Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Gays not Happy with eHarmony

The Gay lobby is suing eHarmony for discrimination because it is exclusively heterosexual in its scope.

Homeschooling and state regulation

Over at PrawfsBlawg, they’ve been discussing this paper arguing for a state constitutional duty to "regulate homeschooling to ensure that
parents provide their children with a basic minimum education and check
rampant forms of sexism
." The paper

highlights the legal distinctness of parents and children and emphasizes that parental control over children’s basic education flows from the state (rather than vice versa). States delegate power over children’s basic education to parents, and the delegation itself is necessarily subject to constitutional constraints.

Caricaturing the pro-homeschooling argument as depending upon parental "ownership" of children (naturally, no documentary evidence to back up that ridiculous claim), Northwestern University law professor Kimberly Yuracko contends that, in effect, the family is a creature of the state and that parental rights and responsibilities depend almost entirely upon state decisions, though she generously concedes that "[p]arents do have
constitutionally protected liberty interests in their relationship with their

She further argues that the regulatory regime she supports is not a matter of policy, but rather a matter of constitutionally-mandated necessity, which it would have to be since, as she concedes, virtually all the politicking on this issue follows from parental concerns. She naturally focuses on the well-organized efforts of homeschoolers (led by Michael Farris’ Home School Legal Defense Association), but I can’t imagine any effort to legislate along the lines she suggests, following the theory she offers, winning support among any but the most collectivized and complaisant parents. We have a natural intuition that our relationship with our children is natural and primary. This isn’t right-wing "Christianist" homeschool ideology; this is parenthood.

Rick Garnett, who called my attention to this piece, recommends one of his own essays as a counterbalance. I’d add an article by Yale’s Stephen Carter, "Religious Freedom As If Family Matters," which appeared in the University of Detroit-Mercy Law Review in 2000 (sorry, no link; find it at lexisnexis).

The Pill’s Creator Predicts New Twist in Creation

The Daily Mail runs this interesting interview/article where the creator of the birth control pill, Carl Djerassi, makes predictions about how conception will be handled 50 years from now. The article has this funny gem: Women, especially, romanticise the moment they conceived," he says, "but the truth is many don’t actually know. And besides, is it such a high price to pay for a healthy child born at a time that is right for the mother?"

That’s funny. Romanticizing the moment of conception? I suppose that is a very odd habit of us silly women . . . It’s nice that we have a sensible, rational man like Dr. Djerassi looking out for our frail, irrational mental health. Why didn’t we think of this defrosting alternative before? It’s so much more appealing than the old-fashioned way of conception. Rather like cooking dinner--though, of course, without the spice.

Polish man out of 19 year coma

A man in Poland went into a come in 1988. He just awoke. During that whole time his wife insisted that he be cared for as if he would recover. He knows this, and now knows that communism is dead: "When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol lines were everywhere. Now I see people on the streets with cell phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin."

Dogs as Lovers

dain, in one of our threads, presents the amazing devotion of Bobby as evidence that the difference between human and canine love is only a matter of degree. It is a remarkable story--no matter how embellished it has become--and worth our attention. There are certainly some senses in which dogs can be better friends than other people, and I’m sure many of you will at least welcome an opportunity to speak well of your pets.

Let’s Turn the Clock Back to 1972!

That’s George Will’s pro-Giuliani advice. That means that social conservatives should forget about their their progressively more ineffectual and unfashionable concerns about abortion and homosexuality and embrace the most competent competent candidate--the only guy who could defeat the competent Hillary in November. Conservatives, for their own good, should imaginatively return to a time when they weren’t abortion-obsessed in order to take a broader view of our country need now.

George is right that the voters will be reacting big-time in some or way another against the president’s perceived incompetence in 2008. But isn’t the social conservative objection to Giuliani that he’s against turning the clock back to 1972--the year before ROE v. WADE disfigured our country’s political life? In 1972, abortion and same-sex marriage weren’t compelling as national issues because nobody much imagined that they could be resolved in an extreme, national way by the Court. In 1972, abortion policy, as George observes, was the product of legislative compromise on a state-by-state basis.

