Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Darwinian Larry, Hitler, and the Individual

Arnhart is perfectly right that we can’t hold Darwin responsible for Hitler. But we can’t forget manly Mansfield’s assertion that the alleged Darwinian discovery of the natural insignificance of particular members of our species may have
paved the way for the various totalitarian forms of "manliness run amok" of the 20th century. But don’t worry (scroll down to the second entry on Larry’s site), neo-Darwinian studies show a foundation for the individual in nature; even particular bacteria display individual--meaning unique--qualities. But still, the key point is that bacteria or even dolphins don’t really experience themselves as individuals. They aren’t concerned with their personal significance or importance, don’t engage in wholesale techno-rebellion against the nature indifferent to their particular beings, don’t believe in a personal or any other God, aren’t concerned with transcending their biological mortality, etc. Here’s the real Darwinian take on the modern individual: According to Locke, the individual is mysteriously free to invent his way out of nature. But all that exists is natural. So the Lockean individual doesn’t really exist.

Setting the record straight?

Yesterday, I participated in a blogger conference call with Douglas Feith, whose new book attempts to set the record straight about Bush Administration decisionmaking in the run-up to and early stages of the Iraq war. I have to stress that I haven’t yet read the very long book, so I’m not going to offer a review of it. Rather, I want at the moment just to say a few words about Feith’s project and about some of the arguments that don’t depend upon close acquaintance with his insider’s knowledge of the events about which he writes.

As I’ve noted, his project is, above all, to provide a record that challenges the conventional wisdom about the Bush Administration’s deliberations. Consider, for example, his book’s website, which provides links to all the sources cited in his roughly 100 pages of footnotes that are available on the internet. His readers (and critics) can check the evidence for themselves. Feith also told us that he relied on notes he took of the meetings he attended. His view of these meetings is by no means impartial, and can be challenged. But, all things being equal, I would find a person who is willing to own his views more credible than someone disagrees anonymously.

So the defenders of the conventional wisdom--like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank--will in the end have to rely on something more than ridicule to respond to the evidence. And other defenders, like the Post’s Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung--both of whom have written books that touch on Feith’s subject--will actually have to spend more than six hours with an incompletely edited manuscript in order adequately to characterize it. Will they? Well, thus far, the Post has declined to commission a review of the book, so perhaps they won’t have to.

One of the themes in our conversation with Feith that interested me the most is what he calls "strategic communication," the sustained effort to make the case for the Administration’s policy and explain it to the American people. For those of us who supported President Bush, this has been a source of immense frustration, as he and his subordinates have only sporadically sought to guide the public discussion. Feith offered a contrast between the Bush and Reagan Administrations on this point. While he praised the speeches delivered and arguments made by principal figures in the Bush Administration, he argued that, outside the limelight, the Administration failed. Here’s how he put it in the book:

White House officials did not generally encourage subcabinet officials to do speeches, interviews, or op-eds in support of our Iraq policy or our war on terrorism strategy. They chose to rely almost entirely on the President, Vice President, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice. That made it easier to keep official pronouncements “on message,” but it also meant writing off important audiences—including journalists, academics, and intellectuals—that could not be satisfied with generalizations delivered at a distance.

In the Reagan Administration, by contrast, there was a sustained effort to reach out to such audiences: officials were sent out with general themes, having the latitude to tailor them for specific audiences. Whether this would have made a big difference, I don’t know, but without the attempt, we’ll never know.

With great regret, Feith also cites the public release of the Duelfer Report, where apparently no concerted attempt was made to affect the public response to its simplest message. Yes, no stockpiles of WMD were found, which was the big headline. But, as Feith points out, the report also demonstrated that Saddam Hussein had retained his chemical and biological weapons facilities, his materiel, and his tech teams, so that the programs could have been started up within 3 - 5 weeks. The report also cited evidence of a clear intent to revive all the WMD programs, as soon as the West’s head was turned (as, indeed, it was turning). Once again, it might have been difficult to shift the press off the easy headline, but, Feith argues, no one made the effort, not even putting out a one page fact sheet aty the head of the report. The result, he says, was "a blow to American credibility from which we haven’t recovered and from which we may never recover" (as close as I could come to a direct quote while furiously taking notes).

If he were in the business of pointing fingers, this would have been a golden opportunity to blame someone. I asked him whose fault it was. His only response was that there’s plenty of blame to go around.

I’m buying the book. You should too.

The War in Sicily and Italy

In reviewing Rick Atkinson’s latest volume on World War II, Patrick Garrity let’s us in on the larger strategic questions having to do with the war, why the allies decided on Italy, how it was conducted, with what consequences. A fine essay.    

When It’s Better To Be Bitter

I lived in New York City for 15 years, not a great qualification for assessing Barack Obama’s claims about small-town Americans – the ones who have grown “bitter” about their economic prospects and, as a result, “cling to” guns, religion, anti-immigrant sentiments or cholesterol maximizing diets. But bear with me.

