“If 100,000 Jews Leave, France Will No Longer Be France.”

Some people still don’t get it. At Sunday’s unity rally in Paris, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings and subsequent attack on a Kosher supermarket, the BBC correspondent Tim Wilcox put to a terrified Jewish woman that this slaughter could be explained because “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands.” According to Wilcox, “everything is seen from different perspectives.”

It is not clear whose perspective Wilcox believed he was voicing, other than that of the Paris terrorists.

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Harry V. Jaffa: An Inconvenient Thinker

Harry Jaffa

Harry V. Jaffa, who died January 10, at 96, may well be American conservatism’s most consequential thinker, for having attempted to re-found conservatism on the basis of its most philosophic principles and most revered figures. He was also one of the most dismissed, berated, and scorned of scholars, earning derision from former friends and those who knew him only from his writing, much of which had become acerbic.

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A Partyist Solution to Partyism

Cass Sunstein has offered a new solution to advance good governance in a time of partisanship—what he terms an age of “partyism.”  Because a partisan world leads to gridlock in Congress, he suggests that executive agencies should continue to be empowered with substantial latitude to interpret their own statutes.  Indeed, Professor Sunstein argues that agencies should gain a “bit more” discretion to construe existing statutes since Congress will not be doing much updating.

Michael Greve offered his own excellent demurral to Professor Sunstein’s solution. Here are two additional points of critique.   First, empowering agencies is not neutral with respect to partisanship because bureaucrats lean to the left.  Second, empowering agencies is not neutral as an ideological matter.  The progressive agenda itself needs substantial discretion to continue the effectiveness and political endurance of much centralized regulation.  In contrast, conservatives and libertarians are more sympathetic to market and other forms of decentralized order that will take hold even if federal regulation cannot be updated.

There is substantial evidence to support the first point that most federal employees lean to the left of Republicans.

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Trivializing Freedom at Its Source

Let me begin by saying that I love France. It is a country to which I have traveled often, and whose language I have struggled to learn. I am grieved to see her harmed by these latest murderous attacks.

However, I am also ashamed for her. To see emblazoned in lights on the Arc de Triomphe the words, “Paris est Charlie” and to hear “Je suis Charlie” chanted by large crowds and reproduced on innumerable placards, moves me to say, “Je ne suis pas Charlie.” I would have been happy, by the way, to say, “Je suis Juif,” in solidarity with the French Jews who were executed in the Jewish grocery store on that terrible day. Why not Charlie?

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Manufacturing Equality on Campus


Students taking an active part in a lesson while sitting in a lecture hall

Feminism expresses, teaches, and even thrives on a contradiction. Put simply, feminism does not know whether to say that women are capable or vulnerable. If women are capable, they deserve to be independent—particularly of men. If they are vulnerable, they need to be protected, particularly from men.

Today’s movement to protect college women from sexual assault, led by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education, is riven right through with that contradiction. So far, universities have meekly submitted to being instructed by what the OCR, with a phrase for the books, calls “significant guidance.”

Before delving into the OCR’s mandate, it is best to examine the contradiction within feminism that both characterizes and inspires it.

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Martin Wolf’s Childlike Regulatory Faith


Martin Wolf’s The Shifts and the Shocks—What We’ve Learned—and Have Still to Learn—from the Financial Crisis is a long book.  Even for those of us fascinated by financial cycles and crises, it takes patience to read through it.

Amidst the long discussion are a lot of provocative financial thoughts, intertwined with a constant, naïve faith in the future superior knowledge and future ability of central bankers and other bureaucrats successfully to tell other people what to do.  Wolf never claims this knowledge and ability have been demonstrated in the past—he fully admits that experience demonstrates the opposite–but he never seems to doubt that it can save us in the future, if these solons just get better economic ideas.  In this way, he misses the most difficult and interesting element of the problem: the inescapable uncertainty and unknowability of the future.

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Free Speech is not a Vanity

In March the Supreme Court will hear a case in which a Texas group is appealing the state’s refusal to style vanity license plates that include an image of the Confederate flag.  The plaintiff’s argument rests on First Amendment rights:  because Texas allows other citizens to choose images for license plates, the state is violating the right to free speech by suppressing this group’s preference.   Another license plate case is being hammered out in the lower courts in North Carolina. There the ACLU is suing on behalf of a plaintiff who wants a pro-abortion vanity license plate, given that the state permits pro-life licenses.

One might think that these cases should be decided the same way, but Corey Brettschneider and Nelson Tebbe suggest otherwise in a characteristically thoughtful oped in The New York Times.  The authors argue that messages on license plates are a mixture of private and public speech.  Thus the Court should balance the private interest in free expression with the public interest in permitting the government to control its own messages.  They conclude that Texas can suppress the vanity plate bearing an image of  the Confederate flag but that North Carolina must permit the pro-choice sentiment because the Confederate flag is a symbol contrary to the constitutional values of equal protection of the law, while pro-abortion sentiments endorse a legally guaranteed constitutional right.

I respectfully disagree.  Although the government has no obligation to provide the opportunity for messages on vanity plates (and if I were a legislator, I would not vote to have them), it should not discriminate among messages based on their content once it opens up this space.  

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Islamic Moderates and Extremists

Eugene Volokh has an important post on Islamic extremists and moderates. One of his basic points is that there are many millions of Islamic extremists in the world today—people who believe in the death penalty for apostasy and for people who leave the Muslim religion. Such people, whom he numbers in the tens or perhaps hundreds of millions, are “a deadly enemy to Western democracies and to our most fundamental values.”

At the same time, Eugene also notes that there are Islamic moderates, who presumably are a large group as well. These moderates are the allies of the West, both because they provide intelligence and other support to the West in its fight against the extremists and because moderate Muslims are the primary competitors with Islamic extremists for adherents.

These facts, which seem obvious once one states them, have two important implications. First, it is both false and unwise for the West to make negative statements about Islam generally, such as Islam is a religion of war and violence. This is not true of large portions of Islam and it will only weaken and alienate the Islamic moderates who are our allies.

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Remembering Walter Berns

This past Saturday, Walter Berns died at the age of 95. Walter Berns was one of the truly great constitutional scholars and political theorists of his generation, or any generation since. A student of Leo Strauss’s, he taught at Louisiana State University, Yale University, and (beginning in 1959) in Cornell University’s Department of Government, which he chaired for several years.  He resigned his position in 1969, when a feckless university administration caved in to armed thugs who had occupied university buildings. Cornell exposed faculty members who urged a defense of liberal education and resistance to mob rule—Walter Berns and Allan Bloom…

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I Sing of Arms and the Man


Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper tells the story of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills. The film opens in Fallujah with Kyle confronting what will be his first two kills, a woman and a young boy who advance with a grenade toward a column of Marines. Kyle’s juvenile Marine escort states the obvious: “If you’re wrong, they’ll send your ass to Leavenworth.” Kyle shoots the boy and then the woman when she picks up his dropped grenade and attempts to throw it.

Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle here and throughout the film might be called the “inward turn.” Kyle isn’t overwhelmed by the event, but we sense that it is merely the first of many dramatic killings whose troubled imprint on Kyle will emerge in due course. After their deaths, he breathes in, closes his eyes, and then prepares for the next shot.

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