Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More McCain VP Gossip

According to this article Mac is leaning toward Romney, for the good reasons of executive competence and fundraising prowress. The arguments against him are the same--McCain doesn’t really like him, the Mormon issue, and he’s too standard a choice in times that call for audacity. Bobby Jindal apparently is not mentioned by McCain insiders, because he would call attention to Mac’s age. The only new name is South Dakota’s Senator Thune. As far as I know he’s a solid and somewhat boring guy, but I don’t know very far.

Civil Rights and the Conservative Movement

Not every NLT reader is a subscriber to the Claremont Review of Books, baffling as that may seem. For those of you who don’t receive CRB in your mailbox, you can read some of the pieces from the new Summer 2008 issue at You can also read my CRB essay on "Civil Rights and the Conservative Movement" at Real Clear Politics today. Try not to start reading it, however, if you have a bus to catch. The editors allowed me to go on at Tolstoyan length on the topic, so be prepared to hunker down.

Liberal Logic

To stop murder, get rid of guns. And to stop obesity, get rid of fast food.

Whatever happened to teaching people to be responsible and to govern themselves? Liberty is hard to reconcile with distrust of the citizenry.

Ceaser on Strauss and America

The new (spring) issue of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE is out!

The lead article is by James W. Ceaser--"The American Context of Leo Strauss’s NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY." There’s so much wisdom here that I don’t dare summarize. So I’ll offer a few tastes...

On Eastern vs. Western Straussians: "The East has followed one reading in seeing the American founding as reflective of Locke and modern natural right philosphy, and thus in need of direct and visible ’correction’ from without. The West has argued, in any number of ways, that this ’correction’ is already to be found inside the American founding, and in particular inside the Declaration of Independence."

"There are several versons of this [Western] thesis: that the correction in the American founding is not in Locke, whom the Americans thankfully read exoterically rather than esoterically; that Locke, if read differently from Strauss, does already contain that correction; that the whole way in which the problem is stated was transformed by the advent of Christianity, with the result that if Aristotle were to have come back in the eighteenth century, he would assume the body of John Locke."

"Leo Strauss could easily have joined this flabby [anti-totalitarian] consensus in favor of natural rights and become part of the burgeoning ’let’s pretend’ club that was spreading throughout academia....His great offense against the American intellectual establishment was his heretical suggestion that any affirmation of natural rights has something to do with restoring nature."

"Nominalism is the only philosophic category that is listed in the index of NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY....Every other entry is a name." (Let me know what the heck this means!)

Random notes from a busy weekend

The Knippenbergs spent the better part of two days this weekend down at the Georgia Tech natatorium, where the Knippkids competed in their summer swim association championships. The final results (which it took all Sunday afternoon to produce) included six top 5 finishes, two personal bests, and a team age group record.

While I was serving on Friday as a master timer (which is to say backing up the touchpads, secondary electronic systems, and stopwatches held by the lane timers), my wife had an interesting conversation with another mom. Seems her daughter, a seventh grader, had taken Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. While the official content description for the social studies portion of the test looks pretty impressive, the girl’s reaction was that what prepared her best for taking that part of the test was watching American Idol. I don’t mean this as an endorsement of the educational value of that program.

And then there’s this, from God and Gold, my current nightstand reading:

Like Addison and Macaulay--and like Lewis Tappan and J.P. Morgan, for that matter--A.P. Giannini believed that his business was rooted in character and morality, and inconceivable except under free and accountable government. The depositor must believe that the bank which receives his or her savings is soundly managed; lenders must seek individuals who are committed to repaying their loans.

Food for thought, eh?

Dual Citizenship and the Olympics

From today’s LA Times:

Giovanni Lanaro was born in Los Angeles, grew up in La Puente, attended Cal State Fullerton, and coaches and trains at Mt. San Antonio College. Yet, when the torch is lighted during opening ceremonies this summer at the Beijing Olympics, the world’s sixth-ranked pole vaulter will be with Mexico, not the United States.

"I will always compete for Mexico," said Lanaro, whose mother was born there. "I will never compete for any other country."

I used to think that the Olympics ought to be cancelled because amateurism is dead. Now I wonder if post-nationalism/ multi-culturalism will do it in. (On the other hand the pursuit of athletic excellence remains a worthy thing. Sports are one of the few places in American life where excellence is demanded, rewarded, and praised. )

Ashbrook Center

Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen, an Obama supporter who is currently at the Institute for Advanced Study, is the subject of this Washington Post article (you can also click on a four minute interview with her). Allen is looking into the question of those anonymous and false chain e-mail claiming that Obama is concealing a radical Islamic background because "Allen studies the way voters in a democracy gather their information and act on what they learn." Allen thinks that the anonymity of such statements is the problem: "Citizens and political scientists must face the fact that the Internet has enabled a new form of political organization that is just as influential on local and national elections as unions and political action committees. This kind of misinformation campaign short-circuits judgment. It also aggressively disregards the fundamental principle of free societies that one be able to debate one's accusers." In some way she reveals more about her purposes in studying this issue in the short WaPo interview than in the article itself. I also think that this is interesting, although I would suggest to the WaPo (and Allen) that Hillary's not so anonymous response to a question on whether or not Obama is a Christian, "As far as I know," is also in the category of misleading and may explain this WaPo fact: "polls show the number of voters who mistakenly believe Obama is a Muslim rose -- from 8 percent to 13 percent between November 2007 and March 2008. And some cited this religious mis-affiliation when explaining their primary votes against him."

Allen is the author of Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. She spoke on the theme of the book at the Ashbrook Center in 2005.

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Random Observations

1. I just got back from the meeting of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The main topic was healthcare. Here’s one big issue: The present system, where most people get the insurance from their employer, is collapsing. It’s incompatible with a dynamic economy and unaffordable over the long term. And when key "intermediary" groups can no longer do a job, it’s inevitable that some responsibilities devolve to individuals, and others to the government. We need a system that fosters competition among private insurers, gets everyone covered (maybe through individual mandates)--incuding the so-called uninsurable, eliminates the present tax breaks for employer-based insurance (which are very regressive), and replaces those breaks with tax credits and subsidies to make insurance affordable for all. The result should be as much individual responsibility or choice as is reasonable. But that responsibility isn’t really for "abstract individuals" alone. The new system--to be sustainable--has to encourage voluntary caregiving by families, communities, and churches. We have to think more consciously in terms of SUBSIDIARITY in our increasingly individualistic time. Otherwise, we’ll end up with more government than is good for us. Republicans have to show they really understand the imperatives of this new situation, and not merely rail against new rights, socialized medicine, and so forth. More on this later.

That leads us to the "Sam’s Club Republicans," who have to be cultivated for the GOP to have a future. For them, the SOCIAL ISSUES concerning the disintegration of the family and elite contempt for ordinary virtue remain more real than ever. But so too are the issues flowing from their economic anxiety--like health care. They don’t experience their lives as on the road to some "soft despotism." For them, the individual--surrounded by collapsing "safety nets"--seems more on his or her own than ever. Sam’s Club Republicans don’t want "socialized medicine," but they also don’t want to constantly worry about access to affordable health care for themselves and their children.

The main reason for the "enthusiasm gap" in the presidential campaign so far is that McCain doesn’t yet seem to feel the pain of the "Sam’s Club Republican"--either morally or economically. Mac has to appeal to independents (one honorable maverick appealing to others), given how discredited the Republican "brand" is right now. But he also has to energize the base that reelected the president in 2004.


Race without ideology

Charles Johnson has the lead essay in the current issue of The American Scholar, "The End of the Black American Narrative." Johnson's art and mind focuses on how the old true story of victimization (now turned into ideology) is no longer good or useful. His good pen shows the way toward a new story. I recommend it.    
Categories > Race

George Carlin on Environmentalists

Rated R for language, as usual, but worth a listen anyway. RIP.

Weekend Fun

What’s Opera Doc? now playing on You Tube.

Kill the Wabbit!

Obama Prospects, Take 1

I know it is a little early to be gaming out what course an Obama Administration might take, but already one can see the outline of disappointment on the left if he doesn’t deliver. Withdrawal from Iraq is the easy case to see, but what about the folks who won’t let go of their Bush-hatred and want to have the Bushoisie investigated for war crimes? Stuart Taylor reflects on the silliness of this today in the National Journal.

Obama on the DC Gun Ban

Barack Obama’s position on the total handgun ban in the District of Columbia has a slippery history. Although the Court overturned the ban in its decision today in District of Columbia v. Heller and Obama has released a statement that seems not to directly oppose the ruling, the position of the campaign in November was that he supported the ban. Since then, the campaign has called this formulation "inartful." Yes . . . it was very unlike the artful dodger to be so direct. As a defense of their slipperiness, ABC News reports that campaign spokesman Bill Burton argued that Obama had "refrained from developing a position on whether the D.C. gun law runs afoul of the Second Amendment." In other words, Obama’s campaign was "inartful" in claiming that Obama supported the DC gun ban because he didn’t develop any opinion about it at all?

John McCain points out that Barack Obama’s name was conspicuously missing from a bipartisan amicus brief (one that McCain, of course, signed) calling on the Court to decide the case in the way that they did today. And, of course, Chicago’s got a similar law . . . all of which led McCain to remember one of Obama’s most famous gaffes and come out of the box with this beautiful zinger: "Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today’s ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly."

I have to say that I like this side of McCain. It is refreshing (after so many years of the "new tone") to see the McCain using the words of his opponent against him and going after him like a pugilist who means to win. But I hope he will not drop it as the news cycle turns. Obama’s slippery opinions here are, more than likely, a window into his political soul. He’s hiding something of his real opinion here. Ken Blackwell noted it back in February and we had some discussion of it here. The question really comes down to something even more fundamental than Obama’s real view of gun control. McCain would do well to push this a bit.

Supremes Uphold the Second Amendment

The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun ownership in what appears to be a significant victory for gun rights advocates.

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Guelzo and Krannawitter on the Conservative Liberalism of Lincoln

The latest edition of the greatest political journal and book review in the English language, The Claremont Review of Books, is hot off the presses. Not to be missed is Allen Guelzo's fine review of the forthcoming Vindicating Lincoln by Thomas Krannawitter. A taste:
Lincoln was a conservative, Krannawitter argues, but a conservative who believed profoundly in a future of social mobility and self-improvement, to which nothing was more contradictory than a world constructed according to fixed hierarchies of race and slavery. Progressive politics (so-called) compliments itself on looking to the future; in fact, it is promoting a restoration of patrician feudalism, and its hostility to free-market economics differs not at all from what Richard Cobden called "the mock philanthropy of the Tory landowners." No wonder Lincoln kept a portrait of John Bright, Cobden's ally, in his office.

Why Don’t They Just Nominate Kermit the Frog and Be Done With It?

Democrats are having trouble going green at their Denver convention. What you come to expect from an unserious party.

Monkey Business

The Drudge Report points us to this story from Spain:

Spain’s parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

The mind reels! I am friendly to the notion that there are right and wrong ways for humans to treat animals. That, however, is different from saying that animals deserve rights. Rights imply responsibility (which, incidentally, is why the human right to own animals also gives humans the responsibility to treat animals properly.) What responsibilities are incumbent upon the apes? To put it another way, what does the Spanish Parliament think rights are?

Never Again v Eternal Return

Le plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose. Attacks on Jews
return to Europe. (H-T, Hugh Hewitt.)

My only thought is to say, with Jeremiah: "They have healed also the hurt of My people lightly, saying: ’Peace, peace’, when there is no peace."