The first New York election I saw up close was the 1989 mayoral race, when David Dinkins won a narrow victory over Rudy Giuliani. New York was a grim place that year, mostly because of a terrible crime problem. The “Central Park Jogger” had been brutalized that spring, and the story dominated the news and water-cooler conversations. This was the time when “No Radio” signs began appearing in the windows of cars parked overnight on the street, pathetic appeals to crack addicts to please break into the next parked car in order to steal anything that might be sold or traded for drugs.

Race relations were tense after Yusef Hawkins, a 16-year-old black kid, was shot to death in Bensonhurst. The city’s finances, always heavily dependent on Wall Street, were precarious after the market sell-off in October 1987.

So, what did Dinkins and Giuliani argue about? One of the most debated topics was abortion, an issue about which the mayor of New York has no legal authority or practical capacity to make any difference whatsoever.

That, weirdly, was the whole point. New Yorkers had little hope that a mayor could actually accomplish something – could make the streets safer, the taxes lower, or the government more effective. So the election became an affinity contest. Since the city government couldn’t do anything, voting for its office-holders was an expressive rather than an effective act. We don’t expect any of the candidates to make things better, the voters were saying, but since we have to watch one of these guys on the TV news for the next four years, let’s pick one who understands and respects what we care about, rather that someone who disdains us and the way we see the world.

Sen. Obama’s unfortunate foray in extemporaneous sociology was premised on the observation of a similar phenomenon: “Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not.”Like the New Yorkers in 1989 who didn’t believe the city government could do anything to address their most pressing problems, the voters in small towns where factories have closed and young people have drifted away don’t believe the national government can do anything to address their most pressing concerns. Since the promises about economic revival made to them by both Republican and Democratic presidents have proven worthless, people stop voting on that basis, and turn to selecting the candidate whose worldview validates their own.

Obama’s argument borrows from the one made famous by Thomas Frank in his book, What’s the Matter With Kansas? Democrats have embraced Frank’s thesis enthusiastically but perhaps too literally: If working-class Reagan Democrats want jobs and economic security, that’s what we’ll give them. Doing so will, once again, make these voters Democratic Democrats and all this foolishness about culture wars will be forgiven and forgotten. As a Pennsylvania state legislator told Byron York, his constituents are bitter because “they’re just tired of losing their jobs, losing opportunities, losing their young people, just because we haven’t had that federal help, that little push to keep those steel mills here, keep those coal mines here, and create manufacturing opportunities.”

The problem, as Noam Scheiber argued in The New Republic after the 2004 election, is that “Democrats have run up against the limits of what they – or anyone else – can do to create and protect good jobs, the top economic priority of working-class voters.” Restricting trade hasn’t helped America’s heavily protected textile industry, which lost half its jobs in a decade. Stronger unions aren’t likely to help, either: “The heavily unionized German manufacturing sector has lost about 25 percent of its jobs since 1991.”

Obama delivered his analysis to a group of Democratic donors, discussing the kind of campaign his party needs to run. That context reveals one more way in which his comments were tone-deaf. Working-class voters don’t need to “get persuaded” that we can make progress – they need to get shown. It’s not a problem that well-crafted ads and speeches – or well-funded campaigns – can address. Following Obama’s now-famous comments, Brett Lieberman of the Harrisburg Patriot News talked with voters in small Pennsylvania towns, and found out that they don’t expect Hillary Clinton, John McCain or Obama to improve their lives by bringing good jobs to their towns.

Since this kind of demonstration would require Obama not only to win the presidency, but then to enact policies that succeed spectacularly where those of his predecessors have failed, maybe it’s time for a different tack. As the candidate running to break free from the stale gridlock of Washington’s old debates, Obama might try saying that no one knows how to restore the economic vigor of rust-belt industrial towns, and politicians should stop pretending we do.

He could follow the lead of the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, who argued last year that, despite repeated and expensive federal efforts to revive it, Buffalo, New York was the 13th most populous city in America in 1930 but now has a population 55% smaller than it had then, making it the 66th largest city in America. Glaeser recommends urban triage rather than urban renewal. The government should emphasize policies to help people in dying industrial towns – including policies that help them get out of those towns. Equip people with marketable skills and portable insurance, and upward mobility will naturally entail geographic mobility.

This won’t be an easy speech for Obama to deliver in Asheville, North Carolina or Kokomo, Indiana. If the people there really are bitter after decades of broken promises, however, they just might appreciate a little candor.

The Market for Equality

Instapundit links to this bit of wisdom:

Robert B. Reich, University of California, Berkeley : "As we’ve come to expect from Sheldon Wolin, a tightly argued and deeply revealing book about the dangers of unconstrained capitalism for our democracy."

