Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

The wisdom of Franklin:

Men I find to be a sort of beings very badly constructed, as they are generally more easily provoked than reconciled, more disposed to do mischief to each other than to make reparation, much more easily deceived than undeceived, and having more pride and even pleasure in killing than in begetting one another; for without a blush they assemble in great armies at noonday to destroy, and when they have killed as many as they can, they exaggerate the number to augment the fancied glory; but they creep into corners, or cover themselves with the darkness of night, when they mean to beget, as being ashamed of a virtuous action. A virtuous action it would be, and a vicious one the killing of them, if the species were really worth producing or preserving; but of this I begin to doubt.

Categories > Quote of the Day


The Debt Crisis Road To Social Democracy

So it looks like everyone has all their cards out on the table for their preferred avoiding-a-debt-crisis plan.  We conservatives have the Ryan Roadmap.  Liberals have the Schakowsky Plan and the liberal think tank plan.  I think that the very best that we conservatives can reasonably hope for given our politics is some combination of the Simpson-Bowles final report (yes even the tax increases and defense cuts) and the Ryan-Rivlin health care plan.  The tax increases and defense cuts in the Simpson-Bowles plan might upset some conservatives, but they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that if we don't change the trajectory of our politics, Simpson-Bowles will seem like a lost golden dream.

I start off with the assumption that neither side in the debate will end up with exactly what they want.  Conservatives will end up with higher taxes than in the Roadmap and liberals will get less federal spending than in the Schakowsky Plan.  Victory will be determined by where along the continuum we end up.  I think that liberals are well positioned to structure our political choices in a way that we end up far closer to a Schakowsky-type outcome than a Ryan-type outcome.  I think a lot of this comes down to the politics of emergency.

Reihan Salam wrote that the passage of Obamacare shifted the status quo in a structurally center-left direction.  I think that with Obamacare, a Greece-type fiscal crisis would most likely tend to shift our politics (unless the timing of who holds power is just right) into a social democratic direction.  If we are approaching a sovereign default, some drastic changes will be easier to implement in the short-term than others.  As commenter Art Deco has often told us, you can only cut entitlement spending on the old and infirm very very slowly.  The quickest way to get the budget under control would be some combination of huge tax increases, sudden (and almost certainly poorly thought out) defense cuts, and a huge cut in the medical inflation rate - almost certainly as part of a full government takeover of medicine.  You would also get some policies that conservatives would support like sharp cuts in federal domestic discretionary spending, cuts in the compensation and numbers of federal civilian employees, and maybe even the long dreamt about banning of earmarks.  The result of this kind of emergency budget balancing program would be a social democratic structure with a Tea Party paint job.

A look at the health care issue might show why liberals would, if current policy circumstances continue basically unchanged, have a huge edge in the politics of a debt crisis.  If the experience of Massachusetts is anything to go by, Obamacare will make private health insurance even less affordable than at present while increasing the number of people with government health insurance.  If a debt crisis hits, the choice will be either to sharply cut government benefits (to the old, to those on Medicare, and to those who will be receiving government subsidies on the forthcoming health care exchanges) without measures to slow medical inflation, to move in a free market-oriented direction or to go to a regime of price controls followed by the implementation of a single-payer system.  

The first would have no particular constituency.  Free market-oriented reform might make sense as policy, but it won't be implemented under the conditions of a decaying Obamacare plus a debt crisis.  You might be able to slow the rate of medical inflation through reforms that change consumer behavior (like Mitch Daniels did in Indiana) and that encourage provider reorganizations (of the kinds that David Goldhill suggested) that save money and improve service, but you can't get it all at once, all across the system, under crisis conditions and as a way to realize quick savings.  Even if you could produce such a system for the whole country on the fly (and who can picture Congress doing any such thing?), the public would never allow it.  It would mean destroying the system of employer-provided health insurance, and transforming Medicare and Medicaid under conditions of a general economic panic.  Good luck with that.  Realizing savings through a full government takeover and government rationing of medical care would seem like a more intuitive and equitable way to deal with sharing sudden scarcity. The same dynamic would play out in a sudden (as in emergency) fight between tax increases and entitlement reforms.

Time is not on the side of conservatives and smart, strategic-minded and not especially honest liberals like Matthew Yglesias and President Obama seem to realize it.  I suspect that is why Yglesias would prefer tto wait until the economy has recovered to his satisfaction before implementing debt-reducing reforms (even ones that would not reduce government spending in the short and medium-term - like cutting benefits for higher earning retirees and raising the retirement age for those who retire in future decades.)  I suspect that is why Obama plays down the Social Security shortfall by speaking of tweaks and modest adjustments.  I don't think that either Obama or Yglesias actually want a debt crisis, but I also think they like their side's chances in the event of one. 

