Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Peggy Noonan on THE SOPRANOS

I’ve been reluctant to comment on this show. For one thing, I didn’t want all you Crunchy Cons out there to judge me for spending the big money just to see the HBO classics. For another, I’m not sure what to make of it. Ir may well be, as Peggy says, a fundamentally nihilistic show. Most people are at heart monsters ready to do anything they can get away with to satisfy their appetites. From that view, it’s a much more realistic show about nothing than SEINFELD or CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Or it may be a slightly more ambiguous and sympathetic account of how people turn out when compelled to operate outside the law and decent conventions. Arguably Tony could have been a formidable political or corporate figure if he didn’t think he could act on all his impulses and get away with it. Or maybe in another line of work his sociopathic character would have led to his destruction much earlier. Even the rare naturally decent Mafia guy--like Bobby--is also stuck with being a murderer and getting murdered (while buying a model train set for himself--Bobby was one lovable husband, father, and friend). It’s behind question that David Chase did create a very singular and very realistic Jersey world (based very loosely--like GODFATHER I and II--on a world that actually existed) full of strange and memorable--I hesitate to add wonderful--characters.

Saletan on Creeping (and Maybe Creepy) Parthenogenesis

Virgin births are common--increasingly common--among other species. Nature--in its reproductive plasticity--is capable of dispensing with sex to keep a species going. But in mammals, imprinting foils parthenogensis. We how have evidence that the human brain can foil imprinting, and soon enough virgin birth may become natural (or at least not a miracle) for us too.

Will not dyspeptic about Lindsey

While I’m on a Saturday-before-Sunday GFW kick, here’s his generally laudatory review of Brink Lindsey’s The Age of Abundance. Here’s GFW’s conclusion, which I’m not sure some of my dyspeptic friends will share, if they get around to reading the book (I probably will):

He believes that “the common commitment to chase that horizon became the glue that held an increasingly pluralistic society together.” Piffle. America’s remarkable social cohesion is not reducible to that. We are a creedal nation, dedicated to a proposition, which is approximately this: All people are created equal and have a right to spacious freedom that produces unequal outcomes.

Lindsey rightly says that “today’s typical red-state conservative is considerably bluer on race relations, the role of women and sexual morality than his predecessor of a generation ago.” And “the typical bluestate liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power.” In “the bell curve of ideological allegiance,” the large bulging center has settled, for now, on an “implicit libertarian synthesis, one which reaffirms the core disciplines that underlie and sustain the modern lifestyle while making much greater allowances for variations within that lifestyle.” If so, material abundance has been, on balance , good for us, and Lindsey’s measured cheerfulness is, like his scintillating book, reasonable.

I vented a little of my own dyspepsia about Lindsey’s general conclusion here, here, here, and here.

Tax and tax liberals?

George F. Will notes what has happened since Ronald Reagan cut taxes 102 quarters ago and wonders if the Democrats are really serious about letting the most recent round of tax cuts expire. They could, as he says, send a new tax measure to President Bush and, I would add, wage the next presidential election on their economic agenda.

But why bother? It’s easier to vote no confidence in the AG and impotently criticize President Bush’s war.

Inventing Lincoln

Andrew Ferguson, whose book party in D.C. I couldn’t attend because I neglected to pack grown-up clothes, demonstrates that Al Gore needs a better fact-checker (or, as we used to call them in the old days, "quote boy").

The invitation came through the good offices of a generous friend. Wish I could have gone, but the alternative entertainment was quite good on its own.

The lesson here is always bring business attire when you go to hang out with grown-ups.

Immigration politics

Harry Reid says the failure of the comprehensive immigation reform bill is the President’s fault. Not surprisingly, this WaPo article more or less agrees with him. The President, this WaTi article says, hasn’t given up. And this NYT article suggests that Reid’s lukewarmness about the bill made it easier for opponents to torpedo it, at least in the short run.

The White House may make another push, though I think that the kind of bill that a significant number of Republicans (especially in the House) can support will not win favor with the Democrats. As Bill Voegli points out below, in the House especially, there’s nothing to be gained by letting Democrats off the hook. For me, the bottom line right now is that a successful revival of the bill is highly unlikely.

