Orson Scott Card, who is not a Catholic, explains why he honors and loves Karol Wojtyla, and why he will miss him. Thoughtful.
Powerline brings to our attention some goings-on at Yale Law School. There was a conference yesterday (and they report on it at length) led by Bruce Ackerman (Yale Law) and Cass Sunstein (Chicago Law). The project, according to its organizers, is nothing less than a re-write of the Constitution. What should the Constitution look like like in 2020? Follow the links provided by Powerline, including the one to the progressives site, The Constitution in 2020. First line on their web site: "It is time for progressives to set a constitutional agenda for the 21st Century." Great stuff, lets keep on eye on it; certainly Powerline will.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post, responding to this column by Jay Mathews. Well, Mathews reports, most of his email was, to put it mildly, quite negative. As befits the civil tone of most NLT readers, those who took me to the woodshed for agreeing with Mathews were thoughtful about it. There was a huffy comment over at the Education Wonks, a site devoted to--what else?--education. (The comment, to be clear, was not by the bloggers, but by a reader.)
So where am I now? This morning--I’m a slow learner--I read a very long piece entitled "No Faith in Science" in today’s Globe and Mail (not available on-line for free, but once again, don’t give these guys any money). Covering three full pages in the "Focus" section, it was devoted to a litany of complaints about anything that could be remotely construed as connnected with the Bush Administration’s science policy (including, for example, abstinence education). While the author did quote some defenders of the Bush Administration (from outside as well as inside), it was not, ahem, fair and balanced, as they say on a network I don’t generally watch (I don’t watch any other network either). Among other things, it turns out that questioning the funding of research or refusing to fund research is kind of like McCarthyism. But that’s not the fish I want to fry here.
The title--"No Faith in Science"--is unintentionally telling. The headline writer wanted to call attention to the allegedly faith-based ("fundamentalist") influence on the Bush Administration’s science policy. But in the article itself, I discovered that science is also an object of faith. Here are some of the relevant paragraphs:
When the Traditional Values Coalition prepared its list of "questionable" research projects, it proudly described the endeavour as targeting a "sacred cow." That sentiment hints at a larger problem--a signficant conversion in a society that once seemed to embrace science as tantamount to a new religion.
From the Second World War to the close of the millenium, miracles seemed to spring from laboratories--moon landings, heart transplants, commercial jets, the polio vaccine, nuclear power, computers, antibiotics, and a decoded human genome (a feat Mr. Clinton likened to learning the language of God).
But now all around are mysteries it struggles to solve, from cancer to mad cow disease.... Wonder drugs have been exposed as killers. Cold fusion has flopped. Even the flu looms as an insurmountable foe. People are losing faith.
"Science is not viewed as nearly as infallible as it once was," said Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It just so happens that the paper I delivered at the conference here touched on these themes, albeit somewhat tangentially. It dealt with Tolkien’s treatment of human finitude and the longing for immortality, focusing on his narrative of the downfall of Numenor. I suggested that Tolkien provides us with an analysis of the psychological and intellectual dynamic connected with efforts to extend life indefinitely (that is, to achieve immortality), which we’re approaching when we regard every death as a failure of medical science and hence every death as in some way "optional." (For background, go here, here, and here.) While there are economic, political, and sociological arguments against seeking immortality (arguably the modern project since Bacon and Descartes), Tolkien calls our attention to the religious dimension of this issue, i.e., the fundamental impiety of trying to play God.
To make an already too long story short, I’m tempted to argue that what the emotional reactions to Mathews’ column reveal is that many understand science as a kind of orthodoxy that they’re not willing to have challenged. This is--how shall I say it?--not a scientific attitude toward science. And those who worry about whether such issues can be handled in high school seem to me to be worrying about whether "enlightenment" is possible. If they’re right, if all we can do is indoctrinate, then science does not deserve the high (because neutral or "scientific") ground that they claim for it. What the schools are doing--if they’re right-is establishing the "religion" of science. Now, anyone who has read my Ashbrook op-eds or my posts must be aware that I’m not in principle opposed to government support for religion, but I would favor "multiple establishment," support for all religions (not just one to the exclusion of others, and only for the sake of and conditioned on legitimate government purposes). So if high school science education is in fact a form of religious indoctrination, then I’d favor teaching the conflict over merely foisting one dogma on the students.
Anyone out there provoked?
