon the commissioner to kind of tell the referees, instruct them they got to back off a little bit," Billy Hunter,the Association director, has warned. "I think what may ultimately happen if it continues to occur is we will probably be compelled to bring an unfair labor practice action or something. Try to seek some relief, at least to have the issue either heard or at least elevated so that it gets a lot more public attention than it’s currently getting."

The players’ case does have merit, although not to the point of legal action. One argument against the zero-tolerance policy (although the NBA does not call it that) is that highly competitive athletes respond automatically to perceived injustice, just as fans and good citizens do; and that the NBA has gone too far in trying to control honest emotions. More to the point I think: the NBA is and always has been a players’ game. Not a coaches’ game. Not an officials’ game. The new interpretation of unsportsmanlike conduct gives too much power to referees to decide the outcome of the game by ejecting a key player (like Mike Bibby and Carmelo Anthony) at a critical juncture. Even the mild-mannered (if whiny) Tim Duncan has run afoul of the new regulations. Coaches point out that the crackdown means that marginal officials – those with the poorest judgment, the worst game management temperament – now have a license to kill.

The truth lies somewhere between the two positions. It should be resolved through experience and good judgment. No one wants professional basketball to become like major league baseball (although MLB has become much better), where frequent screaming at umpires without penalty is punctuated by ejections for no apparent reason. The situation is complicated, however, by growing player resentment against Commissioner David Stern for such arbitrary decisions as mandating a stricter dress code and insisting on a new basketball despite frequent player complaints.

Perhaps a non-controversial figure such as Donald Rumsfeld should be brought in to soothe tensions.

Dead skunk, but not in the middle of the road

Dick Armey urges Republicans to address this question:

How do we once again convince the public that we are in fact the party many Democrats successfully pretended to be in this election?

How, in other words, do Republicans articulate "a positive, national vision that is defined by economic opportunity, limited government and individual responsibility"?

I think that there’s something to be learned from 1994, but it will be hard to lead a similar "revolution" against a party that has only controlled Congress for a couple of years. Democrats can surely lose Congress in 2008, but it will take Republicans longer, I fear, to win it back.

For what it’s worth

I crunched a few numbers this morning and get this preliminary result: Democrats won 51.93% of the gross two-party Congressional vote, while Republicans won 48.07%. In raw numbers, that’s 36.1 million to 33.4 million. There are two things that make these numbers (which I took off the CNN website) inaccurate. First, not all the votes have been counted or recounted. I don’t think, however, that small shifts in the final totals will make a huge difference here. Second, CNN doesn’t provide numbers in races where the candidate runs unopposed. There were 4 unopposed Republicans and 30 unopposed Democrats. In other words, the Democratic edge in the national House totals, corrected for unopposed seats, is surely closer to 53-47 or 54-46.

Of course, these were 435 individual contests, all of which had a national dimension but also a local, individualized dimension. There were blue dog Democrat winners, as well as moderate Republican victors. There were good and bad campaigners. There were scandals to which voters paid attention and those to which they didn’t.

I don’t have comparative data for previous elections in front of me (can anyone point me to some?), so I don’t know how much of a shift this is (I’m betting not more than a couple of percentage points from the last few elections).

The nation remains closely divided.

Stated another way, the entire Democratic margin in the House vote can be found in three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Pelosi’s First Miscue?

Nancy Pelosi told Brit Hume on Fox News tonight that the war in Iraq is "not a war to be won but a situation to be solved."

Small wonder The Economist this week describes Pelosi as "a combination of a Stepford Wife and Jesse Jackson."

The Upside of the Negative Landslide

The opinion of voters really hasn’t changed since 2004. So, as Jody Bottum explains at FIRST THINGS, there’s no reason to be discouraged about 2008:

The general victory of conservative referendum measures across the country seems to say...[c]onservatives are tired of the war, not tired of conservatism. They’ve lost patience with Republican corruption and incompetence, not with the right in general. They’ll live to regret that, I think, particularly if Justice Stevens retires from the Supreme Court next year, as it is rumored he will. But, whatever the Democrats attempt over the next two years, the presidential election of 2008 was not settled yesterday.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

If you want to console yourself by arguing that the political fundamentals on the ground haven’t really changed all that much, consider these two posts. This is a very closely divided country.

Those who argued that George W. Bush had no mandate in 2004 can’t really say that they have one now.

On the other hand, if they want to follow in GWB’s footsteps and take a high-stakes gamble, I’ll take that bet. I think trying to govern from the right was a safer bet in 2004 than trying to govern from the left is now.

McCainia? Not So Fast

Hugh Hewitt, like Schramm, is always overly optimistic. So his predictions were, of course, wrong. But it’s better to be short on predictions and long on analysis, in my opinion. Hewitt’s got some good insights today, chief among them is this one:

The long and short of this bad but not horrific night was that majorities must act like majorities. The public cares little for the "traditions" of the Senate or the way the appropriations process used to work. It demands results. Handed a large majority, the GOP frittered it away. The chief fritterer was Senator McCain and his Gang of 14 and Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, supplemented by a last minute throw down that prevented the NSA bill from progressing or the key judicial nominations from receiving a vote. His accomplice in that master stroke was Senator Graham. Together they cost their friend Mike DeWine his seat in the Senate, and all their Republican colleagues their chairmanships. Senator McCain should rethink his presidential run. Amid the ruins of the GOP’s majority there is a clear culprit.

Very good advice for the senator. But do you think he’ll take it?

Only One Thing to Do

Good thing I’ve been appointed the official sommelier of NLT, as there’s only one thing to do for the next two years: drink well.

I’m starting tonight with an appropriatedly named wine, Optimus, from L’Aventure winery in Paso Robles. Unfortunately it is sold out (though a new release is on the way). Fortunately, I have a lot in stock; at least enough to get through the swearing-in phase of the new Congress, which will be followed inevitably by the swearing-at phase of the new Congress.

Rumsfeld Out, Gates In

Rumsfeld is resigning. Sounds from Bush’s careful wording as though he may have been pushed.

The replacement is interesting: Robert Gates, former head of the CIA. Gates had a bit of a confirmation fight when Bush Senior appointed him to head the CIA in 1989: Will the new majority Senate Democrats make a fuss over Gates now? I wonder. Could be the first of several well-placed Bush traps for Democrats to make themselves look bad. My guess is he will face a sober grilling about career military officers’ complaints about Rumseld, and then win easy confirmation.

Berry College conference

I’m going to miss this shindig, but that doesn’t mean others should. Go cry in your beer or martinis with Peter.

If you want to cry with me, you’ll have to show up in Macon on Thursday, November 16th.

What will or should happen next

First, Republicans have to realize that this is about as big a defeat as can be expected in the House, given modern redistricting technology. There should be no solace taken in the fact that the result was pretty close to the average six-year-itch election.

Second, Republicans in the House need to recognize that they need new faces if they’re to recover some (or all) of the ground they lost last night. And not just new faces. As the resident "compassionate conservative" in these parts, I recognized the risk that GWB was taking in trying to move his party in that direction. House Republicans basically took his willingness to expand government in the short term as an excuse to engage in pork barrel politics. The result was an uninspiring performance that all too easily could be characterized as corrupt "business as usual." Republicans have to relearn and remake the argument for personal responsibility and small government.