Enlightened Self-Interest?

The Kennedy-McCain immigration bill may be dead, or it may be dormant. If the Senate revives and passes it, the House will take it up. Speaker Pelosi has said in the past that she won’t proceed without 70 Republican votes in favor of the bill, but Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told the Washington Post today that the bill can’t pass without 40 Republican votes.

If Democrats really like this bill, Pelosi and Emanuel could pass it in the House on a party-line vote without a single Republican. (There are no cloture votes in the lower chamber.) Their reluctance to do so says something about the politics of immigration.

There are 232 Democrats and 203 Republicans in the House. Republicans need a net gain of 15 seats in the 2008 elections to regain a majority. As Michael Tomasky has pointed out, 62 Democrats represent districts that gave majorities to Bush against Kerry in 2004, while only 8 Republicans represent districts that Kerry won. Many of those 62 Democrats are freshman in districts that have been colored red on the electoral map for a long time.

Emanuel knows, in other words, that many of these Democrats are going to be vulnerable if they vote for McCain-Kennedy and then have to explain their vote next year in a campaign against a secure-the-border-first Republican challenger. Every Republican vote for McCain-Kennedy in the House will let one more vulnerable Democrat off the hook. They can vote against the bill, mollify their conservative constituents, and blame it all on Pres. Bush and Republicans. The Democrats get to have the bill they want, with all the political benefits and none of the political dangers it entails.

House Republicans who enjoy being in the minority have clear reasons to go along with this scheme, as do those who find the policy arguments in favor of the Grand Compromise compelling, or those who lie awake at night worrying about the Bush domestic legacy. If there are 40 such Republicans, than a revived Senate bill could pass the House. If, however, the Stupid Party is not quite stupid enough to sign onto this suicide pact, then Pelosi and Emanuel will either have to gamble their majority on enacting immigration reform with Democratic votes only, or shelve the whole question.

Could Rudy and/or HIllary End It All in Iowa?

This expert thinks so. Or maybe in Florida. It’s certainly possible that a leading candidate in either party could get enough early momentum to steamroller the others on February 5. My own opinion: Not this time--neither Clinton nor Giuliani is likely to win in Iowa. The author also has some interesting comments on the current strategery going on in the states aiming to have maximum, early impact.

Civic Education

Joe’s note one below on Bauerlein’s mention of civic education reminds me to bring to your attention our summer graduate classes in American history and government. While I do not doubt that Emory, ISI, and others, are doing very fine work in this area, I submit to a candid world that our long-standing work, recently made formal into a graduate program, isn’t half bad! Look at the curriculum, the profs, the readings, and then think about the great good that about 350 teachers from around the country will experience.

By the way, speaking of citizenship, I came across this speech on the centennial of the Gettysburg Address by Dwight Eisenhower. Worth reading.

Lincoln document found

The National Archives has unveiled a handwritten note by Lincoln exhorting his generals to pursue Robert E. Lee’s army after the battle of Gettysburg, underscoring one of the great missed opportunities for an early end to the Civil War. "An archives Civil War specialist discovered the July 7, 1863, note three weeks ago in a batch of military papers stored among the billions of pages of historical documents at the mammoth building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The text of Lincoln’s note has been publicly known because the general to whom Lincoln addressed it telegraphed the contents verbatim to the front lines at Gettysburg. There, the Union army’s leaders failed for more than a week to aggressively pursue Lee following his defeat." This is the note dated July 7, 1863 addressed to general Halleck, found in Basler, Vol. VI, p. 319:

"We have certain information that Vicksburg surrendered to general Grant on the 4th of July. Now, if General Meade can complete his work, so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of Lee’s army, the rebellion will be over."

Education and citizenship

Mark Bauerlein doesn’t really break any new ground here, but he does point to a serious potential weakness in our case for self-government.

I should add, apropos of what I’ve been doing this week, that it’s not clear that markets work without knowledge either.

Land of Lincoln

Bill Kristol�s short piece in Time uses Freguson�s Land of Lincoln in part to construct a parallel about the 62 year distance between 1776 and 1832, and 1945 and today. Clever. By the way, I have read about a third of Ferguson’s book and I like it.