Vero Possumus

If you haven’t been following the story, it seems the smart guys on Barack Obama’s marketing team were inspired to create their own version of the Great Seal of the United States and place on the podium when the Great One speaks. Powerline covered it over the weekend; there was speculation about the legality of the thing at the Weekly Standard; and finally speculation from Obama’s own campaign about the practical wisdom of the thing in the wake of the blow-back. It seems Americans still don’t like to see their great national symbols trifled with; not even when the trifler is a Messianic figure. Messiahs can become pariahs when they mess with stuff like that.

But there is an interesting irony to note in the Obama team’s Latin. They replaced "E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one) with "Vero Possumus" (Yes, we can). The formerly "post-racial" candidate whose very existence is a kind of physical embodiment of the great motto replaced E Pluribus Unum with a mere expression of will. This famous talker and paragon of eloquence (or so we are told to believe) replaced one of the noblest expressions of political expression with the political equivalent of a grunt. Yes we can what? Well, the possibilities are endless of course. But not in the same sense that they were with E Pluribus Unum. The end of E Pluribus Unum is contained in the expression--the goal is stated. With Obama it is as ephemeral and ambiguous as the man himself. Everything is tentative and subject to "Change." None of the possibilities implied by "Yes we can!" is anywhere close to the perfection of E Pluribus Unum. I think it is telling that Obama’s team felt free to change it. That won’t be the last thing they try to change. Believe in that.

You Say You Want an Evolution

There has already been a good deal of comment about today’s Supreme Court ruiling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, holding that it is unconstitutional for a state to execute someone who rapes a child.

Commentators like Ed Whelan highlight the majority’s argument that the eighth "Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause
’draw[s] its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that
mark the progress of a maturing society.’" Whelan asks whether refusing to execute the barbarian who committed the crime in question really is a sign of progress or civility.

We might, however, ask another, related question. Who decides? Who judges what constitutes progress? In our system, is that not supposed to be a decision for the citizens to make, via their chosen representatives? On what grounds does the Court decide that the people no longer have the right to regard execution as the proper punnishment for raping a child?

Good Things

Allow me to bring to your attention two not unrelated items. The first is a still photo of the old man quoting, "Sit by my side, and let the world slip. We shall ne’er be younger," with his son John in the May-morn of his youth; the second is a moving picture of Monty Python’s The Philosophers’ World Cup, not exactly cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.






How Should Society Curb "Baby Lust" in Young Women?

. . . given that our complex society makes it necessary to curb it? This is the insightful question posed by Kay Hymowitz in response to the now infamous case of the "Gloucester Girls Gone Wild"--the teenagers who reportedly made a pact (though the word now is that they dispute the "pact") that they would all get pregnant. They made good on the "pact" or, at least, they all got pregnant--one with a 24 year-old homeless man.

Hymowitz points out that arguments about the limited sexual education of these girls and their limited access to birth control miss the bigger picture. These young women wanted to get pregnant. Their sex ed--however flawed--apparently taught them enough to get that job done. Hey, where there’s a will (and no fertility problems) there’s a way! Missing in the sexual and moral educations of these young women (and most young women growing up today) is anything that works to dissuade their natural impulse to . . . gasp! . . . like and want babies. Because it turns out that most young women do like them and do want them. It is, dare I say, only natural that they should. They are designed for the purpose. But in our wisdom and maturity as a society, we created a whole host of constraints and restraints to prevent young women (who naturally want babies) from having them too early, without adequate (male) support, and without sufficient maturity to benefit said children. We also developed some sense that it is not always in the best interest of a young woman to forgo all of her youth in childrearing . . . that perhaps she had something even more personal and important to gain from waiting. But this was all a construct. It may have been a very sensible construct and one that enhanced nature’s intentions.

Today, we still labor under the preferences created by that construct. We still think it is preferable for a young woman to wait until she is older, more mature, and more stable to have children. A good number of folks still believe that it is better if she waits until she is married or, at least, in a "committed relationship." But as a rule, we do not defend these positions very vigorously because we have torn down all the old constructs. We don’t want to judge. A case like this, however, makes us scratch our heads. Why did these girls choose to get pregnant so young and unwed? We forget that the construct of feminism--that of an empowered young woman having sex free of any consequences and, least of all, pregnancy--is also a mere construct. The difference is that this construct is at war with female nature instead of working in tandem with it. It assumes that no young woman feels a natural urge to be a mother . . . it forgets that once all choices are open for discussion, some women (particularly those women who are not educated or raised by elitist feminists) will make choices that these feminists will not like. And now these feminists are at a loss for words; wagging their fingers, clicking their tongues . . . why, they’re almost as judgmental as the traditionalists they replaced! Female nature reasserted itself in the case of these young women in Gloucester. There would be something to be applauded in that if the consequences were not going to be so devastating for these young women and their (now fatherless) children. It would have been better if they had had the benefit of a more natural (though equally judgmental) construct.

Obama’s Old Deal and Democrat Logic

Thomas Krannawitter and Kaitlin Buss examine Hillary’s Obama’s Healthcare take-over in the pages of Investor’s Business Daily today. The eagerness with which so many seem to meet his call for "change" must be sobered, they argue, by a slap of reality. The reality doing the slapping here is not only the Constitution (and, these days, we have judges for that little obstacle) and the economic realities that face all Utopian schemes. It is the reality that, in truth, there is nothing, NOTHING, new about Obama’s call for a right to healthcare.

Nevermind change we can believe in. The truth is that, for Democrats, this is not really change at all. It’s the same tired, dusty old rhetoric they’ve been spewing for more than half a century. Indeed, FDR outdid Obama (in more ways than one, of course) but even in this. That’s because, as Krannawitter and Buss remind us, FDR called not only for a right to quality "healthcare" but for a right to "good health." Between the two, I think I’ll take the latter . . . won’t you? I mean, if they’re in the business of giving such boons to humanity, I guess I ought to sign up to get mine. But why is Obama such a piker? It seems he isn’t as ambitious in his call for change as we’ve been led to believe. It’s doubtful that he has suddenly been chastened by humility since he has also claimed (just a couple weeks ago) that his election will stem the rising tides of the oceans. I mean, that’s some brass . . . So why does he seem like such a chiseler in comparison to FDR?

Since all the pundits seem convinced this week that Obama is going to walk with the election, I’m going to try and get into the spirit of the thing and think the way the Dems tell me I should. I don’t want just good healthcare . . . I want him to guarantee me good health like FDR said he would do. Failing that, I demand an explanation as to why he does not respect my right to good health. And, in fact, Peter Lawler’s recent posts suggest that perhaps Obama should start thinking about guaranteeing me a right to eternal (or, at least, very long) life. And I don’t want to be disappointed in a love that lasts this long either . . . so how about some guarantees there too? What? You can’t promise these things? Oh . . . I see, it’s because I’m a woman, right?

Einstein on Truth, Determinism, and Morality

Algis Valiunas has written one fascinating article on THE theoretical man of the 20th century.

Here’s Einstein on determinism: "Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player." (Nicely said, you have to admit.)

Here’s Albert on morality: "The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in all our actions. Our inner balance and even our existence depend on it. Our morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."

Here’s Valinius’ analysis: Einstein "seems finally to live a riven life, one of spiritual incoherence, denying freedom of choice yet preaching an exigent morality."

Catholics and Obama

I’ve heard of cafeteria Catholics, but William McGurn offers us "NARAL Catholics" as a description of Sen. Obama’s Catholic supporters.

More on McCain’s Authenticity Problem

FORTUNE Magazine gently suggests that it may not be so authentic for McCain to have become so enthusiastic about tax cuts--or a man who makes Grover Norquist happy. Still, his new position is closer to the right one--not to mention one that highlights one of the president’s undeniable successes.

Lowry’s advice to McCain

Rich Lowry has a serious point (the suggestion re Bill Kristol is another matter): "With every clever tactic and worthy small-bore proposal—whether it’s off-shore drilling or the battery prize—McCain loses a tiny bit more of his stature and his sense of who he is. He needs to be bigger than Obama to win the election, and he needs his political persona—as a patriotic fighter determined to fix Washington and win the war—to come out clearly and unmistakably."

Why McCain Shouldn’t Praise Obama

John Pitney explains that it will inevitably seem paternalistic and racist. A funny article that makes a serious point. Mac shouldn’t be so afraid of seeming racist that he doesn’t treat Barack as his opponent.

Marines, Take Two

Peter: Keep posting updates on Johnny’s Marine odyssey. In the meantime, check out the latest Marine recruiting ad.

On a related subject, Bill Kristol nails it with today’s NYT column about what’s wrong with the new MoveOn ad attacking McCain. "Creepy" is how I felt about it, too.

Poetic Justice

Jay Parini, identified as a prof and poet, and biographer of Frost (and literary executor for Gore Vidal), writes on the punishment offered to a bunch of youths who broke into Robert Frost’s house: They were forced to study Frost’s poetry with him. This essay has possibilities--poetry, punishment, redemption, coercion and learning--but, alas, it turns into something plain and ordinary and stays as dry-as-dust for the whole of it. It reads, as The Poet might say, like the forced gait of a shuffling nag. Too bad.


John finished Boot Camp on Friday and we were there for the ceremony. He is home for ten days, then the adventure continues. The ceremony was stirring and the Marines are impressive. They give you the impression that if you are not one of them, you hold your manhood cheap. John’s immersion in the Marine ethos made him thirty pounds lighter and two feet taller. It was great fun on the long drive--he talked for hours on end--listening to his characterization of the mud and the dirt and the massive effort demanded and given, and the the new language acquired. He also talked of the transformations brought about by the wily D.I.’s in all the men, how they taught that every man’s duty is to the Corps, yet how every Marine’s soul is still his own. I note in passing how hard that is to pull off, how noble, and American the attempt. He also mentioned that his fellows named him, but more on that later. Welcome home, John. Semper fi.

Random (Troubling) Observations

1. The new NEWSWEEK poll has Obama up 15 over McCain and with a 62% apporval rating. He survived the grueling primary season (and lots of primary defeats) in good shape, and apparently the Wright stuff didn’t damage him all that much. The election seems his to lose, given his personal appeal and the desire for CHANGE. I’m not giving up or anything, but we gotta to look at the facts square in the face.

2. McCain now is only up one in Georgia. The good news, in a way, is that Bob Barr is polling at 6%, and that number will decline as the election nears. The bad is that the turnout model for the poll probably underestimates the huge African-American turnout. Clearly several other southern states--particularly Virginia and North Carolina--are also in play.

3. VP gossip: Pawlenty is back in the picture for Mac--a boring guy who was barely reelected. Webb and Rendell are both being dissed as too maverick to be safe for Obama. Good point on Webb, but Rendell is also a very competent executive, who would probably secure for Obama a state McCain has to win to have a chance.

Eros and Thanatos

Paul Seaton called our attention to a bunch of essays sponsored by the Cato Institute on the quest for indefinite longevity. Only Daniel Callahan is tough enough to recommend that we actually pass laws against those who would invent our way of nature’s deadly, species-centric intention for each of us. Ronald Bailey is the extremist in the other direction, looking forward to the time when free individuals (especially Ronald Bailey) live forever in a world unburdened by children. Diana Schaub beautifully explains the negative consequences of pushing back thanatos will have on eros, but her thought experiment doesn’t really imply any public policy recommendations. The truth, I think, that if we have the capacity to achieve indefinite longevity, we will. There won’t be any effective "pro-death" opposition to it, especially as the voters gets older and older. So the big thought experiment is really to think about how to live virtuously--with responsibility and in love in light of what we really know--under the new circumstances. People will be more anxious and disoriented and so in some ways more unhappy than ever, and it’ll be more important to be good if you really want to feel good. The book to read on this, in MY opinion, is MY STUCK WITH VIRTUE. I do applaud the Cato people for at least beginning to reflect on some downsides of the modern project of reconstructing all of being with free individual in mind. And even Ronald Bailey is to be praised for showing us what an extremely modern man looks like and thinks about. Once again, we can’t forget Darwinian Larry, who reminds us that nature will win no matter what we do. Then, of course, there’s St. Augustine and Pascal, who say that even living a thousand years is nothing in light of eternity--and no modern man really promises IMMORTALITY, just INDEFINITE LONGEVITY.