And lord knows we can’t have unrestrained capitalism in the United States.

In point of fact, we have not had unrestrained capitalism in the United States for at least a century - as Reich, as a chief constrainer, should damned well know.

But is that quite fair to Reich? We’ll leave aside the question of whether "Capitalism" is the proper term for the market economy. (If I remember my intellectual history right, to call it "capitalism" is to put it into a Marxist framework). It seems to me that one possible explanation for the rise of income inequality, to the degree that it has taken place in the U.S. in the past generation or so, is the Reagan Revolution. Thanks to deregulation, the wealthy and the talented may live in a free market world. The trouble is, the rest of the U.S. has, as of yet, been unable to esaape from the contstraits of the bureaucratic-administrative state. In short, it might be that the best way to decrease income inequality is to reduce the size and scope of government. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Professor Reich has in mind.

Fineman on Elitism

Howard Fineman offers some "advice" to Obama about how he can shed the image of being an elitist. At first glance, it seems to be advice that Obama would do well to take and McCain and his people would do well to study and begin to prepare for a counter-offense against it. Of particular interest is Fineman’s seemingly sensible assertion that being "big city" is just as representatively American as being "rural." He rightly notes that Republicans have, at least since the days of Reagan and possibly even before them, successfully characterized big city dwellers as, well . . . not quite representative. What he doesn’t say, however, is that this strategy of the Republicans was a reaction against the Democrats and their tendency to treat those from middle America and small towns as somehow uninformed, unsophisticated and incapable of knowing what is best for themselves and their own lives. Fineman, in other words, asks Obama to embrace his elitism but to call it something else. He gives Obama a hint about how he can achieve this by pointing to the days of the Brooklyn Dodgers (who can say that "big city" underdog phenomenon was not representative of America) and by noting--somewhat nastily--that perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that Republicans began to question the infallibility of city dwellers in the 1960s, when a large part of their population was African-American.

In short, Fineman is telling Obama to embrace his elitism and play the race card . . . albeit, with more cleverness and invention than he’s exhibited so far. On second thought, if Obama studies and applies himself to Fineman’s advice, perhaps McCain should just let him go.

The Dress: RIP?

No . . . not that dress. I’m using the common noun, not speaking of an infamous dress in a shade of indigo.

Guy Trebay writes in the pages of The New York Times about the coming doom of the time honored fashion article. This, at least, is the opinion (or is it the "will") of the fashionistas who now clutter up the runways with their creations. One always wonders, when watching these productions, whether these denizens of design ever bother to consult with the end users of their products. I don’t mean the models, I mean real women. Do designers ever try to make clothing with the idea of making real women look attractive, or is their goal something else?

That certainly seems to be the case, particularly when you listen to the words of Anne Slowey, fashion news director for Elle magazine:

“The eye is looking for something new, and so is the psyche . . . The dress has been done to death, not to sound really cliché.”

She argues that women want to look, “a little more hard-core, a little more androgynous, a little more butch.” We do? Not to sound really "cliché" . . . but, I don’t think so!

Trebay wonders about that too. He points to the skyrocketing sales of dresses over the last three years--all to a generation of women who have never really enjoyed (because it was never really an option) wearing dresses. These women have discovered, not only how attractive they look in a dress, but also how much easier it is to achieve both an attractive look and . . . well, comfort with a dress than with odd pieces thrown together in an "outfit" and cutting into your body in, well, odd places. The lines of a dress are meant to flatter a woman’s body--elongating the mid-section, for example, and shrouding in sweeping mystery hips and thighs that may be (or may not be) especially toned. There are very few women who do not look better in a dress. If you doubt this, start looking around . . . examine the back view of most women in pants. Note the "muffin tops" edging out over most of the waistlines . . . is that attractive? A dress, it turns out, can hide a lot at the same time that it showcases quite a bit.

A few weeks ago, I was with some other mothers in the park. We were all, more or less, attired in the standard "Mommy" garb . . . which nowadays, unfortunately, means jeans or a sweat suit. These clothes have their uses and, perhaps, one of those uses (in addition to horseback riding or playing tennis) is the chasing around of wild children at a park. But as I looked around, I wondered whether function alone is overrated. And wouldn’t it be possible to design dresses that, in addition to being attractive, were also functional?

In the meantime, since Ms. Slowey has pronounced the death of the dress coming sometime around August, I guess I’ll have to go shopping and stock up.

Noonan on Obama and Bush

Peggy Noonan has spent some time in airports, as (recently) have I. She thinks that her fellow travelers wonder whether Obama "gets" America and knows that the people she has been visiting are over George W. Bush.

I finally understand the party nostalgia for Reagan. Everyone speaks of him now, but it wasn’t that way in 2000, or 1992, or 1996, or even ’04.