Fertlity in England

This short note on the rising birth rate in England and Wales notes that "Mohammed is expected soon to replace Jack as the most popular boy’s name. It has already pushed Thomas into third place."

The Case for Giuliani Remains

The polls continue to show he would defeat Hillary and Obama.

Happy Birthday Frank Lloyd Wright, Mohammed, and Paul Gaugin

I’ll leave to to Rob to explain what those three share in common.

Threatening to excommunicate Catholic politicians

This WSJ piece reminds us of one of the last times an Archbishop issued, and actually made good, on a threat of excommunication.

Immigration and leadership

Pundits and politicians always talk about leadership, which, last I checked, isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. It’s the word we use instead of statesmanship and/or citizenship, both of which imply standards to which the political actors should be held. Leadership is more Nietzschean, focusing on things like will, resoluteness, and courage, and implying that anything other than movement is the equivalent of death.

All of this is just an elaborate way of introducing the highly conventional analysis in this article about the apparent failure of comprehensive immigration reform: if the situation demands action, and we don’t do something, anything, why, that must be a failure of leadership. In our constitutional regime, something this big ought to be hard. It’s not about leadership simply, but also about building a consensus for action. And consensus-building requires the kind of trust (that, for example, people will do what they say about securing the border) that hasn’t yet been credibly established. I’d hate to have a "leadership success" now that just creates more problems down the road, especially if the problems are as easily foreseen as the ones inherent in this measure are. Someone who "leads" here fails the test of statesmanship, because all that would have been accomplished is the comforting appearance of doing something, without taking the even harder measures necessary to make sure that that "something" would actually resemble what had been promised.

Krauthammer on the permanent campaign

He defends our--I was going to say quadrennial, but that isn’t quite right--ordeal:

[F]or all its bizarre meanderings, the endless campaign serves critical purposes.

The first two -- testing the candidates’ managerial and consensus-building skills -- are undeniably useful. But like most Americans, I find it is the third -- the gratuitous humiliation of our would-be kings -- that makes it all worthwhile.

Dionne on the pardon

Of course, E.J. Dionne, Jr. wants to make the Libby pardon about the politics of the Iraq war. For him, Scooter Libby is a symbol of all the war supporters:

The Libby case put their generation on trial, to use Alistair Cooke’s evocative phrase about a very different trial in an earlier age. The verdict against Libby was a verdict against them.

This is, of course, ridiculous, implying (as he wants to) that making the case for the war was criminal: "Bush lied; people died; if there were any real justice in America, all the war supporters in the Bush Administration would be going to jail."

I know this is the position of many on the hard left and of some on the isolationist right. I’ve come not to expect more and better of Dionne, who was once an interesting and thoughtful columnist.

Assessment and accreditation yet again

A House Appropriations subcommittee has included language in a measure that would prevent the DoE from using any money to issue new accreditation regulations. Another shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Spellings.

Democratic leadership (?) in the Senate

I can’t resist a little partisan dig at Harry Reid, who wants GWB to lead the Senate for him on immigration:

Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said that if a second vote fails, ``the bill’s gone.’’ He added, ``What else can I do?’’

Reid appealed to Bush to twist the arms of 47 Republicans who voted against limiting debate, saying the legislation’s demise would produce headlines that ``the president fails again.’’

``It’s his bill, it’s not our bill,’’ Reid told reporters after the vote. ``It can’t pass unless we get significant Republican support.’’

My headline would be: "Harry Reid can’t lead."

For more of the same, go

Update: I’m not sure whether it’s headed to the morgue or just to the hospice, but, for now, comprehensive immigration reform is off the agenda, with its supporters falling fifteen votes short of imposing cloture. Here’s the roll call.

Overheard at my seminar

"Lou Dobbs is like a lobotomy, but it doesn’t leave a scar."

Source: Michael Munger.

Stem cell research and politics

These two articles describe a new technique for creating pluripotent stem cells that does not require the destruction of embryos. Some scientists are unhappy that this news might affect the prospects of a stem cell funding bill on which the House is set to vote today.

Yesterday, the House defeated a measure that would have banned human reproductive cloning, but not cloning per se. The measure, rushed through without any hearings, seemed intended to provide pro-cloning forces some political cover in the debate today, and also
indirectly to authorize therapeutic cloning.

