Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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A Naked Obama with Unicorns????

Given the strong reaction folks have had to the posters of Obama as the Joker, what are we to make of these drawings, depicting a naked Obama posed with a unicorn? I know it's the 40th anniversary of Woodstock this weekend, but isn't this taking LSD nostalgia a bit too far?
Categories > Presidency

McWhorter on Zora Neale Hurston and Shakespeare

John McWhorter writes on Zora Neale Hurston. McWhorter is always worth reading, even when one disagrees with him, as I do on this piece where he argues that Shakespeare needs to be translated into modern English. Also note this penultimate paragraph on translations of Shakespeare into foreign languages:

"The irony is that people in foreign countries often possess Shakespeare to a greater extent than we do, since they get to enjoy Shakespeare in the language that they speak. Shakespeare is translated into rich, poetic varieties of these languages, to be sure, but since it is the rich, poetic modern varieties of the languages, the typical spectator in Paris or Moscow can attend a production of Hamlet and enjoy a play rather than an exercise. A friend of mine has told me that first time he truly understood more than the gist of what was going on in a Shakespeare play was when he saw one in French!"

There is some sense to this. Yet, it must be noted that the best native poets (say of Hungary) learned enough English just to translate the Bard and the Hungarian Shakespeare is not modern, but, rather, as my father might have said, better than the original!

"Death Panels," a question

Do some of our elderly citizens already feel pressured about not wasting scarce resources and money? Do they sometimes feel that their children are upset when they live long enough to deplete their assets so the children don’t get what they had hoped as an inheritance? Do they sometimes, already, feel that hospitals and doctors gently suggest that it’s selfish of them to want hip replacements at 75 and heart surgery at 80? Some certainly fear that will be the case, reasonably or not. But do they feel some that pressure already?

The Next Time Someone Derides or Challenges You to Defend Sarah Palin

You might ask how the character and judgment of the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee compare to that of the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Reagan v. Obama Day

So, today I’ve got two articles up comparing Reagan and Obama. The first, on, compares Reagan and Obama on basic questions of leadership--especially how they relate to Congress. The second, on, compares media coverage of and elite opinion about the 1982-83 recession with the current downturn, wondering whether the media will become a cheerleader for Obama now that the economy has (probably/hopefully) bottomed out (for now anyway).

Hat tip to the great Peter Robinson, who loaned me his column space this week while he’s on vacation.

P.S. I almost forgot: Have you ordered your copy yet?

The Case for Tax Transparency

Charles Murray’s latest. Always worth reading.  


Senator Reid wines that "’evil-mongers’ are using ’lies, innuendo and rumor,’ to drown out rational debate" on health care. In light of the President’s effort to root out disinformation, ought he to have called them "fishy-mongers" instead?

Barry Levinson’s Baltimore

Here’s some more film studies, featuring Dr. Pat Deneen and ME.

Ivan the K on the Politics of Health Care

Here’s a really judicious account of the apolitical or "technocratic" contempt the Democrats and their media allies are showing toward citizens angrily concerned about change they can’t believe in and aren’t properly informed about. My own view is that this unfocused anger suffers from lack of political leadership. There’s a great opportunity for some emerging statesman here. I’m going to my town hall meeting with our Rep. Gingrey this afternoon. Our Republican physician-representative will be pretty much preaching to the converted, and I hope he can focus us on the real issues.

Grandma Got Run Over by Obamacare

Amusing parody.

The Age of Reagan

The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989 landed on my desk yesterday, a week ahead of schedule. Looks great, Mr. Hayward!

Amusingly enough two hours after I received the book, I was in a furniture store in Mansfield (OH) browsing when a salesman came up to introduce himself. We had met about five years back and--he said--I had given him Hayward’s first volume on Reagan, The Age of Reagan, 1964-1980: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, and he had just now finished reading it! Although he said he enjoyed it very much, I thought I detected a groan when I told him about the new volume!

Cap and Trade

I don’t often intrude on Steve’s turf, but I did have a piece in today’s Providence Journal on the effects of the Waxman-Markey capa dn trade legislation. This is right up there with Obamacare as a dreadful idea.

How to think about legislation

Tom Maguire notes an interesting turn in the debate over health care. Liberals like Ezra Klein complain that conservatives are complaining about things that are not in the bill:
Danielle Allen's op-ed this morning. Discussing the insistence of some that health-care reform will result in rationing and death panels, Allen chides those who respond with an accurate description of the legislation. "One can't answer them by saying: 'These policies won't ration; there will be no death panels,'" she writes. Instead, reformers must detail the "institutional checks that will prevent the emergence" of death panels and rationing.