Third, President Bush has to serve the ball into the Democrats’ court on Iraq. We cannot, and he will not, "cut and run." Democrats now share responsibility for the future of that country. If they’re not willing to engage in responsible bipartisan deliberation on how to win in Iraq, they deserve to be cast back into the political wilderness.

Fourth, President Bush should vigorously resist any Democratic attempt to hamstring our efforts at fighting terrorism. Here’s a place where he can successfully wield, if need be, the veto pen, and win political points in doing so. This election can’t be read as a mandate for scaling back our surveillance efforts.

Fifth, should there be any high profile judicial nominations, President Bush shouldn’t under any circumstances put forward anyone other than a principled conservative. No Souters, Kennedys, or Mierses. Make the Democrats stand up to or embrace the extremist interest groups that are most vocal about judicial nominations.

Sixth, President Bush and Congressional Republicans should embrace the Democrats for Life abortion reduction bill. So long as they cede no ground in the moral condemnation of abortion, this bill is good for both policy and political reasons. Most importantly, it will compel the Democratic majority (see, I can write those words) to choose between a practical means of reducing the frequency of abortions and toeing the Planned Parenthood line.

Podcast with Hayward

As promised earlier, my podcast with Steve Hayward on yesterday’s election is now available. The conversation was good. Things look bad for the GOP now. The question is for how long. I’ll be doing another podcast later today with NLT’s champion election prognosticator, Peter Lawler.

All honor to Lawler

Yup, he got it right, for the right reasons. He’s also right that some of the close losses (Virginia, especially) were avoidable.

I’ll buy him the alcoholic beverage of his choice next time I see him.

Left Turns

Well, we may have to alter the name of this site, at least for today. My predictions were off by 100%; on the other hand, my post-election thoughs from 2004 look pretty good:

If the Democratic Party were a publicly-listed company, I think I might be tempted to buy a few shares. It is great fun watching the torment and back-biting going inside the Democratic Party right now. But as Benjamin Graham and John Templeton taught, the best time to buy a stock is at the moment of maximum pessimism, and that moment is right now for the Democratic Party.

Of course, today could be the high-water mark for Democrats. With the stock market art record highs (though early morning stock futures are down sharply at the moment), the obvious play is to short the Democratic Party.

More thoughts on the upcoming podcast.

Lawler’s Honor

Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance. I was most distant from the reality of things. My prediction was most wrong. Peter Lawler was exactly right. He is the real student of politics, a political scientist, if you will, one who sees into the cause and effectual truth of things. And honor is his reward. Well done, your wisdom rang out in the streets, and now we regard it. I will send something other than a mug!

What should Bush do?

I’ll be talking with Steve Hayward this morning for a podcast and let him comment on this debacle, but for now these few lines from Jonah Goldberg at NRO made me smile:

"I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear’s claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, ’I’m not going anywhere.’

This will send important messages to Democrats and well as to our enemies overseas, who are no doubt high-fiving as we speak."

My Study Showed

Listen, there’s no hope in MT and VA. That means the Rs were A LITTLE unlucky on the close ones. A normal distribution of the tight races would have been 50/50, as I predicted. I was hopelessly romantic and meritocratic in making foolish predictions on Steele and Ford, which I admitted at the time

And the House will be around 30 (plus or minus,prob. plus), for the reasons I gave.

So I take no (or just a little) pleasure in announcing this: My predictions were almost exactly right. And my reasons for making them were almost exactly right. It’s Iraq and corruption in that order, stupid.

So I’m wating for NLT prize (and not one of those stinkin’ mugs), and I’m available to 2008 Republican candidates as a high-paid consultant. (And to Prof. Pat Deneen: We theorists can guess election outcomes with the best of the social scientists.)

Remember that one secondary reason Democrats won because in most of the key races they had better candidates and ran a better campaign overall. In MT and VA, it’s wasn’t the Iraq war that finally did the Rs in, and in some of the close House races attractive and relatively moderate Ds prevailed. The severity of the outcome was quite avoidable.

Grasping at straws

It’s down to Montana, where Jon Tester holds a 2,000 vote lead with complete results still not in from five counties. For one (Meagher, with a total population of under 2,000), there are no results. For two others, (Gallatin and Yellowstone), under 40% of the precincts are reporting. Those are two of the most populous counties in the state. Gallatin is home of Bozeman and Big Sky. Yellowstone is home of Billings. Fergus County, in which 69% of the precincts had reported, is relatively small (with probably a total of over 5,000 votes). Lake County, where 91% of the precincts had reported, has a population of around 28,000, about a quarter of which is native American.

Fergus and Gallatin counties have posted what appear to be complete unofficial results on their websites. Burns picks up a few hundred votes on Tester in Fergus, but loses them in Gallatin, plus a couple hundred more. It all comes down to Yellowstone, whose unofficial results are no more complete than what’s on the CNN website.

And, of course, to the recount.

Everything Old is New Again . . .

. . . even Nancy Pelosi and her purple pants suit. Well, I’m feeling purple and plenty blue after this election.

But here’s something old that might just as easily be new and it about fits the bill right now. Charles Kesler wrote this in 1998 after another disappointing Republican performance in a mid-term election.

Of course, in 1998 we were blissfully ignorant of the looming Jihadist threat and we did not realize (at least not in any concrete way) that the end of the Cold War did not bring with it the end of common enemies who should unite us. I believe the threat we face now is just as ominous as the one we faced in the Soviet Union and ought to be enough to keep the marriage going. But it seems that this alone is not enough to keep some of us satisfied (and, in principle, they’re right) and neither can they keep it going by keeping up appearances . . . Conservatives apparently really do need to "find themselves." I hope there is time for this self-indulgence.

It’s not that I am opposed to all kinds of self-indulgence. I generally think it is a good thing to know who you are, after all. It’s just that this is really, really lousy timing. It should have been done years ago, of course. We’re not a young movement, we conservatives. But since we didn’t spend our youth in sufficient self-reflection, why couldn’t we just stick it out until the kids (i.e., the Democrats) grew up? Still, if it must be done, Kesler’s article (as well as his many other works on this same theme) are the all-important starting point.

Late night thoughts

I have a little more stomach for this than Steve Hayward does, but I’ll be in bed shortly as well.

Democrats will have the kind of majority in the House that Republicans now have; that is, they’ll pick up 25-30 seats. The two Democrat-held Georgia seats that RCP rated as toss-ups still seem to be too close to call, though I hold out only the slightest chance that Republicans will pick up one of them (either GA-8, where incumbent John Barrow is clinging to a lead of less than 1,000 votes with 92% of the precincts reporting, according to CNN, or GA-12, where Republican challenger Mac Collins has an almost 1,200 vote margin with 94% of the precincts reporting). I wouldn’t be shocked to see recounts in both races.

