I’ll will speaking at Belmont on October 5 and 6 (Friday evening and Saturday morning). Learn more about the event and the wonderful organization that’s sponsoring me HERE.
The WaPo’s Thomas Ricks says that, by and large, no matter who’s in the White House (well, Dennis Kucinich excepted), Iraq policy will look pretty much the same. The success of the surge seems to have taken big changes off the table.
So of course we won’t hear about Iraq in the general election, right?
. . . Farmer Clinton is bringin’ the slop to the trough. I heard Larry Kudlow claim on Hugh Hewitt’s show today that this is the kind of thing that is going to ensure the Dems defeat in ’08--no matter who the GOP candidate is. His argument is that the voters saw through the out of control spending of Congress, this explains the defeat of the GOP in ’06, and if the Dems want to go down this path in such an obvious way, they’re only doing themselves a huge disservice and making things easy for us. I haven’t thought deeply about this perspective, but I want to buy it. Of course, that’s why I am suspicious of it. Still, it’s an interesting line of argument to contemplate and there may be something to it . . . But about that $5000--can we make it retro-active? Also, I wonder what Mark Steyn has to say about this? It might pump up our numbers against the jihadis.
. . . can be found here. The article begins with the observation that women report less happiness than men in being with their own parents and speculates that the reason for this is that, for women, being with parents often means work. But I must say that in my own life, my parents are one of my greatest sources of joy and I almost never feel "stress" when I’m around them. Of course, they are young and so don’t yet need my help. Indeed, when I’m with them, I work less! They take over with the kids and insist that I do other things--like shop unencumbered or read a book uninterrupted. I hope I will remember how good they have been to me when they do need my help.
Ramesh Ponnuru raises this question: If conservatives could implement their favorite Social Security remedies, such as the progressive indexing Pres. Bush endorsed in 2005, the affluent will see lower benefits while their taxes remain the same. If liberals get their favorite remedies, such as abolishing the upper limit on income subject to the payroll tax, which Sen. Obama has cautiously endorsed, the rich will pay higher taxes and receive the same benefits. Either way, Social Security becomes a worse deal for the upper quintile. If “a benefit cut would make rich people stop supporting Social Security,” he asks, “why wouldn’t a tax increase have the same effect? Is the theory that rich people can’t do math?”
There are two questions. First, why should it matter to liberals whether Social Security becomes a worse deal for the rich in the one way or the other? The rule here is, “Not one step backward.” The lesson of the 2005 liberal victory on Social Security is that they have no interest in the question raised by Mickey Kaus at the time: “Universality is extremely expensive,” he said. Devoting a large portion of our GDP to mailing “Social Security checks to rich and poor alike” can’t possibly be “the highest and best use” of it. Such arguments are of no interest whatsoever to liberals who have spent decades wresting GDP points away from the private sector for the public sector to use. Any “reforms” of the welfare state that re-privatize those points, or lead in any direction but the acquisition of additional GDP points by the public sector, are non-starters.
Secondly, why should liberals believe the rich will continue to support Social Security if it becomes a worse deal for them because of tax increases, but threaten to start looking for exit doors if it becomes a worse deal because of benefit cuts? The short answer is, yes, liberals do think the rich can’t add. The longer answer is, why should they think differently? Social Security has been a bad deal for affluent Americans for 72 years, but the defense and steady expansion of the program has never been any sort of political liability for liberals. Our social insurance system has flourished, politically, by the simple expedient of marrying conspicuous benefits to unobtrusive taxes. What incentive do liberals have to abandon a winning formula? Until 1993, the portion of the payroll tax devoted to Medicare was capped, as the larger Social Security portion still is. I don’t remember any outcry when that cap was lifted.
Just because liberals never have paid a political price for Social Security taxes doesn’t mean they never will, however. Abolishing the Social Security Wage Base would be a huge tax increase – a 12.4% surcharge on all income over $100,000. It would affect one in every six households. It would, additionally, be quite awkward, given that the liberal party line on entitlements is that Social Security is fundamentally sound, and entitlement reform really means health care cost controls to bail out Medicare and Medicaid. That’s a big tax increase to fix what we’ve been assured is a very small problem. If conservatives can’t turn such contradictions into a teaching moment, we deserve a long walk in the wilderness.