That is why it is especially important for conservatives to start winning their political and policy fights right now and especially in the realm of health care.  The best way to move toward the Ryan-Rivlin plan and to prevent the full government takeover of health care is to change facts on the ground in ways that slow medical inflation and create a large enough class of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies that a full government takeover of health care becomes a political impossibility.  Market-oriented health care policies will have to come from the outside-in as governors and state legislatures pass laws to increase the number of Americans with consumer-driven health care policies ( Iwould start with Medicaid clients and state and municipal workers) and as Republicans in Congress push to give the states more space to experiment.  If Indiana-style HSA/Catastrophic coverage plans save the government money, you might even find new allies as Democratic mayors come out in favor of such policies as a way to slow down the spiraling employee health care costs that many municipalities face.  If we can do this, we might be in a better position to win the politics of a debt crisis.  Even better, if we can show that conservative reforms can save money and maintain public living standards, we might earn enough public trust to implement policies that avoid a debt crisis altogether.      

Categories > Politics

Political Parties

Did Chuck Schumer...

... just say Republicans are like "terrorists?"

Oh well, at least the Democrats have finally found the nerve to use the word in public.

Categories > Political Parties


Missing the Point on DADT . . .

. . . is easy to do when you begin with the wrong assumptions.  Mac Owens shows how the Pentagon's report on the likely effects of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell does precisely that:  "[T]the report seems to be predicated on the idea that the integration of open homosexuals into the military is merely the most recent manifestation of the quest for civil rights that began with African Americans after World War II." 

There are many problems with this approach, not the least of which is the way this assumption hinges on the absurd progressive notion that equal justice to individuals, rather than being the result of objective observations about human nature and politics that demand prudent implementation, is merely a hazy outline that comes into being via some vague and sliding evolutionary scale of cosmic understanding. In this view, one supposes, we will come to a day when all distinctions are finally grasped as nothing more than backward looking and irrational clinging to Neanderthal prejudices.  So, whenever sensible people raise specific objections about broad-brushed applications of this kind one-size-fits-all "justice," those who put their faith in the notion of a coming and superior enlightenment can reply with smug self-satisfaction, "Don't worry.  Be Happy.  It's all good."  What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, at the end of this mythical yellow-brick road, when human consciousness has reached this "happy" level of agreement about the equal value of everything, I suppose the thinking is that there won't be much to argue about or to fight for . . . which makes the centering of this particular struggle around homosexual service in the military all the more strange. 

But there's even more than this flighty logic to object to in the pro-repeal argument.  Denying the distinctions between black soldiers and openly homosexual soldiers in terms of civil rights is flatly outrageous--and it's also insulting to the vast majority of combat soldiers who, today, object to the idea of eliminating DADT.  In the first place, it suggests that having black skin and preferring sex with a member of your own sex are, essentially, the same thing.  One is an incontrovertible fact that cannot be denied and has no inherent moral consequences, the other--though perhaps an innate trait--is, at best, neither obvious nor important information for sharing and, at worst, potentially damaging to unit cohesiveness when it is shared.  A gay man need not share his inclinations with others--a black man can only avoid sharing the fact of his skin color with the blind.  It is a stupid and an insulting comparison.  Further, it suggests that there is a moral equivalence between objecting to being near a person because of his skin color and objecting to being near a person because of his behavior.  Thus, a man who prefers not to shower or live in close quarters with an openly homosexual man is the moral equivalent of a racist. 

I have no doubt that gay soldiers today under DADT serve with honor and in close quarters with heterosexuals and do all of that without incident and even do it with the passive "knowledge" of their peers.  And no rational or fair minded person would support outright cruelty to any person.  But there has to be more nuance to an argument about the fair and just treatment of homosexuals than this argument comparing it to the struggle for the civil rights of blacks suggests. 

Finally, Owens argues that comparing the integration of the military under Truman to a proposed integration of openly homosexual soldiers today, ignores one massive, fundamental and important fact:  the purpose of our armed forces.  "The 'functional imperative,' i.e. the purpose of the U.S. armed forces is to fight and win the nation's wars," says Owens, "Truman's order was motivated by concerns about military effectiveness, not civil rights."  American blacks have fought and died in America's wars since the Revolution (and, yes, I suppose, homosexuals have too).  The question then, was not how do we "open up" the service to them to make it fair--for no one was blocking them--the question was how do we make their service most effective?  What is the most prudent and effective means of achieving the military's goals?  Under Truman, the wise and happy conclusion was integration. 

