Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Rudy Giuliani’s potential as a Respect Conservative

Aside from the convenient oversimplifications that enable them to turn GWB into a straw man (too often enabled by his inability compellingly and consistently to articulate his domestic vision), Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam offer an interesting way of packaging the "real" Rudy Giuliani as the champion of the proud and self-reliant working and middle class. If I’m not mistaken, this doesn’t sound much like the Sam’s Club Republicanism they proposed less than a year and a half ago. Or, more precisely, the rhetoric and target audiences are similar, but the substance of the proposals sounds quite different. Either Douthat and Salan can’t figure out what these holy grail voters want, or these holy grail voters can’t.

The quest for secondary virginity

Read to the end of this NYT article and you’ll understand its political significance.

Barone on Hillary vs. Rudy

First off, Michael shows us that both Hillary and Newt suffer from very high negatives. The reason: There’s not that much nostalgia for the contentious 1990s. I’m in the American mainstream on that opinion! Michael also shows us that Giuliani would be much more of a NATIONAL candidate than Bush was, with many more states in play. His urbanity and his ethnicity would make him competitive in many Eastern states, even Rhode Island! The more NATIONAL election would also mean that the Senator Clinton would be more competitive in the South than her immediate predecessors. And right now, it looks like Rudy would win! (Thanks to Ivan K. for sending me this very enjoyable and discussable article.)

Powerline on D’Souza

Scott Johnson reviews Dinesh D’Souza’s new attempt to be provocative; this attempt may have forced him over the brink, in my opinion. Johnson doesn’t think highly of it, either. Note that the Powerline guys have a new blog at AOL.

Wilberforce of One

Sam Brownback, Wilberforce Republican? If Al Gore can have An Inconvenient Truth, why can’t Sam Brownback have Amazing Grace, the movie?

Of course, not everyone is happy with the movie. While the CT reviewer liked it quite a bit, Charlotte Allen thought it underplayed Wilberforce’s faith. The WaPo reviewer found it boring; the NYT reviewer, sort of liked it, despite himself, though he couldn’t help insisting upon the politically incorrect complications of Wilberforce’s career (his big sin was opposing trade unionism). The LAT review is surprisingly good, concluding in this way:

Despite all its good work, "Amazing Grace" has those risk factors, including how unfashionable academically the notion of great men influencing events currently is. But while historians such as Adam Hochschild feel that too much emphasis on Wilberforce obscures the importance of other anti-slavery forces and individuals, Hugh Thomas, author of "The Slave Trade," insists that Wilberforce’s achievement is "one more reminder that individuals can make history." It is this point of view that "Amazing Grace" embraces and makes its own.

Perhaps the reviewer had read
this column, by the EPPC’s Michael Cromartie, who reminds us that Mme de Stael had this to say about Wilberforce: "I have always heard that he was the most religious, but I now find that he is the wittiest man in England." Unfortunately, I don’t think you can say that about Sam Brownback.

Is Romney Already Washed Up?

If so, I’m a bit disappointed, because I haven’t made up MY mind about him yet. KJL of NRO says not, but only because it’s too early to give up on any candidate. She also acknowledges that Mitt had a bad enough week on the sincerity, authenticity, and consistency fronts that the question is worth asking. Kathryn quotes the opinion of our friend Larry that Mitt might be saved by his "puppy-dog quality" that makes whatever he’s saying at the time seem sincere. Perhaps she concedes too readily that Rudy’s manly, open deviations from Republican orthodoxy on the choice or life issues are more "authentic." She also calls attention to the view that thoughtful conservatives may end up surveying the existing candidates--good men all--and conclude that we really need someone else, if it’s not (and it almost surely is) too late.

Another Long-Shot: The Draft Fred Movement

Move over, Rudy. Fred Thompson is the real "Law and Order" candidate.