For more analysis, go here and here.

Blast from the past

William Shawcross and Peter Rodman, together now after disagreeing in the 70s, argue, in the NYT of all places, that a withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous for the Iraqi people, as well as for U.S. friends and interests in the region and around the world. Someone should ask Senators Clinton and Obama, and ex-Senator Edwards what they think of this argument.

More Democrats and faith

I worked my way through the Sojourners transcript and posted some thoughts over at Knippenblog on Edwards, Obama, and (last and least) Clinton. Edwards is the most confused (and nasty); Clinton, the least substantive.

Dr. Pat on Chesterton

Here’s some of Deneen’s analysis of G.K.’s neglected classic WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA in light of his defense of ORTHODOXY. Pat and G.K. remind us that it’s love--and not just manliness--that points us in the direction of the irreducibility of personality and personal significance. It might be the case that in his noble and timely effort to defend love and patriotism against cosmopolitan personal indifference Dr. Pat slights the American political universalism that Chesterton identifies and admires. We’re a "home for the homeless" because we’re "a nation with the soul of a church." Those cast out from their political homes someone else can find a home in our country as long they accept our egalitarian dogma of personal significance guaranteed by the God who is the center of the universe’s significance. The foundation of our "romance" of citizenship isn’t a civil theology, but a deeper and ultimately true dogma about the equal transcendence--or, in a way, homelessness--of every particular human person. There’s a complex, Christian interplay between being at home with your homelessness and being at home in your particular places in the world.

The RAF Bans Painted Pin-Ups on Planes

Why? To avoid offending women and the Taliban! Here’s an example of an allegedly offensive work of art, with manly Free Republic indignation directed against its censorship. (Thanks to Rob Jeffrey.) Does Lucy really symbolize the freedom we are fighting for?

FDR’s D-Day Prayer

...which deserves to be ranked among the best presidential prayers.

Here are some thoughts: They don’t pray ’em like this any more. Here’s more evidence of the tendency emerging in one of the threads to see some statesmanship in FDR after all. And notice that it’s Newt who’s trying to rekindle our memory of this wonderful example of American piety and greatness. I never denied that Gingrich has some fine ideas! The story of D-Day, which I’m not competent to tell, is of a triumph of American courage and ingenuity over some pretty flawed planning. Imagine how that war would have gone had our forces been repulsed that day.

(Thanks to Rob Jeffrey.)

Random Debate Comments

Lots of bashing of the president’s incompetence. Giuliani has decided to be THE competent, assertive guy when it comes to foreign policy and the war, and he was good--although the call for training nation-building soldiers at this point is a bit much. He’s also did well in positioning himself on immigration. He’s now simply running as a pro-choice candidate (with now not even a bow to judicial restraint) on the premise that abortion etc. aren’t important in our critical national security time. Whether based in honesty or expediency or both, his stand does clarify things. McCain also sounded tough and competent on the war etc.--although making the conflict between good and evil "transcendent" also seems a bit much. This immigration thing is killing him though. (I don’t see how his immigration view or Giuliani’s abortion etc. view coud possibly lead either to the nomination or to the united party the Reps. really, really need in November.) I had trouble focusing on Romney this time, although he didn’t outrage me even for a moment. Huckabee is a very eloquent man (even on the willful or moral dimension of foreign policy), and he may end up being a force in the primaries. At this point his momentum is building slowly, although his emphatic, even beautiful creationism is probably not a recipe for success in November. Generally, the transcript doesn’t make the array of candidates available for next year look bad at all, but it’s also not very interesting viewing or reading. I don’t know when the next one is scheduled, but it shouldn’t be until something like November.

The Paris Hilton Prison Diaries

The Los Angeles Times is nearly defunct as a newspaper these days, but once and a while it rises to the occasion, such as today’s Paris Hilton Prison Diary.

Free Paris!

Why the GOP Might Actually Win Next Year, Part 1

James Taranto at OpinionJournal passes along this reader comment on John Edwards from the debate the other night:

Wolf Blitzer: What is a "rich person," Senator Edwards?

