Carol Platt Liebau: April 2005

Friday, April 29, 2005

Democrats, Reid It and Weep!

Harry Reid is no Bill Clinton. Neither have much substance -- but Reid doesn't even have good political form. Take this -- he states flatly that it would take a "miracle" for Democrats to win back the U.S. Senate. Riddle me this, Batman: Why would any political leader want to dishearten his base?

But Reid's newest blunder is in keeping with his recent declaration that Bill Frist's offer to compromise on the filibuster is just a "big wet kiss" to the religious right. Regular readers know that I'm not a big fan of the usual Republican compromise, which too often involves giving the Dems 99% and declaring victory over the 1% left.

But Frist's newest offer, summarily dismissed by Reid, has a number of advantages. First, it reveals the Democratic intransigence on the filibuster issue. They won't even negotiate. Second, by offering 100 hours of debate on the filibuster, it smokes Democrats out. They don't want to protect minority rights to have their say -- they want to exercise an unprecedented minority veto over judicial appointments. Third, it reveals that the problem isn't -- as Ralph Neas and Nan Aron would argue, with the competence or temperament of some judges . . . it's all about ideology. How do we know? Becaues Frist offered to keep the filibuster for district court judges, who generally don't have the power to shape law in the fashion that appeals courts can.

No go, said political genius Reid.
He can try for a hundred years, but Bill Maher (author of silliness like this will never be fit even to fix breakfast for NRO's Rob Long, Mark Steyn, or P.J. O'Rourke.

His big point is that the Republicans are angry and the Democrats aren't? Ha! When it comes to "vein-popping, gut-churning rage", it's hard to find any Republican who's the equal of Ted Kennedy -- although Barbara Boxer comes close enough to be mocked for it on Saturday Night Live (Chris Matthews, too, can get pretty worked up over nothing). And by the way, has Maher ever seen or heard of the head of the Democratic National Committee -- a man named Howard Dean? Talking about "vein-popping" for the new millennium . . .

But according to Maher, "consumes the entire right wing." Hmm. Yes, everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Hugh Hewitt to Bill Frist is incoherent with rage. And did you hear the President's tantrum last night?

The difference between Republican and Democratic anger? Republicans get mad at America's enemies. Democrats get mad at America -- at least,when they're not whining. Like Maher.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Tonight's presidential press conference represented the President's best effort yet to explain the need for social security reform -- and the voluntary private accounts he's proposed. As the President stated, it's time to let workers have the same kind of stake in their retirements that the rich -- and Congress -- enjoy.

I doubt that anything he said will change the radically obnoxious and deeply dishonest obstructionism on the part of congressional Democrats, but at least the President made his support for voluntary private accounts clear and once again invited the Democrats to participate in the discussion. By being open to suggestion and by presenting new ideas to solve tough problems, the President does a great deal to distinguish himself from the hidebound, do-nothing, cat-calling Dems.
Proving once again that Democrats' commitment to "choice" is nothing more than a euphemism for supporting abortion, Barbara Boxer is trying to eradicate the "conscience clauses" that protect pharmacists from having to dispense abortifacients if doing so is contrary to their beliefs. Debra Saunders nails it here.

I am pro-death penalty, but I believe that pharmacists should have the right to refuse to provide lethal drugs to the state, just as no doctor should be forced to perform abortions. As Democrats scream that the "religious right" is trying to impose its values on all of us, just think of Boxer, et al., seeking to put the touch on pharmacists with the heavy hand of government.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Nancy Hopkins: Do NOT Read This!

Hopkins, of course, is the MIT biologist who allegedly got sick and had to leave the room when Harvard President Lawrence Summers mentioned that there might be innate differences in male and female brains that could explain men's greater proficiency in math-related fields. (Read my column on the whole mess here).

She'll have to run for her smelling salts before she reads this WebMD piece, which forthrightly accepts the fact of brain differences between men and women -- and alludes to "a lasting functional advantage that females seem to have over males: dominant language skills."

The article is a little more cutesy when it comes to conceding that men, too, have areas of greater expertise -- but it does concede that, "When it comes to performing activities that require spatial skills, like navigating directions, men generally do better."

Hello, Nancy Hopkins? Those "spatial skills" are what's key to success in complex math and engineering fields. Deal with it.

Down with the "Kumbaya Contingent"

Boyden Gray sets out the facts about the constitutional option in a USA Today piece; correctly, he notes that under "fast track" authority, trade agreements cannot be filibustered. To that, I would add that budget reconciliation bills likewise cannot be filibustered -- and if senators must vote on how to spend our money, it doesn't seem too unfair to require them to vote on our judges.

A piece in the Kansas City Star (registration required, and it's a pain), tries to suggest that Bob Dole has piped up with an assertion that a "compromise" can be reached. Not so fast. Read on, and you learn what Dole actually said -- and what he writes here, in The New York Times -- is that Republicans would be perfectly justified in resorting to the constitutional option if the need arises.

Thank Heaven. Because Lincoln Chaffee-style kumbaya rhetoric isn't helpful to the Republican cause (not that Chaffee seems to care). Not to compare Democrats to Saddam Hussein -- but to use the metaphor, Republicans like Chaffee/McCain/Hagel et al, who keep hopes of a "compromise" alive, are acting like the UN back in 2003. If there were any chance of the stand-off being resolved amicably, by giving the Democrats hope that they can avoid a day of reckoning, this "kumbaya contingent" only reduces the likelihood of a "peaceful" resolution -- and helps the MSM portray straight shooters like Boyden Gray as "outside the mainstream".
The blogging event last night at the L.A. Press Club, moderated by Hugh Hewitt, was great. It's always good to see National Review's Rob Long (wish he'd start a blog), just about the funniest right-leaning writer out there (along with Mark Steyn and P.J. O'Rourke). It was likewise a treat to become acquainted with Cathy Seipp, whose work I've read with great pleasure.

L.A. Times Sunday Opinion editor Bob Sipchen, also in attendance, heard his newspaper come in for a fair amount of criticism, especially from Hugh. Kudos to him for coming to the event and responding -- with tenacity and good cheer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Straw men and prevaricators

Reading stuff (to put it kindly) like this, it's easy to understand why Americans see liberals as hostile to traditional Christianity.

Jack Hitt, whoever he is, constructs a straw man in the shape of his own misconceptions about how Republicans understand Jesus and his messages. He tries to clothe his bigotry by supposedly attacking the way the broadcast media discuss evangelical Christianity, but his piece lets the cat out of the bag at the end -- he thinks evangelical preachers are marketing Jesus as a "furious political hack." Here's more of his silliness:

Every generation produces a Jesus to suit its own purposes. How fitting that in the Age of Information our broadcasters have marketed a Jesus so narrowly defined that he resembles little more than a lobbyist loitering outside Tom DeLay's office hoping for a few minutes of the great man's time.

Where is he getting this garbage? His big "point" is that Jesus used parables to teach, and thereby left a lot of ambiguity in what He said -- that it's up us to interpret. Point taken, as far as it goes. But the problem with Hitt's argument is the way he wants to use it -- after all, if there's nothing but ambiguity, then each of us can interpret how we please and do what we want. (Look at the latitude that the act of "interpreting" the law gives to liberal judges . . . they're free just to make it up!).

What Hitt wants to ignore is that some of what Jesus said was absolutely crystal clear (check out the Sermon on the Mount). The problem with clarity, from Hitt's perspective, is that it prevents people like him from remaking Jesus in their own image.

