Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The Global One-World Classroom

Wired Magazine profiles an initiative by a couple of Stanford professors to open some of their classes to "anyone with an internet connection." A recent class attracted 160,000 students in 190 countries. They are supremely optimistic, auguring that "there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education" in 50 years. All of which, naturally, will be internet-based and have a global reach.

I have my doubts. On-line schools will definitely rise in the years to come, particularly if prohibitively-expensive college tuition continues to rise. But it will be very difficult to replicate the small classroom experience and employers will have to accept their legitimacy. Presently, the only significant difference between the Stanford experiment and other on-line colleges is prestige (and cost - the former is still free).

A shift toward on-line schooling will likely be gradual - but if it is to be successful, it will result from initiative and experimentation on the part of on-line schools, as well as the stubborn refusal of traditional colleges to reduce costs and adapt.
Categories > Education


Facing Death

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy article on the breaking trend of providing end-of-life patients with drugs. Psychologists are effectively administering magic mushrooms and hailing "the healing power of psychedelics." One of the leading researcher's reports:

On psychedelics you have an experience in which you feel there is something you are a part of, something else is out there that's bigger than you, that there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning. I'm telling you that you're not going to forget that six months from now. The experience gives you, just when you're on the edge of death, hope for something more.

The role which psychedelics are hoped to serve at the end of life is pretty much the same as that supplied to most people by religion. One doubts that the writers at the Times know any such people. So, the substitute for faith is hallucination. Perhaps the Times sees them as one and the same. But I suspect most people comprehend the difference.

My first reaction is that this is a cowardly way to approach death - just as drug use is a cowardly way to approach life. Such a solution has always been available. Re-branding it as science, medicine or progress changes nothing. Those of faith have nothing to fear and everything for which to hope. Atheists at least have nothing to fear. And sinful sorts can benefit from a little fear and trembling.

This is not medical advancement. It is social regression.
Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

Syria's in Trouble Now!

The New York Times reports:

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Agrees to Send More Observers to Syria

The UN also demands an immediate halt to the violence that has been steadily escalating since the UN's cease-fire took effect last week.

If Syria doesn't mind it's P's and Q's, the UN may be forced to send them a strongly worded letter.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Trayvon's Legacy

I continue to have little opinion on the Trayvon Martin case, just as I have little opinion on the other 45 alleged murders which occur daily in the U.S. But the killing continues to have reverberations on the left. Today, began a national petition to force the district attorney for Chadbourn, North Carolina to bring charges in the killing of Jasmine Thar. The reason for their passion in this particular case? Thar was "a 16-year-old African American" and the person who fired the fatal shot is a "23-year-old Caucasian" who possessed "a Confederate flag and Nazi literature in his home."

MoveOn does not mention news reports that the
23-year-old Caucasian burst from his house after the shot was fired and began shouting "No! No! No!" as he fell to his knees. Another witness saw him crying in front of his house and observed, "I've never seen anyone's face so twisted with anguish." He was arrested but released when police determined that the discharge was accidental and may have been a mechanical failure of the weapon.

I have no idea if the Caucasian is innocent or guilty. And neither does MoveOn, who is calling for an new, "unprejudiced" investigation. That is, they assume that the reason charges have not been brought is based on race. The vast majority of blacks in America are killed by blacks, but have you ever noticed a liberal movement to end black-on-black crime? If this case did not involve a Confederate flag and Nazi literature, I would never have heard of it. Yet can you imagine the howls of outrage from the left if conservatives presumed a black man's guilt based on the possession of a Black Panthers' emblem and Nation of Islam literature?

Thee here:
The left's obsession with race transcends their devotion to the rule of law and prejudices their perception of crimes across racial lines. This is not virtuous concern for "insular minorities," but rather racist bias rooted in psychological insecurity and liberal ideology. Liberals do not want justice for blacks - if that were so, they'd address the black-on-black crimes which claim most black lives. Rather, liberals want to make a spectacle of white-on-black crimes, purely for political gain and personal psychological satisfaction.

