Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Newsweek runs an article on Amazon’s Kindle, the latest move into the post-Gutenberg era. It seems much better than other e-book readers I have seen. Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute, for ten bucks! It holds 200 books and you can subscribe to papers and mags. Clever. This is a review of the product, currently sold out, according to Amazon.

Dr. Pat Lasches Out

Christopher Lasch’s proud, populist realism is a powerful and noble antidote to meritocratic and therapeutic elitism. In addition to Deneen’s fine essay, let me recommend chapter 5 of my POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD as an introduction to Lasch. From Lasch’s own work, you might begin with the last chapter of his THE REVOLT OF THE ELITES, which isn’t dated at all.

The post/pre-holiday report

Thanks to Steve for his charming report from the Hayward household.

The Knippenbergs have had a busy Thanksgiving weekend. No Turkey, since my father-ln-law isn’t thankful for the bird. Instead, we did steaks on the grill, with side dishes made from veggies grown in his crunchy-con garden. My son made the chocolate pecan pie that served as dessert. (He sells ’em, but sorry, we don’t ship.)

My entrepreneurial kids kept us on our toes with five--yup, that’s five--pet-sitting jobs: a rambunctious lab we visited twice a day; a late middle-aged golden retriever who needs our attention three times a day; a high-maintenance poodle who apparently only pees when told to (and the owners forgot to give us the magic words); a Welsh springer spaniel who won’t come out from under the table while we’re there; and your basic low maintenance cat. Lucre is being accumulated left and right to pay for electronic gadgets and American Girl accessories.

And then there were my parents, who buzzed in Wednesday evening on their way to a glorious Advent in Austria: we’re their park-and-ride; on the other end, my mom’s cousins drove from Salzburg to Munich to pick them up.

The upcoming weeks include this conference in Macon, this holiday event at Oglethorpe, this year with a Dickensian "Christmas Carol" motif, featuring the Knipp kids as the attendants to the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by our very charming and garrulous Irish-American VP for Student Affairs (an historian of late antiquity by training); and several performances of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, featuring the three talented Knippenbergs (my dog has more of a flair for the theatrical than I do).

Hope everyone had a blessed, joyous, and restful holiday!

Has Huckabee Peaked?

Although his analysis is mixed, Terry Eastland doesn’t really think so. Republicans are depressed, turnout in Iowa will be down, and surely Huck’s supporters are less depressed than most. Christmas civility will probably mute attacks on his selectively big-government Arkansas record.
The main danger for Huckabee: His three-tickets-get-punched-in-Iowa theory no longer applies to him. His surge has been so successful than he won’t be able to spin placing or showing into winning. The main danger for Republicans: He may do so well that he’ll emerge as the only alternative to Rudy, and without being adequately vetted in a variety of ways. One mega-disadvantage of "frontloading" is that it makes buyer’s remorse more likely than ever. What if, a month from now, both Rudy and Huck seem like disastrous choices? Does the system allow for the emergence of another possibility?

It’s Back! Steve TV, Holiday Weekend Edition

With the Hollywood writers strike stretching into its third week, time for us scabs to step into the breach. With apologies to Steven Colbert, here’s the first (and probably last) edition of The Hayward Report. About 2:30 long.

The Laws of Nature (and Nature’s God?)

Our physics is not yet rational because we don’t have a completely satisfying account of how the immutable laws of nature allow for the emergence of life or lives such as ours. We can’t explain how those impersonal laws permit of the emergence of particular persons who both are able to know and can’t account for themselves (at least completely) in terms of those laws. Is it reasonable to expect a physics that can account completely for physicists, for strange and wonderful beings who are more than minds or bodies or some combination of the two? Or do we live in a multiuniverse and not a cosmos at all? Does physics depend upon a faith in the intelligibiity or universality of natural order that may or may not fit the data? Do physicists think rationally when they refuse to ask "why" about what they can see with their own scientific eyes?

Giuliani’s Strategy described in all its complexity. Rudy is especially strong in big winner-take-all states. He won’t be winnowed out before February 5, and he’s very, very likely to have a strong lead in delegates on February 6. This analysis may not take momentum into account sufficiently. And there may be a ceiling in Rudy’s support that will become clear when he has only one significant opponent left standing. Still, his main hope is that both Mitt and Huck are both fatally flawed--in different ways, of course. (One reason I’m posting these schoolmarmish analyses of nomination strategy is to benefit my elections class. Here’s a solid AP overview of the early and likely decisive part of the primary season.)