More than that, his utter ignorance about the teachings and beliefs of the religous right is astounding -- as is the fact that the Times would print such a mindlessly bigoted piece. Check out this quote: "Ironically, mass-market Christians rarely cite or emphasize the living Jesus, the Jesus who speaks. They like their Christ dead." If Hitt had taken just a moment to listen to any of the preachers he criticizes, he'd realize that this is simply untrue.

If the left is ever going to be effective -- and to score points without lying -- its advocates will have to understand their "enemy" better than they do right now. I happened to see Norman Lear last night on "Hardball". He appeared in conjunction with some ad he's paying for, alleging that the Christian right is accusing those who don't agree with them of not being good Christians (i.e. the old "they're attacking my patriotism!" whine carried into the religious context).

How silly. Though I'm not a fundamentalist Christian myself, I have heard a lot of what people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and others have had to say -- and I have never heard them call anyone a "bad Christian." Nor, contrary to the claims of Norman Lear and the talking points emanating from the left, is anyone trying to run the country based on any one religious creed.

Rather, the religious right is simply trying to make sure that being religious isn't a disqualifier -- from being a judge or anything else. In its efforts to excise religion from public life, the left would have it so that any person of active faith either (1) was deemed unqualified to serve for that reason alone, or, failing that, (2) had to promise not to rely on his faith for any kind of political (as opposed to judicial) decision-making.

Those demands are unreasonable. Everyone basis his/her policies on something -- and frankly, basing them on religious principles is much less scary to me than basing them on whatever self-constructed "morality" people like Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer use. Of course, EVERYONE (religious or not) must act within the law -- and judges must pledge to uphold the laws on the books whether they agree with them or not. But when it comes to the tough decisions -- ones where there isn't a "law on the books" -- everyone needs a philosophical framework.

Liberals distrust faith and established religion because it gives a framework larger, more authoritative and more restrained than simply relying on the elite understanding of the trend of the moment, or "what feels good" at any particular time.

No wonder people like Jack Hitt and Norman Lear must set up straw men and resort to lies. They are upset with the way religion is embraced by the vast majority of Americans because it makes their agenda harder to realize.

Takes One to Believe One

It's not surprising that Barbara Boxer would believe information from any source, however loopy, that would promote her campaign against John Bolton and accountability from the UN.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Religion in America

Michael Barone has some interesting observations on religion in America.

Here's an interesting fact: "In the 2004 presidential exit poll, 74 percent of voters described themselves as churchgoers, 23 percent as said they were evangelical or born-again Protestants and 10 percent said they had no religion."

No wonder the Democrats are so desperate to find a way to seem less anti-religious.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Democratic Moral Values?

In The New York Times magazine, Matt Bai writes about democratic moral values, appropriately following the phrase with a question mark.

As has been noted here before, there's one big reason that the Democrats have a huge problem talking about religion: It splits their base constituencies. Sure, some Republicans have reservations about the religious right, but that can't credibly be compared with the significant cadre of secular humanist elites on the Democratic side who are actively hostile to religion (here is a prime example). And then the Democrats must hold on to the black vote -- but faith is an incredibly important part of African-American life. So it's no wonder that national Dems are having a hard time finding their voice on moral issues (and are working so hard at the difficult, perhaps fruitless, task of trying to separate morality from religion).

Republicans have it much easier . . . and could reach even more people if they were to emphasize that they are not trying to legislate religion -- they are merely trying to allow people of faith and their ideas to have the same voice in the public square and the same participation in the drafting of public policy that the non-religious have been enjoying for several decades now.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Actress: US Shares Blame for 9/11

According to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, touting her new movie about the aftermath of 9/11:

"I think what's good about the movie is that it deals with 9/11 in such a subtle, open, open way that I think it allows it to be more complicated than just 'Oh, look at these poor New Yorkers and how hard it was for them,' because I think America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy with which it's dealt with allows that to sort of creep in."

What reprehensible things, exactly, is she referring to?

Maggie might want to check out "Tribute to America" by Canadian Gordon Sinclair.

Better yet, she should read one of my favorite all time articles by Dan Flynn titled "Top Ten Reasons that Thinking Americans Love Their Country" . . . Wonderful, amazing piece.

His top 10?

(10) Education
(9) Immigration
(8) Technology
(7) Creating Wealth
(6) Generosity
(5) Human Achievement
(4) Enlightened Power
(3) Medicine
(2) Democracy
(1) Freedom

Key quote for Maggie G: "Our legacy is not slave chains, Wounded Knee, and the murder of James Byrd, but American GIs liberating a Nazi death camp, an immigrant's first glance at Lady Liberty's torch, and Ronald Reagan exhorting the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall."

How wonderful it is to be an American. What a gift it is to live in this big, beautiful, generous and God-blessed land. And how sad not all Americans realize it.
Remember when the Democrats and the MSM were sneering that the 9/11 hijackers hadn't actually been heading for the White House -- but for Capitol Hill? The effort, of course, was to try to make President Bush and Vice-president Cheney look like men prone to overreaction, if not cowardice.

Will they apologize now?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Cinderella's Dialing 911

This has to be a joke -- some British researcher is claiming that little girls who enjoy classic fairy tales "are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life." Supposedly women who grow up reading fairy tales are supposed to be more "submissive" as adults; that, in turn, is supposed to correlate with domestic abuse.

Alert Disney -- and all those little girls running around in Belle, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty costumes!

Please don't doubt that there's a feminist agenda behind this effort. By replacing classic fairy tales featuring female heroines/princesses, feminists apparently think they can prevent little girls from being socialized as little girls -- a good thing, in their view.

Won't they ever learn? They certainly don't ever give up . . .

Appoint New Judges, Don't Threaten the Old Ones

That, as I take it, is the message of Charles Krauthammer's column today -- and his point is well-taken. Ted Olson is also concerned with the tenor of some of the conversation about judges.

Democrats are planning to try to convince America that Republicans are engaging routinely in "abuse of power" (see here and here). Overheated rhetoric from our side about impeaching judges and the like will simply play into their hands -- particularly considering the help they get from their friends in the MSM.

Rather, we should be drawing the distinction that Dr. Krauthammer does. We may disagree with a lot of what the current judges do. But the solution isn't to impeach them -- it's to get new judges appointed. And we should be directing our energies toward making sure that Democrats don't resort to unprecedented and illegitimate means (like the filibuster) to prevent mainstream judges with majority support from taking their places on the bench.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Liberal Catholics Reach for Smelling Salts

The election of Pope Benedict XVI came too late in the day on Tuesday for "reaction" to hit yesterday's newspapers. But reaction comes today, with a vengeance, from liberal Catholics who are dismayed by this unequivocal reminder that they are not nearly as significant in the grand scheme of things (in both the Catholic world and the world generally) as their overrepresentation in the media would lead them to believe.

Charles Curran, a priest whose license to teach theology was revoked under orders from Cardinal Ratzinger, opines here. Although he hasn't made out too badly -- he teaches "human values" at SMU now -- he's upset that the Catholic Church hasn't liberalized its views on sexual morality so that they agree more with (surprise!) his. He is unhappy that Church teachings on sexual morality aren't allowed to "change with the times." Interestingly, however, he spends most of the piece arguing that they could be changed, rather than even attempting to convince anyone that they should be changed (perhaps in his world, that's a given?).