The Lovely and Talented John Edwards: I don’t know if I know what a rich person is.

Reader Bart Harmon offers Edwards a little help:

You might be rich person if . . .

You pay 400 bucks for a haircut, and that’s with the ladies’ day discount.

Your house has more square footage than most Central American countries.

You leave a larger carbon footprint than the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Your last three jobs were medical malpractice attorney, U.S. senator and hedge fund manager.

You can talk easily about two Americas because you own at least one of them.

You are paid $55,000 an hour to speak about poverty, and that’s your college rate.

More shallow unseriousness from Democrats like this and even Ron Paul can win in November 2008.

The Scooter Libby sentence

As you probably know, a federal judge (nominated by GWB, though I wouldn’t read too much into that) has sentenced Scooter Libby to 30 months in prison and assessed a hefty fine. He is also disinclined to acquiesce in Libby’s request that he stay out of prison pending an appeal, but will decide that soon. This is surprising, to say the least.

A lot of people are calling for President Bush to pardon Libby, including a soon-to-be-almost-is presidential candidate who was part of Libby’s defense team.

Until I heard about Judge Reggie Walton’s apparent obduracy about letting Libby stay out of prison pending an appeal, I had expected President Bush to pardon him as soon as was politically possible (which is to say, after we know who his successor will be). But if Walton compels Libby to begin to serve his time before his appeals are exhausted (why? is he a flight risk? a danger to the community? likely to repeat his offense?), he will force Bush’s hand.

And I think that, if it comes to that, the President ought to act sooner, rather than later. Let the political fallout come now, and pass long before the 2008 campaign. Let Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson have their last (one hopes) fifteen seconds now, rather than later. Let the Democrats scream and reveal their petty vindictiveness now...though, gosh, there’s a political reason for postponing the pardon. But no, I won’t give in to the temptation to call for a pardon only when it can achieve the maximal political effect.

GWB and conservatism

Jonah Goldberg calls our attention to Ross Douthat’s meditation on "the lessons of Bushism," which he and I both enjoyed. While I’d love to be able to defend the misunderstood consistency of the Bush Administration, I can’t. Some of that is due to GWB’s admirable focus on the central challenge of our time, post-9/11. (Of course, I can’t claim that the response was consistently well-executed, though I’d love for someone to give me evidence of an American war that, by contrast, was.) But I think the failures of the Bush Administration’s domestic policy stem from at least three sources--its own distraction and incoherence (with different elements of the administration pulling in different ways--again, hardly unusual, however deplorable); its pragmatism, both in dealing with Democrats and dealing with big business; and third, its failure to persuade Congressional Republicans to follow its lead, either with respect to the faith-based initiative and, more importantly, I think, with respect to social security reform.

It’s fashionable to blame Bush and his supporter (hard to speak in the plural any more) for everything, but many of his failings are really failings of the Republican Party, which followed Tom DeLay’s lead in governing like a typical governing party--spreading out the pork and attempting to punish opponents--rather than consistently attempting to reconstruct itself and the federal government to meet the challenges of the new century. The other things with which conservatives like to find fault are as attributable to the business wing of the Republican Party as they are to Bush on his own. Anyone want to claim that the business wing isn’t enamored with comprehensive immigration reform, big government approaches to health care, the moderate embrace of affirmative action (how could we forget?), and No Child Left Behind? Anyone who wants to call out Bush and his supporter had better be willing to call out Wall Street as well.

If you care or need to read more, you can go here (for a misunderstanding, willful or otherwise, of the best case for compassionate conservatism) and here (for an articulation of what might have been said on behalf of compassionate conservatism, if it had continued to be fashionable to offer it).

My whereabouts

I’m in the D.C. metro area, where I spent an exceptionally pleasant evening drinking with Jonah Goldberg and dining with Patrick Deneen, this after spending the day participating in a program hosted by these genial folks.

My kids are swimming tonight; I hope they did as well tonight as they did last week (8 races; 8 wins).

