Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama watch, part 16: the HLR years

The NYT investigates:

“He then and now is very hard to pin down,” said Kenneth Mack, a classmate and now a professor at the law school, referring to the senator’s on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand style.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., another Harvard law professor and a mentor of Mr. Obama, said, “He can enter your space and organize your thoughts without necessarily revealing his own concerns and conflicts.”


Another of Mr. Obama’s techniques relied on his seemingly limitless appetite for hearing the opinions of others, no matter how redundant or extreme. That could lead to endless debates — a mouse infestation at the review office provoked a long exchange about rodent rights — as well as some uncertainty about what Mr. Obama himself thought about the issue at hand.

In dozens of interviews, his friends said they could not remember his specific views from that era, beyond a general emphasis on diversity and social and economic justice.


“The things that make law school politics fractious are different from the things that make American politics fractious,” said Ron Klain, who preceded Mr. Obama at the law review and later served as Vice President Al Gore’s chief of staff. Mr. Klain has watched the senator’s rise.

“The interesting caveat,” he said, “is that is a style of leadership more effective running a law review than running a country.”

Perhaps Michael McConnell was onto something.

John Brown’s boby lies a’dancin’ in the grave

Read on.

The real new seriousness

Robert Kagan has it.

HRC and Petraeus

Stalwart liberal WaPo columnist David Broder offers some explanations for HRC’s failure to engage in a colloquy with Gen. Petraeus:

First, she has been treading a careful line from her early support of military action against Saddam Hussein to an increasingly sharp criticism of the war and calls for troop reductions. Perhaps she feared that dialogue with Petraeus would lead her into dangerous, uncharted waters. Caution is commendable, but she is sometimes faulted for being too calculating.

Second, the hearing came only three days after she announced her presidential exploratory committee, and she may have decided it was a good opportunity to repeat her views on Iraq policy before TV cameras rather than share time with the general. That wouldn’t say much about her priorities as she begins a second six-year term as senator, but New York voters presumably knew in November that she might have loftier goals than just minding her Senate duties.

The third, less benign possibility is that Clinton is reverting to the mode of her ill-fated 1993-94 health-care initiative, when she gave members of Congress and other interested folks the impression that she thought she had all the answers -- so please just do as I say.


Up Down Under

American tennis has been in a bit of a slump the last few years. Serena Williams’ win over Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final this week probably won’t change things. Williams’ performance was a surprise but not a shock. It was a surprise because she came into the Open unseeded, with a World Ranking of 81, and not in the best physical condition. It was not a shock because she had already won 7 Grand Slam titles in her career, including two previous Australian Opens. Together with her older sister, Venus, she had dominated women’s tennis for a span of three or four years.

The recent drop off in her play, and even more dramatically that of Venus (who did not enter in Australia), can be blamed to a first order on injuries. She is 25, pushing middle age for a tennis player in a sport notoriously hard on the body. But therein lays a tale.

Her coach and father, the controversial Richard Williams, was no typical country club tennis parent. He said he wanted at least one of his daughters to succeed in sports so he could get them off of the mean streets of Compton, California. Tennis seemed the best bet to do that, even though Williams lacked a big-time background in the sport and though he made frequent claims of racial discrimination by the tennis establishment. The point here is that he kept the girls on an unusual path, which included restricting their tournament appearances during their early professional careers. He said he wanted to keep them from following the path of many teen tennis phenomena who burned themselves out from intense training and travel. He said he wanted to teach them there was more to life than tennis, including education.

Some thought this was all an act but the girls apparently took the advice to heart. They have acting careers. They became fashion designers (some of which products Serena Williams wears on the court, to raised eyebrows). They seem to enjoy life. These distractions, if you want to call them that, must have affected their training. Injuries, common to tennis even for the fittest athlete, cropped up and took longer to heal. Serena began to look, well, heavy. They skipped more tournaments, including the majors. They are both so talented that for a time when they did show up, they were able to play their way into shape during a tournament. They used physical ability and toughness to dodge early round upsets before they found their form.