Hillary and Iowa

After reading this post and the accompanying thread, it’s clear to me that the strategic considerations are pretty complicated. If Obama wins and Hillary comes in second, she’s in trouble because Edwards drops out and supports Obama. If Edwards and Hillary comes in third, she’s wounded but far from fatally; Obama is deprived of the momentum that comes with victory, and Edwards ain’t going all the way. But if Obama wins and Hillary comes in third, she going to wish big-time she skipped Iowa and the race is widen open. According to the polls, any of these results seem quite possible. Even after predicting she may experience some rough sailing in our primary process, I say her campaign based on displaying her responsibility gene will probably succeed over the long run.

Brooks on the real Rudy

David Brooks likes what he hears from the old RG on immigration, and regrets that it won’t fly in the current GOP. But if RG simply welcomes illegal immigrants--and doesn’t stress border enforcement--he can’t run as a champion of the rule of law, which is supposed to be one of his strong suits.

The secret (?) of Huckabee’s success in Iowa

"Viral marketing":

"He hasn’t used direct mail and his very first commercial is airing on TV now," Iowa Republican Party executive director Chuck Laudner said. "The word on Huck is being spread by the news media, on the Internet — and the faith community is pushing Huck by word of mouth, phone trees, e-mail and also through caucus training sessions that occur all over the state."

And then there’s his self-presentation:

The cause aspect of Mr. Huckabee’s appeal extends beyond the intense loyalty of his evangelical Protestant supporters to secular conservatives and some Republican centrists, Mr. Laudner said.

The other Iowa Republican leader agreed with Mr. Laudner, saying that in candidate debates, speeches and interviews, Mr. Huckabee conveys the image of a genuine foe of abortion and homosexual "marriage" who nonetheless "doesn’t shove his views down people’s throats" and speaks compassionately about homosexuals and immigrants.

Such an approach might also work in South Carolina, but it’s not likely to carry over into some of the bigger states when the primary action starts to be fast and furious. If Huckabee can’t quickly translate Iowa (and perhaps South Carolina) success into an effective national campaign organization, he won’t succeed in doing anything other than perhaps mortally wounding Romney (as some have argued).

My response: if Romney can’t close the deal after his months-long and very expensive courtship of Iowa voters, it isn’t Huckabee’s fault if he isn’t able to go the distance.

Joel Kotkin on the suburbs

Here’s a challenge to all the James Howard Kunstler supporters out there:

[Suburban] success revolves around many of the basics that William Levitt recognized as critical--affordable homes, good schools, nice parks and public safety. As long as suburbs continue to deliver them, the master developer’s legacy is likely to live on for another 60 years.

Those all strike me as sound reasons for suburban living. The familiar critiques of the suburbs--lack of diversity, blandness (especially of cuisine), and no culture--have much less force than they did a couple of decades ago. Which leaves the cost of transportation....

How high a price are we willing to pay for good schools and public safety? How long before we can confidently expect these "amenities" in densely populated areas?

The party of the rich?

Studies show that, increasingly, it’s the Democrats. Class appears to be diminishing as a political divider, replaced, perhaps, by one’s attitude toward government (upper middle class civil servants aren’t exactly hostile to it) and one’s stance on moral issues. I’d like to think that the fact that Democrats have lots of wealthy supporters will mean that they’ll become sensible on economic policy, but a lot, of course, depends upon the source of the wealth (trial lawyers not being known as friends of productivity, for example).

Update: For another view, go here: as long as Democrats can be identified as the party of tax-and-spend, the wealthy have the incentive to vote their pocketbooks with the Republicans, but if taxes are essentially off the table (as they have been in recent years), the "natural" advantage Republicans have goes away. What happens if the Democrats begin to think about raising taxes again?

Santorum’s common good conservatism

Rick Santorum seems to be trying to join Michael Gerson in the dog house.

The Crisis in Musical Literacy described by Little Steven/Sil. He’ll whack you if you don’t do your Dylan homework.

The marketplace of higher education

My colleague Bob Blumenthal has turned himself into something of an expert on the finances of colleges and universities. You can read the most recent fruit of his efforts here, where he writes about a dispute between one of the regional accreditors (for which he has worked in the past and for which I’ll work early next year) and a college that it has stripped of accreditation on grounds that are far from transparent.

The short of it is that the accreditor doesn’t believe that the college has resources sufficient to support its mission. One could respond that the best evidence that the resources are adequate to the mission is that the school is in fact fulfilling its mission, something that can be measured by student satisfaction, student success, and so on, in other words, by the educational marketplace.

Or, if that’s too subjective for you (since education isn’t a "product" like others, to be measured by consumer preferences), one could look at the quality and content of the curriculum (and so on), and render a professional judgment about whether the college ought to be granting degrees, regardless of how the place is managing to do it (financially and administratively). Regional accreditors don’t like to do that, since it requires rendering judgments about curricular quality that require the application of standards much in dispute. The American Academy for Liberal Education (on whose Council of Scholars I serve) unapologetically applies such standards.