Cuba podcast

Every senior Ashbrook writes a thesis, and then offers a public defense. I decided to do podcasts with a few of them on their way out the door. The first is with Heather Imboden. She majored in history and political science and is working somewhere in California for the year and then, I hope, she will be off to graduate school. She was a very fine student, with a lively mind. I will miss her. Her thesis was on U.S.-Cuban relations, as is the 20 minute conversation.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for May

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

Jennifer Tower

Kristen Nowak

Clark Irwin

Robinson O’Brien-Bours

Diane Van Wyk

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter June’s drawing.

Shudder. . .

Idle thought for a Tuesday morning (perhaps this will be one of those SAT analogy questions someday):

President Hillary Clinton will be to Bill Clinton what Franklin Roosevelt was to Theodore Roosevelt.


Fred’s Not Quite Ahead

...but he’s only a few points behind the fading Giuliani in the latest poll. Romney and McCain are still polling respectably, although Mitt isn’t surging and John’s negatives are. Four promising but obviously flawed candidates are bunched together. At this point, Fred does have the momementum and the most potential to break away from the pack, but that may just be because he’s the new guy in town. We’re in for a long campaign, and it’s already sort of boring.

Dogs thinking?

This WaPo story, reporting on a study published in the journal "Current Biology", asserts that dogs think more than we thought they think. Well, at least they seem to imitate selectively (depending on the context) and may use the same cognitive process as an infant. Some researches are saying that a dog can put himself inside the head of another dog, and perhaps even people, in order to make relatively complex decisions; perhaps even think about a person’s intention; they may even have a sense of awarness that may be a higher level of consciousness than previously thought.

I got a dog (a puppy) for my mother on her birthday three weeks ago. It is a Miniature Schnauzer. She named it Choki, (as in choki, but with a short "o", not as in choke, rather as in chuck) meaning "little chocolate."
To my surprise she fell for Choki immediately even though she has never been a dog lover. She liked this particular dog, but she doesn’t like Great Danes, or the Bull Terrier down the street. In short, my mother knows that the various individual dogs she has met or seen are in fact dogs. She knows that dog is a universal, and Choki is just a particular dog; she knows that this cute and loving creature named Choki is a dog. She recognizes the universal dog in her particular dog. Or, as an old friend used to put it, she understands what a common noun is, and her speech about dogs (or anything else) is therefore inteligible, albeit in Hungarian (most of the time). She also knows this, and would contend that her mind is free to think about all kinds of common nouns.

One of the scientists, a Marc Bekoff, in the article says this: "Every day, we’re discovering surprises about animals and finding out animals are far more intelligent and far more emotional than we previously thought. We’re really breaking down the lines between the species."

Now, my mother knows that Mark Bekoff is a scientist, and that all scientists are human beings. She also knows that human beings, even Mark Bekoff, can think about dogs. She also knows that even when a particular man is wrong in his thinking, he is still more intelligent than any dog, although, in this case it may be a close call because she also thinks Choki is very, very smart.

Faith and Democratic politics

I don’t have time to say much about it right now, but here are some accounts of an event held last night (you can find the video on this page). The three leading Democratic candidates spent a little time before a friendly audience answering basically softball questions on faith and politics. The campaigns will surely get some good footage to use for outreach to moderate and liberal Christians. I’d ask this: if one’s faith, or a precept derived from it, is a legitimate point of departure for a discussion about poverty policy, why isn’t it also a legitimate point of departure for a discussion of abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.? Another question: is it possible for people of faith to disagree about what policy faith demands for poverty and social welfare as--they would surely contend--it is about abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.?

In other words, if I were on the other side of some of these issues (as I, of course, am), I’d use the existence of a forum like this to focus, not on the faith, but on the substance of the issues, with all issues connected with faith being in play.

Update: Another question to which I would have loved to have heard the answer: "What do you say to people in your party who argue that religion doesn’t belong in politics, that it is divisive, regressive, and/or irrational?"

Update #2: Here’s a little more and here’s a lot more. Kuo’s advice strikes me as quite solid. Remind me: didn’t he recommend a fast from politics not too long ago?

