Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Embarrassment of Ricci

Will the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Ricci case have an impact on the Sotomayor nomination? Should it? At the very least, the Court showed contempt for Sotomayor’s ruling:

it was hardly to be expected that the five more conservative justices -- who held that the city had violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by refusing to promote the firefighters with the highest scores on a job-related promotional exam because none were black -- would endorse an Obama nominee’s ruling to the contrary.

What’s more striking is that the court was unanimous in rejecting the Sotomayor panel’s specific holding. Her holding was that New Haven’s decision to spurn the test results must be upheld based solely on the fact that highly disproportionate numbers of blacks had done badly on the exam and might file a "disparate-impact" lawsuit -- regardless of whether the exam was valid or the lawsuit could succeed.

Given the large Democratic majority in the Senate, it is rather unlikely that Justice Sotomayor won’t soon appear on the Court. This ruling, however, could make for one or two interesting discussions when she arrives.

Is College Worth It?

Jack Hough makes an argument similar, in some ways to the one that Charles Murray has been making of late. College is no longer a sure economic proposition. That’s a crude way of looking at it, but given the state of things, we should also add that nowadays it often is not, in fact, a sound educational proposition either.

The question we need to ask is not simply whether, from an economic standpoint, whether college is worth the cost. (As a practical matter, that is a genuine question, even if, a true eduction is priceless). The question we need to ask is what can we do to raise the real, as opposed to monetary value of education. As our republic presumes the presence of an informed citizenry, improving the schools is imperative, or we’re sunk.

Who Lincoln Was, according to Sean Wilentz

I haven’t seen the paper version of the July 15th issue of The New Republic but Sean Wilentz’s review essay (of four books) on Lincoln must take up the whole issue (it’s 32 pages as printed version!). I can’t possibly read this tome until later this week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. There might be some soul of goodness in it, we’ll see.

Another Reason to Like Chief Justice Roberts

He didn’t think much of Michael Jackson.

Lies and deceptions

This BBC report on the burial of a Taliban commander, in a Shia graveyard no less, killed by his bodyguard, while Pakistan’s armed forces provide security for his militants, will give you an idea of the, well, the complications, in that part of the world. If you don’t get it an insight into the glib and oily arts from this brief account, read this and this.

Where Is Will Rogers When We Need Him?

Watching the farce that is Waxman-Markey pass the House last night reminds me of Will Rogers’s aphorism that being a humorist is easy when you have the whole government working for you. With that in mind, the best thing to do now is take in GoRemy’s splendid song-and-dance routine about cap and trade.

Farrah Fawcett

I like this appreciation of Farrah Fawcett 

Alex Boye

I saw Alex Boye sing I Want Jesus To Walk With Me a week ago. It may have been the finest thing my ears have ever heard. He had me with the second note.  Have a good weekend.    


Waxman-Markey at This Hour

I'm watching with amazement as the House gets ready to ram through the Waxman-Markey climate change bill that not a single member has likely read all the way through, let alone understands. I spent much of last week and early this week reading through the second iteration of the bill, the mere 946 page version (up from the original 650 page first draft). Then early this week the bill grew to 1,201 pages, and as of this morning, no one knows how long it is. That's because Henry Waxman dropped in a 309 page amendment this morning at about 3 am, and there is confusion as to whether it is substitute language for the existing bill, or 309 additional new pages. (It is apparently the latter, but it is hard to tell.) But why let that hold up a vote?

I'll have a paper out next week analyzing the most salient aspects of Waxman-Markey before it heads off to the Senate (I assume it will pass the House by brute force of the Democratic leadership), but my short summary is thus: It is the energy and climate policy equivalent of Sarbanes-Oxley financial regulation, guaranteeing extensive new bureaucracy and substantial economic cost to the productive economy while achieving few of its stated objectives. Just as Sarbanes-Oxley did little or nothing to expose and prevent the excessive risk and inflated asset values of the housing and financial sector, Waxman-Markey will do little to achieve genuine greenhouse gas emission reductions and curb the risks of global warming. The "cap and trade" system at the heart of the bill is riddled with so many loopholes that it should be considered more of a "hairnet and giveaway."

Stay tuned; this one will be a case study for decades to come if it actually passes the Senate and gets signed into law.

Categories > Congress

Today’s Oddest Validation of the Theory, "Things Have a Way of Working Out for the Best"

The story comes from Victorville, California, via KTLA News:

Woman Held Hostage Rescued by Bill Collector

VICTORVILLE -- A woman held captive for three days by her ex-boyfriend was rescued by a chance visit from a bill collector seeking a car payment.

A saleswoman from a local car dealership said she noticed the victim hadn’t made her car payment and decided to stop by the woman’s home to pick it up, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark James.

She arrived at the home on the 16800 block of Winona Street and knocked on the door. When the victim opened the door, the saleswoman noticed scratches on her body, James said. The 30-year-old woman scribbled the word "help" and her ex’s name Miguel Rios.

When the debt collector asked if she was OK, the woman whispered Rios had a gun and was holding her hostage. The woman called police.

28-year-old Miguel Rios was arrested and booked for investigation of false imprisonment and making terrorist threats, among other allegations.

The woman, held since Sunday, had bite marks and bruises, including marks where Rios allegedly tried to strangle her.

Rios is a self-admitted gang member, according to sheriff’s authorities.

The moral high ground

Even the WaTi thinks, with the latest, er, revelations about S.C. Governor Mark Sanford, that social conservatives have lost it.

I feel for Gov. Sanford’s wife and children and do think that he stupidly (and sinfully) ruined his political future, such as it was.

Should people in public office be held to a high standard? Absolutely! If they can’t keep the most solemn promise they’re ever likely to make, then why and how can we expect them to keep their "faith" with their constituents?

But how is this just about social conservatives? Sanford hasn’t exactly embraced that label for himself, focusing rather on fiscal conservatism as his political hallmark. Of the others mentioned in the article, only Bill Bennett qualifies as a genuine social conservative.

If, on the other hand, the issue is hypocrisy--not doing as one says others should do--then there’s plenty of that to go around, though cheating on one’s taxes usually doesn’t yield the kind of salaciously interesting emails that cheating on one’s spouse does.

Statistic du Jour

In light of recent politcal events, a link tothis study seems appropriate:

In a new study conducted by marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, it’s estimated that one in 2.7 men will cheat.

It is, obviously, difficult to get good data on this subject, so I have no idea how accurate this survey is. It is, however, interesting.

Dr. Pat Deneen on Robert Nisbet

HERE’S part of Pat’s great talk in Seattle on this neglected (and relatively social scientific) conservative. I’m somewhat relieved that the general excellence of the ISI conference presentations in Seattle kept me away from that pagan city’s celebration of the Solstice, which included a parade of 300 naked bikers (apparently those who pass for Spartans these days). Classic Nisbet questions for discussion: To what extent does the decency of American liberalism depend on pre-modern inheritances? Is the perpetuation of those inheritances a doomed project? Or is there plenty of reason for optimism, because the truth about human nature--who we are--will triumph over constructivist, individualistic abstractions?

Obama’s Skillful Press Conference analyzed HERE. The president is talking tougher on Iraq, while not actually being tougher. He refuses to say that McCain forced him to up the rhetorical ante, misremembering that he was talking tough all along. And while he’s still for the government option when it comes to health insurance--on the grounds that it would provide needed competition--he’s not saying he wouldn’t sign a bill without it.

Bradbury on Poetry

I glanced at Ray Bradbury’s "Zen in the Art of Writing," and spotted these few lines on poetry:

"Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing.

My story, “The Shoreline at Sunset,” is a direct result of reading Robert Hillyer’s lovely poem about finding a mermaid near Plymouth Rock. My story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” is based on the poem of that title by Sara Teasdale, and the body of the story encompasses the theme of her poem. From Byron’s, “And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” came a chapter for my novel The Martian Chronicles, which speaks for a dead race of Martians who will no longer prowl empty seas late at night. In these cases, and dozens of others, I have had a metaphor jump at me, give me a spin, and run me off to do a story.

What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don’t force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T.S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. You say you don’t understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day."

Here is one I like by

This Week’s Reagan Outrage

Another week, another Reagan-bashing article, this time in Obamaweek, I mean, Newsweek. And naturally my dutiful reply, filed over at The Corner.

Which gives me another excuse: Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

The Sex Vote

Our friend James Poulos explores the cultural contradictions of liberaltarianism (apologies to Daniel Bell), focusing on what he provocatively calls the Sex Vote.

A snippet:

Such is the logic of the Sex Vote—the population of practical liberaltarians for whom the exercise of erotic liberty in fulfillment of their capabilities far outweighs in importance any exercise of political liberty, so content are they with a government that delivers sexual freedom (and perhaps some minimum of attendant social services). For the Sex Vote, eliminating the day-to-day drudgery of citizenship itself counts high among social services: outsourcing the detail and difficulty of governance to distant, centralized experts is a feature, not a bug, of ‘unaccountable’ government. In its liberaltarianism, the Sex Vote would solve once and for all Wilde’s paradox (the trouble with socialism is it takes too many evenings). In the world that we live in, captivated by erotic liberty, such is the destiny of ’smart citizenship’ and representative government.

If you grant that sex is more important than politics, or that one of the principal purposes of politics is to protect and indeed enlarge sexual freedom, might you not be tempted to acquiesce in a paternalistic government that frees you from the drudgery of self-government so that you can have more time for private gratification?

I’d ask another question as well: doesn’t the pursuit of self-gratification in all its forms undermine the responsibility necessary for vindicating one’s liberty? Doesn’t self-government reuire character? Older libertarians were in a sense aristocratic in their assumption that genuine libertarianism was a pleasure for the few who had the backbone for it. Their younger counterparts lack any vestige of that old assumption, which libertarian theory already worked to undermine.

Statistic du Jour

Why are several states going bust? They spend too much:

In 2002 total combined state revenue was $1.097 trillion.... In 2007 this figure had risen to almost $2 trillion. That’s an 81 percent increase, at a time when prices plus population increased 19 percent.

Darwinian Larry Expresses His Ambivalence

...about the abolition of the Bioethics Council. He acknowledges it was pretty Socratic (and Obama’s won’t be), but he thought that Kass’s influence made it too anti-science. Larry says, understandably but wrongly, that I was appointed because I generally agree with Kass. I came to Leon’s attention by giving a lecture in which I was very critical about his Brave New World paranoia. Larry also expresses reservations about Diana Schaub’s appointment. But the truth is she’s very devoted to modern science or the Enlightenment as described by Montesquieu and Jefferson in that "light of science" quote. Her criticisms of today’s policies and trends are always expressed in a scientific defense of natural rights. Her view that Darwin can’t account for the whole truth about the free individual is very modern. And, in general, Diana seems to be much more modern than Leon. Larry has never come to terms with the fact that his whole-hog embrace of Darwin necessarily involved a theoretical rejection of our mostly Lockean Declaration.