I think it is a manifestation of dislike for and disappointment in Mr. Bush. It is a turning away that is a turning back. It is a looking back to conservatism when conservatism was clear, knew what it was, was grounded in the facts of the world.

The reasons for the quiet break with Mr. Bush: spending, they say first, growth in the power and size of government, Iraq. I imagine some of this: a fine and bitter conservative sense that he has never had to stand in his stockinged feet at the airport holding the bin, being harassed. He has never had to live in the world he helped make, the one where grandma’s hip replacement is setting off the beeper here and the child is crying there.

The last bit is a little unfair. We stand in lines and endure the indignities of the TSA not because of Iraq, but becuase of 9-11. Unfortunately, for better or worse, Iraq has made us forget 9-11, or rather our response to the latter is filtered through our opinion of the former. And whatever one can say about the decision to invade Iraq or about the reasons for finishing the "job," once it has been undertaken, the demoralized confusion of those of us trudging through the concourses is the President’s fault.

Civic education and liberal education

Thomas Lindsay (an old acquaintance now at NEH) makes the case for studying our founding documents and the most profound responses to them. They comprise, he argues, a crucial part of any genuinely liberal education. How could anyone disagree?

News of the Weird

Okay, first item is Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who, in her Earth Day sermon, said that among the things children can do to save the planet is to use "sporks". No kidding:

"I believe children can tell us how to care for the earth," Jefferts Schori said in her sermon. She then proceeded to illustrate ways to care for the earth by showing items that can help the environment: re-usable grocery bags; long-lasting light bulbs; re-useable water bottles; and a spork (fork on one-side, spoon on the other).

Now you have some idea why I (and millions of others) have left the Episcopal Church in disgust. Did I mention that Schori had never led a parish before being given the top job in the Episcopal Church? Can you say "PC hire?" The Midwest Conservative Journal comments: "Hopefully, she was wearing a skort when she said it or else what’s the point?"

Meanwhile, in Indiana, a clueless Republican congressional candidate (but I repeat myself) spoke to a group of Nazis on Hitler’s birthday, apparently unaware that, you know, Nazis are bad guys:

"When asked if he was a Nazi or sympathized with Nazis or white supremacists, Zirkle replied he didn’t know enough about the group to either favor it or oppose it. “This is just a great opportunity for me to witness,” he said, referring to his message and his Christian belief. He also told WIMS radio in Michigan City that he didn’t believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn’t Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.

Ed Driscoll reminds us that this sounds like a Mel Brooks sendup: As the director of the play within the movie The Producers said after reading its script, "Did you know, I never knew that the Third Reich meant Germany. I mean it’s just drenched with historical goodies like that!"

Finally, a probably apocryphal story from Europe goes as follows:

We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election.

On one side, you have a bitch who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, and a lawyer who is married to a bitch who is a lawyer.

On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a huge chest who owns a beer distributorship.

Is there a contest here?’

Now back to book-writing for me.

Petraeus’ promotion

Robert D. Kaplan has a few clear paragraphs on what the Gen. Petraeus promotion to be the new head of Central Command means. The last is especially notable:

"That they [Petraeus and Odierno] will again constitute a team overseeing the Iraq war, now at an even higher level of command, means the Bush administration is going for victory in Iraq over all other priorities. Indeed, the personnel changes indicate that the administration is desperate to show enough improvement in Iraq by the end of the year that an incoming Democratic president wouldn’t dare reduce troop levels precipitously and risk being blamed for a dramatic security meltdown. To wit, these appointments demonstrate that, irrespective of who will be the next president, the presidential transition has already begun -- on this administration’s terms."

Obama and his Fathers

Peter C. Myers has written a thoughtful essay on Barack Obama’s speech on race. I want to characterize to you both the depth and grace of the essay, but I think you should read it yourself, it surely is the best thing yet written on the subject. It’s about the length of a Sunday op-ed. Let him persuade you that the best thing Obama could do is to travel back to the moral and political thought of our country’s founding fathers, and to allow Frederick Douglass to be his guide for that trip. Surely both Obama and our people wpould benefit. The essay is well worth a few cups of coffee and an Upmann Cameroon, if you’re man enough!

Barone Says Hillary Can Win

Michael knows his stuff, and so maybe you should listen to him. Obama is the candidate of blacks and academics and other Bobos--including big-time bureaucrats. Hillary is favored by everyone else (at least in PA). She is the candidate, right now, of the Jacksonian Democrats. She can also end up winning the popular vote, giving a moral impetus to the superdelegates to prefer her.

BUT: There is no real popular vote. And there are competing theories of how this mythical entity is to be calculated. Consensus will not be reached, and Michael does a great job of explaining why. Obama will be ahead in the only real category--delegates won. As long as he is ahead there, he can’t be denied, for reasons I’ve already explained.

