Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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.