Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

It takes a thief

How about making George Soros Treasury Secretary?


Joseph Tartakovsky explains that you can like a thing even though you may be ambarassed by it. Also, Shakespeare and Burke liked puns. The simpler ones are, as Charles Lamb said, “a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.” But there are complex ones, from Richard Whateley: “Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. But what brought the sandwiches there? Why, Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred." Good essay. Best thing in the New York Times today, and I say that because I read it all, smoking a good Cuban, sitting in the morning sun on Decatur St in New Orleans. Perfect morning to write, and I tried, but it was pointless, my pencil was broken.

Rio Bravo

Allen Barra writes a footnote, even an imperfect footnote, to a very large theme of westerns, by asking the question why this movie is still popular (and hip). I do like this: Quentin Tarantino, whose "Pulp Fiction" was also both popular and hip, told an audience at a 2007 Cannes screening of "Rio Bravo" that he always tested a new girlfriend "by taking her to see ’Rio Bravo’ -- and she’d better like it!"

Ashbrook Center

Lincoln at 200

This is the PDF version of our recent issue of On Principle, devoted entirely to Abraham Lincoln. There are ten pretty good essays by people you know and the artwork is by our own Chris Burkett. You can also access the individual essays at our main site. I hope you like it.

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Sen Dodd in trouble

Cook Political Report now analyzes Sen. Chris Dodd’s bid for a sixth term, and concludes that he is one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the ballot in 2010. His race is downgraded to "toss-up."

The oldest hatred

Has returned.

Discovery of John Wilkes Booth’s Diary?

In a previously undiscovered tunnel in New York? Very interesting video and compelling Indiana Jones type story. In another life I’d have loved to have been an archaeologist.

California Continues to Lose It

Jim Lakely over at Infinite Monkeys brings our attention to an absurd proposed regulation of the California Air Resources Board that would ban the sale of black cars in California after 2012. The reason? Seems the geniuses over there are making the case that black cars absorb too much heat and make it necessary for people to run their air-conditioners too much and, thereby, consume too much fuel and emit too much carbon. They want to try and force auto companies to produce a kind of black paint that will not absorb so much heat. This ought to be good. Keep watching.

And here’s another one near and dear to my heart . . . a proposed ban from the LA city council on a whole variety of new and modern billboards. Because it’s always a good idea, in a down economy, to make it really, really difficult for people to advertise and sell things. (Full disclosure: Dad makes and sells billboards . . . good ones too!)

Don’t Forget Over There

While everyone is focusing mostly on Obama’s ruinous economic plans, Ralph Peters draws our attention to Obama’s opening foreign policy missteps. Sobering.

Money quote: "By comparison, the Carter administration is starting to look like a model of manly strength, courage and patriotism." Ouch!

Alexander Hamilton

as prime exemplar of American opportunity and enterprise

is well recounted by Mayron Magnet for the City Journal. He may have been "that bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar," (Adams) but also he was smart, ambitious, and proud. A good read.   

Electronic voting not secure, CIA says

I have always said that a pencil and paper is all you need for voting; and fellow citizens counting the ballots, and, if necessary, recounting them. The paper trail is good. The

CIA seems to agree with me, noting some interesting developments in places like Venezuela.


The President's Step Backwards on Stem Cells

Here's a response by members of President Bush's Council on Bioethics to Obama's recent statement and new policy. The president has undermined progress that has really been made to reconciling the needs of science and the moral concerns of many Americans, and it's not at all clear that he hasn't opened the door to reproductive cloning. I urge bloggers of all stripes to link this response to ensure that it provokes a real national discussion.
Categories > Bioethics

Global Currency?

While President Obama flatly rejected the notion of a new global currency at last night’s press conference,

Treasuury Secretary Geithner today didn’t seem to rule it out. This is confusing. If the Geithner position is reasonable, then Obama should have said so last night. Allowing his Treasury Secretary to either flatly contradict him, or to interpret what he said, just the day before is unclear at best and doesn’t help build confidence in this administration, whether obfuscation was intended or not. Also see this; Austan Goolsbee seems to agree with Geithner.


Constitutional Amendment?

I talked with Matt Spalding regarding his recent testimony to a Joint Committee that is looking into the possibility of amending the Constitution; insisting on immediate election of a U.S. Senator in case of vacancy. You know, democracy above all considerations, including federalism. Matt was the only guy testifying against the proposal.  
Categories > Courts

Labor Unrest in France

If you thought ACORN’s tour bus of AIG executive mansions was bad, look at what’s going on in France. It’s really too bad we’re not more like Europe . . .

Obama’s Legislative Steamroller Losing Steam?