Another podcast on Frederick Douglass

I talked with Professor Peter C. Myers again about Frederick Douglass (and allow me to push his fine book, Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, on the subject) in a podcast. I would say that the three themes of this conversation are slavery, the Constitution as an anti-slavery document, and Douglass’ ideas on being self-made, with the necessary virtues.    

Obama as Carter

Andy Busch doesn’t think that Obama reminds us of McGovern so much as Jimmy Carter. Like Carter, Obama is a substantively vacuous charmer with minimal big-time experience. Like Carter, Obama has based his campaign on a general promise of change and a general posture of piety. Like Carter, Obama is devoted to "healing" the nation after a harsh period of divisiveness. Like Carter, Obama has suffered gaffes, but has maintained a reservoir of support that refuses to desert him. And, like Carter, despite his flaws, he is still the odds-on favorite to win the presidency in November. You can see what else is coming: If Obama is elected he will likely be a failure because we have to note the fact that "he has thus far demonstrated no concrete capacity to govern." An altogether thoughtful piece.   

Rove and Henninger on Obama and Clinton

Two columns worth reading, although we Georgians are offended that Henninger doesn’t know that Sam Nunn (an honorary alumnus of my institution) represented us in the Senate. They’re both right that Clinton is beaten and Obama is beatable.

Tenured Radicals

Several blogs, including Powerline have linked to material about William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, noting that Dohrn and Ayers helped Obama start his political career in the 1990s.

The focus on Obama, and whether there is any significance to his connection (whatever it is) with Ayers, has obscured the real scandal here. Both Ayers and Dohrn are now faculty members in good standing at Universities in the Chicago area. Their views are virtually unchanged from those they held in their younger days. Moreover, their views are probably hard to distinguish from those held by a significant number of their colleagues. The scandal, in other words, is that no one has asked why that is the case, and how we might change it. Are our colleges and universities damaged beyond repair.

McCain’s Character

The more I see of McCain, the more I suspect that he is, in part, the product of two things. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. Before that, he attended a good prep school in northern Virginia. That means that his understanding of goverment probably owes a good deal to the consensus liberalism that was the reigning idea in the schools in the 1950s. McCain also seems to have the bull dog stubbornness and "don’t tred on me" attitude of Keltic culture. This is conjecture, but it might explain some things about him.

Update: I probably should have used the title, "McCain’s Political Character," as it would do a better job describing what I’m suggesting.

Why Hillary Can’t Win

The most reasonable quick summary of the facts is given by, believe it or not, Dick Morris. It would tear the party apart not to nominate an African American with the most elected delegates, and the Democratic system of proportional representation makes it impossible for Hillary to catch up on that front. Not only that, PA was Hillary country, in part, because of the closed primary and the very elderly electorate. NC and IN will have open primaries and considerably younger voters. Obama’s strengths are among the young and the independents, which is why, of course, he remains the stronger candidate against McCain. Each party is going to nominate a candidate who didn’t really win the support of its rank-and-file.

Poor Hillary

1. Her fairly impressive "technical landslide" in PA means she must stay in the race. But her victory wasn’t big enough to give anyone real confidence that she could actually win the nomination. She’s stuck with being perceived as mean and negative for at least two more weeks. And the odds are close to even that she’ll win in Indiana and really be stuck with going all the way to the convention that’ll have no choice but to deny her the nomination. (Obama’s has no momentum at all right now; the late deciders in PA went for Hillary.)

2. The old line on the Democrats this year was that voters were having a tough time choosing between two fine candidates. But Democratic voting has obviously become rather negative: Lots of white, working class, Catholic Pennsylvanians voted for Hillary although they don’t really like her and don’t really think she can get the nomination. They were very often voting AGAINST Obama and for, as they say, the lesser of two evils. (I would actually prefer to say they were choosing their manly, witty, and effective Governor Ed Rendell over the wimpy and boring Senator Casey Jr.)

3. For a variety of reasons, Obama has become ever more clearly both an AFRICAN AMERICAN and CULTURALLY ELITIST candidate. This combination, of course, is the recipe for Democratic defeat for the last generation. The sooner the nomination process is over the better for Barack. He needs to return to unity, change, and hope that transcends... And he can’t do that as long as the Clintons are around to exploit his every misstep. All in all, Republicans have lots of reasons to praise the Democratic devotion to proportional representation.

Hillary’s strength

Clinton’s near ten point victory means these things, in my opinion: 1. She is staying in ’till the convention; 2. An awkward feeling has settled in on the Democrats that she has a right to because she is tough, and this is combined; 3. With the sense that Obama is much more fragile as a candidate than we have thought; 4. This is connected with the sense mentioned by Peter Lawler that Obama has gone from inspirational to boring. The problem with being inspiring is that you need to keep it up, and if you can’t, and if there is nothing else in your arsenal but inspiration, you become dull; 5. The massive fact that Hillary is able to get the core constituencies in the party (save African-Americans) suggests strongly that Obama cannot beat McCain.

