Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bad Press for the Pres

Articles like this are not good, even if they are not entirely true. He should have a smoke.


Notion for GOP Comeback

It seems to me that if the GOP can turn this simple schematic of the financial sector meltdown into a 30-second TV spot next year, they'll retake Congress.
Categories > Congress

The President: “I have never found Wall Street a source of good economic advice.”

Barack Obama last week? Nope. Ronald Reagan in 1981.

(This should confuse a few NLT readers and trolls.--Ed. Precisely. Happy Saturday!)


The last leader of the USSR, Michael Gorbachev, "has given some of his strongest criticism yet of the politics of modern Russia.

He says the United Russia party of the current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, behaves like the old-style Communists." Don’t you love politics?


Obama causes stock slide?

Possible, according to Business Week. "Polls still show the President has strong popularity among the general U.S. population, and Obama continues to command power in Congress. But among investors, fairly or unfairly, there is griping that the new Obama Administration is at least partly to blame for the recent slide in stocks. Since Nov. 4, Election Day, the broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is off about 25%, and since Jan. 20, when Obama took office, the '500' is down 15%." And this history of the market is interesting. And then this from Michael Boskin.
Categories > Presidency

Clinton Gaffe

Our Secretary of State handed her Russian counterpart a present, with a word on it, the wrong word. Both meaningful and amusing.

Shameless Self Promotion

The current Claremont Review of Books carries my review of two books on Frederick Douglass.

Hyper-masculine and Hyper-feminine?

James Poulos writes a very thoughtful and a very timely essay on the mixed messages our culture sends, especially to young women. His argument comes down to the claim that we seem to be trying to produce a female creature that is both hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine. In other words, she has a kind of cartoon toughness as well as a Jessica Rabbit-styled sexiness. She wears a bikini and she carries an Uzi.

My first impulse upon reading this was to say that I followed him with hyper-masculine bit, but lost him on the hyper-feminine bit. This is because the kind of femininity that Poulos cites is not really feminine in the strict sense. It is more a masculine definition of femininity, or a side of femininity that is incomplete without the rest of itself. It is also true that the masculinity he describes is limited--but there is something else about the femininity he describes that deserves more scrutiny. This is kind of femininity that masculinity--in all its untethered extremes--desires but does not respect. And the thing, above all others, that a truly feminine woman wants is respect. The eternal question for all women (though few care to admit this) is how to obtain the respect and admiration of a man. Civilized men have to ask this question in reverse about women . . . but uncivilized men do not.

But this response does not do Poulos’s argument enough justice. I think he’s really on to something here--though less with his use of "feminine" than with his use of "hyper." For the sort of people we see emerging today and propped up by our culture as objects for our consideration, admiration and imitation are human beings of a much less complex variety than used to pass muster in days of yore. The human icons of old may have had cartoon-like personal lives . . . but they worked at hiding it and maintaining a sense of mystery about themselves. Today’s cartoon people--like our cartoons more generally--are more honest, but they have no shame and do not strive to be anything better than their inclinations suggest. And they are all one thing: decidedly masculine.

Many, even conservatives, will object. We are used to hearing more about the feminization of the culture. But for all our talk about the of the emasculation of today’s culture and the feminizing of our boys, the real truth is that in the "war between the sexes," men have already "won" (if "won" is, indeed, the right word for this conquest). Indeed, men "won" as quickly as the war was declared--as they must have done. We are all more masculine now.

The real problem in our society is not that we have less masculinity . . . it is that we have an abundance of it and it is untethered to anything truly moderating or feminine. For all of our soft talk (especially popular in elementary schools) about "feelings" and not being "too aggressive" or "competitive" and so on, opponents of this softening are the first to note the sharp elbows of those implementing these new "preferences." The soft things have become nothing more than the preferences of the Will of the strong (and masculine). They have moved from being elements of persuasion and guideposts for personal behavior to codified doctrines replete with punishments for disobedience. They now serve as instruments to keep us subjugated to the Will of the stronger.