Trayvon's death was tragic, but liberals have made his legacy into something corrupt and unseemly.
Categories > Race

Literature, Poetry, and Books

Remembering Twain

Mark Twain died today in 1910. The "greatest American humorist of his age" was also lauded by William Faulkner as "the father of American literature." An American treasure, his talents and legacy have been recalled by succeeding generations of fine Americans.

Health Care

Koreans Love Oreos

A tiny tempest in a teacup has erupted around Kraft Foods due to the leak of a Korean Oreo advertisement which shows an infant breastfeeding while holding an Oreo cookie. Since the photo shows partial nudity, I'll link to it rather than post it here.

I find the ad to be a bit egregious ... but pretty funny, nonetheless.

Asian humor is ... distinct. 
Categories > Health Care


Pelosi's "War on Civil Society"

Many Republicans wryly welcomed the reign of Madam Speaker Pelosi, as the gaffe-prone San Franciscan representative was sure to provide a spectacle of liberal lunacy. She is surely a crusader for the far left and perceives the world through a peculiar lens. For example, on Thursday she declared:

The fact is this president has been so respectful of the Republicans in Congress. He has given them every opportunity for the executive and the legislative branch to work together, to have a solution that has bipartisan support. He's been criticized by some for taking the time that it takes to find out that they're never going to give him a break, which is a compromise

These must be new definitions of respect, bipartisan and compromise of which I was previously unaware.

Now comes news that Pelosi has endorsed a constitutional amendment to strip free speech rights from everyone but individual persons. The People's Rights Amendment reads:

Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

As Eugene Volokh notes, Pelosi's amendment would deprive newspapers, churches, non-profits and all corporate entities of free-speech.

So just as Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines -- which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country. ...

Congress could also ban the speech and religious practice of most churches, which are generally organized as corporation. It could ban the speech of nonprofit organizations that are organized as corporations. (Congressman McGovern confirms this: "My 'People's Rights Amendment' is simple and straightforward. It would make clear that all corporate entities -- for-profit and non-profit alike -- are not people with constitutional rights. It treats all corporations, including incorporated unions and non-profits, in the same way: as artificial creatures of the state that we the people govern, not the other way around.") Congress could ban speech about elections and any other speech, whether about religion, politics, or anything else. It could also ban speech in viewpoint-based ways.

This is not an attack on evil corporations. It is an attack on "civil society" - defined as the "mediating layer between the individual and the state." Pelosi's strategy dovetails Obama's war on the Catholic Church, in that they are attempting to dismantle and eliminate all non-governmental entities which share power and influence over individuals. Churches, private societies and all other such organizations in which individuals gather together provide alternatives to - and therefore dilute the authority of - the leviathan of government.

There is a reason that so many people deride liberal democrats as socialists and communists - they both have a seemingly unlimited deference to the state and a concomitant distaste for any other form of public assemblage. They view society as individuals under the state bureaucracy with no room for light between the two. Conservatives rightly view individuals and the state as commingling in public (that is, "political") forums. But we also recognize that the majorities of our lives take place outside the realm of politics, within a variety of religious, social and private venues collectively known as civil society. 

Pelosi's and the like have no appreciation that they would cripple society - in the same manner that communism invariably crippled societies - by deteriorating the non-political social bonds of civil society.
Categories > Progressivism

Foreign Affairs

If You Lie Down With Dogs . . .

Cristina Kirchner's Argentina is a socialist-lite South American dictatorship-in-the-making - a country increasingly modeled after Hugo Chavez's full-fledged socialist dictatorship in Venezuela. As a soft-socialist, Kirchner has nationalized sparingly - relying instead upon onerous regulation and government interference in the private sector in order to ensure "social democracy." As of late, however, her ambitions have been less subtle.

Facing intense criticism over the nationalization of its biggest oil firm, Argentina on Thursday ordered the seizure of YPF Gas, another group controlled by Spain's Repsol, a move expected to further inflame tensions.

When criticized for expropriating an oil firm, respond by seizing a gas firm. That'll teach 'em.