One thing to remember: there were an awful lot of close races won by Democrats in a year that was bad for Republicans. It’s going to take a bit of doing to convert those hitherto Republican seats into solid Democratic gains. In some cases--like Heath Shuler’s seat in western North Carolina--they’ll have to be able to establish their independence from the national Democratic Party, or the national Democratic Party is going to have to change to accommodate them. Will the Clintonian "Third Way" be resurrected? Will the netroots put up with this?

Of course, Republicans will have to clean house in order to be able to challenge these vulnerable Democrats in two years. And the situation in Iraq will have to look quite different.

As for the Senate, I think the three seats the Democrats need to take control are all within their grasp. Virginia is a cliffhanger, with Webb up by less than 2,000 votes with 99% of the precincts reporting. There will be a recount. Talent is leading in Missouri, but apparently no votes have been counted from St. Louis or Kansas City, which suggests to me that his prospects are dim. And Jon Tester is leading Conrad Burns in Montana; I suspect we’ve seen the bluest parts of the state report, but I’m not confident that Burns can pull that one out. Which leaves Maryland, which everyone but the Washington Post is calling for Cardin. There’s the small matter of 200,000 absentee ballots I noted here. In other words, we can all go to sleep because control of the Senate won’t be decided for a couple of days.

Update: O.K., I’m not quite ready to call it quits, though perhaps with these results Max Burns and Mac Collins should. Both races are close, but it looks like the Democratic incumbents will hold on.

Midnight Thoughts

It looks like the Ds take the senate. I must have been a bit tipsy when I went against the facts and went with Steele, who didn’t come close. Allen just fell behind after leading all night. MO is impossible, MT very unlikely. The Ds get more than 30 seats in the House; 40 may be in reach. R vote is way down even when they’re winning. Iraq is the main reason, but corruption etc. turned out to be more important than I thought. But all in all it really is a "negative landslide."

UPDATE: 100% of the VA vote is in, and Allen is down 2300. Very, very unlikely that a recount could reverse that. Consider all the dumb things he had to do to lose by so little.

UPDATE 2: It turns out Fox was wrong about 100%. The new story is that 99.26% is in and Allen is down 1700. So it’s not quite over.

Doesn’t Look Good

I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.

Mind Your Manners

Excuse this interruption of your NLT election coverage. I fiddle while Rome burns.

Technical fouls in the NBA this season are up 48%. Big time players are being thrown out of the game at a record pace. A mildly harsh glance or gesture merits the hangman’s noose from rabbit-eared referees. This is no surprise. League officials made it known before the season that they would implement what might be called the Rasheed Wallace rule to crack down on those coaches and players who engage in "conduct detrimental to the game." ’Sheed, for those of you who don’t follow the NBA, is the notorious ref-hater who plays for the Detroit Pistons and whose performance theater whenever he is assessed a foul must make his old college coach, Dean Smith, blush.

If you are curious, the NBA rule book (Rule 12, Section V) defines unsportsmanlike conduct meriting a technical foul to include: (1) Disrespectfully addressing an official; (2) Physically contacting an official; (3) Overt actions indicating resentment to a call [Running tirades, continuous criticism or griping]; (4) Use of profanity; and (7) Taunting.

The rule itself has not changed. Players have been saying bad things about officials and life in general ever since James Naismith nailed up the first peach basket. Referees have always used their best judgment as to which of these actions actually merits a technical foul or ejection from the game. Most of the time the referees, especially in professional sports, will look, or listen, in the other direction. Control of the game is what matters to them, not amour-propre. Although different referees have different standards, there is a generally understood line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For instance, contrary to common wisdom, there are typically no "magic words" that will get you thrown out of the game, despite the ban on profanity. What matters is how the words are used. One can usually advise an official that he has made a poor (fill in your own favorite word) call without penalty. But if you tell him he is a poor (same word) official, it’s time for an early shower. There is also an element of gamesmanship in establishing or challenging the line. Players and coaches will try to intimidate weak officials. They will beg to encourage make-up calls. Coaches might draw a "T" and even get kicked out of the game to inspire their own team or the crowd – the famous Red Auerbach ploy.

It is therefore a matter of interest when the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior is redrawn deliberately as a matter of policy. Several years ago, apparently in an attempt to appeal to hip-hop culture, NBA referees were told or permitted to take a somewhat more relaxed attitude toward player behavior. The result was Rasheed Wallace and players like him as players pushed the boundary as far as they dared. Another result, arguably, was the riot in Detroit two years ago when players rushed into the stands during a fight that started on-court. After last year a number of the NBA’s most experienced officials reportedly said, "It’s Rasheed or us, take your pick. We’ll quit unless you do something." The ladies and gentlemen who pay the big bucks to sit at courtside, and the NBA’s more staid corporate sponsors, presumably had something to do with it as well.

So we now have the NBA adopting the Rudy Guiliani approach of taking care of the small stuff, arresting graffiti artists and window-breakers to make a larger point about law and order. The NFL – the most violent and most regimented of the major sports – has always been of this persuasion, to the point of carefully defining which end-zone celebrations are allowed and which are not. They cracked down again this year. Lambeau leaps are grandfathered in, but lying on the ground and using the football for a prop is strictly verboten. Get that, T.O.? Such rules seem silly. Can you really legislate good taste, let alone sportsmanship? But the NFL reasons that if you do not draw the line firmly, the players would soon be conducting animal sacrifices after a touchdown. You may laugh, but last season Chad Johnson mentioned that he was planning to use a reindeer he was keeping in his garage for his latest extravaganza.

If you’ve attended or seen a high school recently – I’m sure it’s true in junior high as well – the behavior of the pros definitely filters down. And so if your local rec league referee isn’t quite as forgiving as in the past, perhaps you’ll understand. In any case, the NBA’s latest lessons in minding your manners are worth following.

Dionne on the Republicans

What do people think of today’s E.J. Dionne, Jr. column on the Republican blood-letting he anticipates? I think he’s right that there are and will continue to be battles within the G.O.P. They will, of course, be exacerbated if there are big losses today, but the kind of focus brought about by defeat (or a close brush with defeat) surely wouldn’t hurt.

Ashland vs. Hillsdale

While Ashland vs. Hillsdale in football does not take on the Homeric proportions of Ohio State vs. Michigan, it is a serious contest, and the good guys won the last one about a month ago. The president of Ashland University—a man who has done many good deeds in a naughty world—made a bet with the president of Hillsdale College. The latter lost. And while I say that a friend should bear his friend’s infirmities, I’ll let Arnn wear his own.

NRO predictions

Are here. They’re more optimistic than The Weekly Standard’s.

Occidentalism and the Intellectuals

I’ve been reading an engaging book called Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. It’s a broad, sweeping work--probably too much so for something so brief--but among its many interesting arguments is that today’s suicide bombers have no genuine precedent in Islamic history, but that, like the earlier "death cult" of the Japanese kamikaze pilots, have their origins in the poisonous soil of 19th century German romanticism, with its volkisch racial ideology, its disdain for liberalism and capitalism, and its hatred of urban culture. He notes how the 9/11 bombers, like the kamikaze before them, had educations that were far beyond those of their ordinary countrymen. Anyway, this particular passage struck me:

Where the free market dominates, as in the United States, intellectuals feel marginalized and unappreciated, and are inclined to be drawn to politics with grander pretensions. Taking their freedoms for granted, they become easy prey for enemies of the West.