Update: Do read the comments: they’re interesting, civil, and contain a clickable link to the G & M article I excerpt above. For my own part, as far as science education is concerned, I’d actually be happy with a course in the history and philosophy of science, as a result of which students learned something about the way in which modern science and modern politics are inextricably linked, and about how both are connected with (perhaps even dependent upon) a peculiar and peculiarly unorthodox understanding of revealed religion. This wouldn’t necessarily require teaching Intelligent Design, nor would it involve even the "multiple establishment" of "religion" I mentioned above, but it would provide an understanding of science that would deprive it of any pretenses to be neutral or non-partisan. Of course, this, too, is probably too much to ask.
Update #2: Since I wrote the first update on Saturday, the tone of the comments section has degenerated somewhat, so that Id no longer necessarily describe all of them as "civil." Read them, if you will, but beware: peoples hackles have been raised, there is some name-calling, and so on. When that begins in any weblog comment section (not only NLT), I tend to tune out.
But now let me say something positive about Columbia. Last night, Austin Quigley, Dean of Columbia College spoke to us about core curricula, arguing against exclusive disciplinary specialization and in favor of taking Great Books and liberal education seriously. We were, needless to say, a receptive audience. (I’m sure he’d rather be discussing that then the topic du jour at Columbia.) But, as many people have noted--Stanley Katz and Ross Douthat among them--it’s hard to find a voice in favor of these positions in the Ivy League. So I applaud Austin Quigley.
Scott McLemee uses the occasion of Saul Bellows death to reflect on the difference between those who are formed by literature--who, as Bellow put it, "are shaped from within by these books and these writers"--and those who merely regard "texts" as grist for their hypertheoretical mills. Guess who comes out looking better? Read the whole thing.
This time, its David Horowitz. I am, for the moment, not accepting any speaking engagements in Indiana, unless people are willing to throw only key lime pies.
The BBC reports that the French government has destroyed 162,000 copies of the EU Constitution because the phrase "incoherent text" was printed on a page by mistake.
Pew Research offers a profile of those who supported Howard Dean:
But Dean activists are far wealthier, better educated, more secular and much less ethnically diverse than other Democrats. A disproportionate number of Dean activists are white, well-educated Baby Boomers fully a third are college graduates between the ages of 45 and 64, compared with just 9% of Democrats in the general public. But the image of younger Deaniacs as political newcomers has been borne out. For more than four-in-ten (42%) Dean activists and two-thirds of those under age 30 the Dean campaign represented their first foray into active presidential politics. And among those who were political veterans, a sizable number (36%) said they were more engaged this time than in previous campaigns.
And they "constitute an engaged group of citizens who intend to remain active in the Democratic Party and exert significant influence over its future direction."
NRO has a symposium on the Pope, among those contributing a few paragraphs each are: Bill Bennett, Ed Capano, Robert P. George, Rick Santorum, James Schall, et al. Also see this by Daniel Henninger, who considers the favorable and good media coverage, from Larry King on down, and asks, "Where were you people when he needed you?"
James Dunnigan argues that al Qaeda is losing at home, in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda made a strategic blunder by attacking targets within Saudi Arabia after our invasion of Iraq, and the Saudis have responded. Previous to this, al Qaeda could hide in the kingdom. That is no longer true and they are losing to the Saudis. "Saudi Arabia drew up a list of the 26 most wanted terrorists. Only three of these are still at large."
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Vancouver, just reading the Globe and Mail, "Canada’s national newspaper." You’d think I’d know better, having spent eight years of my life being irritated by this rag. But it was free, and I’m a sucker.
Today’s G & M contains the following column (available only to premium subscribers on-line, but please, please don’t give these people any money):
Pope’s protracted death a PR-boon for Catholicism
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to die in the era of the 24-hour cable-news network. He was not the first celebrity: The mourning of Diana, Princess of Wales, probably came close to rivalling his in terms of sheer broadcast hours. But John Paul took much longer to die than producers had planned, and his dying days pushed the constant-news medium to its conceptual limit....
This event was also the best illustration we have yet seen of how the presence of a constant visual news flow actually shapes perceptions and thus alters history. What the news channels did, out of the necessity of their schedules, was to vastly inflate both the significance of an event and the popularity of a man. [Come again?] They instantly canonized a pope who had up to that point been characterized by the secular media as at best controversial and at worst regressive. they quickly convinced themselves that they were all Catholic. And they probably changed forever how a Pope’s death will be seen and understood.