The move postures Argentina in direct conflict with Spain, the U.S., the EU and the IMF. But such is par for the course for socialist regimes - when the going gets tough, take what belongs to someone else. As Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." Others would do well to stop placing their money within Ms. Kirchner's reach.

In fact, that same principle may apply to those in America who have a penchant for spending other people's money.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Eugene Robinson's Rhetoric is Over the Top

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Eugene Robinson by commenting on them. But today's article is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Not all overheated political rhetoric is alike. Delusional right-wing crazy talk -- the kind of ranting we've heard recently from washed-up rock star Ted Nugent and Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) -- is a special kind of poison that cannot be safely ignored.

Let me be clear: I'm saying that the extreme language we hear from the far right is qualitatively different from the extreme language we hear from the far left -- and far more damaging to the ties that bind us as a nation. Tut-tutting that both sides should tone it down is meaningless. For all intents and purposes, one side is the problem.

Believe me, I would prefer not to dignify the ravings of Nugent or West by commenting on them.

As a rule, I believe nothing Eugene Robinson says, but his absurdities today reveal a particularly delusional pathology. The rants of Nugent (referring to the Obama administration as "coyotes in your living room") and West (referring to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus as communists) do not hold a candle to the daily incendiary language of the left.

Here's a bit from yesterday's Forbes Magazine:

We know who the active denialists are - not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies. Let's start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let's make them pay. Let's let their houses burn. Let's swap their safe land for submerged islands. Let's force them to bear the cost of rising food prices.

They broke the climate. Why should the rest of us have to pay for it?

That didn't take long to find.

The very suggestion that the most vitriolic rhetoric comes from the right is absurd. This same assertion was made after the Arizona shootings and was equally fallacious. I'll happily compare the rhetoric of the Tea Party to the Occupy Wall Street thugs - or, for that matter, any conservative group (pro-life, NRA, religious) to any liberal group (labor unions, environmentalists, secularists).

Unlike Robinson, I'm not arguing the conservatives are better human beings. I'm not even arguing that a bit of toxic rhetoric is all that bad. I'm only observing that, by way of comparison with the right, the rhetoric of the left is far more vitriolic, violent and ... poisonous.
Categories > Progressivism


Faith and Politics in the Next America

Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, formerly of Denver, and probably the most outspoken, serious and influential Catholic thinker in America (perhaps second only to USCCB president Timothy Dolan in political influence), has just published a short book titled, A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America (available in e-book format from Amazon for $0.99 - it was my first PC Kindle purchase, and well worth the 1/4 cup of Starbucks coffee price).

Actually, the "book" should be considered an essay and will likely serve as the forward to a second edition of Chaput's 2008 publication, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (due out this summer). Though written as a pastoral letter to Catholic faithful, Chaput is conscious of his wider audience and couches his message of religious freedom in authentically American terms. But he is hardly equivocal - his theme is one of persistence and active, unflinching engagement in the political sphere. He offers no quarter to the separationists who would have religious citizens check their faith at the door to political participation. Bringing faith to the political discussion is our duty, not merely our privileged, and so we must vigilantly ensure our right to cultivate faith and reason in the public forum.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better way to spend $0.99 and 30 minutes of your life.
Categories > Religion

Foreign Affairs

War is Still the Answer

The world is a scary place. Within the last week or so, North Korea tried to shoot a nuclear-capable rocket over my head, India boasted the ability to nuke China's major cities and the Sudanese have fully embraced a quasi-civil-war. It seems that arms races, whether high tech or low, are still the means by which countries seek to resolve differences and strategically position themselves for international diplomacy.

I believe it is safe to say that the UN has been an unmitigated failure in its primary mission to achieve world peace. Of course, that was a tall order to begin with. The EU has been generally stable in Western and Central Europe - although, following the two world wars for which that area is chiefly responsible, they were due for a few years of peace and we should wait a little longer to determine if theirs is to be an enduring peace. It is a fretful thought to consider that modern terrorism has not actually replaced traditional nation-based warfare, only accentuated and complemented it.