Staying the Course with My Prediction

Based upon my conversations over the last couple of days more than any scientific survey (the studies really disagree right now anyway), I still say this will be a very Democratic day. The main issue is Iraq. (The secondary issue is do-nothing complacency and corruption; as Fred Barnes points out the Republicans easily could have done more to get people’s minds of the war.) Lots of Reagan Democrats and ordinary conservatives are voting Democratic for the first time in a while. They think the war wasn’t necessary, it’s been conducted incompetently, and there’s no realistic plan about what to do now. I’ve repeatedly heard the claim that the Iraq war has more compromised than enhanced our security. Nobody much is saying the Democrats have a plan or could do better; it’s more that the administration needs the wake-up call. I’m not evaluating these claims today, although obviously a vote that will comfort our enemies and make the president’s tough job of adjusting the course more difficult isn’t the remedy I recommend to those who make them. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we will feel their strength today in the House elections. It’s good to remember that lots of people voting Democratic today agree more with the Republicans on most issues.

Buy Kool Aid Stock Now

Today’s New York Times story, For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure, contains this wonderful nugget from Charlie Cook on what will happen if Dems fails to take the House: “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide."

Victory for the Left-Not.

Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes in today’s Wall Street Journal much the same thing we’ve been saying in our various podcasts and NLT postings:

The [Democratic] victory, assuming there is one, will hardly be glorious, and long-term trends are still distinctly right wing. . . By all rights, the Republicans left in Congress after this election should be able to pool to work in one minivan. Instead, they are probably facing a 10% setback in House seats--hardly a disaster by midterm election standards. What’s more, many of the Democrats at the vanguard of today’s political "revolution" are not exactly left-wing zealots. Robert Casey, who leads incumbent Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, opposes abortion rights. On issues of gun control and immigration, Senate candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee sounds like a Republican. James Webb, who seeks to unseat Virginia Sen. George Allen, actually used to be a Republican. The lesson is that Democrats can win modestly if the Republicans implode, and preferably if they look more or less like Republicans. This is hardly a mythic victory for the American left; indeed, the larger cultural picture--in which the election is but a minor political datum--remains strikingly bleak for American liberalism.

Read the whole thing.   

Today and tomorrow

I know that all our readers are going to vote or have already voted. And I doubt that there are any fence-sitters in the NLT precincts.

I’ll be up late tonight, though without any expectation of knowing the final shape of Congress, unless it’s a total blowout. You see,those darn absentee ballots (200,000 in Maryland alone) are going to take forever to count, and they’ll make a difference in what I expect (or is it hope?) will be close races.

If the Democrats retake one or both chambers, Michael Kinsley hopes they don’t stick to this document. Here’s what he has to say:

"New Direction" quite rightly denounces the staggering fiscal irresponsibility of Republican leaders and duly promises "Pay As You Go" spending. But in the entire document there is not one explicit revenue-raiser to balance the many specific and enormous new spending programs and tax credits.


For national security in general, the Democrats’ plan is so according-to-type that you cringe with embarrassment: It’s mostly about new cash benefits for veterans. Regarding Iraq specifically, the Democrats’ plan has two parts. First, they want Iraqis to take on "primary responsibility for securing and governing their country." Then they want "responsible redeployment" (great euphemism) of American forces.

Older readers may recognize this formula. It’s Vietnamization -- the Nixon-Kissinger plan for extracting us from a previous mistake. But Vietnamization was not a plan for victory. It was a plan for what was called "peace with honor" and is now known as "defeat."

I hope we don’t have to share Kinsley’s hope.

Update: John Fund has a useful election watcher’s guide.

Update #2: If (or should I say when?) there’s litigation, this site will be indispensable.

Stanley Scores

Over at The Corner, Stanley Kurtz scores with this very droll look at how the left might react to an election loss:

For one thing, we might see profanity at liberal web-sites. That may seem unlikely. After all, liberalism is historically characterized by an affinity for reasoned discourse and fair procedure. Yet my fear is that the level of anger consequent on a last-minute Democratic loss could lead at least a few left-leaning bloggers to deploy curse words. That would significantly erode the web’s reputation for civil.

There’s more. Read the whole thing.

Margins of Error

Peter notes below Nancy Pelosi’s precrimination to the effect that if Dems lose tomorrow, it will have to because they were cheated (i.e., Rovian mind-rays, hacked Diebold voting machines, etc.), just as I have been predicting for several weeks. That it is inconceivable that liberals might not be popular reveals much about the ongoing decay of the liberal mind today.

One should stop and reflect that it is the liberal reaction to the Florida 2000 disaster that has brought us to this point, namely the demand that we had to have national voting legislation and electronic voting machines to replace the chaotic paper ballots, punch cards, and other aspects of our decentralized voting system.

Elections always have sloppy elements even without reaching to fraud; there is always going to be a margin of error in voting with localized administration and various and sundry methods of casting votes. 99.9% of the time it doesn’t matter, as the margin of victory is beyond the margin of error. And even accounting for fraud, the mistakes and thefts probably even out over the long run between the two parties. There’s always another election two years ahead. Above all, problems with voting have hitherto been localized or decentralized; at least the 2000 disaster was confined to one state.

Once you demand that voting be standardized and made electronic, you prepare the perfect conditions for wild conspiracy theories to take root, even when they have little or no basis in fact. It will undermine our democratic process to have the fever swamps of the left deciding that elections can no longer be trusted. How long before we see another Chicago 68-style eruption in the streets?

Of course, the left may go way too far and discredit themselves with their allies in the media. A few days after the last election, I happened to have dinner with Bill Schneider of CNN; his Blackberry was pinging about every 15 seconds with another moonbat rant about how the Ohio election had been stolen, that the electronic voting machines had been altered by military radar planes that Bush sent over Ohio, and so forth. (Other political reporters were receiving the same mass barrage.) Schneider just shook his head in amazement, and shrugged that he was going to have to change his e-mail address.

Other election predictions

NRO’s John J. Miller’s calls are here. SA’s Steve Dillard’s calls and endorsements are here. SDP’s Jon Schaff shows that he needs a drink for Peter Schramm’s flask here. Alternatively, he should read Quin Hillyer’s piece over at TAS Online.

On the left, this MyDD blogger thinks the Republicans will probably hold the Senate (and that Ford will lose Tennessee because of racism; does that mean that Blackwell, Swann, and Steele will lose because of racism too?). The folks at Washington Monthly are getting nervous. Robert Kuttner is cautiously optimistic, suggesting that "unless there are levels of theft and fraud that would truly mean the end of American democracy, a Democratic House seems as close to a sure thing as we ever get in American politics three days before an election." And as Steve Hayward noted,
Noam Scheiber is worried about the latest polls, especially this one.

Update: Makos Moulitsas tells us what he expects here; note that he’s still drinking the Lamont Kool-Aid.