Joan Vennochi, columnist for the Boston Globe, feels "Orphaned by the Church". "From the pews," she opines, "you can feel the church flex new political muscle, making it harder to draw a personal distinction between political belief and religious belief." Hmmm. If that's the case, then isn't that a function of a religion simply doing its job? After all, how effective is any religion that allows someone to claim to be an adherent, but then support political policies that are diametrically opposed to its teachings? That's not "political muscle" being flexed -- that's "religious muscle."

And finally, the most empty-headed and empty-hearted of them all, Tina Brown, weighs in here with her regrets over the new Pope, detailing her "disappointment [that] was also the flip side of the wishful, desperate expectation that the new pontiff would be a standard bearer for a refreshed discourse of ecumenism, tolerance and openness."

Obviously, all three writers are most upset about the Pope's teachings on sexual morality -- the teachings that are seminal to voters' views on some of the most hot-button issues of the day, including gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia (along with a whole host of tough cultural issues, exemplified by the Church's prohibition on premarital intercourse).

The one thing missing in all these pieces is any religious basis for arguing that Church teaching should change, based on the same eternal laws that gives rise to the teachings in the first place. Rather, the liberals want Church law to change either because (1) of what they think is more "moral" than the current teaching (e.g. being "tolerant" of homosexual marriage) or because (2)increased permissiveness simply recognizes "human nature" and makes life "easier" (e.g. winking at premarital intercourse).

As for #1, it's pretty arrogant for these people to think that they can (or perhaps even should) be substituting their own morality (derived from what besides their own puny minds?, by the way) for the Church's -- and yet be entitled to remain Catholics in good standing. As for #2, those people seem to ignore the whole purpose of religion: It's not to make life easy -- it's to make life godly. No one said that living a faith was going to be simple or temptation free (that's where God's grace comes in, by the way).

For a refreshingly different approach, check this piece out -- by William Donohue, it's titled: "The absolute is not obsolete: A morality based on fixed principles still resonates for Catholics despite what critics may believe."

There are some Catholics who don't observe all the Church's rules (e.g. on contraception), but they acknowledge the validity of those rules and the fact they are breaking them. The pernicious ones are the "Catholics" who want to change the Church itself so that it conforms to today's mores -- turning religion into nothing more than a convenient justification tool for what they want to do or to believe. In other words, they seem to think their views shouldn't be shaped by Church teaching; instead, Church teaching should be shaped by their views.

In setting forth the probable views of the new Pope, Joan Vennochi puts it pithily: "The Vatican is not progressive, nor is it a democracy. Accept the views or leave the pews."

My thoughts exactly. The problem is that most of those disaffected liberal Catholics become Episcopalians. And then where do all the Episcopal traditionalists go?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This piece represents a pernicious effort to equate evangelical Christianity with anti-Semitism. Doubtless, there are too many evangelical Christians who are anti-semites -- just as there are too many Unitarians or atheists who are anti-semites. What's outrageous is the attempt to attribute the anti-semitism to the presence of evangelical Christianity on the Air Force campus.

There's plenty of anti-semitism in France, these days -- but last time I checked, not so many evangelical Christians. How does one explain that?

If Bolton's a Bully, He's Got Plenty of Company

So the Democrats are working hard to derail the Bolton nomination on the flimy basis that John Bolton allegedly mistreats some of his subordinates. The charges themselves appear to be outrageously wrongheaded.

But even if they weren't, as Rush Limbaugh observed on his show this morning, it's unbelievably hypocritical for the Democrats to target Bolton for being allegedly abusive to his employees -- only a scant six years after they supported a President who was a serial predator on women who worked for him in The White House (Kathleen Willey and Monica Lewinsky, just to name two).

Moreover, some of these senators should look to themselves -- and their colleagues. When Iworked on the Hill about a decade ago, there were pretty ugly stories about bullying and abusiveness on the part of "certain senators" toward their staffs. It's not right to name names on the basis only of hearsay -- but I would suggest that is would be a very fruitful area for some enterprising Capitol Hill reporter to hone in on.

A Cautionary Tale

It hardly bears noting that the election of the new Pope has drawn "mixed reactions", as the front page of the LA Times "reports."

Liberals are disappointed that they have a "divider" on their hands -- the catch-all phrase of opprobrium for anyone that stands for anything that's both not liberal and difficult to criticize (like traditional Catholic doctrine).

But any normal Catholic, who cares about a united Church that has a doctrine that's coherent, should rejoice. If anyone needs a cautionary tale about the dangers that spring from "modernizing" or "liberalizing" a once-proud faith, they have only to look at what's happened to the Episcopal Church.

Yes, some of the doctrinal flexibility that the Episcopal Church was always known for could, theoretically, be a good thing -- and was, for a long time. So was the more decentralized structure of the Episcopal Church. But that flexibility was abused -- and the decentralization exploited -- by liberals, who wanted to project their own political and ideological values onto a Church (many, I suspect, were disaffected Catholics).

After a contentious debate among the American bishops, Gene Robinson -- a non-celibate homosexual who left his wife and two children -- was consecrated the Bishop of New Hampshire.

Whatever the personal merits of Gene Robinson, that course of action -- insisted on by the leftist elements in the Church despite pleas from others -- put the Episcopal Church of the USA in "impaired communion" with the Church in the rest of the world -- and created divisions that have led to the creation of factions within the US Church, itself.

So any Catholic expressing regret that the new Pope is "rigid" or not into "centralization" (see here for something approaching that tone) had better be careful what he wishes for.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Barbara Boxer would like to use the law to prohibit pharmacists from acting in accordance with ther consciences. After all, who is a pharmacist to say that some things are right and some things are wrong? The "Dictatorship of Relativism," indeed.
Not surprisingly, liberals and gays are unhappy about the new pope.

Also, notice how the media tries to lump the issue of sexual abuse by priests into the whole progressive framework of "issues." It doesn't belong there -- it's a slur and a slam to act as though conservatives are untroubled by clergy sexual abuse.

Hurray for the College of Cardinals

In a stunning repudiation of the "Dictatorship of Relativism," the College of Cardinals have made Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the new Pope.

Thank Heaven. He is a strong proponent of traditional theology and morality -- not one to be swayed by the winds of political correctness or trendy thought. Conservatives can't help but be heartened by the choice, especially after reading the delicate shudderings directed at Ratzinger by liberal relativists like E.J. Dionne.

God bless him and those who have brought him to the Papacy.

For some good Catholic perspective, check out The Anchoress.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"The Dictatorship of Relativity"

According to RomanCatholicBlog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, delivered a homily to the cardinals entitled "The Dictatorship of Relativity".

There was a fascinating discussion about the phrase this afternoon on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. It seems to me that the phrase speaks to the tyranny of "political correctness" in all its forms, insofar as the heart of political correctness is the desire to ignore or shade the truth (or even deny there is a truth) so as to avoid offending anyone -- even those, perhaps, whose conduct is offensive to standards of religious morality. With relativity, of course, there is no truth (and no Truth) -- and therefore, no right and wrong, and therefore, no objective morality. Precisely what anti- or areligious forces are pushing for.

It's always a delicate mission for a church to fight the forces of relativity. It does tend to give offense.

The difficulty is exemplified by John 14:6, where Jesus says: "No one comes to the Father except through Me." What does this mean? And how does one reconcile the plain words of the text with what would seem obvious: That a loving God would include people of all faiths in His embrace?

But if that's true, aren't we back to "The Dictatorship of Relativity" -- where "your" Truth is as good as "my" Truth, and there is no "one" Truth? On the other hand, if the words of the Bible as quoted above are true, isn't that rigidly exclusive, very anti-PC, and somewhat discomforting?