Walkin’ from New Orleans, again

Our friend Matt Franck has read the fine print.

Seming is Believing

David Brooks’ column today about the two Obamas, one genial, easy-going, but very much a man of the effete Left, and another Machiavellian, reminds me of this bit of commentary from John Adams:

Mirabeau said of La Fayette, ‘Il a affiche desinteressement’ and he added, ‘this never fails. You know the sense of the word ‘affiche’? It is as much to say, ‘he advertised’ his disinterestedness.” This is equivalent to saying that he employed a crier to proclaim through the streets ‘O Yes! O Yes! O Yes!’ All manner of persons may have the benefit of my services, gratis, provided always and only that they will yield me their unlimited and unsuspecting confidence and make me commander in chief., and after I shall have gained a few victories, make me a king or an emperor, when I shall take a fancy to be either. This has been the amount and the result of most of the disinterestedness that has been professed in the world. I say most, not all. There are exceptions, and our Washington ought to pass for one.

As far as I can tell, the key question, regarding Obama, is what his true intensions are. Sometimes, it seems that he’s been talking Left in order to please certain constitutencies, even as he prepares to steer a more moderate course in practice. But sometimes, it seems that he really wants this expansive republic to have the kind of regime that is only suitable for a small one.

Recall here, Obama’s NAFTA kerfuffle, and the question of whether Obama means it when he says, "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." (Quoted here), or if he’s geniunely baffled by the Laffer Curve.

One final point. There are several instances in the past few centuries of men who believed that they were free to be Machiavellians today in order to change the world into a place where such hijinks were no longer necessary. Others, like our friend John Adams, believing that the would could not be fundamentally remade, tried to burst such bubbles.

The Coming of Indefinite Longevity

Will it be a fundamental crisis for philosophy and theology? Or will we need them more than ever? Indefinite longevity will surely be bad for love. I promised to love you for eternity, but I really meant fifty years tops. But mabye love means, first of all, love of self. Living for an indefinitely long time would, presumably, be good for that. I can’t love myself if not I’m not around to love and be loved. Darwinian Larry, not without reason, doubts indefinite longevity is possible. We’ll never be able to control all the ways (evolutionary) nature is out to kill each one of us for the good of the species.

No, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth

I’ve just been a little busy, what with summer school, faculty development seminars (I’ve read more Petrarch than I cared to, and less Adam Smith and Montaigne), and summer swim meets (the Knipp kids aren’t undefeated, but they’re pretty doggone impressive to this unbiased observer) and all.

Here, for all the world to see, is evidence of the fact that I still exist on the web. That review of John DiIulio’s "blueprint" of the future of the faith-based initiative should be read in tandem with Stanley Carlson-Thies’ more sober and less partisan overview.

I have a few other things in the pipeline as well--an essay in the next issue of the Acton Institute’s Religion and Liberty (not yet online); a slightly revised version of my response to Patrick Deneen’s Berry at Berry talk, which will appear, with a very impressively revised version of Patrick’s talk, in The City, about which you can read and to which you can subscribe, here; and, finally, a book review somewhere in the Weekly Standard pipeline.

After I grade everything this weekend, I’ll have a little more time for this enterprise. And after summer swim championships next weekend (yes, our season ends by the end of June, so fleeting is the glory that smells of chlorine), I’ll have even more time.

The Haditha Narrative Continues to Unravel

OK, girls and boys, who remembers the Haditha massacre? This was supposed to be the My Lai of Iraq, the defining atrocity that would stand as a microcosm of everything that was wrong about the war. In March of 2006, Time magazine ran a story that claimed, based on interviews with locals, that in November of 2005, a squad of Marines had killed 24 civilians in cold blood in retaliation for the death of one of their comrades killed by an IED in Haditha. Responding to the story, the Marine Corps launched an investigation and in May charged a number of Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment of killing the civilians and a number of officers for covering up the alleged killings.

As I have said in the past, if the Marines killed civilians in Haditha in revenge for the IED attack, they would be guilty of a war crime. But as the complete story has emerged, as opposed to the partial and leaked information from questionable sources that created the original narrative, it seems to be the case that the killings, though a tragedy, did not rise to the level of war crime or atrocity.

The military justice system agrees. Of the eight Marines charged with offenses ranging from unpremeditated murder to dereliction of duty, charges against six have been dismissed and one defendent has been acquitted. Only the leader of the Marine infantry squad involved in the incident still faces reduced charges. His court-martial has been delayed.

The disgrace here is how the Marines were treated by the press and anti-war politicians, led by the odious Jack Murtha. My discussion of the whole affair can be found here.

Random Observations

1. It turns out that Tiger’s leg injuries have taken him out for the year and have career-threatening potential. The other golfers are pygmies compared to him, and I regret saying ambiguously negative things about him.

2. Lieberman is resurfacing as a McCain VP possibility. I assume that someone will tell Mac not to go with his gut on this. Even the convention, with good reason, would rebel against the choice of a liberal Democrat.

3. More promising is the very Hawkish and Jewish Rep. Eric Cantor, who has a very consistently conservative voting record. It’s not true that he’d get Mac significantly more Jewish vote. But right now he appears to be the most formidable Republican politician in VA--a state Mac will need to win that’s quickly trending Democratic. (Gilmore is down 30 to Warner.)
Cantor also seems quite able and looks young and nerdy in a good way. Does he he have the stature and/or eloquence to escape the boring category? The written versions of his speeches are very short on nuance and poetry. Still, my 10 minutes of research suggests that Cantor is at least worth discussing (as Fred Barnes has done). My tentative conclusion is that he’s no Bobby J.

4. I have to say that Mac’s new enthusiasm for offshore drilling does not seem very authentic.

5. The betting by some today is that Obama will pick Biden--which would be seen as a solid choice of an experienced man by a candidate confident of victory.

Michelle Obama’s View

Lisa Schiffren reviews Michelle Obama’s performance today on The View. I actually made a mental note (and this proves the ineffectiveness of my mental notes) to watch the program today because of her appearance. But when 9:00 rolled around I was busy baking a birthday cake (yes, from scratch) and . . . well, good grief . . . it’s The View. There are few things that bore me more than The View. If I want to watch something like The View all I have to do is take my kids to the park and watch the mothers huddled around the picnic tables (and no, I don’t exempt myself from this caricature) discussing . . . well, whatever! At least we all get some fresh air to go along with the hot air this way.

Besides, I knew others would happily sacrifice themselves for me. Schiffren took up this cross and she tells me all I need to know about what transpired. Inane and banal. Well, I knew it would be that before it happened. I’ve never seen an episode the program that wasn’t.

But at the risk of sounding banal myself . . . may I suggest that Lisa and other commentators lay off Michelle, her sleeveless dresses, and her looks? That’s really barking up the wrong tree. The last thing I aspire to do each morning is praise Michelle Obama . . . but what’s right is right. Michelle Obama is a beautiful woman. She looks very good--and refreshingly feminine--in those dresses. Sleeveless? Well . . . it’s summer! It’s hot! And she can do it. Good for her. As my grandmother used to say, "If you’ve got it flaunt it!" Of course, there’s a limit to this (remember the flak Hillary took for showing "too much" cleavage) . . . but even then, if it were nicer cleavage she displayed, I doubt there would have been as much (negative) commentary on it. But MO hasn’t got a set of bat wings. She looks good and showing arms doesn’t reach the level of immodesty in my book. It’s not even informal. Most ball gowns are sleeveless, right? And what should she wear? A suit? I have always hated female suits--particularly pant suits. You might as well wear a habit or a berka as wear a suit. It is a uniform--and an ugly one at that. I suppose she could top it all off with a set of over-sized pearls . . . ugh. I’m sorry but if you can look pretty in a suit, you’re that special sort of woman who can look pretty in anything. That is the outfit that a younger woman can wear with impunity . . . not the dress!

I think it is wonderful and refreshing to see a woman in or around politics who strives to look pretty instead of "serious." It’s not the most important thing in the world, of course, and it can become a dangerous obsession for a women who is not, on some level, serious. But there’s no small amount of wisdom in a woman who knows that looking good is far from the least important thing in the world.

Daddy Dearest?

Kathleen Parker has a different take on Barack Obama’s recent Father’s Day remarks. She argues that his emphasis on negligent fathers (never mind his emphasis on big government "fixes" that will likely only worsen the problem) is only a half truth. Missing and necessary to any real discussion of responsible parenting is a serious confrontation with irresponsible mothering. It’s not politically correct to criticize moms for their roles in family chaos, Parker realizes. It’s more acceptable to paint them as the victims. There are good reasons for this general double standard; namely, that male abuse is more likely to be serious or fatal. But gosh . . . sometimes women seem to be getting an undeserved pass. And Parker’s main point is well taken: isn’t there one day in the year when we can speak of fathers without dissing them? Might we not learn something from the poets and praise those traits in men we most want to see displayed?

The Headscarf Head-Fake

Politico reports that two Muslim women wearing headscarves at an Obama rally with Al Gore were not permitted to sit in the section that would be televised. They are not amused.

Colorado for Shale

This is not my field, but how would promoting oil shale play in Colorado? And elsewhere? Were McCain to promote it, would it, assuming Obama did not do the same, help him secure the state? Or, on the other side, might it hurt him more with green ideologues in the state than it helps?

(For balance, here’s an argument against oil shale). The key question, regarding the usefulness of oil shale, not the politics of it, seems to be how much technology has improved since the 1970s.

Multitasking everything fashionable these days, is good for information and bad for wisdom. People who say they’re good at it are probably fooling themselves, and it’s certainly not good for them. Nobody really pays attention anymore (except Tiger Woods)!

The Symbol of Mental Willpower

That’s Tiger Woods, according to David Brooks. Well, who doesn’t admire Tiger? But I have to admit I was rooting for Rocco, who was just grateful to be there and never forgot that golf is a game for gregarious animals. Mediate’s skills (and 153 ranking!) don’t compare with Woods’, and he’s an old man to boot. But he still came roaring back on Monday and with any luck could have won. It was surely one of the greatest matches in the history of golf. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Philippe Beneton on Determinism

"Has anyone ever taken determinism seriously to its limit? Who ever lived as if all freedom were denied him? Certainly not the apostles of determinism, who behave as if they had been declared exempt by some official mandate. Deterministic theories are always, it seems, in the service of something else: theoretical ambition (’I am the master of meaning’), voluntarism (’workers of the world unite!’), irresponsibility (’society alone is guilty’)." [EQUALITY BY DEFAULT, ISI, p. 200, note 6]

Obama’s Father’s Day Address

E.J. Dionne writes about the importance of this speech from Barack Obama on the subject of fatherhood. Because the subject is a serious one and, of course, one that is deeply personal to Mr. Obama, it is a speech that merits study. It should be praised for what is good in it--a clear exhortation to fathers to be responsible--but we should not consider that it is beyond reproach simply because it takes up this important and much neglected theme. Dionne frets that people will dismiss this speech as a political ploy to get white working class voters overcome what he calls their "suspicions" about a black candidate.