Let me stop here to catch my breath, for this is breathtaking stuff. Russell Smith, the author of this column (a self-described "skeptical atheistic urbanite"), taxes the media with altering our view of Pope John Paul II, "canonizing" him when the truth (established also by the media, i.e., by those "skeptical atheistic urbanites" like himself) is that he was "at best controversial" and "at worst regressive." O.K., here’s some more, after a brief summary of the Schiavo and Easter coverage :
It has been an extremely good month for the Catholic church, PR-wise. [Which matters to whom?] The sheer number of priests on American airwaves in the last month must itself dispel the notion of liberal media bias. [Which Smith is doing his darnedest to re-establish, bless his heart.]
Certainly, a great many of the world’s one billion Catholics seriously loved and admired the man and feel genuine grief and loss at his death. And this grief, and the gathering of great crowds in churches and public places around the world, is a genuinely newsworthy event [gee, ya think?], and provides a stock of genuinely moving imagery about the power of faith. It is also arguably good for skeptical atheistic urbanites like myself to be reminded that although we may be overrepresented in the media, we really do not represent most people.
It’s tempting to give him this last word, but the next paragraph is just too smug, stupid, and infuriating to let go:
But there are certain other facts which did not appear, at least for the first five days of the death-watch. Such as: One billion is still only one-sixth of the whole. That is, five-sixths of the world’s population--and about three-quarters of the U.S. population--is not Catholic. [Does this mean we shouldn’t care about the death of a world-historical figure, whom many non-Catholics admired immensely?] John Paul II was not, it turns out, a great reconciler and revolutionary, but a hard-line conservative whose refusal to endorse safe sex in Africa makes him complicit in that continent’s holocaust.
I can’t take any more. This guy wins the Christopher Hitchens Award, hands down. Hitchens is at least smart, literate, and witty. Russell Smith lacks any of those (somewhat) redeeming qualities. By his obtuseness, he disqualifies himself as a serious commentator on even the secular significance of the reign of Pope John Paul II.
The column continues for another four paragraphs of ranting and lamenting that religion is getting so much (too much) airtime. While we, of course, should see the Pope for what he was, as defined by the non-sensational, truth-seeking secular print media. Heh.
It turns out that someone in Mel Martinezs office drafted this piece of tripe. He has resigned. Heres the WaPo article; heres Powerlines commentary; heres what Michelle Malkin has to say; and heres Mickey Kauss take on the whole thing.
Theres plenty of blame to go around: Mike Allen for misrepresenting or misreporting how widely distributed the memo was; Tom Harkin for not coming forward sooner to clear things up; and Mel Martinez for apparently not reading the dog-gone memo before he handed it to someone else!!!!!!!
One of the nice things about travel is that you have lots of uninterrupted reading time. Today, I was able to blow through Ross Douthats Privilege, a memoir of his recently completed undergraduate days at Harvard (hes Harvard 02). He is an engaging, but not terribly demanding, writer.
My first thought as I was reading the book is that Im glad Im not one of his acquaintances, not because he wouldnt be an interesting companion or interlocutor (I think he might be), but because he seems to write about virtually every consequential encounter he had at Harvard. Few people come off looking good. (To his credit, Douthat is not afraid to display his own shortcomings.)
My only hope for salvation is that, had I for some reason blundered into Harvard (I think I applied for admission back in 1974, but MSU made me an offer I couldnt refuse), Douthat and I wouldnt likely have moved in the same circles. Like Tom Wolfes
Charlotte Simmons, Douthat turns out to be very status-conscious (even though he sometimes rails against the system). I wouldnt have attracted his attention since I would likely have always had my nose in a book (not--Douthat confesses with, I think, some genuine regret--his sole mode of undergraduate being).
Douthat is, as I said, a good writer and a sharp observer, capable of ironic distance even as he plunges, sometimes despite himself, sometimes drunkenly, into what seems to be one misadventure after another. His book can profitably be read together with I Am Charlotte Simmons, plausibly qualifying and correcting Wolfes overemphasis on sex and bringing out more clearly the striving and climbing that characterizes what Douthat calls "Yarvton." He effectively shows that this Ivy League "meritocracy" is, by and large, old-fashioned privilege with just a few new players, who rely, yes, on native intelligence and hard work, but also on all the advantages that accrue from the opportunities and stimulations that their relatively affluent circumstances have afforded them. The book is worth reading, especially if you have a long plane ride.