Inflexible Idealism vs. Inflexible Realism

CEASER explains that Obama’s approach to the crisis in Iran is a dishonorable overreaction to Bush’s somewhat excessive zeal to push democracy everywhere. The truth is being honorable and principled is sometimes the most pragmatic policy, and the real choice is not between humility and hubris. JWC, unfortunately, does not tell us what we should actually be doing right now when it comes to Iran.

Postmodern Conservatism Update

If you click HERE and do some scrolling, you can read Ivan the K on bioethics, Ralph on political responsibility (with reference to Steyn and Strauss), ME on the good side of Walt Whitman, and much more.

Mark Helprin’s Furious Treatise

Ross Douthat writes an amusing (and very critical) review of Mark Helprin’s Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto. He thinks the book--a furious reaction to Internet reactions to something he wrote--"is a vindication of the aphorism about the perils of wrestling with a pig. (You get dirty; the pig likes it.) Helprin can be a wonderful wordsmith, and there are many admirable passages and strong arguments in this book. But the thread that binds the worktogether is hectoring, pompous and enormously tedious." Or, "’Why talk to the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room?’ he wonders, quoting Churchill; the answer, he explains, is that in this case only the monkeys really matter." Duothat thinks that Helprin has given in to "the spirit of perpetual acceleration," which "threatens to carry all before it, frenzying our politics, barbarizing our language and depriving us of the kind of artistic greatness that isn’t available on Twitter feeds." I guess we should be warned about "wrestling with the monkeys" and paying to much mind to "mouth-breathing morons." Sometimes, maybe often, we need not respond.

The Knight as an Equal: Tadeusz Kosciuszko

This book review of The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution kicks some facts at you, aside from the obvious one that this guy came over from Poland and served the American cause in the Revolution. He was a fine engineer, and knew Washington, Jefferson, et al, and was made a Brigadier in 1783. But here are two things I have never heard before:

When Booker T. Washington visited Krakow, Poland, in 1910, he made a ­special point of paying tribute to Kosciuszko. He later wrote: "I knew from my school ­history what Kosciuszko had done for America in its early struggle for independence. I did not know, however, until my attention was called to it in Krakow, what Kosciuszko had done for the freedom and ­education of my own people. . . . When I visited the tomb of ­Kosciuszko, I placed a rose on it in the name of my race."

Kosciuszko’s will, amazingly, included a provision that some of his fortune should be used to buy the freedom of American slaves and to pay for their education. The scheme was not carried out by Jefferson who recused himself as executor and Kosciuszko’s estate was never used as he had hoped.

Civil War Animation

Master of American History and Government classes are starting today. Mac Owens rolled into town, and since the watering hole wasn’t open we had breakfast. He led me to this interesting site, Civil War Animated. I have played with it for only ten minutes or so, but already think it is terrific. Have a look.

Iran, the President and the News

According to the Washington Post "U.S. officials say Obama is intent on calibrating his comments to the mood of the hour." I think I understand the American President�s calibration better than I understand this overly-calibrated statement from the Post reporter. I also think those who chastise Obama for not saying enough or doing enough have to make a serious argument regarding exactly what should be said or done before their chastisement has any validity. So far they haven�t done so. That an American President stands on the side of freedom, consent, and justice is true and in saying "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," may be a rather elegant reminder that we stand for the laws of nature. Now we can dispute some of this, pull in some Lincoln, or John Quincy Adams, and so on; but by and large it�s not a bad statement, and his comments might well be called prudent rather than "calibrated." But, again, all this is rather clearly disputable. What is not disputable, as a general point applicable to all cases, is that in giving the American view that we side with freedom and justice over injustice and force, we must not give the impression that we mean to interfere in all such cases. I have never thought, for example, that the Americans should have interfered in the Hungarian Revolution (or the Hungarian-Soviet War) of 1956. American interest was not necessarily involved. And the Suez Crisis, and our interests in that, should also be noted. That the American Congress can pass tough-sounding resolutions makes sense; they can�t act, they are less responsible, so they can say anything. Statesmanship is less in play.

While the above is disputable, the one thing that is not is how bad the news reports from (or on) Iran have been, especially since the "Supreme Leader�s" speech on Friday shutting down the possibility of all reform of the current regime. CNN has been on during most of the day since that speech, and although I have been doing other things I have also paid some attention: CNN knows very little and yet gives the impression that it knows more. The so-called news reports are almost entirely dependent on internet reports, bloggers, amateur video, etc. (almost always anonymous) and then commentary of one kind or another. There is never any confirmation of reports. They keep repeating that their reporters in country are not allowed to report, must stay in their hotels, and are at a great disadvantage. So what? This is a reason to stop doing your job? This is the time to use your in-country contacts, telephones, e-mail, or just sneak out of your room and see something with your own eyes, etc. Is any of this being done? As far as I can tell, Iranian women have more cojones than CNN reporters. Shame on them.

The impression that CNN gives is that the country is in the midst of a revolution, that regime change is just around the corner. I hope this is true, but I doubt it. This turmoil is a good sign, but I have yet to be persuaded that it will succeed. I wish it would. I�m always on the side of freedom.

Some light reading for the beach

Our friend Robert Kraynak sends word that his and Michael Zuckert’s articles about Harry Jaffa on the occasion of his 90th birthday, together with Mr. Jaffa’s responses, are available here.

I haven’t yet found the time to download and read them, but I’m confident that they’ll make for a stimulating exchange.

Ray Bradbury and books

Ray Bradbury is 89 years young, loves books, thinks the internet isn’t real, would like to spend more time with Bo Derek, doesn’t believe in colleges and universities ("I believe in libraries"), remembers being born, and thinks you can live forever if you do what you love. He is trying to raise money for a hurting public library in Ventura County. A good man, this. Bill Allen and I did a long interview with him when we were students, in 1968 (or 1969). We liked him much even in our youth. Although already famous, he talked with us as if we were serious people, looking us in the eye, taking our loose questions (we began with Thomas Mann for reasons I can no longer remember) he made better questions of them; his answers always made an opening into something more. He was the third real teacher I ever met. The interview is reprinted in this book. I’m going to send a few bucks to the library.

GOP Wins a Big Victory . . . NOT

They got Sotomayor to resign from her women’s club. What’s next? A two-fisted assault on a Sunday Women’s Tea? How about a scathing condemnation of the local Republican Women Federated luncheon? In any event, it’s hard to say which--the GOP for bringing it up or Sotomayor for caving--looks the most ridiculous in this exchange. I hope this is not the sort of thing the GOP thinks will lead them out of the wilderness . . . but I rather fear that they do think it.

Grand Strategy

There is an old saying that amateurs talk about strategy, professionals about logistics. Perhaps this should be amended now to amateurs talk about promoting democracy, professionals about debt. The Economist reports that the “[American] government’s unfunded obligations to give the elderly pensions and health care are equivalent to a debt of $483,000 for every household.” Current borrowing to deal with the financial crisis has added significantly to the problem. Things need to be brought back into balance, without killing the recovery and ultimately making the problem worse. Spending should be cut, rather than taxes increased; the retirement age needs to rise; the tax base should broaden and distorting loopholes decrease. (The Economist suggests changing (removing?) the mortgage interest deduction.) The Obama administration is not doing any of this. In some cases, it is doing the opposite. Meanwhile the Chinese and Malaysian’s have talked about carrying on trade in something other than dollars. China’s economy is still growing.

In the nineteenth-century, at the height of its power, Great Britain took the lead in suppressing the slave trade. Several decades later, in decline and faced with the rise of Germany, the British did not feel they could come to the aid of the Armenians. The Obama administration has been less assertive about democracy than some would like and friendlier to Muslims than others would like, while the Secretary of the Treasury has been reassuring the Chinese that we are not deadbeats. The administration’s domestic and foreign policies appear to aligned. An alternative to retreat abroad in the face of decline at home (intended or not) is to “punch above one’s weight” by aligning with the dominant power, as Britain did. Zbigniew Brzezinski has suggested that the US and China form a “G2” to sort out the world’s financial and other issues.

Reflections on the End of My Government Service

,,,are HERE.

The Economist

Newsweeklies are dying. Yet, the "weekly newspaper," The Economist "has been growing consistently and powerfully for years, tracking in near mirror-image reverse the decline of its U.S. rivals. Despite being positioned as a niche product, its U.S. circulation is nearing 800,000, and it will inevitably overtake Newsweek on that front soon enough." Michael Hirschorn tries to explain why this is so. I read it because every time I do, I learn something. I have never said that about Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News & World Report.

Good Bike

Men and Women

Weekend Fun

Hail Caesar! Sid Caesar that is. Here's a domestic argument set to Beethoven's 5th.
Categories > Men and Women

[G]Rauchy Me

Jonathan Rauch is up to his typical mixture of insight and mischief with his latest piece about "the zombie party" by which he means people like us.

I answer him here, over on That Other Site, as least as it pertains to a certain book that y’all should pre-order.

General McChrystal

Max Boot on "General McChrystal’s New Way of War."  

Ivan the K on Obama’s Technocratic Ideology

It turns out that Obama’s "non-ideological bioethics" is really part of his new ideology, which is radically pro-expert and anti-consent. This is a fine and most timely article.

Just a bit late for Father’s Day, but perhaps in time for Christmas

My dog’s maniacal barking--he’d be a great watchdog if bad guys drove UPS or FedEx vans--alerted me to the delivery of my contributor’s copy of Democracy Reconsidered, the latest in the distinguished line of Peter Lawler’s co-editorial projects. Here’s the Table of Contents.

Earlier this week, I returned to the editor a copyedited version of my contribution to this volume, which--"the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise"--will be published this fall by the Catholic University of America Press.

President Obama’s Adams quote

In his Address in Cairo President Obama said: "In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote: "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims."

As a close student of the founding era, I was surprised to find that I did not recall Adams saying that. That Adams was not President until 1797 tipped me off that something was askew. Some research turned up this phrase from Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli which President Washington negotiated and which was ratified by the Senate and signed by President Adams in 1797:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

I suppose saying that Adams "wrote" that (with some silent elipses) is close enough to the truth for a politician.

But there’s more to the story. That passage, apparently was absent from the Arabic original (and therefore presumably official version) of the treaty, translated by Joel Barlow:

The Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic; and even as such its defects throughout are obvious and glaring. Most extraordinary (and wholly unexplained) is the fact that Article 11 of the Barlow translation . . . does not exist at all. There is no Article 11. . . . How that script came to be written and to be regarded, as in the Barlow translation, as Article 11 of the treaty as there written, is a mystery and seemingly must remain so. Nothing in the diplomatic correspondence of the time throws any light whatever on the point.

A further and perhaps equal mystery is the fact that since 1797 the Barlow translation has been trustfully and universally accepted as the just equivalent of the Arabic.

