Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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.