Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Men and Women

Grace in Motion

In the midst of paying some attention, maybe even too much attention, to the latest terrorist attempt in the skies near Detroit, the President's flacid public reaction to it, then the name calling and the attempt to figure out who (in the plural) didn't do his job well enough (never mind the horror of eight CIA guys being killed in Afghanistan), I come across this Anthony Lane essay in The New Yorker.  It is a mediation (using a new bio and an exhibit in Rome) on Grace Kelly.  Good writing on a difficult subject, even now an unwilling one.  I happened to see parts of High Society, her last film, recently.  Stunning.  Seeing her again reminded me that beauty is motion, and Lane understands how "a small inflection of her body" caused love.  Worthy of never forgetting, as if that were possible.  Lane sees much of this, while delicately touching on her capacity for "loud intimate merriment."  It does not surprise me that the Prince of Monaco banned her films from his kingdom.  He did the right thing, but I'm glad I didn't and don't live in Monaco.  Happy New Year, by the way.
Categories > Men and Women

Pop Culture

More Holiday Cheer and Nostalgia

Since I'm still in a holiday mood, I thought I'd share something that emerged from the deep recess of a bathroom closet that hadn't been cleaned out since Billy Beer was on the shelves: A bar of Jovan Monsieur Soap-on-a-Rope.  Best part is the Shakespearian prose describing the product on the back of the box:

His response to Madame.  A wordless reminder that he knows how to handle his affairs.  [Oh come on: what a lame reference to the rope--Ed.  I know; I only share this because today's uber-ironic students won't believe such products were really in people's showers once upon a time.  Anyway, to continue with the loopy copy. . .)  Powerfully genteel.  And yet, unrelenting in his quest for excitement.  Monsieur is a robust blend of rare herbs, spices, and natural oils.  A provocative, refreshing statement to Madame.  Which may explain why he becomes every woman's piece de resistance.

Someone actually got paid to write that copy.  Now, I can't hep but wonder whether there isn't a parable here for our current infatuation with Facebook and Twitter.  Might Twitter become today's equivalent of the CB radios of 1976?  

P.S.  Yes, I still own a six-pack of Billy Beer.
Categories > Pop Culture


Shelby Steele Plumbs Obama's Depths

Steele, the author of the best book on Obama, gets to the core of Obama's emptiness and discovers white guilt:

... Mr. Obama always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol....

A greater problem for our nation today is that we have a president whose benign--and therefore desirable--blackness exempted him from the political individuation process that makes for strong, clear-headed leaders. He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one's true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead.

And yes, white America conditioned Barack Obama to emptiness--valued him all along for his "articulate and clean" blackness, so flattering to American innocence. He is a president come to us out of our national insecurities.

This I could anticipate from Shelby, but what came over Maureen Dowd?  Liberals have the most to fear from a second term of Carter.

I look at Obama somewhat differently from Steele.  Postmodern Obama inverts the order of the 10 moral virtues found in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.  The Philosopher goes from courage to wittiness.  Obama has no use for courage--probably viewing it as an atavism (hence his trouble addressing military issues)--but this disembodied voice is all wit.  That is the postmodern stance:  Being above it all.  Aristotle had it right, that courage and its psychic source of spiritedness is a necessary part of moral, political, and philosophic life.  A fully human life requires wit but does not begin with it. 

Categories > Race


Year-End Observations

The fabled Maureen went all Dowdy on us again the other day, asking what happened to John McCain?  Seems he turned in his "strange new respect award" that is earned by moving to the left, bucking his own party, and gaining media accolades.  "John McCain is no longer the media's delight and his party's burr," MoDo moans. Having returned to the GOP mainstream, at least for now, McCain is no longer "a constructive independent" (that doesn't even require a Cracker Jack decoder ring); worse, the dolorous MoDo asks, "Watching him, one can only wonder: Is McCain betraying his best self?"

Query: Does anyone in the prestige press ever suggest Joe Lieberman is a "constructive independent" or exhibits "his best self" when he bucks Democratic Party orthodoxy?  Didn't think so.  Maybe we should start calling Mo-Do "Nurse One-Way Ratchet."

Meanwhile, like most folks I've been worried that we're due for some rough inflation down the road because of the huge--unprecedented--expansion of the money supply over the last 18 months or so.  Greg Mankiw--a really smart economist--makes strong case that the worry is overblown.  Worth a read.

One reason why my blogging is light right now is that I'm passing the holidays out at the beach, where the last three sunsets have looked like this, this, and finally this.  Happy new year!
Categories > Journalism

Shameless Self-Promotion

Happy New Year

I hope you guys enjoy the upgrades we made to No Left Turns this year.  I note in passing that the contents are no better or worse than they have ever been!  You also know that we offer our wit and wisdom at no cost to readers, even though it may be worth something.  Now, being at the end of the year and all, I am asking you to consider coming up with a few bucks to put in our poke.  The tax deductible contributions will help offset the related expenses.

The Ashbrook Center is committed to teaching Americans about themselves and their purposes.  Really, we are just reminding them of things they once knew and held dear.  It's a kind of civics lesson, if you like, but one that re-connects the means with the proper ends of self-government. As we grow and seek excellence in every program--including things like No Left Turns--we never forget that these things are possible only with the support of generous donors.  You can help us by making contribution at Thank you for considering a gift.

My best to you and yours in the New Year.

Foreign Affairs

More Krauthammer on Obama

Since I'm quoting Krauthammer today, I should include his recent perspective on the new "Obama doctrine" articulated in Oslo. I'm one of those "conservative colleagues" toward whom Krauthammer's just scolding is directed.

I was less impressed [than my conservative colleagues] by the dawn of his "new realism." What the president stood up and said was there's evil in the world and Gandhi would not have done well against Hitler.

Well, for most of us, you dispose of those issues in the first week in the freshman dorm in college after a couple of late-night discussions. And to elevate it as a great philosophical achievement ... is quite astonishing. It is emperor's new clothes.

It is obvious.

The fact that we were all impressed is to tell you how unrealistic, idealistic, and naive were all the previous speeches, starting with the speech he gave in '08 in Berlin in which he said that the [Berlin] wall had come down ... "because the world stood as one."

Well, that's not why the wall had come down. It came down because America stood fast for 50 years on the ramparts of freedom and didn't flinch, and in the end the other guy conceded and collapsed.

This kind of globalism, this universalism, this naivete runs through all of his policy.

Hat tip: NRO.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Year in Review: Iran

I have almost nothing to add to Charles Krauthammer's critical year-end review of the Obama administration's blundered handling of Iran. The article's recounting of "a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity" deserves to be quoted in its entirety. Here is the conclusion (with which I have previously concurred):

One way or the other, Iran will dominate 2010. Either there will be an Israeli attack, or Iran will arrive at -- or cross -- the nuclear threshold. Unless revolution intervenes. Which is why to fail to do everything in our power to support this popular revolt is unforgivable.

Climate change scandals and bickering over health care reform are silly trifles in comparison to the potential global effect of a nuclear Iran. That such a looming danger has been relegated to second-tier priority status by the Obama administration suggests the un-seriousness and continued naivety of this president. Lone maniacs with underwear bombs on planes will seem like the good ol' days if Iran asserts control over the Middle East or begins marketing nuclear weaponry to the highest bidder.

WaPo covers the continuing opposition movement in Iran, and Powerline sums up a good post on the issue with the assertion: 

Obama needs to speak. And he needs to say that the U.S. is abandoning its policy of "engagement" -- what has it gotten us? -- in favor of tough sanctions. In addition, he needs to declare in clear terms his support for the aims of the dissidents, not just his unhappiness with the methods the regime is using to beat them back.

NB: National Review Online touches upon Iran here and here.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Natural Rights Confronts Terrorism

"[T]hose who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses," the President maintained, in his response to the flaming terrorist episode.  Herewith, my program:  Every university receiving federal funding will be required to have anti-terrorist suppression sessions for students, faculty, and administrators.  They would involve exercises such as tossing books, notebooks, and purses at a gunman (recall Virginia Tech) and thwarting a suicide bomber in a plane or other public place.  This training could be part of an already required physical education class or offered as a separate session.  (The model here would be the Solomon Amendment, requiring ROTC opportunities on campuses that receive federal funding.)  The sessions would also be made available from state and local governments that receive federal funding.

The effectiveness of such training is not the major issue; we are after all not Progressives,  who exaggerate the importance of professionalism.  The key purpose is rejecting the passive victim mentality that appears to have captured major government officials.  With the seeming collapse of government responsibility, the people need to revert to their natural rights.  Gun training is the next step.  This would be the revival of the logic of liberty.

Thus, our new mental toughness would allow airplane passengers to carry knives and other weapons that cannot be used to destroy the plane.  The threat comes from bombers, not from slashers. 

It's a pity such training is necessary at all, but that's what we have become.  Consider that the Army is coaching spouses on how to welcome partners back home.

Categories > Presidency

Pop Culture

On the Lonely Game

Do I enjoy scholarly writing?  Do I profit from scholarly writing?  My questioner at the watering hole was hoping for  negatives, and he got them.  I told him that there are few such works wherein one can find writing (and thinking) worthy of the name, so I don't gravitate to them much, although some I still read out of duty.  For the sake of love (and therefore instruction) I look to real writing--for no profit grows where no pleasure is taken--and this comes in essay forms or storytelling.  The fact that I cannot myself do it well, doesn't deny me the pleasure of loving it when done by another.  This Diana Schaub essay, "America at the Bat," might be a perfect example of something so lovable; an essay on baseball, but, also on, well, just about everything important. I will not attempt to say more about it other than to say you should both read it and then thank Diana.
Categories > Pop Culture


The real professionals

Will Rogers once said, "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."  Well, this Ramirez cartoon is just reporting the facts.
Categories > Politics


A Time(s) for Review

In the week between Christmas and New Years, national attention is rightfully directed to an obsession with summing up the year-that-was and formulating new year's resolutions. As a tribute to the former, the Media Research Center has published a categorized best notable quotables of 2009 and a compilation of the worst New York Times quote of the year

A sample of the latter includes Thomas Friedman's praise of Chinese Communism:

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today. One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.

The New York Times, for its part, has a year by year recount of the last decade. As the article for 2007 - the year of the housing mortgage meltdown and the surge in Iraq - is devoted to "blogs about food," one might undergo a lowering in expectations as to the substance of the Gray Lady's reflections. But the 2009 article proves quite touching in its charitable optimism. 

Categories > History

Foreign Affairs

On the Terrorist Attack

First, they shouldn't be calling it an "attempted" act of terrorism.  By affecting our behavior for the worse the mere attempt to down an airliner is an act of terrorism.   Our current feckless leadership is exemplified not only by DHS Secretary (and prospective Supreme Court nominee) Napolitano but also by Attorney General Holder's boilerplate statement in his press release on the episode (with my comments in brackets):

"This alleged attack [alleged only if you think the real attack might have been gastritis] on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice [and given an opportunity to denounce America in a U.S. court, should his attack fail]."

Holder's boilerplate statement looks preposterous in light of his decision to try various Guantanamo detainees.  One reason the "panty bomber" (Mark Steyn) waited until landing to set off his device was to assault Americans on American soil.  He must also have been counting on a backup plan of addressing a U.S. court.  Should that turn out to be a motive, Holder should certainly offer his resignation.   