If there is to be any comparison between the situation of homosexuals in the military and the one time situation of blacks in the military then, perhaps it should be this:  No one is blocking them.  The question is not whether they can serve, but how their service might best serve the ends of the military.  Until homosexual activists can show that eliminating DADT would not only not harm military readiness but would actually do something to improve it, they have no argument worthy of consideration.  That they cannot demonstrate this has nothing to do with their frustrated whines about bowing to the "backward thinking" among enlisted soldiers and everything to do with the fact that their complaint is completely beside the point of the armed forces.
Categories > Military

Pop Culture

Odes to History

Try these musical interpretations of the French Revolution and the Canterbury Tales by a group called historyteachers.  Much more edifying than the Cliffnotes we had.

Treppenwitz:  I don't notice historyteachers poeticizing American history.  This would be a important mission for conservative artists--imagine a video of the Boston Tea Party, for example.  The Internet allows the insignificant to outwit the mighty. 

Categories > Pop Culture

Men and Women

Too Cool for School?

Interesting hypothesis:

Women follow rules better than men do, so the women do better in school.  But, there is no correlation between doing well in school and doing well in adult life. And there might be a reverse correlation, because school is about doing what you're told, but strong performers in business make their own rules. Maybe this is why most big law firms have no women in their top 10 rainmakers. This is because it's an ill-defined, outside-the-rules-of-what-you-learn-in-law-school kind of job. But these are the people who make the money and have the flexibility to have a lifestyle they want outside of work--one not so hours-bound. So for women to really get the kind of workplace they want - flexible, responsive, and engaging, the women are going to need to break some rules.

Categories > Men and Women

Health Care

AIDS and the Power of Lobbying

Powerline cites Michael Fumento's powerful and contra-PC stance against excessive AIDS funding. Domestically, Fumento's argument that AIDS research receives an egregiously disproportionate share of public funding is undeniable - and his corollary thesis that this imbalance was founded and is perpetrated upon a series of lies and misinformation is damning of the AIDS lobby (particularly when one fully recognizes that the cost is literally a matter of life and death for those needlessly dying of unfunded diseases for which cures might otherwise have been discovered).

All of this is basically irrefutable in America. Research funds are finite, and should be used to the greatest benefit of the greatest number of people - particularly targeting diseases which cannot otherwise be prevented. Regardless of liberal stammering, AIDS can be fully prevented through responsible personal behavior - as the link notes, heterosexual men are more likely to contract breast cancer than AIDS. AIDS research is overfunded, and so cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (among other afflictions far more deadly than AIDS) are underfunded.

My only observation would be that AIDS is a far graver matter overseas - particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where infection rates may exceed 1/3 of the adult population. Yet generally unpreventable illnesses such as respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases and malaria are just as prevalent - and cancer, heart disease and other "common" causes of death are just as prevalent overseas as in the U.S. Thus, there is a greater global rationale for AIDS research than exists in the U.S., yet even those areas would profit more abundantly from a reallocation of some funds away from AIDS.

But medicine is money, and money is politics. The AIDS lobby - intimately associated with the homosexual lobby, for quite understandable reasons - has dominated the political game and confiscated an incredible amount of money for their efforts. I sympathize with their compassionate self-interest, but research funds should be allocated by need and promise of progress - political correctness and unethical lobbying tactics result in increased deaths, both here and abroad. 

Categories > Health Care


It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It

WaPo reports (as does WSJ):

All life on Earth - from microbes to elephants and us - is based on a single genetic model that requires the element phosphorus as one of its six essential components.

But now researchers have uncovered a bacterium that has five of those essential elements but has, in effect, replaced phosphorus with its look-alike but toxic cousin arsenic.

While "the discovery does not prove the existence of a "second genesis" on Earth," it "very much opens the door to that possibility." Since we don't actually know if the microbe replaced arsenic with phosphorus in its DNA structure always possessed arsenic instead of phosphorus, the possibility exists of a theorized "shadow biosphere" on Earth - that "life evolved from a different common ancestor than all that we've known so far."

We are witnessing (or discovering) history - even if in its most minute progression.

Categories > Bioethics

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

Assuming this link is correct, here's an excerpt form the textbook at issue in the Scopes Trial:

The Races of Man. - At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest race type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America. . . .

Improvement of Man. - If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might be improved by applying to them the laws of selection. This improvement of the future race has a number of factors in which as individuals may play a part. These are personal hygiene, selection of healthy mates, and the betterment of the environment�.

Eugenics. - When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.