This uncertainty about Obama might be overcome by victories in Indiana and North Carolina, but it might not. It is possible that the gnawing feeling about him will settle in and winning late primaries in Oregon and New Mexico will not overcome it, and then it will come down to a knife fight in Denver over superdelegates. And who will bet against a Clinton in a knife fight?

John M. Olin Foundation, R.I.P.

I enjoyed--and I do mean enjoyed--the support of the John M. Olin Foundation once upon a time. It has made its final grant, to the Manhattan Institute’s Veritas Fund, to continue, in a way, the Foundation’s work in promoting genuine intellectual diversity on campus.

Secularity and religious questions in higher education

Having written on these matters, I’ll be interested in the results of the study described in this article. Does secularity mean "open to all kinds of religious discourse" or "closed to all kinds of religious discourse"?


HRC wins. Here are the exit polls, which show the usual suspects in both camps.

Assuming that Obama is the presumptive nominee (for reasons that have been discussed ad nauseum and that credit neither Democratic procedures nor the backbones of the superdelegates), the question is whether and to what degree members of the Clinton coalition will support him in November. Whither, above all, the Catholics, working class and otherwise? Whither white men? (Remember when, as in New Hampshire, Obama received more votes from white men than did Clinton?)

Mr. Pot, Mr. Kettle Calling

Bill Clinton’s comments that the Obama campaign "played the race card" on him reminds me of this piece by Dick Morris who said, around the time of the South Carolina primary, that the Clinton strategy against Obama was to turn him into the "black candidate," hoping that that would turn whites against him. Who is right, I have no idea, but it is worth remembering Morris’ take on it.

Flower Child Obama

Just a few quick questions as I’m on the run but listening to Hugh Hewitt’s very good program today on Barack Obama and his connections to Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. What does this do to the perception of Obama as the "Post-60s" candidate? Is he really as "post-Boomer" as he would have us believe? Is he about as post-boomer as he is post-racial? Is the mask slipping as much as it appears to be slipping? Isn’t it becoming ever more clear that he is really just a more aggressive and more left wing version of the politics of the 1960s. He’s everything they always wanted to be but never had the chutzpah, actually, to become. The fig leaf that generation of pols (i.e., people like the Clintons) used to cover their true politics was evasive action, lying, and good old-fashioned trimming. Obama uses pretty words and soaring speeches . . . you have to be sophisticated to understand him and his associates. (So far, he’s done a better job of this even than the Clintons and with their multiple choice definition of "is.") It’s all very complicated . . . "God damn America" doesn’t really mean "God damn America" and, anyway, he’s not really as tight with these folks as the right wing attack machine would have you believe . . . He’s beyond race and beyond generational discord. Well, he’s beyond them because he is the embodiment of them. He is the wolf the Left has by the ears . . . they can neither hold him nor safely let him go. He is the real flower child of the 60s generation. Better still, he is their Frankenstein. What will they do to him when it becomes clear that his bride won’t have him for her bridegroom?

Random Observations

1. For one reason or another, beginning with the "technical difficulties," I haven’t time to ramble about nothing.

2. Assuming Obama loses in PA, what’s most noteworthy about the result would be his lack of momentum. He caught up several weeks ago, after all. The MSM has been toughly pro-Barack and pushing the Hillary is mean and can’t be trusted line. The pressure on her to drop out is understandable. At this point the inevitable nominee is being hurt significantly by her prolonged campaign. But why should she drop out after winning a primary? That she can stay in until she loses somewhere else is just good manners.

3. Obama is gone from inspirational to boring, in my book. That doesn’t mean he can’t retool and come out with some new material during the down time after he secures the nomination.

4. Let me say one more thing about David Brooks’ character analysis of the candidates at Berry: He really got me to feel the like he has for McCain. Mac, it turns out, is really, really sloppy and disorganized. He can’t even dress himself presentably unless handlers take over, and his office and living spaces would be utter disasters without similar expert help. Not only that, he instinctively rebels against any and all authority: So he was a jerk in prep school, a big-time underachiever at the Naval Academy, a hero as a POW, and the very opposite of a team player as a senator. I don’t mean any of this as personal criticism: When listening to David recite these facts, my gut response was "Now, there’s a real man."

5. It might well be the case that both Obama and McCain are more than a cut above the usual presidential candidate as human beings, but neither obviously possesses executive competence.

6. One ambiguous sign of McCain’s possible success is Jonathan’s Rauch puff piece on him in THE ATLANTIC. Mac isn’t an ideological or revolutionary conservative, but a true or Burkean conservative. I would flesh out the distinction in Rauch’s mind, but you could do it as well I could. The MSM may end up hearting Mac more than Barack by October.

