Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


In a bold and calculated move, she’s more or less dropped the Clinton, Well it worked for Cher, not to mention Evita. The good senator doesn’t believe that her husband’s mixed reputation would cost her votes. It’s a question of avoiding any appearance of dependence.

Hillary Won’t Have to Pick Obama as VP

...and so she won’t. She is confident, this author claims, that she will get the nominaton and win the election. And she won’t face the pressures other nominees have to pick someone she doesn’t really like or respect. So she’s attacking him now to make the dissing go easier later. I disagree only insofar as I think Obama may well make the fight for the nomination pretty close, and we’ll see what happens if there are lots of his angry-but-nice-about-it delegates at the convention.

Orestes Brownson

It was brought to my attention that those excellent blogsters, the Brothers Judd,
used that the unjustly neglected American republican Orestes Brownson and an article I wrote about him as 4th of July patriotic edification this year. For those who care, you can buy an edition of Brownson’s THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC with my book-length introduction from ISI. I don’t think they’re sold out yet.

GWB and his successor

Peter Rodman thinks that President Bush’s aspiring successors should be hoping that Iraq can be moved further toward stability in the remaining 18 months of the Bush Administration. Here’s his conclusion:

Those running for president, especially, would be well advised, amid the excitement of the campaign, to reflect on what will be required of the winner. Potentially the most destabilizing new factor in the world in the coming period is the fear of American weakness. All the hyperventilation about American hubris and unilateralism is a tired cliche; it never had much validity anyway. The real problem is that the pressures pushing us to accept defeat in Iraq are already profoundly unnerving to allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere, who rely on the United States to help ensure their security in the face of continuing dangers. If we let ourselves be driven out of Iraq, what the world will seek most from the next president will not be some great demonstration of humility and self-abasement -- that is, to be the "un-Bush" -- but rather for reassurance that the United States is still strong, capable of acting decisively and committed to the security of its friends. Given our domestic debate, to provide this reassurance will be an uphill battle in the best of circumstances. It will be even more difficult if President Bush succumbs to all the pressures on him to do the wrong thing in Iraq.

President Bush still has the power to set the terms of the debate in 2008. He should use it wisely and to the utmost of his ability.

Bob Dole revisited

David Brooks looks at the Republican candidates and, most of the time, sees Bob Dole. If HRC’s negatives diminish--and he argues that they are going away--Republicans are in deep trouble unless "they reshape the battleground under everyone’s feet." Whatever that means.


TNR’s Noam Scheiber--rather too gleefully, I think--writes the epitaph of the once influential Democratic Leadership Council, which aimed at drawing Democrats to the center. With the Iraq war and the Bush Administration "radicalizing" moderates, who needs a sheet anchor, holding the party back from its worst leftist instincts? Well, gee, what happens when (shudder!) the Democrats own the Iraq war and don’t have GWB to kick around any more? Let’s rewrite the old Clinton theme song: "Let’s stop thinking about tomorrow."

Safe, legal, and rare?

Acton’s Brooke Levitske calls our attention to this LAT piece describing provisions in an appropriations bill passed by the House. In order to reconcile "choice" and "rareness," Democrats have added a laundry list of programs "aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies and providing critical health and social support services that can help vulnerable women and families overcome economic pressures and other life challenges." This appears to be a version of the approach found in Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-OH)Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act (full PDF text here).

Ryan states his party’s message this way: "Bring the baby to term, and we’ll provide for you."

Do pro-life conservatives have an answer that doesn’t involve a massive expansion of the public health and welfare bureaucracies?

Leno Delivers

Jay Leno on the reports of drunk astronauts:

"Maybe that’s why they call it the Kennedy Space Center."

Sen. Schumer and the judicial nominating process

Not surprisingly, Sen. Charles Schumer isn’t happy with Justices Roberts and Alito, whose version of judicial incrementalism isn’t to his liking. Here’s his conclusion, which of course shows that his view of the Court is altogether ideological:

How do we apply the lessons we learned from Roberts and Alito to the next nominee, especially if – God forbid – there is another vacancy under this President?

We now have the most conservative Supreme Court in memory. And, as everyone knows, the Justices who are – actuarially speaking – most likely to step down next are the liberal ones.

The Court is, interestingly, at odds with the country. As the Court grows more conservative, the rest of the nation is in the midst of a pendulum swing in the progressive direction.