Meanwhile, man has been given permission to become a cartoon thug and to turn woman into a cartoon-like sex-slave to itself. It is an insult to the feminine (but one that is perfectly in line with this shift toward cartoon masculinity), to suggest that in making boys more cowardly, we have made them more feminine. It is not feminine or female nature to be cowardly, after all. What true heroine is cowardly? It is female nature to be cautious and male nature to be responsive--together, they can come to a civilized judgment. But when we went to war with each other, we gave up on rational judgment and sided with eternal thuggery. We seem to forget that it is possible to be both aggressive and cowardly. This is what a real man, a civilized man, a man who strives to be admired and respected by a woman, recognizes as a thug. But he’d be hard pressed to call that thug a sissy.

The High Cost of Hope and Change

Laughter has become a kind of coping mechanism in the face of the bloodbath on Wall Street (and in all of our stock portfolios). But how much longer will Americans maintain their good humor? And at what price? Lost financial dreams and vague retirement plans are one thing. But who can summon laughter (nay, even a smile) at the prospect of what lies before us in the face of massive defense cuts of Carter and Clinton proportions? We see before us a world with a host of dangerous tyrants and hostile regimes . . . and our President chooses to engage in guerrilla warfare against which of these beastly personages? Why, Rush Limbaugh of course! The promised change has come, but we maintain hope in it at our peril. It is now time to start hoping and, more important, working for yet another change. Michael J. Boskin’s piece in today’s Wall Street Journal is not to be missed. If there is any lingering doubt on the part of Obamacons regarding their complete and utter imprudence this November, this should be the final blow to it.

Cyrano de Obama: The Plot Thickens

Not only teleprompters, but also computers or video screens installed into the President’s podium.

What Kind of CHANGE Will Obama Bring to Education?

Here’s Bruce Thornton’s astute answer: None at all, because our schools and our universities are already infused with the spirit of TRANSFORMATIONAL LIBERALISM. The big goal of anyone who wants real education to return to our country is to break the monopoly of schools of education, but our president feels the love from "professional educators" too much to even consider such a thing. And how could he do anything but embrace the system that produced the youth vote? (More evidence still that localists should have rallied around McCain, with all his faults.)

Obama’s Therapeutic Populism

Ivan the K incisively reveals that it’s really technocratic statism. (More evidence still that you front porchers should have rallied around the genuinely honorable McCain.)

Obama and his TelePrompter

While it’s not exactly news that the new pres is relying on his TelePrompter (and probably way too much, and what that means we must address at some later time, as we see with more clarity what his mode is really like), I thought it interesting that a student who brought this to my attention didn’t know that not all past presidents did what Obama is doing. In fact, no other pres has used it so much, so consistently, for events large, and small.

Morning Theology in the Ponzi House

Son (age 7): "Mom, if God made the Devil and He gave the Devil free will but the Devil chose to be bad, why didn’t God just take away his free will?"

My answer: "Well, would you like for me to love you if the only reason I loved you was because someone was forcing me to by holding a gun to my head?"

Daughter (age 9): "Mommy, I would give up having your love if only that person would put the gun down!"

Lesson learned.

The Dangers of Snail Gas

We’ve all heard of the potential environmental hazards posed by cows and their CO2 laden flatulence. But did you know that a bigger hazard is posed by snails? Apparently, they emit laughing gas when they "toot." This is not a joke.

Clinton Nostalgia

The hope of many a moderate, fueled by some of Obama’s early appointments, was that the new president would govern a lot like Bill, but with more class and less collateral trashiness. But that hope can no longer be kept alive, as Steve Chapman explains.

History Fun

They Might be Giants sing Tippicanoe and Tyler Too!

Mr. Crunchy Con Expresses His Gratitude a very classy way for my uncharitable criticisms of his celebration of his own way of life. There really is something to crunchy idealism, once you get past its selective nostalgia and overbearing judgmentalism about decent, ordinary Americans. One big issue raised by Dreher and Dr. Pat Deneen: Does liberalism depend on virtues that liberalism can’t help but erode? Does liberalism have within it the seeds of its own destruction? (I’ve said more than once that there might be something a little too Marxist about the crunchies and their theorist MacIntyre, but Marx might not be totally wrong about everything.)

Bad News for America’s Charities

Obama doesn’t believe in a trickle down tax code either.