The Jukes. - Studies have been made on a number of different families in this country, in which mental and moral defects were present in one or both of the original parents. The "Jukes" family is a notorious example. The first mother is known as "Margaret, the mother of criminals." In seventy-five years the progeny of the original generation has cost the state of New York over a million and a quarter dollars, besides giving over to the care of prisons and asylums considerably over a hundred feeble-minded, alcoholic, immoral, or criminal persons. Another case recently studied is the "Kallikak" family. This family has been traced back to the War of the Revolution, when a young soldier named Martin Kallikak seduced a feeble-minded girl. She had a feeble-minded son from whom there have been to the present time 480 descendants. Of these 33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded. The man who started this terrible line of immorality and feeble-mindedness later married a normal Quaker girl. From this couple a line of 496 descendants have come, with no cases of feeble-mindedness. The evidence and the moral speak for themselves!

Parasitism and its Cost to Society. - Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

Remember, many of the people who supported teaching this stuff denounced those who disagreed for being anti-scince, and backward.  Willian Jennings Bryan defended Christianity against Darwin, but he also turned to a more basic language when he called it a "barbarous doctrine." When science makes claims beyond its legitimate realm, and uses its authority to denounce those who disagree, it is science, not religion, that has crossed the line.

Categories > Quote of the Day



I have my new Kindle.  I sit in my study at home and every morning I read my Columbus Dispatch and Washington Post and Nepszava, as well as some blogs.  And of course, some books, any time I feel like it.  While I don't read everything on my Kindle, I use it to read the fat books (Burlingame's Lincoln, for example), and those that I want immediately in hand (takes less than a minute to download a whole book!) because I am thinking about something the book ponders (Ryan and Cantor's Young Gun's).  It goes almost without saying that I have many other books on it, from Shakespeare (all of it) to Jane Austen to Tolstoi to Yeats, to the Bible  I read into these anytime I feel like it, in airpots and planes, and in my car waiting for snowstorms to calm.  Now I know I will never be stuck without a book ever again.  I promised this to myself during those lonely ten hours at at the Agra airport in 1987.  I have been carrying books around ever since and that's why I have had to use chripractors from time to time.  Now I just carry my Kindle.  And I am still  amazed by this great gift.

Bill Buckley used delight in talking about his visit to the University of Salamanca, the second oldest university in Europe.  There was a room, not much bigger than my study at home, which housed the entire known literature of the West, as of the 13th century.  The monks and scholars entered the room to do their studying.  But they were notified by a sign above the arch, a bull of excumminication, signed by Pope Gregory IX: Remove a book from that library, and you go to hell.

That there are now more than one copy of each book is self-evident.  That this is a great good is self-evident.  It is good thing to remind ourselves of this massive fact, from time time.  And we should be grateful that we have full access to the human mind, almost the whole of it, at any time, in any place.  This is amazing.
Categories > Leisure


Catholic-Orthodox Unity

Today, on the Feast of the Apostle St. Andrew, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated to Bartholomew I, Orthodox ecumenical patriarch, "the need to progress toward full communion with the Orthodox Church." The Pope marked the occasion by delivering relics of St. Andrew to Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Kazakhstan.

While the Catholic Church has long sought an end to the 1,000 year schism between the churches, the Orthodox have often been unresponsive - a legacy of communism, war and clerical entrenchment. But there are hints of a positive shift among the Orthodox. Reunification would rank among the most important events of the past 500 years.

Categories > Religion


Rhetorical Change on Climate Change

The UN climate change summit begins today in Cancun (Americans for Progress has a humorous video of the opening festivities).

Global cooling / warming / climate change has always been a fraud in the sense that its most fervent advocates corrupted data, published lies and censored critics in an attempt to control global economics under the guise of environmental protection. In the past, they had the decency to hide their real motives, but either a sense of futility or shamelessness has convinced some to speak more candidly.

Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair the Cancun summit, recently admitted:

The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.

... we redistribute de facto the world's wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.

Luckily, the U.S. is entirely ignoring Cancun and attendees have little hope of leaving with anything more than a suntan. As the Kyoto treaty nears its 2012 expiration, may this also spell the slow death of the climate change movement.

Categories > Environment


A Round-Up of the Economy Today

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have written an op-ed attempting to convince Americans that the GOP is focused (and willing to work with Dems) on America's priorities "to cut spending, rein in government, and permanently extend the current tax rates. Senate GOP have promised to filibuster all legislation until a budget (sustaining tax cuts) is resolved and the House votes on tax cuts tomorrow.