Unless we are vigilant in our efforts to moderate the Court, that institution will stand in the way of a much-needed and long-overdue swing back to moderation.


So, based on my experiences of the last two years and my reading of the last term’s cases, let me share with you how I intend to apply the lessons learned:


[F]or the rest of this President’s term and if there is another Republican elected with the same selection criteria let me say this:

We should reverse the presumption of confirmation. The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts; or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.

Given the track record of this President and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings, with respect to the Supreme Court, at least: I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee EXCEPT in extraordinary circumstances.

They must prove by actions—not words—that they are in the mainstream, rather than the Senate proving that they are not.

And Sen. Schumer gets to decide what defines the mainstream, I guess.

Huzzah for The Simpsons Movie

I always liked to point to the 1984 movie "Ghostbusters" as one of my favorite anti-statist movies of all time. No only is the bad guy a bureaucrat from the EPA, but Dan Ackroid delivers one of the all time immortal lines when Bill Murray proposes going into the private sector. Ackroid, in a worried tone: "The private sector! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results!"

Well today Ghostbusters has been overtaken by The Simpsons Movie. For once I’m beating Jonah Goldberg to the punch at least by a few hours, since as of this writing he hasn’t seen it yet. But I agree with his G-File today that although The Simpsons is an equal opportunity offender, the left takes it worse from the show because there are so many more liberal pieties to be taken down these days.

This is my reading of The Simpsons Movie, which I took in at the first opportunity today. The bad guys are the EPA, and the portrayal is unintentionally accurate. The EPA’s decision to put a sealed glass dome over contaminated Springfield is not all that far removed from the EPA’s real decision in the 1980s to evacuate Times Beach, Missouri, even though the EPA later acknowledged that this was totally unnecessary and unjustified. The evil appointed head of the EPA refers to it as "the least successful government agency," and the ineffectuality of the EPA is overdramatized in the film in exactly the same way as the collective problem of pollution. Gore comes in for a pasting too, with Lisa Simpson’s documentary "An Irritating Truth."

There was more, but like the TV show, it goes by so fast that you miss things. An evil Hollywood plot to make you see the movie again or buy the DVD. Which I will.

Thompson’s Candid Approach

This Washington Post story on Fred Thompson’s seemingly unconventional approach to a campaign clearly seeks to poison the waters with an insinuation that Thompson might be just a little crazy. Notice the mention (twice) in the article of Thompson’s op-ed on the Virginia Tech shootings wherein Thompson notes that VT’s override of Virginia carry laws may have aggravated the situation in this case (i.e., no one could stop this guy). This was followed closely by speculation that such candid talk might cost Thompson politically. Of course, I find such candid talk refreshing and I’m betting most Americans will agree. It stands in sharp contrast to the strained and measured cadences of a Hillary Clinton, for example. And--as we have seen--even among Democratic primary voters there is a developing distaste for her kind of holding back. Obama’s "naive" moment seems to have won him some points--at least in the short run primary season. It is arguable whether Thompson’s short run gains with Conservatives will translate into long term gains or pitfalls in a general election. A clever wag could make an argument that Thompson is putting his foot in his mouth in much the same way Obama is doing--but I wouldn’t buy it. Why? Because I think that will depend on whether the American people are more afraid of armed and law-abiding fellow citizens or armed and crazed dictators. I think I’m still pretty confident that the vast majority of the American electorate looks with stronger disfavor on the notion of a game of political grab a-- with Ahmadinejad than they do at the suggestion of a 45 pointed at the head of an armed gunman in a school.

What Would Tocqueville Do?

Michael Gerson summarizes this paper, presented at this conference (other papers here). Here’s Gerson’s conclusion:

It would be nice if teen sexual behavior could be automatically changed by an abstinence lecture or a sermon. Setting those norms and expectations, however, is a small part of a larger cultural task. Moral men and women need moral communities.

This is why an abstinence program, by itself, may not accomplish much. And this is why there are no substitutes for healthy communities, beginning with families, in which young people are embedded.

In this context, the right question to ask of any government program is: does it support or "empower" families and "civil society"? Perhaps another way of putting it is: What Would Tocqueville Do?

Krauthammer on Obama’s SECOND Gaffe

Charles Krauthammer reminds us that this isn’t the first time Obama stuck his foot in his mouth on South Carolina soil. But E.J. Dionne views the whole episode through a different (and foggy) lens. I do rather hope Dionne’s party goes to the same optometrist.