Dionne argues that these suggestions about Barack Obama’s Fathers Day Address (press accounts called it a sermon) are cynical beyond description. Well, I don’t blame a smart liberal like Dionne for liking Barack Obama and I certainly don’t blame him for wishing to see more serious attention given to the question of parental responsibility . . . but to read Barack Obama’s speech on the subject is to stand witness to a piece of good old-fashioned political manipulation. I agree with Dionne that there is more to it than a cynical (and transparent) attempt to win white votes. Obama is too politically clever to waste his time talking for such a crude or unambitious reason. That is for lesser politicians--the likes, say, of Hillary. Obama is the man who promises to stop the rising of the oceans when he is elected. A mere ploy to "win white votes" is beneath his dignity. If that is a side-effect, he’ll take it, I’m sure. But he’s got bigger fish to multiply.

Indeed, the more I read of Obama’s speeches, the more inclined I am to say that they smack of something very old. It is an old political style--in keeping with old American liberal traditions--that of wrapping the personal around the political. Bill Clinton was quite good at this--every State of the Union Address serving as an opportunity to trot out some living testament to awesome powers of liberal political programs. But Bill is a piker (and was criticized by the left as a trimmer) by way of his ambitions; if not by way of his relative success.

Obama speaks in the grand and ambitious style of the Progressive rock stars of old. Obama doesn’t seek just to win a few white voters. He’s after all voters. He wants to remake America in his image. Observe how it is done: In this speech, for example, he moves from the "Rock" of the gospels (he was, after all, in a church) to the "rock" of family and fatherhood to the "rock" of big government programs. He makes this seamless transition by emphasizing what he sees as the central virtue of civic life: "empathy." It is "empathy" (which he distinguishes from sympathy) that demands our government should be "meeting them [fathers] halfway" if they’re doing the best they can. We have to set things up so that it is easier for people to make the right choices . . . government must be there to encourage good behavior and, what’s more, government ought to reward it (with cash, of course). Lots of carrots . . . the sticks go unmentioned. This is probably because he means to remove the natural ones from their intended targets and replace them, instead, with artificial sticks to be used on the less than empathetic.

Notice, too, the list of questions that trouble Barack Obama’s mind as a father contemplating the futures in front of his two young daughters:

But now, my life revolves around my two little girls. And what I think about is what kind of world I’m leaving them. Are they living in a county where there’s a huge gap between a few who are wealthy and a whole bunch of people who are struggling every day? Are they living in a county that is still divided by race? A country where, because they’re girls, they don’t have as much opportunity as boys do? Are they living in a country where we are hated around the world because we don’t cooperate effectively with other nations? Are they living a world that is in grave danger because of what we’ve done to its climate?
That looks like a rather old list of worries too . . . if you’re a leftist. And it’s a weird list for a father, isn’t it? Are these the questions that really ought to take a front and center place in the minds of the absent and negligent fathers Obama means to address? If he really believes they are, then the only thing of real value in this speech was his (too true) criticism of 8th grade graduation ceremonies.

Al Gore, The Opera

I haven’t had time to comment on the truly absurd news that the La Scala opera company is going to write and produce an opera based on Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth," a story that sounds like it had to come from The Onion, but in fact it’s true. Reminds me of why Malcom Muggeridge said that he had to give up satire when real news made it impossible.

John Tierney imagines some of the difficulties the composers will face.

The Twin Legacies of the Sixties

...according to Alan Wolfe. This article, which can’t be confused with real cultural analysis, does make some good points. The Sixties gave us cultural liberalism and political conservatism--two forms of anti-authoritarianism or anti-elitism or anti-establishmentarianism. The Sixties also set the stage for genuine counterculturalism--such as the anti-bourgeois home-schooling movement and the anti-technological crunchy cons. Because of the gains for justice, Wolfe adds, we have to conclude that the Sixties were more good than not. Apparently Wolfe yearns for the party establishments of the early Sixties--the Kennedys, Harriman, Rockefeller, and so forth. Neither real liberals nor real conservatives today would admit that they were, on balance, better than what followed them. Goldwater and Reagan, for example, were, each in his own way, men of the Sixties. So was Nixon, who can’t be reduced to either good or evil.

Hitchens on Hillary

No doubt this Christopher Hitchens piece will offend some, but it is a must read. Title: "The First Excuse: Don’t blame sexism for Hillary Clinton’s defeat."   

The Architecture of Happiness

If you have not already devoured your hard copy of On Principle (and if you haven’t got one go here and stop being so cheap) the good news is that you can now read it online and in PDF format so as to preserve all the great illustrations. This issue is especially deserving of illustration preservation because it features a fine article by Allen Greenberg on the "Architecture of Democracy" and the pictures really bring home his points. The architecture--especially of our public buildings--says something about the purpose and the soul of a people. It reflects the regime and some structures are more befitting a people than others. Professor Greenberg shows us how.

Also in this issue is a thoughtful essay by Professor Chris Burkett (originally delivered as an address to graduating seniors at Ashland) on the things required to construct a good student--not just at a university--but throughout life.

And you cannot put this issue aside without indulging in the reflections of Peter Schramm as he steals a little leisure. Enjoy!

Fun With Orwell

Check out the lede to this piece from merry old England:

George Orwell once wrote that politics was closely related to social identity. "One sometimes gets the impression," he wrote in The Road To Wigan Pier, "that the mere words socialism and communism draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, nature-cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England."

(Hat-tip, Powerline.

Three Bad Possible McCain Choices

...for VP nominee are promoted by Fred Barnes. Fred seems most enthusiastic about Tom Ridge, who wouldn’t, in fact, win PA for Mac and would hurt him big-time with social conservatives everywhere. Again, I’m not being politically correct but only social scientific when I say that picking a boring (even if experienced) white man would be an unforced error on McCain’s part.

Social Science Strikes Again

I can’t wait to hear Julie Ponzi’s comments on this chart, which is offered as proof that "geek girls are easy."

In favor of stupid computers

I like this statement by Douglas R. Hofstadter (the rest of his interview is here):

"Am I disappointed by the amount of progress in cognitive science and artificial intelligence in the past 30 years or so? Not at all. To the contrary, I would have been extremely upset if we had come anywhere close to reaching A.I. — it would have made me fear that our minds and souls were not deep. Reaching the goal of A.I. in just a few decades would have made me dramatically lose respect for humanity, and I certainly don’t want (and never wanted) that to happen.

I am a deep admirer of humanity at its finest and deepest and most powerful — of great people such as Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Albert Schweitzer, Frederic Chopin, Raoul Wallenberg, Fats Waller, and on and on. I find endless depth in such people ... and I would hate to think that all that beauty and profundity and goodness could be captured — even approximated in any way at all! — in the horribly rigid computational devices of our era.

Do I still believe it will happen someday? I can’t say for sure, but I suppose it will eventually, yes. I wouldn’t want to be around then, though. Such a world would be too alien for me. I prefer living in a world where computers are still very, very stupid. And I get a huge kick out of laughing at the hilariously unpredictable inflexibility of the computer models of mental processes that my doctoral students and I codesign. It helps remind me of the immense subtlety and elusiveness of the human mind."

EU’s political turmoil

Yesterday’s New York Times front page story on the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty (a slightly altered version of the failed 2005 EU constitution) was pretty clear: This puts the EU into turmoil. The details aside (how Lisbon was supposed to make the European Union more democratic and streamlined, etc.), the real point is that the EU is very popular with European politicians, but not with European folks, and that’s why most governments don’t want their people to be able to vote the way the Irish did (all others will vote in their legislatures). The elites don’t trust their own people. And when the folks vote the wrong way, the politicians accuse them of ignorance and then immediately look for a "legal arrangement" that can get them out of their fix. What the Europeans have forgotten never learned is that before choosing (never mind legal arrangements), there has to be deliberation, and that deliberation has to be both deep and broad. A kind of civic education--or public diplomacy, if you like--has to take place and this cannot be simply the elites telling folks how to vote. A broader conversation regarding the purpose of the union has to precede the how of the thing. They once had a conversation like this--a couple of generations ago--then assumed that that conversation was enough, and the rest can be a matter of nice diplomatic (read secret) arrangements making sure that every country gets something rather specific out of it. Let’s put it this way: The EU politicians should have a decent respect to the opinions of their citizens that they should declare the purposes that would be fulfilled which impel them to the union. If they cannot do this over time, and be persuasive over time, the EU will remain nothing but this amazing confusion of accords, headed by an arrogant elite in Brussels. A constitution without purpose is not a constitution. There is no European constitution.

What to Make of It All

I start off nearly every morning thinking that John McCain has little chance of winning the election, for all of the conventional reasons summarized today by The Politico. But if Noemie Emery is right, the long-running split in the American electorate works against Obama nonetheless. We’ll see: I’m more inclined to think the perfect storm of problems facing the GOP are sufficient to overwhelm the advantages the party has enjoyed for the last several presidential election.

This is Going to Go on Your "Permanent Record"

Christopher Caldwell raises some thought-provoking and even frightening questions about the role cyberspace can play in building and destroying reputations. It gives a whole new (and real) meaning to the old "permanent record" of lore.

Is Obama a Closet Friedmanite?

The left thinks so, and is very worried about it. Apparently they think Obama breathed the ambient air too deeply at the faculty lounge during his time at the University of Chicago Law School. One can only hope. . .

UPDATE: Maybe we really should be playing this to the paranoia of the left. So I think I’ll start rubbing my hands together and saying, "Ah--it’s all going according to plan!" After all, wasn’t Obama growing up in Indonesia at about the same time the CIA was carrying off coups, etc, in that region? With apologies to Manchuria, he’s the Indonesian Candidate! Rove’s mind-control ray is working to perfection! Memo to Karl: "What are we going to do now that they’re on to us. They weren’t supposed to find out until after the election."

Tim Russert

I just heard that Tim Russert died, probably of a heart attack. He was only 58 years old. I wanted to pay him my respects because his was the only show that I would watch not because of the guests who were to appear, but rather because he was the interlocutor. I always found him thoughtful and interesting, hard in his questions, but kind in his person. I don’t remember him ever saying anything just for the sake of apperaing to seem smart. He seemed the kind of common man who was a natural and unpretentious human being; quietly proud of having made his way, always with gratitude to those who helped and sacrificed on his behalf, especially his father. He loved his father and was grateful to him because he did his duty (and then some), never whined, and didn’t participate in that now common fake introspection that our most visible public citizens favor. Although he was a Democrat, he was of the old fashioned sort, the one who I always felt perfectly comfortable with. He, and they, loved his country not only because it was his own, but because it allowed him to come up to the level of equality that the Harvard types thought was their entitlement. I never got the sense that Russert thought he was entitled to anything, but he appreciated to have the opportunity to do things he loved. He seemed to me to have more smarts and a better character than the rest of his fellow talking heads combined. I will miss him and my good wishes are with his family. R.I.P.

What’s to Like about the South

So I’m sort of the MC for a conference for undergraduates in Boston on liberty and community. One of this morning’s topics: two of the southern essays by Richard Weaver. A weakness of Weaver (a very original and engaging polemicist) was his inability to confront the simple injustice of the segregation. But he does make us reflect on some distinctive strengths of the South as "regime" (in some loose sense); Its emphasis on structure or place, its openness to communal expressions of personal transcendence, and its affirmation of the indispensable guidance of tradition or "the past." Is the strength of the generic North its principled universalism, and is its weakness its impersonality or denial of the singular significance of particular persons? Is both the strength and the weakness of the South its focus on the particular or the personal, even at the expense of the principled pursuit of justice? Everyone knows the South is now the most "livable" part of the country--but maybe that’s because the fine weather, religion, localism, and gentility have been supplemented by integration (justice) and air-conditioning (technology). We’ve engaged in decade analysis and year analysis. Now we move on to REGIONAL ANALYSIS.