This is a hard one to figure out (luckily, I'm not in charge of who goes to Heaven). If there are any theological experts out there reading this, please comment and enlighten. Maybe (probably) there's something I'm missing.

Weekly Column

Speaking of feminism (see the post below), check out my weekly column -- it's on the life and death of radical feminist Andrea Dworkin.

Good for the Anscombe Society

Princeton University now has a group that has been long needed on its campus (and many others, too). The Anscombe Society is dedicated to the principle of chastity and abstinence outside of marriage.

It's a pretty sad commentary that those who wish to remain chaste must seek group solidarity -- but given how outnumbered they are, it's no surprise. Nowadays, it seems that colleges are drenched in sexuality and promiscuity is the norm. It's a pretty sad commentary that young women can be used sexually by a whole variety of men, and they themselves even buy into the whole notion that it's "liberation"! Not that it's good for the young men, either, to live with the idea that it's okay to see and use woman as sex objects only. What a triumph for feminism the whole system is!

Anyway, good luck and Godspeed to the brave souls making up the Anscombe Society. They'll need it.
Governor Bill Richardson, quite rightly, counsels Democrats that they must connect with voters' values if they are ever to regain political power.

The problem is: How, exactly, are the Democrats going to do it when they have leaders like Chuck Schumer, who sees no place for people of faith in American politics?

What the Democrats seem to have forgotten is that, for mainstream American voters, it is their religious convictions that shape their "values" -- and that it's pretty hard to appeal to the latter while deriding the former.

Go, Howard, Go!

Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, came to California last weekend for the state Democratic Convention.

The fact that 22% of Dean's money came from California Dems -- and the strong hold he reportedly has over the party here -- is more proof of just how far left the California Democrats are. The California Republicans need to find a way to help voters understand how out of the mainstream most of their elected representatives are.

As for Dean, he's the gift to Republicans that keeps on giving. He mimics the Governor's accent (how PC is that, by the way?) and openly asserts that Democrats will "use Terri Schiavo" (!) to score political points.

Interestingly, the AP piece goes on to equate this statement to the infamous memo that argued that Republicans could realize political gains from the Schiavo case. And that's a prime case of media bias: The difference is that the Republican memo came from a fairly low-level senatorial staffer who was fired for drafting and distributing it -- not from the chairman of the party.

Perhaps none of the Democrats who expressed such indignation about the Republican staff memo were attending the convention Saturday night. Because we've heard nary a peep of protest from any Democrat about Dean's remarks.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Democrats are no match for Mark Steyn. He reveals their overheated accusations directed at John Bolton for the ridiculousness that they are. Make sure to read down to his parody of "Mambo No. 5." Hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. Truly.

California Dems: Where Are Their Solutions?

This weekend, California Democrats did what Democrats nationwide do best -- mock a popular, reform-minded Republican leader.

As a conservative, I don't agree with Arnold on everything. But I do understand that (1) He doesn't need this job in the way that most politicians do; and (2) He's actually trying to solve deep-seated problems in this state. It's not an easy job, and it's probably not an overstatement to note that if -- with his celebrity and charisma and popular support -- Arnold can't do it, it's going to be pretty nearly impossible to find someone who can.

Unfortunately, the effort to reform California's out-of-control spending involves taking on the special interests that currently dominate the state -- including the teachers' union, the nurses' union and the government employees. Since large parts of the state party and its politicians are all but wholly-owned subsidiaries of these groups, of course they're bound to go after Arnold. It's fair to ask them: (1) Do they think everything is just fine here in California? If not, (2) Exactly what do they propose to do about it (besides raise taxes)?

One last question: Help me understand how using the term "girlie men" is sexist and homophobic -- but selling bobble head dolls of the Governor in a pink dress is A-OK.

"Chipping Away" at Dems' Filibuster Effort?

According to this piece, that's exactly what the GOP is doing -- "chipping away at the Dems' filibuster efforts."

Interesting headline . . . because much of the piece was devoted to lawmakers who are, in fact, doing nothing of the sort. Senator Richard Lugar, for instance, is just hoping desperately for a compromise, although he hinted that he might stick with the Republicans on this one.

(Interesting thought experiment: If the shoe were on the other foot and Republicans were in the minority, what Democrat (besides Joe Lieberman) would be pausing one second to call for compromise, negotiation and moderation?)

Most notably disappointing is Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. After his preening, sanctimonious performance this morning on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," there's not much that Hagel could do to induce me to vote for him -- EVER. He possesses all John McCain's moral vanity without any of the plainspoken charm.

Hagel's most infuriating quote of the morning -- included in this piece -- is the following: "When we talk religion and government, neither should become an instrument for the other." He repeated it twice, and so obviously believes it's a profound point.

He's wrong. The point is incoherent. If a faith-based charity helps get people off welfare and improve their lives -- religion being used as a tool of government -- isn't that a good thing? And if one's religious beliefs constitute the basis for one's political stances, does that constitute an impermissible Hagelian incidence of government becoming the tool of religion? Hate to break it to Sen. Hagel, but that's the what the Democrats are arguing -- especially when they vote against fine Catholic nominees like William Pryor. What Hagel considers to be a clever formulation is actually pretty meaningless (and diametrically opposed to many of the injunctions of our Founding Fathers, who believed that religion and government were inextricably, though unofficially, intertwined).

Hagel's particularly misguided, insofar as he delivered this "bon mot" once in response to a query about Bill Frist speaking to a religious organization about the constitutional option. Would someone PLEASE explain to me how a senator speaking to people of faith somehow constitutes religion becoming an instrument for government, or vice-versa?

The point here is simple. A group in the minority (Democratic) party is attempting to prevent certain judicial nominees, who would win confirmation from the full Senate, from EVER receiving a vote on their nominations. Certainly, the Senate must and should respect minority rights -- but that traditional respect has never extended to offering the opposition party, when in the minority, the right to exercise a de facto veto over presidential nominations. What the Democrats are doing is, in fact, an abuse of the filibuster and of their constitutional obligation to "advise and consent."

Plain as can be. As the snippy newscaster on Saturday Night Live might have said, "Chuck Hagel -- look into it."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Leftist Argument: Weak & No More Blogging Until Sunday

This is a sample of the quality of argumentation coming from the left about the impending use of the constitutional option to end the unprecedented filibuster of judicial nominations.

Sample: "Judges are the chief remaining brake on one-party government . . .

Actually, no. Voters are the brake on one party government. But it is revealing of the liberal mindset -- they know the only chance for stalling the President's agenda and implementing their own is through the use of the one unelected branch of government.

Sample: "[I]n the late 1990s, Republicans, with control of the U.S. Senate, were blocking as many as 50 Clinton judicial nominations."

Yes -- well, the key phrase there is "with control of the U.S. Senate." As the majority, Republicans presumably had the votes to defeat the nominations at issue on the Senate floor. They were not a minority attempting to prevent nominations that DO have majority support on the floor from even coming to a vote. That's the difference.

The piece then goes on to attack nominee Wiliam Myers personally, and then concludes by asserting hyperbolically: "Our religious rightists would subject an independent judiciary, in a free society, to mob intimidation and tyranny of the majority. We must resist these people."

Making sure that the judicial branch is subject to checks and balances -- like the executive and legislative branches are -- isn't "mob intimidation." Insisting that the Democratic minority cannot change Senate precedent and use a procedural device to exercise a de facto veto over judicial nominations isn't "tyranny of the majority."