Roger Scruton on Christopher Hitchens on God

Hitchens doesn’t know the first thing about the anthropology of religion. He hasn’t even studied Rene Girard (who is, in fact, much more fascinating than Christopher and maybe even Nietzsche). Religion isn’t about God, it’s about the sacred. And the need for the sacred is a human universal. There’s always a lot to learn from Scuton, who has packed an immense amount of erudite wisdom into a short and very readable article. There’s more to this article than Hitchens’ whole book. But I think I agree with Christopher that our religion is actually about God. Biblical religion is about the particular human being’s--the creature’s--relation to his personal Creator. The impersonal phrase "the sacred" doesn’t capture our religion’s focus on personal sinfulness, personal dignity, and personal salvation.

Pack the Court?

Jean Edward Smith has an op-ed in today’s New York Times. The point is this: The Supreme Court today is controlled by an "ideological agenda" (that is, not Smith’s), so, the solution is to pack the Court. It has been done throughout our history, argues Smith. Amusing. Smith is an excellent writer, wrote a couple of fine biographies (Marshall, Grant, and FDR is just now out), and I like him. And his liberal honesty is refreshing, I must say. Needless to say, I disagree. Smith: "If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two."

Hibbs on Potter

Thomas Hibbs’s review makes clear--without ever saying it in so many words-- the ways in which Rowling’s story is Tolkienesque.

Happy Birthday Eric Hoffer, George Bernard Shaw, Stanley Kubrick, and Aldous Huxley

Well, there’s defintely a common theme going on there less lame than 20th century utopianism and its literary/theatrical critics.

Obama Lived and Went to School Overseas

. . . and, like, he totally studied International Relations so, I mean, he’s like so totally hot on foreign policy. Or so he says. Well, he didn’t use those words exactly but they seem, somehow, age-appropriate for describing the logic he used to defend himself against Hillary Clinton’s charge of political naivete after the last debate. Of course, we’re talking about a debate where snowmen and phony Hillbillies were asking the questions. Seriously, are any of these guys grown up enough to run this country?

UPDATE: Obama apparently will not back down when teacher backs him into this corner. And, of course, he cannot back down now without looking like the guilty little boy. This will strengthen his support with his base (already angry with Hillary for voting for the war) and weaken his position in the general election should these antics actually get him the nomination. Normal people will see this for what it is: petulance. I also think it hurts his VP chances.

The Problem of Too Little Crime

Glenn Loury has decided that if he writes like an overwrought 1960s liberal, people will forget that he was ever a 1980s Reagan conservative. In the Boston Review he argues that the American criminal justice system has become “crueler and less caring” than ever before. His explanation – white racism – could have been copied from the Kerner Commission Report. Bigots who opposed but knew they could not defeat the civil-rights movement, according to Loury, “sought to regain the upper hand by shifting . . . attention to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime.”

This toxic mix of racism and cynicism has given America the highest rate of incarceration in the world, 0.714% of our population. That ratio is 6 times higher than Canada’s and 12 times higher than Japan’s. Moreover, says Loury, blacks’ incarceration rate is eight times higher than the rate for whites, a disparity “greater than in any other major arena of American social life.”

Loury acknowledges, sort of, that crime is a bad thing, meaning that the apprehension and incarceration of those who commit crimes is a necessity. Although he argues that blacks are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated, that disproportion is relative to their share of the entire population - Loury never contends that it is disproportionate to blacks’ actual commission of actual crimes. Lacking such evidence, he is reduced to arguing that “the sum of a million cases, each one rightly judged on its merits to be individually fair, may nevertheless constitute a great historic wrong.” And how is America to square this circle? The entirety of Loury’s concluding policy prescription is, “Our country’s policymakers need to do something about it.”

If not for the annoyances of democracy, this wouldn’t be such a hard problem. If the authorities decide we need more blacks in Yale Law School they can race-norm the LSAT until the proportion is more to their liking. And if they decide they want fewer blacks in San Quentin they can race-norm the penal code, handing out discounted sentences to criminals from demographic groups that are over-represented among the incarcerated population.

Politics makes it sticky, though. The Democratic party suffered for 25 years after the Kerner Commission Report by insisting that “law-and-order is a code word for racism.” Loury’s attempt to revive that position ignores the political traction conservatives got by retorting, “Then what’s the code word for law-and-order?” If there isn’t one, then Kerner Commission liberals are really saying that the imperatives of racial justice require that we learn to live with higher levels of crime and lower levels of public safety. They are also telling people terrified and infuriated by crime that their demands that the government do something about it are illegitimate - or legitimate only to the extent that government can find ways to fight crime through measures that have no racially disparate impact.