Rush and the MSM: The Today Show Today

So the Today Show OPENS this morning with extended coverage of of Rush and Michael Steele. Here are some of the points emphasized: The Republican Party is less popular now that ever (although the actual study showed a decline of only 1% since December). Michael Steele (maybe a admirable black guy) had the guts to marginalize Rush as an over-the-top entertainer, and then was forced to eat those words by the powerful (old white guy) Rush. Obama is more popular than ever (although the point wasn’t emphasized that his huge personal popularity can be contrasted with only a narrow majority supporting his actual policies). What Rush wants is for Obama to fail, meaning: He wants America to descend into a horrible Depression for partisan reasons. Republicans, of course, are selfishly indifferent to personal suffering, unless it’s by the rich. Meanwhile, a clip of Rush speaking in the strange all-black outfit with the unbottoned, chest-revealing shirt is constantly playing in a box on the screen.

I believe this evidence supports my conspiracy theory. So let me repeat one piece of praise of Rush that’s found in the threads. He was much more astute than the moderate Brooks or the Obamacon crunchies about what the new administration would be like. I hope the Obamacons aren’t sticking to the position that it was better that McCain lose to pay for Bush’s sins and because Palin screwed up the interviews. Obama’s politically correct paternalistic statism is surely taking direct aim at the remnants of what was doubtless a thriving rocking chair culture. Let me add: I certainly hope that the president succeeds in making the economy better. Let me repeat: Rush and Newt can’t be the core of the opposition.

An Amazing Birthday Day

Happy Birthday to Tom Wolfe, Dr. Seuss, Emerson, Longfellow, Steinbeck, Ralph Ellison, Victor Hugo, Renoir, and Anthony Burgess. You might rank these in order of human excellence or in terms of improving the world.

I’ve particularly enjoyed and learned from Wolfe, Ellison, and Burgess. Seuss, Steinbeck, and Emerson are overrated and may have done more harm than good, although I can see that Steinbeck and Emerson are geniuses who have plenty of moments. Dr. Seuss always annoyed me, although I generally like children’s book and children. Hugo and Renoir are certainly French and may be above or not relevant to my paygrade. It’s a sign of our lack of class, perhaps, that Longfellow’s edifying amd finely crafted poems were so popular in his day but not in ours, although I have to admit that I’ve never read one voluntarily.

American Conservatives Rockin’ the Front Porch

Here’s an elegantly literary and insightful new blog, featuring Jeremy Beer, Dr. Pat Deneen, Rod Dreher, and other crunchy conservatives. This is not, in some ways, the alternative to Rush that I believe in, although it’s one that has to be incorporated into a larger non-European view of our future. I have, I confess, no front porch--although I do have a screened-in back porch and a couple of chairs (redneck style) in the front yard.

Limbaugh, Elitism, and an Unworthy War

There’s a good Jonah Goldberg column today in the LA Times. He talks about the stupid war on Rush Limbaugh and, more generally, on conservative talk radio and its vast audience. Of course, the broad political strategy from the Democrats in this is to try and shame ordinary people away from listening to arguments other than their own and to conflate all conservatism with the most extreme of the shouters. And there is an element within conservatism that has it’s own reasons for wishing to help this along. Along with it is a host of predictable over-reactions to all of this from the vociferous defenders of talk radio and its audience. As I watch it, I can’t help but think everyone is losing his mind in trying to talk about it. It looks like a lot of nothing to me.

This is really nothing more than a continued re-hashing of an un-winnable debate within conservatism about tastes and inclinations that we saw emerge first with the nomination of Harriet Miers and then with the selection of Sarah Palin. Democrats tried this attack on Limbaugh without success in the 90s and the early 2000s--and now they’re back at it with the help of some of us. The both unfair and substantive point on one side is that there is a kind of low-brow brashness inherent in the format of talk-radio and TV. With a good number of notable exceptions, there is some merit to the point and there are, certainly, some outspoken jackasses in the format who are there for no other purpose but self-glorification (though, I think, not Rush). The both unfair and substantive point coming from the defenders of talk radio and a more populist conservatism generally is that their critics tend to come off as bi-coastal elitists, ivy-league snobs, and effete kowtowers. With a good number of notable (and not so notable) exceptions, there is also a fair amount of merit in this critique. And, as it goes, I think the merit in this critique ought to be taken more seriously than the merit in the other. For the perceived turning up of the nose is much more inexcusable. Why?