Betsy Newmark details the ways in which conservatives can credit luck as Democrats have blinked in order to make Obama’s legislative hope for change not so hopey and not so changey . . . at least not yet. But, as she says, " They’ll [conservatives] need to marshal their best arguments if they’re going to win these policy arguments. They had no chance when the Democrats, flushed with their exhilaration over their 2008 victory, were poised to cram them through. Now there is a chance that they can modify such proposals for the better. It will be up to them to build on that opportunity, slight though it is." In other words, now is not the time to get side-tracked with intra-mural spit-wad fights.


The air seems to be slowly leaking out of Obama’s balloon--or was it another bubble? One obvious dilemma is plain: big expansions of government require a major crisis, hence Obama and Company’s crisis talk of the early weeks. But it became evident that such talk was making the economic situation worse, such that Obama had to turn on a dime and become a cheerleader for the nation’s economy, even as centrist members of his own party begin rebelling against huge spending, card check, cap and trade, etc. Still, we are in a contest to see whether the government can attain even more mastery over the private sector, and the private sector is starting to fight back.

Now, if I was in a conspiratorial frame of mind, and thought Obama was an evil genius, I’d wonder whether the murky TARP II provision that allowed the AIG bonuses was deliberately calculated to provoke outrage in order to justify greater government control over executive salaries across the board, as indeed Barney Frank has intimated is his desire. Nah. Can’t be that clever, can they?

Obama’s Poor Performance = Possible Economic Turnaround?

This economist seems to suggest it. The Calafia Beach Pundit has a very readable and engaging blog--even if you are a novice like me. Some months ago, he even managed to make a discussion of the winding down of credit default swaps sound interesting. Perhaps the reason he can manage this is because he is also thoughtful about the intersection between politics and the economics. His thought now seems to be that because Obama appears to be winging it, he is losing some of his credibility in very public ways. The markets are cheered by this because they take it as an indication that he may not be able to go forward with the most absurd of his costly and business killing plans. I did not watch the press conference tonight, so I suppose I should take a gander in case it suggests any action one way or the other for the portfolio in the morning . . .


President Obama at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has invited President Obama to be its commencement speaker this year. Since Jimmy Carter, every President except Bill Clinton has done so.

Perhaps Clinton was excluded because of his stance on abortion. As retiring Notre Dame professor Ralph McInerny and WSJ columnist William McGurn note, Obama's position on life issues ("safe, legal, and government funded"?) has certainly not disqualified him.

The University promises a dialogue, to engage him. The President likes dialogues, but only when others are open to being persuaded by him. Certainly the most prominent lectern in American Catholic higher education is a bully pulpit, so to speak. I predict that his approach will not be much different from that of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, speaking at Boston College, who gave lip service to the diversity of American higher education but ultimately urged subordination to national goals, quoting Woodrow Wilson to this effect:

"It is not learning," said President Wilson, "but the spirit of service that will give a college place in the public annals of the Nation." "It is indispensable," he said, "if it is to do its right service, that the air of affairs should be admitted to all its classrooms... the air of the world's transactions, the consciousness of the solidarity of the race, the sense of the duty of man toward man . . . the promise and the hope that shine in the face of all knowledge .... The days of glad expansion are gone, our life grows tense and difficult; our resource for the future lies in careful thought, providence, and a wise economy; and the school must be of the Nation."

As The President has reminded us in other contexts, he wants all hands on long as he's the one steering the ship.

Categories > Presidency

Men and Women

What Do Women Want?

Kathryn Jean Lopez writes a frighteningly compelling article in which she details just a few of the bizarre and unhappy consequences of our confused and futile attempt to deny sex differences. One is that young women, when polled, are now more apt to blame the victim of domestic violence than they would have been in saner times. Another even more illustrative consequence is a trend (discussed here in Oprah's very mainstream O Magazine) of women leaving men because they are attracted to women who seem to have a better grasp of masculinity and chivalry.

Sad as it is, this last reminds me of the famous study in which little girls were given toy trucks to play with in lieu of dolls. The researchers found that the vast majority of the girls would play with the trucks as if they were dolls . . . bathing them, putting them to "bed" and, in general, nurturing them. And we all know about the propensity of boys to turn any available item into a weapon. What mother with children of both sexes hasn't been "shot" by a Barbie-doll gun? Have we really come to the point when women, unable to find men who are both masculine and chivalrous (or, perhaps, unable to recognize him when she does) must now resort to contorting themselves into the objects of their own desire? And what happens when the so-called "husband" or "butch" in these situations begins to awaken the needs that remain unfulfilled for her in the relationship?

The trouble with nurturing a truck is that no matter how amazing the powers of your imagination may be, it remains a truck. This may be fine when the question is child's play. At some point, however, we all long to put away childish things.

Categories > Men and Women

Political Malfeasance

Another note on banana republics, George Will at his short best. Much of it is laughable, despite the looming tragedy.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Shameless self (and others) promotion

If you haven't yet subscribed to THE CITY (it's free!), you should. The upcoming issue features some of our favorite writers.

And then there's my review of this book by Francis Beckwith.