The Health of the State

I don’t mean to post so much today, but this item from today’s New York Times shows why government-funded health care can threaten liberty. Nationalizing the costs of health care gives the government a legitimate reason to moniter our diets in particular, and our lifestyles in general.

From Japan:

Summoned by the city of Amagasaki one recent morning, Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight, or metabo, the preferred word in Japan these days.

But because the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. “I’m on the border,” he said.

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months. . . .

The ministry also says that curbing widening waistlines will rein in a rapidly aging society’s ballooning health care costs, one of the most serious and politically delicate problems facing Japan today

Obvious question: Is there a Sumo wrestler exemption? Or must they simply slim down by age 40?

How Odd of Dodd

To make the news.

Fun with Franklin

From Poor Richard:

Epitaph on a Scolding Wife by her Husband.

Here my poor Bridgets’s Corps doth lie,

she is at rest, -- and so am I.

Show me the body

Most conservative commentators tend to agree with Justices Scalia and Roberts that the Court majority was inventing law out of whole cloth in yesterday’s ruiling in Boumediene v. Bush, in which the Court struck down the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006. They have much reason on their side. Whether habeas corpus rights ought to apply to non-citizens captured on the field of battle (or to others captured abroad by the military and intelligence agencies) is an interesting question.

Even so, it is worth recalling Richard Epstein’s strictures on the MCA.

Churchill stuff

A couple of book reviews to bring to your attention. First, Marc Falcoff on Arthur Herman’s Ghandi and Churchill, and then more significantly--the best short statement on the subject by far--Steve Hayward reviews two books on Churchill and the Jews in the current Weekly Standard.

Retail sales up

Are we, or are we not, in a recession? I was on a panel the other day with a liberal economist and he explained that we were, for sure. I thought I was persuaded. And yet this today:

retail sales sales jumped by the largest amount in six months. The biggest increase since November. I know nothing. Just passing it along.

Boby Jindal, again

Jonathan Miles writes on Gov. Boby Jindal. The article is not meant to be favorable, in my view, yet it may be, even as itreveals some details about him that I hadn’t known. This guy is hard to dislike. I even like the way he talks about his political opponents. Last paragraph:

If Jindal, whether of his own accord or McCain’s, doesn’t end up on the Republican ticket, maybe this is the matchup to imagine: Bobby Jindal, the brown-skinned son of immigrants, running against another brown-skinned son of an immigrant, Barack Obama, in 2012. Jindal launches into the story of meeting Obama at the State of the Union speech in 2005, when the senator introduced himself to Jindal, then a congressman. “I know who you are,” Jindal replied. Immediately, Obama offered some flattering words. Jindal responded teasingly, “Yeah, but you won’t say that to the TV cameras.” “Yes I would,” the senator said, calling his bluff. “Why don’t you do a campaign commercial for me?” said Jindal, playing along. “He said ‘I’ll do it.’ You just can’t fake that kind of earnestness,” says Bobby Jindal, sounding awfully earnest himself.

Democratic Party Imperfections

Can you not feel how the enthusiasm that has attached itself to the Obama campaign has waned a bit? Maybe even a a good deal. That he is ahead in all the polls is not so much the issue because (given Bush’s unpopularity, the last year of his term, the creaky economy, etc.) the issue is how come he is not ahead by twenty or more points (instead of five or six)? Obama has been making some mistakes, mistakes that go along with his lack of experience, and mistakes due to the fact he is, after all, a Democrat (he therefore also has some baggege to carry). Hillary’s uncivil manner of bowing out of the race hasn’t helped her party or Obama. Obama’s attempt to use the standard Democratic insiders (as in Jim Johnson) to help him select a VP has revealed that he is more of an ordinary politician than the one who walked on water just a few weeks ago. He is certainly no longer the Charisma Machine. And do note that some Democrats are not endorsing him, at least not yet. All this just shows that politics is not bean bag, and Obama may be a mere human, albeit young and inexperienced and lucid, yet, also a not yet fully known person. The hesitation now settles in. In the meantime, McCain has nowhere to go but up.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for May

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Lois Nuss

Ron Smith

Joshua Distel

Joseph Downing

Dan Rosenburg

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter June’s drawing.

Classics of Strategy and Diplomacy

Here is a new site that the more serious among you, the happy few, will want to mark and come to with regularity, Classics of Strategy and Diplomacy. While we are pleased to host it, it is the work of strategy guru Patrick J. Garrity, whose work should not surprise. While Pat is a man of many parts, this subject and mode of thinking is his own best. I am betting that this site will be filled with Roman thoughts, and some cold wisdom, as the subject of some of the entries will be men who are "fit for treasons, strategems, and spoils," yet some will love music also. It has great potential for growth and effect.

Here is how he introduces the site:

"Classics of Strategy and Diplomacy is a website designed to encourage the study of those books, memoirs, essays, and speeches that best illuminate the nature of international politics and military affairs. We also explore forgotten, neglected and misunderstood classics; and identify contemporary writings that we expect to have lasting intellectual and political value. We pay particular attention to significant contributions by American writers and statesmen. The Classics website links an informal network of scholars and interested members of the public, under the auspices of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University."

You should read into it, and as Fluellen says (I paraphrase), because Patrick knows the disciplines of strategy and war, and so will you when you read about William Robertson or Nicholas John Spykman, for example. But also note some of his recent short (blog-like) posts. Good start, Patrick, and thanks much.


When I read this very early this morning I was reminded why I love reading almost everything Camille Paglia writes. Very good with the first coffee. 

Jim Webb as Obama’s VP

The Politico’s gives a few reasons why it is not likely that Sen. Jim Webb will become Obama’s running mate. And yet, this is America, and it is the crazy season, and there is a weird connection between neo-confederates and multiculturalists.

I add, in passing, something I have said many times before: Webb is an impressive guy, a fine writer (but I disagree with him on Iraq and the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution). Obama is more likely to look toward a former senator from Georgia, who has more experience and a lot more authority on defense matters than does Webb, plus no baggage.

Bobo Liberalism

Mikey Kaus has some fun mocking New York Times reporter,Ron Lieber for his desire to be above the herd at Starbucks.

Rewards are nice, but recognition is better. So if I’m one of Starbucks’s best customers, I want to have elite status, as I do on American Airlines. I want shorter lines, better freebies, special seating (Aeron chairs, preferably) and electrical outlets reserved just for me and my laptop.

In addition to Kaus’ comments, it’s worth considering Lieber’s attitude as a reflection of how American Liberalism has changed over the years. Lieber thinks of himself as an individual customer who deserves special treatment, rather than as an equal who should be treated the same.

It might be interesting to see how this tension plays out in the next several years.

New York . . . eeeww York!

One in four New Yorkers has herpes.

Guess they need some more aggressive sex ed. classes there? Yeah . . . that’s the ticket.

2008 and 1980

This comparison--which is really a comparison of Obama and Reagan--is showing up on the web. President Carter was almost as unpopular as President Bush, the economy stunk, and we we’re demoralized by our failure to prevail against a Middle Eastern country beginning with I. But Jimmy’s reelection still looked possible because of the perception that Reagan is just too extreme (just as McCain’s victory looks possible now because Obama seems too extreme [too scary, Wrighty liberal]). Reagan helped himself by seeming like a calm and reasonable guy in the debates, and we have to admit that Barack might well end up being EVEN better at that. Still, the polls showed the 1980 election to be close until Carter’s collapse in the last 10 days. Lots of voters seemed to have concluded: What the heck, let’s go for the CHANGE, anything will be better than... I don’t know what to make of this necessarily imperfect comparison. That’s up to you to discuss. (One obvious difference, of course: McCain is not actually the incumbent held in contempt.)

Thank the Lord!

Here’s a comment a wise man sent me:

From Obama’s closing remarks at his victory speech a week ago today:

"I face this challenge with profound humility and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. . . . I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. . . . This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation."
He remakes an already great nation, he heals the sick, provides meaning in the lives of people, he beats back the oceans in a manner that would make King Canute green with envy. And he does this in profound humility.

And to think that leftist blacks used to deride Martin Luther King as "De Lawd."


Let’s move from decade analysis--the Sixties--to year analysis--1968. It was surely a violent year. Remember Memphis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tet, Mexico City, Paris, and Prague. But that the scope and significance of that violence was nothing, of course, compared to 1776, 1789, 1865, 1914 etc. How important is 1968 in the emerging discipline of year analysis? What does the year stand for in our hearts and minds?

The Founding

The Rodney Dangerfield of the Founding

John Adams gets no respect. (Fourth item)
Categories > The Founding

America at its best

The Economist just landed on my desk. Note the striking cover and this lead editorial with the same title. I don’t bring it to your attention because I agree with everything in the piece (you could argue, I suppose, that there ought to be a question mark following best), but because it is (in my view) a pretty good reflection of how the broad world looks at this campaign and the candidates.

Rowling on the Imagination

Free Frank Warner calls our attention to a fine speech the creator of Harry Potter gave at Harvard. We imaginative animals can understand what we haven’t actually experienced, and so we should spend some time each day imagining what our lives would be like without political freedom. Maybe in her literary way she taught those privileged kids some gratitude.

Alexander Hamilton’s "Grange" Relocated

The only home Alexander Hamilton ever owned was moved to a new location in St. Nicholas Park, in Harlem on Saturday. Like Hamilton himself, it seems this house has had a hard time staying in one spot. But it is good to see that this house also has some of his staying power. This is the home’s third location but it was part of Hamilton’s original 32 acre estate (as was its previous, second, location). It seems the National Park Service intends to give the house (and, we hope, Hamilton) some needed and serious attention. If only we could get Congress to do the same . . .

The Coming Failure of Liberalism

The opening paragraphs of P.J. O’Rourke’s latest piece in the Weekly Standard point to a problem that the next Democratic President will have (the bulk of the piece, O’Rourke’s discusion of Senator Sununu’s political philosoph is also worth reading):

American political methodology is an ontological construct. No, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it’s true anyway. Political "science"--like that puppy from the same litter, the dismal science of economics--is not science; it’s a branch of moral philosophy. Yet try talking moral philosophy with a politician. Politicians will talk strategy and tactics and policies and programs until they’re blue in the face, or you strangle them and they turn blue.

The problem on the left is, now that Karl Marx has forsaken them, they have no philosophy. Thank goodness. Think what evil creeps liberals would be if their plans to enfeeble the individual, exhaust the economy, impede the rule of law, and cripple national defense were guided by a coherent ideology instead of smug ignorance.

Now that no one (or very few) admit to being socialists, now that few, if any, believe that social science can manage society, and now that the vast majority of people on the Left (at least those who are likely to get into office) admit that the world, by its nature, can never become the world of universal peace, plenty, and brotherhood, what is it that drives the Left?

My own understanding is that the Left still believes that a good society is one that delivers on the promise of socialism. That’s what makes the Left the Left. At the same time, they don’t believe in the project as much as they used to. Once they are back in power, might they be forced to see the contradiction? Is that why Brown looks like he’s about to lose in Britain, and why Sarkozy, Merkel are on top in France and Germany, and why Burlusconi, however great his flaws, is, once again, in power in Italy?

If Senator Obama becomes president, and if the Democratic party has control of both houses of the legislature in 2009, as seems quite likely, governing might be a rude awakening. The benefit of being in opposition is that one needn’t be specific. The trouble with governing is that one must be so.

If part of the reason why President Bush has had such a rough time of things is that Americans are tried of the modern administrative/ bureaucratic state (even as they don’t want their own benefits cut, or many regulations eliminated), and if Democrats think that the reason why Bush is unpopular is that he’s been governing as a conservative, they could be in for a rude awakening.