Other young women, hungrier and more motivated, saw their vulnerability and were no longer intimidated by the Williams juggernaut. The Belgian women showed more pluck. The Russians, including Sharapova, arrived en masse. The victories stopped. Serena is still dangerous – as the Australian Open demonstrated – but the smart money says this is the exception rather than the rule. She will win again, maybe some other Grand Slam events, but don’t look for a return to her glory days. There will be no run like that of Steffi Graf and her 22 Grand Slam titles, no chance of being named the Best Ever.

There is no particular moral to this story. The Williams sisters are perfectly entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Nobody died or went to jail because they didn’t train as hard as they might. No drinking or drug abuse is involved. It is easy for the Fan and the Expert to tut-tut about the loss of someone else’s athletic potential, how many records they could have broken had they only put their minds to it, etc. One recalls Chi Chi Rodriguez’s remark about Jack Nicklaus – hardly an underachiever – that he was a legend in his spare time. Maybe, as Johnny Miller likes to say, water finds its own level. Tiger Woods, no slouch when it comes to hard work, might win even more tournaments if he entered a monastery and did nothing but practice golf; as opposed to getting married, having kids, becoming a TV pitchman, and occasionally going bungee jumping. Or maybe he would win fewer.

Sometimes there is a price of sorts to pay. The New York Giants’ star running back Tiki Barber is retiring from football this year. He is obviously an intelligent man. He says, perfectly reasonably, that he just wasn’t willing to take the pounding any longer. He wanted to walk away with a minimum of the long-term pain and disabilities that affect football players. He has a lucrative career in television ahead. But when the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters consider his case some years down the road, they will probably decide that he finished one full season short of the necessary statistical accomplishments. And in the back of their minds, maybe the front, they will judge that if Barber had wanted sports immortality, he should have delayed his TV career, put up with the whirlpool and played that extra year. The risk of suffering a life-altering injury, they will say, is part of the price that must be paid for those who want to enter the shrine in Canton, Ohio.

I wonder what advice the Williams’ sisters would have given Tiki. And to make things a bit more interesting, Tiki’s twin brother, Ronde, a defensive back with Tampa Bay, will continue to play. After a few more excellent years . . . who knows?

Why Not Nominate a Proud Conservative?

If the Republicans had a genuine merit system--and if Florida’s former governor weren’t stuck with his last name, it would be easy to identify the leading candidate for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination. But as things stand, Jeb is the longest of the long shots. With the controversial possible exception of immigration, this man is solid on conservative principle, is a very experienced and successful executive, and has much more than his share of charm, brains, and manliness.

Stay Tuned. . .

A weird story in The Washington Times that the Norks’ Kim Jong Il (or "Kim Jong the Second," if you are Jesse Helms) might be under house arrest. Hmmm. Probably nothing. Especially coming from a Moonie newspaper. Then again. . .

Tom DeLay explains it all

To Will Hinton. And others, who seem not to have blogged about it yet.

More goodies from the Claremont Review

Here, including Hayward on Gordon Wood, Hitch on Rich, Ceaser on historical schools, and Knippenberg on Spalding on Truman.

Assessment, ugh

A friend called my attention to this compelloquent response to the educrats. Here’s a bit:

(1) The report has forgotten the centrality of the faculty to what we are about in our colleges, and risks leaving on the sidelines of the national dialogue those who most need to be at the heart of
the conversation. We will not answer the question about the quality of education by addressing transferability of credits. That only helps us focus on the “degree” as the end of education, rather than the learning itself.

(2) Learning assessment ought to be an integral part of learning itself. It must be left to the classroom, the faculty, and the local institution. Nothing can be gained by broad, outside measuring instruments that cannot take account of what is going on between student and teacher, student and student, or the student and the books or equipment in the classroom. The report allows for such a solution, but encourages the worst tendencies in us --- to teach what can be
measured, or to focus our attention on those things that are of least importance to living a thoughtful, examined life. “Objectivity” in assessment tools is useless or harmful when it measures nothing essential to the kind of learning we seek to foster.