Update #2: RCP’s Jay Cost explains why he trusts the Gallup generic ballot poll and why he expects a Democratic pickup of between 11 and 27 House seats. Ruy Teixeira is more hopeful based on the Gallup numbers, but he doesn’t seem to take into account Cost’s observation that pre-’94 and post-’94 generic ballots offer different sorts of predictions.

On the difficulty of making predictions

This article by Andy Busch makes an even dozen he has written on midterm elections for us. They are full of interesting information, always thoughtful, and always lead the reader toward a deeper understanding of American electoral history. I like this one especially. It seems a perfect thing to consider one day before the vote, on why it is so difficult to make predictions. Not that that stops us from making them, of course! Just because we have PhD’s doesn’t mean we can’t guess with the best of them, does it? See our predictions here. To keep track of them all, including the latest polls, let me remind you to go to Real Clear Politics, the best site for politics on the internet (i.e, the planet).

Conservative Political Correctness at Penn?

Could the conservative flap about Amy Gutmann and her photograph alongside a student in a "suicide bomber" costume end up backfiring? Toward the end of the Inside Higher Ed article Joe references below is a link to The Torch, the blog of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, which has spent years defending individuals and groups on college campuses from speech codes and accusations of "insensitivity," wonders, I think rightly, whether this flap isn’t going to make their jobs harder. "Lest Halloween parties become the next frontier for the campus sensitivity police," writes FIRE senior program officer Tara Sweeney, "people need to recognize that Halloween is a good time for satire, and that sometimes a costume is just a costume."

As for those commenters at NLT who have defended Gutmann and the fellow in the costume, I hope they will remember their charitable attitude the next time an issue like this comes along.

Maryland (and Virginia) races

This WaPo article gives much more attention to the Virginia race than to the races in Maryland, while this one suggests that the endorsement of Steele by a number of Prince Georges County Democratic insiders was more a shot fired across the bow of their party than anything else.

By contrast, this WaTi piece focuses on the Steele/Cardin race and the role of churches in it. After this bit from a sermon, it would be impossible to say that Republicans are alone in abusing religion for the sake of politics:

"Everyone who’s your color is not your kind," the Rev. Delman L. Coates told the mostly black congregation at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton. "All your skinfolk is not your kinfolk."

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee, who is white, looked on from the front pew as Mr. Coates subtly disparaged supporters of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican nominee and the first black elected to statewide office in Maryland.

"On Tuesday, we have to have more on our minds than color," the preacher told the roughly 1,500 parishioners. He rattled off a list of unsympathetic black people, including the slave who alerted the masters to Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831 and the black man who shot Malcolm X in 1965.

He drew parallels between the election tomorrow and the biblical account of Jews choosing to free from crucifixion the thief Barabbas instead of Jesus Christ. The minister asked how the crowd that loved Jesus only days earlier was tricked to switch from "Jesuscrats" to "Barabblicans" for that vote.

"Can’t you just see the commercials that were designed to endear Barabbas to the crowd," he said. "I can just see Barabbas well dressed, well groomed [and] holding a puppy."

The reference to Mr. Steele’s TV ads drew laughter from the congregation and prompted several worshippers to stand and applaud.

I’m waiting for Jim Wallis and David Kuo to remind Rev. Coates that Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

This Baltimore Sun article covers much of the same ground.

The best Maryland story comes from
the Sun, which takes a close look at the ground game in the Free State. A sample:

Political parties and interest groups are grappling with shifting demographics and party affiliations. There has been huge growth in voter registration in Prince George’s and Charles counties since 2002, much of it among black residents, said Thomas F. Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Overall, party affiliation is dropping, and there are more registered independents than ever.

Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor and sometime Democratic activist, said the decline of Maryland’s Democratic clubs has made the party less effective in mobilizing turnout on Election Day.

"Thirty or 40 years ago, there were Democratic clubs in most working-class and even lower-class neighborhoods, both black and white, and they provided the core of workers on Election Day," Crenson said. "Those organizations have almost entirely disappeared, and so the party work force barely exists."

Read the whole thing.

Update: I somehow missed this WaPo article on the churches and the Maryland campaign.

Update #2: Kuo steps up to the plate on Rev. Coates’s "vile rhetoric."

Last Update: Andrew Sullivan used the "vile rhetoric" line at 5:39 p.m., Kuo at 9:32 p.m. My new theory is that Andrew Sullivan is David Kuo.

Penn Halloween update

For more on Penn President Amy Gutmann’s Halloween gaffe, you can go here, here, and here.


The late-breaking pro-GOP polls are making Dems nervous. Really nervous. One interesting finding from the Pew poll crosstabs (Pew was the most accurate poll in 2004): "Nearly 20 percent of independents told Pew that [Kerry’s] joke raised doubts in their minds about voting Democratic." From the New York Times account: Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Center, said the poll nonetheless found that Republicans were becoming more enthusiastic as Election Day approached."

If the GOP holds on in the House, get your earplugs out for Howard Dean’s scream.

Pelosi speaks

So, Nancy Pelosi, the would-be Speaker of the U.S. House makes an appearance. She speaks. She calls the GOP leadership a "freak show" and then says that she knows the numbers and there is no question that the numbers "are there for the 15", the only question is how many more, "today it’s 22 to 26"; and then this: "Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count -- from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

’That is the only variable in this,’ Pelosi said. ’Will we have an honest count?’"

Now you see the set up; it is as explicit as possible. We will win (as everyone has been saying and knowing for all these months), that’s already a given, and if we don’t, ergo the counting was dishonest.

More Evidence I’m Right

Here’s a cool map and accompanying data from It includes predictions based on a reasonable averaging of the available polls. It shows the Rs with 49 senate leads and 4 toss-ups. That would mean 51 seats? Well, no, because the D candidate has a slight advantage, if truth be told, in each of the toss-up states: MD, VA, MT, and MO. So 50 is still the most informed calculation.

The Newest New Polls that everything that was within the famous margin of error remains there. Three things worth noting: Chaffee may still have a chance. And the "generic" congressional poll of that WASH POST has the Republicans now down only six. That is, as they say, a dramatic comeback. Maybe, maybe it’s explained by voters finally thinking about their particular vote for or against their particular congressperson more than teaching Bush a lesson. We’ll see if this translates to R gains in the key particular races.

Finally, here’s an optimistic article that explains that the general movement in the Mason-Dixon senate polls in recent weeks has been in a rather emphatically R direction. A Republican can now find reasons to hope, if everything goes right, that his party will only lose two senate seats. But I’m still not changing my prediction.

Election Forecast

Okay, I skipped the official NLT election forecast, waiting to see whether a late GOP surge was picked up in the polls over that last week as it was in 2002. There appears to be a slight GOP tide, but with few exceptions it hasn’t put many GOP candidates over 50% in the rolling average polls. But in 2002, there were many victorious Republicans (esp. Allard in Colorado) who were shown trailing badly, but still won.

Here with my tip sheet for handicapping the election, in the fashion of the World Series position-by-position matchups:

  • The usual rhythms of American politics and offyear elections: Advantage Dems.