What Rudy needs to do to unite his party in a way that might produce victory in November is to explain why it’s right--constitutionally correct-- that he should appoint judges that would take us back to 1972. For now, he and George seem to agree that judicial restraint means putting the controversy the Court caused behind us by regarding ROE, as the Court claimed in PLANNED PARENTHOOD, as a watershed precedent that must remain undistrubed.

Will may well be right that most states wouldn’t restrict abortion much and that American opinion is progressing in a direction that will produce public acceptance of same-sex marriage. But it still makes a lot of difference whether such issues are resolved by the people’s moral deliberation and legislation or by judicial fiat that marginalizes much of our country.

Refugees to Europe

This article is titled Europe’s Shame. Here is a photo. : "This is the latest snapshot from the killing seas of the southern Mediterranean, the stretch of water at the European Union’s southern gate that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says ’has become like the Wild West, where human life has no value any more and people are left to their fate’."

Europe, not dead yet

Gerard Baker is inclined to be optimistic. Yet, as he mentions Walter Laquer’s new book, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, he is inclined to be persuaded toward pessimism. In the meantime, the future and the present connect. In the UK, imams are encouraged to give citizenship lessons, while the Germans--given that they only work 35 hours per week--have time to ponder their brain drain, the biggest since the 1940’s. As a footnote (in the George Anastaplo sense) allow me to recommend the cover story by Paul Berman (not on line, go buy it!) in the current The New Republic on Tariq Ramadan, a native of Switzerland, a professor at Oxford, and a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and also one of the most interesting and wily of European thinkers. I’m a pessimist on this one.

Addendum: The TNR essay on Tariq Ramadan is available on line here. Thanks, Joe.

Israel’s Future

Here’s a fascinating and provocative article about the future of Israel. A key part of its message: That country’s main worry isn’t a nuclear weapon launched from Iran. Another concerns the connection between demography and destiny. I don’t know enough to judge the specific claims made here, but maybe you do.

The Future Is Looking Better

...Saletan reports, because not so many people are retiring. And soon every man might be able to have something given by nature only to just about every woman. Now if only the animals would stop farting...

Ashbrook Center

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Peggy Noonan Accuses the Presidents Bush

...of both being "great wasters of political inheritance." She does have some evidence.

Brooks on Thompson

David Brooks clearly likes Fred Thompson, but wonders whether his back-to-Republican-basics message can be a winner in November, 2008 and, more importantly, whether,by itself, it’s adequate to the challenges we face.

If I were a political consultant I would tell my candidate to play up Thompson’s back-to-basics theme. This is a traumatized party, not in the mood for anything risky and new. But over the long run, back to basics is no solution because it doesn’t produce a positive agenda for today’s problems.

Fred Thompson’s political skills are as good as anybody now running, but his challenge is going to be building a concrete agenda on his anti-Washington message. It will be translating his Goldwater risorgimento philosophy into policies on energy, health care reform, Islamic extremism and education. For if there is one thing the last 30 years have taught us, it is that campaigns that are strictly anti-Washington do not command 50 percent of the vote because they don’t address the decentralized global challenges that now face us.

Perhaps, as my friend Daniel Casse notes, what the G.O.P. needs is Newt Gingrich’s brain lodged in Fred Thompson’s temperament.

Apropos of this last wisecrack, someone should ask the WaPo’s
Eugene Robinson why he isn’t in a hurry to endorse Gingrich for President. I’d bet he could outwonk Gore any day.

Happy Birthday Brigham Young, Marillyn Monroe, and Walt Whitman (June 1)!