(3) The report fails to recognize that its aims --- economic competitiveness, efficiency, and productivity --- are not the highest aims of our democratic society, founded on the rights of all to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that education is a means to these goods too.

Read the whole thing.   

I’m famous. Not

I think. Hat tip: my dad.

Update: I’m not sure anyone can see the picture on the link, which is of a KLM Fokker F-50 with the name "Knippenberg" emblazoned across it.

Update #2: It was a photoshopped version of this photo. Egg on my face. Thanks to commenter Michael D., who put me on to the way of searching for airplane pictures.

Ugh, assessment

Take this, DoE educrats! A sample:

While standardized tests can be helpful in initiating faculty conversations about assessment, our research casts serious doubt on the validity of using standardized tests of general intellectual skills for assessing individual students, then aggregating their scores for the purpose of comparing institutions.


For nearly 50 years measurement scholars have warned against pursuing the blind alley of value added assessment. Our research has demonstrated yet again that the reliability of gain scores and residual scores — the two chief methods of calculating value added — is negligible (i.e., 0.1).

Read the whole thing.

A few more thoughts about the Carter/Clinton Baptists

I had a few more thoughts about the Carter/Clinton efforts to unify Baptists who "dissent from" the SBC. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the effort is political, even if not in the most obvious sense. The organizers talk a lot about all the good things they are called to do in the world. Isn’t the SBC also feeding the hungry and providing relief to, say, the victims of Katrina? The difference may be that the SBC is less interested in calling upon government to do more of what it generally does so badly. Stated another way, where CC & Company differ from the SBC is on the prudential judgment about how best to help widows and orphans. This isn’t a theological difference, but rather a political disagreement.

Another thought: while Carter and Clinton may well disagree with the SBC on some of the social issues on which it has taken a stand, it’s not clear to me that, for example, the African-American Baptists are on the same page here. African-American Baptists may well be big supporters of the welfare state, but they’re not necessarily as liberal on social issues as are the other constituents of CC & Company. It’s not necessarily an issue with a sufficiently high profile (for the African-Americans) to be a deal-breaker for this new agglomeration, but if part of the new witness has to do with, say, tilting leftward on gay rights, the arrangement may not last very long.

I’m eager to hear more from Baptist insiders, like Russell Moore and our friend Hunter Baker.

Jaffa podcast

I talked briefly with Harry V. Jaffa a couple of days ago. He talked about his current book project on Strauss, consisting of five or six essays he has written on Strauss, as well as an introductory essay that is largely autobiographical. Jaffa reads a few paragraphs from it.


The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire poll roundup this morning includes this irresistable morsel from recent polls: "Despite election thumping, 40% of Republicans characterize themselves as very happy compared with 26% of Democrats." This tracks closely with previous findings from the Pew Poll. Another place where conservatives and liberals have switched places over the last two generations; how many liberals embrace FDR’s sunny optimism today? (But isn’t that just because conservative Republicans are richer?--Ed. I doubt it; note that the two richest men in America--Gates and Buffett--are Democrats, and the super-rich are increasingly voting Democratic, which is why I think I’m in favor of higher taxes on the super-rich, and you can start with Nancy "I-use-non-union-labor-to-pick-my-Napa-winegrapes" Pelosi.)

Better still is the final item in the WSJ note: "Most likely to say they’ve taken anti-depressants: women, whites, those earning less than $30,000, and liberals." Double-heh.

The new seriousness

Given the title, I had to read Peggy Noonan’s column. If Chuck Hagel and John Kerry are exemplars of "the new seriousness," we have a long way to go. I’m not yet convinced that Hagel’s is anything other than the posture of seriousness.

Faith-based developments

I’ve been trying to restrict most of my blogging about the faith-based initiative (remember that?) to Knippenblog, but I couldn’t resist putting this story in front of a wider audience.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in favor of what’s happening, but I couldn’t help but notice that in Maryland Democrats are all over cooperation with churches. Gee, do you think their opposition the past six years was political? After all, when they have power, they’re perfectly willing to look for ways to cooperate. When the initiative is coming from Republicans, they throw up roadblocks. I don’t expect the Republicans to return the oppositional favor.

