Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Oil Spills--Do'h!

I've returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak, having written four days before the Deepwater Horizon blowout that offshore oil spills were likely a thing of the past (hence the "Do'h!"), in the new issue of the Weekly Standard out this morning, pointing out the adverse environmental tradeoffs of overreacting.  I'll have a much longer and more technical article with Ken Green coming out on Monday.  Stay tuned.

P.S.  Couldn't happen to a more politically correct oil company, by the way.  BP's entire "Beyond Petroleum" image makeover a few years ago was the brainchild of a number of liberal groups (such as pollster Stan Greenberg), and BP has been a major contributor to environmental groups.  There's long been a lefty website called "ExxonSecrets" (though what the "secret" is eludes me, since all the info on the site comes from public disclosure documents); I'm wondering if we'll get a "BP Secrets" site some time soon.  I'm not holding my breath.
Categories > Environment

Foreign Affairs

BP the New British East India Company?

Well, then.  That soccer game ought to settle things.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


See, What Did I Tell You?

Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat offer Mitch Daniels constructive criticism on his idea of a "truce" on social issues.

Department of I told you so: Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mike Huckabee both go after Daniels on the "truce."  Daniels actually started taking heat on this a little earlier than I expected. I think Daniels should listen to Ponnuru and Douthat.

I'm interested in how Romney will treat Daniels.  I think Daniels is a much bigger potential threat to Romney than to Huckabee.  Huckabee can use Daniels as a foil with Daniels as the economy-focused (and spending cut-focused) candidate with Huckabee as the social conservative/conservatism of the heart alternative.  Romney's two main strengths were his support (or least-of-all-evils acceptance) among movement conservative institutions (he was endorsed by National Review and he took less fire from Limbaugh and such than Huckabee or McCain) and his record of competence as an executive.  Daniels seems to have made the conservative press swoon with very friendly profiles in National Review and the Weekly Standard, and in retrospect, would you rather have Romney's record on health care policy or Daniels'?  If  I were Romney, I would be preparing attacks on Daniels as a tax raiser (it would be misleading but I'm assuming that wouldn't stop Romney) and a defense cutter along with being a social issues squish. 

I say all this as a Daniels fan who likes his record in Indiana and would really like him to run in 2012.  It is just that politics is already tough and unfair enough without Daniels making extra trouble for himself with this truce stuff.

Categories > Politics


Quote of the Day

From the news pages of the New York Times:

The indictment of Mr. Drake was the latest evidence that the Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks to the press.

In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.

Categories > Journalism


Foist Amendment Protects Fortunetellers

The highest court of Montgomery County (Maryland) declared that the First Amendment protects fortunetellers.  I guess this means Sunday morning political shows, pollsters, and political consultants (to mention but a few) can continue their ways without fear. 
Categories > Courts

Pop Culture

Summer Thoughts: Tourist!

Some excellent thoughts on American tourists by a shrewd observer, Eric Felten.  One memorable instance of American tourist stupidity was a comment on the hunting scene featured on a Roman sarcophagus:  "Look, they had dogs back then."  Your memorable moments?
Categories > Pop Culture

Thinking About Mitch and the Real Culture Fight

The discussion on this blog and in other forums of late about a possible candidacy by Mitch Daniels for presidency in 2012 has fixated on his calls for a truce to the culture war. A candidate who seems to be one of the most successful governors in the new era of state fiscal policy disasters has angered or provoked many with his proposed truce. Perhaps more extended reflection on the Daniel's truce can be had if one considers what Daniels, I think, rightly regards as the pivotal moment in American limited government.  