I’m more and more convinced, as you know, that what we really know about human psychology points in the direction of a personal God. But I didn’t necessarily mean this. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)
The NY Times has a front-page article on the new test given to folks who want to be citizens. It is a new test, the first change since 1986. Note all the other articles or sites related to the issue, including this one that asks the same questions of those who are citizens already; they don’t do so well. This is the new test (pdf file).
Obviously, we can have a perfectly interesting conversation on what a citizenship test should look like, is this one good enough, etc. I’m not all that interested in any kind of multiple choice test myself, perhaps especially on something of this importance. And yet, I understand that some sort of test has to be given. And this may do. My father also had to take a multiple choice civics test in 1962 (which he probably cheated to pass, since he really couldn’t read English). But he didn’t fail on the test the judge gave him, as he stood in front of him: Dad was asked whether he would be willing to serve in the U.S. military, if needed. Yes. Where does your mother live now? Budapest. Would you be willing to serve as a bombardier, if asked? Yes. Would you be willing to go to war against Hungary, if asked? Yes. Would you be willing to bomb Budapest? Pause. Yes. What would your mother think of this? She would understand. Congratulations, Mr. Schramm, you are now a citizen of the United States of America.
We thank John Lewis once again. In the midst of a very bold and interesting "rant" below, he included this fascinating list from the Library of Congress. The most influential books seem to be "self-help" in the sense of "how in the hell am I supposed to live" books. My favorite self-help book is Walker Percy’s LOST IN THE COSMOS: THE LAST SELF-HELP BOOK.
Since we’ve already discussed how "religious voters" might respond to a Giuliani candidacy, let’s talk about Fred Thompson and the evangelicals. Perhaps one of the reasons that his campaign hasn’t gotten much of (or is it more of?) a bump since its official launch is the evangelical disenchantment described in the article to which I linked above.
I suppose that I could respect Thompson’s "federalist" opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, but it’s not like judges are uniformly letting "the people" decide this matter. (Where have we heard about this combination of "popular sovereignty and judges before?)
But I am genuinely interested in where folks think evangelicals will gravitate during the primary season. I’m inclined to think that with a field full of "flawed" candidates, the social conservative/evangelical vote will be split.
At the moment, I’m somewhat less convinced than some that a Giuliani nomination will bring a third-party so-con challenger out of the woodwork. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised if some evangelicals dribbled over to the Democratic side in a Giuliani/Clinton race and more just stayed home. All things being equal, I think Catholics are the swing vote when you cut the electorate up by religion. But a drop in evangelical numbers on the Republican side would require an unimaginably large Catholic swing toward R to keep HRC out of the White House.
Our friend John von Heyking sends this along. Like Yassir Arafat, who used different rhetoric before Western and Palestinian audiences, al Qaeda says one thing in messages directed at the West and something else--something much more chilling--to its Muslim audiences.
Ivan the K and I both saw a segment on what a recent study showed on the always authoritative TODAY SHOW. Men are happier than women, and the happiness gap is widening. That’s because in our time of offical equality women have to work harder than ever, while men are slacking off both at home and at the office. And when men and women visit the relatives, women have to actually talk to them and feel their pain, while men are permitted to grab a beer and watch the game.
I’m feeling more egalitarian all the time...
Thanks to John Lewis for offering these two lists.
One is compiled by the experts and the other by ordinary readers. The experts rate Joyce’s ULYSSES first, and the people Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED. I find both those books more or less unreadable. The people confirm the controversial judgment of candidate Romney on the excellence of L. Ron Hubbard’s fiction, and so that might be grounds for hope that his tastes and habits will resonate with the voters. The experts more or less go along with the birthday assertion that Fitzgerald and Faulkner are the best among the Americans. But I never said that was my view. Let me reveal my feminist side by asserting that a powerful case could be made that the most penetrating American writers of fiction are Willa Cather and Flannery O’Connor.
