Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Chinese in Africa

According to this New York Times story there are circa 750,000 Chinese working and/or living in Africa. Good story about a Chinese owned ice cream factory in Malawi. The Chinese set up businesses, while the West sends relief experts working international agencies. Interesting.

Innocents abroad, part 3

We’re back in Austria after a few days in Italy. This time, we’re in the Zillertal (just east of Innsbruck, overlooking a river that flows into the Inn). The scenery is stunning, the hospitality marvelous. The Dutch have discovered it; Americans seem not to have, at least not as a summer destination (though one can ski in Hintertux at the end of the valley even now).

Met one of the many maternal cousins in the valley at dinner tonight; she presented us with a bottle of homemade schnapps (Obstler, made from apples and pears). Sehr schmackhaft. Our Hungarian waiter insisted, however, that they do it still better in Hungary. Our Bosnian waiter didn’t offer an opinion.

The only thing disturbing the local scene is an establishment my son has taken to calling the American embassy: McDonalds. But it’s at the beginning of the valley, and it’s quite overwhelmed by the mountains.

Thompson�s advantage

It�s not hard to tell from this WaPo story on

Fred Thompson that both the pundits and the so-called strategists want to emphasize the problems he will encounter with his late entry, his lack of arganization and infrastructure, brood over which week or day or hour he should announce to get a few days� media boost, etc. But Thompson seems only to want to "relate to the people." And with statements like these he might be able to do that: Is his after Labor Day annoucement too late? "I wasn�t there when they made those rules, so I�m not abiding by them. We�ve got plenty of time." Is he appealing to the conservative base? "I am unabashedly pro-life. I am pro-Second Amendment. And I don�t apologize for the United States of America. This country has shed more blood for the freedom of other people than all the other nations in the history of the world combined, and I�m tired of people feeling like they�ve got to apologize for America."

It seems to me that both Thompson�s late entry--which also seems "the closest thing to a successful draft
of a presidential candidate in more than a half-century"--and the reasons for the late entry will prove entirely to his advantage. One operative in the WaPo article claims that with all the "top activists and operatives" gone to other campaigns, Thompson will be relegated to running a campaign based on his "personality and issues." Could that possibly be to his disadvantage given the rest of the field?

It�s a perfect day in Ohio, by the way, so I�m off with Isabella.

Guelzo on Lincoln’s statesmanship

Allen Guelzo’s recent talk at Heritage, "Prudence, Politics, and the Proclamation," may be the best short essay ever on prudence and the "two souls of American culture" (Guelzo). Nicely done. Worth a slow read.

Innocents abroad, part 2

We’ve made our way to Italy, and have dashed through Venice and Florence. The latter came off as more likeable than the former, though I’m willing to blame the weather for some of it. The only other thing I’ll say is that the next time I visit Venice, it will be after winning a lottery.

Tomorrow we head back to Austria to visit more family roots (in the Zillertal, off the Inn, which is where my maternal grandfather comes from). I have no idea what to expect.

Haven’t seen much in the way of news (except for the papers they hand out on the trains--which means I’ve read a couple of Austrian papers and one German since I’ve been over here). Right now, I think I’d prefer the Renaissance, at least on aesthetic grounds.

One other remark about the difference between this touristic experience in the old country and the last one: there has been a remarkable increase (at least in this Rip van Winkle’s eyes) in the number of Middle Eastern and South Asian tourists. And since I’m not exactly moving in high class circles while I’m over here, I’m talking about folks who look vaguely middle class. Interesting.

Tavern Talk about Fred Thompson

In conversations with my fellow Ashlanders over the hot summer it has become clear to me that they are not yet engaged in politics. But they’re fixin’ to be engaged, as my kinfolk in Arkansas would say! And they are especially looking forward to former Senator Fred Thomspon entering the race. Why? They are bored, and they think Thompson is more genuine, more understandable, more conservative, and in general more exciting than the other Republican candidates. This David Broder column is worth reading because it is in essential agreement with the opinions I run into in the local watering holes. Thomspon’s striaght and hard rhetoric will be the ticket that gets Republicans (and maybe more) out of their summer doldrums. I predict that he will become the immediate front-runner once he announces next month. He will lead Giuliani by fifteen points and that lead will last and grow if he is just half as good as his supporters claim he is. This recent market slide due to the credit crunch is only going to help him.