In other words, the questions reformers have to answer is not "when did you stop beating your wife?" It's "what will prevent you from beating your wife?" Given that there is no such thing as a "death panel," nor any policy provision that would establish such a thing, it is hard to explain the institutional checks that would prevent a "death panel" from coming into being. When you have to explain why your bill won't create death panels, and what will make sure that it doesn't, you've pretty much lost the argument.

(Here's a link to Allen's piece).

This argument raises interesting questions about how to think about legislation. As I understand him, Klein is looking strictly at the text of the bill, and thinking about what the bill is designed to do.

By contrast, Allen is thinking about the likely consequences of the bill:

These activists do not claim that the proposed reforms include policies whose explicit purpose is to ration, nor do the more careful among them claim that the policies will establish panels to help people decide when to die. They are not arguing about the semantic content of the policies; that is, they are not arguing about the meaning of the words that are actually in the relevant drafts of bills. Instead, they are considering, as the pragmatist philosopher William James put it, "what conceivable effects of a practical kind the [policy] may involve -- what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare."
For a couple of generations, there has been much discussion of the "unintended consequences" of legislation. Allen is suggesting that these consequences are often predictible, and, therefore, it is not unreasonable to discuss legislation from the standpont not of its intent, or of its explicit language, narrowly construed, but, rather, in terms of its likely consequences. Isn't one point of Cass Sunstein's Nudge that human beings are often irrational in predictable ways. As the recent financial crisis shows, as do countless tales of mistakes by government, that is no less true of elites than it is of the common man. That predictable irrationality would, presumably, also apply to understanding the consequences of legislation.

Quite often the rancor in public debate turns on this distinction between a narrow and broad reading of legislation, with the result that each side thinks the other is arguing in bad faith. Thus it long has been, and probably ever must be.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for July

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

Tim Fitterer

Paul Mitchell

Peter Riebling

Kelly Sparrow

George Alecusan

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 August’s drawing.

Is Our Health Care System Killing Us?

Advocates of reform often cite average life expectancy in the United States, which is lower than in a number of other industrialized countries, as evidence that the nation’s health care system requires an overhaul. However, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the system isn’t the problem. Specifically, the authors consider mortality rates among those suffering from breast cancer and prostate cancer--diseases for which "behavioral factors do not play a dominant role"--and find that the United States does quite well in comparison with other OECD countries. In short, it’s obesity and smoking that are killing Americans, not the availability of quality health care.

Pub Notice

My review of Patrick Allitt’s book, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History, is up in this week’s issue of The Weekly Standard.

V-J Day in L.A.

Memory rests lightly on Los Angeles. Part of the city’s laid back charm is that its denizens seem to the outside world forever to be cruising Sunset Boulevard in a convertible, in the happy superficiality of continual newness. But turn east from Sepulveda Boulevard just north of Wilshire onto Constitution Avenue, and, according to Chris Flannery, you... enter a sanctuary of remembrance.


According to Douthat. people are complaining that it’s not as funny as Judd’s other movies. Well, it’s not, and like his other movies it’s needlessly gross. But it’s a movie about comedians. The best of them, of course, are kind of screwed up, shy, and not that funny in real life. Adam Sandler and Josh Rogen do more than decent jobs portraying funny men in public who have a hard time being happy or acting grown up in private. I could criticize the movie a dozen different ways, but it is worth seeing. It’s certainly conservative in defending personal love and family responsibility and ordinary decency and all that, although a liberal might say such a low-level defense of civilization could hardly be the exclusive province of conservatives. (I can’t believe ol’ Ross wasted one of his NYT shots on this.)

Ross mentions in passing the great comedic filmaker John Hughes, who just died and richly deserves a column’s sustained attention. My question to you: Which of Hughes’ great movies is the greatest--SIXTEEN CANDLES, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, or PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES? John Candy, of course, towers over Sandler and Rogen as a genuinely funny, sad man on the screen (although apparently a very happy family guy in real life).