An Interview with the Genomics Man

Here are some very eloquent and controversial explanations and observations from Francis Collins. A number are directed against dogmatic atheists and dogmatic GENESIS literalists alike. He shows that you can be an orthodox Christian and know that evolution happened; "theistic evolution" in the loose (non-Hegelian, no implication of "intelligent design") sense he uses the phrase is not an oxymoron. He also shows that you can’t use what we really know about evolution to prove that God is dead. Unfortunately, he’s not quite a Thomist (his book shows his main theological influence to be C.S. Lewis), and few (on either side) are going to agree with his nuanced if finally incorrect view on embryos and research. He only hints at his scientific reason for opposing abortion. Collins is pretty much the most impressive scientist ever to testify bfore the Bioethics Council. He’s amazingly lucid, confident, and appropriately modest about what we can know and likely accomplish (a lot, but far from everything) through scientific research.

Guiliani’s Potential Appeal for Social Conservatives

I will offer no comment here--having exhausted this issue in previous posts--but offer this op-ed from Maggie Gallagher as evidence that Guiliani does have some potential to appeal to social conservatives--even on the life issue.

Declaration of Independence . . . what a bargain!

A man in Tennessee purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence for $2.48 at a local thrift store. Not knowing much about American history prior to his great find, he’s spent the last year devouring information about the Declaration. Although it’s worth about $250,000, he now has mixed feelings about selling it. Nice story.

Clinton vs. Obama

In case you hadn’t noticed, the fur has been flying between the Clinton and Obama camps.

In all this, a few nuggets stand out. First, there are David Geffen’s comments, which ought to be used over and over again by any Republican nominee, should HRC get the nomination:

What ignited the battle of words was an interview with Geffen in Wednesday’s New York Times by columnist Maureen Dowd, in which Geffen portrayed himself as disenchanted with both Clintons, their failure to always stand firm on principle and their style of political battle. "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it’s troubling," he said.

He called Bill Clinton "a reckless guy" who "gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country."


Asked if Obama would be able to stand up to the Clinton machine, Geffen said, "I hope so, because that machine is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective."

Then, there’s this account of the Clinton team’s motives in responding as they did:

By pulling Obama into the controversy, Clinton aides hoped to take the shine off a candidacy that has sparked surprising excitement, not only in Hollywood but among many Democratic activists across the country.

(I’ll add a chunk from the NYT article on this same point when the site comes back up; as I write this, it seems to be down.)

Also interesting is HRC campaign chair Terry McAuliffe’s bare-knuckle threat:

Her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, recently warned donors that Clinton would remember those who did not back her. "You are either with us, or you’re against us," McAuliffe told potential donors during a dinner at [Clinton supporter Haim] Saban’s house.

No nights in the Lincoln Bedroom for Obama supporters. And I guess in a Clinton Administration, they might expect to be audited by the IRS.

All of this damages HRC much more than Obama, though I think we’re seeing a glimpse of what’s to come should he begin to close the gap. Sit back and enjoy the show, if you can.

Update: Here’s the NYT chunk I couldn’t get off the web earlier this morning:

Other advisers said the Clinton camp was simply frustrated that Mr. Obama had received glowing media coverage, and was eager to call out his campaign for hypocrisy by contrasting the Geffen remarks with Mr. Obama’s pledge to be positive.

“Obama has gotten under the campaign’s skin for weeks now — especially his free ride in the media —and Hillary’s people were just waiting for their first chance to attack his image as Mr. Positive,” said one Clinton adviser who is not part of the day-to-day political operation.

Update #2: Slate’s John Dickerson thinks HRC is the winner here:

For the Clinton team, the Geffen remarks offered a chance to bait a trap. If they could goad Obama’s campaign into firing back, they could show that his soaring talk is just talk.

So, who won this round? Sen. Clinton. The Clinton team got exactly what they hoped for.

An Old Student at Home

I had lunch today with a friend, an old friend in both meanings. He is almost one hundred years old. His eyes that have seen so much are but of little use now, although his hearing is pretty good. His own self otherwise is in good shape. He walks with more care than most, a cane helps. But I especially note that if it is the mind that makes the body rich, then he is in all a wealthy man. His life has been good and long and happy. He is a delight to be with and it is his insights I want to mention (without doing them justice, I fear), rather than focus on his body’s coming end, mentioned only from time to time by his own self.