Daniels' remarks over the past few months have urged that the central political battle boils down to self-government achieved through robust consent to actual policies, i.e., Is the creepy Peter Orszag to be our master and the efficiency commissions headed by similar types of officials, or is there something much better that is possible? In listing the accomplishments and, I think accurately gauging the universal thinking of Obama on regulatory policy, Daniels repeatedly underscores, in the measured tones reminiscent of Calvin Coolidge (Daniel's speeches are similar to Silent Cal's), that the failure to recover the hearts of Americans on the prospect of actual self-government leads us in a new direction of social democracy. This is the central moral loss, and from it flows even more of the San Francisco and faculty lounge moralizing we have heard for years and are now seeing slowly implemented.

The central moral and political question evoked by Daniels is what do we make of our lives as human beings and as American citizens? Do we want to be citizens? Are we free and capable of self-rule in any muscular sense? One gathers that Daniels may see the culture wars not as unnecessary but as the inherent consequences of the primal failure of a manly assertion of political honor for oneself, one's family, and one's community. If we are incapable of these basic tasks, then, of course, the fallouts of abortion, deconstruction of the family, and a hiding within the therapeutic mentality that existentially absolves life of meaning and consequence (moral relativism) inevitably follows.

Daniels proclaims the political good of pride, courage, and liberty as the central elements of limited and rightful government. His venture into the national political waters is predicated on the notion that a significant enough cross-section of American citizens will understand this and join him. These are neither the "achievatrons" of America's meritocratic elite, nor the 20-30% who support entitlement politics, but a group who are in conversation with rightly ordered political habits that still seem real and plausible. Moreover, these political habits are our own as Americans.

This, of course, says nothing about Daniels' constitutional conservatism that would lead to originalist appointments across the federal judiciary.


Last chance to vote for William M. McCulloch!

A few weeks ago I told you why I argued that Congressman William M. McCulloch should have a place in the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capital.  You have to vote (and can do it on-line) by tomorrow (the 12th).  You may vote by clicking here.  Thanks.
Categories > History

Shameless Self-Promotion

Never Too Many Reminders About "Never Enough" Publicity

I spoke with Seth Leibsohn on this morning's Bill Bennett Show; you can listen to it here.  I'll be interviewed on the Michael Medved Show later today: 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time; 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time; 11:00 a.m. in Honolulu, etc.  Next Thursday, if the schedule isn't changed, I'll be a guest on the Dennis Prager Show.  


Oz or Kansas?

In today's WSJ, Daniel Henninger writes that the oil spill in the Gulf, along with the inability of the federal government to contain it (forget about correcting it), exposes an even deeper well of trouble for Americans than the one now spewing forth (a seeming endless!) amount of crude.   That is, we are in the Land of Oz.  And like the Oz of Dorothy's dream--with its Emerald City (as much a fraud as was the Wizard) and its Wicked Witch (who turned out really to be a busy-bodied neighbor self-righteously armed with some product of over-regulation on the animal control front)--the Oz of our own creation is a dream world where, we imagine, our mistrust in our fellow "ordinary" man might be supplanted by the hopes we are sure must be manifest "somewhere over the rainbow."  The trouble is that in our hapless journey to find them, we've allowed them to become manifest in a great and powerful wizard commanding a bureaucracy of imagined efficiency, perfection, and an incorruptible and boundless compassion. 

Because we have determined that imperfection will not do and, because we wisely detect the imperfection of our neighbors, we no longer trust in our ability to govern ourselves or believe that our neighbors have a legitimate claim to self-government either.  Won't we botch it?  (ed., yes, probably . . . but can we botch it worse than our "betters" have botched it?)  Instead, we have been flattered to be a part of Oz and have trusted that the men in green knew better than we how to find those hopes at the end of our rainbows.  So we happily wore the glasses, bowed in awestruck fear before its altars, and condemned as wicked all those who questioned the wisdom or motivation of its dictates.
Now, confronted as we are by this wicked oil slick--one that no hope on any side of any rainbow will contain and one that the best efforts of both private industry and government together may only (and eventually) imperfectly contain--we see that the capacities of the great and powerful Wizard are at best equal to (and probably, even, less impressive than) the limits of private industry.  Moreover, we see that the Wizard's limits and corruptibility are on an even plane coming into the job but may be, because of the power we've allowed him, even more to be questioned.  That is, he is no better than we but now, because of his power, has the potential to be worse. 