And while I'm at it, let me mention a couple of other books that I am reading or will read soon. There's The Soul of a Leader, written by a guy I have a hard time calling Waller R. Newell. And there's this eagerly awaited hardy quadrennial.

Pop Culture

Maggie Gallagher on the Meaning of Marriage

Maggie Gallagher has a series of posts over at the Corner discussing the potential impact of changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. The one I link to above raises the question of the formal stigmatizing effects that would necessarily befall those who did not jump on-board to embrace homosexual "marriage" as a positive good. In other words, making an argument that there is something fundamentally different about the marriage of a man and a woman and the union of two men or two women, would become tantamount to a public admission of bigotry. There would be legal and quasi-legal effects enforced by both law and public opinion as a result. And marriage as it has always been understood, Gallagher argues, would remain something nameless in the public square and unmentionable in polite society.

It seems to me that something also to be noted--if one has serious compassion for one's homosexual friends and relations--is that if Gallagher is right and the nature and purpose of marriage could be so fundamentally altered, the civilizing effects of both marriage and these unions would be cheapened, coarsened and diminished by this change. When marriages are fully categorized by law and in "polite society" as being nothing better or different or more trans-formative than are the sexual unions of homosexual couples, there will be no civilizing idea or example to which either kind of couple can look for an example. That is to say, one reason homosexual couples today may find the idea of marriage so appealing is likely the good marriage does for society and the changes it induces in its participants. If homosexual couples find that their own "non-marriage" unions do not quite measure up by way of comparison, is it any wonder that they look to something outside of the nature of the thing itself for a cause? What happens when they find that a rose by another name does not smell as sweet? What happens when there is no longer any rose-tinted glasses through which to view their situation? Sweet little lies on a personal level may serve some good purpose and I've really no problem with encouraging them in those whose personal situation demands them if they encourage a better public comportment. But when we try to pass off these little lies onto the rest of the world on a grand scale, this goes well beyond what Mark Twain might call a stretcher.

Categories > Pop Culture

There’s No Shame in Self-Promotion

I’m going to give the VERITAS lecture at MIAMI OF OHIO next Thursday (March 26) at 7:30 p.m. It’ll be on human dignity, public policy, and higher education today. Here is a little taste of what I’m going to say about irresponsible professors and lonely students.

Obama’s Katrina?

It is widely thought that Bush started losing his authority by his imperfect reaction (perceived) to Katrina. Frank Rich suggests that Obama may have already reached that point. The point here is not to dispute much of his piece, but to note that when Frank Rich thinks that Obama (and the administration generally) is nearing the precipice, he may already have fallen off.


By chance, this is the only hyped movie I didn’t get to see--until yesterday. It’s easily the best movie of the year, or maybe the last several years. There’s more about the strengths and weaknesses of our country as it once was and now is than in all the Oscar nominees put together. There’s also more about the proper relationship between the real, lonely, and judgmental inwardness of a real (wounded) man and the loving realism of (tough) real woman than almost any movie I’ve ever seen. The most hilarious scenes are about the Eastwood character teaching a shy Hmong young man with promise how to talk--with profane and politically incorrect affection--like a real American man. The movie is genuinely multicultural insofar as it shows that true virtue makes possible kinships that transcend profound cultural differences. It’s also "multicultural" in the sense that it causes us to reflect on the violence we did to our admirable and very traditional allies we abandoned (the Hmong) by forcing them, quite abruptly, to take up residence in some of the most decadent and dangerous places in our country. It’s also very pto-Catholic; one of the heroes is a priest who looks like a boy but (with some help) acts like the best of men (while still believing in sacred promises and the power of sacraments). And the Eastwood character (who believed, like a warrior, that religion is all about fooling credulous women) confesses to the boy priest who earned his admiration and is saying the Hail Mary at the hour of his sacrificial death (an unarmed warrior dying to make men--his friends--free). That this movie gives a much deeper and more convincing analysis of the American 1950s than REVOLUTIONARY ROAD goes without saying. There’s depravity portrayed realistically in this movie--but always for a reason.

Health Care and Discriminiation

In many countries, medical spending is limited by restricting options for the elderly. For example, in Great Britain, as Michael Barone notes, "if you want a hip replacement at age 57, well, you’re just too old." Would that be legal in America? Would it run afoul of our age-discrimination laws? If health care is "a right" as our President thinks, wouldn’t that mean American laws about rights must apply?

A second, related, point. People on the Left in America like to frame the issue by saying "health care must be a right, not a privilege, in America." Is that phrase helpful? In a free country, the government does not have the right to say you can’t go to the doctor. The only reason why the governmnet would deny that right to people is if it rations health care-something that would be done, ironically, in the name of making health care a "right." Under Britain’s national health service, people over 57 don’t have the right to have hip replacements.

Andrew Busch has a nice short article on the question of the right to health care in the latest Claremont Review of Books.