Dan, with his usual eloquence, gives Charles plenty of credit for seeing the real issues and taking basically the right stand on them. Certainly Taylor is closer to the truth about our strange secularism than, say, Lilla. It does take him too many pages to tell it.
Mac Owens has a biting op-ed in today’s New York Post about the Democrats and their "fairy dust" energy proposals.
I don’t know why I am posting this--really, it’s pretty awful. So if you have a weak stomach, just move on and you’ll be no worse for your ignorance. But, if you’re curious, I think there is a serious point in here somewhere.
There are people who can be too reserved and justly be called "uptight" or some other--perhaps, less polite--name. On the other hand, I think it is also a truism that one doesn’t come across too many folks who deserve that appellation these days. Oh, there are plenty of people who are called "uptight" but the bar has been--shall we say--lowered (just a tad). I mean, you only have to be a Republican--and not even a particularly religious one--to get that insult hurled in your direction. If you’ve ever wondered what’s happened to our larger culture to explain this, you need only look and reflect upon what you read here.
There’s a reason why the acronym, "TMI" (too much information) is used so regularly today. James Taranto uses it to point us to this story today and he means to be funny and shock us. He is, and it does. But why do so many people today feel compelled to share these kind of lurid stories about their lives with any and all comers? Frankly, I cannot begin to understand the howling about "the right to privacy" and the invasions of it by the Patriot Act when--on the other hand--so many of these same folks seem willing to put so much of themselves and their souls (however twisted they may be) upon display. The YouTube/My Space culture of our youth seems to be at odds with the protest. What, exactly, is there left to hide? What information is left to expose? Is there such a thing as the private anymore?
According to Jonah, Rudy’s consistent defense of federalism is a conservative affirmation of freedom and diversity. But in order for this claim to be credible, Giuliani is going to have to do a lot more than suggest that he might be ok with the reversal of ROE. He’s going to have to explain clearly and convincingly why he thinks ROE was wrongly decided and why he would appoint justices who would work for its reversal. It may be, as I’ve said before, a tribute to his integrity that he won’t he say that, or it may be evidence that he doesn’t really understand the issue involved. Either way, we have to say that Fred, for his his faults, has been the real defender of federalism so far.
Michael Gerson argues--following Paul G. Kengor’s new book, God and Hillary Clinton--that HRC is sincere about her religion and very sincere about her support for the right to an abortion. Here’s MG’s prediction regarding 2008:
How are religious voters likely to respond to a religious believer who is also a social liberal? Roman Catholics, with their strong commitment to the poor, should be open to a Democratic message of economic justice. A majority of Christians, Catholic and Protestant, support the goals of broader health coverage and increased humanitarian aid abroad. But the most intensely religious Americans of both traditions also tend to be the most conservative on moral issues such as abortion. And it is hard to imagine that these voters will be successfully courted by the most comprehensively pro-choice presidential candidate in American history.
That might change under one circumstance: if Rudy Giuliani were the Republican nominee. Whatever Giuliani promised concerning the appointment of conservative judges, a pro-choice Republican nominee would blur the contrast between the parties on abortion. And between two pro-choice options, a larger number of religious voters might support the one with a stronger emphasis on poverty -- because, after all, Jesus did have a lot to say about how we treat the poor.
I’ll repeat what I’ve said many times before: there’s also an argument about how best to help the least among us, one that Republicans had better engage if they want to remain competitive in national elections, for the reasons Gerson offers.
Update: Yuval Levin makes a quick political point in agreement with Gerson. Patrick D. goes on at greater length about the problematical character of what he hopes will be "the corpse of the Frankenstein-like Christian-libertarian Republican coalition." He’s less confident than Gerson that a Giuliani-Clinton race will cause loads of bleeding from R to D; but he does think that those who are discontented with modernity might be persuaded to support a new William Jennings Bryan, thus handing the victory to HRC. I’ll suspend judgment until he comes up with a plausible WJB.
Peter S. has already noted Anthony Kronman’s book, which will make its way to my nightstand soon. Here’s an interview that gives another taste of his argument about how and why colleges are failing students.