Each of these strange and wonderful Americans dsplayed a distinctive feature of our nation’s liberty and could not have been from anywhere else. I would even say that Brigham and Walt are the most impressive representatives of the two most influential forms of religion that originated on our soil. Is there an American poet with a heart large enough to love them both? I could say something now about Marilyn’s heart, but I won’t.

Darwin and Traditional Conservatism

Our friend Larry writes that Mark Henrie’s liberal conservatism fuses the best Burkean elements of Kirk and Hayek to do justice to the natural (evolutionary?) limits of our individual liberty. Liberal conservatism aims to "keep Locke in the Locke box" to conserve what makes life worth living. Question for discussion: What are the key differences between liberal conservatism (Henrie) and conservative liberalism (Berkowitz)?

Evangelicals, Mormons, and wise Turks

Aside from reminding us of a very clever Lutherism, this piece on Mitt and the evangelicals doesn’t cover much new ground. But it ought to lead conservative Christians to the conclusion that there might actually be less theological distance between them and the Mormons than between them and certain sorts of liberal Christians. In other words, the closeness in moral stance and social policy isn’t the only sort of closeness between conservative or theologically orthodox Christians and Mormons.

George Will joins the party

In his characteristically elegant and incisive way, Will limns the differences between liberals and conservatives. Here’s the core of his argument:

Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism’s ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party’s interest in pleasing its most powerful faction -- public employees and their unions. Conservatism’s rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today’s proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes -- a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living -- that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenue in an aging society, requires.

Social issues, he says, should be left to "moral federalism," and in international affairs, conservatives should [eschew]... the fatal conceit that has been liberalism’s undoing domestically -- hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled."

One question I would pose to him concerns whether he thinks we have a "civil society" sufficiently healthy to cultivate and sustain the attitudes necessary for "dignified living in an economically vibrant society." Connected with that is another question: to what degree does the "economically vibrant society" undermine some of the attitudes necessary for its own sustenance? Some conservatives aren’t necessarily as willing to embrace and celebrate the market as GFW is.

Mad as Hell

But not funny as hell. And praise (scroll down) for our brilliant threadpersons. They’ve also been discussing the conservative "big three" issue on NRO’s Corner, but not with our class or depth. We manage to do more justice to both Strauss and Kirk, for example.

The Sad Spectacle of Cindy Sheehan

I have read her letter of resignation and listened to the much of the commentary about America not being the country that she loves . . . fine, but this is no shock, is it? I am more struck by something in her remarks that I think is illustrative about the left and of the kind of people that such thinking attracts. Cindy said that she is abandoning her protest more because of the criticism she is getting from those within her world than from those outside of it. In her words, "The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. . . . However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used."

That is a fair enough point. It is a point that many on the right have been wondering she would absorb for a long time . . . the blowback from the mainstream Dems was inevitable. But this, in itself, is not what I find so interesting about Sheehan’s statement.

After a dissertation about her views on the nature and future of representative democracy and the merits of the two party system, she offers us this: I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

That, it seems, is the nub of the matter. Cindy does not like human nature. She actually thought that she and her friends could change it because they understand the way things ought to be better than anybody else. She is angry because she is learning that even on the left she so naively admired before she began this campaign, people are the same all around. Egos have to be massaged, money has to be made and spent, decisions have to be made, and--in the words of the Rolling Stones--you can’t always get what you want. Even if you really, really want them and even if you know you’re smarter than everybody else in the room. So Cindy has decided that the best the left has to offer in the realm of practical politics is nothing more than a warmed-over Republican. They can’t achieve the true aims of the peace movement or the real left.

We on the right, have our share of those who make similar charges about our Republican leaders--they’re sacrificing conservative ideals and so forth . . . but even among the most angry of these responses there is usually something different in the critique. There is still (usually) a recognition, somewhere, of the human problem underneath the surface of the charge and there is usually still some determination on the part of the critic to continue on and accept his lumps. But Cindy has had enough and she, like Rosie, is packing it in for a more "normal" life. At least for now. God bless her . . . I hope she gets what she needs.