Fortunately for Dorothy, when she awoke from her dream, she realized that it was actually a nightmare and she was grateful to be back in Kansas and among her fellow "ordinary" and imperfect men.  Imperfect men have the virtue of being able to stand up again after tornadoes (or hurricanes or oil-spills) and restore the farm.  They don't need well-meaning hope peddlers to come along selling them the snake oil that there is a land without the unpredictable or imperfect or the nasty or the mean.  These frauds are of no help in times of trouble and (usually when it is too late) can only advise us to do what we'd probably have done on our own without any assistance from their mystical wisdom.  What free men should do instead, is humbly and freely admit their inability to prevent disaster--whether it stems from an act of God or from a failing in Man.  But they can also man-up and set things as close to right as they are ever going to be--without the aid of Wizards or bureaucrats--when disaster comes . . . that is, once Toto has pulled back the curtain and we put down our green glasses.

But, as Henninger seems to know better than anyone--the trouble is not with the man behind the curtain.  The trouble is with the many who should be looking in the mirror
Categories > Politics


The Obama Way?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Steven Rattner has a very revealing op-ed (the full piece is only available to subscribers).  Arguing that "Wall Street Still Doesn't Get it," he quotes the President's comment to a group of bankers that "my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."  I take that to be the Obama way. H e did the same in the health care deal. If memory serves, Obama made deals with drug companies and the AMA very early in the process. I gather that, until recently, he was working the same angle with BP on cap and trade. (BP has extensive natural gas reserves which could make the company a good deal of money, if the bill is structured in a particular way).  I suspect he's doing the same with Israel just now. Thanks to the cartel-breaking dust-up, he has more leverage than he had recently. (He tried to use the recent housing permit incident similarly).

The President, in other words, practices classic Chicago politics.  He uses popular anger to threaten the big guys, and then cuts a deal with them for half. The intended result--the big guys are happy that they did not get killed, and the common people are happy that they took a hit. (In the mean time, the smaller players are creamed. The big guys can take the hit, and then profit from the reduced competition).

This corporatist approach is not all that new, but Obama is trying to expand its scope.  It is probably the inevitable direction that bigger government will take in America.

I suspect the part of Obama's anger at the tea parties is that they gum up the works of his pragmatic, moderate, corporatism.  They show that there are other ways of seeing it. There are people who don't want such cartelization.  When Obama says he's no socialist, he's being sincere.  He wants to use the market to serve what he takes to be public goods that otherwise would be ignored.  A big, diiverse economy, with players of all sizes makes that more difficult. It is much easier to use the private sector when it's limited to fewer, bigger companies. The tea parties, in this sence, represent the ancient American prejudice in favor of mediating institutions.  Their principles reflect that idea.

Categories > Politics


If, If

I'm not done with this Mitch Daniels thing yet.  How does it play out if Daniels runs for President and if he keeps his current strategy of trying to avoid social issues and trying to get everyone else to do the same thing?  Here how I think it would probably play out:

First, Daniels would take fire from social conservative leaders and his rivals for the Republican nomination.  Try to picture the ads about Daniels not willing to take a position on whether the federal government should subsidize abortions under most circumstances or whether he would he would appoint judges that imposed liberal social policies.  It would become a media story that would compete with Daniels' economic message.  Ironically, Daniels' not talking about social issues will create a spiral of commentary on Daniels not talking about the social issues.  This wouldn't be a big problem if millions of people didn't care about these issues.  And I don't just mean people who are socially conservative first.  There are lots of economic conservatives who are also social conservatives. This is a threshold thing.  Someone doesn't have to be the best social conservative or have a perfect record (see Romney or McCain), but tossing the social issues overboard risks alienating this large group  of down the line(ish) conservatives along with the social conservatism-first group.  Daniels has a chance to be the Republican contender with the best economic record and the best economic message.  If he is acceptable on the other issues, I think he would have a good shot.  But if people who are socially conservative get the idea that he has written their issues off... well then there will be plenty of other Republican contenders who are also selling their own brand of economic conservatism (maybe not as good) but who also have some kind of social agenda.

