Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Keep Your Eye on the Census

And your hand on your wallet.  WaPo reports diversity outreach at the Census Bureau.  What do the Thai Tennis Organization, the Koya Progressive Association, Serbian Unity Congress, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance have in common--I mean other than the desire to get more federal bucks for their burgeoning memberships? 
Categories > Race


NFL MVP: Madieu Williams' Gratitude

Seeing The Blind Side yesterday reminded me of this November story I've neglected:  At age nine an immigrant from Sierra Leone, Madieu Williams graduated from the University of Maryland and wound up playing free safety for the Minnesota Vikings.  He recently established the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives.  "The former U-Md. star is providing a $2 million endowment. It is the largest gift to the flagship school from an African American alumnus and the largest sum donated by someone so young."  Whatever their means, all immigrants should express gratitude to this country (as should all citizens and potential Americans throughout the world).  Recall these remarks.

I recently asked an inspiring local parish priest, a Cuban immigrant, whether he had heard anyone confess to the sin of being in this country illegally.  He hadn't.  But isn't this a worse sin than, say, shoplifting?  Now priests should not be in the business of trying to get people deported; in fact, I'd take our parish congregation, illegals and all, over any other random group as fellow Americans.  As with this and other political debates, more is involved than rights or legality; attitudes toward fellow citizens weigh heavily.

Categories > Politics


Perhaps Every University of California Class is a Tutorial

Tad Friend's New Yorker article (subscription required) about the University of California is largely sympathetic to the student protesters and faculty activists who oppose state budget cuts that have caused higher tuition, salary freezes and layoffs.  The usual tragic arc is invoked: Mario Savio in 1964 begat Ronald Reagan in 1966, who begat Howard Jarvis in 1978, whose Proposition 13 "broke the government."  One consequence is that in 1990 the state government's financial support for UC worked out to $16,430 per student (in 2009 terms), while it now pays $7,570. 

The article notes in passing that UC, with ten campuses, has "two hundred and twenty-nine thousand students and a hundred and eighty thousand faculty and staff," numbers consistent with the UC website's fact sheet.  I ask this question because: a) I don't know the answer; and b) some NLT contributors and readers familiar with academia from the inside-out might.  Is that ratio between students, on the one hand, and faculty and staff, on the other, normal for American colleges and universities?  We're saying that even after cutbacks that are routinely described as "draconian," the University of California can't possibly teach and tend to 1,000 students with fewer than 786 professors, deans, secretaries, librarians, cooks and groundskeepers.  If that ratio isn't normal, if it's possible to imagine 1,000 UC students being wiser on graduation day than during freshman orientation despite having been taught and looked after by a mere six or seven hundred professors, deans, secretaries, etc. then we need to consider the possibility that the University of California is not so much underfunded as overstaffed.
Categories > Education

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