Random Observations

Based on a quick surf of the web:

1. There’s lots of talk about McCain’s inability to deliver a speech. Why does he think he would benefit from lots of events on the same stage with young and eloquent Barack? Mac will have to practice a lot to get the convention bump that always comes from nailing a stirring acceptance speech. Even our president rose to those occasions, but he’s never thought for a moment that he was above the need to practice.

2. If the election were held today, according to the various studies, Obama would probably win--unless McCain managed to sweep the rust-belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Obviously regular guys have issues with bobo Barack. But will they be able to resist voting for CHANGE in the face of a weakening economy and for a man who’s virtualy incapable of seeming to feel their pain?

3. Surely the cleverest thing Obama could do with Hillary is to make it clear to the voters that she would be his first appointment to the Supreme Court. That would in a way lock her up for good. And the idea of HER on the Court would thrill feminists of all stripes.

Freedom of Speech, Canadian Style

As the show trial of Mark Steyn continues apace, we have even more to recommend the land of the Mounties as a great bastion for the defense of free speech. Roger Kimball reports on the case of one of the most innocuous (and, frankly, boring) sounding political billboards I’ve heard described. It was put forth by a Candadian pro-life group. The billboard was judged by Advertising Standards Canada to be "deceptive" because, in giving a very straightforward accounting of the Canadian law in question (i.e., that it is legal to abort during all 9 months of a pregnancy), the billboard did not take into account questions of "access" to abortion. Apparently, if you’re not left wing in Canada, you have to anticipate the argument against you coming from the left and not try to rebut it if you want to be permitted to express your own views. That’s fair, right?

In the meantime, Canadians have really important questions of national interest with which to concern themselves. Who can be bothered with speech rights?

Grandpa Broke up the Kegger?

Kathleen Parker likens McCain to "grumpy ol’ granddad breaking up the keg party" because of (what others here have called) his dusty old CEO speech. She thinks he should have acknowledged the thing that made her (involuntarily) smile upon watching Obama victorious. What was that thing? Parker argues that it was a kind of "born again" moment for America--a birth for which we all ought to get some credit as midwives. McCain’s laundry list of attacks on Obama didn’t take into sufficient account the feelings that Parker believes inspired her involuntary smile. She argues that McCain needs to get people "to avert their gaze from the shiny new object of their affection" before he can start hammering Obama with a point by point refutation of his policies. This election will not be about Obama’s policy prescriptions--and even less so about McCain’s--it’s going to be entirely about the "idea of Obama." In a race so personal and also so embedded in abstract (and undefined) things like "hope," is there any way that an ultimate victory by McCain can be seen to be "simply be a loss for Democrats -- and not a loss specifically for African-Americans?"

Parker said that she slapped herself when she caught herself giving in to the involuntary smile. A lot of people are not going to be as disciplined as she in this respect. Can McCain win without slapping them? I’m inclined to say "no." Thing is, that’s a tricky place to be in American politics.

It wouldn’t be the 2008 campaign season, however, if I didn’t close on a note of hope. If Parker is right and a good description for McCain is "grumpy grandpa breaking up the kegger" consider this: don’t kids act out sometimes because they actually WANT to get caught? If the American people are caught up in a childish infatuation and are about to take some radical step just because it makes them feel good, a good part of them is likely to be looking back over their shoulders to see if there isn’t someone shouting to make them reconsider. A kegger can be great fun . . . and McCain ought to acknowledge this . . . but in the morning there’s always a terrible mess to clean up. And then you have to worry about the consequences of the mess and the broken stuff and the stains in the carpet that won’t go away. Perhaps there are enough sensible Americans who can recognize the virtues of a fine drink without feeling compelled to get all drunk and crazy with it? McCain has to try to break up the party by suggesting there’s a better way to the same feeling. We can be good Americans who believe in racial equality without having to drink from this particular cup.

Sex in the Sixties

I’m taking advantage of my AWESOME NLT power to move the Sixties discussion with Carl, Ralph, Kate, Steve, and many others from the thread below to here.

1. Carl asked: Why did I say Marx would have predicted the "effectual truth" of the sexual/women’s liberation of the sixties? The good news: Women become free individuals just like men. The bad: Women are more or less compelled to become wage slaves just like men. The competitive logic of the market enters into every facet of relations between the sexes. Sex itself is commodified; the body becomes yet a natural resource to be used at will. The libertarian logic of "preferences" enters sexual life; sex is separated from biological imperatives, including what Marx called the "halos" that come from the illusions of love.

2. The best Sixties theorists, like Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse, loved to talk up "polymorphous perversity" as the alternative to "genital tyranny." Sex, freed from the imperatives of reproduction, could flourish as never before. Does that mean that we’ll we all about easygoing recreational rutting in all sorts of ways, that our whole bodies will so be AROUSED we won’t be able to calculate or consent? Or does that mean that our erotic instinct will mix with unfettered imagination to produce a new "art of life" (Marcuse) with unprecented flourishing of music, art, philosophy and the other features of high civilization? Like Marx himself, our New Lefties really thought that the conquest of scarcity by technology could free us from work and for joy. And like Marx himself, they were pretty confused about what that freedom will be like.

3. The Sixties also aimed to free sex from the constraints of love, while simultaneously teaching that love is all you need. How can love be separated from sex? Drugs!

4. On Sixties drugs: Doesn’t it seem that every work of art they inspired was curiously unerotic--nothing like the mechanical rutting of rock ’n roll criticized by Bloom? (Think the Beatles first--lots of that stuff really is beautiful and finely crafted.) LSD in particular seems to have produced a mixture of an incredibly inflated sense of oneself and a sort of loving pantheistic oneness. Drugs really are required to free the imagination from necessity and the obsessions of self-consciousness, and especially to separate good moods from the whims of other people.

5. Mood-altering drugs are bound to have a big place in our biotechnological future. More than we want to think, the soft drugs of the Sixties were the most effective feature of their liberationist utopianism.

VP Prediction: Think Hoosier

The more I puzzle over Obama’s potential Veep choices, the more I can see him picking Evan Bayh of Indiana. An unexciting but solid and moderate white guy from Republican state causes all kinds of problems for McCain and his campaign. It would send reassuring signals to several of the voting blocks with whom Obama is weak, and would reject the identity-politics imperative that demands Obama pick a woman not named Hillary. The downside is that he is from a neighboring state (though Obama seems confused about geography as we have seen). Anyway, I’m going to drop some chips on Bayh at the gaming sites.

The whole Veep business makes me wonder whether some Democratic Party reformers won’t start agitating to have Veep candidates run in primaries, too, or be chosen by the delegates at the convention. Given the growing importance and role of Veeps in office, it is an increasingly strange anachronism that we let the nominees choose them willy-nilly, without "popular" party participation. If Obama wanted to be really bold, he’d consider throwing the Veep slot to the convention, except that he knows he’d end up with You-Know-Who (hint: wears pants suits). (Of course, that might be one way to accommodate party sentiment without directly giving in--Ed. Yeah, but the result would still be the same; how’d you like to have all your food tasted twice for the next four years?)

The Party of New Ideas

Sometimes I think that idea that America’s liberals have new idea and comservative have old idea is, itself, the oldest idea in the book. Some things do, in fact change, but much remains constant.

From the 1972 Democratic Party Platform:

Energy Resources

The earth’s natural resources, once in abundant and seemingly unlimited supply, can no longer be taken for granted. In particular, the United States is facing major changes in the pattern of energy supply that will force us to reassess traditional policies. By 1980, we may well have to depend on imports from the Eastern Hemisphere for as much as 30 to 50 percent of our oil supplies. At the same time, new forms of energy supply—such as nuclear, solar or geothermal power—lag far behind in research and development.

The Environment

The problem we face is to choose the most efficient, effective and equitable techniques for solving each new environmental problem. We cannot afford to waste resources while doing the job, any more than we can afford to leave the job undone.

We must enforce the strict emission requirements on all pollution sources set under the 1970 Clean Air Act.

We must support the establishment of a policy of no harmful discharge into our waters by 1985.

We must have adequate staffing and funding of all regulatory and enforcement agencies and departments to implement laws, programs and regulations protecting the environment, vigorous prosecution of violators and a Justice Department committed to enforcement of environmental law.

We must fully support laws to assure citizens’ standing in federal environmental court suits.

Strict interstate environmental standards must be formulated and enforced to prevent pollution from high-density population areas being dumped into low-density population areas for the purpose of evasion of strict pollution enforcement.

The National Environmental Policy Act should be broadened to include major private as well as public projects, and a genuine commitment must be made to making the Act work.

Our environment is most threatened when the natural balance of an area’s ecology is drastically altered for the sole purpose of profits. Such practices as "clear cut" logging, strip mining, the indiscriminate destruction of whole species, creation of select ocean crops at the expense of other species and the unregulated use of persistent pesticides cannot be justified when they threaten our ability to maintain a stable environment.

Where appropriate, taxes need to be levied on pollution, to provide industry with an incentive to clean up.

We also need to develop new public agencies that can act to abate pollution-act on a scale commensurate with the size of the problem and the technology of pollution control.

Expanded federal funding is required to assist local governments with both the capital and operating expenses of water pollution control and solid waste management.

[Health Care]

"Good health is the least this society should promise its citizens. The state of health services in this country indicates the failure of government to respond to this fundamental need. Costs skyrocket while the availability of services for all but the rich steadily declines.

We endorse the principle that good health is a right of all Americans. America has a responsibility to offer to every American family the best in health care whenever they need it, regardless of income or where they live or any other factor.

To achieve this goal the next Democratic Administration should:

Establish a system of universal National Health Insurance which covers all Americans with a comprehensive set of benefits including preventive medicine, mental and emotional disorders, and complete protection against catastrophic costs, and in which the rule of free choice for both provider and consumer is protected. The program should be federally-financed and federally-administered. Every American must know he can afford the cost of health care whether given in a hospital or a doctor’s office;"

[Other Rights listed in 1972]
The right to a decent job and an adequate income, with dignity;

The right to quality, accessibility and sufficient quantity in tax-supported services and amenities —including educational opportunity, health care, housing and transportation;

The right to quality, safety and the lowest possible cost on goods and services purchased in the market place.

Top Animated Films

Yahoo readers give us a very disappointing top 30 list of the all-time best animated films. Finding Nemo was number 1. Now, I liked Finding Nemo (once or twice) and my kids still like it. But number 1?! It’s cute and tells a warm and fuzzy family story (except for the ever-popular Disney theme of the death of the mother!) . . . but the Dad is sort of a neurotic head-case . . . a hapless hero. Is that what inspires our children today? I hope not.

Further, inexplicably and notably, the brain-dead Enchanted towers over the masterful and artistically gorgeous Sleeping Beauty (long my daughter’s favorite movie). When I remember the innocent and moving "love scene" between Princess Aurora--where the Prince is captivated not only by her beauty but also by the purity of her spirit and sets about a plan to marry her despite her "lowly" status--and contrast it to the bumbling and awkward romance of the (very phony--to the point where she is a literal cartoon) Princess of Enchanted and remember that she only lands her Prince by becoming hardened and "real" (and, of course, appropriately whimpifying him) . . . I sigh. At least Beauty and the Beast still ranked high . . . that girl loved virtue and books!

And should I be embarrassed that there were only 5 films on this list that my kids and I have not seen (and most of them more than once!)? Probably. But, still, I’m not.

Frenchies Fry Their Liberties

First there is the case of poor Bridget Bardot, here reported by an Algerian newspaper in an interesting and notably unsympathetic way. What would PETA say?