The Democrats, emboldened by the 2006 election, are voicing sentiments they’ve kept in storage for many years, speaking out for higher taxes and bigger government, and against free trade. We’ll know they’re really confident about 2008 when they follow Loury’s lead and call for a return to the golden age of 1990, when the murder rate in New York was four times as high as it is now.

Studies Disagree on How Prejudiced We Are Against Mormons

...But they do agree that we’re more prejudiced against them than almost anyone else. I have to admit that the famous quote from Father Neuhaus that it’s reasonable not to vote for a Mormon because his (or her) victory and admirable leadership might strengthen Mormonism doesn’t make much sense to me. Mormonism isn’t a threat to liberty and justice in our country, and President Romney wouldn’t be the cause of lots of conversions. It might be the case that unwillingness to vote for a Mormon is no stronger than the unwillingness to vote for a Catholics in the late 1950s. Then religion might be a tough but not insurmountable barrier to Mitt’s election. Republicans, of course, are perfectly free to calculate that they can’t afford to lose lots of votes for religious reasons in a year when they begin as underdogs for ordinary political reasons.

The Lady in Red

The Hill has selected the ten most beautiful people on the Hill. Those who know her will not be surprised that

Rebeccah Ramey has made the list. And, because she was an Ashbrook Scholar, the reference to her "inner nerd" is not as bizzare as it sounds, although the phrase is not attractive. I know this woman. She thinks, and only good thoughts dwell in such a fair temple. Her beauty is an ornament to her fine mind and great heart.

Belgian democracy

was reeling Monday after the country’s likely new prime minister was asked on Belgium’s National Day to sing the national anthem and inadvertently launched into the French anthem instead."


Have smoke, will fly. A German entrepreneur has moved his idea for

Smoker’s International Airways (Smintair) closer to reality. This is good news, but it is too bad that a seat on Smintair between Dusseldorf and Japan will run between 6 and 14 thousand bucks.

Hungarian democracy

The way has been cleared for a referendum in Hungary on the following question: "Do you agree that the Parliament of the Republic of Hungary should make a law about introducing the siesta?" The National Election Committee, however, struck down a referendum proposal about making beer free in restaurants. What was it that Churchill said about democracy?

Judicial activism and restraint

Our friend Matt Franck effectively dismantles the liberal effort to redefine judicial restraint, which I discussed (most recently) here.

Testosterone and Political Philosophy

Jacob T. Levy wonders how manly it can be to talk about manliness. And he defends the girly-men accountants and economists from what he sees as my withering attack--which, in truth, barely masked my status envy.

Firefighting and Iraq

Over a week ago I, along with fifteen other newly-hired firefighters bound for Iraq, assembled in Houston for pre-departure orientation. At midweek we were joined by another dozen or so who are returning for their second or third tour. An eclectic group, perhaps half are former military firefighters, while a couple are recently-retired career firefighters, looking for an opportunity to be of service in their retirement. Some have more than thirty years of firefighting experience, while others just meet the minimum standard of four years. Most are from career departments, though there are a few of us who are volunteer firefighters. We come from East and West Coasts, Sunbelt and Rustbelt.

All of us are making this commitment for any number of reasons. Most, I am confident, are attracted by the salary, which in my experience is at least twice what a four-year veteran of a municipal department could expect to make. Others are motivated by a desire for adventure and excitement. Many seem motivated by a genuine desire to serve their country by providing fire and rescue services to military personnel. And at least one is motivated by a desire to witness the attempt to construct a functional Iraqi society, to get to know the stakeholders involved in that process, and to perhaps play a small role in that effort.

Peter Schramm has been kind enough to offer me some space on No Left Turns, to share my experiences and impressions of events in Iraq from this curious perspective. I must admit that I am new to blogging, and so I ask your indulgence as I learn the ropes. I also ask your understanding if I do not respond immediately to your posts. For the next two weeks at the least, my schedule is filled with orientation and training seminars. But by the end of this month, I should be able to settle into a routine as I finally arrive at my post. I thought however that this might be the best time to introduce myself and my project.