Then after these dynamics become clear, Daniels will be backed into making some kind of high profile statement of principles and lay out some set of policies on the social issues.  But the damage will have been done.  Social liberalism-first voters will scorn Daniels because he laid out policies they disagreed with.  The reality is that (as Reihan Salam pointed out somewhere) neither Daniels nor any other Republican presidential candidate was ever going to get these voters.  Voter who don't think much about the social issues one way or another will think less of Daniels because he will have clearly made his statement out of political pressure rather than conviction.  With these voters, he will take a hit on character rather than ideology.  Social conservatives will discount his statement because it will seem like he had to be dragged into making it.  This strategy is lots of loss for no gain.

The way to really deemphasize social issues is to lay out an orthodox set of principles (if those are Daniels' principles) and an incremental policy agenda built around policies with majority support.  The country will not be unduly divided at the news that the Republican presidential candidate is pro-life, and if Democrats want to build a campaign around defending taxpayer-funded abortions, let them.  The way to focus on economic issues is to talk about the economic issues most of the time and in the greatest detail.  The irony is that the best way for Daniels to minimize having to talk about the social issues is for him to have something of substance to say.      

Categories > Politics

Mitch Daniels Makes Things Harder On Himself

Jennifer Rubin describes a pretty impressive performance by Mitch Daniels in front of a group of conservative activists and journalists.  The biggest problem that I got from the meeting was Daniels' insistence that the social issues be "set aside" while we deal with the country's economic problems. 

This is a good way for Daniels to lose more friends than he makes.  There is a way to integrate and deemphasize the social issues without alienating social conservatives.  It involves articulating a framework and laying out a series of incremental policies that have majority support.  For instance he can describe his pro-life convictions and say that he is in favor of legislation to remove the license for abortions in the last three months under most circumstances.  If he wants to be a strict federalist about it, he can say he favors that legislation on the state level.  He can surely say that he opposes federal subsidies for such abortions.  And then he can move back to the economic issues.  He will also need a good answer on federal judges and the role they play on social issues. 

Daniels can run, but he can't hide and he can't even really call a timeout.  We can't have a total timeout because these issues are part of public policy and they will be thrust on the next President (if only on court appointments) whether Daniels likes it or not.  These issues matter even to many people who don't rank them at the very top of their concerns.  If Daniels really wants to diffuse these issues, the answer is an eloquent statement of his principles and a prudent, incrementalist policy agenda.  Social conservatives are not the problem.  McCain didn't lose because he spent too much time talking about Obama's abortion extremism.  If Daniels can let them know that he will, within the limits of the powers of his office, seek to advance some social conservative goals, and appoint judges who will not usurp the power of the voters in order to impose liberal policies, Daniels might find plenty of common ground with social conservatives and alot of political room to focus on his economic policies. But he needs to stop telling social conservatives to shut up about their concerns until such time as Daniels decides that American can afford to talk about them again . 


Electoral College Overhaul?

Trent England of Save Our States warns of efforts to undermine the Constitution through the implementation of state legislative actions that would permit states to skirt the original intent of the Electoral College (since no serious efforts to undo that provision of the Constitution have been able to get traction) by directing electors to ignore the popular vote of their own particular state and, instead, cast their ballots for the Presidential candidate with the highest percentage of the national popular vote.  