  • The long-term realignment toward conservatism: Advantage GOP.

  • The superior Republican vote distribution--i.e., Republican district-by-district House majorities up to now have been more widely spread but smaller than the concentrated Dem majorities--is probably a wash or a negative this year, as only a small erosion overall could translate to large House losses at the margin.

  • The GOP turnout machine: Advantage GOP.

  • The economy: There are very recent signs that the solid economy is starting to help the GOP: Slight GOP advantage.

  • The Iraq War: Qualified Dem advantage. (Why qualified?--ed. The Kerry comment underscores the genetic problem Democrats still have on national security. This election will test the durability of the post-9/11 security voters. Despite Iraq, I am guessing some voters won’t flip for the Dems.)

  • Divided government impulse: Potentially big Dem advantage. To the extent that some voters see divided government as a modern substitute for the separation of powers, it will tip the balance in maybe 10 or more House races, turning a small loss into a rout. The caveat here is that quantitative political scientists say there is no empirical evidence to support the view that voters consciously split their tickets according this idea.

To continue the baseball metaphor, if good pitching beats good hitting, the Republican turnout machine and realignment advantages (good pitching) will equalize the Dems’ big hitter (issue) lineup. So herewith my WAGs ( wild-ass guesses) on the outcome:

18 seat Dem pickup in the House, and thereby narrow control. Bellweather district: As always, Anne Northup in Kentucky, where the polls close early. I lived in that district for a year, and it is the quintessential swing district. She’s won several tough races by decent margins (about 54%), and is a target this year. If she loses, then count on a bad night for Republicans. If she holds on (as I expect), then Republican loses will be modest.

Senate stays Republican 52-46-2. I expect some surprise upsets on both sides. I think Webb will beat Allen (and then torment Senate Democrats and the Kossacks much more than Lieberman). I think Steele will win in Maryland. One long shot that is looking longer is Bouchard in Michigan, but that might still surprise everyone. I think Chaffee and/or Burns will hang on, while DeWine and Santorum will lose. Kean might beat Menendez in NJ. Corker will pop his champaigne corks early in the evening in TN. The Missouri election won’t be decided for several days or weeks: expect a Florida 2000-style mess there.

Dem Smackdown

Orson Scott Card smacks down his own Democratic Party:

[T]here are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.

Elephant Graveyard?

Here is the Columbus Dispatch story on this Dispatch poll. Note the absurd numbers: Strickland ahead by 36 points, Brown ahead by 24 points! Am I supposed to roll over and pretend that conducting this kind of polling is what politics is all about? I will not do it. This is silly. While it is possible (anything is possible) that the GOP will lose by huge margins both in Ohio and nationally, I do not think that is the case. I think it is reasonable to think that they could lose between 13 and 20 seats in the House, and maybe even as many as four seats in the Senate. Saying they are going to lose anything more than that is being caught up in a frenzy (caused by bad polling and MSM/Dem spin). If you really think that the GOP losses will be huge (as Bill Kristol does; I spent most of Thursday with him and I respectfully disagreed then as I do now) you are discounting human deliberation and choice. This doesn’t mean that I think the GOP and Bush are as popular now as they were two years ago. I know they are not. Yet, I do not think that the bottom has fallen out of their popularity. While there is much dissatisfaction with the GOP and Bush (especially on three things, Iraq, spending, and corruption), we are not in Watergate or Vietnam mode. Nor has the country become more liberal than it was two years ago. In fact, arguably, the effective criticism of Bush and the GOP has come from conservatives. Not all of those critics will end of voting for the Dems. Besides, if the people are so anti-GOP, then the Dems would be making their real opinions more public, and would be led by Nancy Pelosi. Furthermore, they would not have run all these moderate or even conservative candidates around the country. In short, discontent does not a tidal wave make. If my hunch/guesswork/analysis/supermarket-conversation-polling is right, then most so called close races (circa three or four point difference based on a real poll) will end up moving GOP on election day. So I think the GOP will hold the Senate (holding on to MO, TN, MT, OH and taking MD). And the GOP will hold the House (by a vote or two); they will only lose one House seat in Ohio, the 18th, Ney’s old seat. I think Blackwell will lose by about four to six points, but DeWine will keep his seat, barely, by one or two pints. And the GOP will hold about half of the state offices in Ohio, including Sect of State, Attorney General, and state auditor. There has never been any question in my mind that Lieberman would win, by the way.


Check out Mary Katherine Ham’s video urging sopport for GOP campaign efforts. How can the Dems possibly win in face of this?

Obama on Steele (or is it Obama?)

The party line on Michael Steele is that he has too thin a record to serve in the U.S. Senate, which I guess is what you have to say when your candidate is a ten-term D.C. insider. Barack Obama isn’t above aiming at that target as well, but he also would seem to hit himself, both as a Senate candidate two years ago and as presidential tinder now:

"We want to take a look at who has a track record, [someone who] doesn’t just talk the talk, doesn’t just look good on TV, doesn’t just have a pretty smile, but somebody who has actually done the work and showed backbone."


Update: For more on the hotly contested Maryland campaign(s), go here, here, and here. The African-American vote is in play in the Free State because of something vaguely resembling compassionate conservatism, and because Democrats have for too long taken the African-American community for granted.

Neocons vs. Bush’s War?

Here’s a VANITY FAIR article getting a lot of play, featuring "neocons" Perle, Frum, Cohen, and others. But mainly Perle. The administration is blamed for its incompetence, of course, in its conduct of the Iraq war. Perle adds that, knowing what he knows now, he would have looked for alternatives to invasion. Well, that’s easy to say now (and I’m not saying that it’s unreasonable to say it), but the article also shows it’s quite, quite different from the optimism about the outcome he was displaying then. Helpful advice about what to do now is conspicuous by its absence from the article. The general approach to our policy by those interviewed is distancing plus fatalism. There’s complaining over at the NRO Corner that everyone was quoted out of context and the article is a pre-election hit job. I’m sure there’s some truth to all that, but I’m still not big on spending a lot of time explaing why you didn’t have anything to do with a well-intentioned effort that just hasn’t worked out. The president needs help and support in making the best of a messed up and unfortunate situation.

Most Valuable Leader

We are in the midst of the announcements for baseball’s post-season awards, including the Most Valuable Player for each league. The Yankees’ Derek Jeter is the favorite for the American League MVP. He had near-career best offensive stats and won another Gold Glove for his defensive play at shortstop (although the Gold Glove selection process has always been questionable; it seems far too political and based on reputation – see Buster Olney’s comments on November 3, for those with access). But Jeter’s case rests primarily on his leadership and clutch play, which kept New York in the pennant race while the starting pitching struggled and injuries sidelined three key position players. Voters sometimes give what is in effect a lifetime achievement award, to acknowledge a player like Jeter who plays at a consistently high level but whose individual statistics will never compel his MVP selection in any particular year.