The conversation never flags, it is always interesting, logical, as well as insightful. I like talking with men who have lived long and been everywhere. They have seen much and they remember. The casual reference to things past appear as friendly reminders of something good and worthy and needing to be told only, it seems, for the sake of the hearer, rather than for the sake of self. The public world is discussed, as always, with intelligence and the broadest view possible. The petty rhetoric, the regret at the lack of depth of the candidates, their self-serving stances, and the silliness or mischief of the media’s coverage are touched on. Foreign affairs and the real briars of this earthly world are investigated. He reminds me (I’m only sixty, but already forget everything!) of a very good senior thesis he read a few years back on the Thought of Sayyid Qutb and how that explained as clearly as anything the problem with radical Islam. I listen well as he talks about religious freedom and the separation of church and state and why Islam may not get it and how it eventually might. There is always hope.

He always comes back to excellence and to the students and the education of Ashbrook Scholars and how there are two things he hopes they learn--he knows they do, he just reminds me. First, that words are thoughts and are the means to thoughts. The words we use are important and lasting and they matter. See things and understand them and by naming, explain them. Words are not wild and whirling. We have our good words and students should be introduced to them as originals and as thoughts in themselves and with consequence. Liberty means something, as does consent and limit. It is good that the word regime has been brought back from its misuse. Iraq seems to be in a civil war because it is in an extreme moment, a gap between regimes, as it were. Prudence should rule, if anything can. And Hillary says she would end it all immediately. Silly words those, he says, showing utter ignorance or dishonesty.

The second thing they should learn is the difference between excecutive power and legislative. And he means not only in the constitutional sense. He explains why governors are more likely to become presidents than are legislators. The power attaches to the character, the character is formed by the power, and the executive disposition is to do things. An executive is a doer, he follows things to the end. Doer is a good word. And when you do things you get things done and you also make mistakes. And then you undo those by doing again. This is hard, for each action has a consequence and it is you who are held accountable. So courage is involved, and that means confidence and that is important in a world at arms. This is serious stuff, having to do with cojones and purpose. The Americans are an executive people, by the way, he says. Look at us, look where we have been and how far we have come. We are doers.

So he likes us and our students because we have an understanding of words and deeds. Not bad for an old man, not bad at all. We just need a hundred more like him and then we can say more eloquently to a broader world: some talkers are good doers, they know what they do and even as we may even be eloquent in our actions, we know our purpose. I should have lunch with this proper man more often.

A Young Student in Europe

Having known no travel in her youth, Angie Cook, a Sophmore Ashbrook, is making up for it by roaming around Europe (although she will eventually, I hope, settle in Erfurt, Germany, for the semester) and she is blogging. She delivers unvarnished tales, full of charm and insight. And those of us who have been there and done that with similar dispositions and pleasures will remember our old selves and our glimpse of newness. Have a look and wish her well. Bon voyage, Angie!

McCain on Rummy

"I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," said Sen. McCain. Even though this is not the first sign of criticism from McCain, it is too absolute and will not serve him well with circa 30-40% of GOP primary voters. Bad move, in my opinion.

Podcast on Shakespeare

I talked briefly, nay, all-too-briefly, with Professor Paul Cantor about Shakespeare. Also, read his very fine essay, "Playwright of the Globe," in the latest issue of the CRB.

Spy diversity

This article on the swearing in of Mike McConnell, the new national director of intellience is nothing special, I just thought the title of it, ""Bush urges diversity in spy recruitment was odd. It turns out what diversity has to do with is "a dearth of operatives who speak critical languages, such as Arabic or Farsi."

The 90s show

A friend sent me this piece about future Academy Award and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in waiting. Now if only Newt Gingrich would get the Republican nomination....

The leftist netroots and, er, moderate Democrats

This long and interesting WsPo article offers an account of the tense relationship between the netroots and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who passes for a moderate in her party. They’re gunning for her because she hasn’t expressed support for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. If she doesn’t move closer to their line, she can expect a primary challenge in 2008. None of this makes Democrats who actually want to win more elections and govern very happy.