Victor Davis Hanson and his NRO colleagues have more.  Let gratitude be felt for the allegedly quick-acting passengers on the Detroit flight--though maybe, according to the jurisprudence of the day, they should be charged with assault instead.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Combating Muslim Domestic Terrorism

The Internet lures American Islamic youth to romantic lives of terrorism, and many American Muslims are hard-pressed but determined to combat it.  Such resistance to violent madness is of course obligatory and to be expected as a simple duty; the tougher question is how aggressive American Muslims will be in tracking down the agitators.  As under collegiate honor codes, it is easy enough to avoid cheating but a lot harder to turn in a suspected cheater.

The difficulty here was seen in the Japanese American relocation of World War II.  Pro-Japan militants would beat pro-Americans in the relocation centers.  Finally, a separate facility at Tule Lake had to be established for these domestic supporters of Japan.   Brian Hayashi's Democratizing the Enemy (see p. 127 via google search) has a solid account of the relocation.  As a professional historian, he presents a range of evidence well, thus allowing the reader to come to conclusions in variance with his own, ultimate criticism of the relocation policy. 

Finally, on the related matter of the Christmas airliner terrorism, the NY Times has details on the incendiary device.  See also the NY Post account.   

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Four Horsemen of the Progressive Apocalypse

That's the cover  story of the current deadtree National Review.  The four essays analyze the writer-activists who shaped the left today. Jonah Goldberg, Tiffany Jones Miller, Bradley C.S. Watson, and Fred Siegel profile Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Herbert Croly.  These well and lesser-known thinkers wrote beginning about a century ago, and in a sense they live today in the mind and policies of not just the left but of much of the right and center as well (consider especially the jurist Holmes).  All have in common the desire to replace the political and moral foundations of American constitutionalism and its rule of law and limited government with an enlightened elite.  The point here is that their theorizing succeeded in practice.  To confront the left we need to understand its roots, and these essays expose them brilliantly.

So far no excerpts at NRO, but pick up the issue at your bookstore/magazine shop, as this issue presents thoughtful journalism at its best. 

Categories > Conservatism

Pop Culture

Armstrong reviews

Two more very positive reviews of Terry Teachout's Pops, by Louis Bayard and Stefan Kanfer (I haven't found a negative one yet).  When he died in 1971, British poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin praised Armstrong as "an artist of Flaubertian purity, and a character of exceptional warmth and goodness."
Categories > Pop Culture


California and the rest of us

Ross Douthat outlines why the argument about what went wrong with California is really an argument about the future of America.  He uses and praises Bill Voegeli's two great essays (in City Journal and The Claremont Review of Books).

Categories > Politics


False Prophets and Lefty Policy

The New Republic is running a list of "a few choice predictions about disaster that never came," which, they say, show that conservative critiques of liberal and/ or progressive policies are always mistaken.

An appropriate response, might be, Megan McArdle's long reflection on unintended consequences. A sample:

[In the 19th century] unwed mothers could not, in most cases, obtain welfare; they were not allowed in public housing (which was supposed to be--and was--a way station for young, struggling families on the way to homeownership, not a permanent abode); they were otherwise discriminated against by social services. The help you could expect from society was a home for wayward girls, in which you would give birth and then put the baby up for adoption. . . .

Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn't they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.

But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.

Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?

People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.

C'mon said the activists. That's just silly. I just can't imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.


Etc., etc., etc.  Just because some predictions have been mistaken, that does not mean they are all mistaken.  I used to expect better from TNR.

Categories > Politics

Literature, Poetry, and Books


Consider this, "The Four Ages of Man," from Yeats:

He with body waged a fight,
But body won; it walks upright.

Then he struggled with the heart;
Innocence and peace depart.

Then he struggled with the mind;
His proud heart he left behind.

Now his wars on God begin;
At stroke of midnight God shall win.

Pop Culture

Another Shot at AVATAR

...this time from Reihan Salam of Forbes.  Bottom line: "The irony of Avatar is that Cameron has made a dazzling, gorgeous indictment of the kind of society that produces James Camerons."

To tell the truth, I'm not sure how long it's been since Cameron has made a film that I had any interest in seeing.  I can still taste the vomit in my throat from Titanic.

Categories > Pop Culture

Political Parties

The Democrats Remain True

A quick response to Peter's post below:  The Democratic Party has always been a sectional party of different guises--Southern pro-slavery, post-reconstruction, New Deal coalition, and Great Society.  Pundits who accuse the Republicans of growing from Southern racist votes need to keep their eyes on the ball:  particular interests.  The New Deal-Great Society coalitions were cobbled together to serve the needs of their disparate, factious partners, through an emerging administrative state.  Obamacare with its messy procedure and laughable compromises simply highlights the Democratic Party approach to legislation.  You can denounce it as "Chicago politics" or socialism, but of course the senators are simply out to get what they can for their constituencies.  For the place of principle here, note the party's intellect, Obama himself.  One should reread Charles Kesler's study of Obama to see what might be coming in the New Year.

Republican leader McConnell may have played the best hand he could:  of course with 60 votes something would pass.  The point was to make the result so vile that the House might reject the compromised Senate bill.  Surely a conference would destroy the compromises. 

Are the Republicans any more principled, less sectional or factious?  That's the subject of something longer than a blog post.

Categories > Political Parties


Obama's recent accomplishments

This is George Will at his best.  He combines a few paragraphs on the indiscernible accomplishment of Copenhagen (which Obama, in his attempt at "self celebration", calls "unprecendented") and a few on the health care bill passing the Senate.  While the latter doesn't solve the problem of the uninsured or the rise in health care spending, but the legislation does, says Will, "solve the Democrats' 'problem' of figuring out how to worsen the dependency culture and the entitlement mentality that grows with it."  His condemnation of Reid and Nelson is a work of art.  I predict that the Nebraska gambit will be followed by an impressive backlash against Democratic candidates nationwide.  And, by way of a preview of the 2010 elections, note this  Washington Post story on four vulnerable Dem Cong seats in Virginia.
Categories > Presidency

Pop Culture

Egalitarianism Run Amok . . .

Earlier today, I was looking over some old files, and I happened upon a bit of nonsense that I took down about a decade ago.  Would you believe that Disney's 1997 Mr. Magoo has this disclaimer at the end?

The preceding film is not intended as an accurate portrayal of blindness or poor eyesight. Blindness or poor eyesight does not imply an impairment of one's ability to be employed in a wide range of jobs, raise a family, perform important civic duties or engage in a well-rounded life.

All people with disabilities deserve a fair chance to live and work without being impeded by prejudice.

Happening on the old file, I wasn't sure if I was reading an actual quote or a satire. I found confirmation elsewhere in the blogosphere.   Apparently, it's real.

Categories > Pop Culture

Blizzard BBQ in DC

Steve Hayward (with help) showing us how to cook a steak in D.C. after a blizzard!  Nicely done, but I hope not too well done! Where is the Stag's Leap Cabernet?  Regards to the family and Merry Christmas!

Will the World Implode? (Update)

A Christian columnist at the NY Times (cleverly disguised as a film review of Avatar and riff on Tocqueville).

For Kate, and others interested:  C-SPAN's Q&A with Ross Douthat.

Shameless Self-Promotion

California Theming

In the unlikely event there are NLT readers still standing who haven't read enough on California's governmental train wreck, my latest essay for the Claremont Review of Books adds to the body of literature on this dismal subject.  The year-end compilation of NLT bloggers on California's troubles includes this National Review article by Steve, and my piece in City Journal.  Police Navidad!


One Last Go At the Copenhagen Collapse

. . . before I return to shoveling snow.  Over at Planet Gore, I explain why I think environmentalists will some day come to rue global warming as the issue that ate their movement alive.  Meanwhile, I'm told I get a lot of air time tonight on the Fox News documentary about climate change that Bret Baier is hosting at 9 pm eastern.  I spent nearly an hour in the interview chair with Bret, so we'll see how it turns out.
Categories > Environment


Trump Card or Joker?

In this week's edition of the Weekly Standard, out this morning, I contemplate the EPA's "endangerment" finding on greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and why this desperation move may be the biggest blunder yet by the greens.

Noe back to watching the snow fall, and hoping I hid the snow shovel some place no one will find it.
Categories > Environment

NYT: "the reigning brain of the Christian right"

That would be the mild-mannered, sweet-tempered legal and moral theorist Robert George of Princeton.  (See his books here.)  He is the subject of a lengthy profile by David Kirkpatrick, formerly the NY Times resident anthropologist of conservatives.  The key to being "this country's most influential conservative Christian thinker" lies in his advocacy of natural law, though a natural law rooted in analytic philosophy, not Thomism or Aristotle.  Thus, Kantian practical reason (not Scriptural interpretation) becomes the basis for the defense of life against abortion, for decency against pornography, and for chastity against promiscuity.  Kirkpatrick's focus on sexuality distorts George's approach--one of the most touching of George's essays concerns the gratitude immigrants owe this country. 

In this regard, George's Kantianism resembles that of Hadley Arkes, who is however an overt follower of Leo Strauss.  It might be contrasted with the Thomism of James V. Schall, of Advent Conversations fame.  But all of these conservatives wind up politically in the same place.

It is unavoidable to note a certain a-political quality of the George approach, one that makes it alluring to Princeton undergraduates and acceptable to his colleagues.  (He co-teaches a class with Cornel West.)  Contrast George with Harry V. Jaffa, doubtless the profoundest thinker of American conservatism and also one tough brawler--still writing, now on Leo Strauss, at age 91:  William F. Buckley, Jr., once remarked that as hard as it is to disagree with Harry Jaffa, it's even harder to agree with him.

H/T WheatandWeeds "Pass the Biscuits."

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hit Tip to the WSJ

I was wondering why my Amazon numbers were soaring today (up to #981 Friday night--I know it's Christmas and all, but still. . .) and lo and behold I had missed the Wall Street Journal picking it out as one of the ten best books of the year.  Very kind of them.


How Did Bush Do It?

Some weeks ago I said on Kudlow and Company on CNBC that Obama wouldn't want to come back from Copenhagen in December 0 for 2, and that he'd probably sign on to anything to be able to say a "breakthrough" had been accomplished.  Turns out the exceedingly weak non-binding "agreement" that the White House is trumpeting won't even by signed by the principals.  Some agreement.  All those carbon emissions in Copenhagen for this?  

The whole exercise looks more and more like the Woody Allen joke about trying to find a framework to turn a concept into an idea.  Now we're told there won't even be a real agreement next year as hoped; maybe 2016 instead.  Stick a fork in this business; it's done.  It is worse even than Churchill's line about disarmament--a "prolonged and solemn farce."  I'd put it below the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1921 1928 that promised to outlaw war forever.  How'd that work out for everybody?

I expect a theme to emerge from the greens in the coming days: It's really George W. Bush's fault.  We lost so much time during his eight years that we couldn't possibly rescue the issue in just one year of Obama.  This is desperation time.  (Or it shows what a true evil genius Bush really was?--Ed.)  Meanwhile, kudos to India and China, which wouldn't go along with this charade, though they'll happily take our money (which we'll borrow from them) if we indeed try to go through with this charade.  They took the line from Apu on The Simpsons, telling us and the Eurocrats: "You are not the boss of me!"