All of the above persuaded me that Jeter should certainly receive the award. Until I read Phil Taylor’s comments. The unhappy saga of Jeter’s teammate, Alex Rodriguez, is well known. A-Rod is a brilliant but insecure talent who has not stood up well to the bright lights and elevated expectations of the New York fans and media. But Taylor makes a serious point. Whatever the merits of A-Rod’s decision to become a Yankee – I always thought it was a mistake – Jeter has always treated his high-profile teammate with evident public disdain. From a strict baseball standpoint, a strong case can be made that Jeter should have moved from shortstop to second base, rather than shifting A-Rod to third base. But the Yankees, it was said, was Jeter’s team, and A-Rod should therefore defer to him. Rodriguez made the change without any public complaint, even though he was on track to being the greatest shortstop (and therefore arguably the greatest all-around player) of all time. Should not a real leader, the Captain of the Yankees, have offered magnanimously to change positions to help the team? Should he not have come to the defense of an unpopular but struggling teammate, even if he privately didn’t quite believe the story?

I would still vote for Jeter. I do not know enough about the behind the scenes circumstances – what goes on in the clubhouse every day. A-Rod, after all, is a grown man and a very rich one. He should have known what he was getting himself into. For all I know, out of pride, A-Rod may have asked Jeter to keep his distance. Or Jeter may have calculated that Rodriguez would respond better to his teammates’ implicit criticism rather than to the perception that he was being coddled.

Somehow I don’t think that is the case. Jeter’s teammates have clearly taken the lead from his distant posture. A-Rod strikes me as someone who needs praise and more than a little tender loving care. If so, Joe Torre is as much to question as Jeter. Torre has never been in A-Rod’s corner, either. One recalls the coaching genius of Red Auerbach (and Vince Lombardi), always treating players according to their individual personalities.

I make that argument provisionally because I admire Torre as a man and Jeter as a player. But it does raise a red flag as we track the continuing saga of the Colossus of the North and think about the legacy of the Jeter years. Maybe the fault doesn’t lie entirely with George Steinbrenner.

Steele v. Blackwell

Why does a Steele victory in Democratic Maryland look more and more like a possibility while a Blackwell victory in Republican Ohio--while still not impossible in my view--looks more like a wish than a prediction? Adam Schaeffer offers an excellent explanation of the difference. It has to do, sadly, with the way Blackwell did not run his campaign; i.e., not distancing himself enough from the Ohio GOP establishment and running aggressively as himself. Some months back Schaeffer had made the case that the situation would be exactly reversed as between Blackwell and Steele. Perhaps Steele read that article and took it to heart?

The Newest Senate Polls

...should fuel both Republican hope and Republican anxiety. MT, VA, MO, and MD are all perfect ties. That’s evidence of R momentusm in MT and MD, but not VA. MO remains stuck in neutral, which might mean the Michael J. Fox impact is insignificant. If the MD study is accurate, Steele is in good shape, given the projection that many African Americans will sit out the race rather than vote for his opponent. Kyl and Corker seem to enjoy significant leads, and perhaps R momentum has returned to both those contests. Based on calculating odds on this data alone, the Rs would probably end up with 51 seats. But no real man would change his prediction based on new facts. In any case, we can hope or fear for a slight surge over the weekend that will turn all these six outcomes one way or the other.

Election predictions

The ever helpful Ben Kunkel has posted the official NLT election predictions, which are, at the moment, incomplete, because Peter Schramm has been out of town. Go see how much we’ve embarrassed ourselves.

I explain my picks here, where I also note the collective wisdom of my American Political Parties class.

I may be revisiting some of my choices on Monday, and will let you know if my confidence or despair has grown.

Update: The Weekly Standard picks are here. Richard Starr is the biggest pessimist, followed closely by Bill Kristol. Most of the contributors think the Republicans will retain nominal control of the Senate. By contrast, Dean Barnett is drinking from Peter Schramm’s flask.

Schramm Speaks at Heritage

This link will take you to Schramm’s talk on the Hungarian Revolution’s 50th anniversary and what it means to be "born American." You can listen, download or watch it. Please do.

Democratic Centrifuge Begins its Work

The Washington Times reports that the liberal blogosphere is fit to be tied over the party’s "abandonment" of Ned Lamont. Most interesting, is Harry Reid’s reported promise to Lieberman that he can maintain his seniority within the caucus when he returns to the Senate. Also note Larry Kudlow’s assessment of what the Democrats will actually be able to do if they win control of the House. Of course, Kudlow is forgetting to remember that "it’s not just the economy, stupid." And besides, the economy will follow bad policy if that policy is allowed to fester . . . even if it takes the Dems awhile to reveal what they really mean to do. The sad truth is (as Cheney pointed out to Kudlow about Nancy Pelosi) whatever she says that sounds reasonable now: "I don’t think she’s running on that platform in San Francisco."

Now Peggy Noonan Feels Santorum’s Love

Noonan joins her follow moderately Republican columnist Brooks in singling out the Pennsylvania senator as the kind of person the senate needs.


I have to agree with the always sagacious (if not always right) Mr. Hanson that it’s really stupid for Allen to make a big deal about Webb not shying away from portraying immoral and even repulsive human behavior in his novels. Consider what the Allen campaign could do to candidate Flannery O’Connor. Webb is a strange, confused, and somewhat dishonest candidate in real life, and Allen deserves to win based solely on Webb’s actual, not his fictional, record. We have to admit that Webb would be the best novelist serving in the senate.

Civility in politics and on the web

Stephen Miller, cited in this WSJ piece, "worries about new and possibly perpetual antagonizing in the age of blogging, where ’anything that someone sitting in a basement in their underwear wishes to spew gets into the community.’" We denizens of the blogosphere just exacerbate the decline of civil discourse. Do we? No profanity or references to sex, religion, or politics, please.

For the record, at the moment, I’m wearing sweats.

How not to behave as a college president

Do you really think it’s a good idea to host a Halloween party and pose with someone dressed as a suicide bomber? Check back at Win Myers’s Campus Watch site for future updates.

Penn alums take note!

Hat tip: Power Line.

Strickland Agrees with Kerry

Ted Strickland apparently agrees with John Kerry (that is, before Kerry was against what he said at Pasadena City College). Strickland was interviewed yesterday by Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU. He also said this. If Blackwell loses this race it’s not going to be because of anything Strickland did or said to deserve victory. And it won’t be because the Ohio GOP or the national folks have been working hard on Blackwell’s behalf either. I’ve never seen anyone more deserving of support so utterly left to the wolves. I’m not making predictions this year. I’ll stick to my prayers.


I’ve been asked to make election predictions. The problem I have that when I participate in pools and such--football, academy awards, etc.--I never pick those I really think will win, but those I’m rooting for. And so I never win, but I always enjoy myself.

Peter’s Republican optimism, given below, makes him more of a faith-based Straussian than I am. But I appreciate his defense of his own against all odds.

I would rather not do this, but I’m going to say what I really think based on the information I really have.

For the Senate: MT, MD, and VA at this point are all Republican long shots. AZ is a Democratic long shot. TN and MO are toss ups. The most likely result if the odds are calculated honestly: D 50/R 50. What would I really bet, given how D this year is: D 51/R 49. If I got good odds or had a couple of glasses of red wine, I would certainly bet on both Steele and Ford: That would return it to 50/50. So I’ll a be a little reckless and say 50/50.