Thanks to Acton’s Jordan Ballor for calling my attention to this article.

Kate, are your ears burning?

This is very nice.

Religion and Baptist politics

I missed this article describing efforts by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to midwife the creation of a counterweight to the Southern Baptist Convention. Bringing together two African-American Baptist organizations and two--well, Cooperman calls them "moderate"; others might disagree--predominantly white Baptist groups, they collectively outnumber the SBC and will hold a convention in Atlanta next year.

SBC’s Richard Land has some choice comments:

"I’m not going to question their motives. I just know that if I were them, I would be concerned about how it might appear to many people, the timing," Land said. "Purportedly they’re going to hold a convention of several thousand people in Atlanta in early 2008, hosted by two former Democratic presidents, one of whom has a wife seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Some would see that as an overtly political activity."


"One of the areas where we would be in significant disagreement would be our view toward Israel, as highlighted by President Carter’s new book," he said, referring to "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid," published in November by Simon & Schuster. Fourteen members of an advisory panel at the Carter Center have resigned over the book’s depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Another difference, he said, was made clear last week when Carter spoke of sexual orientation as an "ancillary issue." "Most Southern Baptists would disagree with that," Land said. "We’re not going to affirm and accept all sexual orientations."

It’s also noteworthy that one of the other principals in this new organization is Mercer University President William D. Underwood, one of the central figures in the Baylor brouhaha, which ultimately led to the departure of Robert B. Sloan for greener pastures.

For other views of the Carter-Clinton efforts, go here, here, here, here, and here. For informed commentary, go here.

Obama watch, part 15

This WaPo article offers a nice summary of Obama’s relationship with African-American voters.

Update: For interesting commentary, follow the thread Jonah Goldberg started at The Corner.

Superpower self-flagellation

Daniel Henninger writes a downer of a column. A sample:

The leadership vacuum. The administration never rallied the nation behind the war in a concrete way. A young Marine officer recently returned from combat in Iraq told me this week he is taken aback at how disassociated the American people seem from Iraq, no matter how constantly it’s in the news. He says it’s as if the problem is not so much what is actually happening in Iraq but that the war is "annoying" to Americans, as if to say: Can’t it just go away or not be on the front page all the time? Rallying a nation at war is a president’s job.

The opposition vacuum. One reason the negative mood in politics is so disconcerting is that the opposition’s alternative vision is nonexistent. On joining the opposition recently, GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced, "I can’t tell you what the path to success is." Joe Biden says the "primary" Iraq strategy should be to force its leaders to make the political compromises necessary to "end the violence."

As a political strategy, unremitting opposition has worked. Approval for the president and the war is low. The GOP lost sight of its ideological lodestars and so control of Congress. But the U.S. still occupies a unique position of power in the world, and we are putting that status at risk by playing politics without a net.

On the "Charlie Rose Show" this month, former Army vice chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, who supports the counterinsurgency plan being undertaken by Gen. David Petraeus, said in exasperation: "My God, this is the United States. We are the world’s No. 1 superpower. This isn’t about arrogance. This is about capability and applying ourselves to a problem that is at its essence a human problem."

Read the whole depressing thing.

Is Giuliani a Conservative?

This CITY JOURNAL author says he is. And he is, in fact, a CITY JOURNAL or "we’re hardwired to be bourgeois" conservative. (That is--he appeals most of all to conservatives who are constantly writing articles saying that "the good news is that the bad news is wrong.") Rudy’s record of actually turning his principles into effective policies is unparalleled, and his basic insight that our problems are rooted in "dysfunctional [personal] behavior" rather than "the system" is genuinely conservative. But the author, of course, is virtually silent on certain conservative issues that find little support in New York City. I will say, to stimulate discussion, that the evidence presented in this article explains why I prefer Giuliani to either McCain or Gingrich. It also explains why he would certainly defeat Obama and probably defeat Hillary Clinton.