Gitmo trials and tribulations

One of my co-bloggers at Good Will Hinton is excited by this development--a case against a Canadian Gitmo detainee can’t at the moment go forward because he’s been classified as an "enemy combatant," but not as an "unlawful enemy combatant," as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 requires. They’ll likely convene another Combatant Status Review Tribunal for him to make certain that their language conforms to what the law requires--assuming, of course, that he is in fact "unlawful," i.e., that he wasn’t part of a regular force wearing a uniform, for example, when he was detained. And they’ll have to do the same for all the others, since apparently no one has been declared an "unlawful enemy combatant," as the law requires. As Andy McCarthy observes, this looks like "monumental incompetence."

But I wouldn’t go overboard in assuming that this is the beginning of the end of the military commissions, which I’m sure is the not-so-secret dream of their opponents. Indeed, I was surprised not to find any commentary yet on sites where I’d have expected it--like Prawfsblog and Volokh. If something shows up, I’ll post links.

Ukrainian political crisis

Andy Busch has been in Ukraine on a Fulbright this semester. In this piece on the crisis (now some two years old) in Ukrainain politics, he notes: "This ongoing crisis has been rooted in a confluence of three factors�a population that is closely divided politically, a political culture that encourages winner-take-all brinksmanship, and an institutional structure that is not yet fully formed." You might be interested to learn that U.S. politics of the 1790�s is not irrelevant to today�s Ukranian politics. While they are proving that democracy is not easy, there is more hope than in the politics in Russia. Very good piece. Get home safe, Andy!

A commencement address

Terrence Moore, principal of Ridgeview Classical Scool in Fort Collins, Colorado, offered this talk to the graduating class of 2007. Ridgeview is recognized as one of the top charter schools in the country, and the best high school in Colorado.
Here is Ridgeview’s web site. I have been there a couple of times and it is a fine school!

Summer and the Court

Summer is approaching, the flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing, and it’s time to brace yourselves for yet another possible fight for the Supreme Court--this time with Dems in the majority. This story claims that the White House is focusing on female and minority candidates--though most of the names mentioned have been mentioned before.

Another Good Thing About KNOCKED UP

...was (scroll down to a letter to K-Lo) its touching and very unfashionable portrayal of non-homoesexual male friendship. These losers--who really aren’t stupid--do put love and friendship before personal productivity, and so maybe it’s too bourgeois to be too worried about their futures.

Bourgeois and Bohemian

For Russell Kirk fans: He called himself a Tory Bohemian and was all about the "unbought grace of life" (Burke). He also couldn’t hold a job and had four kids fast relatively late in life because a relatively sensible (or somewhat bourgeois) woman figured out how to catch him. So bohemian means, in this conext, life is beautiful and to some extent don’t worry be happy. Bourgeois means turning all over life over to calculation and consent about one’s own interest. The bourgeois/bohemian distinction originates with Rousseau, who was very hard on the bourgeoisie. Pure bohemian and pure bourgeois are both undesirable and unreproductive extremes, but surely that’s one of the teachings of KNOCKED UP--where an excessively--even repulsively--bohemian man accidentally impregnates an excessively bourgeois woman. And (of course) they make each other better.
David Brooks wrote a book called BOBOS (bourgeois bohemians) IN PARADISE, where he explains that sophisticated Americans today pride themselves in combining bourgeois productivity with bohemian meaningful self-fulfillment. But the truth is that at every crucial turn bourgeois trumps bohemian, because healthy and safety or personal security are real and spiritual purpose or meaning, for the Bobos, is a mere preference or whim. (All this is to explain the terminology used in the KNOCKED UP post below.)


The good news is that the film is very pro-life and pro-marriage (at least after you’ve been knocked up). That’s a bigger thing than Ms. Lopez acknowledges. This has been a very over-hyped movie, with extensive coverage on NPR, the Today show etc., and a long and boring article in the NYT Magazine. The mainstream media is in love with a piece of art that celebrates secular, sophisticated America’s pro-life awakening. (George Will certainly needs to see it!)