7. And I haven’t been able to thank Rob Jeffrey and various other professors and students at Wofford for treating Pat Deneen and myself with such attentive respect. Dr. Pat and I pretty much agreed about the many downsides of our techno-nihilism or Lockeanism run amok. But I’m a bit more positive on the upsides of living today (as a naturally sloppy and incompetent guy), and to some extent we disagree about what free and virtuous men and women should do now.

Polygamy . . . Just One Lifestyle Among Many

Some years ago, Al Gore made an incredible gaffe that--in addition to being painfully stupid--was also telling. He declared that our motto "E Pluribus Unum" means "out of one, many" when, in fact, it means just the opposite. Of course, his "translation" more aptly captures the essence of contemporary liberalism, which, it now seems redundant to qualify with the adjective "radical." Out of one, many . . . many lifestyles, many choices, many avenues left open for our ever curious exploration. Who can say what liberty is? Thus, as authorities in Texas have operated on their good instincts to remove 400 children from the compound of this depraved polygamous "family," the question remains: "How do we justify it?"

For now, they’re hanging on to the tenuous argument that it is "child abuse" and trying to carry this line of reasoning as far as it is able still to go, given our weakening posture on most sexual crimes. But Rich Lowry points out that one wife in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sect made the (sadly) reasonable point that their convoluted DNA was, ". . . just like in any society in America . . . A mother might have been in two or three relationships, and a child may be confused about what name to give." She’s got, at least, a half point. No one threatens to take the children of a serial polygamist away or acts to condemn these people for their abusive behavior. Of course, such parents don’t usually force their children into pre-pubescent (and plural) "marriages" . . . but, as we know, in many cases as the cycle of teen sexuality and pregnancy continues, there is no "forcing" necessary.

Eleven years ago, the story of Elizabeth Joseph came onto the scene. Joseph was invited to speak at a conference of the Utah NOW chapter. And why not? She was a busy career woman; working as an instructor of law at a local community college and as a radio news and public affairs director for two local stations. Joseph was also one of eight (!?) women "married" to one Alex Joseph. I wrote about her story at the time and about NOW’s, very logical embrace of polygamy as the ultimate feminist lifestyle. As Joseph argued, with eight wives in the house, she never had to worry about her husband having clean underwear while she went about "maximizing her feminist potential" and her children never saw the inside of a daycare. Even though I had interviewed several of the Utah NOW conference organizers and chapter leaders, they were very embarrassed when the story broke. They could not deny the argument that Ms. Joseph was making about feminism and polygamy (particularly when they acknowledged their support for lesbian marriages) . . . yet something in them still screamed "No!" They knew that embracing polygamy also meant embracing an old form of tyranny and brutality and a fundamental inequality between spouses--something we should be beyond at this point . . . but to say this would mean accepting that there are limits imposed by our natures and the laws governing our natures. Unfortunately for them, to acknowledge the "no" screaming inside of them would have meant also saying "no" to many of their liberal pre-conceptions. It was a sad spectacle as they were left a babbling mass of incoherence on the pages of the Washington Times. But I predicted then that as the interest groups supporting the "rights" of "gay marriage" and single mothers continued to garner strength in America, we would, eventually, come around full circle. We would be faced with the stark choice between liberty and barbarism. The question is, do we still recognize barbarism when it’s biting us in the rear?

Tony Snow to CNN

It seems that Tony Snow is going back to CNN as a "conservative commentator" starting this Monday. He is our Annual Dinner speaker this year, on May 29th. It is a fundraiser so if you come it will cost you, but it will be very good for us and our students. This is the 23rd year of the event (the first was with President Reagan) and it is always a fine evening, with about 600 people. Join us if you can.

The big sort of?

Alan Ehrenhalt, author of two very good books, reviews The Big Sort, which disucces how "diversity" might be driving us into relatively homogeneous enclaves. Ehrenhalt is semi-persuaded that we’re inclined to choose to live close to people more or less like ourselves politically. The book looks interesting enough to assign in a class this fall.

My question: is the sorting driven by politics or is it a product of considerations like "family-friendliness," income, and education? If, for example, I have a growing family and either can’t afford private schools or have to choose between carrying a mortgage burden or a tuition burden, I might sort myself into a suburb or exurb. If I don’t have kids or if I can cover tuition and a big mortgage payment, I have the wherewithal to live in an "interesting" urban or suburban neighborhood. It’s obviously more complicated than this, but, once again, I’m busy.

Understanding the psychographics

on which women would be interested in joining the Marine Corps. The most notable thing about the article (aside from the fact that Code Pink has to be given two paragraphs) is the impression that the Marines have a problem recruiting. I thought that they were doing better than the other services.