Kudos to Jon Schaff (and Steve Thomas)

I didn’t look at all the results of the SOTU quiz, but Jon Schaff did a darn sight better than I did, finishing in a tie for fourth (34/50). My 28/50 was pathetic, though (in the Minnesota terms Jon should appreciate) above average. Anyone else care to claim a score?

Update: Steve Thomas is also an impressive SOTU prognosticator, tying Jon.

Like a mighty wind

Christopher Levenick’s review essay in the new CRB is available on the web. As I noted earlier, he offers us a critical tour through a number of books written by leading lights on the religious left, including Jimmy Carter and Jim Wallis. Here’s a sample of Levenick’s critique:

Take the Religious Left’s approach to poverty. To their great credit, these writers are dead serious about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Unfortunately, however, they perceive this obligation as primarily and properly the work of government. Carter speaks for the group when he alleges that "[i]n efforts to reach out to the poor, alleviate suffering, provide homes for the homeless...government office-holders and not church members were more likely to assume responsibility and be able to fulfill the benevolent missions." Little acknowledgment is made of the private sector’s role in creating affluence, or of the fact that a zealous redistribution of present assets will inhibit the creation of future wealth. Yet these errors of practical economics are of less consequence than the grave theological misapprehension beneath them. The challenge and the burden of almsgiving are and ought to be personal. Christian charity does not consist of petitioning the state to redress economic grievances. Rather, it calls upon the individual believer to comfort the afflicted. An ethic geared primarily toward government undermines the crucial sense of personal responsibility for the least of one’s brethren. True charity, like true faith, must be voluntary if it is to be efficacious.

Read the whole thing.


Shameless Self-Promotion--Part 214

Who do you think got the 2007 Richard M. Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters?


Nina Easton writes about Newt Gingrich’s plan to run for president, or, rather, to change the country.  


Get Religion’s David Pulliam notes that in the early going largely overlooked--with the exception of this WaPo hitpiece--what he regards as a significant and high-profile portrayal of our adversaries. Of course, Reuters carries an account of the Middle Eastern response that whitewashes the Iranian and Syrian roles in stoking violence in the region, presenting a picture of Iran as interested in stability and of the Lebanese crisis as "internal," pitting Shiites and Christians against the government. No mention of Syrian and Iranian involvement there, just of American meddling. And Iran has "refrained from matching U.S. rhetorical escalation" (!!!!).

SOTU and Sen. James Web

Here is Michael Gerson take on Bush’s speech. I think the speech was mediocre at best, although delivered better than most. Gerson criticizes Sen. Webb’s short riposte. Maybe the criticism is fair, yet I thought that it was better than that (well written, for example) as well as revealing speech. In case anyone ever doubted that Webb is a real Democrat you just have to note his reference to, and appreciation of, Andrew Jackson: "In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy – that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today." Read (and see) the rest

Conference opportunity

Those within a few hours’ drive of East Lansing, Michigan might want to attend this conference this weekend, sponsored by our friends at MSU’s Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy.

Attention DC Conservatives! Here’s Your Opportunity to Hear and Have a Beer with Brownback

...courtesy of Cindy Searcy and ISI.

Some Health Care Crises Are More Critical Than Others

As Eric Cohen and Yuval Levin explain... They claim that there’s a bipartisan conspiracy to ignore the most genuine of the crises. That’s because any real attempt to reform Medicare in order to save it would be painful and sobering. The crisis is part of the challenge of our aging society, and that demographic trend isn’t changing soon.


The speech is here. It was stylistically and substantively better than I’d been led to expect. The domestic policy proposals (e.g., tax deductions for private health insurance and school vouchers) were, as NRO’s Peter Robinson noted, conservative (for the most part). I couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t make Nancy Pelosi happy.

I was heartened by the way he spoke about our war against the terrorists, both in describing their aims and in showing that the struggle evolves as each side adapts to the other’s initiatives. This is grown-up talk:

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally -- their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you’ve made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.