Ashbrook Center

Karl Rove

David Frum is critical of Karl Rove: He may have been good on political strategy, but he was bad on policy, especially on immigration (which he confused with political strategy). Now see Paul Mirengoff on Frum and Rove. And this is a transcript of Rush Limbaugh interviewing Rove yesterday, wherein Rove was critical of Hillary Clinton. And this is the New York Times article on how "Karl Rove intensified his attack on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton." You can listen to Rove's talk for the Ashbrook Center at our annual dinner in '05. Good speech; revealing of his great virtues, and vices. The liberals will miss him more than anyone else, since they loved to demonize him.
Categories > Ashbrook Center

Putnam and the death of the diversity ideology

Daniel Henninger has some thoughts on the Robert Putnam study. Henninger says this is the short version:

"People in ethnically diverse settings don’t want to have much of anything to do with each other. ’Social capital’ erodes. Diversity has a downside.

Prof. Putnam isn’t exactly hiding these volatile conclusions, though he did introduce them in a journal called Scandinavian Political Studies. A great believer in the efficacy of what social scientists call ’reciprocity,’ he wasn’t happy with what he found but didn’t mince words describing the results:

’Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.’ The diversity nightmare gets worse: They have little confidence in the ’local news media.’ This after all we’ve done for them.

Colleagues and diversity advocates, disturbed at what was emerging from the study, suggested alternative explanations. Prof. Putnam and his team re-ran the data every which way from Sunday and the result was always the same: Diverse communities may be yeasty and even creative, but trust, altruism and community cooperation fall. He calls it ’hunkering down.’"

The whole article, "E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture", is available here.

Is Giuliani Another JFK Catholic?

According to Richard Cohen of the WASHINGTON POST, Rudy had a Kennedy moment when he told a reporter that his religious beliefs were none of his business. That allegedly signaled that Rudy would be guided by his own reason rather than by any religious authority as president. Romney, meanwhile, acknowledged that his religious beliefs might have some limited influence over his public policy views. But can Giuliani’s rude or manly moment really substitute for his sustained reflection on the place of religion in his personal and American public life? And can we really say that his repeated suggestion that ROE was rightly decided is actually based on reason?

Special Ops

Almost all of us now know that the guys in Afghanistan after 9/11 on horseback with GPS technology in one hand and gun in the other were Army Special Forces, a part of Special Operations Forces. They were (and are) impressive. David Tucker & Christopher J. Lamb (both served in an office in DOD that had "special operations and low intensity conflict" in its title; you gotta love that!) just published a volume in which they cover, as far as I can tell, everything important (and therefore controversial) about what SOF are and have been, how they are organized, and how againt Islamic extremism and other irregular threats SOF can provide the greatest strategic value.

"SOF are less a model for information-age transformation of conventional forces than they are a model for how to fight irregular warriors with discrimination, at low cost, and through emphasis on indirect methods." Theoretically exciting as this is, I glance at a photo of some scruffy guys fondling their cold guns and unlit cigars in some desert village far away. Their American eyes see both good and evil. This good book is dedicated to such good men (and their families).

Lopsided Lincoln

Since I am still in the Malay-running-Amok mode, I can’t comment on Karl Rove (whom I like very much, flaws included) or the lopsided coverage his resignation is getting, but I can quickly bring this story to your attention on what modern science can tell us about Abraham Lincoln: He had "cranial facial microsomia" (and also strabismus, smallpox, heart illness and depression). When Tolstoi said "His example is universal and will last thousands of years...and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives," he was not speaking as a scientist.