Efforts like this are advancing in places like New York and Massachusetts.  If the reasons why such a development would be a disaster are not immediately apparent to you, then remind yourself of the 2000 election, think about this and, above all, re-read all of these.
Categories > Elections

Foreign Affairs

The Koh-rean Drone War

Marc Thiessen notes that State Dept. legal adviser Harold Koh justifies the deadly Predator drone strikes via the congressional Iraq War resolution (AUMF).  But, as several others (including the UN, the ACLU, and former Bush officials) have observed, the victims of the drone strikes had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.  Yet the terrorists could be targeted, as John Yoo, among others have maintained, under the President's Article II powers--an expansive argument Koh has rejected.  Thiessen, a former Bush speechwriter, raises the questions, "In a few years, when the situation in the war against terrorism has stabilized, will there be calls for the disbarment of the Obama lawyers who authorized these strikes and criminal investigations of the CIA officers who carried them out? Will Harold Koh join John Yoo and other Bush lawyers in the left's hall of infamy?" 

For some background, see my previous post on this issue.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Sleeper Issue Waking Up?

I've been saying for a while now that Obama's hostility to Israel might be the sleeper issue in a few election contests this fall, even without the assist of the egregious Helen Thomas.  Our pals over at Powerline offer some evident that the Jewish vote may be starting to swing over, as it did in 1980, when Reagan got a historic (for a Republican) 35 - 40 percent of the Jewish vote because of Carter's Israelphobia.
Categories > Elections


Approaching Jimmy Territory

The comparisons between Obama and Jimmy Carter continue to roll in, but I hadn't expected Obama himself to contribute to the lists.  

One of the nadirs of Carter's presidency in 1979 was when he said that if Ted Kennedy ran against him, he'd "whip his ass."  (Johnny Carson made a point of repeating the quip in his Tonight Show monologue, explaining that there was no punch line--he just wanted to outwit the network censors, since you can't prohibit quoting the President of the United States.)

Comes now Obama, telling NBC' Matt Lauer that he's getting all the best information so "I know who's ass to kick."  

UPDATE: This choice comment from another old roommate (way to go Tim!) deserves to be promoted here:

Obama will first seek regulatory approval for that action, which may take weeks to complete, but only after first determining which agency(ies) have jurisdiction(s) and completing their review process(es), while also gathering input from stakeholder(s) local, regional, national and international on potential economic, environmental and political (shhh!! expunge that) impacts of proposed ass kicking, all of which to make certain that proposed ass-kicking will work ("Before we do anything we have to know that it will work") and upon positive preliminary assessment could be considered for exemption from review status and final implementation processing.

Reminds me that apparently the Army recipe for baking brownies is 27 pages long.  (True.)
Categories > Politics


T For Textbook

In the Texas textbook fight, as it so much else, it's wise to read the bill, or in the case the standards, before criticizing them:

Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP, had come from his headquarters in Baltimore to complain about the downgrading of the human debasement of African slaves. According to Jealous, language referring to the "triangular trade" among the English colonies on the eastern seaboard, the Caribbean, and Britain had excised the horrors of slavery

Of course, the "triangular trade" has been taught in American public schools at least since I was in California's system a half-century ago, as the import of slaves to the New World, their harvesting of sugar, tobacco, and other commodities, and the sale of these or their by-products (such as molasses and rum) in Europe. Jealous was caught by the gimlet-eyed Terri Leo, secretary of the board. She asked him if he had, in fact, read the proposed curriculum changes and could cite the language he found unacceptable. He was compelled to admit that he had not, and could not. Whereupon she pointed out that the new language summons students to explain "the plantation system, the Atlantic triangular trade, and the spread of slavery." Jealous had been caught in a criticism by inference--or, more bluntly, by dependence on second-hand talking points. 

Texas has also, apparently, exercised reasonable judgment about whom to study:

Later Paul Henley of the Texas State Teachers Association, a powerful public employee union, assailed the board, blasting the replacement of a reference to Santa Barraza--a Texas woman of Hispanic origin, alive and well, who paints folkloric representations of the U.S.-Mexico borderland--with the late cartoon animator Tex Avery (1908-80) on a list of Texas-born contributors to the arts. Most of them, like Barraza, are obscure; Avery is not

Speaking of Tex Avery, here's my favorite of his cartoons. (Beward. puns ahead!)