Now have at it.

What’s Wrong with Our Presidential Nomination Process?

Michael Barone reminds us that "it starts too early and ends too abruptly." People in most states usually don’t REALLY get to participate, and there’s not much place for real deliberation. Nonetheless, Barone adds, the results really haven’t been that bad.

Libertarians Praise Hillary

for her pathbreaking decision not to rely on public financing for either her primary or (possible) general election campaign. Other candidates will find it tough not to follow her lead, and the era of public financing of presidential campaigns may be over.

Helpful Comments from Wise Senators . . . Not

From an AP story today:

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, also took issue with Bush. "I can’t tell you what the path to success is, but it’s not what the president has put on the table."

Thanks for that illuminating insight.

SOTU Warm Up Questions

Dean Barnett, over at Hugh Hewitt’s blog posits a series of questions to himself about tonight’s State of the Union address. It is, he admits, a tad snarky. But he does a reasonable job of defending his snarky tone.

Among the bigger points of contention he has with the coming address is this. Both he and Hugh have been bewildered and irritated by the President’s penchant for releasing outlines of coming speeches to the press. Why does he do this? If he thinks it will make the media more fully digest and appreciate his complex thinking on important matters, he couldn’t be more wrong. Mostly, it gives people an excuse to tune out. After looking at this and Barnett’s post, I know I’m thinking about it! Further (and Barnett makes good use of this fact in his post), I haven’t exactly been torn up with curiosity about what the President will do about malaria--however needful a policy concerning it may be.

The most salient point in Barnett’s post, however, is his discussion of the President’s seeming acceptance of his intractable unpopularity and why that simply won’t do: "I think he’s reached a point, however, where he’s convinced he can’t be popular in his own time but that he will inevitably be vindicated by history. He’s using that as a jumping off point to conclude that public opinion in his own time doesn’t matter. He’s sorely mistaken on that count. If he doesn’t rally the people, or at the very least his own party, he won’t be able to salvage the wider war effort. If the surge succeeds but the wider war against radical Islam is abandoned, the surge’s success will be a very small victory."

I cannot imagine how dreadful it must be to be in the President’s position right now. I believe he has done his level best to do what is right and that he has been, by and large (though not always), correct in his assessment of what is needed. I cannot imagine that I will ever be persuaded that he is not a good man and so I feel for him. But the fact remains that he has not been able to persuade anyone that we should fight. Asking people to enter into a long and frightful war is asking a lot of people--even if they have no choice but to accept the fight. The fact that it is necessary to fight is not, in and of itself, a sufficient explanation. Persuasion is not the art of reciting and pointing out facts.

In appealing to our reason with facts, he should not neglect to walk through the logic. In appealing to our hearts with fear, he should not neglect to offer solace. I hesitate to say that he should "feel our pain" (Yuck, spit, eeeww!) but there’s a reason that phrase resonated with people even as they mocked it. He need not "feel our pain," I suppose, but he should pay us the respect of trying to understand why we need more than a business briefing in a State of the Union address.

UPDATE: After the speech, Barnett now calls it, "A very pleasant surprise."

Acting Hillary

Rich Lowry considers Hillary the calculator and her attempt to seem natural and how she will react when there is no script, for that time will come.

"Welcome to the Hillary Clinton campaign, which will be the most blatantly calculated presidential campaign in memory. Almost all political campaigns involve falsity and playacting, but it is Hillary’s lot in life not to be able to fake it well, so the scriptwriting and the consultants’ work show through. She seems to take the advice to ’act naturally’ literally, and the acting is always more in evidence than the naturalness.

Thus, the great battle is joined between the ruthless, highly effective inauthenticity of Hillary Clinton and the vapid, feel-good authenticity of Barack Obama."

Who really gives?

Echoing a point made at MOJ, this CT piece emphasizes that the adjective does most of the work in the claim that "religious conservatives are most generous." Religious liberals, it turns out, are pretty generous too, though there are fewer of them. And, on average, people are less generous now than roughly 30 years ago, and more of the money given to churches is staying close to the sanctuary.