Kennedy and Romney on the Separation of Faith and Politics

Here’s a long, interesting, and informative article by a Catholic writer critical of the ease with which President Kennedy separated his faith from his political life. He was, in truth, a poor Catholic and maybe a true believer in generic American Deism. Kennedy readily reassured many Americans that rigorous separationism was no big deal at all for him, and that didn’t bother Catholics much because the "faith-based" issues of his time were pretty boring--such as federal aid to parochial schools and recognizing the Vatican as a country. But today’s issues--many of which center around judicial activism--are far more fundamental, complex and insistent, and Cuomo’s and Kerry’s poor or indifferent Catholicism alienated them, with good reason, from orthodox adherents to their faith.

Romney can’t and won’t lie by saying he’s a bad Mormon or that his faith can be reduced to generic American Deism. He can’t and shouldn’t follow Kennedy’s less-than-exemplary lead by taking refuge in personal strict separationism. He will have to say that his public-policy positions that have a basis in belief are also defensible through reason, and so he’ll have to move in the direction of a sort of Mormon Thomism.

Scalia north of the border

Last week, Antonin Scalia spoke at this conference in Montreal. The reporter couldn’t help but use forms of "attack," "mock," and "ridicule" to characterize our hero’s contribution to the "good-natured but hard-fought debate" over the role of judges in a democracy.

Hat tip: John von Heyking.

Guantanamo detainee decision

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the 2006 Military Commissions Act denied Guantanamo detainees the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. I haven’t had time to read the 59 page (25 pages, with 34 of dissent) decision yet.

Senate Democrats want to restore the privilege, among other things, but I doubt they’d have the votes to override President Bush’s (predictable? hoped-for?) veto.

Update: Here’s an interesting passage from the court’s opinion, quoting from Johnson v. Eisentrager, a 1950 case dealing with German nationals ("nonresident enemy aliens"), captured, tried, and convicted in China and held in occupied Germany after WWII:

If the Fifth Amendment confers its rights on all the world except Americans engaged in defending it, the same must be true of the companion civil-rights Amendments, for none of them is limited by its express terms, territorially or as to persons. Such a construction would mean that during military occupation irreconcilable enemy elements, guerrilla fighters, and "werewolves" could require the American Judiciary to assure them freedoms of speech, press, and assembly as in the First Amendment, right to bear arms as in the Second, security against "unreasonable" searches and seizures as in the Fourth, as well as rights to jury trial as in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.


It is almost forty this morning, the air smells warm.

I do like this one, Flammonde, by E.A. Robinson. Listen to it.

Scalia as the leader of the pack?

The LAT’s David Savage worries that in the current session, Scalia could be more influential.

Through the looking glass on Iraq politics

Tod Lindberg describes the Democrats’ political dilemma over Iraq and E.J. Dionne, Jr. channels it. The agreement stops at the recognition that it’s all about Bush.

Update: Rich Lowry has the best line in a very sober assessment of where we’re headed: "The subconscious logic of [the Democrats’] position on the war has thus taken a subtle turn. It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end."

It’s his story and he’s sticking to it

The LAT did a little digging into a story from Barack Obama’s first memoir, and found a few people whose memories are different from his own. The Politico’s Ben Smith notes that the Obama campaign has released a detailed response (the link in Smith’s article is wrong):

Typically, reporters take a thin-skinned reaction like this as blood in the water, a sign to dig deeper into, in this case, his memoir. Though perhaps in the new we-shall-not-be-Swiftboated conventional wisdom, this is the appropriate response.

If nothing else, it is confirmation of how fast the relationship between the media darling and the media is going downhill.

Hmmm. Stay tuned.

Update: This piece suggests the rapid response is part of a strategy. Obama, however, may be regretting the way he wrote that first book, since his claims are going to generate a lot of backward-looking energy.


GWB gets it right. Hat tip: Wheat and Weeds.

Movie reminder

Amazing Grace, the movie, opens this Friday. I blogged about a pre-release showing I saw last month. My wife has actually seen it already for a second time, at another pre-release showing hosted by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and his wife. We’ll likely see it in theaters at least once more apiece, and then purchase the DVD.

