Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Yet Another Reason Why I Don’t Want My MTV

Tila Tequila. What ever happened to music videos?

New Wine Rec

I’ve been neglecting my duties as NLT’s wine and food editor for months now, and the news gets worse, as I am on a diet and have given up all alcohol for a while. But I did stumble on a great new Paso Robles area winery over the summer that is worth ordering from (if your state allows shipments, as most now do): Denner Vineyards.

Robert Parker is an enthusiast. Nuf said. I especially like their Viognier, another white blend they are calling Theresa, and a red rhone-style blend called Ditch Digger.

The NYT Speaks: Osama Listens

Back during the Cold War, and especially in the 1980s, you could pick up the editorial page of the New York Times and the news/editorials of Pravda, and you couldn’t tell the difference. (Sometimes Pravda would save its own writers the bother and just quote the western press for denunciations of the United States.) And Soviets always seemed to take their talking points for summits with Reagan from the American left. Gorbachev, for instance, in his first meeting with Reagan tried out the feminist chestnut that "by law" women in the U.S. could only make 60 cents for each dollar a man earned. This should have been embarrassing to the left, but wasn’t of course.

So now we have Osama, channeling the Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, and the American left. Should be embarrassing to someone, shouldn’t it? I’m just saying. . .

"Got to Watch Now"

So says Peggy Noonan about the now not-so-distant (though seemingly endless) primary campaign. This week, she argues, belonged to the Republicans between the debate and Fred Thompson’s long-awaited entry into the race. She seems underwhelmed by both Romney and Thompson for now, however, and says Guiliani needs to start showing us that he’s thoughtful (rather than simply indignant) about foreign policy. McCain--now that he’s seen to be less dangerous--draws out some justly deserved praise and the whole field is rightly admonished to stop snickering at Ron Paul. She argues: "When a thousand Republicans are in a room and one man of the eight on the stage takes a sharply minority viewpoint on a dramatic issue and half the room seems to cheer him, something’s going on." Huckabee, alone, seems to earn her unqualified praise. She wonders why he is not top-tier and wistfully speculates, "Maybe he is and we don’t know it."

See also John Podhoretz’s take on Fred’s entry into the race. It offers a good explanation of the "strategery" involved in the many camps.

On Russian men, women loving pink, and older men

The Economist is often worth looking at and reading into. For example, this article on how Russia is becoming the neo-KGB state; and more on the siloviki. Not good news, especially for Russians.

Then there is this article, on research showing that women love shopping and were better than men at finding certain kinds of food, and they prefer reddish hues, which may have to do with gathering fruit. It also seems to be the case that women prefer older men. I didn’t say old. I said older. And, by the way, none of this has anything to do with Fred Thompson.

Body Worlds

Richard Reeb over at the Remedy writes very thoughtfully (see especially his last paragraph) about a traveling display called "Body Worlds" that exhibits actual plasticized human bodies. When my daughter was in kindergarten, her class attended this exhibit as it debuted in Los Angeles. I had deep reservations about going--to say nothing of taking my kids--but as one of the other mothers is a celebrated doctor and she was also attending in order to explain things to the children, I thought it would be an opportunity not to miss. I was right and Richard is right in his reflections about this exhibit and what it demonstrates about the connectedness between body and soul. I will not say that there was not a part of me that still felt squeamish and found it all a bit "creepy"--but in thinking about rather than in reacting to the thing, there was much to be admired and learned from it. If you have an opportunity to see it at a city near you, do take it. At the same time, if you have children consider for yourself whether or not they could handle seeing it. Mine did well (mostly because of the doctor and their excellent teacher), but I saw some children having a hard time with it.

UPDATE: Along with our very thoughtful commenters, Postmodern Conservative offers a different take on this thing with some very sensible points.

Just In Time for Back to School

Charles Sykes offers our kids a new set of old rules that--apparently--are no longer taught in school. My favorite (so far) is #17, which begins: "Your parents weren’t as boring before you were born as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, driving you around, saving for your education, cleaning up your room and listening to you telling them how idealistic you are."

Counterinsurgency Comeback

After a hiatus of several years, I am happy to report that I have returned to the pages of the Wall Street Journal with a piece today on the US Army and counterinsurgency. Unfortunately, a subscription is required so I can’t provide a link.

Here’s the gist of my argument. Citing the late Carl Builder of Rand whose book "The Masks of War," demonstrated the importance of the organizational cultures of the various military services, I observe that each service possesses a preferred way of fighting that is not easily changed. Since the 1930s, the culture of the U.S. Army has emphasized "big wars." But this has not always been the case.

Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. Army was a constabulary force that, with the exception of the Mexican and Civil Wars, specialized in irregular warfare. Most of this constabulary work was domestic, the Indian Wars representing the most important case. But the U.S. Army also successfully executed constabulary operations in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, which involved both nation-building and counterinsurgency.

Emory Upton planted the seeds of change after the Civil War, and by the 1930s, the US Army had become Upton’s Army, a force designed to fight the armies of other countries and pretty much rejecting the constbulary and "irregular war" focus of the past.

I argue that focused as it has been on state-versus-state warfare, Upton’s Army has not cared much for counterinsurgency, a point illustrated by Vietnam, especially during the tenure of Gen. William Westmoreland as commander of U.S. troops from 1965 to 1968.

Westmoreland took issue with the approach favored by the Marines in Vietnam, which was based on the Corps’ experience in the Caribbean during the early 20th century. His successor, Creighton Abrams, adopted something closer to the Marines’ approach and we almost won.

But after Vietnam, the Army decided it would avoid such conflicts and the service discarded the doctrine and lessons it had learned in Vietnam. The Army that entered Iraq in March of 2003 was still Emory Upton’s Army.

I conclude:

But Iraq proves that we don’t always get to fight the wars we want. While the Army must continue to plan to fight conventional wars, given the likelihood that future adversaries will seek to avoid our conventional advantage, it must be able to fight irregular wars as well. Gen. Petraeus’s success in Iraq so far indicates that the Army has begun the necessary transformation. Let us hope that the Army will internalize these lessons, something Emory Upton’s Army has not done in the past.

Sorry. Nothing about Lincoln or Jaffa.

National Days of Prayer and Remembrance

President Bush has issued a proclamation designating Friday through Sunday as national days of prayer and remembrance on the anniversary of 9/11. He has issued such proclamations in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

Philanthropy and public purposes

The premise underlying this NYT article about tax breaks for big donors is that their money is actually public money. Viewed in this light, a tax break is a subsidy. Which means that the public is "subsidizing" all sorts of things that provide "questionable" public benefit--symphony halls, medical research, colleges and universities, foreign aid....

Aside from the fact that I wouldn’t want to live in a society where all the amenities were decided upon and financed by some level of government (the lack of genuine "diversity" would only be one of the problems), there are a number of other issues as well. What role do we give to individuality and individual initiative? What role to spontaneous communities that aren’t governmental? And so on....

Religion and the 2008 elections

Doing what he does so well, John C. Green repackages old data to offer a picture of the 2004 Bush and Kerry voting blocs based on religious affiliation and frequency of church attendance. In addition, he looks at a recent (well, January 2007) poll that allows him to cut the data the same way; if things don’t change (of course, they will), the Republican presidential coalition will be a good bit smaller.

Shame and shamelessness

I was listening to Laura Ingraham on my way into work this morning and heard a clip from Hillary Clinton’s conversation with Ellen Degeneres. None of the stories I read picked up on this aspect of the interview, nor, I think, did Ingraham get it right.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a transcript or a clip on the web, but here’s the gist of what I remember. There’s discussion of Degeneres’ sexual orientation, a reference to Larry Craig’s behavior, and then, at the end, some talk about shame. It would seem--perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think so--that the world in which Ellen Degeneres and Hillary Rodham Clinton want us to live is one in which people wouldn’t have to be ashamed of their sexual appetites and predilections, in which we would have transcended the need for shame, and in which shamelessness as a distinguishing descriptor would be impossible. Did anyone else hear what I heard?

Update: Here’s the Youtube clip: the movement is from an oblique reference to Craig’s unwillingness to admit who he is (Ellen and Hillary know him better than he knows himself) to gay marriage, "don’t ask, don’t tell" (which HRC says requires someone to lie about who he or she is), back to gay marriage (HRC: "we need to open the door for people to define their relationships"), which leads Ellen to deplore the shame that leads people to do "sad" things (HRC: "that’s exactly right"; Ellen: "It’s all about shame"; HRC: "It is.").

Update #2: For the record, HRC performed well before this friendly audience, displaying a certain warmth and informality. The charm offensive is still on.

More on Iraq

from Michael O’Hanlon, et al. There is optimism regarding military matters, and pessimism regarding the Iraqi political stalemate. The focus now shifts. Bush’s allusion (while in Iraq) to pulling some troops out now that the military situation has been made better should now force Iraqi politicians to act. We’ll see a lot of Iraq bashing and troop praising from the Congress now.