A few thoughts. Did Barlow insert that article intentionally? How did it a mistaken translation come to be taken as official? Is that what the Senate ratified and Adams signed? Whatever the answers to those questions, it was taken to be official. Hence, we should ask, what implications does it have that the US government seems to have ratified a treaty with such language?

For those who believe in a living constitution, of course, it can’t have any obvious implication. Perhaps that was an idea suited to the 1790s, but not today.

On the other hand, it is interesting that the passage says "the government of the United States." That leaves open the possibility that the American nation (if nation’s are cultural more than political units) is, at least in part, Christian. The growth of government in the 20th century has increased the degree to which the US government has intruded upon the sphere in which the culture used to be free from entanglement with the US government. To put it in the language of the time, we now have a republic that is large but with a government that tries to to all the things that, traditionally, only could be done in small republics. Large republics lack the cultural unity that extensive laws require. That might say something about whether the US government can stay clear of religion nowadays in the same way it could in the 1790s. The question we need to ask today, after all, is not whether we have no establishment of religion, but, rather, what it means to say that.

Finally, the text says "Christian religion." That leaves open the possibility that the government is founded upon the belief that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." After all, Jefferson’s famous Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom begins: "Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free." Jefferson did not think that God talk was incompatible with disestablishment, or, for that matter, with separation of Church and State. I suspect that much of the heat in today’s church-state argument has to do with an argument over this turf. That’s why one website that quotes the Treaty is called, "nobeliefs."

Update. One of the commentors below links to a long and intersting discussion of this subject from a couple of years ago. It seems that the President was quoting the 1805 US Treaty with the Barbery states directly. (See Article 14). Whether they knew that, or whether Obama/ his writers simply took the incorrect quote off the web is another matter.

Obama Abolishes President’s Council on Bioethics

...with one day’s notice. I actually have no problem with this, except for the the lack of notice. A couple of reports--including a great one on organ markets--were about to be issued, and there was one more meeting scheduled for next week. In the gracious letter terminating my appointment, I’m reassured that "President Obama recognizes the value of having a commission composed on experts on bioethical issues to provide objective and non-ideological advice to his Adminstration." I’m also aware that those are three shots at members like me--mere faith-based amateur ideologues. This would be a great day for you to review the accomplishments of the Kass/Pellegrino Council at

The President’s universalism

Reacting to the Iran elections, President Obama said: "That is not how governments should interact with their people. And my hope is that the Iranian people will make the right steps in order for them to be able to express their voices, to express their aspirations."

Good to see that he’s not a multiculturalist.

The City on a Hill in Action?

Might it be that Obama’s election helped to inspire the dissenters in Iran? Most Iranians, from what I read, believe that all countries rig their elections. The election of Obama disproves that thesis. Is Obama’s election, therefore, one of the things that has inspired the reaction we’re seeing in Iran?

If memory serves, during the Cold War, some of our enemies would show their own people news footage of demonstrations against the US government. They would say the US is so bad, that even Americans don’t like it. Sometimes, the audience reacted differently: Americans are allowed to protest without being shot?

More Studies . . .

Dogs are smarter than cats. It seems they can’t get a grasp on the concept of cause and effect in quite the same degree that a dog can. Cats could not get their treats in a consistent manner if there was a specific task involved in the getting of the treat. But cat owners know--as do dog owners who will not have cats--that the difference may only be that a cat prefers to be served. Of course, the researcher has practical wisdom. He would not say that dogs are smarter than cats . . . he would only say that cats are "just different."

Men and Women

The Good Ole' Gals Network?

This is just funny. Sotomayor is defending her membership in an elite all women's club by saying that she is unaware of any discrimination against any men who wanted to join. That is a stupid defense. Why not just ask what's wrong with a women's club? Republicans in the Senate: yes, we get the irony. We get the joke. We see the hypocrisy. Yes, if she were a conservative man belonging to a men's only club (are there still any left?), there would be an infernal cry raised up to the heavens and angry feminists everywhere would raise their fists in sisterhood. The prophet Obama would be forced to revise his prophecy. But picking on Sotomayor for this won't do. It is barking up the wrong tree. Sotomayor's most vocal supporters don't believe that women can be sexist any more than minorities can be racist . . . and normal people don't see anything wrong with single-sex institutions when freely chosen. So the way to demonstrate the absurdity of the PC disapproval for men's clubs is to embrace the good of women's clubs. There should be more people, not fewer, who are happy to claim membership in single-sex organizations and celebrate their freedom of association and assembly.
Categories > Men and Women

Shameless Self-Promotion

It’s not to late to sign up to see and hear ME, Dr. Pat Deneen, and others this Saturday in Seattle.

Perpetual Manned Flight?

The human mind is something, isn’t it? A new solar powered aircraft prototype will be unveiled on the 26th, with the first test flight later this year. If it works another version will be built and then fly at 10,000 meters and will be flown around the world. Short article worth reading.

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss?

During the Bush Administration, Democrats raised concerns about the ways in which political concerns could affect social service programs and about the allegedly improper firing of federal prosecutors (who, unlike the Inspectors General, actually do serve at the pleasure of the President). Where’s the outrage here?

A search of the WaPo site turns up three Associated press articles, but no original reportage. I couldn’t find anything in the New York Times. Guess we’ll just have to take the President’s word for it. Our leading media outlets certainly aren’t acting as vigorously in pursuit of the whole story as they did when a Republican occupied the Oval office.

Update: Here are the first bits of more or less independent WaPo reportage, as well as a
Washington Times editorial.

On Principle

Here is the latest issue of On Principle in a PDF file. I think it reads and looks good; and here is Jeff Sikkenga’s fine lead essay, What Makes a Great President? and my short attempt describe the certain glory of the month of April.


"IT is easier to demonstrate for the rights and freedoms of one’s own group than to practice in daily iving the discipline of freedom and the patience of love for those who suffer, or, indeed, to bind oneself tosuch service for the whole of one’s life, with the concomitant renunciation of a great part of one’s own individual freedoms. It is noticeable that the motivating force to serve in the Church, too, has clearly become decisively weakened: there are scarcely any vocations now for Orders that dedicate themselves to caring for the sick and the elderly. One prefers to work in more ’pastorally’ ambitious services. But what is in fact more truly ’pastoral’ than the unpretnetious existence at the service of those who suffer? No matter how important the professional qualification for these services is, without a deep moral and religious foundation, they congeal into mere technology and no longer perform what is critical in human terms." [Ratzinger, "Faith’s
Answer to the Crisis of Values," A TURNING POINT FOR EUROPE?, pp. 26-27]

So one of the most important downsides of modern liberalism--or our inability to keep Locke in a Locke box--is the devaluing of voluntary caregiving. (Thanks to Paul Seaton for sending this quote to me.)

Ahmadinejad Really Won

...according to George Friedman. I know George isn’t always right, but this analysis does right true. We’re stuck with a democratically elected anti-liberal, who rules the countryside with his promotion of piety, his opposition to (urban and urbane) corruption, and his tough stand on national security. Listen, I’m not expert, and so if this analysis is wrong, I want to know.

Palin Problems

I confess that I have only watched the Palin/Letterman flap from a distance. But the longer it goes on, the more comfortable I am about that distance. Dennis Miller made a fantastic point yesterday on his radio show when he suggested: 1. Palin should be addressing world leaders and world events, not the likes of David Letterman if she means to be taken as a serious person. 2. This is not to say that Letterman’s joke was not in extremely poor taste or that it did not merit a response from the Palin family . . . but defending the honor of daughters against brutes like Letterman is something that is really more suited to purview of a father. Where is Todd? If HE had taken this on as the patriarch of the Palin family, I think Miller is right in thinking that the public reaction to it would have been a lot different than it has been to the reactions an angry (even if justly angry) mother. 3. Conservatives carrying on about this and calling for the resignation or firing of David Letterman are wasting their time and not doing themselves any favors. 4. Children are a mother’s most pliable soft-spot . . . mothers who want to be on the national stage in politics should not allow themselves to get played like this . . . especially by so minor and insignificant a figure.

Cheap Federalist

A guy in Indiana bought a first edition of the Federalist at a flea market for seven bucks (the first volume of two) in 1990 and is now selling it at auction.

Obama to California: "Drop Dead"

Only that’s not how the Washington Post headline puts it.

Iran: What Could Be Going on Behind the Scenes?

My first inclination is to say that Obama’s reaction to the Iranian election and its aftermath is pathetic and shameful. Can anyone doubt that if this scene were, say, the South Africa of 1985, Obama and his administration would be extremely vocal in denouncing it?

On the other hand. . . Congress has supposedly made some serious appropriations over the last few years, mostly to the CIA, to assist an Iranian opposition. Is it possible that some of the dissident activity we are seeing is the fruit of this work? Although the Iranian government is shutting off cell phone service and internet sites (along with TV and radio, the first stop for tyrants in a pinch), apparently Twitter and other new means are allowing some organization of the opposition to continue. Could we and European allies have been helpful in arranging this? In which case, some discrete silence from Obama would be sensible?

I’m doubtful, but as a number of folks have drawn comparisons to Pres. George H.W. Bush’s muted reaction to the Berlin Wall coming down 20 years ago, and his subsequent "Chicken Kiev" speech, we learned only much later that there were good diplomatic and political reasons for these seemingly weak public positions that later played out to everyone’s advantage.

David Tucker, would you care to weigh in on the scene?

This Is For Lawler

Bumper sticker, spotted today in the District, on the back of a GMC Suburban:

"I’d Rather Be Reading Flannery O’Connor."

Hope, after all.

Diplomatic History declining

This won’t come as a shock to anyone, but the NY Times reports that diplomatic (also military, constitutional) history is declining and has been replaced by cultural history, women, minorities, immigrants, etc. Sample:

"How have some departments sliced up the pie? At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, out of the 45 history faculty members listed (many with overlapping interests), one includes diplomatic history as a specialty, one other lists American foreign policy; 13 name either gender, race or ethnicity. Of the 12 American-history professors at Brown University, the single specialist in United States empire also lists political and cultural history as areas of interest. The department’s professor of international studies focuses on victims of genocide."

Defending the Gipper--Again

Over at NRO, I offer an extended rant in response to yesterday’s New York Times piece on "Rethinking [meaning--abandon] the Reagan Mystique."

Which gives me another opportunity to ask: Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

The Dilemma of Vampires

...may, thanks to regenerative medicine, face us all soon enough, as I explain HERE.

Mansfield on Rahe

Harvey Mansfield’s review of Paul Rahe’s Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect brings forth much in its complexity.

Addition: Just noticed that our own William Voegeli reviews Rahe in the current issue of National Review. Compare at will!

The Error of Big Government

Yesterday’s NY Times has an interesting article about the dangers inherent in recent efforts to mitigate the financial crisis:

Executives and lobbyists now flock to the Fed, providing elaborate presentations on why their niche industry should be eligible for Fed financing or easier lending terms.