On the other side of the aisle, Obama's Debt Commission report was released today. Highlights include cutting 200,000 federal jobs by 2020 (10% of the workforce), cuts in defense spending, $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020, reducing the deficit to 2.3% of GDP by 2015, tax code reforms costing the average taxpayer an extra $1,700/year, a government revenue cap of 21% of GDP, reducing debt to 40% of GDP by 2035 and raising retirement age. Yet the split bipartisan commission may fail to pass the measure.

The two parties came together yesterday for a meeting on the economy and tax cuts. "No formal agreement was made," writes WaPo, "but the meeting marked a sharp departure from the practice of the past two years, when Obama dealt almost exclusively with Democrats - in part because Republicans were content to try to block his every move." Ignoring WaPo's obligatory, reality-challenged snark, the meeting may have been a refreshing glimpse of less partisan times, but it achieved nothing. 

The NY Times observes that conservative economic policy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity following the November elections. Let's see if the GOP is comitted to conservative economic policy.

Categories > Economy


"Apostles of Our Dankest Bigotries"

"The Tea Party's battle cry - Take Our Country Back - expresses a clear desire to return to a time when America was whiter and gays and lesbians were chained in the closet." Thus opines Harold Meyerson in today's WaPo, condemning the Tea Party as "apostles of our dankest bigotries."

Progressives have yet to learn the art of losing graciously. But given their view of America's past (and America's growing awareness of their views), it's a virtue I suspect they'll have ample opportunity to refine in the future.

Categories > Progressivism

Pop Culture


On Saturday, October 30, 2010, the Opera Company of Philadelphia brought together over 650 choristers from 28 participating organizations to perform one of the Knight Foundation's "Random Acts of Culture" at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia: "Hallelujah".
Categories > Pop Culture


Something Wiki This Way Comes

Given modern technology, how likely is it that we can keep documents secret nowadays, compared to the past?  Poor Richard, of course, noted that three can keep a secret if two are dead, but that's not the whole truth.  There's a difference between secrets seeping out, and them being easily available to anyone with google.

Categories > Politics


Winston Churchill

What can one say about Mr. Churchill?  It is his birthday. I will go home and have a shot of cognac and a stogie in your honor.  I feel too prosaic today to try say anything poetic or elegant about this wonderful fellow who, at every turn in his life and words, reminds us of human excellence.  And that, as he might say, is an incontrivertable truth.  Thank you, Mr. Churchill and I will toast you.  Here is a piece Justin Lyons did on Churchill and here is a good book about him by a friend.  

Categories > History

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

From President Jackson's Bank veto message:

It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality in all its features ought to be considered as settled by precedent and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I can not assent. Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power except where the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress, in 1791, decided in favor of a bank; another, in 1811, decided against it. One Congress, in 1815, decided against a bank; another, in 1816, decided in its favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore, the precedents drawn from that source were equal. If we resort to the States, the expressions of legislative, judicial, and executive opinions against the bank have been probably to those in its favor as 4 to 1. There is nothing in precedent, therefore, which, if its authority were admitted, ought to weigh in favor of the act before me.

If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the coordinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.

Categories > Quote of the Day


Self-Control NOT Self-Esteem

Dennis Prager's column at NRO today discusses the evolution of the "self-esteem" school of thought that--despite ample evidence of and experience with its deleterious consequences--still seems to function as the de-facto premise of all institutions concerning the education and activities of today's children.  Prager suggests that in the eyes of most ordinary people, this emperor now stands naked and they realize what a disaster his methods have been.  I agree with him that there is an undercurrent of mockery and complaint surrounding the self-esteem movement. 

Unfortunately, however, if the practical adoption of this approach is dying at all, it appears to be dying a very slow and obnoxious death despite this undercurrent of scorn.  It lingers, unwanted and unloved, but it refuses to be ignored.  Perhaps for those of us raised with the approach, there remains a lingering suspicion that we are engaged in some form of cruelty when we do not massage the egos of our children--and maybe our vanity suggests to us more power in our role as molder and shaper of our children's egos than any parent has a right to imagine he possesses.

As a corrective to that temptation, today's parents and teachers ought constantly to remind themselves of the following:  "[G]ood character is created by teaching self-control, not self-esteem . . . if you don't agree with this conclusion, do the following:  Ask the finest people you know how much self-esteem they had as a child.  Then ask all the narcissists you know how much their parent(s) praised them."
Categories > Education

Literature, Poetry, and Books

How to Lose Writer's Block

You think you struggle with writing?  Consider this WaPo profile of Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken.  Hillenbrand suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome so crippling that for two years she could not leave her DC house nor, for months, even her room.  