This NYT piece offers a little background on production, and suggests something of the film world’s resistance to a more straightforwardly religious movie, though I’m more satisfied with it than is Get Religion’s Mollie Ziegler Hemingway.

If you want more on which to chew, here’s Charles Colson’s homily on the movie and CT’s special section devoted to the film, with a review to be posted on opening day.

Pizza Box Football

First of all, those of you who dislike posts that don’t have to do with politics are advised to stop reading immediately.

Like many football fans, my wife and I are in the post-season dumps. A friend recommended something called Pizza Box Football, a board game in which any NFL matchup can be simulated with the use of dice and charts. Now, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, having been a gaming dweeb since junior high. My wife needed more convincing, but since she’s even more into football than I am, I got her to sit down for a game yesterday. We chose two teams at random--she got the Seahawks, I the Buccaneers. It was slow going at first while we both grappled with the rules, but the learning curve wasn’t terribly steep, and we had a lot of fun. The game manages to simulate quite a bit with rules that aren’t terribly complex. Things aren’t based purely on chance; you need to select plays based on what you think your opponent is likely to do, and the clock is constantly a factor. Our matchup saw numerous field goal attempts (some successful), several sacks, a couple of fumbles (one recovered by the owning team, the other by the opponent), and an interception.

Oh, and the result: Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 14. Seattle has certain built-in advantages--a very strong running and short-passing game. That’s where the strategy comes in--if you know the opponent’s strengths, you can plan your defense accordingly. I’m already looking forward to our next game....

Washington’s letter of resignation as commander in chief

All honor to George Washington! From today’s WaPo: "It was a a speech so moving the crowd wept. It was a speech so personally important George Washington’s hand shook as he read it until he had to hold the paper still with both hands. After the ceremony, he handed the thing to a friend and sped out the door of the State House in Annapolis, riding off by horse." The speech has been kept by a family for all these years, and now the state of Maryland has bought it.
Read the speech on line on our site, and say Thank You to the general.

Political speech in higher ed

I can’t believe that anyone is supporting the proposal described here. And I can’t believe that it would survive a lawsuit, which it shouldn’t.

Update: Stanley Kurtz calls it "one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever heard of." John J. Miller calls it "an extraordinarily bad idea." David Horowitz doesn’t like it either. David French thinks that that the constitutional issues are more complicated:

[T]he university itself has the academic freedom to order its professors to stick to their subjects (i.e. the university can prevent professors from taking time out from English Literature for a discussion of the Iraq War), but it cannot interfere with the “instructor’s freedom to express her views on the assigned course.” In other contexts, the ability of the state to limit the explicit, on-the-job political activity of its employees is unquestioned.

For many years, university professors have enjoyed a measure of academic freedom that is actually greater in scope than the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Persistent and arrogant abuse of that freedom is going to invariably lead legislatures and universities themselves to begin to roll back professors’ expressive autonomy. Sadly, the university establishment seems oblivious to the fact that their own abuses are leading them down the road of regulation, and they seem blissfully unaware that their employers have far more power over their expression than they dare to think.

Will the Republicans Lose Their Religious Edge?

Here’s a fairly muddled article by our friend Gary Rosen that predicts and hopes that the Democratic candidate may actually be more religiously attuned that the Republican one in 2008. Giuliani and McCain, the thinking goes, seem and probably are less pious than Obama and Senator Clinton. I don’t think Hillary has the capability really to "sell" her faith. But Obama, we have to admit, seems (in the way he talks) and probably is more religious than Giuliani and McCain, and that fact or appearance may move religiously observant voters, especially if they think that there’s no reliable social conservative in the race anyway. It surely isn’t in the electoral interest of the Republicans that the faith gap be closed, especially when they aren’t faring so well on other fronts.

Let me add my own quite questionable social science research. I interviewed a small number of Presidential Scholar candidates at Berry College last week. They were, with one exception, obviously devout and very smart middle-class white southern Christian kids. I asked them who should be elected president in 2008. The name most mentioned was Hillary Clinton, and always in a negative way. The only other name mentioned at all--several times--was Obama, each time in a positive way for his hopeful and inspirational message. I mentioned Giuliani and McCain on occasion to fill the silence and got no response.