Hertz, the rental car company, enlisted Stuart E. Eizenstat, a top economic policy official under Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, to plead with both Fed and Treasury officials to relax the terms on refinancing rental car fleets.

Lawmakers from Indiana, home to dozens of recreational-vehicle manufacturers like Gulfstream and Jayco, have been pushing for similar help for the makers of campers, trailers and mobile homes.

And when recreational boat dealers and vacation time-share promoters complained that they had been shut out of the credit markets, Senator Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida, weighed in on their behalf with the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, who promised he would take up the matter with the Fed. . . .

Read the whole thing.

Update, here’s the link.

Yuval vs. ObamaCare

The SCHEME is vulnerable on the government insurance option, which is clearly a way of de-privatizing most or all of American coverage over a fairly short period of time. Bill Kristol, Yuval’s coauthor, worked with that underrated statesman Bob Dole to stop HillaryCare, and we can hope there’s comparable leadership in Congress today. The key, as the article suggests, is the steadfastness of moderate Democrats and respectable interests such as the AMA. But maybe "we" ought to be adding that, this time, stopping "the government option" is just a prelude to working for sensible, market-based reform that we can all believe in. That would include key components of McCain’s plan, which he forgot to talk about doing the campaign, of devolving coverage to individuals with government subsidization. More and more, Yuval is the man on this stuff.

Obama is the Opposite of Clinton

SO observes the always astute Dick Morris. Obama remains personally popular, but confidence in his policies if fading. Clinton was at times regarded as personally scum, but the voters almost always had confidence in his policy competence. People tend to vote, Dick reminds us, on competence, not character, although it’s always better to have both.

Right now Obama gets a pass because the recession is still blamed on Bush’s incompetence. The president will be in big trouble when the voters can distinguish between the old Bush recession and the new one caused by his gratuitous stimulation and the resulting inflation. Meanwhile, voters are already skeptical enough that Republicans should be doing what they can to undermine the already flagging confidence in the president’s ability to direct health care reform--not in the hope of avoiding reform but to make it more sensible.

But, as Ivan the K remind us, what’s still lacking is Republican leadership. Palin and Letterman are engaged in pro wrestling to revive their flagging careers. I’m not going to repeat my views on the limitations of Newt. Gov. Mitch Daniels is not going to be a national figure. The leadership has to come from a competent and somewhat charismatic members of Congress.

The Way Forward in Afghanistan

The new commander in Afghanistan, as quoted in the WSJ

After watching the U.S. try and fail for years to put down insurgencies in both countries, Gen. McChrystal said he believes that to win in Afghanistan, "You’re going to have to convince people, not kill them.

"Since 9/11, I have watched as America tried to first put out this fire with a hammer, and it doesn’t work," he said last week at his home at Fort McNair in Washington. "Decapitation strategies don’t work."


For all you men out there (and all you women with a sense of humor still in tact) the question posed above this video was, "Are women born this way?

Last Two Installments of the Peter Robinson/Charles Kesler Interview

. . . are now posted.

The Bourgeois Bohemian Today

Here’s a pretty pithy paragraph summarizing ME on the bourgeois bohemians (or Bobos, as named by that "it takes one to know one," David Brooks).

Here, quickly, are three points for discussion on the Bobos today:

1. They are the WHITE PEOPLE summarized in the book that describes what they like. So they are really for Obama, for bohemian or cultural reasons. That’s why Bobo Republicans (who remained GOP for bourgeois reasons) switched over to Barack. McCain and Palin, in different ways, were anti-bohemian candidates (and to some extent even anti-bourgeois--in the sense of anti- the class described by Marx). Many an alleged conservative said to ME: At least the CULTURE will be better with Obama as president. And certainly the people who specialize in caring about cultural stuff are happier.

2. Bobos lack compassion for those who don’t flourish in our unprecedented meritocracy. Preferring the more serene Eastern religions, they don’t practice or even recognize the virtue of CHARITY. That’s why studies show that conservatives give much more time and money to charitable activities, and they are quite typically motivated by a religion that emphasizes personal love when they do so. "Bourgeois Christian" is more charitable than "bourgeois bohemian," which is why it sometimes pains me when Crunchy Cons paint ordinary Republicans as simply bourgeois and offer a criticism of them that has many bohemian features. That’s not to say that bourgeois bohemians are adverse to government doing more to make everyone (especially themselves) less anxious and more secure) and to relieve them of the burden of thinking about the poor.

3. Bourgeois bohemian, as I’ve explained, tends to be, just beneath the surface, more bourgeois than bohemian. That accounts for the increasing puritanical, prohibitionist paranoia when it comes to one’s own health and safety, and safety--as in safe sex--has seemingly become the whole of Bobo morality. (Let me be clear that I’m not against health and safety; it’s just ridiculously degrading as the whole of morality.) So FEAR would drive the Bobos back to the Republicans. The Democrats are vulnerable to new crime waves, perceptions of dangerous weakness in foreign policy, and runaway inflation. Bill Voegeli was surely right that the Republicans victories against the forces and evildoers that scare us (Guiliani, Reagan, even Bush) are the cause of Bobo complacency. If the FEAR FACTOR remains low or tolerable, Republicans should target non-Bobo voters, who are actually less fearful, more admirable, and have more fun.

Hayward’s Reagan

Steve Hayward’s first volume on Reagan, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980, is just out in paperback. Everyone interested in the fix conservatives find themselves in today ought to re-read this volume immediately, and then the up-coming second volume, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989, out in August.

Al Qaeda leaving Pakistan

This NY Times article is probably near the truth--that al Qaeda fighters are leaving Pakistan and are moving to Somalia and Yemen--and the future becomes visible: chasing them down and rebuilding failed states, so the climate will be less hospitable (as long as you don’t talk about regime change, of course). And I note in passing that we are leaving Kyrgyzstan.

Speaking of Cuba.... Hisss

From the WaPo, a 72-year old retired State Department analyst, "a member of one of Washington’s most prominent families," Ph.D., Johns Hopkins, spied for Cuba and hoped to sail there soon with his wife.

"The bureau people are very angry about it. Really angry. But also bewildered," said Wayne White, who worked on Middle Eastern issues in the bureau for a quarter-century before retiring in 2005. "This seemingly intelligent and urbane person was convinced that Castro’s Cuba was this terrific place?"

In case this stirs you, see this thorough account of Senator Joe McCarthy’s investigations and charges, M. Stanton Evans’ recent book.

Reverend Wright and the Holocaust Museum Murderer

They both believe Jews control Obama.

The Museum murderer:

“The Holocaust is a lie,” [his] note read.“Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America’s money. Jews control the mass media.”


"Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office," Wright told the Daily Press of Newport News following a Tuesday night sermon at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers’ Conference.

"They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. ... I said from the beginning: He’s a politician; I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do."

UPDATE: Wright explains he meant "Zionists"--not all Jews.

Such attacks on Jews reflect hatred for people of faith generally. Consider Karl Marx’s early anti-Jewish screeds in this regard: His call to expunge Judaism anticipates his assault on Christianity and revealed religion in general. Marx of course inspires deviations from religious orthodoxy, including black liberation theology.

Freedom is Just Another Word...

FOR a computer program that disables the Internet for a specified period of time. The temptation, otherwise, is too great not to give your sustained attention to this or that important task. I mention this only to prod those who don’t have TVs but have laptops into reflecting on the incoherence of their "lifestyle." It goes without saying that relying on a technical solution to technical addiction is probably stupid.

Par for the Course

So let’s see if I have this straight: California is broke, facing literal insolvency in just a few weeks, and threatening to close all state beaches (that would include my favorite summertime sea kayaking spot), but not to worry: San Francisco is stepping up--and toughening its recycling laws.

Corporate Lobbying

An on-line travel company sent me this. Interesting campaign for them to take up.

At . . . [company name] we believe passionately in the power of travel to transform lives. And we believe that people should have the freedom to travel wherever they choose.

Americans today have the right to travel to any country in the world except Cuba. Three weeks ago, we launched, a campaign that gives people a way to petition U.S. leaders to end the 50-year Cuba travel ban and give all Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba.

With Congress considering the bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, the opportunity to end the 50-year ban hangs in the balance.

Interns Gone Wild

This article tells us about a new website dedicated to all the stupid, naive, and embarrassing things young interns in DC do as they descend upon the city "like the Eighth Plague" (in the words of some residents). I’m only surprised that it has taken this long for the thing to materialize. Of course, I’m sure we won’t be hearing about any Ashbrook Scholar interns on this particular site . . .

Charles Kesler on the "Third Wave" of Liberalism

Ever wonder how the thinking of the prudish Woodrow Wilson begot the 60s generation and the "sexual revolution"? Charles Kesler takes up that theme and others in today’s installment of his interview with Peter Robinson at NRO-TV.

UPDATE: Peter Robinson’s Forbes article on the same theme.

Peace, peace, when there is no peace . . .

Camille Paglia on President Obama’s speech in Cairo:

Barack Obama was elected to do exactly what he did last week at Cairo University -- to open a dialogue with the Muslim world. Or at least that was why I, for one, voted for him, contributed to his campaign, and continue to support him. There is no more crucial issue for the future of the West, . . .

The Cairo speech is well-organized, ticking off central thorny issues region by region. But there is an unsettling slackness and even sentimentality in its view of history. . . . Obama’s lack of fervor may be one reason he rejects and perhaps cannot comprehend the religious passions that perennially erupt around the globe and that will never be waved away by mere words. By approaching religion with the cool, neutral voice of the American professional elite, Obama was sometimes simplistic and even inadvertently condescending. . . .

But before he can sway hearts and minds, the president will need to show that he understands the ultimate divergence and perhaps incompatibility of major creeds. At the finale, his recitation of soft-focus quotes from the Koran, Talmud and Bible came perilously close to a fuzzy New Age syncretism of "all religions are the same" -- which they unequivocally are not. The problem facing international security is that people who believe something will always be stronger and more committed than people who believe nothing -- which unfortunately describes the complacent passivity of most Western intellectuals these days.

I wonder whether that last bit hits the nail on the head with regard to the President’s view of the world. Are there any irrepressible conflicts in the world?

Ann Althouse posted that last bit on her blog, and one reaction to it:

[Paglia] is conflating fervor with belief and frenzied excitement with persistent character. Most fundamentalists aren’t acting out of real fervor for their chosen god, most are acting out of insecure egos who are attempting to manipulate the seen world so as to secure their own identity as dominating and secure their meager faith in some kind of obvious sign of their supposed devotion.

The religious passions of so many are not really religious at all, but are expressions of a deep-seated insecurity in the face of a rather dismissive world.

That’s the debate. Are the world’s great conflicts reduceable to such material or psychological causes, or do many of them grow from things of the spirit? Is conflict sewn into the human condition?