For those of you who do not know me, for the past eight years I have been an assistant professor of government and foreign affairs at Hampden-Sydney College. My research interests are comparative politics broadly, including the politics of the Middle East, and political development more specifically. In addition, I am the director of the Center for the Study of the Constitution, an organization recognized by the APSA as a "related group." I am also a fellow with the Bill of Rights Institute in Washington, D.C. At the moment I am on leave from Hampden-Sydney to conduct my field research in Iraq.

I am also a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department (not affiliated with the neighboring college). And so, when Wackenhut Services Inc. appealed for firefighters to provide fire and EMS services to U.S. military installations in Iraq, the interests of my profession and my "hobby" coalesced, and my adventure was begun.

I have no idea where I will be posted once in country. I imagine that my assignment will largely be determined by my skills and the staffing needs of the moment. I will however be assigned to a base, and my duties will be confined to that base. We are not providing fire suppression and EMS services to the Iraqis.

While I certainly have suspicions regarding the conditions I will encounter, I intend to remain open and receptive to whatever comes my way. Additionally, this conflation of firefighting and political development will likely strike many as odd, and I intend to explain the method to my madness. Perhaps that can form the subject of a post in the near future. Until then…

A new Interview with Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Isayevich speaks his mind in a most authoritative way about the situation in Russia today. Because he thinks more highly of Putin’s leadership than that of his immediate predecessors, it would be easy to overlook the boldness of his criticism of his country’s government. Against Putin’s electoral reforms, for example, he writes most eloquently: "Voting for impersonal parties and their programs is a false substitute for the only true way to elect people’s representatives: voting by an actual person for an actual candidate." And Solzhenitsyn reminds us of the many ways we’ve mismanaged our relations with his country.

Bush and Iran

Jeremi Suri argues in an op ed in the Boston Globe that Bush can salvage his foreign policy by a diplomatic opening to Iran, as Nixon opened to China. He suggests that Kissinger’s maneuvers with China provide a model for navigating relations with Iran. Suri’s book, Henry Kissinger and the American Century, was just published. He is teaching (with Jean Edward Smith) The History of the U.S. from 1898 to 1945 in our Master’s program this week.

Has Edwards Turned Anger into a Campaign Theme?

According to this interesting analysis, Edwards used raw "mad as hell" moments to win the debate, and certainly he did succeed in calling attention to himself. He also wittily defused the hair issue. But this author concurs with most in adding that Hillary had a pretty darn stateswomanlike performance, despite the inevitable missteps. Obama and especially Richardson proved again that debate-type events aren’t their strength. Obama either had an enormous gaffe or a particularly shrewd moment (in appealing to actual Democratic voters) in his promiscuous promise to meet directly with any and all tyrants. This contest, of course, is very unlikely to have any enduring impact on the actual campaign.

Hypercaffeination and Military Efficiency

Ranger Coffee provides all the altertness you need without all those annoying trips to the bathroom. Produced in Rockmart, GA, just down the road from me, it’s mainly been consumed by our soldiers in Iraq so far. But anyone who teaches long classes or runs conferences or meetings where you have to be constantly talking "outside the box" knows that it has a big future here at home.
(Thanks to K-Lo.)

Democrats on abortion: packaging and positioning

While not very penetrating, this article usefully summarizes the principal strands of abortion thinking in the Democratic Party. The alternative to abortion on demand ("safe, legal, and rare") would seem to require a massive expansion of the welfare state, which (as I noted recently) implies (among other things) public funding of abortions.

How Rich is Rich?

The Hill reported last week that “leading Democrats . . . are having a difficult time agreeing on what it means to be wealthy.” Speaker Pelosi thinks it means making over $500,000 a year. Senator Schumer says the threshold is $400,000. Candidates Obama and Clinton call for tax increases on those making more than $250,000, while John Edwards favors higher taxes on those receiving more than $200,000. Edwards also reflected, however, the Democrats’ general reluctance to discuss the topic: “I don’t know if I know what a rich person is,” the multimillionaire said at a recent debate.

Why is this topic a hot potato? Because for all the triumphalism of the liberal blogosphere, whose typists anticipate a Democratic president giving the 2009 State of the Union address to a Congress with Democratic majorities in both houses, political professionals know that it will be hard to sell tickets to “Great Society: The Sequel.” One of those typists, Mark Schmitt of “Tapped,” laments that the Democrats don’t just come out and say that “we all have to share in the sacrifice” for the sake of their various humane and noble goals.