So all in all, there are reasons for thinking that Giuliani (competence, toughness, eloquence, likeability, experience) would be the strongest Republican candidate. But others point more and more to Romney as the strongest and smartest faith-based or inspirational candidate. The spectre of Obama, among oother things, calls into question the extent to which social or religious conservatives can be taken for granted.

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss, the WaPo reports, with some sense of irony. Hat tip: SDP.

Clean and Frail

More snow today. I felt sorry for my car, washed her twice. Otherwise, a lazy reading day with some cigars, and some driving. Plenty of poetry, most clean and tight, yet heavy words, some scald like molten lead; some mad compositions. Here is two by A.E. Housman:

To an Athlete Dying Young and When I was one-and-twenty. Then try speaking these by Edwin Arlington Robinson: Leonora , The Unforgiven, and Richard Corey. If that’s not enough, try Der Tod, das Ist by heinrich Heine. And then this by Endre Ady, Ver es Arany (Blood and Gold). Sorry, no translation from the Hungarian to be found. The first few lines, roughly put: "It’s the same to my ears whether passion pants or gold clatters/ I assert and know that this is all, and else in vain/ blood and gold, blood and gold." One more from E.A. Robinson: Be still, my soul, be still. It should stop snowing tomorrow.

Presidents’ Day free-for-all

To gratify Steve Thomas, here’s the busy Lincoln thread. And here’s a two-year old post raising the question of whether the abomination we’re celebrating (or is it just noticing?) tomorrow is Presidents Day, President’s Day, or Presidents’ Day. This site says that it’s officially still Washington’s Birthday (at least at the federal level), though some states officially call it P Day. More here and here.

Lowry on Diggins on Reagan

NR’s Rich Lowry reviews John Patrick Diggins’ book on RWR, last noted here, when George F. Will sermonized on its basis.

Lowry gets the consistency in Reagan’s approach to the USSR, well-documented here, with a sample here. But for me this is the most interesting and problematical part of Lowry’s review:

True enough, in a way. It has often been remarked that America doesn’t have a European-style conservative tradition, devoted to defending the prerogatives of an established church or aristocracy. American conservatives like Reagan have always sought instead to conserve the habits and institutions of classical liberalism. And yet, in the contemporary context, Reagan’s anti-statism — no matter how hopeful and optimistic its packaging — made him unmistakably a conservative.

Diggins seems blinded by Reagan’s sunniness, which, in this interpretation, was not just a matter of temperament, but reflective of a deep philosophical and religious conviction. Reagan, Diggins maintains, sought to rid “America of a God of judgment and punishment.” This is absurd. Reagan had a charitable view of human nature and a relaxed, nonjudgmental air, but there is no denying his deeply felt social conservatism. He wrote — as a sitting president, no less — the anti-abortion tract “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.”

Does Lowry understand how fraught with tension a conservativism that takes its orientation from the (ultimately "progressive") "habits and institutions of classical liberalism" is? And how "anti-statism" is hardly a proxy for conservatism, unless you think that that classical liberalism suffices as a definition of conservatism? I can’t tell if Lowry wants to explain (away) Reagan’s optimism as a matter of "temperament," in which case "a charitable view of human nature and a relaxed nonjudgmental air" amount to personality traits, rather than important bases of a well-thought out (or at least semi-coherent) position. They may be no more than characterological reflexes, which at least frees us from having to puzzle out their systematic connection with the rest of RWR’s thought. Or they may be more intimately connected with Reagan’s particular "fusion," in which case we may have to take seriously the ways in which his conservatism isn’t (and can’t be) thoroughgoing.

In either case, Reagan may not be a workable model for contemporary conservatives, either because his disposition is hard, if not impossible, to duplicate, or because his position isn’t altogether coherent. Does Reagan demonstrate the impossibility of a genuinely American "genuine conservatism"?

A penny for everyone’s thoughts.