The world presently attempts to provide disincentives for arms-races and war-like aggression in the form of sanctions, but they have proved largely ineffective. Sanctions often weigh heaviest on the weak and ignorant. Further, poverty breeds desperation. It has always been rich and powerful nations which (after a bit of conquering and colonization) have instituted lasting peace. Such is was during the Pax Romana, Pax Ecclesiae and Pax Britannica. Attempts to equalize nations - or, in Obama's words, to level the playing field - foolishly seek to depress nations into a posture ripe for conflict.

Until we find a better trans-national solution or men are ruled by their better angels, my hope for world peace remains the pragmatic Pax Americana. Our abdication of the leading role in peace-keeping through superior diplomatic, economic and military power destabilizes global truces and imperils world peace. America as "world policeman" is still the best option on the table.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Cosmic Constitutional Theory

In today's WaPo, George Will reviews Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III's "Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance." Will interprets Wilkinson's self-governance as a prerogative of majorities, preferring instead self-governance based on the liberties of individuals.

Ripe for thoughtful comment, I'd say.
Categories > Courts


Quote of the Year

I nearly missed this one from Michelle Obama a few days ago:

"This President has brought us out of the dark and into the light."

I must say, Barack found himself a devoted and faithful bride in Michelle. This administration has a record that only a mother could love. But Michelle is still praising her man with psalmic reverence.

The quote, of course, mirrors 1 Peter 2:9:

...who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The Biblical quote references the messiah, though one wonders if the same is true for both quotes. Perhaps Michelle would subscribe to the whole verse, with minor substitutions:

But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Who in times past were not a people: but are now the people of [Obama].

After all, until Obama's ascension, America was a nation of "uninvolved," "uninformed," "complacent" "cynics" and "sloths," who were "guided by fear," whose "souls are broken" and who were "just downright mean." Michelle had never felt pride in America until Obama was elected. So it would not be difficult to imagine that America is now a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people, because it has declared Obama's virtues and become his people - a people called out of the darkness and into his marvelous light.

Is such an interpretation any less delusional than the claim that Obama has somehow delivered America out of darkness and into the light?
Categories > Elections


Torturing "Individuals"

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that foreign entities, including terrorist organizations such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, are not included in the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. The act allows victims of foreign torture to sue the "individuals" responsible for such conduct. A case was brought by the family of Azzam Rahim, an American who was murdered at the hands of the PLO. Plaintiffs argued that since corporations, for example, are generally considered "persons" under the law, organizations could be cast as "individuals." But the Court ruled that Congress' intent was to limit the law's reach to "flesh and blood" individuals, excluding the organizations to which they might belong.

Regardless of your opinion on the substantive matter of suing organizations which routinely torture, the Court was right to defer to Congress rather than sua sponte expanding the act to include entities beyond the act's intended scope. Nevertheless, a ruling is still pending on the Court's interpretation of the 18th century Alien Tort Claims Act, which would effectively grant universal jurisdiction to U.S. federal courts for international law violations affecting anyone, anywhere in the world (regardless of their ties to the U.S.). I previously mentioned the ATCA case here. So the Torture Victim Protection Act may soon become a moot point.
Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

How Covert Can It Be...?

... if the CIA is publicly "seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen?"

Shhhhh . . . maybe we're assuming Yemeni terrorists can't read.

Of genuine interest, however, is the requested expansion of the CIA's authority to launch "strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who will be killed."

Securing permission to use these "signature strikes" would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives.

But don't go thinking we're entering a brave new world or anything.

The practice has been a core element of the CIA's drone program in Pakistan for several years.
I wonder if that's also a covert action.

Obama's declined such a request last year, but seems poised to acquiesce in light of the troop draw-downs in the Middle East. Yet "signature strikes" against unidentified persons was certainly not on Obama's to-do list when he ran for president. It's good to see a liberal "evolve" in office in the "right" direction, for once.

Categories > Foreign Affairs

Health Care

Is "Eating" also "Mistreating"?

I awoke today to news that Obama ate a dog.

In the West Wing?

With the wife and kids?