But perhaps it's easier for left-wingers to resort to hysteria than actually try to win the votes that would let them exercise power legitimately.

Blogging will resume on Sunday.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bill Frist has gotten the message -- according to this piece, he's going to push to end the misuse of the filibuster.

A perfect end to an evening spent watching "Kiss Me Kate" on Turner Classic movies, enjoying the great music by Cole Porter (link to a great 1949 NY Times piece about him). Porter was a committed Republican, who hated the income tax . . . April 15 wouldn't have been one of his favorite days.
Though this piece is a bit overheated, it reflects a view that Senate Republicans ignore at their peril.

A Glimmer of Cruel Reality

According to this piece in The Hill newspaper, Senate Republicans have begun to figure out that they're actually losing the public relations war over the filibuster. This, as the piece points out, a year after many publications were criticizing the Democrats for their unprecedented use of the filibuster.

Looks like the Dems have set up a full-scale "war room" on Capitol Hill devoted to this issue. They apparently realize the stakes. In contrast, GOP aides have been reluctant to do the same -- "arguing that it is akin to running a political campaign with taxpayer money."

Earth to "GOP aides": You won't be "aides" too long if you alienate the base and it stays home the next time your boss runs for re-election. And one more thing: With all the "taxpayer money" you waste on other assorted pork, why not put it to good use for once, fighting a battle that means a lot -- not only to your own political futures -- but to the people you are supposed to be representing!?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Constitutional Option - Where the Rubber Meets the Road

There's an old hymn that goes, "Once to every man and nation / comes the moment to decide / in the strife of truth with falsehood / for the good or evil side."

Now, no one here is calling anyone "evil." The point is that sometimes there are moments of decision that have great importance -- even beyond the matter at hand.

Senate Republicans have reached such a moment in the whole protracted discussion of whether to resort to the "constitutional option." (That is, Republicans can end the Democrats' unprecedented filibustering of judges at the appeals court level by a ruling from the chair that the confirmation of judicial nominees requires only a majority vote, rather than the two-thirds needed to overcome a filibuster. 51 votes would then be required to sustain that ruling.)

Let's just note at the outset: Contrary to some of the misinformation being floated around, like inaccurate ads from leftist groups, the filibuster as it's currently being used is not some venerable part of Senate history. Most importantly, (1) It's being used here on calendar nominations rather than on legislation; and (2) The filibuster has become a de facto minority veto on nominations, not -- as it was intended to be -- a tool to ensure simply that matters before the Senate could be thoroughly debated.

Given all this, the constitutional option should be a slam-dunk, right? After all, there are 55 Republicans in the Senate (and as noted above, only 51 are needed to change the policy). Unfortunately, there are some waverers. These are people who don't understand that this debate is the fulcrum that will tilt the balance of power in the Senate either to the minority or to the duly elected majority.

Please contact the senators listed below. They are currently "undecided" about whether they would support a ruling from the chair that would prevent filibusters of judicial nominations.

John McCain -AZ
Chuck Hagel - NB
John Sununu - NH
Susan Collins - ME
Olympia Snowe - ME
Lincoln Chafee - RI"
Lamar Alexander - TN
John Warner - VA

The conservative base needs to communicate its absolute insistence on party solidarity in this matter. Otherwise, senators like the ones above will continue to consider their options, and enjoy the favorable press coverage that always accompanies a Republican deviating from the party line. And the other senators will be tempted to go wobbly, as well. As someone who worked on the Hill, I can testify that sometimes it becomes an insular little world, where, for too many, the opinions of Democratic "colleagues" -- much less The New York Times or Washington Post -- can become disproportionately important, and the views of ordinary conservatives can seem a bit remote from the business at hand . . .

Everyone must be made aware that any Republicans who defect on this issue are going to be considered hopelessly disloyal, and worse. That's because the issue at hand is about far more than the filibuster of appeals court judges (as outrageous as that is). It's about whether the Republican majority will continue to allow the Democratic minority to exercise an effective veto over much of the business in the Senate.

Remember: Republicans cannot succeed if they can't control the agenda. If they don't succeed (by dint of having given in to Democratic blackmail and threats), they won't win any thanks from the Dems -- instead, they'll be labeled as "failures" by their "friends" on the other side of the aisle. Since Republicans will be held responsible for their performance by voters no matter which side "wins" this confrontation, they'd darn well better make sure that they're going to have the power to shape their own legislative destiny.

Negotiation is a trip down the road to nowhere. The Democrats interpret efforts to compromise not as "good manners" but as an admission of weakness (just the way a dog lying in a doorway interprets humans' stepping over him as subservient, rather than polite, behavior). That's because the Democrats judge Republicans by their own yardstick -- and they'd NEVER be negotiating if they had the power to work their will.

On Hugh Hewitt's radio show, columnist John Podhoretz opined that he didn't think the issue was all that important. I couldn't disagree more. It's about whether unprecedented and outrageous attempts to establish rule by a radical minority will succeed in hijacking and controlling the Senate agenda. The filibuster of judges -- and all that it signifies -- must stop. Now.

Get informed and stay updated on this controversy at Hugh Hewitt, Committee for Justice, and DalyThoughts
Well, well, well. According to NRO's Beltway Buzz, Barbara Boxer's son made $150,000 in 2002 -- more than any DeLay family member has made in a year. Where's the big story in The Washington Post?
Cal Thomas writes a great critique of the sometimes cruel coverage of the royal wedding last weekend. And he's right -- in many ways, it's just a reflection of the media (and sometimes peoples') obsession with the external.

Yes, Prince Charles and his bride behaved badly. But there is plenty of blame to go around -- and notice how the criticism always focuses on "Cowmilla's" looks, rather than on any behavior that could properly be condemned?

Even if neither individual is attractive to us, isn't the fact that they're attractive to each other part of the mystery and wonder of love? And should what we think of their looks really matter? To me, there's something pretty touching about a couple that could withstand the stresses and public opprobrium that this one did.

Finally, I'd note that for all the vituperation still launched at the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, they didn't do anything that Charles and Camilla haven't done . . . it's just that they lived in an age where standards were higher, and the public less forgiving, for better or for worse . . .
Maureen Dowd says she's a Catholic, but after reading this column, it's hard to understand anything about her faith. Profoundly depressing, it deals with old age (life, really) as just a process of gradual physical degeneration -- nothing more than waiting for death.

I don't think the Pope saw old age and infirmity the way that Maureen Dowd does. One is moved to great sympathy for for her. If this is really the way she sees the world, and life, no wonder she's so bitter so often.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I've long thought that Andy Rooney had turned into little more than an offensive old buffoon, and this story seems to prove it.

Apparently, at a trial of a speakers' bureau that he claimed had stiffed him, Rooney

"balked when asked to swear to tell 'nothing but the truth, so help you God.' 'I don't know about God,' he said, taking the witness chair."

Doesn't this sound like some kind of bad Saturday Night Live parody of Rooney's increasingly annoying segment on "60 Minute"? I can almost hear it:

"So what's with this 'God' thing? Why are we swearing to Him, instead of at Him? And what's with all the names, anyway? God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah -- I can't keep 'em all straight." And on and on and on.

It would be quite funny if it weren't sort of pitiful.
Here's a New York Times editorial titled "Guilty Until Proven Innocent." It's about Tom DeLay.

Ha. Just kidding.