UPDATE:  I'll add updates as noteworthy things come in, but no matter how much US greens will try to spin the result, just refer them to this statement from John Sauven of Greenpeace UK: "The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.  There are no targets for carbon cuts and no agreement on a legally binding treaty.  It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different mode of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen."  Yeah, John, we're all waiting with baited breath for that radical new mode of politics to arrive.  How many times has it come and gone now?  Oh, and what was that bit the last few years about "the reality-based community"?

UPDATE 2: Stephen Spruiell over at Planet Gore has a complete rundown of the gnashing green teeth over the Copenhagen result, but the headline in the Guardian says it all: "Copenhagen Ends in Failure."

Categories > Environment


Teaching Job at Ashland

I think I better bring this Tenure Track job to your attention.  It is in our department (History and Political Science) and is a newly created job based upon our tremendous growth over the last few years.  The job description speaks for itself, the only thing I will add to it is that you should apply only if you like working with excellent students, and congenial colleagues (I'm excluding myself from that characterization, of course).  Please pass the word, and ask those interested to follow the procedure in the ad.  Thanks.

Categories > Education


Prepare . . . but Don't Expect (for Now)

Ken Masugi and Father James V. Schall, S.J., engaged in a fascinating "Advent" dialogue (transcribed for your edification and available over at The Claremont Institute's website).  In it, Father Schall addresses a number of points, from the President's recent remarks in Oslo to the Pope's recent (and somewhat controversial) encyclical "Charity In Truth." 

Some highlights:

"Christianity wants to say that we can know how men ought to live, but that we also knows the limits of this world and the limits of human virtue and the extent of human vice. One of the great political tasks of Christianity is constantly to remind us that we have not here a lasting city. All modern ideology, usually cast in terms of rights, duties, and values, claims that we can and that religion is the principal impediment to its being attained soon, in this world."

and this formulation is spectacular:

"[W]e are intended for more than we are by nature. That we are is, in fact, our experience and why we can never be satisfied with anything less than the eternal life to which we are destined and for which we are created in the first place."

Read the whole thing . . . (a few times).
Categories > Religion

Foreign Affairs

The Queen in Seat A2

In lighter news, the Queen of England has embarked upon an everyday commuter train in order to reach her northern Christmas destination.

While I appreciate the nod to thrift, I wonder if I am alone in mourning the degradation of regality and ... well, nobility which ought to accompany a royal head-of-state. "Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order," observed Edmund Burke. "It is the Corinthian capital of polished society." I believe Tocqueville noted that democracy, while unlikely to fall into such depths of depravity as might be detected in a decadent aristocracy, likewise was not hopeful of attaining such heights of beauty as exemplified in a virtuous aristocracy. 

Surely the royals have at times failed to provide a dignified and elite model for the masses to adore - but has even the queen abrogated the duty to provide an earthly example of the extraordinary and exquisite? If it would be nearly unthinkable - even absent security considerations - for an American president to travel on public transport, is it not a clear denigration of the honor due to royal station to be accorded less decorum and circumstance than a mere tenured president?

At least Her Majesty sat in first class.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Climategate 2.0

The Climategate scandal is (if you'll forgive the pun) snowballing. Following revelations of climate data manipulation in hacked e-mails from the UK's Climatic Research Unit, the British Meteorological Office has now also been exposed as having corrupted data

Apparently, the British office's study of Russian meteorological data cherry-picked data from a mere 25% of all stations - and that 25% predominantly included stations which 1) were located or re-located in urban centers which had experienced population growth (causing artificial warming) and 2) provided incomplete data which could be easily manipulated. Unsurprisingly, the 75% of stations in static locations with complete data, which were not included in the study, record no significant warming trend.

Having been forced to disclose portions of it's highly concealed raw data (rather than the "adjusted" conclusions which are disseminated for popular consumption), the Meteorological Office has been exposed for egregious exaggerations and manipulation in a wide array of data. See, for example:


The blue line is raw data. The black line is adjustments applied to that data. The red line is the result following the adjustments.

Charlie Martin concludes: "We now have substantial evidence, from several independent sources, that the data used as the basis for the IPCC report [the UN study on global warming] has been adjusted in undocumented ways, and those adjustments account for nearly all the warming we are told has been caused by humans."

The linked stories include several other instances of newly exposed deceptions by the global warming / climate change community, in case there are any fence-straddlers out there. However, it is important to remember that there are three essential questions involved in the global warming debate.

1) Is the Earth getting significantly warmer?

2) If so, are humans causing it?

3) Would a bit of warming be bad?

It seems more likely by the day that the answers to all three questions is "no."

In the beginning, it appeared that the global warming community was simply stubbornly resistant to embracing evidence that their doomsday predictions were incorrect. At worst, they were zealous ideologues, clinging fanatically to their opinions.

Now, it may be necessary to conclude that many alarmists were, in fact, intentionally fabricating the entire crisis of global warming for completely unrelated, socio-economic ulterior-motives. At best, this would constitute an attempted global coup - built upon scientific deception, apocalyptic fear-mongering and the domination of international agencies - which would prove unprecedented, in scale and scope, in the entire course of human history.

Categories > Environment


Let's Stop Tolerating "Zero Tolerance"

Ben Boychuk, over at Infinite Monkeysis on a roll posting on the ridiculous case of the eight-year-old forced into a psychiatric evaluation apparently (though the exact nature of the facts involved remains in dispute) because he drew a picture of the crucifixion and that disturbed school officials who considered the drawing to be "violent."   (See, too, the posts linked in the appendix section of these posts which detail a number of similar cases of outrage).  Like Ben, however, I think this case has very little to do with the supposed "War on Christmas" or even with the First Amendment protection of religious liberty.  What it really is--no matter which version of the facts ends up being correct--is a massive over-reaction by school teachers and administrators bent on adding yet another chapter to the long and savage saga of trying too hard to prevent the unpreventable.  Zero tolerance policies regarding school violence seem to have the effect either of turning otherwise decent school officials into babbling idiots devoid of common sense and judgment or, they empower the zealots on staff who savor the opportunity of acting the part of enforcer of leftist virtue.   But even this assessment misses the point.  The real problem with zero tolerance policies is in what they do to the kids--both the kids ensnared by their idiocy and the kids who, by observing these examples, must be learning that the adults around them and the rules governing them are not worthy of respect. 

And one other thing:  have you ever noticed that the most vociferous endorsers of "zero tolerance" when it comes to things perceived as "violent" are often the first to defend (or, at least, look the other way) when students speak to adults and peers with cheek and disrespect, when they engage in sexually explicit talk or activities, and when they otherwise act like the little jerks that the nuns of old would have rapped on the knuckles with a ruler.  Of course, discipline (unless, of course, it involves therapy) is also considered "violent" . . . and we can't have that.  It's much better to make little Johnny--when he departs from the leftist template--think he's a nut-job or "abnormal" and, while you're at it, make sure all his little friends are made to understand that he is dangerous and "not right."  The empty suited administrators give in to the tin-horn dictators with teaching degrees, and all is right in the world of "education."

Meanwhile, don't plan on getting a teaching degree at the University of Minnesota if you don't plan to jump down the rabbit hole and really risk losing your mind.  Read about what's going on in today's "Schools of Education" to discover what's driving the souls of  today's "educators" and you may begin to see how insane things like the case above get elevated to the status of significant issue.  H/T: National Review

UPDATE:  It's hard to know who to believe in this story as the sketchy facts remain sketchy and the even more sketchy personages involved in the case continue to dispute the story.  Ben Boychuk updates, yet again, but sticks by his essential claim that "zero tolerance" works against the interests of those it ought, most importantly, to defend: kids seeking an education.    
Categories > Education


RIP: Economist Paul Samuelson

Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, died at the age of 94 a few day ago. Samuelson was a disciple of the liberal principles of Keynesian economics, a foil to Milton Friedman's conservative, monetarist perspective. He was instrumental to both neo-Keynesian and neoclassical economic development. My lovely lady, an economist of European persuasion, informs me that his 1948 textbook, Economics, is essential reading for any serious student in the field (it is apparently the most widely read economics textbook in the world).

As President Obama and PM Gordon Brown are charged with adhering to Keynesian economics, Samuelson's influence as a Keynesian apostle continues to be profound. Keynes continues to dominate European thinking on economics, though his sympathies for communist-styled big-government and failure to recognize its inherent de-humanizing elements (of which free-market thinkers such as Friedman were keenly aware) have moderated his influence in the U.S. 

Perhaps the greatest contribution of Obama's tenure will be to further disillusion Americans with the social-control, deficit-spending policies of Samuelson's idol. It would be ironic, indeed, if following a conservative Republican who advocated Friedman's economics but often acted in opposition to its principles (No Child Left Behind, Sarbane's-Oxley), a liberal Democrat forced a resurgence of support for Friedman through the extreme (and detrimental) application of Keynesian policies.

Categories > Economy


China Sending Copenhagen to Mexico

Rarely do I find myself in a position to be thankful toward China. And yet, it seems that the communist state may be responsible for realizing my hopes that the Copenhagen climate talks will fail to produce any significant policies (read: significant damage to our economy). Among other obstacles at the summit, China [which the article cites as a "superpower," alluding to a conventional knowledge of which I was unaware] has refused to allow independent international verification of its compliance with carbon-emission cuts. In response, the U.S. has refused to cut emissions until China repudiates.

Note the honesty which accompanies Senator Kerry's defense of U.S. hesitancy:

"To pass a bill, we must be able to assure a senator from Ohio that steel workers in his state won't lose their jobs to India and China because those countries are not participating in a way that is measurable, reportable and verifiable."

Nations adopting the measures proposed in Copenhagen would so hinder their domestic economies as to become non-competitive in a global market populated by countries refusing to inflict such harm upon themselves. The hope, then, of these environmentalists is to reduce all economies equally - a sort of self-imposed recession, in case the one from which we're just now pulling free wasn't sufficient for everyone.

It seems Copenhagen may be scrapped and a planned Mexico City summit will be held next summer (several months ahead of schedule). World leaders are about to arrive in Copenhagen without the benefit of an agreement of any sort. The likelihood of assembling a deal at the eleventh hour is looking ever-more elusive. Climate change alarmists seem to have been defeated.

Of course, the summit has provided great insights into the nature of the climate change community (beyond those offered by the climate-gate e-mails). Al Gore admitted to lying about the science of global warming, Hugo Chaves received "deafening applause" for denouncing free-market capitalism and favoring global socialism, and massive police forces, originally assembled to repel skeptics of climate change (with their long history of violence), were instead forced to repel rioting supporters of climat change policies (professional demonstrators, no doubt - it's all process for these folks, not substance).

Further, criticism of Copenhagen is becoming more pronounced. Like the health-care bill currently languishing in the U.S. Senate, it seems that the more people are informed about climate change policies, the less supportive they become. Anne Applebaum, sympathetic to the climate change cause, calls the current climate of environmentalist's rhetoric to be "anti-human," Ed Miliband, Britain's climate secretary, warned that the summit was in danger of becoming a "farce," and Britain's Daily Express has published "100 reasons why climate change is natural and not man-made." Also see this clip on ice core studies in Greenland and Antarctica.