John Adams answered that question this way:

Wars are the natural and unavoidable effects of the constitution of human nature and the fabric of the globe it is destined to inhabit and rule. I believe further that wars, at times, are as necessary for the preservation and perfection, the prosperity, liberty, happiness, virtue, and independence of nations as gales of wind to the salubrity of the atmosphere, or the agitations of the ocean to prevent its stagnation and putrefacation. As I believe this to be the constitution of God Almighty and the constant order of his Providence, I must esteem all the speculations of divines and philosophers about universal and perpetual peace as shortsighted, frivolous romances.

Pres. Obama Calls for New “Epistemology Czar”

Yesterday, Pres. Obama and Vice Pres. Biden declared that the $787 billion stimulus program enacted in February would create or save 600,000 jobs in the next 100 days. The president said it had already created or saved 150,000 jobs. On Sunday, his advisor David Axelrod said the plan had “produced hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Vice Pres. Biden recently said “the act is on track to generate or save 3.5 million jobs by September 2010,” according to Reuters.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jared Bernstein, an economic advisor to the vice president, “said in an interview that the president’s citation of 150,000 [jobs saved or created] is ‘an estimate’ based partly on what the economy would look like in the absence of the stimulus package. But Bernstein said he could not break down how many of those jobs were created versus saved. ‘That’s a division we’re not able to make at a level of accuracy we’re comfortable with,’ he said.”

As William McGurn noted in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Max Baucus recently expressed unease with the unfalsifiable “create or save” formulation: “You created a situation where you cannot be wrong,” said the Montana Democrat. “If the economy loses two million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would’ve lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs.”

Today, Pres. Obama announced a bold new initiative to rescue the nation from the “false choice” between “hopeful, inspiring press conferences and media events featuring me and members of my administration” and “fatuously precise data, ultimately based on guesswork, delivered by me and members of my administration.” He is appointing the nation’s first “Epistemology Czar,” who will direct the White House Council of Counterfactual Analysis. “The American people are tired of the old, cynical politics,” Obama said. “They made clear last November that they are ready for leaders who will describe events that have not gone through the formality of taking place with the same detail as ones that have.”

Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, later informed reporters that the Council of Counterfactual Analysis had already produced several valuable reports. They show that: 217,000 Americans are already “feeling a little better, thanks” in anticipation of major health care reforms; General Motors is “37% less bankrupt” than it would have been without federal bailout funds; and Vice Pres. Biden says “4 more weird things” in an average week than he would if he were still in the Senate. Mr. Higgs said the council consists of three metaphysicians appointed by the president, and a staff of 12 civil-service researchers on loan from the Journal of Irreproducible Results. He noted, however, that once one took into account the multiplier effect of the spending by members of the council, plus the additional employment generated by academic, journalistic and research organizations trying to read their reports, the full number of people employed by the council is “probably a couple thousand. Or something.”

Part Two of the Charles Kesler/Peter Robinson Interview

. . . is up today.

ME on Kass and Rousseau


Sign of the Times?

Is one consequence of the plunging economy likely to be the forcing of gritty, edgy, independent "artist" types to actually adopt the lifestyle of sacrifice and hard knocks that they advocate and glorify? This article about the decline of "trustafarians" (gotta love the term!) suggests that it is. Good to see that there is at least one area of common agreement between hard-working middle class Americans who expect their children to grow up and take care of themselves and the more authentic voices of those who might be seen to be "counter-cultural." It makes one wonder who the real bourgeois and the real bohemians are . . . and also if, in America, there really is that big of a difference between them.


The Great Energy Society

A rough parallel hit me the other day while pondering the continuing farce of the Waxman-MarKey "American Clean Energy and Security Act." (By the way, why doesn't the word "climate" appear in the bill's title, since it is aimed at preventing climate change?--Ed. Probably because polls show it is a loser with the public.) Back in the 1960s, the Great Society was the vehicle for the "war on poverty." That went well. Today, what might be called "the Great Energy Society" is being proposed to carry out what should be called our "war on carbon." It will likely work out just as well. I offer further thoughts over on The American Blog.
Categories > Environment

Pronouns Reflect Reality

That’s the view of STANLEY FISH, normally not a guy who’s big on reality. Obama has switched to the very assertive "I," which reminds us of the most imperial of the cinematic Godfathers more even than God himself. That’s fine, Fish observes, if he has a god’s rate of success. Fish’s astuteness should be news to egalitarian communitarians such as Susan McWilliams, who was all excited over the presidential candidate for being such a "We" guy.

Old White Men

1. I’ve been meaning to get around to saying a few things about Bill Voegeli’s great diagnostic article linked by Joe below.

2. The first point concerns its perhaps (we’ll see) justified pessimism about the immediate future. If the country had had the demographic of 1992 in the 2008 election, McCain would have won. The biggest change was the decline in the percentage of white, non-college men. McCain WAS the candidate of relatively old, white, unsophisticated men. He was the candidate of my country in fairly rural GA--where he won 23K to 10K. There’s no chance in heck this demographic trend is going to turn around, of course.

3. So while I’m glad to see Fox beating the heck out of CNN in viewership (as Steve H shows us below), I sure would like to see the demographic of its audience before having a party. And because I’ve said already things about the limited appeal of Rush, Newt, Hannity, etc., I won’t repeat them--and I certainly mean nothing personal about the capabilities or intentions of those men.

4. Bill V. reminds us of the immigration debacle in President Bush’s second term. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the issue is hugely complicated. But the outcome is undeniable: The Hispanic voters (who are rapidly growing as a percentage of the electorate) came to see the median Republican as much more racist than they used to. So middle-class, admirable, family oriented, church going etc. Hispanics voted much more like African Americans of the same description. Perceived racism trumped socially conservative concerns. Bush and McCain, whatever their practical shortcomings, shared the opinion that Republicans can’t win without holding, say, 40% on the Hispanic vote. That will likely be more true in the elections to come than it was in 2008.

5. I fear the appointment of Sotomayor was a brilliant move on Obama’s part to solidify the Hispanic vote. I appreciate the courage of the African American Shelby Steele in condemning the president for preferring "identity politics" to purely meritocratic, post-racial considerations. But it’s also true enough that presidents have often used Court appointments to further political goals. And she does have a very credible resume for the job and all that. Certainly white, male experts fell into the president’s trap by using "racism" to describe her or her views. (The president’s appointments of Republicans McHugh [Army] and Leach [NEH] were even better, of course. They were calculated to peel away even more upscale, white sophisticates away from the Republicans, and they can both certainly be justified on meritocratic grounds.)

6. There’s probably nothing stupider than the advice by Frum etc. that the Republicans should try to become more competitive by abandoning their identity as the more socially conservative, pro-life party. Social conservatism in some sense, for one thing, will somehow become the party’s way of winning a decent percentage of Hispanic and African American vote--although maybe not real soon. And the country and young people especially, all the studies show, are becoming more pro-life. Religious and moral considerations will continue to have singular power in country in trumping race, class, gender, and all that. What’s wrong with Kansas and various other states is that people have more elevated and noble view of their self-interest than any economist can explain.

7. Huckabee, who does nothing for me now, was right after all early in his strange campaign in noticing that middle-class Americans are afflicted with both moral and economic anxiety--even before the economic crisis that nobody understands but affects us all. The Republicans can’t hope to beat eloquent Democratic empathy on the economic front, although they should do everything they can to show that the best way not to be disoriented is to be personally responsible. So they have to include, in their appeal, concern for the excesses of relativism, creeping and sometimes creepy cultural libertarianism, etc.

Plug: On Sale Today!

The paperback edition of volume 1 of The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order officially goes on sale today. (It’s also available in a Kindle edition for tech mavens like Schramm.) A prelude to the launch of the second and final volume on August 25.

Rights in Bankruptcy . . .

Were California to declare bankruptcy, would it get relief from federal mandates?

Fox Kicking Everyone’s A**

Top 20 Cable News Programs by total viewers, April 2009

1. "The O’Reilly Factor" (Fox News): 3,498,000 total viewers

2. "Hannity" (Fox News): 2,566,000 total viewers

3. "Glenn Beck" (Fox News): 2,230,000 total viewers

4. "On the Record with Greta van Susteren" (Fox News): 2,173,000 total viewers

5. "Special Report with Bret Baier" (Fox News): 2,047,000 total viewers

6. "The Fox Report with Shepard Smith" (Fox News): 1,915,000 total viewers

7. "The O’Reilly Factor" (Fox News, repeat): 1,723,000 total viewers

8. "Your World with Neil Cavuto" (Fox News): 1,520,000 total viewers

9. "America’s Newsroom" (Fox News): 1,505,000 total viewers

10. "Studio B with Shepard Smith" (Fox News): 1,314,000 total viewers

11. "Happening Now" (Fox News): 1,247,000 total viewers

12. "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" (MSNBC): 1,237,000 total viewers

13. "The Live Desk" (Fox News): 1,210,000 total viewers

14. "Larry King Live" (CNN): 1,093,000 total viewers

15. "Anderson Cooper 360" (CNN): 1,058,000 total viewers

16. "The Rachel Maddow Show" (MSNBC): 1,042,000 total viewers

17. "Situation Room" (CNN): 898,000 total viewers

18. "Lou Dobbs Tonight" (CNN): 826,000 total viewers

19. "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" (CNN): 786,000 total viewers

20. "CNN Newsroom" (CNN): 725,000 total viewers.

Notice that the O’Reilly re-run (#7) is doing better than MSNBC and CNN.

"You Scare Me"--The Open Letter to Obama

This is very well done, from a fairly substantial person rather than a crank. I wonder if the veneer is beginning to peel.

Mr. Orszag’s 30 Percent Non-Solution

Barack Obama is clearly determined to make Bill Clinton’s greatest domestic policy failure – leaving office without a national health insurance program – his own greatest success. The reason it will be difficult, even for a president with high approval ratings facing an opposition party in disarray, is that the government cannot dramatically expand its entitlement obligations at a time when voters are expressing bailout-fatigue and global bond markets are signaling federal deficit-fatigue. The solution to this political problem is obvious and inevitable: the Obama health care plan will be sold using liberalism’s when-all-else-fails rhetorical device. It’s the one that assures a dubious public not to fear a vast and expensive-sounding proposal, because the program will “pay for itself” and probably “pay for itself many times over.”

The basis of the argument that America can restructure its health care system to guarantee coverage to millions of people not insured today without taking on enormous new financial burdens is that by eliminating wasteful spending and duplication, more care will not require more dollars. The leader of this effort is Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. According to a recent New Yorker article, Orszag became “obsessed” a few years ago with research by the Dartmouth Institute on Health Policy and Clinical Practice that strongly suggested “there must be enormous savings that a smart government, by determining precisely which medical procedures are worth financing and which are not, could wring out of the system.” Sure enough, a report last week from the Council of Economic Advisors relied on the Dartmouth data to assert that “nearly 30 percent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without adverse health consequences.” Extrapolating from the portion of the population covered by Medicare to the entire nation, the report says, “[It] should be possible to cut total health expenditures by about 30 percent without worsening outcomes,” which would be the equivalent to finding an additional 5 percent of GDP in a drawer in the nation’s closet that we had forgotten about.