By the way, I share Peter’s hesitations about parts of the argument, which is intended to appeal to a certain sort of cosmopolitan.
He was regarded by some as the greatest poet writing in English of the 20th century. Then he fell out of fashion. Now he may be coming back. He may have been surpassed in his English mythologizing by Tolkien. Or not.
Thomas Sowell writes a good piece on the bad spirit animating the recent demonstrations in Jena. The stunning moral confusion that marks so much of American life this week is beginning to be more than a little depressing. I’m going to go read a good novel . . . sorry, Peter L., it’s not going to be Faulkner or Fitzgerald today!
Neil Cavuto reports that some Senior Citizens from a Senior Center in New York are protesting the removal of doughnuts. "We’re Seniors, not senile," said one of the protesters. "We’re 75, not 5," said another. I may have to re-think my position on protesting in light of this demonstration. Good grief . . . let them eat cake!
Joe Knippenberg has a piece on the Ashbrook site regarding civic literacy and the new ISI report. It’s worth a read. I’ll have more to say later.
Yuval Levin explains that the emerging Republican consensus on health care reform actually addresses the voters’ real concerns. Somebody needs to hire Yuval to get that word out.
The new man from Hope calls us to celebrate our verticality with him on a special day. I still say there’s a lot to be said for this smart and inspirational man, although a former Baptist preacher from Arkansas is probably not the ticket to victory this time.
Ahmadinejad’s agenda, though, differs from that of the traditional autocrat. His goal is not merely to hold power in Iran through sheer force, or even through a standard 20th-century personality cult: His goal is to undermine the American and Western democracy rhetoric that poses an ideological threat to the Iranian regime.
The purpose of his posing, she argues, is to coopt the language, twisting it to his own purposes. And unlike his Communist predecessors who could call on very few open sympathizers in the West, Ahmadinejad has all too many people willing to applaud his evasions and prevarications.
Virtual frienship, or networking, is less risky and more reliable than face-to-face friendship. Virtual pokes end up hurting less than real pokes. So what’s the problem?
Today is the birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tomorrow is William Faulkner’s.
Some say Fitzgerald is the greatest American novelist, or at least that THE GREAT GATSBY is the greatest American novel. And some say Faulkner is the greatest. What say you?
The always delightful Mark Steyn chimes in and in pitch perfect tone. He includes some interesting and compelling statistics about who exactly constitutes this massive class of the "uninsured."
I listened to Columbia’s President Bollinger "introduce" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today as a "petty tyrant" and confess to being cheered by his words and hopeful that I was wrong to question the invitation. I hoped that Bollinger was on to something and that he was much more clever than I had been led to believe by his critics. But as I continued to listen (on Dennis Prager’s radio program) I found myself agreeing with Prager that it is extremely unlikely that anyone in Iran will ever hear Bollinger’s words. Then, as I listened to Ahmadinejad’s ramblings, I became even more convinced that the invitation was more than a mistake. It was a colossal mistake. The applauding in the audience as Ahmadinejad argued that the Palestinians should "not have to pay" for Europe’s role in the "so-called" (as he would have it) holocaust, is not only shameful--it is ammunition for our enemies abroad. He further dissembled reason as he discussed the need for "free and open discussion" on the question of whether the holocaust even happened. He papered over common sense as he suggested that there should be openness on the question of whether the holocaust happened, but that in Iran freedom is at the height of its glory because of its oppression of women. There can be no absolutes, you see, except those dictated by his understanding of ALLAH.
Ahmadinejad will go home a very important man now. He will be able to puff out his already considerably puffed-up chest. He was able to make the Americans dance. He came here to make Americans look weak and foolish. He achieved his purpose. We do not look stronger for tolerating this "free speech" and this "open exchange of ideas." No ideas were exchanged. Bollinger called Ahmadinejad the names he deserves to be called, but Bollinger was chastised by Ahmadinejad, essentially told to sit down and shut up and a good number of students at his university applauded. I think perhaps I might applaud that suggestion as well--but for different reasons.