Like many conservatives, my hope on the great initiatives of the moment (from climate change to health care to spending) is that they simply stall, without inflicting too great a harm upon private enterprise or public institutions, until more sober minds are again at the helm.

UPDATE: Let's hope that Secretary Clinton's pledge of $100 billion to help poor contries adapt to climate change will be swallowed up by the condition of "transparency" in China. 

Categories > Environment


Niebuhr or Nihilist?

To Peter's post below, see James V. Schall, SJ, who was so shocked by the President's "remarkably sane address" in Oslo that he even speculated whether he would change his abortion stance.  David Brooks heard it as a reflection of Obama's roots in the Christian realism of Reinhold Niebuhr, who is a kind of intellectual great-uncle to today's neo-conservatives.  "The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life."  Brooks explains:  "Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama's speeches [at West Point and Oslo] were thoroughly theological. He talked about the 'core struggle of human nature' between love and evil." 

As I argued in numerous posts during the 2008 campaign, Obama's autobiographies reveal no deep-seated love for this country.  This nihilism has encouraged him to use American principles (as expressed in Lincoln and the Declaration of Independence) to castigate America and even to undermine our own self-interest. 

UPDATE: In similar fashion, Damon Linker uses Niebuhr against the neo-cons:  Niebuhr abhorred American exceptionalism, he argues. 

But I agree with Professor Schall that the speech raises a question (though not on abortion; did Reinhold Niebuhr ever write anything about the subject?):  One great American theme concerns the education of the arrogant rookie, the brash youth who learns to respect the veterans' wisdom and uses their virtues to enhance his own talent.  It is not too late for Obama to follow that path.  That would be a more noble ending than the one he appears careening toward.  In the meantime, conservatives need to continue his education.  

Categories > Presidency


American Thoughts

This Bill Kristol praise of President Obama's Oslo speech reminds me to recount briefly  conversations I had with a half-dozen folks who don't like Obama, and what they thought of the speech.  First, they were surprised by it.  Second, their view is that Obama acted and spoke as the American President, rather than as an ideologue or a party leader, and they all thought that this was the first time he did this; although one guy claimed he also did it at West Point.  Third, they thought that his references to being "head of state" with the obligations and duties attached, was significant.  (I note that while I consider the "head of state" formulation to be true--as was his mentioning that he is the "American commander-in-chief"--I thought that overly European in it's mode).  Fourth, these folks thought that he said what he said in part because of the long deliberation he was involved in over sending troops to Afghanistan; he learned much about geopolitical necessities (my words).  And last, there was a general feeling that giving the kind of speech he gave justified his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize; a good use of opportunity.  There were, I should add, a minority of people who don't trust him, and will never trust him, regardless of what he says or does; but, that is another matter, beyond discussion.  A few days ago I finally heard the whole of the speech on C-Span and tried to listen to it as a European might (never mind others for a minute) and realized how important the American President is in his person and in his speech: Because he has a massive amount of authority not only because of the country he represents with its principles and its power, but also in this case because he is post-Bush (who lost his authority) president, a black American man, a Democrat, even a man of the left, who also happens to seem especially smart.  Because of this (and the international media attention and praise he has so far received) the things he said were only surprising at first; on second thought, the speech by the American President was not surprising because they were essentially American thoughts, and therefore not only interesting but also, as always, consequential.  And even Europeans can't help noting that you do show respect to the opinions of mankind; you actually speak to them and with them; sentiment for them isn't enough.  Yes, you Americans remain an interesting people.  Note the Teddy Roosevelt quote from Kristol.  Those words also might be imperfect, as might Obama's, but they could only be said by Americans.
Categories > Presidency


Another White House Cock-Up

Another uninvited guest got to shake Obama's hand in the White House.  Can just anybody get in these days?
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

A Nuclear Iran

Another domino has fallen in the cascade of evidence demonstrating the absurdity of Iran's denial that it is seeking nuclear weaponry. Leaked Iranian technical documents reveal that the country was attempting to test a triggering devise for nuclear weapons in 2007.

There are several take-aways from this discovery.

1.  The international community continues to be alarmingly inept at policing nuclear research. The consensus among intelligence agencies was that Iran had abandoned nuclear weapon ambitions in 2003. The revelation of progress in 2007 exposes global inspections as impotent and suggests that Iran's current proximity to nuclear status is a matter of extreme uncertainty.

2.  Obama's efforts to dialogue with Ahmadinejad - employing the power-of-persuasion charisma which differentiates him from his predecessor - have been proved a farce. Bush was comfortable branding Iran as an "evil" state actor and found the most useful dialogue to be toppling a neighboring regime for alleged weapons' research. Not subtle, perhaps, but at least cognizant of the nature of our enemy. Obama's judgement has been severely wanting in foreign affairs, time and again confusing the treatment due to allies and adversaries.

3. Iran is unfazed by Western accusations - or even discoveries - of continued nuclear progress. In fact, by responding to the discovery of a hidden nuclear plant with an announcement that they intend to build an additional 10-15 reactors, Iran has shown itself to be liberated and emboldened when caught in violation of international standards. Certainly, it's far easier to conduct research when one no longer needs hide it from the world.

4. Israel continues to emerge as the only country in the world prepared to take serious action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Obama's reaction to the surging evidence and escalating urgency of a looming confrontation with Iran has been to intensify behind-the-scenes calls for further sanctions. Today's WaPO carries Danielle Pletka's counsel that such a strategy is fool-hardy. In the absence of a reformulated approach to Iran, U.S. policy will continue to be "subcontracting American national security to Israel."

While Obama continues to focus on the domestic economy (a worthwhile endeavor), he must be aware that to ignore Iran is simply not an option. Should Iran successfully test a nuclear weapon or claim a functional stockpile, all other priorities will be relegated to second-tier as the world refocuses all of its attention on a triumphant and unleashed New Persia.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Political Parties

Lessons From the Big-Tent Democrats

The New Republic's John Judis calls our attention to a Washington Post article on California Assemblyman Anthony Adams, who won election in 2006 on a promise to vote against any tax increase, voted for a package of tax increases in 2009, and susequently faced the wrath of conservatives and an attempt to recall him from office.  Adams "had the gall to vote for Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's state budget, which, in the face of a projected $42 billion deficit and unpaid state worker salaries, included modest tax increases," Judis writes archly.

What California Republicans need, of course, is to learn to tolerate diversity within their ranks on issues they consider important.  They should begin by cutting Anthony Adams the same slack on tax increases that The New Republic has extended to Sen. Joe Lieberman on health care.  Judis's colleague Jonathan Chait assessed Lieberman's opposition to the proposed Medicare buy-in this morning in an even-tempered way.  The problem, he explains, is that Lieberman is angry at the liberal Democrats who supported Ned Lamont's primary challenge against him in 2006, so he is happy to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of Americans who would be rescued by Reid/Pelois/Obamacare.  Lieberman has engaged in "obvious bad-faith negotiation" on health care.  The fundamental problem, Chait contends, is that "Lieberman isn't actually all that smart."  After all, "The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate."  Enough said!

TNR is light-hearted about Lieberman compared to other Democratic precincts in the blogosphere.  Open Left calls him an "arrogant, insurance flack" who "needs to be stripped of his committee chairmanship and targeted for defeat by Democrats in 2012."  The Huffington Post reports that 81% of Democrats in a survey favor making Lieberman the former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmantal Affairs Committee.  According to Matthew Yglesias, "The leverage that Lieberman and other "centrists" have obtained on [health care] (and on climate change) stems from a demonstrated willingness to embrace sociopathic indifference to the human cost of their actions."

The California Republicans' problem, according to the Post, is that their bitter reaction to Assemblyman Adams reveals their "chaos and destructive divisions."  If only they could get along as well as the national Democratic party.
Categories > Political Parties

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Straight and Jive

H.W. Fowler has been reissued by Oxford: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition (with an intro by David Crystal).  This is a much better edition than the third edition of 1996, which was heavily re-worked by R.W. Burchfield, as Jim Holt notes ina short essay in today's New York Times. 

I note in passing that Louis Armstrong wrote a lot.  He loved words.  He would carry his portable typewriter everywhere, and write at every opportunity (two fingers).  He also carried with him a dictionary and a book of synonyms and antonyms. He wrote two autobiographies, published  essays and book reviews, and also wrote tons of letters. When asked if he wrote Swing That Music, he said..."it might not have been a literary masterpiece, but every word of it was my own, so I can read it and understand it."  He once wrote to his manager Joe Glaser: "I personally think that it is imperative that you do it.....Damn....That's a big ass woid."

Foreign Affairs

Tucker on Terror

I had another conversation with David Tucker on the terror wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and then the domestic form.  Tough stuff, this, never fully in one's grasp, pretending to understand this is like trusting in the tameness of a wolf.  We will talk again.  Thanks, David.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Maybe He Should Ask for the Churchill Bust Back

Time to give Obama props when props are due.  He really turned the tables on those Norwegian bedwetters by embracing classical just war theory and standing beside George W. Bush in noting that evil in the world exists and will not yield to honeyed words or resolutions from Brussells.  Yes, there was still a lot of hooey-gooey stuff in the speech, but it was a definite break from previous Obama speeches.  It seemed a clever way of acknowledging that not only did he not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, but that the audience didn't deserve to have their nihilist prejudices flattered.  I suspect the real audience for Obama's remarks wasn't the folks assembled in the room in Oslo.  More on this in a moment.

What struck me as most interesting, though, was the passage where he invoked the non-violent legacy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, but then went on to say:  "But as a head of a state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone." Hmmm.  What does that remind me of.  Oh yeah, it reminds of this famous passage from Churchill's discussion of the meaning of the Munich agreement The Gathering Storm

The Sermon on the Mount is the last word in Christian ethics.  Everyone respects the Quakers.  Still, it is not on these terms that Ministers assume their responsibilities of guiding states.  Their duty is first so to deal with other nations as to avoid strife and war and to eschew aggression in all its forms, whether for nationalistic or ideological objects.  But the safety of the State, the lives and freedom of their own fellow countrymen, to whom they owe their position, make it right and imperative in the last resort, or when a final and definite conviction has been reached, that the use of force should not be excluded.

Obama might want to retrieve the bust of Churchill that he unceremoniously sent back to Britain after taking office.  

Now, for my conclusion. I think the real audience for this speech was the mullahs in Iran.  
Categories > Foreign Affairs


White House Serves Acorn

No, not in the legal sense - but the gourmet!

This is sufficiently funny that I actually hope it was intentional.

P.S. Does this count as a "tasteless" joke?

Categories > Presidency


The Most Important Post I'll Ever Write

Science has discovered what everybody always knew:

Dogs are better than cats.

Categories > Race

Political Philosophy

The Hawkishness of Obama

The full text of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is here.

The White House admitted that Obama approached the speech with two particularly troublesome issues in mind. The less interesting was his obvious undeservedness of the award, an issue which Obama swiftly and concisely swept aside - as he had done in his first speech on the topic in America - by simply agreeing with the criticism and promising to attempt to live up to an honor prematurely bestowed upon him. For those who find ample evidence for scrutinizing Obama's narcissism, this was an occasion of public humility which served him well.