In the carefully calibrated world of Laura Hillenbrand, every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. On one day, she might agree to an interview but skip a shower. Energy is finite, and she typically has enough for one activity a day. She is constantly measuring herself, monitoring herself. She might write a bestseller - she might write two - but the ensuing fame will touch her only tangentially. She will not see her books in Barnes & Noble.

The profile explores not only her writing on a champion horse and a champion athlete who suffered as WW II POW but also the love between her and her political theorist husband, a Thucydides scholar.  Both attended Kenyon College.



Megan McArdle wonders if we are headed for another financial crisis.  Andy Kessler offers his policy prescription for saving the banking system in the event of another crisis..  It seems pretty similar to something commenter Art Deco suggested in one of the threads (unless I misunderstood - which is likely.)  Heck, I dunno.

h/t Reihan Salam.

Categories > Economy


Not Giving Much Away

I'm impressed with the President's suggestion of a two year pay freeze for civillian federal employees.  I'm not impressed by the savings and I don't think for a moment that he has come around more to my way of thinking (or Paul Ryan's or Mitch Daniels or...), or that he is ready for real compromise.  I think he understands what is central to the changes that he wants to implement and institutionalize and what is peripheral.  Or put it this way, he knows that the Democrats can freeze the pay of federal employees, cut domestic discretionary spending, make earmarking a felony, and still win the future.
Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

American Exceptionalism, Upate

Greg Sargent responds in the WaPo to that paper's coverage of conservatives questioning Obama's belief in American exceptionalism by asserting that "the right intends this attack line as a proxy for their real argument: That Obama is not one of us." He concludes, after many paragraphs supporting his thesis, by revealing that the "real goal [of right-wingers] is to hint that you should find Obama's character, story, motives and identity to be fundamentally alien, unsettling, and insidious."

Sargent indubitably intends his indictment as a "gotcha" moment - a discovery of hidden motives and stunning revelation.

The only problem is that most conservatives would likely agree with everything Sargent wrote. Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, probably because of his character, story, motives and identity, and therefore he isn't really one of us. Oh, and we find that unsettling and insidious. And even if you set aside the whole issue of American exceptionalism, Obama still probably isn't like us - for all the same reasons and with all the same results.

The left just isn't getting the message.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Refine & Enlarge

Extolling American Exceptionalism

WaPo notes that Palin, Romney, Pence, Huckabee, Santorum and Gingrich have all recently extolled "American exceptionalism." In part, this arises from Obama's reluctance on the matter.

Obama was asked by Financial Times correspondent Ed Luce whether he subscribes, as his predecessors did, "to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world."

The president's answer began: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Though purportedly affirming his belief, many understood the president to have signaled denial by nuance.

The rhetoric of exceptionalism is likely to continue, as it has an eager audience not only in Tea Party and conservative circles but also among moderate American. The (rightful) perception that Democrats eschew the doctrine not only plays very well in the current environment but clearly defines a fundamental divergence in liberal and conservative political perceptions and policies.

WaPo quotes the late political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, who employed exceptionalism to explain "why the United States is the only industrialized country which does not have a significant socialist movement or Labor party." Many Americans see in Obamacare, finance regulation, massive spending and the like an attempt to impose institutions and policies which conflict with the established modes and inheritances consistent with a sense of exceptionalism. Tea Party Americans instinctively responded to this shift with defiance, demonstrating a visceral attachment to a continued sense of American exceptionalism and its social, political and economic consequences.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Refine & Enlarge

Constitutional Conventions

The Federalist Society recently hosted a debate (video here) on amending the Constitution. WaPo covered the event by noting the "jarring" juxtaposition as "liberals urged caution, and judicial modesty," while conservatives "called for revolution." The latter saw potential for a constitutional convention to restore states' rights, considering amendments to balance the budget, mandate a supermajority to raise taxes and afford a line-item veto. The former rebutted that policy differences should be resolved by the political branches.

The debate seems to be conservative elation over the November election run amok. That states' rights have been unduly curtailed is evident, but exposing the Constitution to reform risks denigrating the prestige of the cherished document. And what's good for the goose.... Liberals will not always be the target of popular ire.

The Constitution says what is should - it has been a fault of the electorate that our leaders have failed to legislate and adjudicate in accordance with the Constitution. We have the opportunity to amend that particular error every November or so.

Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Political Parties

Beware Your Leaders

I've long thought that the greatest impediment to the advancement of the civil-rights movement is the leadership of the civil-rights movement. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like inspire (intentionally, I believe) division and angst where none need exist, personally profiting from the perception of victimization but thereby alienating their cause.