Lisa Schiffren was there and you can read her impressions by clicking on that link. She has some good insights on the character of the crowd.
UPDATE: There is a saying in politics that "perception is reality"--whether or not it is actually reality. If that is true, I have some concerns about the perceptions that seem to be emanating from this Ahmadinejad talk. The first is that--of all the outrageous and hideous things that man said--the only cut that’s getting any negative play from his speech in the mainstream press is his claim that Iran has no homosexuals. THIS is the outrage? The holocaust never happened in Ahmadinejad-land, and we’re worried that he thinks Iranians don’t produce homosexuals?! Beyond that, the media coverage I’ve seen portrays Bollinger as a hero for inviting him and petty for attacking him. I stand by what I said above. This only helped Ahmadinejad--if it stirred up anything in America, it was only more confusion.
But no one is talking, and especially no one in Israel (which is very unusual). Dennis Ross has a few good thoughts about the Israeli bombing of Syria. He think Israel has handled it right.
This interview with President Sarkozy of France is worth reading. His first to an American paper (NY Times).
Please note that there was a meeting
in Pyongyang with a Syrian delegation "amid growing international concerns about weapons technology cooperation between the countries."
Also, Secretary of State Rice says that the U.S. will become "more actively involved in Middle East peacemaking in its final years." Syria will also be invited to a Middle East peace conference that will be held in the United States this fall. Israel has no objections.
Here’s an interesting discussion about the trendy serenity being enjoyed by many sophisticated conservatives when contemplating the inevitability of the second President Clinton. Please click on the entry "New...and Now Improved" to see and put in your two cents about the showdown between passionate Berry students and the distinguished public intellectual John Coleman.
John Fund writes a nice piece summarizing the links and similarities between Hillary’s new health care proposals and those that are now bogged down in the California legislature. Fund thinks that the Arnie measure is going to fail--or pass in a form that is completely unrecognizable--and that this does not bode well for Mrs. Clinton or her plan. Further, he argues that the discussion it generates will bring out enemies on all sides. Look at the nature of the opposition regarding Arnie’s plan. It’s not just Conservative Republicans who are irritated. It’s coming from all sides--including doctors, nurses, the left and populist anti-immigration forces. In short, it really is one giant political mess. Fixing health care may require a much stronger pill than Mrs. Clinton is inclined to swallow.
Here’s the always smart and fascinating Saletan’s review of of the Harvard language-obsessed sociobiologist’s new book. These two experts present all sorts of astute and subtle insights, and they’re both fine writers. Aristotle’s bad physics, we learn, is actually good psychology. But we still wonder whether Pinker can fully account for his nerdy, curious, and naughty self in terms of the nature he dscribes. Because I’ve only glanced at the book so far, I’m keeping an open mind.
The latest Civic Literacy Report offered up by ISI doesnï¿½t tell us much that is new; there is a crisis in civic literacy. There are some new colleges surveyed, and the most expensive colleges still score the worst, and that is an appealing fact for those of us who are not associated with the so-called elite institutions. Whether or not all this reveals a "crisis" is another matter. The implication is that something has to be done about this now, immediately, before itï¿½s too late. Well, some of us have been working on this for almost a generation. Furthermore, we are not satisfied with just teaching the so-called historical facts. We are most interested in teaching the principles of self-government; why the things for which we stand is a good thing, why a regime instituted to secure civil and religious liberty is a fine and noble thing, and how our Constitution is meant to secure that. So, if this study reveals that there is indeed a crisis, then itï¿½s also an opportunity for those of us who are serious. And we are taking it.
Hint: It’s not Holocaust denial.
It’s all about "the non-negotiability of the American way of life." In some sense that must be true, but some might disagree with the sense Deneen means.
Don’t let your right-wing political correctness spoil your enjoyment of Bruce Springsteen today.
But if you actually know something about music, perhaps you’d prefer to think of it as John Coltrane’s birthday.
And if you’re still all worried about the crisis in civic literacy, you might want to celebrate the birth of the man who did so much to bring that old-fashioned kind of literacy to our country, William H. McGuffey of the McGUFFEY READERS.