Evidence for Sober Optimism About Iraq

...from Ralph Peters. Ralph’s actually done some real work here. He’s, for example, interviewed our friend the "blade-sharp" Lt. Col. Doug Ollivant, who reports that "the counterinsurgency fight is already largely won."

Long live localism in Iraq?

In the light of President Bush’s visit to Iraq (speech here), David Brooks’s assessment of the slow sea change in thinking about that country is interesting. Brooks argues that a stable Iraq will not come from a (non-existent) non-sectarian center, but from the efforts of local tribes to impose order on their areas. As he puts it,

The crucial question now is: Do these tribes represent proto-local governments, or are they simply regional bands arming themselves in anticipation of a cataclysmic civil war?

To elaborate on this question, I’d add: Will their experience in cooperating with Americans to impose and maintain local security and stability encourage them to cooperate with their neighbors who are also interested in imposing and maintaining local security and stability?

In the course of his column, he cites this NYT Mag article, this piece on the Small Wars Journal website, and this report by Anthony Cordesman.

Update: Here’s something along similar lines in today’s WSJ. An interesting paragraph:

Gen. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, often refers to the need for "accommodation." He argues it is unrealistic to think Iraqis will reconcile any time soon. But maybe they can "accommodate" each other. Whether it’s called "accommodation," "bottom-up reconciliation" or "soft partition," U.S. officials quietly acknowledge that they are basically talking about a strategy focused on strengthening local leaders to make them more self-sufficient and less reliant on the central government. "If the central government doesn’t want to take control, maybe the locals will," said one senior U.S. commander who has played a key role in crafting the new approach. "It is too early to tell. We are riding a tiger. It may take us where we want to go."


Well, Paul demands a report on what happened in Chicago. The worst news: Instead of centering on the beautiful and historic Palmer House, most convention activity was found in hotels that are very generic, ugly, full of clip joints, and endlessly confusing--a Hyatt and a Sheraton. The book room--the social center, obviously--really was a cave beneath the cave.

The best news, from an NLT perspective, is that most of the best and most hugely attended panels were Claremont roundtables. Many APSA panels had more participants than audience in a big room. The Claremont people were often overflow crowds packed into small rooms. I reject all paranoid theories about marginalization and blame bureaucratic incompetence for this ridiculous injustice.

Because everything is finally all about me, let me say a few words about the roundtable I was on, which concerned whether social conservatism is good for conservatism. The panelists agreed that nobody knew what social conservatism was, and the phrase was vulgar and trivialized genuine political concerns shared by lots of Americans.

Hadley Arkes insisted that politics and law couldn’t be separated from the truth about morality human beings share in common, and that even the Bush administration must be criticized for doing so little to protect unborn life. Hadley was particularly hard on the libertarians, while admitting that he agreed with them about 85% of the time. His most memorable comment was something like it is better to lose honorably with Romney that sacrifice our souls for success with Giuliani.

The nice-guy head of the libertarian Cato Institute--David Boaz--said something like the problem with Republicans today is that they’re no longer led by freedom- loving men from the West like Goldwater but moralistic religious extremists from the South. They want to use big government to impose their moral views on every individual in the country, and they don’t even care that government under Republican leadership continues to bloat in all sorts of ways. He also said that same-sex marriage will soon become as uncontroversial as interracial marriage, and implicitly that those who opposed it will rightly be placed in the same boat as the racists. He admitted that the abortion controversy might be particularly tough--given the conflicting rights claims.

On the basis of that understanding of the abortion controversy, I got Mr. Boaz to admit that ROE v. WADE was probably judicial imperialism. (He should call Giuliani and explain why.) Because so many have made the point that the injustice of ROE is what brought the so-called social conservatism movement into being, we might be tempted to call even our libertarian friend a social conservative. The problem with that conclusion is that he clearly would have no trouble at all with the Court declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

More generally, Mr. Boaz contended that a genuine conservative would accept the social/cultural revolution of the Sixties and the economic/market revolution of the Eighties as part of our heritage that can’t and shouldn’t be rolled back. So a genuine conservative is a "Do your own thing" individual in every area of life.

Natural-law man Chris Wolfe, from the floor, made clear that his difference with Boaz had to do with the naturalness of marriage as an institution. A free society should be understood as much as a nation of families as a nation of individuals. Boaz made it clear enough that for all public purposes marriage could be captured by the individualistic principles of contract and consent, or is fundamentally no different from any other social relationship in his libertarian eyes.

I haven’t talked about the presentations by Heritage’s Matt Spalding and myself, but that’s because I’m out of time for now.