Categories > Education

Foreign Affairs

A Conservative England?

Well, let's just say that I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of British PM David Cameron's promised spending cuts.  Deputy PM Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, likely will stand in the way of any serious reform, as will the public-sector unions.  Now comes word that George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, wants the British public to get involved by, among other things, submitting ideas online, which proves that silliness in the face of problems demanding serious thought knows no national boundaries.

On the other hand, Cameron deserves credit at least for starting a serious discussion.  If his leadership combined with lessons learned from Greece help put the British people in a belt-tightening mood, then the coalition government might yet succeed in bringing fiscal prudence to the UK.  It's a situation worth watching.      
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Job Approval, 1994, and 2010

Is 2010 shaping up to be another 1994?  According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Obama's job approval rating has been between 50 and 47 since the beginning of the year.  Gallup puts Obama's approval at 47.  To compare, at this same point in Clinton's first term, his job approval in the Gallup poll was 46 and would head up to 49 by the end of the month before dropping to 39 in September and end up back at 46 again the week of the midterm elections.  So if the pattern holds, it looks like some of the conditions for 1994-like Republican gains are there.

But there are also reasons for long-term concern for Obama opponents.  The unemployment rate for Jan-Nov 1994 varied from 6.6 to 5.9.  The unemployment rate for the year to date has varied from 9.7 to 9.9.  Obama has been keeping his approval ratings at about Clinton in 1994 levels during a much worse job market.  And as Daniel Larison has pointed out (I can't remember when he posted it), Obama's approval ratings have been much more stable than Clinton's.  I'm not sure exactly what all this means except that Obama's popularity has been holding up remarkably well given the labor market and that even a modest decline in the unemployment (say to the low 7s) could, absent some perceived foreign policy disaster, push Obama's job approval rating into the 50s and put him in a very strong position for reelection. 

One of the things that jumps out at me about the relationship between the unemployment rate and a President's job approval rating is how context-dependent it is even absent foreign policy disasters like Iraq in 2006 or rally-round-the-flag effects due to events like Reagan getting shot.  Reagan had high approval ratings for most of 1984, but the unemployment rate for most of the year was in the 7s - which isn't that good by the standards of the last thirty years.  But it was alot better than the 10 percent or more unemployment of much of 1982.  Probably just as important, the halving of inflation rate from 1981-1984 halted the erosion of the living standards of those who had jobs.  Obama, after this recession, might also be running for reelection in a country with reduced expectations for what a "low" unemployment rate looks like. 

Categories > Politics


The Trouble with Big Government

It makes it harder for the government to take care of those things that really are job of the federal government:

Under intense media scrutiny, at least a dozen federal agencies have taken part in the spill response, making decision-making slow, conflicted and confused, as they sought to apply numerous federal statutes.

In one stark example of government disputes, internal e-mail messages from the minerals agency obtained by The Times reveal a heated debate over whether to ignore some federal environmental laws about gas emissions in an effort to speed the drilling of relief wells.

One agency official, Michael Tolbert, warned colleagues on April 24 that emissions of nitrous oxide from the well were "pretty far over the exemption level," an issue that his colleague Tommy Broussard said could result in "BP wasting time" on environmental safeguards in a way that would be "completely stupid."

But a third colleague, Elizabeth Peuler, intervened to demand that the agency take "no shortcuts."

"Not even for this one," she said. "Perhaps even especially for this one."

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

The Coming War in the Middle East

Paul Rahe and Daniel Jackson both think that Turkey's turn against Israel is a sign that war will soon return to the Middle East.  Both sound like they know whereof they speak, I fear.
Categories > Foreign Affairs

Pop Culture

The Right Man for the Job?

Isn't an oil spill a job for "Slick Willie"?