Actually, the Times is happy to pronounce DeLay guilty. Instead, they're worried about two Muslim girls who have been arrested on suspicion of being suicide bombers. How the Times loves having the chance to enumerate the incidences where the Justice Department has been "wrong" in arresting people who turned out not to be terrorists!

But because there have been some cases where the Justice Department has been wrong, that doesn't mean they are wrong this time. We'll have to see. But on a day when the indictments of other terrorist wannabees have made it clear that terrorism is a real and ongoing threat, wouldn't you think the Times would spare its knee-jerk reflexive sympathy for people who might well be hoping to kill Americans?

Well, it's the Times. So probably not.
Thomas Sowell write a fine column disputing the notion -- beloved by the left and by many judges -- that the judiciary should be somehow immune from criticism, or any real scrutiny.

In fact, given that it's the only branch of government that is unelected, and its abuses therefore cannot be redressed at the ballot box, it would seem to me that the judiciary is worthy of just as much -- if not more -- scrutiny than the other branches of government.

Monday, April 11, 2005

On DeLay

This smells. Make no mistake: If Tom DeLay has done something wrong, he should step down.

But first things first. When you read the next heavy-breathing DeLay-is-Satan story (and trust me, there will be more), you need to ask yourself two questions: (1) Is this illegal? and (2) Is this unique?

It's an old cliche -- what's shocking in Washington isn't what's illegal; it's what's legal. If the press and the Democrats really want to get into a discussion of what is legal but shouldn't be, then let's do it. They'd better be careful what they wish for, though; remember how fondly the MSM hoped for a Valerie Plame scandal, only to find themselves asserting that no illegal activity had transpired once it became clear that reporters might go to prison for contempt of court?

There are plenty of funny-looking arrangements on Capitol Hill that extend far, far beyond Tom DeLay's office -- just ask Harry Reid (who, like DeLay, has had family members on his campaign payroll) or Nancy Pelosi (one of whose staffers went on a trip, like DeLay, that was financed by a foreign agent unbeknownst to either of them).

For a more detailed discussion on the whole DeLay issue, check out this fine piece in National Review Online.

Political Discourse & the First Amendment

There are a couple of stories this morning that inspire sober reflection about the First Amendment as it's currently treated in America today. Coupled with the post about The New York Times and Columbia University from last night, it's hard to escape the conclusion that something is rotten - quite rotten - in the way that "free speech" is understood by many elites today.

First, check out this piece by Robert Novak. It's an account of how The New York Times (them again!) went shopping for an opinon piece on Tom DeLay. Not any piece, mind you -- but one that would denounce him and call for his resignation. "All the news that's fit to print," indeed. It's really "all the news we print to fit [our ideological persuasion]."

Then look at this oped from The Washington Times, discussing the lighthearted approach the media has taken to various incidents of food throwing toward conservative speakers on college campuses. It's hard to believe that, if Michael Kinsley or Al Franken were attacked in this way, it would be so blithely dismissed. (That being said, it's a step forward that it's even being generally discussed -- during my years at Harvard Law School, memories were still fresh of how Contra leader Adolfo Calero's speech was cancelled after he was attacked. A very biting poster showed a photo of the protester jumping at Calero, with the phrase "Free Speech at Harvard" printed underneath).

The First Amendment is a right, but it's also a gift. And it is infuriating when the two entities that benefit most from it -- newspapers and universities -- are its greatest abusers. No one can dispute that it's wrong for "the newspaper of record" to try to spearhead a drive to force the majority leader from office, just as no one can deny that it's wrong for that paper to make deals where it agrees to cover stories unfairly in exchange for a "scoop." It's wrong for universities -- and their newspapers -- to largely overlook the suppression of unpopular speech, and intimidation of the speakers.

And what's more, it's a betrayal of the principle of free speech -- an attempt to impose Marxist ideology, as it were, on the marketplace of ideas. It's a slap in the face to every soldier who has died to secure the freedom that The New York Times and the universities devalue by behavior unworthy of the liberties they enjoy.

Is it any coincidence that the universities and the newspapers are the last, best preserve of left-wing liberalism today?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Corruption at the NY Times (and Columbia)

Outrageous. In exchange for a "scoop" on the story of Columbia University's clearing of several professors credibly accused of anti-Semitism, the paper's reporter promised not to "seek reaction from other interested parties" -- like, for example, the students who had brought the complaint.

In other words, it was a corrupt bargain. The Times would present only one side of the story in exchange for getting the story first.

Two questions: Is it really "the story" if, as here, the account is unavoidably biased from the start (or is it just Columbia's version of "the story")? Second, how often does this happen when it's not discovered by editors or ombudsmen?

Oh, and one more thing: How, exactly, does Columbia continue to maintain that it's a place hospitable to open inquiry and robust debate -- after extracting a promise that "the paper of record" will ignore the viewpoint of its students (the parties that paying tuition -- or having tuition paid for them, incidentally)?

It's a disgrace all around.
Nice smear on the Pope today in The L.A. Times. Apparently, the practicioners of "liberation theology" weren't happy with the Pope.

Too bad. You may not get it from reading the romanticized account in today's Times, but "liberation theology" was, and is, nothing more than a systematic effort to cover radical Marxism with a religious gloss. Given the unyielding hostility of any collectivist regime toward religion (after all, an omnipotent state can't stand competition from a church), it's no surprise that the Pope, who lived under both Nazis and Communists, was no fan of the kind of totalitarian regimes that "liberation theologists" were trying to establish in South America.

Too bad The Times couldn't be bothered with telling the whole story.

Dems Demonize the Religious

Kevin Starr contributes a great piece to The L.A. Times. Key quote:

[N]ow the Democratic Party elite — the activists, the pundits, the big-bucks donors — have succeeded in pitting social democracy against the very values (one is tempted to say the very people) that gave rise to social democracy in the first place.

They have a big problem that's not easily fixed -- namely, that a very large and vocal constituency within the Democratic Party consists of secularist zealots, the type of people who would welcome the removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

What a surprise: The Germans want a more liberal Pope -- at least when it comes to matters of sexual morality.

At least one has to give the Germans credit -- they're being open about their "issues" with the Catholic Church and John Paul II. Not so a lot of liberals in the United States. They seem to clothe their objections in calls for more autonomy for the clerics in various countries -- less centralized Vatican control.

We should all understand what's going on here. The Catholic Church is one of the last organized forces advocating chastity and opposing complete sexual liberation. It is one of the last entities teaching young people about the importance of sexual restraint. And sexual revolutionaries and liberals understand that, as soon as the Church can be silenced or its influence diluted in this area, their approach to sex and relationships can occupy the field virtually unchallenged.

Yes, there are a variety of issues swirling around the selection of the new pope. But in the West, the sexual/gender issues are paramount -- check out this hate-filled screed from a mainstream paper in Britain. They're what the media cares about . . . they're what the liberals care about. They're behind many of the attacks on the Church.

And it will be interesting and important to see whether the cardinals surrender to the not-insignificant pressure. Pray for them.
Is it too frivolous to comment on the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles? As an indirect descendent of Wallis Warfield Simpson (through the Warfields of Maryland), I've always had some interest in the workings of the royal family.

Just a couple observations: It seems that the media has made much of the couple confessing their "sins;" but as the story linked above notes, it's a standard part of an Anglican (Episcopal) church service -- at least using the older, more beautiful Rite I order of service. So there really wasn't any emphasis on anyone's adultery -- a sad and wrong chapter that's hopefully been laid closed as of today. It's quite a society where the bride's ex-husband's willing to come to the prayer service . . . (and suggests that the whole concept of "droit du seigneur" is quite alive and well in Merrye Olde Englande).