This syndrome can just as easily affect a political party. Thus, Democrats attempted to portray Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove and the Tea Party as de facto leaders of the GOP. These attempts generally failed, but the GOP has been laboring to provide its own red meat for the grinder. RNC Chair Michael Steele has been an embarrassment and general disgrace from the onset, and continues to make headlines with his unprecedented and shady spending.

Party leaders generally ought to be distinguished (by longevity or merit) members of Congress or sitting presidents. A president is an obvious and inevitable leader, but the out-of-office party may find itself without a discernable head - or sporting a multitude of heads. Both are generally unsightly conditions. Nonetheless, peripheral characters, such as Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Steele, are dangerously unaccountable. They may work mischief without being personally held responsible by voters (unless they attempt to run for something) - the party suffers for their sins.

Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, Sessions, Pence and Ryan spring to mind as genuine GOP leaders. Insofar as a character such as Steele shares the stage, all the more pressing is the need to divest him of his authority.

Categories > Political Parties


Obama Compromising?

WaPo reports:

Bowing to growing budget concerns and months of Republican political pressure on federal pay and benefits, President Obama will announce a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers.

The freeze is "the first of many difficult steps ahead," according to the OMB. "[T]he president is clearly asking [federal workers] to make a sacrifice." The GOP responded that the freeze is "long overdue" and suggested further spending cuts proposed in the "Pledge to America." 

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports congressional Dems "are preparing to put up a fight over tax relief for wealthier Americans before they agree to any compromise with Republicans that could extend the Bush-era breaks." The Dems will need Obama's support to hike upper-income taxes and fend off across-the-board tax breaks - a losing position which will further erode the president's flagging approval rating. Further, the WashTimes reports that advocates of government transparency are calling for Obama to "follow through on a slew of unfulfilled pledges he made during the 2008 campaign"

Opportunities to change course and compromise (whether out of new-found enlightenment concerning the popular will or mere political necessity) are quickly arising during the lame duck session. This vestigial period will be a fine indication of Obama's response to the electoral disavowal his policies received in November.

Categories > Presidency

Pop Culture

Today it's Happy Meals, in the 1950s it was comic books

It's not every day that George Will editorializes about the history of the comic book industry.  However, he did so yesterday and I'm glad he did.  Few outside the uber-geeky circles I frequent have ever heard of Frederic Wertham of the 1950s investigation into comic books.  Those who have tend to portray the tale as a predictable case of uptight "family values" conservatives infringing on artists' creative freedom.  But, as Will informs us, Wertham in many ways represented the progressive ideal of the crusading social scientist seeking to purge society of all that wasn't good for it.  Surely all of the decent, right-thinking progressives of the time lined up behind Wertham.

The Wertham case puts me in mind of an article I wrote some ten years ago, published in 2001 in the Historian.  Entitled "Gigantic Engines of Propaganda", it posits a link between the progressive investigations of the motion picture industry in the 1900s and 1910s, and the late-1940s hearings by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Categories > Pop Culture

Refine & Enlarge

Partisan Mind

Ross Douthat is a smart guy, I think.  Yet, this op-ed on the partisan mind is very light.  Given that bi-partisanship is such a cause (even) among some, and is so misleading, etc., this issue need a more serious discussion, but one which I can't attempt today....yet I throw this out in case some else is willing to start it.
Categories > Refine & Enlarge



A Virginia jury convicted five Somali men of piracy on Wednesday, the first such conviction in the U.S. for almost two centuries.

While this is a victory for law and order, it would be a mistake for leftists to seek herein a justification of civil trials for terrorists. That avenue has thus far proved intellectually and practically unpersuasive (e.g., Gitmo detainee Ahmed Ghailani).

Off the record, I support the Russian solution.

Categories > Courts


Defending Con Law

PrawfsBlawg, "Where Intellectual Honesty Has (Almost Always) Trumped Partisanship -- Albeit in a Kind of Boring Way Until Recently -- Since 2005," raises an interesting topic by Elizabeth Dale on the state and relevancy of Constitutional Law classes in law school. After all, most lawyers aren't going to work for (or on) the Supreme Court -  very few lawyers actually work in the field on constitutional law.

Admitting to be "a bit puzzled by the fact that [Con Law] seems to play a smaller and smaller role in the law school curriculum," Dale argues persuasively on both practical and ideological grounds for teaching the Constitution.