Next there is this odd case of the annulment of a Muslim couple where the groom was, apparently, surprised and disgruntled about the non-virginity of his bride. A French court granted the annulment on the grounds that it was a breach of contract in this particular kind of (i.e., Muslim) marriage.

But in treating the case as a breach of contract, the ruling was decried by critics who said it undermined decades of progress in women’s rights. Marriage, they said, was reduced to the status of a commercial transaction in which women could be discarded by husbands claiming to have discovered hidden defects in them.

The court decision "is a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women. We are returning to the past," said Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, the daughter of immigrants from Muslim North Africa, using the Arabic term for a religious decree.

Interesting . . . but there’s more:
"Today, the judicial system of a modern country cannot hold to these savage traditions, completely inhuman for the young woman," said the rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur.

He likened the court decision to "equating marriage with a commercial transaction."

Like some others, Boubakeur, a moderate, voiced fears that Muslim fundamentalists would seek to profit from the Lille ruling "as they have done with the veil. ... Fundamentalists use (head scarves) like their flag."

"We ask Muslims to live in their era," he said.

One hardly knows how to begin to unpack all of that . . . "Savage" traditions? I thought we were not allowed to pass judgments or use words like that. Bardot found out what happens when you do that. "Commercial transaction"? I’m confused. I thought secular liberals wanted marriage to be reduced to a commercial transaction so as to keep religion and morals out of it. But now we see that treating it as a "commercial transaction" may invite some of the more undesirable aspects of some religions right back in . . . It’s a tough spot for these guys and I feel for them. Relativism is a tricky master. Ahhh . . . but I see now. It all comes down to the "live in your era" argument. Get with the times and so forth . . . But here the trouble is that it begins to be pretty clear that history does not "progress" in quite the straight line they had been willing to hope it would. Everything old is new again and, this time, they meet the argument disarmed.

A Question

If Obama’s selection as the Democratic nominee marks a departure from Clinton style politics, why does it feel like déjà vu all over again? At what point do those disenchanted with the Clintons and their corrupt and navel-gazing politics begin to wonder if they haven’t picked a new boss who is the same as the old boss?

Ronald Reagan RIP

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of Ronald Reagan. His daughter, Patti Davis, reflects upon the man who was her father and why, after all the struggle and heartache, she could not help but love him. I think it is always wise to listen to the reflections of a daughter upon the character of her father. For one thing, there are few people in this life who have more of an interest in understanding the character of a man than his daughter. So she’s been at the job for a long time, had better access to him and--though she admits to willful misunderstanding in the past--seems to be coming to a deeper, better, and more mature understanding of him now. Of course, there is a temptation on her part to wish to see him rediscovered as the ultimate and true liberal in her understanding of the term. If we’re using a small "l," I think I’d give her that.

She’s right that the man she knew could not possibly be the caricature painted by his political enemies--the racist and the heartless man they said he was. But you can see from this piece that she is still struggling to circle the square--to make his politics fit with the character of the man she loved. They do . . . but she doesn’t quite see how, so instead she dismisses them and talks instead of attitudes in politics and graciousness and demeanor and just "being nice." It’s a start.

Of course, in America, being a true "liberal" means you’re actually a conservative. What is it that we’re trying to conserve, after all? We are trying to conserve the ideas of Revolution . . . and it’s no accident that people talked of a "Reagan Revolution." Perhaps one day Patti will come to see that as well. And perhaps not. No matter. She gives us a beautiful reflection on the soul of the man and, though (perhaps) she misses the larger picture, she is not wrong about his good nature and his inability to be "mean." We do miss that. We ought, always, to do our best to imitate it and so honor the man who deserves our admiration and respect. Rest in peace, Ronald Reagan.

How the Party of Lincoln Can Out-Organize an "Organizer"

Karl Rove explains some of the nuts and bolts of electoral politics while drawing upon the political wisdom of Old Abe. 

Turn Your Key, Moira. Turn Your Key!

Hillary Clinton has resolved to be the Democratic Party’s girlfriend from Hell. There’s just no breaking up with her. She refuses to let the detail that somebody else won the nomination keep her from deciding, on her schedule and terms, the future course of her "campaign." In last night’s speech, celebrating her victory in the fantasy league nomination contest, she invited her supporters to visit the official website (hillaryclinton.nuts) to help her determine her next step.

The conclusion of this campaign is a cynical betrayal of the idea of gender equality. The mean journalists and politicians who won’t wait for her to recognize her defeat until she’s good and ready, had better be careful. They’ll hurt her feelings and make her cry . . . and then make her angry. And there’s no telling how much trouble she can cause if that happens. Better to humor her.

This denouement is entirely fitting, because the premise of the Clinton campaign was also a cynical betrayal of the idea of gender equality. The historic breakthrough was always counterfeit. The first female president would have been the former first lady, whose accomplishments were entirely derived from her husband’s. Her claims to be the experienced candidate were as bogus as her claims to have faced sniper fire. She has now directed two big undertakings – the health care task force and a presidential campaign – and managed in each instance to turn an advantageous starting point into a humiliating defeat.

Good riddance.

Fun With Military History

While poking around the web a few days ago, looking for a helpful map of the American revolution, I happend upon this fantastic website created by the folks who teach history at the U.S. Military Academy.

The site has all kinds of battle maps for the major wars in which the U.S. has participated.

Beyond that, there is stuff like this animated presentation of the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. Just click anywhere on the slide and follow the path to victory in the South in 1781. This one of the 1776 campaign is fun too.

A couple of points

Just a few quick points to Peter Lawler below:
1. I am told that the Governor (and former Miss) Alaska is ver smart, a fine speaker, and very well liked. I think McCain has to pick her or Bobby Jindal, and this has to do with the second point. 2) McCain’s speech was his normal delivery mode, and Lawler’s right, he talks like a CEO (and Dubya). That is, because they are not in the habit of talking, CEO’s don’t do it well. He has to consider this, especially because Obama is a great talker--at least in the formal setting--and act accordingly. For example, he has to give only short formal talks, and, make up for his boring tone in conversational mode with Obama where McCain can be clever, biting, and even sharp (Obama’s less good at that than in lecturing). 3) I think Hillary’s speech last night--her inability to be anything but self-serving--was awful and fully revealed her vices. It is obvious that she doesn’t care about anything but winning, and she will do anything to be running, even as VP. Shameful. At least she could have been clever, or indirect, about it. But she is forcing the issue; this is political rape and Obama had better be able to resist it. He will not make her his runnign mate, I predict. He cannot, honor and manliness will not allow it.

Random Observations

1. Hillary making herself available to be Obama’s running mate is a pathetic end to a strange campaign. As a matter of honor he can’t pick her, given how much she’s (unnecesarily) cost him. Still, it would be a very strong ticket.

2. I was impressed by the case for Sarah Palin for Mac’s VP Peter linked below. McCain will unnecessarily cost himself votes by picking a white male. Picking a pro-life family woman (mother of five)--who’s nonetheless not associated with "the religious right" and comes from THE libertarian, gun toting state--seems pretty shrewd. I won’t say anything about her new Down Syndrome baby except that they are very cute. Is she scary smart? Eloquent? I don’t know. She is a looker.

3. All sorts of media outlets are now touting our remarkable recent successes in Iraq. A Republican talking point: We don’t want another Vietnam in the sense of giving up again when we’ve just about won.

4. I’m writing an article on THE SIXTIES. I can sort of remember them. What do the Sixties mean to you?

5. McCain’s speech last night was, to put it gently, very poorly delivered. He seemed like an old CEO who doesn’t do much public speaking. The podium, as they say, is not his friend.

VP stuff

All the numbers are now lined up for Obama to be able to say that he has the number of delegates needed, since so many superdelegates came out for him during the day today, and then this AP count seems to confirm it even without the delegates he will win in today’s last primaries. The most interesting story of the day is that Hillary, in a phone call with Democratic legislators, admitted that she might be willing (or even interested) in becoming Obama’s running mate. While her mode of doing this is a bit cold and calculating, it should not surprise. She will still be the story, even on his day. He will gently decline, but not just yet, and she will say she was misunderstood, that she isn’t campaigning for the position. No one will believe her, yet she will have put him in a tight spot. Clinton politics all the way to the end.

In the meantime, this small note
on why Sarah Palin (Gov of Alaska) should be McCain’s running mate. I am amused by a comment on a thread in the form of a palindrome, a suggestion for a perfect campaign button:
"Harass sensuousness, Sarah". Another wag suggest that’s not as good a "Amabo Obama", but I like it.

Optimistic Pessimism

. . . from Jonah G. about the future of conservatism.

Well . . . That’s a Relief!

According to AP, FLDS Church elder Willie Jessop has important news:

Late Monday, elder Willie Jessop said the church won’t allow underage girls to marry. Jessop said the new policy will forbid any girl to marry who is not of legal consent age in the state where she lives.
I guess that will be the end of that now. Like we said, if consent is the only issue then numbers don’t matter.

Tolerance is Intolerance

Andrew Coyne has an amusing live blog of the trial of Mark Steyn for hate crimes.

Let’s pursue the logic here. If publishing things critical of Islam can be construed as a hate crime, would the very presence of churches and synagogues be hateful to muslims? Wouldn’t their very existence imply that Mohammad was a false prophet and that the Koran was written by human hands? Surely, Canada’s "Human Rights" bureaucrats ought to construe that is an insult to all good Muslims.

Such is the logic of hate crimes laws.

Throwdown with Bobby Flay Hayward and Deneen

I’ve posted the following challenge on Pet Deneen’s blog, in response to his response to my earlier response (got all that?):

First of all, I’m not a market-worshipping purist. To the contrary, I’ve publicly advocated a carbon tax ( But as to your question--"would you consider that the market was working 20+ years after the oil shocks of the 1970s?"--the answer is an emphatic Yes if you know what you’re looking for. This is a large story with many parts, but ask why the oil price rise of the last few years has had much less of an impact on the economy than the comparable oil price rises of the 1970s. The short answer--the full data take a while to walk through-is that oil is a much less of a factor in the U.S. economy than it was in the 1970s. One stat: in the 1970s, oil accounted for 2/3rds of total U.S. energy consumption; today it is only 1/3rd, with electricity (and gas and coal) accounting for the other 2/3rds. Between 1949 and 1973 energy efficiency in the U.S. only improved by 12 percent; between 1974 and 1999 U.S. energy efficiency improved 40 percent (usually in advance of government mandates such as auto CAFE standards); between 1949 and 1973 per capita energy consumption increased 64 percent; between 1974 and 1999, by only 2 percent. Pretty good evidence to me that markets and prices work, and that in fact we did make big changes as a result of the new energy world of post-1973. And I suspect we’re going to make big changes in the years just ahead, with or without (almost surely better without) government mandates (see: ethanol debacle). In other words, the dynamic restraints of the marketplace will almost always (note: I said "almost") be superior to politically-imposed restraints.

Regarding McMansions: many of them (not the Gore/Edwards monster-size) use exactly the same amount of energy as the average new house in 1970; in other words, we traded energy efficiency gains (better insulation and appliances, etc) for more square feet in which to live. Is this really such a sin?

I could go on and on (I’m a maven for these stats, and I’ve practically memorized the exhaustive tables of the Energy Information Administration), but let’s make this interesting: How about a Simon-Ehrlich style wager. I say that three years from now, oil will be below $75 a barrel. Let the loser of this wager buy the winner his choice of any hardbound book in the Liberty Press catalogue. Shake?

Prince Caspian

On Saturday, I joined my kids (and the rest of my daughter’s third grade class) at a viewing of the new version of the C.S. Lewis classic, Prince Caspian.