The second issue was the seeming paradox of a war-time president, in the midst of a troop build-up, receiving a prize for peace. On this front, Obama was far more surprising. If not downright hawkish, Obama was at least far from pacifistic. Midpoint through the speech, NRO's Daniel Foster noted: "This is starting to sound pretty....neoconservative. With a nod, of course, to multilateralism."

Naturally, Obama's speech was not perfect and provided moments of liberal prejudice. By way of omission, he specifically excluded the present war in Iraq from his list of just wars. And while praising the "great religion" of Islam, he equates Christian crusaders to terrorists and claims that "no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint - no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith." Rather unwarranted assertions, I think. 

Nevertheless, the substance of the speech was serious and direct. Obama spoke of human nature, Just War Theory, humanitarian intervention, realism vs. idealism, the limits of discourse and his role as a political leader. With a few minor tweaks, this oration could have been spoken by Dick Chaney at a Tea Party rally.

In fact, the speech proved far more aggressive and assertive than has been the actual conduct of this administration. Obama has been criticized even from the left for his docility in foreign policy - until the "surge" in Afghanistan, of course. Perhaps this defining speech provides an insight into a disconnect between Obama's logical thinking and instinctual reflexes on foreign conflicts - as well as which of the two most commonly determines his ultimate course of action.

Health Care

The Politics of Repeal

Charles Kesler's lead editorial in the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books appears today on Real Clear Politics.  In it, Kesler takes up the question of what conservatives must do if some version of Obamacare does manage to pass through the Senate.  Though not a foregone conclusion, it seems likely that something called "Health Care Reform" will be put into force with the most partisan majority ever to advance a major piece of social legislation.  The notion that such a thing, once passed, must be accepted as the new reality is--as Kesler ably demonstrates--preposterous.

While it is a fair to point out that new entitlement legislation, once enacted, has proven near impossible to retract or even scale back, Kesler shows why the situation in this case may be very different.  The first point has to do with the extreme partisan nature of the thing--which makes this move unprecedented.  The second point has to do with the fact that "battles to reverse public policy considered unfair, unwise, and unconstitutional are a storied part of American history" and have often proved successful.  Finally, our fiscal woes have forced even the most spend-thrift of Democrats to concede that there must be some show of an attempt to pay for these reforms.  This means that there is likely to be a significant delay between the time of new taxing and the doling out of new benefits.  This last piece of information ought to be especially heartening to conservatives and a cause for bolstering their courage to rise up against an already unpopular plan.  It is not likely to become more popular as we spend more and get less . . .
Categories > Health Care


47%: Honeymoon's over, but is divorce likely?

"President Obama's job approval rating has fallen to 47% in the latest Gallup poll, the lowest ever recorded for any president at this point in his term." Bush, by way of comparison, was at 86% by the same time of his first term (though as a newly-minted war-time president overseeing a relatively healthy economy). Rasmussen corroborates with a job approval of 47%-52% (strongly approve: 27%; strongly disapprove: 38%).

Getting into particulars, Obama's approval is 14% among Republicans, 42% among independents and 83% among Democrats. (May we now lay to rest the absurd notion that Obama was going to bring "change" to partisan politics? Unless the meaning of "change" was division without precedent.) Gallop credits the low numbers to a lack of perceived progress on any of his major initiatives and mounting opposition to healthcare reform. The right and left will likely remain rather fixed in their opinions, but losing the independents will sound the death knoll of President Obama - and the Democrats.

Polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, but presidential job approval ratings are a rather solid snapshot of the national mood. Broad, all-encompassing polls such as this are driven in part by basic emotional trends - the most important likely being confidence (that's why the dissolution of foreign governments follow a vote of "non-confidence"). Two-thirds of voters believe unemployment will not have improved by this time next year. Such fears will always fuel negative approval ratings, and Obama's numbers will likely continue to decline until national faith in economic security is restored.

The most interesting reflection of the broader national picture is Rasmussen's finding that, in "a three-way Generic Ballot test, Democrats attract 36% of the vote, the Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%."  Tea Party Candidate? Did this second-ranked third-party even exist last month? The GOP's poor showing isn't as bad as it seems, of course, as very few Tea Partiers are probably left-leaning liberals sympathetic to the Democrats. Nonetheless, the ideological rift in the GOP so desired by Democrats (and many conservative Republicans) seems capable of manifesting itself in ways far more practical than many might have imagined. Could a weak incumbent on the left and an enervated opposition party limping toward the middle lead to a (momentary) third-party revolution on the right?

Categories > Presidency


Stimulus 2.0

Einstein defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results.

President Obama announced yesterday that he will propose a second (or third, fourth, for those who have been counting) stimulus package targeted at job creation. Obama outlined the multi-billion dollar spending proposal by explaining that the nation must continue to "spend our way out of this recession." According to the Washington Post, the plan's "job-creation ideas build largely on elements of the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed this year."

Though it is quite probable that Obama's new (or, recurring) stimulus plan falls squarely within Einstein's criteria, at least a few emphases of the plan contain a kernel of potential optimism. It will, of necessity, carry a much lower price tag, small businesses will be targeted for tax relief and there seems to be an intention to reigning in debt accumulation. Yet there is sure to be plenty of the sort of unsupervised spending (i.e., waste) which has defined the former stimulus, and there is little chance the bill will even be considered in Congress until next year.

Again, Obama and the democrats are likely to "own" this stimulus package, as Republicans have indicated shock at the administration's obsession with continuing down this rabbit hole. Thus far, such ownership has not benefitted the Dems. Rassmusen polls indicate that Americans oppose this stimulus bill by a 56%-33% margin, with an equal numbers believing the last stimulus either helped or hurt the economy. Further, by 53%-29%, voters believe "the U.S. economy will be helped more by decisions made by business leaders to help their own businesses grow rather than by decisions made by government officials. 59% to 24% believe that an increase in government spending will hurt the economy.

Obama is now facing an uphill battle on economic policy in the face of a American populace which still seems to cling to the traditional, rugged-individualist idea of free-market capitalism - but it doesn't seem that he's taken any notice.

Categories > Economy


Copenhagen: Day 1

The feature-film-worthy drama surrounding the global warming debate may be reaching it's crescendo at the Copenhagen Summit. In the wake of the still-developing British "climate-gate" scandal, the global summit opened on Monday with typical doomsday predictions (to include an Apocalypse-themed movie aimed at today's children) and a dogmatic recitation from the UN (perhaps in the vein of Big Lie theory) that there is, unequivocally, no doubt that humans are the cause of accelerating global warming - a claim contradicted by a New York Times article released the previous day citing persistent and renewed skepticism. (See Ronald Rychlak's revealing policy study on the manipulation of visual evidence. Hat tip: Prof. Robert Destro.)  

A major issues at Copenhagen is whether developed nations will subsidize the carbon-reduction procedures of developing nations. That is, will rich nations pay for poor nations to remain poorer than they would otherwise need, in an effort to curb carbon emissions from those nations. The summit was thrown into turmoil yesterday by the leak of a secret draft agreement (here) by rich nations which would relocate decision making power from the UN to the World Bank (i.e., rich countries), repudiate the Kyoto protocols by enforcing stricter carbon-emission levels on poor nations than rich nations, and heavily condition grants to poor countries.

In the days leading to the summit, an article published in 45 countries (56 newspapers) criticized American "obstructionism" and lamented that Obama was bound by a reluctant, domestically-oriented Congress (which has refused to seriously debate the politically suicidal cap-and-trade legislation). Ever anxious to appease the global community, Obama yesterday announced a counter-intuitive strategy - dubbed by the Powerline boys as "Democracy 2.0" - by which the EPA declared greenhouse gasses (as a source of global warming) to be a health hazard and is thus enabled to regulate U.S. industry without the hassle of bothersome legislation.

Like the Nobel Prize he will soon accept, any laurels placed upon Obama by the UN and Copenhagen attendees will not be perceived by Americans as a success for the U.S.  However, whereas the Nobel was of no consequence to our national interest, domestic greenhouse gas regulations and any Copenhagen agreement (including the much maligned, and hence sensible, Danish text) will have potentially sever repercussions on the U.S. economy (a NYT article today prices any Copenhagen accord at "trillions of dollars over the next few decades"). Trading the resuscitation of America's foremost national concern for international progress on an issue of very little importance to most Americans will not improve Obama's abysmal approval rating. One can only hope that a self-preservation instinct will prod Obama into continuing America's proud tradition of "obstructing" the policies of global warming madness.

UPDATE #1: Sarah Palin weighs in here, going so far as to call for Obama to boycott Copenhagen.

UPDATE #2: Powerline has a must read post on the EPA's CO2 finding (fronting a Cato article by Patrick Michaels and Paul Knapenberger).  Scott Johnson concludes:

The architects of the modern administrative state with its vast array of administrative agencies combining legislative, executive, and judicial powers have sought to displace the system of self-government imagined under limited powers into being by the American Constitution. As we see in the case of the EPA endangerment finding, they have achieved extraordinary success.

Categories > Environment


Deck the Halls!

Rebecca Teti writes a beautiful column calling on Christians to eschew the temptation to grouse about all the extra effort and expense of the Christmas season.  She also takes to task one of my biggest pet peeves . . . the self-serving finger-wagging of those who are inclined to be less than generous by nature but disguise it with the tired, "Christmas is too commercial" lament.  Yes, it is . . . but so what?  It's also a time for true liberality and joy.  As Mrs. Teti says, "moderate your moderation"!   
Categories > Religion


A Pomo on Palin

Post-modern public intellectual Stanley Fish has long bedeviled conservatives (as well as conventional liberals), but I've found him entertaining and sometimes instructive.  One suspects he enjoys being contrarian just for the sake of it.  Consider his review of Sarah Palin's autobiography.  The last paragraph: 

      The message is clear. America can't be stopped. I can't be stopped. I've stumbled and fallen, but I always get up and run again. Her political opponents, especially those who dismissed Ronald Reagan before he was elected, should take note. Wherever you are, you better watch out. Sarah Palin is coming to town.
Categories > Politics

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Joyous Exuberance

David Margolick gives a fair review of Terry Teachout's Pops, but a very fine review is to be found in the Dec. 14 edition of The New Yorker (not available on line).  It is by John McWhorter and he explains both Satchmo's "joyous exuberance" and "loud dignity."  Very much worth reading, as you listen to West End Blues.


Well . . . It Will Do One of Those Things, Anyway!

When I saw the teaser headline on Yahoo for this story I was only glancing at the screen and I thought it said, "Obama Plan to Spur Jokes" but, on closer examination, I see that "Jokes" actually reads "Jobs."  Yeah . . . that's the ticket!  Though I guess "comedian" IS a job of sorts . . .
Categories > Politics


Hayward Climategate Links

Links to the "always impressive" Mr. Hayward resulting from his ruminations on the Climategate scandal abound.  I am sure there are more that I am missing, but here are a couple that you should certainly check out. 
Categories > Environment

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Christmas Reading from the Claremont Institute

The Claremont Institute offers a reading list for Christmas with contributions from 28 different writers and scholars (including ME) and ranging from biography, philosophy and history to novels, children's books and even television programs and CDs.  (Perhaps "reading list" is a misnomer in this digital age and it should be replaced with "intellectual stimulation list"?)  In any event, have a look at the offerings and the descriptions therein and enjoy!  My contribution includes two wonderful books I have enjoyed reading aloud to my children during the last year along with an explanation of why I think you will have similar experiences with them if you have children about who are in want of good stories--as, of course, they all are.   Happy reading and Merry Christmas!