Poor Bo?

Then I realized that it was decades ago, when Obama was a child in Indonesia, and of which he had written openly in his first book. The only aspect of the story which strike me as amusing is that the contents of his own autobiographies are still a mystery to most people (especially in the media).

Otherwise, I do not find the story of Obama "mistreating" dogs by eating them as a child to be overly unsettling. But then, I live in Korea - where dog is on the menu - and until recently lived in Italy - where horse is on the menu - and recently visited . . . well, you get the picture.

P.S. Ok, but this is really funny.
Categories > Health Care


Environmentalism's Waning Light

These two WaPo stories were side-by-side in my inbox today:

Naturally, the environmentalists have no where to go but to the Democrats (aside from the UN, of course, but that's a different matter). Yet the irony of the articles' wry placement reveals the sad state of affairs when a dwindling faction completely in the pocket of a single party begins to lose its influence. Big labor may be fully Democrat, but they're still collecting (often forced) dues and scaring up (often literally) votes so as to remain a force to be reckoned with. Environmentalists are beginning to see the limits of their influence.

But we haven't yet rid ourselves of radical environmentalism. Case in point: The new and improved $60 "Earth Day" light bulb. I don't expect this novelty to win over any new converts, but the fact that the Obama administration spent $10 million dollars during an economic crisis for a more expensive light bulb (and spent who knows how much political capital to pass legislation forcing Americans to buy said light bulb) reveals the lingering influence of the green industrial complex.
Categories > Environment

The Founding

If you shoot at a King...

Dr. King then applied for a gun permit. Ann Coulter on a brief history of blacks and gun control. Gun control remains a good litmus test of liberty--whom do you trust, yourself and your law-abiding friends, or lawless people and an arbitrary law? A WSJ op-ed puts Florida's "stand your ground" law in perspective and finds it moderate, and no license to shoot at will, or even when attacked.
Categories > The Founding


Mourning Tocqueville

Yesterday marked the 153rd anniversary of the death of Alexis de Tocqueville, the extraordinary biographer of America, in all its splendor and its deficiencies. His principal virtue was his insight that liberty-smothering bureaucracy--what he termed "centralized administration"--was at the core of contemporary ills, and it would worsen, as this scandal  (more serious than the GSA) reminds us.

This Tocqueville anniversary coincides with the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's bold attack on the American founders and his celebration of the administrative state, "What is Progress?" The presidential campaign address also proclaimed the need for Darwinian science to form the basis of our political science. The contrast between Wilson--who equated democracy and socialism--and Tocqueville, who denied such equivalence is most instructive.

Obama's ill-informed attribution of "Darwinism" to Paul Ryan, et al. flies in the face of his own Progressive, Darwinian assumptions, which repudiate constitutional government and justify tyranny.

A few years ago Diana Schaub penned a typically elegant essay on the anniversary of Tocqueville's death.

Categories > Conservatism

The Civil War & Lincoln

America's Good Friday

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 147 years ago today. The event fell on Good Friday.


Washington: Britain's Arch-Nemesis

Fox News reports from London:

George Washington has been named Britain's greatest ever foe, according to the UK's National Army Museum.

The American Revolutionary War hero and the country's first president was the winner of a vote held at the museum Saturday to identify the Britain's most outstanding military opponent, The (London) Daily Telegraph reported.

Washington triumphed over the likes of Michael Collins, Napoleon, Rommel and Ataturk for the (in)famous title of "greatest foe ever." One hopes that the title was born of respect on the part of the British. Of course, Collins, Napoleon and Rommel were ultimately unsuccessful and Ataturk enjoyed only limited successes. Washington alone won a victory for all ages, as it were, in American democracy. And his miraculous cannon fortification of Dorchester Heights during the ultimately successful siege of Boston remains an unsurpassed example of military leadership.

Perhaps the British merely wished to name the only man to defeat them in recent history as the greatest of men in recent history. If one must be defeated, let it be by the greatest of adversaries. Whatever their reasoning, the truth is the same: Washington was the greatest of men.
Categories > History