I’m tempted to argue that there’s a way of dispensing with regional accreditors whose principal purpose seems to be to audit the books of the places they accredit. My colleague Bob suggests it, at least implicitly: if there were transparency, if audited financial statements were available to the public, parents, students, and peers could make their own judgments about the quality of the "product" offered, properly focusing on the distinctiveness and quality of the curriculum offered. The only way then that regional accreditors could continue to justify their role as gatekeepers is to get into the business of certifying quality. Colleges and universities probably don’t want that, however. They’d rather have an opaque accrediting process that enables them to avoid financial transparency and accountability for curricular content.

A Moral Controversy Resolved by Scientific Progress?

Here’s a small symposium on the newest way of acquiring pluripotent stem-cells without destroying embryos. It includes a contribution by me!

Could Oprah Win Iowa for Obama?

Maybe, or even probably. Could she go on to win him California and New York? It’s not out of the question, given that momentum thing characteristic of our zany serial primary process. In any case, Oprah, Iowa, and Obama combine to make a very poetic sentence.

Iowa GOP caucus

This article describes this poll, which reflects a Huckabee surge in Iowa. Romney’s support seems softer than Huckabee’s, so, to me, the question is where the Romney voters would go, if they left the man who has courted them so assiduously without winning their undying favor.

If you can get past the headline, which is (I hope) truer than the writer knew, this article rings true to the conversations I’ve witnessed.

Update: Apologies to Peter L, whose post I didn’t see until after I wrote this one.

Huck Closing on Romney Iowa. I’m not saying this is good news. And for me the real story is that a strong majority of voters in that state will probably choose either Romney or Huckabee.

Thanksgiving proclamations again

For those interested in reading all the Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations, as I once did, should begin at this site.

Here’s a quiz for you proclamation buffs out there. Who’s the author of this one?

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.

The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.

In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.

It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to Heaven.

I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me I the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency : in the armed services and the merchant marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways and airways; in other places of public service to the Nation; and in our homes.

I wonder what Richard Cohen would say about this guy.

Gersonism and therapy, once again

Here’s the Pomocon response to the questions I posed. JP concedes that not all religion is therapeutic. In turn, I’ll concede that some religion is. Generally speaking, the more theologically conservative or orthodox it is, the less therapeutic it is.

Where Gerson stands theologically, I don’t know. Officially, the government shouln’t ask questions about theology when it contracts with, gives grants to, or authorizes the expenditure of vouchers at a site associated with a faith-based organization. The issue is, or ought to be, outcomes. That said, it’s probably easier for a less conservative or less orthodox fbo to cooperate with the government. Fewer feathers are likely to be ruffled on both sides. There’s less likelihood of a lawsuit from a self-appointed secularist watchdog organization. So I’ll concede that "therapy" is present in the faith-based initiative, but it’s neither necessary nor essential. And groups like Teen Challenge and PFM, along with other smaller organizations that also challenge their clients, can play in the game.

How the Confederates Won

I always begin my classes on the Civil War with a discussion of how the war is "remembered." The fact is that there are a number of competing narratives of the war, as responses to my Civil War posts make clear.

Several years ago, I reviewed Race and Reunion by David Blight, which does a good job of tracing the origins and evolution of three narratives:

1) the "emancipationist" interpretation, arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality;

2)the Blue-Gray reconciliationist view, which focused almost exclusively on the sacrifices of the soldiers, avoiding questions of culpability or the right and wrong of the causes;

3) the "white supremacist" view, arising in part from the Democratic Party’s counterrevolution against radical Reconstruction, and reinforced by the Lost Cause narrative, the South’s response to physical destruction and the psychological trauma of defeat.

While the white supremacist view has declined in importance, the Lost Cause narrative has become entrenched. Indeed, as I have argued, the Lost Cause narrative has dominated Civil War historiography until recently.

For those who are interested, my review of Race and Reunion is here.

My next piece will be on the various controversies about Gettysburg. These include, on the Confederate side: the decision to invade Pennsylvania in the first place; the performance of Longstreet during the battle; the effect of losing Jackson at Chancellorsville; Lee vs. Longstreet on the question of defense; and Lee’s decision on the third day to attack the Union center on Cemetery Ridge; and on the Union side: the charge leveled by Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles that Meade was forced by his corps commanders to stand and fight rather than retreat after the second day; and Meade’s failure to pursue Lee after the battle.

Richard Cohen’s religious test

WaPo columnist Richard Cohen argues that Mike Huckabee owes us an explanation of how his faith is going to affect his policies. You see, according to Cohen, in a democracy we argue, and you can’t argue about something held on faith, so we need to know what Huckabee won’t let us argue about.

I’d like to know what Cohen won’t let us argue about. As is evident from this passage, the authority of science is pretty close to the top of the list:

When Huckabee says he favors the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, he’s taking a distinctly religious position. Intelligent design has no basis in science. And when any issue, any question, becomes a matter of faith, it means it cannot be argued. That’s not what we do in a democracy. We argue about everything. (This column is my modest contribution.)