Rule of the Wise is No Gift of the Magi

William McGurn writes in today's Wall Street Journal:  "As someone who worked inside a White House, I say you really believe government should be small when you see your friends running it."  What a great line.  The whole article is worth a read, but I'd also offer a quibble.  Where McGurn says, "[C]onservatives believe that even our smartest friend is no match for the collective wisdom of the marketplace," I would scratch the notion that the market is, in fact, wise. 

It seems to me that this is one area where conservatives tend to get in trouble with liberals and even with non-ideological normal people who, quite sensibly, long for good government as opposed to chaos.  Conservatives should give it up.  There is no special "wisdom" in the marketplace--but there is, perhaps, more justice.  And this is where we need to make our stand.  In the first place, the "chaos" that the market produces cannot be distinguished from the "chaos" produced by modern-day wise men--except in the relative justice of it.  We are bound to have some measure of chaos in government and in markets.  Perfect justice is impossible.  So the question is not whether we will have chaos or whether or not some people will end up getting the shaft, but who or what should be controlling that inevitability.  Do we trust that the intentions of our would-be Magi are more selfless and pure than chance?  Or are we wise enough to recognize that they are every bit as flawed as our own friends would be if they were controlling it?

UPDATE:  Wheat and Wheeds makes an important amendment to my points above in noting that one big reason people tend to distrust what we call "free markets" today is that so few of these markets actually are free.  Government intervention, in the form of over-regulation and cronyism, has undermined the freedom of too many markets and it (along with nascent class envy) has contributed to the cynicism about them . . . which is, of course, convenient for those who want argue that markets are inherently unjust.  But that IS the way of the Left: take power, create a problem, complain about the problem you've created, promise that THIS time you will fix it, take more power, make the problem worse . . . and so on.  Just look at health care.   
Categories > Politics


Dorm rooms and Broomsticks?

Ken Thomas brought my attention to this article (nicely written for one so young, I'd add) about a strange phenomenon now consuming the college-searching set.  It seems that top colleges are marketing themselves in ways that will appeal to students looking for the "Hogwarts Experience" and seeking to compare colleges based on how close they come to the ambiance presented in the Harry Potter series.  Of course, students are more apt to be looking for a place to study chemistry than potions . . . but some do also seek to play a non-flying version of Quidditch and to divide themselves into "houses" based on the fictional divisions at Hogwarts.  The young author of this article will have none of it and very sensibly argues that this is an all-too-transparent marketing effort to manipulate nervous applicants with reassuring and favorable comparisons to the literature and images of their youth.  This particular young woman wants to put aside childish things and study the real world rather than pretend to inhabit a magical one--which is, as I say, sensible.  But marketers these days--cynical though they are--don't come upon ideas this ubiquitous and, apparently, effective by cynicism alone.  They must be tapping into something deeper.

What might that be?  I'm listening just now to the old P.G. Wodehouse classic, Mike:  A Public School Story which, to untutored American ears, sounds remarkably more like Mike:  A Fancy Boarding School Story.  It sounds like a jolly good place . . . a serious place but also a place full of proper levity.  Mike is a boy who excels in cricket, so this necessarily consumes a good bit of his attention and efforts, but as with his "house," his team is a kind of  vehicle for pride and excellence.  Much like Harry Potter, Mike is a part of things larger than himself and is engaged in activities that give him ample opportunity to shine--in large measure because of the honor he can bring to his house, his team and his school . . . and, many speculate, someday to his country. 

I think young people long for the kind of transformative meaningfulness they imagine a Hogwarts education--or an English style boarding experience--might give them.  I think they also long for the kind of order and routine that seems to predominate in such a world . . . that being a part of something larger than oneself and a kind of school spirit that popular culture once thought to be corny--in the 70s and 80s for instance.  Maybe this is a kind of over-reaction to the massive lack of guidance and order that tends now to predominate in many schools.  The lack of core curriculum?  The tearing down of Greek fraternities and sororities?  The lack of rules and order?  Perhaps there's more to this marketing ploy than a simple lifting of a popular meme . . . 

Categories > Education


It's Michael Bellesiles all over again

Remember Michael Bellesiles?  Back in 2000 he published a book entitled Arming America, which claimed that, contrary to myth, very few Americans of the Early Republic actually owned firearms.  Early reviews were fulsome in their praise as academics, excited to see a work that confirmed their antigun prejudices, rushed to promote the book and its conclusions.  The author was even awarded a Bancroft Prize, perhaps the most prestigious award in the profession.

Then came Clayton Cramer to spoil the party.  Although a published historian, Cramer lacked a university affiliation, and was employed as a software engineer.  Nevertheless he picked apart Arming America, finding that the author had misrepresented some of his evidence, took some of it out of context, and made some up out of whole cloth.

Among academic historians the initial response to Cramer's findings was to circle the wagons.  Cramer was dismissed as a crank, a rank amateur lacking a PhD, and--worst of all--a member of the NRA.  But his discoveries could not be dismissed so easily, and as the weeks went on it became impossible to deny that Bellesiles's work was a fraud.  A number of academics broke ranks and joined the rising chorus of criticism.  When pressed to turn over his research notes, Bellesiles stonewalled, then claimed that they had been destroyed in a flood.  Garry Wills, who had originally written a glowing review in the New York Times, confessed, "I was took. The book is a hoax."  The Trustees of Columbia University voted to revoke his Bancroft Prize, and the author was pressured into resigning from his tenured position at Emory University.

Am I alone in seeing strong similarities between the Bellesiles case and Climategate?  In the case of global, climate change, we see the manufacture of a spurious consensus, backed by evidence that researchers have proven unwilling to submit to public scrutiny.  We have a number of educated outsiders (as well as some climatologists) challenging the thesis. Meanwhile the climate change alarmists react defensively, furiously denouncing dissenters ad hominem, accusing them of ties to right-wing organizations and business interests. 

Is Climategate the functional equivalent of the Bellesiles scandal?  I can't answer this; I'm an historian, not a scientist.  All I know is that the truth has a way of getting out eventually; let's hope it does before Congress votes on Cap and Tax.

UPDATE: Apparently I'm not the first to draw this parallel.

Categories > Environment

Foreign Affairs

The Swiss Cuckoo Clock Sounds Off

To recall the line from The Third Man, this time Switzerland may gain distinction by alerting Europe to save itself.  Ross Douthat goes behind the Swiss referendum banning the construction of mosques.  "The European elites assumed that the divide between Islam and the West was as antiquated as scimitars and broadswords, and that a liberal, multicultural, post-Christian federation would have no difficulty absorbing new arrivals from more traditional societies."  Just as Californians and other Americans have used the referendum to do what cowardly legislators failed to do on hot issues such as bilingual education and affirmative action, so the Swiss have acted. 

Millions of Muslims have accepted European norms. But millions have not. This means polygamy in Sweden; radical mosques in Britain's fading industrial cities; riots over affronts to the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark; and religiously inspired murder in the Netherlands. It means terrorism, and the threat of terrorism, from London to Madrid.

Today the Swiss live more than ever under the fear of Islamic terrorism, because the secular European elites didn't recognize the threat before them. Post-nationalist elites won't be of any help here in America either. 

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Opposite of Progress . . .

What America thinks about Congress: "One telling moment came after Hart asked each voter to write the name that comes to mind when they think of Congress. Bill, a 62-year-old retired automobile-industry executive and independent who backed Obama, wrote 'Satan.' When Hart asked why, Bill answered, 'Because I wasn't sure of the correct spelling of 'Beelzebub.' Now that's intensity."
Categories > Congress

Foreign Affairs

Remembering Pearl Harbor

The late Roberta Wohlstetter's Pearl Harbor (google excerpt) is the must-read book, not only for Pearl Harbor but for 9/11 as well.  She explains the difference between background "noise" and the actual events, and how difficult it can be to determine which is what--especially when our own objectives are unclear.  She is particuarly acute on technological change and political will in shaping strategy.  Here is the Albert Wohlstetter website.  I was recently reminded that venerable American historian Edmund Morgan is her brother; here is her obituary, which refers to the work of her husband Albert, who was an important figure in the Cold War and the teacher of many a Washington DC defense intellectual and policy maker. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs


A Winning Afghan Strategy

My Friday lunch companion, who had helped devise the surge strategy in Iraq, despaired of our Afghanistan policy.  Somewhat dispersing my gloom comes now Eliot Cohen, author of the indispensable Supreme Command.  He argues for an Afghan strategy that necessarily differs from the successful Iraq surge.  Cohen maintains that Petraeus et al. still fight within the conventions of conventional warfare.  While that works to an extent, a successful anti-Taliban strategy requires a "special kind of soldier" and a "special kind of civilian."  The "greatest weakness of the [counterinsurgency] literature:  It often lacks deep knowledge of the other side."  Furthermore,

In every such war, the counterinsurgents learn the need for local knowlege: language first, and from it, all they can discover about authority structures, grievances, customs and local politics. The broad principles melt away because, as one colonel told me in 2008 while flying over eastern Afghanistan, the counterinsurgent soon realizes that "it's a valley-by-valley war."

       The kind of specific knowledge needed does not lend itself to treatises, much less best sellers....

       Making [counterinsurgency] work in real time, therefore, requires the right kinds of practioner, vast patience and local knowledge of a kind that is difficult to build up and easily perishable in large organizations. As Obama will discover, even setting the strategy seems easy by comparison. 

Some other thoughts in this companion WaPo article, on a village by village strategy.  There is no substitute for prudence:  "reflective, patient, creative" soldiers and civilians. 

Categories > Military


Climate Scientist to Revkin: "we can no longer trust you" to carry water for us.

Okay folks, here comes a new e-mail from the climate community yesterday that I did not hack (I was copied on it), and it is a case study in not getting it.  Back story: Ever since Chris Horner and I were at a conference together with warmenist Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois a couple years ago, Chris and I have been included on Prof. Schesingler's e-mail distribution list, which usually consist of flagging climate news stories.  Yesterday we got copied on this message Schlesinger sent to science reporter Andy Revkin:

Copenhagen prostitutes?
Climate prostitutes?
Shame on you for this gutter reportage. [Emphasis added.]
This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.
The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.
Of course, your blog is your blog.
But, I sense that you are about to experience the 'Big Cutoff' from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included. [Emphasis added.]
Copenhagen prostitutes?
Unbelievable and unacceptable.
What are you doing and why?

So what so annoyed Schlesinger? Here's Revkin's offending blog post, which among other things passes along the amusing story of Copenhagen prostitutes offering free sex to climate campaigners (I'll leave to Mark Steyn the suitable lip gloss on this story), along with some other news items that the climate campaigners don't want reported. Judge for yourself if this constitutes "gutter reportage" and deserves censure from the climate science community. I'll add that one of the CRU e-mails I read mentioned that Revkin is not always reliable from their point of view; I can't now find it, but recall it vividly for the presumption that reporters are supposed to serve as mere transcribers for the climate campaign.