Mark Henrie on Traditionalist Conservatism

Here’s the essay that has been discussed and linked in the thread below. Carl correctly calls it "simply authoritative," and it is beautifully written. So let’s let Mark focus our thoughts on "the conservative mind" today.

The Future of Conservatism

I just received my copy of Charles W. Dunn’s edited volume, The Future of Conservatism, with essays by, among others, George Nash, Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., James W. Ceaser, Michael Barone, Dan Mahoney, someone named Lawler, and Bill Kristol. I promise a formal review, somewhere, sometime soon. It’s on top of my pile.

Thucydides and thymos

Here’s some stream of consciousness rambling from Maureen Dowd, the first fruit of my excursion behind the TimesSelect firewall. A snippet:

With cold realism, Thucydides captured the Athenian philosophy in the 27-year war that led to its downfall as a golden democracy: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

What message can we take away from Thucydides for modern times?

“To me,” Professor Kagan said, “the deepest message, the most tragic, is his picture of civilization as a very thin veneer. When you punch a hole in it, what you find underneath is hollow, the precivilized characteristics of the human race — animalistic in the worst possible way.”

Compared to Iraq, the Peloponnesian War was a cakewalk[!?!].

Dowd gets a critique of "hubris and imperial overreaching" from Thucydides. I wrote in a somewhat different vein

All the news that’s fit....

If you have a .edu email address, click here for access to TimesSelect material.

Just a Thought . . .

Now that Jack Kevorkian is set to be free and Rosie O’Donnell is leaving the View . . . the natural question is this: Why not have old Jack replace her and finally give that show the medicine it deserves?

Happy Birthday G.K. Chesterton!

One of the very best 20th century Thomists and an exceptionally penetrating and entertaining writer. From an NLT perspective, readers should begin with ORTHODOXY and WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA (which is the second best book written by a foreign observer about our country and is actually much closer to Harry Jaffa in letter and spirit than Tocqueville is).

You ask, we respond

Here’s a link to Jim Ceaser’s essay from May, 2006, and to a transcript of the discussion it provoked. Here are two previous posts. My TAE Online essay should be here, but the site is currently down and may be down for the count. For what it’s worth, here’s the Google cache of my essay.

Another commencement address

This one, by Leon Kass at St. John’s College, Annapolis. It is very much worth reading as it canvasses our biotechnological challenges in a manner that Johnnies would find congenial.    

Hat tip: Our friend, RC2.

Are Most People too Dumb to Think Like Economists?

That’s what one study shows, and what Pat Deneen denies. (Click on Pat’s NYT link for the study.) Actually, Pat doesn’t deny the inability of most people to think like economists. It’s just that economists aren’t as smart as they think they are. Once again, Dr. Pat is somewhat too promiscuous in his anti-capitalist moralism, but he’s always worth our attention.

The Conspiracy IS Unraveling

Two items in the press today are worth noting for their confluence near the heart of the grand strategy of the VRWC: Peter Berkowitz muses in the Wall Street Journal about why the Left doesn’t exhibit much debate about fundamental political ideas any more, while the Right is constantly engaged in internal debate between its various factions. This is not a new theme--Jonah Goldberg has been reflecting on this for some time now--but Peter offers some hypotheses worth considering, namely, that Bush has, quite simply, driven the Left out of its mind. (In passing, I note that while Berkowitz discusses Russell Kirk, F.A.Hayek and Leo Strauss as providing the core teachings for the three mains strains of conservatism, the Wall Street Journal only includes a photo of Hayek with the article. Is this a not-so-subtle sign of where the WSJ editorial page aligns itself??)