Categories > Pop Culture


The Case Against Mitch Daniels

I made a case for Mitch Daniels as a potential 2012 presidential candidate.  Why should conservative be wary of Daniels?  I'll try to be fair and balanced.

1. George Packer argues that Daniels got the cost of the Iraq War horribly wrong when Daniels was head of the OMB.  Daniels responds that his estimate of the Iraq War's cost was only for the first six months of the war.  I think Daniels has the better of this argument on the substance, but if he runs for President, he will also have to make sure everyone who hears the charge that Daniels underestimated the cost of the war (possibly to increase political support for the war) also hears Daniels' explanation.

2.  What does Daniels think about foreign and defense policy?  This is more of a blank space than a real weakness, but Daniels will have to fill it in.  Unlike with McCain on domestic policy, I don't worry that Daniels won't do his homework if he decides to run for President.  I don't see the foreign policy equivalent of McCain's responding to the financial crisis by suggesting putting Andrew Cuomo in charge of the SEC.

3. Does Daniels underestimate the importance of social issues?  Daniels is reported to have said that we need a "truce" on social issues as the country deals with its economic problems.  The 2012 presidential election is likely to be economy-driven unless there is some widely perceived foreign policy disaster at least as large as the Iraq War in 2006 (let us pray nothing like that happens.)  But we should keep in mind President Obama's wise observation that a President should be able to handle more than one thing at a time. There is no contradiction in pushing a plan for economic reform and highlighting (though not obsessively), President Obama's abortion extremism.  There is a way to highlight these issues in a way that is not obnoxious.  In fact, a focus on social issues, would be, in every sense, preferable to the culture war identity politics that the McCain campaign played in 2008.  I also worry that Daniels will fall into the same trap that Phil Gramm fell into in 1996.  Despite a good record, Gramm was visibly uncomfortable talking about social issues.  The result was that Pat Buchanan became the candidate of voters for whom social issues were a high priority.  Buchanan ended up beating Gramm in the Louisiana caucuses and scuttled Gramm's hopes of being the conservative alternative to the establishment candidate Bob Dole.  Daniels is a much more appealing candidate than Gramm, but Mike Huckabee is also a much more plausible President than Buchanan.  I'm not sure that Daniels will be able to compete with Huckabee for those conservatives for whom social conservatism comes first by a wide margin, but he will need to be eloquent enough, often enough on the social issues so that social conservatives who are also strongly economic conservatives won't get the sense that he will marginalize their social concerns if he becomes President.  Having good answers on the role of judges will go a long way, as would a strong message about the wrongness of late term abortion.  There is a lot of rhetorical room to reassure social conservatives and even appeal to people outside of the conservative base.  Tonality matters as much as substance here, but it will take work to get it right.

Categories > Politics


D-Day: Does Europe Remember?

I thought I would scan British and French newspapers to see what they were saying about D-Day, with its 66th anniversary today.  I looked at the on-line front pages of the Independent, Daily Telegraph, and Times (UK), and Le Monde and Le Figaro (France).  Nothing.  I'm sure there were opinion pieces, tv coverage, memorials, and so on, so at this point I just raise the question of how much Europe remembers.  Of course a European (or a Euro-oriented American) might say we Americans are obsessed with past wars.
Categories > History


The Internet Dumbs us Down

This author argues yes, maintaining that regular Internet use shapes our brain physiology to make us, in so many words, stupid.  High-speed brain dumps make us unable to read deeply: 

To read a book is to practice an unnatural process of thought. It requires us to place ourselves at what T. S. Eliot, in his poem "Four Quartets," called "the still point of the turning world." We have to forge or strengthen the neural links needed to counter our instinctive distractedness, thereby gaining greater control over our attention and our mind.

If so, this is worse than cell phones and brain tumors, alcohol and brain cells.  The argument for wisdom from the Internet (not really a contradiction) can be found in the accompanying WSJ article.

And, no, the remedy is not reading No Left Turns!

Categories > Technology