This raises another small but perhaps significant point that I didn't have room to comment on in my Weekly Standard article: How is it possible for a group of smart people to write over 1,000 e-mails over the course of a decade without a single shred of wit or humor in any of them? There isn't the tiniest hint anywhere that any of these guys ever grin.  It jives with my experience of environmentalists for 20 years now that they are the single most humorless slice of humanity on the planet. (My favorite: I had a top greenie lawyer for the Audubon Society once say at a conference that "I regard the National Association of Home Builders to be every bit as evil as the National Rifle Association." My comeback was: "I can understand why you'd think that about the home builders, but what's your problem with the NRA?" The guy didn't even crack a smile.) And here we see Andy Revkin threatened with a "cutoff" because he writes--on a blog--something mildly amusing about Copenhagen.

Categories > Environment


RIP: William Wilson, First Ambassador to the Vatican

Since my attention had turned to the Vatican for my last post, I should also mention the passing today of William A. Wilson, the first ambassador to the Vatican. 

Wilson was appointed to the post by his close friend Ronald Reagan in 1981. However, he first arrived in Rome as a personal representative, or presidential envoy, as an anti-papist law from 1867 prohibited the U.S. from establishing formal ties with the Vatican. This shameful reflection of lingering anti-Catholic sentiment was repealed only as recently as 1984, when Wilson assumed full status as an ambassador (under Pope John Paul II's watch). 

As a statesman, it was said of Wilson that he was "a delightful, gentlemanly like man of the old school and he was the perfect diplomat." Georgetown University maintains a collection of his papers. He was known as a rancher and horse lover, ham radio operator and successful oil man. One wonders whether his class of political men pass from the world stage with greater frequency than they are succeeded by men of equal measure.

Categories > Religion

Literature, Poetry, and Books

As You Like It, in America

The Shakespeare Threatre in Washington, DC is staging (for the next two weeks) a scintillating version of As You Like It. Director Maria Aitken radically expands on two lines from the play:  Jaques's "All the world's a stage" and Celia's "Now, we go contentedly to freedom," into the forest of Arden.   After a conventional beginning virtually every scene is set in a different era, in Arden as America, where freedom blooms in myriad ways.  The versatile actors portray revolutionaries at Valley Forge, explorers, antebellum Southerners, cowboys, and Hollywood glitterati, and of course Rosalind portrays different men.  The focus on freedom is further underscored by some daring stage acrobatics.  (I was reminded of a version of Faust, where Mephistopheles descends on Faust in a swing from the rafters.)  Wheat&Weeds has a keen eye for the merits and shortcomings of the production.  Among its many virtues, W&W provides an insightful guide to the stage in Washington.

Unable to locate my copy of As You Like It, I resorted to my local library, where the only copy left was a "No Fear Shakespeare," which has the original text on one page, faced by a "translation anyone can understand."  Of course, no one who knew the play only in translation would wonder why the play endures.  The modern paraphrasing does little to clarify and obfuscates the beauty of the original.  Fortunately, the title wasn't translated "Whatever." 


Who's an Ideologue?

Arthur Herman has an interesting long essay in the latest Commentary about the history of critiques of the CIA.  Along the way, he reminds us that the CIA has, as a rule, been run by the liberal establishment.  I found this bit of note:

[William Casey] injected himself directly into the analysis process and did not hesitate to throw aside National Intelligence Estimates he felt did not fit with the facts (or, liberal critics claimed, with his own prejudices). This included the CIA's assessment of the condition of the Soviet economy. . . .

On October 27, 1980, Soviet émigré economist Igor Birman published a piece in the Washington Post stating that the CIA's current picture of the Soviet economy was far too optimistic. The Soviet economy was in a state of "crisis," Birman declared, while Russian living standards were "a fourth or even a fifth the American level." The CIA's standard view was that Soviet per capita GNP was roughly half that of the U.S.

Outside critics had often attacked the CIA's operational side but never its analysis, and certainly not from the political Right. However, Birman was joined by other experts--including Henry Rowen, the chair of the National Intelligence Council--and soon became Casey's favorite economist. In 1986, Casey sent President Reagan a memo stating that the Soviet economy was in far worse shape than his own agency was saying. That dovetailed with a growing consensus inside the Reagan administration that the Soviet economy was headed for collapse and that the CIA had gotten it wrong for years. .  . .

The CIA's analysts insisted that the Soviet economy was about to expand and the following year stated that "the Soviet economy has made solid gains since 1960."

This reminds me of a pearl of wisdom from Paul Samuelson's economics textbook in 1989:  "The Soviet economy is proof that . . . a socialist command economy can function and even thrive."   And the Keynsians said that Casey was an ideologue!

Categories > Economy


Beauty and the Bibles of Stone

Dr. Schramm's earlier post, suggesting the importance of beauty in the elevated stature and performance of the Stradivarius, reminds me of a recent address by Pope Benedict XVI on the purpose and effect of beauty in religious architecture - specifically, the medieval cathedrals.

Cathedrals function, fundamentally, as educational tools - "Bibles of Stone" - which, through their earthly examples of beauty and majesty, naturally lift and direct the soul toward God, the perfection of beauty. "The force of the Romanesque style and the splendor of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating way to approach the Mystery of God." Cathedrals "showed a synthesis of faith and art expressed harmoniously through the universal and fascinating language of beauty."

Such contemplations should be read alongside Plato's synonymous treatment of the form of beauty in The Symposium. But perhaps St. Augustine, as is often the case, said it best: 

Ask the beauty of the earth, ask the beauty of the sea, ask the beauty of the ample and diffused air. Ask the beauty of heaven, ask the order of the stars, ask the sun, which with its splendor brightens the day; ask the moon, which with its clarity moderates the darkness of night. Ask the beasts that move in the water, that walk on the earth, that fly in the air: souls that hide, bodies that show themselves; the visible that lets itself be guided, the invisible that guides. Ask them! All will answer you: Look at us, we are beautiful! Their beauty makes them known. This mutable beauty, who has created it if not Immutable Beauty?

Categories > Religion


Climate Capers

My Weekly Standard cover story, "Scientists Behaving Badly," is now up on the web.  One of its major points is that even within this small group of pre-eminent climate scientists, there was no consensus--in fact there were heated arguments--over one of the supposed key pieces of evidence that unprecedented global warming is taking place in the last 100 years.  Here's my takeaway:

I have long expected that 20 or so years from now we will look back on the turn-of-the-millennium climate hysteria in the same way we look back now on the population bomb hysteria of the late 1960s and early 1970s--as a phenomenon whose magnitude and effects were vastly overestimated, and whose proposed solutions were wrongheaded and often genuinely evil (such as the forced sterilizations of thousands of Indian men in the 1970s, much of it funded by the Ford Foundation). Today the climate campaigners want to forcibly sterilize the world's energy supply, and until recently they looked to be within an ace of doing so. But even before Climategate, the campaign was beginning to resemble a Broadway musical that had run too long, with sagging box office and declining enthusiasm from a dwindling audience. Someone needs to break the bad news to the players that it's closing time for the climate horror show.

I'll add one other thing I wasn't able to fit in the story (which is long enough at 5,500 words, and I just barely scratched the surface of what can be gleaned from the email stash): These guys have no sense of humor at all.  None.  In the 1,000 emails I didn't come across a single instance of wit or even collegial jocularity.  These guys are beyond boring people.  What is it about environmentalists that makes them so utterly humorless?

Now on to Hopenchangen. . ., I mean Copenhagen, for the next chapter in the climate farce.
Categories > Environment


Paul Ryan Has the Words

But does this Republican congressman from Wisconsin's First District (SE Wisconsin) have the music?  Tune in and see.  "In contrast [to Obama's "moral relativism"], I believe that our country's strategy should be grounded in what I call 'first principles' -- the core natural rights and classical principles that have guided out country for centuries. These principles need to be reapplied."
Categories > Congress

Pop Culture

Furry Friends in L.A.

I'm in Los Angeles.  Pretty folk, eating fruits and nuts, pass by me on this lovely morning as I sit next to the pool smoking a good Cuban with my coffee.  They are on their way to the gym, to work out, look good, feel young.  The L.A. Times carries the same stories as all the other papers of the day, but then the local color catches my eye.  A Chapman University student group wanted "to find a way to relieve stress during finals week, so it came up with an innovative approach: puppies."  Perfect.
Categories > Pop Culture

Political Philosophy

What Exalts a Stradivarius?

Not varnish, study says.  Also not oils, or proteins or minerals or anything else that can be found.  So what makes a Stradivarius better?  You get to the last paragraph of the article to find the probable unscientific truth.  Maybe the instrument is just more beautiful because Stradivari (says Jean-Philippe Échard, a chemist at the Museum of Music in Paris) " took a painterly approach to finishing his instruments. The pigmented top coat, he said, may have been applied much the way Rembrandt or Titian applied glazes to soften flesh tones.  Perhaps that, Mr. Échard suggested half-jokingly, is what makes some of Stradivari's violins special. 'Maybe a player, when seeing a beautiful instrument, he plays better,' he said. 'Maybe this is the secret.'"  The chemist is now a philosopher.  Good.

Pop Culture

Is Bush Using Jedi Mind Tricks on Obama?

Jon Stewart is rapidly taking his place next to Charles Krauthammer as Obama's most significant critic, as this long video shows.  Ed Morrissey is on to something here in writing that "Jon Stewart seems to take the media job of holding the current administration accountable a bit more seriously these days than the, er, actual media."
Categories > Pop Culture


10% Unemployment

The most anticipated news of the month, excepting perhaps the President's decision on Afghanistan, has just been released: Unemployment has remained steady at 10%.

Just for perspective, this still places U.S. unemployment 1% higher than that in France. The rate in October was 10.2%, reflecting a monthly loss of 190,000 jobs, as compared to November's 11,000 losses. The slowing monthly pace of losses continued for the 5th week, leading the AP and Forbes to speculate that a "turning point is near," though even stemming the hemorrhage offers little hope for subsequent job growth.

Such measured optimism was reflected yesterday by the Dow's last-minute, 87 point drop, as investors anticipated today's announcement. (NOTE: The Dow recovered this morning.) To brace the country for today's news, Obama hosted a "jobs summit" with academians and corporate titans last night. Expectations going in were low, and reactions have tended to be cynical (Business Insiders prays the summit was only a "PR charade"). Weakly denying the failure of the Democrat's $787 billion stimulus package, Obama advanced modest, joint efforts with private business as an alternative to a second (or third) stimulus package.

Today, Obama launches a multi-city "Main Street Tour" in Allentown, PA, to take the nation's economic "temperature." His reception promises to be "frosty." Scott Ott's satire of the President's likely approach to today's meeting is all too brilliant. From the Afghanistan speech to the Jobs Summit to today's likely non-starter, Obama's spark has demonstrably faded. Even entranced by soaring rhetoric - potentially the only gift preventing Obama from being perceived as an empty shirt - the public was bound to eventually notice it's own financial pains. But if Obama has caught a case of laryngitis...