Meanwhile, the WaPo’s Richard Cohen calls Bush a "neoliberal," noting that the apparent failure of the Iraq war "will be cited to smother any liberal impulse in American foreign policy" for years to come. Hmmm. Cohen is getting dangerously close to the heart of the matter, which is that Bush is secretly a liberal double-agent, designed to discredit what remains of liberalism by adopting some of its historical themes, while driving liberals out of their minds at the same time. Reagan got liberals to abhor deficit spending, which bequesthed us the relatively sensible economic policy of Clinton. Now Bush is killing Wilson-FDR-JFK liberal internationalism. And liberals don’t see it. Intellectual liberalism is unreflective, and in the post-Bush era political liberalism will likely be incoherent. Time for Cheney’s goons to. . .

Reforming the University

Here’s a new website from the Manhattan Institute that promises to be a good place to wage war against assessment excesses, Spellings, and various other outrages.

A Dutch Kidney Game

Here’s the scoop on the the Big Donor show, which highlights desperate competition over a scarce human resource. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Berkowitz on the Conservative Mind Today

Peter explains that all Amrican conservatives love liberty and want to defend what’s best about liberal democracy as a form of government. But they’re divided on not only how best to preserve liberty, but on what human liberty is and what it is for. Peter presents the thought of three conservative giants--Hayek, Kirk, and Strauss--as sources of our three most important conservative intellectual factions. But here are a few problems among many: Hayek denied that he was a conservative; Kirk presented his conservatism as going against the American grain, and for Strauss the relationship between his devotion to classical natural right (living according to nature) and anti-Aristotelian or modern natural rights (based on the conquest or mastery of nature) is far from clear. And the Kirkians object to the Straussian jump from the classics to the moderns without any sustained account of the contributions of Roman law and Christian insight to our complex understanding of human liberty as unfaithful to our historical experience. The Straussians, meanwhile, respond that the Kirkians take refuge in tradition and piety to escape a real confrontation with the quite untraditional crisis of our time. More generally: Is it really true that Hayek, Kirk, and Strauss are our "big three" when it comes to our conservative thought?

Was it really thirty years ago?

Since Peter’s out today, I thought I’d take the liberty of calling your attention to something I wrote over the weekend about the immense positive impact that Star Wars had on my childhood.

Last night the History Channel ran a program called "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed", which detailed the mythical imagery that made the films so powerful. It was far from perfect; it spent entirely too much time on the vastly-inferior second trilogy, and never even mentioned how profoundly George Lucas was influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress. Still, it was well worth viewing, particularly when Steven Colbert recalled how difficult it was at school the next day to describe the movie to his classmates.

A Bush Secretary of Education criticizes a Bush Secretary of Education

Last Friday, Lamar Alexander gave a speech in which he criticized the Spellings Commission. Here’s the core of his argument:

Instead of debating how many more regulations we need, if we really are serious about excellence and opportunity, we should be debating which regulations we can get rid of.

The question is whether you believe that excellence in higher education comes from institutional autonomy, markets, competition, choice for students, federalism and limited federal regulation or whether you don’t.

I believe it does. In fact, I have spent most of my public career arguing that we should borrow these principles from higher education where we have excellence and try them in k-12 where we too often don’t.

The other important point he made is that the changes proposed by the Spellings Commission are so sweeping that they should be initiated (if at all) legislatively, not administratively, as the DoE is attempting.

I’m giving him a quiet little standing ovation at my keyboard.


Andrew Ferguson lionizes a real amateur historian, James O. Hall. I am now, by the way, some seventy pages into Ferguson’s Land of Lincoln and I like it, although wish there would be more grit and sap to it.

Swiss minarets

Some prominent members of the Swiss People’s Party, the largest party in the country, want a national referendum on whether more minarets may be built. Just over 4% of the Swiss population is Muslim. Only two mosques have minarets (Zurich and Geneva), but the call to prayer is not made from these minarets. This, by Algis Valiunas, is related.

Computer War

I mentioned the Russia-Estonia computer war a week ago, now there is a bit more in today’s International Herald Tribune.