The simple message is that for admirable people "bohemian" trumps "bourgeois," and so lovable babies are chosen over even lucrative designer careers. Being kocked up is a blessing that reveals that life is too wonderful and lovable to be reduced to planning. The shortcoming Kathryn rightly objects to is that the bohemian "lifestyle" portrayed is just too gross and stupid, and you can’t help but remember the wisdom of ANIMAL HOUSE: Fat, drunk (or stoned), and stupid is no way to go through life. On the other hand, presumably the baby will bourgeoisify the fat guy just enough to make him responsible and all that, and so in its own way KNOCKED UP may embrace the wisdom spoken in ANIMAL HOUSE (and KU is certainly much less cynical than AH). My objection to this fairly funny but overrated film is that its basic story is too wish-fulfillment sentimental, and that it could easily have had some class and real plot. With credible characters, it could easily have been more funny. So KNOCKED UP doesn’t rise to the level of its creator’s excellent FREAKS AND GEEKS, although it’s less stupid than THE FORTY YEAR-OLD VIRGIN.

All in all, it’s the message more than the art or even the entertainment that causes KNOCKED UP to get a thumbs up.

Salary disparities between men and women

It turns out that one of the big problems is, as the author puts it, that "the altruism is so heavily concentrated in one sex." More social engineering, anyone?

Secession in Vermont?

So says this article. Hat tip: Drudge.

More Evidence (in case you need it) of Why Now is Not a Good Time for a Democrat President

. . . can be found here and here. Indeed, we may not be re-living 1972 as suggested below but, instead, 1978-79.

Dems Debate

We don’t have cable TV and I hate trying to do this kind of thing over the internet, so I didn’t watch the debate. I’ve been picking up this and that on the radio (Drudge has a show on Sunday nights that plays in LA) and on the blogs. This from Patrick Ruffini at Hugh Hewitt’s blog is the best posting I’ve read about it. Hewitt and Dean Barnett also posted, but Barnett seemed to be more worried about the Sopranos--though, for me, that debate sounds like it would have been all the mafia I could take for one night.

Andrew McCarthy’s alarm clock

Is ringing. A sample:

Militant Islam, you see, is mustered in Iraq, where al Qaeda — the inspiration for Defreitas and his cohorts — has called America out. Like Defreitas & Co., Osama bin Laden and his ranks see themselves in a world war between the United States and a vision of Islam shared by tens of millions. (Think one-in-four, writ large). Iraq, they have decided, is their frontline, though very far from their only line. Everywhere, America is their target. Everywhere, terror — the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent men, women, and children — is their weapon of choice.

For the new Democratic Congress and its growing wake of jittery Republicans, that turns out to be a choice worth living with. Oh yes, they’ll sputter about how barbaric and unsavory it all is. But, like those one in four Muslim males, they’re prepared to let terror rule the day. That’s the plan: Al Qaeda blows up things and people; we leave, grumbling all the way home about civil wars and intractable hatreds between the Religion of Peace’s murderous sects; and al Qaeda triumphs … with bin Laden reminding his acolytes: See, I told you, they’re a paper tiger — make it bloody for them and we win.

Naturally, we’ll tell ourselves they’re not winning at all. They want Iraq? Let ‘em have it. Just like — when they killed enough of us — we let ’em have Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993. Who, after all, needs these hellholes?

Except … militant Islam doesn’t just want the hellholes. It wants everything. It will take the hellholes. For now. But don’t think for a second they’ll be appeased.

Read the whole thing to be reminded of the urgency of our situation.

Fred Thompson’s jolt to the GOP

The WaPo reports on a speech by Fred Thompson in Richmond at a Republican Party Dinner yesterday. C-SPAN is going to play the speech tonight a couple of times. It may be worth watching both to hear the speech and to see how the audiance reacted to it. If we are bemused by why Thompson is making headway, maybe we should remind ourselves of the connection between politics and rhetoric, or, why poetry is always better than prose (especially with a Southern buoyancy to it). A sample or two:

"Folks, we’re a bit down politically right now, but I think we’re on the comeback trail, and it’s going to start right here..."

"We are a nation of compassion, a nation of immigrants. But this is our home . . . and we get to decide who comes into our home." This got him a standing ovation.

The WaPo also reports:

"Thompson reminded guests that he now lives in McLean, but he offered himself as a Beltway outsider, saying there was a ’disconnect’ between Washington and the rest of the country ’like I’ve never seen before.’ He said the GOP had lost its congressional majorities because ’some of us came to drain the swamp and made partnership with the alligators.’"