The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Clinton leading Obama, 51-44%, while the latest Suffolk University Poll has her ahead 52-42%; also note that in this poll "20 percent of these likely Democratic voters said they would vote for John McCain in November if their Democratic choice does not win their party’s nomination."

The director of the poll (do note the name), David Paleologos, had this to say:

"Hillary Clinton’s projected win in Pennsylvania poses some serious problems for the Democratic Party at this point. First, it continues a bitter battle between the Democratic combatants; second, with 20 percent of core Democratic supporters fleeing to McCain, electability in November becomes a quantifiable problem; and third, it begs the question of who in the Democratic Party will become the ultimate peacemaker?"

My guess is that if Clinton actually wins Pennsylvania by 10 points or more, she will call it a major victory and say she defied augury despite the fact that everyone said she would win. She will assert this as proof that she can win in November (and Obama cannot) so she has an obligation to push on and nothing can stop her from going all the way to the convention. And the real agony for her party will start here. And I like this phrase from Drudge: "Controlled excitement is building inside of Clinton’s inner circle as closely guarded internal polling shows the former first lady with an 11-point lead in Pennsylvania!"


Baseball Still a Growing Industry

Speaking of hormones and drugs . . . this article from Forbes shows that despite the negative publicity coming from high-profile big-leaguers "juicing up" and kangaroo courts in Congressional hearings, baseball continues to grow and generate huge profits for the franchises in the process. George Steinbrenner paid $10 million for the New York Yankees in 1973. Today the franchise is worth more than $1.3 billion . . . with a "b." Not a bad little turn around on his investment, is it?

The times may change, but the fundamentals of good baseball are still key to making profits. This is especially true in the smaller markets, like Cleveland: ". . . the blueprint for how to operate a franchise in a small market is the Cleveland Indians, who have shown that a team can win on and off the field if they invest wisely in player development and have good chemistry on the diamond. In 2006, the Indians won only 78 games. Last season, not only did the Tribe eliminate the Yankees in the playoffs but they generated $29 million in operating income, third-most in the American League."

Categories > Race

Hormones and the economy

A recent study measuring young Wall Street traders’ hormone levels as they brokered high-stakes deals: "the researchers showed that they tended to make more money on days when their testosterone levels were high. That suggests that the hormone makes them more likely to take profitable risks, but also that it may play a role in pumping up economic bubbles." And then there is the cortisol, which tends to make traders more cautious, helping to puncture speculative bubbles. So what’s the solution to this determinism? Take pills? The fellow conducting the study said this: "Banks and the financial system generally may be more stable if they had a greater diversity of endocrine profiles." Wall Street should hire more women and older men.

Just Say Noesis

Richard Dawkins had a silly op-ed in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago. A sample:

. To deserve the name of God, a being would have to have designed more than just a jumbo jet or even a starship. He would have to have designed the universe. And therein lies a fundamental contradiction. Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex -- and therefore, statistically improbable. And statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail.
In essence, he’s making the classic modern argument against God and relevation: it’s unlikely to have happened, particularly if we find it so hard to detect in the ordinary course of things. To be sure "Intelligent Design" theory, as I understand it, tries to do the opposite: by showing how unlikely it is that there is order in nature, it suggests that nature must have been designed by God. Once again, the argument from probability is, well, problematic.

More interesting, perhaps, is the challenge of skepticism. Dawkins does not seem open to questioning the foundations of the science which he claims to champion. That’s why he believe it is certain that "statistically improbable things don’t just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail." But why is that the case? Only after one accepts certain premises is that conclusion certain. And if the presumptions of modern science are themselves less than perfectly certain, then Dawkins’ science cannot refute the possibility of revelation.

One man’s anti-terrorism funding . . .

Glen Reynolds points us to this story showing how "anti-terrorism" funds distributed by the federal government to states and localities are used to fund regular police work.

Even though Memphis hasn’t suffered a terrorist attack, the city is using federal grants to fight crime, which might lead to the discovery of a terrorist suspect. Other cities are using federal money with similar programs.

How is this underlying logic any different from the run-of-the-mill interstate commerce interpretation from Washington? Remember Wickard v. Filburn? If a man growing wheat for his own use on his own land may be regulated by the federal government under the interstate commerce clause (because, by growing his own wheat, the farmer was diminishing the national market by a very small fraction), then any money sent by the federal government to any police department may constitute anti-terrorism funding. Such is the logic of unlimited government.


Just In Time for Earth Day

Earth Day (also Lenin's birthday--coincidence???) is Tuesday, and you may have noticed a little bit of attention in the news media on global warming and all things green. Just in time, I've done a 7-minute video update to my film from last year, An Inconvenient Truth--or Convenient Fiction?, that answers the all important question: Which shrank most last fall--the arctic ice cap, or my waistline? (Hint: I've got some calorie offsets I'm willing to sell to Al Gore.)

Categories > Environment