Saletan’s Period Piece

Here’s our most astute scientific commentator on the bloodless revolution. The feminists contend that menstruation can hardly be called the the natural condition of women, and Saletan reminds us of the most natural way to avoid regular periods. Arguably the new pill is technological liberation from a chronic condition that was also a social, technological construction. William also observes that the main reason women may find for liberating themselves from cylical tyranny is pleasing men by not inconveniencing them with their particularly female troubles.

Death and Politics

According to Jody Bottum the Hobbesian-Heideggerian focus on fear or anxiety in the face of one’s own death as the source of political life is a misinterpretation of human experience. The grief that comes with the death of others and "shared dead" are the true foundatons of human community, as well as the source of much of our killling. I actually don’t quite buy much of the article, but it is well worth discussing--maybe especially on Memorial Day.

AALE update

Thanks to our friend the Friar, here’s the latest on the American Academy for Liberal Education. Since the article in The Chronicle is only available temporarily, I’m quoting the principal paragraphs directly:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has agreed to revoke the key accreditation authority of the American Academy for Liberal Education, upholding the recommendation of a federal advisory body that criticized the academy’s enforcement of academic standards.

The decision bars the academy from accrediting any new institutions or programs, effective July 10. Colleges need accreditation from organizations like the academy for their students to remain eligible for federally guaranteed student loans.


Ms. Spellings, in a letter dated April 30 but released by the department only on Thursday, said she agreed with the department’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity that the American Academy for Liberal Education had repeatedly failed to meet federal operating guidelines established in 1965.

"The AALE has been cited consistently for either not having clear expectations or standards with respect to measuring student outcomes, or not collecting and reviewing data on how institutions it accredits measure student outcomes according to these policies," the secretary wrote in the letter.

The academy, however, has complained that it is being punished for failing to meet new standards for measuring student outcomes that the department has not yet enshrined in policy.


[An AALE representative said that] the penalty stems from the department’s efforts to begin imposing new requirements on the assessment of student outcomes without having finished the process of drafting them and establishing regulations for carrying them out.

The academy has an especially difficult challenge because the institutions it accredits require more-subjective measures of college success, [George Mason University Professor and AAALE Board member Lee] Fritschler said.

That factor, combined with the organization’s small size, made the academy an easy target for Ms. Spellings and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, he said.

To cite an organization for not enforcing standards the Department itself hasn’t yet developed is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. If I had to speculate on what’s really behind it (and having read the tedious transcript of a contentious meeting of the NACIQI at which AAL’s case came up), I’d say that relations between the illiberal educators and educrats on NACIQI and the AALE have not been good for quite some time. This is a twofer, as far as the former are concerned: they send a message to the accreditors they can’t afford to get rid of, and get rid of one they don’t much like.

To be sure, AALE could be reinstated, and I think they are trying to figure out what what satisfy the DoE (as, of course, is the DoE). What is necessary, I think, is pressure on the Department and on the Bush Administration from folks who support the mission of the AALE, which is to uphold something like the traditional liberal arts curriculum, and to do so with a rigor that isn’t readily susceptible to quantification.

Religion and nationhood on Memorial Day

President Bush’s Memorial Day Proclamation notes, as he has in the past, that today is supposed to be a day of prayer and remembrance.

Lest you regard this as further evidence of theocracy in the White House, consider these examples of past proclamations. The first such proclamation I can find in the most complete record of proclamations with which I’m familiar is JFK’s in 1961. There seems to be an unbroken tradition of proclamations since 1975.

General Logan’s Orders

Carolyn Garris reminds us of the origins and meaning of this day and that we should cherish "tenderly the memory of the heroic dead, who made their hearts a barricade between our country and our foes." Also, please read this by Peter Collier. Now I’m going to ride Isabella to a distant plot and befriend a brave stranger by placing some "choicest flowers of spring-time" on his resting place.