As for the couple, best wishes to them. I can't help but like Camilla; it's hard to dislike a woman who's been willing to make fun of her own looks -- shows she's got her priorities in the right place and is reasonably secure. I used to like Charles, until he acted pretty churlish in the wake of the 9/11 attacks (I think it's the whole thoroughbred horse connection with the Saudi princes that led him to underestimate the gravity of Wahabbism). Here's hoping he's figured out that Islamofascism is a threat to Britain as well as America.

And here's hoping they both can finally get on with their lives in harmony and happiness.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I've just had a chance to watch some of the Pope's funeral. What a great tribute to a great man -- and how wonderful it would be if, through even his death, he was able to bring some people back into the life of the Church. As Cardinal Ratzinger said during his eulogy, there really is no doubt that the Pope stands at the window of Heaven, blessing us all. And the great thing about him was that, as a Protestant, I'm confident he was blessing me, too.

I am proud to have a President who was not ashamed to say that he was "moved" by his experience in Rome. And I am proud, and grateful, to have a President who would affirm, ""There is no doubt in my mind there is a living God. And no doubt in my mind that the Lord, Christ, was sent by the Almighty. No doubt in my mind about that." Me, too.

God bless Pope John Paul II. As old epitaphs used to read, Resurgat. He will, indeed, rise again.
According to this piece in The Wall Street Journal, Princeton University Press is publishing a serious book. But the title isn't serious . . . it's vulgar. It's "Bull----" (without the hyphens).

What is the point, exactly? It's apparently a serious, quasi-scholarly work. So if the author is intelligent enough to pen the book, one would think he's likewise capable of the intellectual exercise necessary to find a more dignified title for it. Any low grade idiot can use the word "bull----" -- shouldn't we expect a bit more from a scholar?

The Journal piece refers to the "coarsening" of standards. It's a real phenomenon in America today, and a distressing one. And don't imagine that a "little thing" like this doesn't matter; it does. In the memorable movie version of the musical "Gigi," one of the characters (a famous courtesan) observes, "Bad table manners have broken up more households than infidelity."

The point isn't literally true, probably, but the point is apt. Coarsening in small things leads to coarsening in large, creating mutual disgust, and, in the end, a decline of the civilization that is supposed to distinguish men, made in God's image, from mere animals (and I'll note that my dog, Winston, would surely have the taste not to title any book with a scatological vulgarity).
It's ungracious to criticize a serve that one receives for free -- but I'm going to do it anyway. Blogger has been down so frequently lately that if I had the technical skill to switch services, I would. A post from yesterday was lost, and now they're instructing us that lost posts may be saved on a cookie, and all one must do is click the "retrieve post" link on the posting form. Too bad no such link exists on my forms, at least. Guess the old saying's true . . . at least sometimes, Blogger seems to be worth what I'm paying for it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Turns out that a staffer to Florida Senator Mel Martinez wrote the infamous memo claiming that the Terri Schiavo matter a "great political issue for Republicans."

No one wants to kick a fellow when he's down. But what was this guy thinking? He reminds me of some of the staffers I knew on the Hill -- someone who wants to be a "wheeler dealer" so much that he loses the "forest" of what he's fighting for in the "trees" of supposedly "insider," too-clever-by-half maneuvering.

Color me wrong: I really thought that someone on the Dem side had created this -- especially when it came out that the bill number was wrong, that Terri Schiavo's name was misspelled, and that some of the language was lifted from a "religious right" website.

Color The Washington Post lucky: Mike Allen and the rest, it appears, didn't fall for a ruse. But it should certainly be an occasion for reflection, not triumphalism -- the way events went down, it became clear that The Post ran with a story without really having backed it up its sources factually. It worked out for them this time, but will it the next?

Perhaps there's a little something for all of us to learn from this . . .
Here, an account of how traveling with the Pope led a skeptical reporter to faith.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Just another reason to be grateful that Francophile John Kerry didn't win.

What is Jimmy Carter Thinking?

'Scuse me -- what am I missing here? By what right would Jimmy Carter even think himself entitled to join the delegation attending Pope John Paul II's funeral mass?

Of course, Bill Clinton has been critical of George W. Bush; his criticisms, however, have been relatively within the bounds of normal policy disagreements (although he did rush tackily out early in the administration to voice his complaints, breaking with longstanding tradition). Even so, he has been personally pleasant to the President, and the substance of his critiques haven't been anything beyond the pale.

In contrast, Jimmy Carter has bad-mouthed President Bush in the most petty and personal terms -- both at home, and even more unforgivably, abroad. I was aghast when Carter applauded "Farenheit 9/11" and embraced Michael Moore. I was disgusted when, during his 2004 convention address, he stated, "today our Democratic Party is led by another former naval officer, one
who volunteered for military service. He showed up when assigned to duty" (emphasis mine). This nasty little dig -- unworthy of a former President, or of anyone, really -- was designed to imply that President Bush did not, thereby lending credence to every unproven crackpot allegation on the topic that was circulating in the Western Hemisphere.

And yet, after that, he thinks he has the right to join the President as part of the delegation? What is he thinking?
More on the Pope -- this piece in The American Spectator, titled "A Church, Not a Focus Group", is well worth reading. And then, for those who've heard nothing but the liberal critique of John Paul II (emanating mostly from the press), there's an article by Hugh Hewitt asserting that "there are far more Catholics worldwide pushing for the return of the [Tridentine Mass] than there are for a Vatican endorsement of abortion rights."


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

As a low-Church Episcopalian, I feel woefully unqualified to comment extensively on the aftermath of the Pope's death. Here's where to go for some interesting discussions: The Anchoress and also Hugh Hewitt.
Here is a fine column by Mark Steyn -- "Why progressive Westerners never understood John Paul II." Short version: The Pope believes in eternal truths that cannot be amended, however great our own desires. That means they're not up for negotation, and their popularity is irrelevant.

Why Conservative Dominance?

David Brooks has a fascinating column in The New York Times today. It's about the reason for conservatives' strength -- relative to liberals -- in current American political life and thought. Here's the key passage:

Conservatives have not triumphed because they have built a disciplined and efficient message machine. Conservatives have thrived because they are split into feuding factions that squabble incessantly. As these factions have multiplied, more people have come to call themselves conservatives because they've found one faction to agree with.

It's an interesting theory. But as much as I respect David Brooks, I disagree. After all, there are fully as many "factions" within the liberal movement as within the conservative: You have the gender-obsessed (feminists); race-obsessed (Jesse Jackson et al.); civil-liberties obsessed (ACLU types); secular humanist/anti-religious; liberation theologists; environmentalists; pacifists; socialists; and leftovers (the best of the bunch for my money -- people who were Democrats when Democrats were the party of ideas and social justice, and who still cherish those ideals and -- wrongly, in my view, but understandably -- still see the Democratic Party as the best avenue for achieving them.

That's a lot of categories for someone potentially to agree with -- more, I'd argue, than those within the conservative movement.

But Brooks is right in dismissing the liberal theory, i.e. that it's all message discipline. After all, both Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich took office in the days before the blogosphere; Rush Limbaugh had been on the air for six years in 1994 (but had virtually no imitators, compared with today). When President Reagan won on an explicitly conservative platform, there was no Fox News, no talk radio -- the networks and the big city daily newspapers were the only outlets disseminating the conservative "message" to great swaths of the public . . . and they were doing it even less fairly than today.