First of all, I doubt that Huckabee argues that we should teach I.D. instead of evolution, but rather both. In other words, he encourages discussion (which Cohen apparently can’t distinguish from argument).

And then there are all the "self-evident truths" (both those in the Declaration and those that are ordinarily the subjects of pious belief by right-thinking bicoastal elites): can we argue about or discuss them, or are they off limits?

Perhaps Cohen should write a column explain how his unexamined or nonnegotiable commitments influence his policy recommendations. Or does he just mean to suggest that "argument" involves shouting about one’s secular commitments. Perhaps we can’t do that about religion because genuine conflict is likely to follow. Tell that to the victims of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, not to mention all those who died in the killing fields of Cambodia or in Nazi concentration camps, to name just a few instances of atrocity accomplished by people with nonnegotiable secular commitments.

Religious fanaticism surely poses a threat to our decent regime, as does its secular counterpart. But I don’t see Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney as a religious fanatic. And I think they’re capable of making reasonable cases for the positions they hold, as President Bush has been for the positions that Cohen claims are motivated entirely by his faith. By the same token--just to be clear--I don’t think that any of the plausible Democratic nominees (or Cohen himself) poses a threat to our regime. They may be profoundly mistaken or misguided, but that’s a different "argument."

Blowing out the moral lights of the Republican Party, if not the nation

Pro-life stalwart Hadley Arkes worries that a Stephen F...I mean Rudy Giuliani nomination would marginalize pro-life voters within the Republican coalition and hence within the nation as a whole. Here’s a snippet:

It is conceivable, then, that from the standpoint of the pro-lifers it might be better to lose to Hillary Clinton than to win with Rudy Giuliani. The Republican party left standing after the defeat would still be a pro-life party. In the film Ninotchka, Greta Garbo explains to people in Paris the Stalinist purges back home: “We will have fewer but better Russians.” The Republicans might be diminished, but they would be essentially intact as a pro-life party; and, when the electoral winds shift again, they have a chance of coming back with their character intact.

He recognizes how bad a Clinton presidency would be for his cause, and so imagines circumstances under which he could voter for a ticket headed by RG but with, say, Brownback or Romney as a running mate:

Faced then with the possibility of a Democratic presidency determined to weave the ethic of abortion rights more firmly into our law and to have its judges install same-sex marriage, a Giuliani candidacy could offer some slender grounds of hope. Under those conditions, I might bite my lip, vote for him, and indulge those hopes. But they would be the hopes of the supplicants. And they will be affected at every point by the awareness of just who has the upper hand, and just who, in this party newly reshaped, does not matter all that much.

Read the whole thing.

Saletan Tackles Another Tough Issue

Studies show that the races might be ranked according to average intelligence. But all this data does, of course, is remind us that we should think of people as individuals or particular persons and not as members of races, and that William Jennings Byran was far from completely wrong to fear that evolutionary science, disconnected from egalitarian, dignified moral guidance, might readily be used to justify despotism and eugenics. "Sinful man," St. Augustine writes, "hates the equality of all men under God and, as though he were God, loves to impose his sovereignty on his fellow men."

The Huck-Chuck Ad

Well, it’s darn funny. But is it presidential? It is "vintage Huck."

English-only job requirements

Here’s some evidence of the difficulty that immigration poses to the Democratic Party.

Because he focuses on the politics of this issue, Fund doesn’t reach the merits of the particular case that sparked the dispute. Can an employer legitimately require in any case that employees only speak English on the job? That employees must understand English, and be able to deal with customers and supervisors in English are no-brainers. But what’s the case for not permitting them to speak another language amongst themselves while they’re in the workplace? I have some suspicions, but wonder what others think.

For more background on the case, go here and here.

Is Huck Half-Baked?

So editorializes the NATIONAL REVIEW. He is as populist and as prohibitionist (when it comes to smoking) as William Jennings Bryan (that’s why he’s Dr. Pat’s favorite Republican), and Cato almost flunked his fiscal policy as governor. Two questions: Is this guy really clueness when it comes to the sources of prosperity? Is it significant that the NR is taking him so seriously?

Beer Goggles, Explained: The Formula!

A few days ago I linked to the social science finding that alcohol consumption makes the opposite sex appear more attractive. Turns out there is a mathematical formula that explains this, which shows that math really is the language of romance. Some nuggets:

Non-appealing people become suddenly attractive between [a beer google score of] 51 and 100. At more than 100, someone not considered attractive looks like a super model.

[But], A poll showed that 68% of people had regretted giving their phone number to someone to whom they later realised they were not attracted.

Hat tip: Prof. J. Jackson Barlow of Juniata College.