There is something unseemly (and amazingly stupid) in the attack coming from sophisticates and leveled at the so-called unsophisticated. Urbane sophisticates ought to be able to develop a more effective method of persuasion and, part of that development ought to include some contemplation of the possibility that there is something deeper and also good within those they wish to persuade and refine. Else, why bother? They ought to keep in mind Lincoln’s credo that one attracts more bees with honey than with bile. The problem between the two sides of conservatism stems from an inability or unwillingness on both sides to understand the other and, perhaps, from a bit of jealousy for the popularity of one or another personality. But those who cannot master this art of persuasion without giving offense perhaps do not deserve the attention they seek. And those who have reached their summit in the persuasive arts, should be left where they are unmolested. It makes no sense to tear down one side of the foundation in order to build up another.

There are and always have been/will be yahoos glomming on to the conservative movement both as would-be leaders and as mind-numbed followers--just as there are on the other side of the political spectrum. Unless their offenses are grievous, there is no cause for commentary about them. And there will always be a sometimes unfair debate about which side of the political spectrum attracts more nuts. The truth is that there’s probably a pretty fair distribution on both sides. It proves nothing so . . . so what?

I think that what I find most offensive about this whole debate is that it is an attempt to strong-arm the argument by attaching shame to it--Rahm Emmanuel and the Dems have one reason for it and certain elements within conservatism have another. Let people think for themselves and they may surprise you. Despite the disappointing outcome of the last election . . . Americans really are not stupid. We should all show a little respect for that; especially the winners.

There’s No Moderation Obama’s TRANSFORMATIONAL LIBERALISM, the moderate David Brooks finally notices. More moderates should have noticed this BEFORE the election, along with what would surely be the consequences of UNIFIED Democratic government. Brooks is right that rallying the moderates against Euro-transformationalism can’t have much to do with Rush.

Literature, Poetry, and Books

The Buckley Stops Here

Over the weekend I read Chris Buckley's Boomsday, and amusing novel to read just now. I stumbled over the following paragraph:
"The national situation continued to decline: plunging stock market, soaring prices, inflation running at 18 percent. This last factor, combined with six consecutive quarters of negative growth, officially signaled stagflation. The U.S. Treasury was furiously printing dollars, while the dollar itself had lost 40 percent of its value over the last six months. The Federal Reserve, meanswhile, had announced yet another hike in the discount rate, to 14 percent. Amid this calamitous economic news, the Congress adamantly--some said magnificently--refused to cut federal spending, with the result that the year's deficit was not projected at $1.1 trillion.
Ah, the good old days. When a $1.1 trillian deficit was so unthinkable that it was fodder for a satirical novel. It was disinclined to note this sign of the times on NLT, but then I read Buckley seems to be having second thoughts about his support for Obama.
"Hold on--there's a typo in that paragraph. "$3.6 trillion budget" can't be right.The entire national debt is--what--about $11 trillion? He can't actually be proposing to spend nearly one-third of that in one year, surely. Let me check. Hmm. He did. The Wall Street Journal notes that federal outlays in fiscal 2009 will rise to almost 30 percent of the gross national product. In language that even an innumerate English major such as myself can understand: The US government is now spending annually about one-third of what the entire US economy produces. As George Will would say, "Well."

Gordon Lloyd on teaching the natives

I talked with Gordon Lloyd (Pepperdine) for about thirty minutes on (as Gordon puts it) how "the Americans have emigrated from the Founding" and "how do you get Americans to be comfortable about being Americans." Needless to say, it was a great conversation with this fine American, partly wisdom, partly skimble-skamble stuff.

Drunken Writers

Brian McDonald’s essay isn’t as good as some of the drunken writers he loves, but it’s not bad. Aside from Niven/Pournelle’s Inferno, I’m walking through Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, having been told by a friend, "I think it’s his best, but I don’t understand it. It’s too complicated." Well, no need to understand the whole when you get parts like this: "There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can."

Dow Tumbles, Obama Parties On

Yes, the headline is a bit unfair. But can you imagine the media response to stories like this if the current occupant of the White House were anyone else?