Wait a minute, said Virginia Postrel on her blog last week. Before we make the entire nation a guinea pig for testing Orszag’s cost-reduction theory, why not try it on the big portion of the health-care market that the federal government already dominates? “[You] do have to wonder,” she said, “why a report that claims that Medicare is wasting 30 percent of its spending thinks it’s making a case for making the rest of the health care system more like Medicare.”

The New Yorker breathlessly declared that Barack Obama is “betting his Presidency” on “Orszag’s thesis” that “a government empowered with research on the most effective medical treatments can, using the proper incentives, persuade doctors to become more efficient health-care providers, thus saving billions of dollars.” The success of Obama’s presidency is a goal in which the New Yorker is heavily invested, of course. Perhaps there are even higher stakes that its editors could imagine, however, such as the solvency of the federal government, or the health and peace of mind of millions of patients who have more confidence in their doctors’ recommendations than those issued by a federal agency.

To his credit, Orszag phoned Postrel after her “Medicare First” blog post received a lot of attention. His argument against her idea – “changing Medicare and waiting to see how it works before messing around with the rest of the health care system” – is notably weak, however. The politics of what she suggests are impossible, according to Orszag. “I don’t think you’re going to get these aggressive changes in Medicare unless you do some coverage expansion now,” he told her. An example he gave Postrel is that the AARP “will accept significant changes in Medicare only if the money goes to expanding coverage.”

I couldn’t find any evidence of this line in the sand on AARP’s vast website, but let’s stipulate that this is indeed their position. It’s hardly dispositive. The biggest lobbying organization in Washington, representing millions of people enrolled in Medicare, doesn’t seem as confident as the Council of Economic Advisors that the latest ingenious idea from academia can be imposed on its members “without worsening outcomes.” If Orszag is right, AARP’s members aren’t being asked to give up anything that improves their health and longevity. Before plunging into a national system from which none can exit, it would be interesting to know why they think differently.

With Sotomayor, Obama has shown "bad faith toward an America that has shown him only good faith."

So says Shelby Steele in today’s WSJ. His argument stretches back to his thesis from the election (and the title of his book on the subject) that Barack Obama is a "bound man"--especially on the question of identity politics. According to Steele, Obama claims to be and seems to seek to be "post-racial" in a kind of "bargaining" with whites whereby their embracing him absolves them of any share of guilt in America’s racist past. But Obama also cannot escape the political truth that much of his most loyal support comes from groups that also support exactly the kind of identity politics touted by Sotomayor.

If Obama was truly engaged in a kind of wise and statesmanlike tying together of these seemingly incompatible extremes for the purpose of actually arriving at something that is akin to a post-racial America, it would seem that he would have to point to something like a third way. Forget, for a moment, what the substance of that third way would be (for I suspect he doesn’t really know the answer to that himself). How would he point the way? He would have to affirm the legitimate grievances on both sides--the weariness with the guilt on the one hand, and the injured feelings and actual harm felt on the other. And, indeed, his speeches are full of "on the one hands" and "on the other hands" and rhetoric about "false choices" that, he argues, pit us against each other when there’s no need. We can all get along . . . but, for now, it seems we’ll have to do it through him. Even so, Obama can only keep this up, or seem to keep this up, in his speeches. When it comes to the reality test, the problem is that his balancing act doesn’t translate well into action. He’s just alternating the placating right now--and so running in place. Today he scratches the backs of the advocates of identity politics and winks at concerned whites . . . it’s o.k., she’s not really as bad as she seems. After all, she’s got my approval and look at who says she’s a racist . . . Newt Gingrich. Tomorrow, he will do a gimme to the other side, throw another hard-edged radical under the bus, and wink at the equally radical but less firm-footed. And this will work . . . for now.

But I begin to wonder how long this will last. Already, the cracks in his support on the left are beginning to widen. And the Sotomayor hearings may provide ample opportunity (if not stupidly handled) for conservatives to finally make a case against identity politics that accepts (and fairly explains) the blame conservatives have shared with liberals in escalating racial tension for political gain. The third way is to tell the truth about our history and our principles and make a solid case for embracing both. Barack Obama stops short in both instances and enjoys the fruits of playing this deceptive game.

Charles Kesler on the "First Wave" of Liberalism

Charles Kesler can be seen in the first of a five part interview with National Review Online’s Peter Robinson that aims to sort out--in layman’s terms--the "grand liberal project" of the last century. Worth a look, serious contemplation, and follow up reading.    

The Summer Edition of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE out--well before summer officially begins.

There’s a PATHBREAKING symposium on the work of CHANTAL DELSOL, edited by PAUL SEATON. It includes articles by Delsol herself, Paul, Carl Eric Scott, Ivan the K, and, of course, ME.

If that weren’t enough, there’s a most judicious appraisal of biotechnology and liberal democracy by Darwinian Larry’s best student, Lauren K. Hall.

And there’s MORE, including a most penetrating review essay on Gillespie’s THE THEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF MODERNITY by Ralph Hancock. You’ll learn that Gillespie’s thesis is actually sort of plausible, but it’s still true, as Ralph explains, that Gillespie’s "rhetorical tendency to play up the Christian dimension of modernity seems to detract from [his] more fundamental claims."

Gender Studies for Teens

Vermont’s tax dollars hard at work.

Ducking the Issue?

Arthur Herman provides and apologia for Gitmo in his "The Gitmo Myth and the Torture Canard" in the latest Commentary  

Voegeli on conservatism

Our friend Bill Voegeli has a brilliant piece in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books.

His survey of what the friends and enemies of conservatism have to say about its way forward is a must-read.    

How to Get Raped by an Ideology

Andy McCarthy points to a story of a left-wing journalist who went to conduct sympathetic interviews with some Taliban thugs who had just killed 10 French troops in Afghanistan, was (predictably) raped for 6 days, and now is blaming the Dutch and Belgian governments for the incident because they refused to pay the $2 million dollar ransom. After all, those Taliban dudes may have raped her . . . but they did it with respect. I guess this is the left-wing’s answer to "blaming the victim."

Sometimes the Truth is Caked in Humor and Absurdity

I can’t stop laughing about this post from Rich Lowry over at the corner. Apparently the folks over at the Huffington Post were perplexed by a National Review cover depicting Sonia Sotomayor as Buddha--complete with the caption: "The Wise Latina." The genius over there at HuffPo, viewing the world through the same broken prism of identity politics that seems to be the rage among today’s hip Supreme Court nominees writes: "It seems that the National Review has confused their ethnic stereotypes, or their religions, or maybe they just wanted some sort of two-fer, because their ’Wise Latina’ cover story presents Sotomayor as an Asian, in some sort of Buddhist pose." In noting HP’s apparent ignorance of Buddha’s association with wisdom, Lowry wonder’s, "Can they really be this clueless?" To which I say, in remembrance of David Carradine, "Ahhh, grasshopper. Yes. They can."

Obama Partisan Non-Partisanship

Lost in the Sotomayor and Middle East news is this display of political skills in two nominations of Republicans for Administration posts, Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Secretary of the Army. Congressman Paul McHugh, ranking GOP member on Armed Services, may well have lost his NY seat to reapportionment anyway.
A surprise and more clever choice for the NEH is former liberal GOP congressman Jim Leach, given the pool of liberal academics at Obama’s disposal. But again it shows his political cunning, marginalizing the remainder of the Republican Party.

A look at Administration economic policies makes it difficult to swallow the moderate, pragmatic image he wishes to project, but he is certainly trying.

Stuart Taylor on Sotomayor and Judicial Activism

Here’s a very judicious analysis of the ambivalence of judicial activism when it comes to affirmative action. Most Americans, unlike Sotomayor, thank all race-based legal preferences are unjust. But most elected officials don’t oppose them for fear of being branded racist. Most bureaucrats--governmental, educational, and corporate--actually like them. So the only effective curb on their excessive used of them has been the courts--really, the Supreme Court. The Court, in such cases, might be accused of judicial activism, insofar as it is using questionable constitutional interpretations to thwart the will of elected officials. But that judicial activism, sometimes at least, is populist or backed up by public opinion. So the Democratic claim of judicial activism against this conservative, individualistic impulse of the Court, if understood be the people, might actually make the Court--when led by "Republican justices"--more popular. I have to admit that cases like GRUTTER are just about impossible to integrate into my theory of the consistent defense of judicial restraint.

I notice that Sotomayor has talked a lot about the narrowness of not regarding DIVERSITY as a legal category. Maybe the Republicans should try to educate Americans about the injustice the Court has defended or, better, created of having the educational goal of classroom diversity trump normal considerations of racial justice and considering people as individuals before the law. You don’t have to believe that all affirmative action or race conscious policies are unconstitutional to see that only possible constitutional justification for them is remedying the effects of past discrimination or past injustice. Here, the dissent of Thomas in GRUTTER is the primer.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for May

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

Doug LaGrange

Brian Bishop

Joe Winbigler

Robert Belshaw

Rachel Stern

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.

The Nuances of Class, and the Obama Coalition

Andrew Stuttaford has some interesting speculations about the impact of class and the passions on contemporary politics. A little data:

At first glance therefore it makes little sense that 49 percent of those from households making more than $100,000 a year (26 percent of the electorate) opted for the Democrat, up from 41 percent in 2004, as did 52 percent of those raking in over $200,000 (6 percent of voters), up from 35 percent last go round. . . .

Mark Penn notes "While there has been some inflation over the past 12 years, the exit poll demographics show that the fastest growing group of voters . . . has been those making over $100,000 a year. . . .In 1996, only 9 percent of the electorate said their family income was that high .  .  . [By 2008] it had grown to 26 percent." . . .

2004, 20 percent of "Lower Richistanis," those 7.5 million households (the number would be lower now, but it then would have constituted roughly 6-7 percent of the U.S. total) struggling along on a net worth of $1 million to $10 million, spent more than they earned."

And some analysys:
In a shrewd article written for Politico shortly after the election, Clinton adviser Mark Penn tried to pin down who exactly these higher echelon Obama voters were ("professional," corporate rather than small business, highly educated, and so on). Possibly uncomfortable with acknowledging anything so allegedly un-American as class yet politically very comfortable with this obvious class’s obvious electoral clout, he eulogized its supposedly shared characteristics: teamwork, pragmatism, collective action, trust in government intervention, a preference for the scientific over the faith-based, and a belief in the "interconnectedness of the world." We could doubtless add an appreciation of NPR and a fondness for a bracing decaf venti latte to the list, and as we did so we would try hard to forget this disquieting passage from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: "The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians." . . .