Categories > Economy

Pop Culture

Supersize Me

How'd you like to sit next to this guy on an airplane?
Categories > Pop Culture


Mitt Romney

Today's edition of USA Today features a column by Mitt Romney wherein he offers 10 pieces of advice for Barack Obama (advice he, no doubt, does not expect the President will actually heed) in dealing with our economic woes.  They appear to me to be the beginnings of what could be an emerging backbone in the Republican party and, one also hopes, a sign of life therein.  If I were a contender for the Republican nomination in 2012 and my name was not Mitt Romney, I should be very sorry that I had not come out with this article first.  But I would also be working very diligently to adopt its central points as my own and to articulate them in such a way as to inspire enthusiasm for and understanding of them in the electorate.  It is a good beginning . . . but only a beginning.

For those of you in the Southern California area, you may be interested in checking out this conference  scheduled for Saturday and featuring Mitt Romney as its keynote speaker.  The social calendars of my children prevent me from attending and, while I don't resent it, I do regret it.  
Categories > Politics


Current Events Quiz

I suspect most readers will have very little difficulty with this quiz designed by the Pew Research Center.  What's truly shocking is that two-thirds of those taking it answered half or more of the questions incorrectly.
Categories > Education



In anticipation of Steven Hayward's Weekly Standard article on the impact of hacked e-mails from East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, I suggest Ronald Bailey's article this week in Reason.  Bailey is sympathetic to man-made climate change, and offers a concise overview of the consequences and potential recovery paths from this "tragedy."

It seems, perhaps for the first time, that self-respecting global warming alarmists and skeptics are publically pursuing a common goal: transparency.  This could mark a watershed moment on several fronts.  A wide-spread, fully-transparent re-evaluation of climate-change evidence which results in findings adverse to previous conclusions would instigate a terrible public outcry.  Public opinion would continue to swing (Europeans cling to global warming with dogmatic piety, but American belief dropped 8% in the last year - and that occurred before climategate). 

Further, as global leaders have always been hesitant to actually implement policies to confront warming - a tribute to their lingering self-preservation instincts - scientific doubt could provide cover for an indefinite pause.  Paul Rahe suggests precisely this path for the Copenhagen climate summit, advising that Pres. Obama assert his devotion to principled science while divesting himself of unpopular cap-and-trade legislation.

I expect that the scandal surrounding doctored reports, suppressed dissents and hidden data in the environmental community has only begun.  This revelation, perhaps coupled with a subsequent revolt at Copenhagen, could prove to be global warming's Waterloo.

Categories > Environment


Makes Me Want to Titter

In yet another episode in the continuing Nixonization of Obama, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers has invoked executive privilege against testifying before Congress.  The White House has it correct, constitutionally.  The real problem here is the frauds who entered the White House back in November, not the party crashers.
Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

Obama at West Point

All of us, not just me, will have much to say about both Obama's new Afghan/Pakistan policy, as well as the speech of last night.  But not everything should be said at once, even if I knew what to say.  First, I felt a bit sorry for him.  He was ill at ease among the long line of gray.  The line was only partially enthusiastic.  Second, the lefty pundits (on MSNBC) were also not enthusiastic with the talk, and they were too vocal about it. Mac Owens was not impressed with the talk and he has some unsurprising quick opinions.

I actually think that the situation we should call Pakistan/Afghanistan is so perilous that no "policy" or "strategy" will hold for long.  Certainly the so called exit strategy is meaningless on the ground; it's a political statement. In preparing to learn to eat soup with a knife, we have to be very nimble, be ready to turn on a dime at any time; all this can only be done if each part of the whole--including the commander in chief--trusts the others.  His speech did not help establish that trust.  We also have to have a better idea of what "victory" actually means or may end up meaning.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Excuse me while I puke

Okay, not the most family-friendly title for an NLT post, but it is a direct quote from the enormous cache of Climategate e-mails that have emerged from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University (or, the "CRUtape Letters," as some are calling them.)  Indeed, the subject line of the e-mail from American scientist Raymond Bradley is "vomit," and that's about how I feel after reading through the entirety of the e-mail stash. 

The amusing thing here is that Bradley writes this comment about one of his own co-authors of the famous "hockey stick" article, the egregious Michael Mann of Penn State.  One of the amazing things about reading through the whole pile is how much these guys disagree with, and occasionally trash, each other.  No wonder they treat people skeptical of their position so rudely.

There's tons more to this story.  I'll have a long piece about the whole matter--what I'm calling the climate campaign's ACORN moment--in the next issue of The Weekly Standard.  Stay tuned.
Categories > Environment

Literature, Poetry, and Books

An Ode to Great Books

bronte.jpgAs my first substantive post on NLT, I feel compelled to address a topic upon which I am decidedly unqualified to speak.  Undaunted, however, I proceed - for the occasion to opine on classical literature arises far too infrequently.  Several posts as of late (1, 2, 3) have commended the works of great authors.  During my recent travels in the Middle East (a spiritual exercise in the cultivation of patience and fortitude), I took advantage of fully-expected itinerary delays to broaden my literary exposure.  I followed Hemmingway with Austin, and Austin with the elder Brontë sister (often in audiobook format, of which I am a converted disciple).  It was as though I were ascending ever higher in the hierarchy of angels in heaven.

Harold Bloom counts Charlotte Brontë among the authors of his Western Canon (though she is excluded from more conservative Great Books lists).  Nonetheless, Jane Eyre vanquished my ridiculous opinion that fiction was of limited utility in the cultivation of a classical liberal education.  Mrs. Brontë reminded me that great thinker - from Homer and Plato to the authors of both the Old and New Testaments - have always used fables, parables and fiction to render profound lessons of virtue and humanity in intelligible doses to the masses. 

And, for those as affected as I by Mrs. Brontë's writings, Christie's in New York will hold an auction this Friday of "a manuscript of her verses estimated at $50,000-$70,000, and her eloquent letter to Henry Nussey, declining his proposal of marriage, estimated at $50,000-$70,000."  From the letter: "I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you -- but I feel convinced that mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you."  Exquisite.


P.S. The Christie's auction will also feature a letter from George Washington to his nephew Bushrod Washington, in which he privately reveals his reasons for supporting the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, estimated to fetch up to $2,500,000.


The Ariel Versus the Caliban

The Ariel-in-Chief and scourge of the Taliban tonight:  "America, we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes" (emphasis added)  Was ever pseudo-Lincolnian rhetoric put to more quavering use?  When Lincoln spoke of right making might in concluding his Cooper Union address, no one would (or should) have taken him for some silly sap.  With Obama it just doesn't work--but I pray I am proven wrong, just as Seward et al. were. 
Categories > Presidency

Ashbrook Center

First Salvo

And so, these are the first of many words I hope to write for NLT.  It seems only proper to pause for a brief moment and publicly extend my humble gratitude for the privilege of contributing my voice alongside the esteemed fellows of the Ashbrook Center.  To Dr. Schramm, then - the first among equals - I offer my thanks. 

To my new blogging cohorts and all those who frequent these fine pages, I hope to make a happy home of sorts amongst you in our little corner of the world.  I'll try not to burn popcorn, play obnoxiously loud music or otherwise steer astray our common ship of state.

To a hopeful voyage, then, and a distant horizon.  Ahoy!

Categories > Ashbrook Center

Foreign Affairs

Meanwhile, Over in Iraq

AP report on Iraq casualties:  "The AP count for November is the second-lowest since it began to track casualty figures in April 2005. "  The Iraqi casualty count includes both military and civilian deaths.  But will Obama's tergiversating surge meet the standard of Bush's bold surge? 

The oddity of this whole debate is that the initial Democratic criticism of the Rumsfeld-Bush policy was that it lacked sufficient troops.  So over Iraq the country has been faced with one party that reversed its initial policy of more troops and the other party who fought (and explained) the war ineptly.  In the electoral battle between hypocrisy and incompetence the hypocrites won.  And tonight our Ariel-in-Chief addresses the nation on Afghanistan from West Point, having deserted his Greek temple for an Army fortress.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Mocking Hemingway, with Venom Back

I have been reading into Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola, when I came upon this by Max Eastman about Ernest Hemingway:

"It is of course a commonplace that Hemingway lacks the serene confidence that he is a full-sized man. Most of us too delicately organized babies who grow up to be artists suffer at times from that small inward doubt. But some circumstance seems to have laid upon Hemingway a continual sense of the obligation to put forth evidences of red-blooded masculinity. It must be made obvious not only in the swing of the big shoulders and the clothes he puts on, but in the stride of his prose style and the emotions he permits to come to the surface there. This trait of his character has been strong enough to form the nucleus of a new flavor in English literature, and it has moreover begotten a veritable school of fiction-writers - a literary style, you might say, of wearing false hair on his chest [...]"

The editor notes the following in a footnote:

"These remarks rankled with Hemingway, and he had still not forgotten them four years later when he encountered Max Eastman, writer and critic, in the offices of Scribner's. Hemingway took off his shirt to reveal his chest hair, demanding that Eastman tell him whether it was false or not. Eastman was unable to reply; Hemingway then began unbuttoning Eastman's own shirt to see how much hair was there-Eastman's chest was hairless. Eastman tried to laugh the matter off but Hemingway continued to goad him, asking what Eastman had meant by calling him impotent. The exchange led to a fight in which, by some accounts, Hemingway wrestled Eastman to the ground. Hemingway told a reporter that Eastman had 'jumped at me like a woman--clawing, you know, with his open hands'."


Youth Vote Growing Up?

The thing about young people is that they grow up . . . and sometimes events force them to do it rather quicker than nature inclines them.  It is probably true that Obama could only hold on to the hip and cool persona that he created for himself for so long--no matter what he did.  Once you become president, you are the establishment.  You are accountable.  Opposition for opposition's sake--that youthful rebellion we're all inclined to over-sentimentalize--is no longer your de facto property.  But Obama's biggest problem may be the company he keeps.  Now Obama is part of the machine . . . along with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi . . . and about that machine, there seems to be plenty to rage against.  Obama, Reed and Pelosi are all on the same team and people are not enthusiastic about their performance.   Note the polls in the margin which now show that though Obama maintains (barely) a 50% plus approval rating, he's also got some pretty high negatives.  His 43% disapproval figure appears to be in keeping with the general movement of the country.  Note the generic Congressional ballot in a virtual dead heat and 57.5% saying America is on the wrong track.  Take that along with a 64.3% disapproval rating for Congress and wonder whether these are the ingredients for a breakfast of champions or the recipe for a losing ticket . . .
Categories > Elections


Radicalism Begins at School

For quite some time, most of our teachers have been to the Left of the country as a whole.  I see this in the unthinking liberalism of many of my students, particularly on environmental issues.  Some schools seem to take it to far:

ACORN is affiliated with three city schools -- including two in Brooklyn bearing the group's name: ACORN Community HS and the ACORN HS for Social Justice.

Karen Watts, the principal of the ACORN HS for Social Justice in Bushwick, seems sensitive to the group's bad publicity: She says ACORN no longer has any involvement with the school. But that's news to Debra Burgess, the school's parent coordinator -- who told me the school's "philosophy" is based around ACORN: "We do have to follow their philosophy, and their philosophy is 'reform and change.' "

The rot begins at the schools of education, which sometimes push curricula like this:

1. The College of Education and Human Development's proposed "teacher education redesign" plan would require students to adopt "race, culture, class and gender" identity politics in order to be recommended for a teaching license. . . .

3. The plan includes 14 "outcomes" all prospective teachers would have to meet, as well as "assessment" methods to assure they had achieved the outcomes. The first outcome is typical: "Future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."

Categories > Education