For the House, if you really take the toss-up races and divide them evenly, the Ds would pick up about 25 seats. But they’ll do better than that; the truth is they have the momentum and the intensity, and there really is a blow-out belt in NY, PA, IN, and (yes, Peter) OH. (And as Steve H. notes below, the news from Iraq is very troubling.) So I say (it’s not my hope) the Ds will pick up 32 seats.

As a lover of federalism, my view is that the stats on the distribution of the governors are meaningless. Besides, those races are subject to state-specific factors about which I know little. So I will limit myself to the prediction that the Republican governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, will be reelected.

A Grim Reckoning

Ralph Peters throws in the towel on Iraq: "Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. Even six months ago, there was hope. Now the chances for a democratic, unified Iraq are dwindling fast. The country’s prime minister has thrown in his lot with al-Sadr, our mortal enemy. He has his eye on the future, and he’s betting that we won’t last."

More Thoughts on What Studies Show: The Emerging Science of Longevity Gerontology

If you want to extend your live beyond the limits faced by our species so far, your choices are clear. You can come as close as possible to not eating at all, and not enjoy the resulting long life not worth living. Or you can wait for the development of the pill that will mimic the effects of the starvation diet, but it may come too late for you. Or, as others have noticed, the most recent studies show you can subject yourself to the stern but fulfilling regimen of regularly drinking red wine; then it apparently makes little difference whether or not you remain fat.

So you can not eat and not drink or eat and drink--red wine, that is. What kills you is eating and not drinking. This is important news for us southerners. We are hopelessly addicted to eating, often have crude teetotaling prejudices, and often have mistakenly chosen beer and whiskey over Merlot and Pinot Noir. Contrary to SIDEWAYS, by the way, the argument for Merlot is overwhelming: If any fool can make a good one, and not even experts can distinguish easily between the cheap ones and the expensive ones, then that’s the wine for me.

Rich Lowry podacst

I talked with Rich Lowry this afternoon about the Senate and House elections. Very thoughtful, detailed, and professional. I guess he’s not a professor.  

Wine, Vices, and Politics

I am amused to note that the previous three blogs are all on the same theme. Now, much can be said about this, but, being a moderate man (with only one vice), I restrain myself. The only thing I will say is that in this age of hyper-politics (with an interesting election just days away) half the active bloggers at NLT are talking about wine! I will not restrain myself on one thing: I predict that the Democrats will take back neither the House or the Senate, and that the senior senator from Ohio will retain his seat (GOP will also retain MO, TN, VA). Blackwell will lose by about three to five points, I am sorry to say. The only House seat the Dems will gain in OH will be the 18th (Ney’s seat). Watching the post-election Democratic blood-letting will be interesting.

Important Wine News

Since I’m now NLT’s wine editor, I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along this good news about the health benefits of red wine:

A substance found in red wine protected mice from the ill effects of obesity, raising the tantalizing prospect the compound could do the same for humans and may also help people live longer, healthier lives, researchers are reporting today.

The story adds, "They also noted that a person would have to drink at least 100 glasses of red wine a day or take mega doses of the commercially availably supplements to get the levels given to the mice." Hey, I’m willing to try, though the story cautions that such a level of consumption "not be safe in humans." Worrywarts.

Red, red wine

Bottoms up. Hat tip: The Corner.

First Chocolate, then naps . . .

. . . now this?! Are all my vices being vindicated? Oh, happy day!

The Kerry gift

I like this picture from The Corner. Also note that, needing all the help he can get in his senate race, Harold Ford has asked Kerry to apologize. The Dems are lining up against Kerry. This, despite the fact that liberal newspapers are trying to bury the story. It’s too late.

The Kerry Meltdown, Continued

An unnamed Democratic congressman told ABC News: "I guess Kerry wasn’t content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too."


I like Victor Davis Hanson’s summary comments, but let me add one of my own. In addition to insulting our troops and not apologizing for it, John Kerry has inadvertently contradicted another Democratic talking point. Remember what he said:

"Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

How can anyone like John Edwards argue that there are two Americas if individuals who work hard in school can succeed? In the first sentence, Kerry sounds almost like a garden-variety Republican.

Roundtable on the blogosphere

I’m still looking for one or two participants for the roundtable I announced here. Those who have agreed to participate so far are Power Line’s Scott Johnson, Jon Schaff of South Dakota Politics, John Seery of Huffington Post, and the University of Calgary’s Michael Keren, who has written this book.

Anyone else interested in discussing the blogosphere as a public square?

Update: I’d forgotten (unforgivably) that Matt Franck, who is one of the mainstays of Bench Memos had agreed to participate, and I’m pleased to announce that our very own Peter Schramm will be gracing us with his presence. One of NLT’s more persistent and civil gadflies--Brett Marston--will be working hard to keep us all honest. If anyone else is interested, I may end up splitting the roundtable in two.

Senate Races

I don’t think Zogby poll results inspire much confidence. But I’ve linked them anyway, because they’re displayed with a cool map. Based on my review of all the polls, it seems that the control of the Senate rests on the outcomes in MO and TN, with the Republicans having to win them both. MO is worrisome because of the general tendency for a slight break against incumbents in the final days, especially in cases where the incumbent is not polling over 50%. But Talent does have a very small lead in virtually every poll. TN, despite Ford’s brilliant success in portraying himself as a paragon of prudent moderation, is tilting toward Corker a bit lately, with some polls showing him over 50%. I would predict both those contests right now by flipping a coin.

Allen really has fallen behind in virtually every poll, and Webb has the momentum. But that race is not lost for the Republicans, and MT is within the margin of error, although the margin is constantly in the D direction. In MD, Steele has the momentum, new endorsements from prominent African-American politicians in Prince Georges County, a widely publicized debate thrashing of his opponent, and rising African-American anger with the Democrats on his side. There’s even a sense that the MSM is almost rooting for him now. He really might win, but the odds are still against them in a very Democratic state in a Democratic year.

There’s a lot to be said for the thought that Steele and Ford are the most impressive candidates this year.

Be assured I’m just being a social scientist here. And so I can separate what I think from what I hope.

Why We Love The New York Times

It is corrections like this that reaffirm our confidence in the editorial skill and accuracy of the Gray Lady of journalism:

An entry in the News Summary on Saturday misstated the name of the team that the St. Louis Cardinals defeated to win the World Series. It was the Detroit Tigers, not the Detroit Lions.

Hat tip: Powerline.

Ryan on Red

I’ve been waiting for Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan’s appreciation of Red Auerbach. Ryan is the dean of the Boston sports media and although he began to cover Red relatively late in the game (1970), his is an informed take on an American original. Bob Ryan Ryan is always worth reading even for those of us who live outside New England. I’d welcome recommendations from NLT readers about other noteworthy regional sportswriters.

Yes, Miami looked old and disinterested last night. Chicago is young, very athletic and intriguing. And the Kobe-less Lakers beat the Suns? Only six months until it all means something, of course. In the meantime, college basketball fortunately is upon us.