Human Dignity and Transhumanism

Leon Kass and Ronald Bailey have, of course, very divergent views on the challenge transhumanism poses to human dignity. Here’s Bailey’s side of the story, with a link to Kass’s side. Permit me to say I think they’re both wrong. Bailey is naive about what the biotechnological project to turn human beings into something better could conceivably accomplish, either on the happiness or the dignity front. Kass worries too much about the very future of our dignity; all that Brave New World stuff contradicts what we’ve seen so far about human nature’s capacity to be screwed up but not obliterated by techno-manipulation. See, for example, Ronald W. Dworkin (no, not THE famous D), ARTIFICIAL HAPPINESS (Carol and Graf, 2006), which chronicles the effort by M.D.’s, led by family practitioners, to turn human happiness into an engineering problem, by detaching it from the real events of one’s life.

According to Dworkin: "Yet the inexplicable human spirit has eluded them; doctors have utterly misjudged human beings. And nothing is more tellng than the fact that doctors, despite all their accomplishments, remain unable to answer the most basic question of life, the question that gives life its coherence and when answered makes happiness and contentment possible. That question is: How should one live?"

Actually, I think that edifying statement is a bit corny and simple. So let me also give you Dworkin’s account of "the Happy Senior," the American-to-come who has spent his life sort of artifically happy on Prozac:
"...the Happy Senior’s heart is wholly unacquainted with life’s tribulations, leaving him unprepared for the crisis now upon him. With nothing in his inner experience to comfort him, he falls back on
more medication....This works for a time, but eventually the Happy Senior’s health worsens and the ends looms. The Happy Senior struggles psychologically in a way that he never has before. Panicking, he thinks to himself: I will cease to be; I will die; all that I value in life will die; my happiness will die; I should not die; yet I am dying. He tries to hide’s death approach with more medication, but no amount of Artificial Happiness works; he knows his annihilation is imminent. He seeks consolation in religion’s idea of a happy life, but medical science has governed his whole outlook on life and the lie is too hard to him to swallow. In the end, unable to uphold any delusion and now quite afraid, the Happy Senior reaches for death the way some people, fearing for their lives, commit suicide to escape torture."

Wrestling and clever editing

I’m at the airport in Miami yesterday drinking a latte, thinking cigar, but sitting next to a lovely woman; we talked a bit. Eventually, I start glancing at the New York Times. I look at the front page headlines and, as always, don’t begin reading the articles that are unsurprising: "A Divided House Denounces Plan for More Troops," "Italy Indicts 26, Many from CIA, in ’03 Abduction," "Furor Over Push for a Cervical Cancer Vaccine," and one on McCain, on Iran, and so on. My eye lands on

In Twist for High School Wrestlers: Girl Beats Boy. Still on the front page, below the fold, I begin reading. It has to do with a 103 pound wrestler named Jessica Bennett who is very good at the craft. She racks up points (against a boy), as the boys’ teamates "look down at their feet." I note their shame. The piece seems to describe a bawdy sport, hinging on the pornographic, describing who is mounting who, which leg is being held and where, how the boy is riding the girl’s back, and then almost a kind of lust stirring up a desperate courage, seeming to beat low nature back. She wins the point.

Into the article more, I notice that the woman next to me marks that I am growling and huffing and puffing. I had to explain. Talked about boys and girls, men and women, and the possible differences. She admitted some, and also said she understood the boys’ shame. Physical strength is all they have left now, she said. And maybe not even that. No longer the weaker vessels, these young women, but ladies no more. What will they do? What will the boys do when they cannot be called Andrews? Maybe Jessica has a way out for us, I read aloud to my neighbor what "soft-spoken Jessica" says near the end of the article: "Boys have a lot of testosterone and they’re stronger, so when I win it’s on technique. Hopefully, I can outwit them." This might be high nature reasserting itself, so I end the article being less pessimistic and I note to my new lady friend that it is Jessica herself--a fifteen year old--who understands. Hope reasserted itself.

But I do note this morning, in re-reading the very same article on-line that that comment from Jessica, as it appeared in the paper version of the New York Times, has been removed from the on-line version. I wonder why, and I wonder if Jessica would approve.