Real Changes

1. Obama is economically more leftist/European than some dared hope.

2. The economy is much worse and will prove to be much more recalcitrant than most hoped.

3. There seems to be a Democratic/MSM conspiracy to focus on Rush and Newt are leaders of the opposition. I hope I’m not dissing these smart and eloquent men by saying that they’re old and white, have some questionable personal features, and seem to many to be yesterday’s news. More generally, the heightened MSM coverage of the CPAC conference was clearly meant to marginalize the impetus to oppose the president.

4. Romney is saying some good stuff about Obama’s Europeanization of the economy, and it’s worth discussing whether this observant believing, economically savvy, and personally admirable family man should be encouraged to take the lead. There are obviously arguments in the other direction, such as his inability to resonate...

5. The pressure is necessarily on Bobby Jindal and Eric Cantor. Bobby J was obviously overhandled the other night and needs to get back to his fast talking, policy wonkish, high IQ self.

Muslims in U.S.

A Gallup Poll "of Muslims in the United States has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving."

Question for the day

What do people around here make of the "tea parties" around the country? Instapundit has a whole bunch of pictures and links about the tea parties. Just keep scrolling.

Your tax dollars hard at work

It’s hard to say that the government is less corrupt than private industry:

Carrie Lopez, director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, charged taxpayers to fly from Sacramento, where she works, to Los Angeles, where she lives, to attend a Justin Timberlake concert with her daughter. She listed the trip on her expense report as a meeting with the energy company that paid for the concert tickets. Lopez also billed the state for meals on days she received those meals for free from corporations, according to state records.

Rosario Marin, head of the State and Consumer Services Agency, blamed a miscommunication for her failure to repay $582 the state spent to fly her to Washington in July to speak at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an appearance for which she received $1,000. She reimbursed the state for the airfare after The Times inquired about the trip last month.

Over the last two years, as California has slashed services and scrambled to pay bills, top administration officials have made free use of government expense accounts with little oversight and, in some cases, no documentation, The Times has found.

Together, they have spent tens of thousands of dollars on state-funded trips between Sacramento and the areas where they live, justifying the travel as necessary for state business. Some built weekend trips around one short meeting, and some charged the state to attend events with no apparent connection to their jobs. . . .

"Is anybody at the wheel here?" said Michael Josephson, president of the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles.

"The best possible case for this, which is still not a good case, is [that] nobody is providing oversight. . . . The worst case is that you have some people who are knowingly taking advantage."

That’s why increasing the size and scope of government is unlikely to do what so many hope it will do. As Walt Kelly put it, we have met the enemy, and he is us. There is little evidence that the wealthy are more corrupt than the poor or that business is less corrupt (and corrupting) than government. Madison does a nice job with this idea in Federalist 51.

Francis Canvanan

A friend recently informed me that Father Frank Canavan died at the age of 91. The services start today. I met Father Canavan over thirty years ago and he baptized the first three of our children (the fourth was baptized in Ashland). He was a good and serious man (he taught at Fordham for over 20 years) and he had a tender and quiet way of reminding me to think deeper, but maybe not so loud. Canavan, Jaffa, and Cropsey attended the same high school, as this introduction to his thought by Kenneth Grasso notes. Requiescat in pace.

Escape from Hell

As I strolled by the science fiction section of the bookstore yesterday, I spotted Escape from Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and I got it, of course, thinking it might be a how-to-guide. Then I remembered that thirty years ago I read their Inferno and loved the thing. It was both gripping and funny and made me look at Dante more seriously. In it, Carpenter, a science fiction writer who doesn’t believe in Hell finds himself there, and as this Dante meets his Virgil (Benito Mussolini) the journey begins....But, that was both a long time ago and I have no memory, so first I will re-read their Inferno before learning the Escape. This might be a good week.

Obama hands Churchill bust back

President Obama has decided not to hold on to the bronze bust of Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein which was loaned to George W Bush from the British Government�s art collection after the September 11 attacks. Here is another story on the case, with a photo of the bust.

Not to be Missed: Rush at CPAC

Rush was both captivating and on-target in his analysis of the cowardice of conservatives: You can watch this in clips on Youtube, but it is much better viewed in full, on C-SPAN or, perhaps later, on the CPAC site . He pays homage to President Obama, arguing that he could destroy the GOP if he would use his talents to affirm the American character. Rush’s argument needs refining but is fundamentally correct.

UPDATE UPDATED: Rush’s speech is up on C-SPAN, here.