In my view, the reason for the conservative resurgence is primarily historical/cyclical. In the late '60's/'70's, the country was quite liberal -- partly in reaction to the buttoned-down '50's, partly because of a post-WWII sense of infinite American might and potential. This created nobly idealistic and well-intentioned but ultimately less-than-effective government overreach -- with the Great Society programs, for example. With this pro-redistribution tendency came an antiestablishmentarian current, created both by Watergate and by a widespread conviction that the public was misled during the Vietnam War.

But by 1980, people were beginning to wonder whether the anti-authoritarian but big government status quo had gone too far. Skyrocketing crime rates, monstrous marginal tax rates, even social phenomena like the widespread availability of abortion after 1972 had people uncomfortable and ready to retrench.

We are still retrenching. People have a vague sense that, with all the idealism of the '60's and '70's -- aside from equal rights for African-Americans and women -- a pretty big baby was thrown out with the bathwater. And depending on what one feels was lost the most, that's the kind of conservative that one has become . . .

In other words, feel like the government learned to intrude too much and take too much of your money? You're a libertarian or a free market conservative. Feel like too many "traditional values" were lost? You're a social conservative. Feel like government grew too big, too fast? You're a small government conservative.

For every reaction, there's an equal and opposite reaction. The forces of liberalism were massive about 30-40 years ago. The countervailing forces of conservatism are every bit as mighty.
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson denies that he ever said that Jesus might have been gay.

Red Pen Lunacy

Apparently, red pens have fallen from favor in grade school circles -- seeing red ink on their papers has been deemed too distressing for today's sensitive youths and their parents.

In response, sales of purple pens are soaring. It's supposedly a "less negative" color. So help me understand. The big problem with American grade schools is the color of the pens teachers use to correct papers. Is this a joke?

Sadly, it's not. It's the latest manifestation in the ill-begotten "self-esteem" obsession of too many grade schools today. Ignoring evidence that there is no correlation between self-esteem and academic performance (in fact, there may even be an inverse correlation), the schools continue to pursue a touchy-feely agenda that does nothing to prepare children for either advanced study or for life generally.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King: What's important isn't the color of the pen, it's the character of the comments (or the grade) on the paper.

Simple Theories for Simple Minds

Paul Krugman becomes ever more intelligible. This week, he posits the theory that "today's Republican Party - increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research - doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general." And that, he believes, explains the dearth of conservative professors on the nation's college campuses.

His one example? Evolution. But last time I checked, no one had "proved" that evolution was "true." Rather, many (not all) scientists believe that it is the most plausible theory to explain the development of life on earth. But it's just Krugman's totalitarian liberalism that refuses to recognize the importance of concepts like intelligent design -- or even to concede that such an inquiry is legitimate.

How ironic, in the wake of the Lawrence Summers controversy, that Krugman should claim that it's Republicans who don't respect "scholarship in general." As I recall, it was the leftists who threw a fit and refused to engage in any reasoned debate on the women-in-the-maths-and-sciences issue. And when he points out that even engineering faculty (i.e. not in the more subjective humanities) tilts left, that could be true: Many conservatives would rather work for a think tank (the shadow universities created by conservatives when it was clear that liberal totalitarians like Krugman had shut them out of the universities) or a corporation than hang around with a bunch of wackos like Princeton's Pete Singer or U of Colorado's Ward Churchill.

If Krugman is so convinced that there's no discrimination against conservative (or even non-leftist) ideas to worry about on college campuses these days, I suggest that he check out the plight of Assistant Professor Michael Doran at Princeton (where, sadly, Krugman also teaches). Doran, a protege of respected Middle Eastern Studies Professor Bernard Lewis, was denied tenure last year because his views are insufficiently radical for the taste of some of his tenured Princeton colleagues.

Yes, Paul Krugman, I'm sure the problem is just Republicans' disrespect for scholarship. Right. What a perfectly simple theory, fit to please a simple liberal totalitarian mind.

Monday, April 04, 2005

More on Pope John Paul II

There are some fine pieces out there about the late Pope. For a sample that includes theological, political and historical perspectives, check out this selection from Father John Neuhaus, Charles Krauthammer, and Paul Kengor (author of God and Ronald Reagan).

And though I'd hesitate to classify myself with these writers, my column this week likewise is on the Pope, and you can find it here.
Here is a piece from Life News, noting that when polling questions about Terri Schiavo's plight were phrased fairly, the results were very different from those that the the pro-death side was touting throughout the debacle.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

One would think that Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson -- a homosexual whose ordination has split the Church in America and caused impaired communion between the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Communion across the world -- would have the grace to keep his more controversial thoughts to himself. But no: He opines that Jesus might have been gay. What arrogance. What garbage.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope dies -- and still The New York Times can't get it quite right. Check out Powerline. Not that it matters -- the pictures of throngs of the faithful mourning their beloved leader tells the true story.

God Bless Pope John Paul II

Three lighted windows, a moment of seeming darkness, and an eternity of Divine Light. God bless the beautiful soul of Karol Wojtyla -- a great Pope and a great man.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The veil between earth and Heaven must be thin tonight, as a great man hovers between life and death and millions pray for him.

Some CA Politics

Here is a skeptical article on Arnold Schwarzenegger by former NY Times reporter Seth Faison. The piece fairly drips with the condescension of the "elite" for a populist bodybuilder-turned actor-turned governor.

People like Faison underestimate the Governor at their peril. Schwarzenegger is determined to effect the structural reforms that California needs -- and he's popular and powerful enough to do it. The potential initiatives (they will go the ballot if these are not enacted into law) are: Merit pay for teachers; state budget spending caps; government employee pension reform (changing the system from "defined benefit" where the government promises that a certain amount will be received, to "defined contribution," where the government promises to kick in a certain amount); and redistricting to be done by retired judges, rather than the politicians themselves. (It should be noted that under current law, the judges draw the districts anyway if the politicians can't agree -- and that happened in the 1990 census, resulting in relatively fair districts . . . in contrast to 2000, where all the politicians agreed to draw themselves safe seats without worrying about much else).

Should these initiatives go to the ballot, as seems likely, it's going to be the political equivalent of World War III. The Governor has chosen to take on the entire spending lobby at once, and they'll come after him with all the fury of hell, flush with forced union dues and money raised on the back of unconscionable scare tactics. Even as it is, the Dems know that agreeing, for example, to pre-set spending caps will threaten their identity as a party and their political hegemony; earlier this week, I heard brilliant Finance Director Tom Campbell (for whom I worked briefly in his 2000 challenge to Dianne Feinstein) try to reason with assembly members who simply don't get it. (Talk about him being engaged in a battle of wits with unarmed people!).

Because of union forced dues and member mobilization, the Governor is going to need all the help he can get. For now, check out Join Arnold for more details. More information will be forthcoming if (when) the initiatives move to the ballot.

Prayers for Pope John Paul II

It is clear that the Pope is nearing death, as people everywhere watch and pray.

How different the world is from the one in which John Paul II became Pope in 1979. For one thing, communism is gone -- thanks in no small part to his efforts, in conjunction with those of Ronald Reagan.

The Pope is a holy man of conviction. He is beloved not just by Catholics, whose Church he leads, but by Protestants, Jews and countless other people of other faiths who are admirers of his firm beliefs and personal courage.