See how the emergence of a mass class of super-rich could fuel growing resentment both within its ranks and, by extension, without. By "without," I refer not to the genuinely poor, who have, sadly, had time to become accustomed to almost immeasurably worse levels of deprivation, but to the not-quite-so-rich eyeing their neighbors’ new Lexus and simmering, snarling, and borrowing to keep up. The story of rising inequality in America is a familiar one: What’s not so well known is that the divide has grown sharpest at the top. Frank reports that the average income for the top 1 percent of income earners grew 57 percent between 1990 and 2004, but that of the top 0.1 percent raced ahead by 85 percent, a trend that will have accelerated until 2008 and found echoes further down the economic hierarchy. . . .

Barack Obama, a politician who has explicitly and implicitly promised the managers, the scribblers, the professors, and the now-eclipsed gentry that he would finish what the market collapse had begun. He’d put those Wall Street nouveaux back in their place. Higher taxes will claw at what’s left of their fortunes and, no less crucially, their prospects. What taxes don’t accomplish, new regulation (some of which even makes some sense) and the direct stake the government has now taken in so much of the economy will. Better still are all the respectably lucrative, respectably respectable jobs that it will take to run, or bypass, this new order. . . .

The notion that some of the very richest Americans (not all, of course) support the Democrats should no longer be seen as a novelty. . . . The shrewdest or most cynical amongst them will have realized [that]. . . The onslaughts on Lower Richistan and on Wall Street will make it more difficult for others to join them at mammon’s pinnacle.

Brain Teaser

Which decision did the president make more quickly?

a) the choice of his first Supreme Court nominee.

b) the choice of the Obama family dog.

"Obama is making us stupid"--Say what?

Today’s Washington Post has a curious pairing of stories on pages A2 and A3. The news story on page 3, "Groups on Left Are Suddenly on Top", reports on the salad days for left-leaning organizations like John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. But Dana Milbank’s story on page 2, "Liberals May Be Looking for a Take-Back", surveys the mounting disappointment that Obama is moderating so many positions (Afghanistan, military commissions, saying "no" to single payer health care, etc). It includes this gem from Nutty Naomi Klein: "Obama is making us stupid. . . Love can make you stupid." (But wasn’t Klein already there before this?--Ed. Yes, yes, I know, but you have to take your irony where you can get it.)

Then there’s this in The Politico: "Gay Groups Grow Inpatient with Obama."


AND his something similar to a Socratic turn are described by ME. If you scroll down, you can see Ceaser getting way existential when it comes to Shakespeare in Staunton, VA, as well as Hancock blowing the whistle on Charles Taylor’s needlessly huge book.

Dioinne Says Rush and Newt Are Winning!

Well, not in the obvious sense. Neither of those old and unpopular guys would have a chancehin heck in an election with our very personally popular president (who, as we can see for hours on NBC, is a handsome, young, classy guy with a smart and pretty wife and a playful yet obedient dog). They’re defining the AGENDA, marginalizing all "progressive" opinion and personalities to the left of the president. The result is that people think it’s respectable to worry that the president might tilt toward Peronism, and it’s already clear that we’re not going to get to benefit from fully nationalized or Canadian health care. Even the fawning mainstream media, E.J. complains, has bought into the subtle conservative bias. Someone might add, though, that this configuration of forces might actually benefit the president, who probably feels good government these days is more endangered from leftist Congressional imprudence than the spectre of Limbaugh or Gingrich sweeping him away. So I’m happy to acknowledge gratefully that Rush and Newt are serving the cause of as good a government as we can get these days, which is not the same as saying that they’re paving the way for a return to Republican dominance.

Sonia Sotomayor Is No Frank Easterbrook

In light of the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in NRA v. City of Chicago, holding that Supreme Court precedent binds the court to hold that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states, it is useful to note a key distinction between that case and Sotomayor’s in Maloney v. Cuomo. Notably, in Maloney, Sotomayor joined an opinion finding that New York’s weapons law did not “interfere[] with a fundamental right.” (She had expressed similar views pre-Heller, when she joined an unpublished opinion stating that “the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right.”) As such, Sotomayor has the distinction of having voted with the only court of appeals decision to so denigrate Second Amendment rights after Heller. The Ninth Circuit in Nordyke v. King found that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition, and the Seventh Circuit in NRA, applying what Eugene Volokh ably dissects as undue judicial restraint, did not speak to the question.

Sotomayor’s defenders will gleefully cite to the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in NRA to cast her decision refusing to apply the Second Amendment to the states as a restrained decision. But her glib assertion that Second Amendment rights are not fundamental undermines this claim, and puts her well outside the judicial mainstream. The lack of any support for the statement regrettably tracks her similarly glib decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighters case currently pending before the Supreme Court, in which Clinton-appointee Judge Cabranes chided her panel for failing to even address the constitutional questions. There, as here, her defenders have made the thin assertion of restraint. There, as here, her grossly adequate treatment of claims makes clear that she was seeking to impose her own policy preferences under the pretext of restraint.

Furthermore, unlike Easterbrook, who may well have ruled contrary to his own personal policy preferences, Sotomayor’s ruling seems to have reinforced them. The question for those reading her Second Amendment case to divine whether she was actually acting with “restraint” or giving short-shrift to claims she disfavored is this: do you honestly believe that Sotomayor would have adhered to old, dismissed, and distinguishable precedent (i.e., precedent interpreting a different clause in the Constitution (Privileges and Immunities) than the claim (selective incorporation through the Due Process clause) raised before her), if the case involved something that evoked her “empathy,” like a question of race or gender? Her own statement that judges are not able to put aside their biases in most cases (and suggesting that it might be a disservice to the country for her to do so) would seem to answer that question.

Legal academics have great fun discussing the doctrine of incorporation—the process by which selective rights in the Bill of Rights are made applicable to the states. But Judge Sotomayor’s opinion reveals little about her views on this doctrine, while suggesting a hostility to and willingness to be dismissive of Second Amendment rights.

Cross-posted at Bench Memos on NRO.

Gloomy Sunday

I came across one of the most miserably sad tunes ever devised by the mind of any poet attempting to give word and sound to sorrow. It made an hour into ten. Here are the original words to the song (in Hungarian and English), and then here is the Americanized version (different words, plus an ending that changes the gloom to but a dream; how un-Hungarian). Now for the singing of it. Here is the second version (the one used by Billie Holiday, Elvis Costello, et al); I�ll use the Sarah McLachlan version. For the first (see the English translation for the "original words")--in Hungarian I�ll use Poka Angela

(in Hungarian last names are first). Listen and let this grief speak. Here is the Kronos instrumental version.


I do enjoy playing with my Kindle. It is useful. I have some hundreds of great and good books on it and will never be without a book or my subscriptions (at least for four days, when the battery runs out, then I need to plug it in) because it fits in a coat pocket and is always with me. Not only is it useful, but it also gives the impression that I am reading a book (and not a computer screen), so I don’t dislike touching and holding it. This adds to the pleasure, because it resembles a book. Of course, I do love books, including touching and smelling them, because they are beautiful things in their entirety--somehow--and as we know beauty prompts something in us, and this helps in having a good conversation with the book. So you read and touch and smell a book in places like these, places meant to enhance contemplation, and your mind can’t imagine building such monuments to Kindles. If Kindles have beauty what kind of beauty would enhance it?

A Nice Justice Thomas Story

. . . makes the news today. Good to see a report about him in the media (finally) that doesn’t show any compulsion to throw darts . . .

Hummer to China

Darn it.

Research and Insights from a Leading American University

Imagine that you are a guy living in a hut in Africa or in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan or in a jungle in some part of South America. Your contact with the outside world is minimal, but you are not dead to the lessons you can glean from the world that is available to you for observation. By chance, you happen upon an American on tour in your country. You engage this American in conversation about his occupation and he explains to you that he works for a major state university conducting scientific research. Impressed, you ask the American to explain the nature of his research. How would you react then, when you come to understand that this guy gets paid to investigate earthshattering discoveries like this? Might you not wonder what this American bozo knows about the world that you had not been able to discover by living a life of relative isolation in a hut? You discover that the American has learned how to pull a good scam; that’s what he knows that you don’t. You’re likely to conclude that his ability to scam is the reason that the American is on holiday traipsing about your country and you’re in a hut.

So at what point do bleeding taxpayers and parents forking over exorbitant tuition begin to ask the same questions? If that first story is not enough to inspire the questioning, then take a gander at the other two items from that newsletter: if you’re out of work it’s a good idea to ask your friends if they know about jobs and if you want to change jobs, you should have a plan. This kind of exhaustive research and draining of the mental energies demands a sabbatical, I think--a permanent one.


An interesting article in the New York Times from last Friday about trends among "Mommybloggers" caught my eye this morning. It raises the now familiar question of whether today’s notions about parenting have become a kind of "over-parenting" and also wonders whether the shrinking economy will force parents into something that more resembles sanity. I smile at the thought. It is impossible to be a mother today and not find yourself occasionally annoyed (o.k., I’d use a different word in conversation with my closest mommy friends . . . but this is a family blog) by the sort of mothers who--while certainly meaning well--have elevated their craft into a kind of sick obsession. One wants to be careful, however, about criticizing this sort of woman, first because such criticism can easily degenerate into simple meanness but more because sensible people realize that this kind of "helicopter" parenting--or whatever you want to call it--likely came about as a kind of reaction (and then, overreaction) to an even more disgusting kind of "hands-off" parenting where the rules were too lax, the supervision was minimal to neglectful and children were encouraged to do whatever they feel (so long as what they felt like doing did not involve any inconvenience to Mom or Dad). But this article from the NYT, while it made me smile to think of a backlash against the backlash, also gave me reason to shake my head and scream, "NO!" Here’s why:

But in the past few months, a second wave has taken hold — writers are moving past merely venting and are trying to gather the like-minded into a new movement. Carl Honoré is one. He calls it “slow parenting” — no more rushing around physically and metaphorically, no more racing kids from soccer to Suzuki. Lenore Skenazy is another. She calls it “free-range parenting,” a return to the days when childhood was not ruled by the fear (overblown, she says, with statistics to prove it) that children would be maimed, kidnapped or killed if they did something as simple as riding their bikes alone to the park.
Can we stop with the "movements" already? Is every parent today really so insecure in themselves that they need to have the backing of a movement and a blog to work it out for themselves? The problem with movements is exactly the same thing that I find when I get caught up in conversations with other mothers at the park or in the school parking lot. It im-personalizes the conversation to an unworkable point. You forget you’re dealing with actual and complex souls that don’t really belong to you. It makes you obsessive and crazy! It really is possible to over-think a thing and completely lose all sense of proportion, never mind your sense of humor! Life has always been imperfect in one way or another. Life with children is imperfection on steroids. The reason the "Mommy Wars" are so stinkin’ annoying, is that every Mommy in them--whether she means well and is sane in the beginning or not--becomes, over time, a self-appointed and self-righteous expert talking in a general way about specifics situations with which she has no familiarity or realistic capacity to understand.