At some basic level, the constitution is about the only thing, aside from geography, that we share as a nation. (I hasten to assure you that I use the word "share" very loosely, I have grasped that in many ways what most unites us are our bitter disagreements over what the constitution means.)  And while one could once assume that students who finished grammar school had studied the constitution (it was a requirement for graduating from 8th grade and from high school when I was a K-12 student), I assure you that that is no longer the case. My undergraduates rarely have studied the constitution before they take one of my history courses, and often have hazy (if not disturbingly wrong) ideas of what it provides.  I doubt they are unique.  Given that the constitution is no longer taught to younger students on a routine basis, I am puzzled by the fact that law schools are de-emphasizing it as well.

Dale continues to expound upon the pervasive influence and relevance of constitutional knowledge across the legal spectrum - and the need for a broad background in the Constitution. As they say, read the whole thing.

Categories > Education

Foreign Affairs

Eurozone Circles the Drain

Portugal is apparently resisting calls to accept a EU bailout, joining Greece and Spain in attempting to ward off the Grim Reaper. EU officials view a bailout as securing the euro and centralizing EU power over member countries, while EU nations are attempting to avoid the shame and obligation accompanying a bailout. But it is far from certain that proposed austerity measures will either be adopted or sufficient.

For a sobering and sensible take on the EU, try this clip of the indefatigable Euroskeptic, Nigel Farage (h/t Powerline):

Categories > Foreign Affairs


International Religious Freedom

The International Religious Freedom report is submitted to Congress annually by the State Dept., supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing detailed information on religious freedom. It includes country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide.

Highlights of the 2010 edition:

Recommends the State Dept. designate 5 additional "countries of particular concern," CPCs, for egregious violations of religious freedom - Iraq, Nigeria,Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam;

Recommends 8 countries be re-designated as CPCs - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - and that additional actions are taken;

Documents violations of religious freedom in countries placed on the USCIRF Watch List and urges increased U.S. government response;

Highlights efforts of some member states at the United Nations to undermine religious freedom standards through the flawed "defamation of religions" concept; and

Discusses measures still required to address flaws in U.S. policy regarding expedited removal of asylum seekers."

The full report is here.

Categories > Religion


Southern Poverty Law's Shameful Hate-List

Following up on Gloria Steinem's accusation that Republicans are universally sexist, Southern Poverty Law Center quickly labeled conservative organizations as "hate-groups." SPLC, like Steinem's feminist movement, once served at least a partially noble cause. Now, all Republicans are misogynous oppressors and conservatives are the equivalent of neo-NAZI's and the KKK.

Tea Partiers were attacked as racist, sexist and hateful prior to the election - but November proved the movement resistant to such smears, no doubt to the chagrin of the progressive left. So, along with broad brush smears, the left has also adopted a narrower, targeted form of character assassination: SPLC's list of hate-groups includes Family Research Council and American Family Association. Virtual skinheads.

I doubt the good work of sexual, ethnic and gender tolerance is quite finished, so it's a shame that the self-described champions of such causes have decided to waste their time, efforts and credibility on ridiculous, partisan smears. These people defile themselves by accusing decent people of abhorrent intentions, and injure the greater cause of justice by wielding such weighty accusations with ideological frivolity.

Categories > Race


Haitian History

The stream of sad news from Haiti reminds us of its founding and ours.  I once heard Walter Berns remark that a great unwritten book was how the Haitian slave revolt and subsequent government influenced the case against emancipation.  This new book by Jeremy Popkin is probably not that work, but it may be a start.  A snide Wall Street Journal review nonetheless gives one an impression (not the least from the artwork) of the significance and tragic failure of that early republic.
Categories > Race

Men and Women

Steinem's Shameful Feminism

I had a good laugh at Gloria Steinem's latest stunt to remain relevant as the spokeswoman for leftist, radical feminism. The lady is obsessed with Sarah Palin, and again recently expanded her ridicule to include all conservative women. It's the same absurdity visible among leftist race-baiters who bitterly refuse to acknowledge Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Colin Powell or any other right-of-center African American as authentically black.

Steinem scolded Palin for using the "mama grizzly" motto, insisting the bear is solidly pro-choice, and condemned "Republican" and "right-wing" females as "obedient women" who "have accepted their own subordination" and "think they better do what the powerful tell them to, otherwise they'll be in even more trouble."

Yes, that's exactly how I think of Coulter, Ingraham, Palin, Noonan, Malkin, Crowley, Hutchison, Bachmann, etc. I assume it entirely escapes Steinem that her stereotyping of half the women in the country as obedient subordinates due to their divergence from her political ideology is profoundly sexist, intolerant and disgraceful.

In fact, I should have just ordered obedient and subservient Julie Ponzi to write this article for me, since she'd obviously do my bidding in order to stay out of trouble. Right, Julie...?

Categories > Men and Women