The Gore-Gingrich Comparison

Al and Newt are indignant that the preachy moralism of policy wonks can’t overcome the weight of their "personality traits" and "historical baggage," not to mention to the general public’s TV-driven preoccupation with the insignificant fates of prettier people. Still, Gore’s and Gingrich’s partisan presentation of real knowledge about weighty issues makes them both popular with their party’s base and easy targets for attack by the other party’s media. Fox amd NPR loves them both.

Immigrants and terrorism

The WaPo’s Sebastian Mallaby argues that national security concerns don’t belong in the immigration debate. Aside from the fact that the evidence he adduces isn’t to the point, the logic of his argument could also be used to abandon all concern with airline security. After all, only an extremely small proportion of airline passengers actually want to use the jets as weapons.

Update: This WaPo article might be cited as evidence for Mallaby’s contention, but only if you ignore the "broken windows" theory of dealing with crime. Here’s the report on which the article is based, and here’s a description of the agency that’s supposed to administer whatever program comes out of Congress.

I’m willing to draw four conclusions. First, the federal immigration bureaucracy is not currently up to the ask of dealing with the enormous paperwork flow comprehensive immigration reform will generate. Second, rhetoric to the contrary, it’s unlikely that the culture of the immigration bureaucracy has changed all that much since 9/11. Bureaucratic cultures are notoriously resistant to change, so this isn’t surprising. Third, nevertheless, anyting that makes the agency better and enables it to identify potential or actual security risks more efficiently and effectively helps make the country safer. We’ll catch a few and deter a few more, which is, needless to say, a good thing. Finally, and most importantly, all this suggests that turning the terror threat into a "law enforcement" problem and going on the defensive is folly. By all means, enforce the law, but that can be only a part of what we do.

Memorial Day hymn

I posted a link to this version last year. Here’s another.

Roberts commencement address

While I’m on a Supreme Court commencement tear, here’s a story about John Roberts’s commencement address (available soon) at Holy Cross this past weekend. He did answer questions posed by a couple of Holy Cross seniors. Here’s a sample of the Q&A:

Q: Are there any previous Chief Justices that serve as exemplars for your style of leadership in the court?

A: If you’re going into competitive cycling, you want to be like Lance Armstrong. If you play basketball, the model is Michael Jordan. Golf? Tiger Woods. If you’re going to be Chief Justice, you want to be like John Marshall. Now, I hasten to add that I am not saying I ever could be, any more than anyone who bikes, plays ball, or golfs thinks they could be like Armstrong, Jordan, or Woods. But Marshall is certainly the model to emulate, in his analytic rigor, coherent vision, collegial leadership, and dedication to both his country and the law. I also admire William Rehnquist because I had the opportunity to observe first hand his skill as a jurist and administrator.

Happy Birthday Walker Percy!

The philosopher-novelist is one of the founders of postmodern rightly understood (or American Thomistic realism). For those who have not read Percy, let me suggest that you begin with THE LAST GENTLEMAN and LOST IN THE COSMOS: THE LAST SELF-HELP BOOK.

Alito commencement addresses

At the Seton Hall Law School commencement on Friday, he spoke about religious tests (a covert Romney endorsement?) and at St. Mary’s College on Saturday the 19th he alluded to something like natural law.

Alito went on to say that the framers of the Constitution had a strong set of fundamental values and rights in mind, and that these rights were given to us by God.

“They believed that there are certain moral principles that are true and immutable, and that these principles of right and wrong are not relative or circumstantial. They’re not of our making, and it is not within our power to change them, even though we might find that very convenient.”

A couple of weeks ago, he apparently gave roughly the same address to the graduates of Hampden-Sydney, citing, among others Rodney Dangerfield.

If anyone can point me to transcripts of any of the addresses, I’d be grateful.

Update: To be clear, I suspect that the reference in the Seton Hall speech to religious tests has more to do with all the talk about the Catholicism of the two most recent nominees and about the Catholic majority on the Court, though I’d have to see the context to be surer than I am about that. This article is somewhat helpful in providing that context.