Here’s the deal: when you have kids, YOU have to raise them. Some people are going to do a better job than you do. Plenty will do worse. Mothers need to put their big girl pants on, look around, learn what they can, avoid getting over-wrought in discussions of "parenting" and do the best job they can manage with the information and the capacities that they have. That’s all any kid needs or has a right to expect. Children are not made of steel, but neither are they made of glass. They are precious, yes, but they are not our possessions.

A friend of mine recently told me about another friend of hers who had lost a child in a tragic accident. She said that the family is coping with the loss by remembering to consider that the child "was not theirs" in the first place. They were blessed by this child’s presence in their lives for a short time, she noted, but they felt lucky to have had him at all rather than cheated by his being taken away. They focused on gratitude for his life instead of anger, sadness and regret at his death. I admit that this is probably more than I could muster in that situation . . . but how can one not admire it? Since hearing about it, I have tried remember it--not so much as a guide to understanding the proper way to react to death (God forbid a thousand times!) as it is a good general guide for understanding how to approach life with your children. There is only so much you can do or expect as a parent. Ultimately, you are talking about another soul--not an extension of your own. The only formula is that there isn’t one.

Government Motors

The whole government bail-out/ownership smells, always has. This is especially true with GM. The best short piece I’ve seen on the issue is by

David Brooks in today’s NYT.

IPhones and attendance

The days of skipping class at one a Japanese university may be over: "At least that’s the hope of administrators at Aoyama Gakuin University, in Tokyo, whose School of Social Informatics will give Apple’s iPhone 3G to 550 of its students as a way to track attendance with the phone’s global-positioning system." Silly, isn’t it.

A bad argument against bad arguments against same-sex marriage

I received an email touting this piece that works hard to demolish straw men. Jon Chait simply assumes that choice is always good, but gives no consideration to what might happen if we, in effect, apotheosize choice, thereby, among other things, utterly severing the connection between adult self-fulfillment and childrearing. If it’s all about choice, why can’t I choose a plurality of mates, without any regard for the welfare of the children who may happen to be associated with the arrangement.

Yes, marriage isn’t just about children and childrearing, but our understanding of it--however badly articulated by some proponents--naturally begins there. Chait’s, er, argument is so focused on the fulfillment of individuals who seem selfish or self-centered by definition (they’re choosers, not bearers of responsibility) that he can’t see the force of that point of departure. He diminishes our responsibility for the sake of our freedom.

To be sure, the proponents of same-sex marriage aren’t alone in making this argument and they’re just following in the footsteps of other "possessive individualists." The real argument isn’t about same-sex marriage, it’s about what it means to be a responsible member of a community, about whether our burdens must be accepted or are only legitimate if they’re freely chosen.

Three Commentaires of the Day

All are worth reading in full. Here’s a sample. Robert Reich on the GM Bailout:

The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bail-out is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise. Yet if this is the goal, surely there are better ways to allocate $60bn than to buy GM? The funds would be better spent helping the Midwest diversify away from cars. Cash could be used to retrain car workers, giving them extended unemployment insurance as they retrain.

But US politicians dare not talk openly about industrial adjustment because the public does not want to hear about it. A strong constituency wants to preserve jobs and communities as they are, regardless of the public cost. Another equally powerful group wants to let markets work their will, regardless of the short-term social costs. Polls show most Americans are against bailing out GM, but if their own jobs were at stake I am sure they would have a different view.

Megan McArdle writes a couple of very provocative posts on anti-abortion extremism and what to do about it. I hesitate to select from the, because I will take away the nuance, but I will do so, in order, I hope, to spur people to read them in full:

I think the analogy to slavery is important, for two reasons. First of all, it was the last time we had an extended, society-wide debate about personhood. And second of all, as now, there were structural political reasons that it was much harder--nearly impossible--to change slavery through the existing political process. . . . .

And if I look at my own reasoning, well, frankly, it’s not even reasoning. I’ve never sat down and thought, "how do I know that Africans are human beings?" I know. And I’m enough of a Chestertonian to be okay with that way of knowing. But presumably if I’d been raised in 1840 Alabama, I’d know just as certainly that they weren’t.

That post builds upon

this post:

We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders--had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer’s actions. In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions. Moreover, that law had been ruled outside the normal political process by the Supreme Court. If you think that someone is committing hundreds of gruesome murders a year, and that the law cannot touch him, what is the moral action? To shrug? Is that what you think of ordinary Germans who ignored Nazi crimes? Is it really much of an excuse to say that, well, most of your neighbors didn’t seem to mind, so you concluded it must be all right? We are not morally required to obey an unjust law. In fact, when the death of innocents is involved, we are required to defy it.

As I say, I think their moral intuition is incorrect. The fact that conception and birth are the easiest bright lines to draw does not make either of them the correct one. Tiller’s killer is a murderer, and whether or not he deserves the lengthy jail sentence he will get, society needs him in jail for its own protection.

And John Hasnas on the seen, the unseen and emphathy:

One can have compassion for workers who lose their jobs when a plant closes. They can be seen. One cannot have compassion for unknown persons in other industries who do not receive job offers when a compassionate government subsidizes an unprofitable plant. The potential employees not hired are unseen.

One can empathize with innocent children born with birth defects. Such children and the adversity they face can be seen. One cannot empathize with as-yet-unborn children in rural communities who may not have access to pediatricians if a judicial decision based on compassion raises the cost of medical malpractice insurance. These children are unseen.

ME on Dr. Pat Deneen, Marriage, and Our Place in the South


Ivy League Culture

As Harvard Alum Conan O’Brien takes over the reigns at the "Tonight Show," it is worth asking what, if anything, it says about our culture. For years, Johnny Carson ruled the roost, and brought his midwestern sensibility to the show. If Wikipedia is correct, O’Brien, by contrast, went to Harvard, and is the son of a Professor at Harvard Medical School. Might that change reflect a larger change both in Hollywood and at Harvard?

In Other News . . . Bankruptcy!

For readers who need a break from the Supreme Court nominations battle, I suggest the cheery interlude of bankruptcy law. GM’s bankruptcy raises numerous legal and policy issues, particularly if the government seeks to displace creditors or to minimize the reorganizing cuts necessary for GM to reemerge as a profitable company. For a detailed analysis, I recommend Andrew Grossman’s thoughtful testimony before the House Judiciary Committee assessing Chrysler’s bankruptcy, and looking ahead to GM’s bankruptcy. He examines how the Obama administration’s attempts to circumvent bankruptcy law’s priority scheme in order to benefit cronies like the UAW undermines the rule of law, and makes clear that more, deeper cuts are necessary to make government motors a profitable company once again.

In other bankruptcy-related news, I wrote a piece for WLF last month examining the risk of increased forum shopping which could occur as bankruptcy filings increase. Whether this will pose a serious threat to the rule of law may well turn on the Marshall v. Marshall, the Ninth Circuit’s remand of the infamous Anna Nicole bankruptcy case which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2006. Like Bleak House, all of the original litigants in the case are now deceased, but the litigation lives on. If the Ninth Circuit were to permit Anna Nicole Smith’s estate to use the bankruptcy courts to re-litigate claims she lost in state courts, and thereby to get millions of dollars from her late husband’s estate contrary to his estate plan, then look for an explosion of bankruptcy filings, made by those seeking to use bankruptcy courts to achieve ends other than relief from debts.

Cross-posted on
Bench Memos.

How to Go on Offense

Over at National Review Online, I have an article up this morning suggesting the concrete program the Tea Party movement should adopt if it wants to have a serious political impact. In one sentence, I argue that the Tea Parties should champion what I call "Reagan’s Unfinished Agenda" as a way of going on offense against Obama, and getting out of the defensive crouch which is the dominant posture of the Right at the moment.

While I’m at it, and on a related subject, volume 1 of The Age of Reagan comes out in paperback next week, a prelude to the August launch of the second and final volume. Get your pre-orders in now!

Garry Wills on Skip Gates’s Lincoln

Gotta hand it to Garry Wills. A while back his book on the Gettysburg Address achieved that glorious two-fer we academic nine-to-fivers can only pine for: best-seller status and a major award (the Pulitzer). Now, when it comes to reviewing Henry Louis Gates’s edited collection, Lincoln on Race and Slavery, with a lengthy and flawed introduction by the non-Lincoln expert Gates, the New York Review of Books taps Wills to review Gates’s book in the bicentennial year of Lincoln’s birth.

The title of the review, "Lincoln’s Black History," says all one needs to know of the portrait of the Great Emancipator rendered by Wills. Toni Morrison can rest easy; it’s not one that touts Lincoln as the first black president. His “black” history, with “black” connoting a pejorative (I’m surprised the Review let that pass), is Lincoln’s views and policies regarding blacks in America, which were racist in some form or fashion. How seriously can one take an analysis of Lincoln on race and slavery when Wills gives the last word on Lincoln to his nemesis, an unabashed white supremacist, Stephen A. Douglas?!

Wills agrees with Douglas against Lincoln in his interpretation of what the Founders meant by equality in the Declaration of Independence. Not to worry, though, as Wills assures us that Lincoln’s “bad history” at least promoted a myth that helped Americans produce “good politics.” In short, we all now think the Declaration’s statement that “all men are created equal” really means all people, black and white, male and female—even though the Founders, as Douglas correctly taught us, never meant this. Wills calls Lincoln’s misinterpretation of the Declaration “one of those creative misreadings” that ultimately did us “the favor of fruitfully being wrong.”

Trying to keep this short, let me just say that Wills divides his account of Lincoln’s black history into three categories: slavery, black inferiority, and colonization. These are not bad, but the devil is definitely in Wills’s details, for he quotes Lincoln (and his critics) selectively, and unfairly presents Lincoln’s controversial statements without sufficient context. In some cases, he omits remarks by Lincoln that would lead to opposite conclusions about his view of slavery and blacks.

To cite just one example, he says that Lincoln “did not show a personal revulsion at slavery” right after noting an 1855 letter from Joshua Speed, at the time his closest friend and a slaveholding Kentuckian. The fact that Wills is aware of this letter from Speed suggests Wills is quite aware of Lincoln’s letter to Speed, wherein Lincoln does show a personal revulsion of slavery: “I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet.” Lincoln goes on to say that recalling a shackled group of slaves he saw on a trip down South “was a continued torment to me” and “continually exercises the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.”

Other statements could be cited to support this sentiment of Lincoln’s.

Lincoln’s views of slavery, black Americans, and colonization all deserve greater attention, but neither Wills nor Gates (who also produced a flawed documentary, “Looking for Lincoln,” which aired on PBS in February 2009) shines the proper light on America’s “peculiar institution” or Lincoln’s approach to eliminating it. They have now helped produce a Lincoln for the 21st century that mangles both Lincoln’s legacy and that of the Founders. This makes the public more susceptible to the opinion that what is good in Lincoln had less to do with the United States of America at her birth and more with the notion of an evolving standard of right. Lincoln as a Progressive. Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and their presidential protégé Barack Obama couldn’t be more pleased.