The political professionals, however, are betting that the electorate is much less enthusiastic about the Democratic agenda than the bloggers. Specifically, they worry that people favor a new war on poverty, assault on global warming, dance classes for street gang members, etc., etc., only insofar as somebody else will pay for it. The Congressional Budget Office’s most recent estimate was that in 2004 a household needed an income of $266,800 to land in the top 1% of the income distribution. Thus, Pelosi and Schumer are talking about higher taxes for only a fraction of that top 1%, while even the populist Edwards would limit his tax increases to the wealthiest 3% of the country.

The households in the top 1% of the income distribution received 16.3% of all pre-tax household income in 2004, and paid 25.3% of all federal taxes. (By comparison, the “lower” 80% of American households received less than $64,300 in 2004. Those four quintiles received 46.5% of all pre-tax household income and paid 32.9% of all federal taxes.) If political constraints are forcing Democrats to contemplate tax increases only for the very prosperous, economic constraints will leave them with very modest social welfare budgets. No Democrat is advocating a revival of the 70% income tax bracket that Pres. Reagan abolished, or of the 90% bracket that existed before JFK’s tax bill was enacted. If Democrats are going to focus their tax plans on the pinnacle of the income distribution, however, marginal increases will yield negligible results.

Thomas West and William Schambra on the Progressives

Hillary Clinton is out there the last few days touting her "modern" and "Progressive" views and explaining (in her tedious and obfuscating way) why those views are representative of the best of America. Hmmmmm--not so fast. For most Americans not well versed in the various eras of American history, the term "progressive" suggests an unqualified good. It suggests the opposite of "regressive" or backwards, for example. But in American politics the term "progressive" is (as most terms are) a loaded one. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, take a look at this talk given recently at the Heritage Foundation by Tom West of the University of Dallas and William Schambra of the Hudson Institute. Then, the next time you hear a liberal brag about their "progressive" views ask yourself what it is, exactly, they seek to progress toward. You can be sure of this much: it’ll be costly.

Victory Caucus

Bookmark this page if you want a comprehensive and well-managed clearinghouse for information on what’s going on in Iraq.

Generational Seismic Shift?

Dean Barnett writes a moving account of some truly amazing young men and women who have answered the call to service for their country. As Barnett notes, many of these young people have taken what he calls "six-figure pay cuts" in order to so serve. These guys are not victims--as the leading lights of the Democratic party would have you believe--but rather heroes who understand somewhere deep inside them (in ways that are apparently better than we have any right to expect given the lack of sufficient public support and political leadership) that this war is a war for the future of civilization and that it is going to be the struggle of a generation rather than of an election cycle. Good for them . . . great for us!

As my kids and I were flying out of Columbus late Friday evening, we grabbed a bite to eat before boarding our plane and we saw a lone soldier, dressed in his fatigues and finishing his meal. He smiled at us (perhaps because my son was wearing camo gear) and so we approached him and thanked him for his service. He looked surprised but also quite happy to hear it. He said he was only doing what he thought was right and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I loved that and my kids and I had a nice talk about what he meant. Still, I wish he hadn’t look so surprised.

Happy Birthday Bob Dole, Emma Lazarus, and Edward Hopper

Bob Dole, a very reliable and competent leader in the Senate and a good and admirable man of considerable personal discipline, was just too full of postmodern irony about having to repeat constantly his conservative message (sometimes he just about said "Tenth Amendment in my pocket--yadda, yadda, yadda"} to get elected president. Unfortunately, misguided public spiritedness overcame his irony when he consented to make the Viagra commerical. Emma Lazarus’s famous Statue of Liberty poem is "The New Colossus," which I can’t recite from memory. I could be wrong, but I do remember thinking "huddled masses" followed so closely by "wretched refuge" might be a bit over-the-top. Edward Hopper painted NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER, a moving portrayal of the greatness and misery of people alone together late at night in an urban American diner. Let me remind you that you can buy a fabulous dustjacket reproduction of the Hopper painting for less than $18 on amazon, with a copy of my new book, HOMELESS AND AT HOME IN AMERICA, thrown in at no extra charge. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate his birthday at your house.

The Libertarian Libido Forelash described by Mr. Postmodern Conservative on the "ongoing review of politics and culture" THE AMERICAN SCENE, which features an impressive array of ambitious and talented young bloggers. A good way to make a name for yourself is to pick out one trend among many and exaggerate its effects. Not that there’s all that much wrong with that: There’s a reason why neon lights worked so well for so long.