What Studies Show on Masculinity

Palaeontologists have developed an index of masculinity (and therefore attractiveness to women) based on face shape. That allowed them to be able to discover the ten most masculine celebrities in the world. Although I’m a bit skeptical, I know of no other hypothesis that can account for the appeal of Justin Timberlake. (In the cases of Will Smith, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt, I’m open to the possibility that they’re actually excellent actors.) The scientists do acknowledge that further studies may be needed. [Thanks to Ivan the K.]

Is Conservative Artist an Oxymoron?

We conservative pop culture critics are rigidly orthodox herders who make our slavish sheep carry the rhetorical water. Plus we say dumb, ideological things about good movies.

How Many Countries Did Lou Gehrig Visit Without Taking a Day Off?

A Hall of Famer branches out.

The Handicappers Say Huckabee Won

Here’s one version of the verdict among many. I agree with the nerve of the thoughtful comments in the threads below: Mike might be both too much like Bush and too much like Clinton. But I have to add the more positive spin that his disdain for Wall Street and his worry about our dependence on foreign oil--as well as his general compassionate unlibertarianism--sound something, at least, like our friend Dr. Pat Deneen (with evangelical add-ons). I make that point not to endorse the new man from Hope’s positions but to suggest that Huck might be developing a distinctive niche campaign. I also agree with the point made in the threads that the Ames result also showed that maybe the only Republicans who aren’t lethargic are particularly concerned with either abortion or immigration.

Huckabee’s Great and Vertical "Results Conservatism"

It’s only fair to post a fairly flattering article about the one candidate who clearly did better than expected in the Iowa straw poll. Mike is articulate, not particularly edgy, somewhat witty, actually wrote his own book, and has thoughtful and stable positions on the issues. But Julie and John Podhoretz are right: The hyping of Ames is best understood as a futile journalistic attempt to keep the campaign from getting even more boring, and poor Romney ended up spending a huge amount of money per vote.

You’ve All Been Thinking It . . .

. . . but it took John Podhoretz to say it--and say it so well. What’s the big whoop about Iowa and Ames anyway?

My Break from Blogging

Well, I’ve been busy. I gave the keynote lecture and mentored and all that at the ISI Honors Program in Quebec City (which is a very pretty and enjoyable mixture of contemporary American convenience and European charm--without any obvious displays of the decadence of either). My topic was "Building Better Than They Knew" or the relationship between our country and the true science of natural law. And then I went to Boulder (like Quebec, basically a theme park for the casual visitor) for ISI/Miller Center Program on Teaching American Studies for young faculty and advanced graduate students. There I sort of talked about Tocquevlle, Locke and Darwin and how our founding appears to us today.

I mention these programs because surely there are many readers of NLT who should apply to next year’s versions of them.

Our Ivan the K was in Boulder. Ralph Hancock, who’s telling the tough truth about Rawls, justice, and the good in the thread below, gave a stunning, lucid, and unmoody lecture in Quebec on Strauss and the emerging field of post-Straussian studies. You can’t miss Ralph’s witty and pathbreaking critical overview of some recent studies on Strauss in the next POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEWER. Paul Seaton (Gary’s impoverished [by comparison] brother) and Marc Guerra also have excellent essays in that issue.

Dan Mahoney was also as authoritative and charming as usual in both Quebec and Boulder on every book ever written, but mostly on those by Pierre Manent and Orestes Brownson.

The most manly, most stylish, and fittest man in Boulder was Harvey Mansfield, who gave six hours worth of funny, deep, and provocative presentations in a a 24-hour period. Well, maybe Jim Ceaser was even more stylish in his own way, and certainly he was everywhere looking over everything.

The honors undergrad fellow from Berry College, Tricia Steele, took buses from Newark to Quebec and back rather than miss the program. In Boulder, Berry grads include the only woman professor (Jocelyn Evans) and Baylor graduate students David Ramsey and Elizabeth Amato.

The Skeletor Show

One of the teachers who attended my MAHG seminar a few weeks ago sent me a link to this video. She told me it had been featured on NPR this weekend, but of course I don’t listen to that commie propaganda. But the video made me laugh harder than I have in some time, particularly because I well remember the old "Masters of the Universe" cartoons from the 1980s.