The Right to Health Care, Old Style

I have been reading some pamphlets from the Revolutionary era of late, and that got me thinking about Locke’s ideas about the right to revolution. Locke wrote:

For no Man, or Society of Men, having a Power to deliver up their Preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the Absolute Will and arbitrary Dominion of another; whenever any one shall go about to bring them into such a Slavish Condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a Power to part with; and to rid themselves of those who invade this Fundamental, Sacred, and unalterable Law of Self-Preservation, for which they enter’d into Society.

How might Locke’s ideas apply to the health care debate? As we know, the Progressives, and those who are shaped by their philosophy, simply will say that Locke wrote that in the 17th century, so there’s no reason to listen, and will be tempted simply to ignore the broader question. In general, of course, the Progressives suggested that the ideas of 1776 were passe. (Of course, a century late, so too are the ideas of the Progressives).

But if we take Locke seriously, what are its implications? If they cover essental care, Rahm Emanuel’s brother’s comment run contrary to Locke:

Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years.

Presumably when life saving care is rationed, the principles of 1776, which were, in this respect, the same as Locke’s, would suggest a right to take such care by force if necessary. How far might those principles apply to medicine that serves the cause of living well, but are not essential to simply staying alive?

It’s much easier simply to follow the Progressives and dismiss all that as passe, of course. And, in the mean time, we can be thankful that, under current US law, such rationing is not legal. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Eighty-five years after his death...

...he’s still killing people.


Christopher Caldwell writes a review on a book on Rumsfeld worth reading; the book may be worth reading as well.

Woodstock at 40: Woodstock Forever

John Pareles of the New York Times reminds us yesterday that "Baby boomers won’t let go of the Woodstock Festival" Of course not--baby boomers won’t let go of anything they think is a totem of their essential difference and, ahem, moral superiority. I’ve long thought that if the Census Bureau included on its questionnaire "Did you attend Woodstock in 1969?", something like 5 million baby boomers would check the "Yes" box. Has there ever been more nonsense written about an ordinary event? (Pareles points out that there were comparable events at the time, and larger events subsequently, none of which acquired the exalted metaphysical status of Woodstock.)

The most fatuous assessment of Woodstock belongs to Time magazine, which wrote in 1969: "Woodstock may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age. . . [T]he revolution it preaches, implicitly or explicitly, is essentially moral; it is the proclamation of a new set of values. . . With a surprising ease and a cool sense of authority, the children of plenty have voiced an intention to live by a different ethical standard than their parents accepted. The pleasure principle has been elevated over the Puritan ethic of work. To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen. Personal freedom in the midst of squalor is more liberating than social conformity with the trappings of wealth. Now that youth takes abundance for granted, it can afford to reject materialism." They must have been smoking a lot of dope in Time’s newsroom that weekend.

Not to be outdone, lefty Andrew Kopkind wrote that Woodstock represented "a new culture of opposition. It grows out of the disintegration of old forms, the vinyl and aerosol institutions that carry all the inane and destructive values of privatism, competition, commercialism, profitability and elitism. . . For people who had never glimpsed the intense communitarian closeness of a militant struggle—People’s Park or Paris in the month of May or Cuba—Woodstock must always be their model of how good we will all feel after the revolution. . . [P]olitical radicals have to see the cultural revolution as a sea in which they can swim." At least Kopkind wrote in the magazine High Times, which means this can be safely read a self-parody.

I rather liked the comic--I think it was Jay Leno--who joked about the 20th anniversary that aging baby boomers who went back to the scene would likely need to bring LSD suppositories.

Is the Mega-debt Changing Our Culture?

Mr. Zuckerman seems to think so. Americans, in their own lives, are quickly moving from the culture of spending to the culture of thrift, and they really want government to do the same. Not only are jobs being lost, salaries are being cut, and people are somewhat resigned to making do with less. They sort of know that the government is in grave danger of drowning in debt unless big-time prosperity returns, and that’s not so likely. So they don’t want government to spend our way out of the recession in the short term, even if that means the recession lasts longer. Although he does tend to exaggerate, Dr. Pat Deneen might be somewhat right that this bowing to the necessity of belt tightening will be good for our characters. President Obama, unfortunately, is not in touch with this new mood, and even I’m not as sure as Mr. Zuckerman about how pervasive it is yet. Where are Bob Dole and the other old-fashioned responsible Republicans when we finally need them?

What We Owe the Puritans

Is explained by ME, using Tocqueville and the great Neo-Puritanical novelist and scholar Marilynne Robinson. For now, unfortunately, you can only get the first page of the article for free without walking over to your library.