Joe Carter reviews it at Evangelical Outpost and opines that its great virtue is that it is a war movie (in the best sense) for children. I reply that he is certainly correct about it being a war movie and he is certainly correct that this is one of its great virtues. But I don’t think this is its chief virtue or that the book from which it is drawn is inferior to the movie version, as Carter claims. I think that the movie version is what it has to be in order to tell the narrative ("talky" as Carter calls it) story of Prince Caspian.

Carter further opines that "this is a Dad’s movie" because:

Moms simply won’t be able to appreciate seeing a teen boy getting thrashed in single-combat against a man twice his age. They won’t cheer heartily at seeing a teen girl expertly dehorse a half-dozen soldiers with a bow and arrow. Nor will they gasp with delight upon seeing a six-year old draw a dagger when faced with an opposing army.
To which, I say: poppycock. I sat with and was part of a whole row of moms perched on the edges of our seats, cheering and clapping at each of these scenes. Perhaps Carter thinks this because he’s hanging around with the wrong sort of moms? In any case, much of the criticism of the movie comes from those who say that it is too much like an action flick . . . relying too heavily on the battle scenes Carter (and my posse) cheered. But the critics are probably the sort of people who don’t really believe that there is anything worthy of the kind of risk and sacrifice on display in these scenes. Indeed, Carter himself comes dangerously close to forgetting there’s more to this "action" than the action itself. It is a war movie but, like all good war movies, it’s much more than that.

Carter is critical, for example, of the Prince Caspian character and of the portrayal of the animal characters, such as (my favorite) Reepicheep. He thinks they were given too much screen time (I think not enough) at the expense of the development of the Penvensie children’s characters. He’s right that the Prince Caspian character was probably selected for his devastating good looks and he’s right that his accent was pretty stupid (Castilian? I had always pictured Miraz and his kingdom as a kind of Middle-Eastern fiefdom . . .). But Caspian is a central character in the unfolding Chronicles drama. And, eye-candy or no, Ben Barnes did a very good job of establishing Caspian’s place in the story. The back and forth between him and Peter was perfect. Peter and Susan are (and must be) fading characters. Their pride--which I took to be a kind of metaphor for the pride of the Church--must come into and pass from being. The truth remains and passes on to a new set of guardians with each succeeding generation--and once a generation master’s its pride--it is time for it to go home. Besides, I think it would have been almost impossible for the Penvensies to have been any more fully developed.

The actors who play the Penvensie children are either possessed of great genius or they were supremely directed. The Peter and Edmund characters, especially, tell so much of the story with their eyes and expressions that it makes you wonder what sort of profound wisdom informs their understanding of the story. Even the added elements to the movie version (e.g., the proto-romance between Caspian and Susan) serve the higher truth of the film. As Peter is humbled by his need for Aslan, so too Susan (the warrior queen) is humbled by her need for the intercession of a strong male. Human pride (and, in Reepicheep’s case, mouse pride), not simple war for its own sake, is the real subject of Prince Caspian. Pride brings on the war, makes it necessary, and further complicates it as it gets underway. Submission to the natural order of things and trust in Aslan’s will (and mercy) sets things aright.

The Vice of Gloom and Doom

Steve, your post reminds me of this bit of wisdom from Franklin’s Autobiography:

There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. Such a one then lived in Philadelphia; a person of note, an elderly man, with a wise look and a very grave manner of speaking; his name was Samuel Mickle. This gentleman, a stranger to me, stopt one day at my door, and asked me if I was the young man who had lately opened a new printing-house. Being answered in the affirmative, he said he was sorry for me, because it was an expensive undertaking, and the expense would be lost; for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people already half-bankrupts, or near being so; all appearances to the contrary, such as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things that would soon ruin us. And he gave me such a detail of misfortunes now existing, or that were soon to exist, that he left me half melancholy. Had I known him before I engaged in this business, probably I never should have done it. This man continued to live in this decaying place, and to declaim in the same strain, refusing for many years to buy a house there, because all was going to destruction; and at last I had the pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one as he might have bought it for when he first began his croaking.

Le plus ca change . . .

Steyn on Obama’s Church Shopping

A must read. Gotta love the bit about the bike path . . . still laughing.

Come November, We May Have to Love Michigan

Sensible Buckeyes may have to swallow hard in November and say, "Thank you, Michigan" according to this fine article by Thurlow Weed. There’s more than a great pseudonym to recommend this piece. Weed argues that Saturday’s decision to split Michigan’s delegates may cost Obama the state’s electors in November. The decision to split them was a stupid move on many levels, according to Weed. Not only does it give Hillary a reason to keep going (closing off the possibility of her exiting the race with dignity) it offends the sensibilities of Michigan voters who see the heavy hands of arbitrary party hacks at work to keep their views at bay. Weed doesn’t say it explicitly but, of course, this move also plays right into the hands of those assembling the mounting evidence that Obama and his supporters are elitists who believe that they know better than "those people" what is best for them. Michigan’s not the only state that has a heavy population of "those people." Indeed, the Buckeye State (where Obama has a deceptively large lead over McCain for the moment according to a poll that Weed disbelieves) may learn a great deal from the Michigan example.

Thought for the Day

With all this talk about the environment, peak oil, recession, and what-have-you on this site today, perhaps this is a good time to recall Thomas Babington Macaulay’s query from 1830: “On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”

Environmental Taxonomy

More to Peter’s post immediately below, Chris DeMuth and I adumbrate many of these same distinctions in the very first issue of AEI’s Environmental Policy Outlook, which I founded there in 2002. We call it "practical environmentalism" versus "romantic environmentalism." Worth a read, I think.

As for Peter’s Point #4, I noted in my most recent edition of the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators that one of the most popular books of 2007 among environmentalists was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which projects a “thought experiment” about what would occur if human beings were suddenly or somehow removed entirely from the planet. Answer: Nature would reassert itself and remove nearly all traces of human civilization within several millennia. Naturally many environmentalists thrilled to the frisson of the book’s nightmare scenario of the ruin of mankind’s built environment, which Weisman shrewdly gilded with the standard boilerplate about resource exhaustion and overpopulation. I am often asked why so many environmentalists thrill to doom-and-gloom scenarios. The answer I finally arrive it is that it makes them happy. Go figure.

"A Cavernous Narcissism"

Todd Purdum’s phrase describing Bill Clinton in this not-to-be-missed Vanity Fair article. People will be talking about this piece for months I suspect. Clinton has already issued a rebuttal at what he’s calling "a smear."


Here are a few comments on Drs. Deneen, Adams, and Hayward below:

1. The fundamental distinction is between prudential environmentalism and moralistic environmentalism.

2. Prduential environmentalism is anthropocentric. Human responsibility is fundamentally personal. Thinking of ourselves as part of an impersonal whole called nature is a form of self-denial.

3. Moralistic environmentalism is quite different from previous forms of modern, secular religions. Communism etc. were HISTORICAL. Moralistic environmentalism is PANTHEISM--t’s about the end of history, about the end of distinctively human footprint upon nature.

4. Moralistic environmentalism often tends to hope for a techno-catastrophe that would return the world to the scarcity that made morality and community easier. Prudential environmentalists tend to think the bomb probably won’t fall, so to speak, and that’s good. They think about the virtue required to live well, to live responsibly with what we can’t help but know and do now. Moralistic environmentalists tend to be romantics; prudential environmentalists are realists.

5. Because prudential environmentalists are realists, they don’t really think that technology and markets can take the place of moral and political deliberation about our true situation. The prudential environmentalist is the mean between the extremes of libertarianism and moralism.

Causus Belli?

According to this report, the French are trying to regulate country-line dancing,, because, you know, it’s another one of those insidious Yankee exports, like Disney World and J.R. Ewing. I say send in the Marines.


Free Frank Warner, easily the best of liberal, patriotic bloggers, reminds us that America’s best political paper has been reporting that Iraq war might be nearly won. Actually, I still think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we’re certainlly moving the right direction. It would be somewhat ironic if Bush’s success made Obama’s plan for gradual withdrawal responsible.

Green Peace and War

A scenario: Suppose, for the sake of argument, our best science indicates that the continued use of fossil fuels will have not only great but also profoundly negative consequences for human life on earth. Suppose further that the U.S. manages to substitute nuclear, solar, wind, etc. for virtually all our energy (and switches to electric cars).

Given that scenario, if the powers that be in China conclude that the global environmental movement is a trick by the West to keep them down and, therefore, China keeps building new coal-fired plants and using gas-powered cars, thus creating environmental hazar for the rest of us. Would the U.S. have a legitimate cause of war upon China? Discuss.

Going Environmental

Here’s a thought in progress. It’s rough, but perhaps it will spur dicussion or thought.

For much of the 20th Century, socialism was the opiate of the intellectuals. Nowadays, it seems that environmentalism might be taking that same role. In part, the latter is merely the latest version of the former. As. P.J. O’Rourke noted, many environmentalists are “watermelons,”–“green on the outside and red on the inside.”

But is there something deeper at work here? Why socialism and environmentalism? I suspect it might have something to do with the character of modern science. If one studies history, it seems to be the case that men are, as John Adams said, “praying beings” by nature. Where men gather, there tend to be religions. If that is the case, and if our intellectuals cannot accept that reality, they must create a religion in disguise.

What is the character of this religion? It tends to be historical. Why is that the case? Perhaps it has something to do with the scientific method. The key to modern science is the method developed by Francis Bacon and others. According to that method, scientists study the world as it appears to our senses, and from repeated observations, and repeated experiments, it discovers patterns and correlations. Those patterns and correlations, plus mathematical calculations and equations are the essence of modern science. Given that, history becomes religion. What I mean by that is that since modern science is good at describing lines of force moving over time, and since science can only describe facts, but cannot account for values, the only way science can give direction to society or politics is by turning history into a religion. (The scientific method admits defeat if it truly acknowledges that the fact/ value distinction is bunk. Many intellectuals allow that the distinction is problematic, but, being pragmatists, they go along as if that were not a real problem.)

Henry Adams makes this point in the Education

Historians undertake to arrange sequences,–called stories, or histories–assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have been astounding, but commonly unconscious and childlike; so much so, that if any captious critic were to drag them to light, historians would probably reply, with one voice, that they had never supposed themselves required to know what they were talking about.

The modern historian describes lines of social development over time. By describing such lines of development and, further, by projecting them into the future, history can fill the void left in the secular soul. History can give direction to life in a seemingly scientific manner.

Environmentalism is the latest manifestation of this phenomenon. Given increasing carbon in our atmosphere (or should I say “atmos fear”?) science can draw a line describing the likely impact of that upon the planet. Describing that impact gives scientists and those who follow them, a means of suggesting what we ought to do without admitting that they have deserted the scientific method and have entered the realm of politics and religion. Moreover, as with the socialist understanding of history, it gives a coalition of natural and social scientists an excuse to take over the political system.

Traditional Market Logic is Failing Us Now

...Dr. Pat Deneen reports that the WALL STREET JOURNAL is baffled when it comes to oil: When demand goes up, the incentive should be there to increase the supply. But not so with oil these days, and so economists really can’t predict how high the price might go. Deneen sticks it to the economists even more: How come they can’t explain why people aren’t acting more like "rational actors" and rapidly curtailing their dependence on oil? I’m not a "peak oil" guy for now, but there’s cause for concern. Our inflation numbers would already look a lot worse if the rapid increase in the cost of oil wasn’t compensated for by the falling cost of houses. Question for discussion: Exactly how much concern makes sense? At the beginning of this campaign, the Giuliani supporters especially were touting the excellent performance of our economy. How far have we moved away from those days?