Hillary vs. Obama

Is it possible that this is Hillary Clinton’s strategy against Barack Obama?

"Far from conceding African-American support to the most credible candidate ever of African descent, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the Clintons are pushing aggressively for the help of their longtime allies in the black business, political and entertainment elite. Clinton’s supporters say she intends to make the Illinois senator fight for every black endorsement and every black vote. It’s a strategy that pushes Obama to decide just how black he can afford to be: Will he pitch himself to African-American voters as the black candidate, or hew to the post-racial line that’s helped make him sensationally popular with white Democrats?" Could this be to Obama’s advantage, along with his smoking?

Only in George W. Bush’s (and Barack Obama’s) America

Faith-based football.

SOTU quiz

I challenge my fellow NLT bloggers and readers to take Dana Hork’s SOTU quiz.

It’s amusing and we can all see how bad we are as prognosticators.

Romney’s Mormonism again

Two political scientists argue that Mitt Romney needs to make a JFK-like speech, though I would hope that Romney’s speech would approach the subject of the relationship between religion and government with greater nuance than did Kennedy. I think that I’m closer to Rick Garnett, who called my attention to this op-ed, than I am to its authors.

Alphabet soup

What happens when ACTA meets the AAC&U? Read about it here. My favorite snippet:

Post-talk reviews from other attendees were generally critical. While several gave Neal and her colleagues points for coming to talk to a skeptical audience, and others shared outrage at this point or that, the more common criticism was that the debate Neal was trying to engage was all a bit 1980s. No one is against reading classic works of history or literature, even by dead white men, they said. It’s just that the tough questions today aren’t core or non-core, at least to most of those here.

“I was sort of shocked at the lack of familiarity of where higher education is,” said Jeremy Bell, a philosophy professor and Academic Senate president at the College of San Mateo. With the Web and other sources, students have “limitless access to content,” Bell said, and it’s “archaic” to think that the key question is which required book will be put in front of students. “We need to teach them the skills to evaluate, not go to a model of 40 years ago,” he said.

Perhaps we should all send our kids to Wyoming Catholic College, which certainly won’t seek AAC&U membership anytime soon. (By the way, the article captures nicely my impression of the AAC&U from the times I’ve attended meetings.)

Thinking about SOTU

The speechwriters have been busy, trying to please their editor-in-chief. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this first opportunity to speak directly to a Democratic Congress and how they respond.

Abortion politics in the new Congress

This WaPo article describes three competing (?) efforts to soften ever so slightly the Democrats’ pro-abortion profile. All the proposals came to the fore in the last Congress, mostly (apparently) as campaign devices. I discussed two of them here and here. Senator Reid describes his approach here, but this measure has found an unfortunate sponsor in the House, at least if the intention is to offer an opening to folks on the pro-life side of things.

I note two things in closing. First, the timing of the article, which comes close to the March for Life (held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade) is obviously intended to show that the Democrats are responsive (see also here). Second, I looked at all the websites of the major players, and couldn’t find anything new anywhere; all the action took place last year. Guess everyone’s too busy posturing during their hundred hours, which seem to have taken forever.

Great Books or Great Blogging?

The Friar, who blogs at Reason and Revelation, wonders whether we should serve the cause of freedom and deciphering truth by spending our time blogging or whether we should spend our time cultilvating our souls by reading Aristotle’s NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. Following the letter of Aristotle, he concludes that we should pursue the mean between those two extremes by both reading and blogging moderately. Aristotle adds, of course, that the moral virtue is the mean relative to the nature of a particular human being, to be achieved by reasonably and habitually countering that person’s characteristic excesses. The Friar admits that blogging seems both more addictive and more distracting than reading Aristotle. His analysis may strengthen the case for the technology policy of Wyoming Catholic College discussed below, at least for the education of some. Surely we should all resolve to blog more about Aristotle, who was pretty good at defending human liberty and deciphering truth.