BTW, Douthat blogs here.
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Iraqs Presidential Council was sworn in today and Shiite Arab Ibrahim al-Jaafari was named Prime Minister. The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader. Here is the Washington Post story on the same. The Iraqis are helping to create history, while the times conspire with them, with the help of the Bush administration. So far the Iraqis have shown both courage and prudence; may they continue. It is said that the old tyrant of Iraq watched the proceedings on television. Sweet irony.
Joe Knippenberg notes the death of Saul Bellow below and the good link to the New York Times obituary.
In todays New York Post, John Podhoretz offers a very nice reminiscence of Bellow teaching with Allan Bloom at the University of Chicago. Bellow stood toe to toe with Bloom as the ol war between philosophy and poetry was reenacted between these two old friends, the histrionic erotic representative of philosophy and the dapper, calm and rational poet. Very nice.
Bellows Ravelstein is the triumph of poetry over philosophy, or, at least, of the poet, Chick, over the philosopher, Ravelstein.
There is a heated discussion elsewhere on No Left Turns concerning the economic effects of immigration. In 2002, I published an academic article on this subject in the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. The article relied on numerous economic and legal studies, including several books and peer-reviewed articles by Harvard economist George J. Borjas, as well as a thorough study published by the National Research Council in 1997.
I concluded, based on the economic studies available at that time, that the United States would benefit from more liberalized immigration laws. Among my proposals was a new guest-worker program between the United States and Mexico. I believed both then and now that a temporary guest-worker program would relieve many of the market pressures that lead to illegal immigration. That proposal turned out to be very similar to one made by President Bush in January 2004. Economics aside, I also believe that a guest-worker program could improve national security. With an effective guest-worker program, illegal immigration would decrease. Large amounts of manpower and other resources that are currently spent combating illegal immigration could then be more specifically targeted toward security threats.
Whether one agrees with my conclusions or not, I encourage readers to review some of the sources cited within the article. I particularly recommend that those interested in this area read the study published by the National Research Council, which is summarized at this link. It is a very thorough analysis that calculates the estimated taxes paid and costs imposed by immigrants, including an accounting of the estimated fiscal impact of immigrants’ descendants.
Larry Sabato asks: Can recent history suggest anything about the 2006 Senate results? On average, the president’s party has lost three Senate seats in each of the last 14 elections (from 1950 to 2002); but this includes all midterm elections, both the first midterm election of a presidency and the second one in the sixth year of the two-term presidency.
There have been six "sixth year itch" elections in the post WWII era (1950, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 1998): The average loss for the White House has has been 6 Senate seats. And, this is the important point: "Never in modern times has a president been able to add Senate seats in the dreaded sixth-year election," for more details.
At most five or six Senate seats out of 33 will be open, without an incumbent, making party turnover harder, though not impossible, writes Sabato. There 18 Demo seats up and only 15 GOP. Tough for the Democrats to take the Senate back. And, IMHO, if the GOP picks up even one Senate seat, there is a realignment (Sabato doesn’t note this).
Jake Herrera is a junior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He writes (in the UW paper) an article explaining why there are so few conservative academics on America’s campuses. His conclusion: Blame conservatives because they are anti-intellectual, they don’t read books, etc. And "the conservative voting bloc that is responsible for the Bush ascendancy has lost any connection with its once proud intellectual roots." No other comment is needed on this essay than a note from Mark Twain: "Don’t explain your author, read him right and he explains himself." This guy’s explanation of himself is not to his advantage.
Anne Applebaum writes on how the Pope defeated communism. He didnt need secret negotiations, she writes, he just spoke the truth in public, and allowed the people a place to meet and talk. Walking through the physical barricades naturally followed.
Kathleen Parker reflects on Bill Bennetts radio program, how well its doing--116 markets, compared to 50 for Al Franken. She writes: "Thus, stumbling across Bill Bennett on the radio is like bumping into Socrates at Starbucks. In a nation accustomed to screeching screeds and foaming food fights posing as debate, hearing Bennetts soft-gravelly voice is like dipping into a warm bath. As you listen, you think maybe civilization isnt lost after all."
Saul Bellow has died at 89. For my money, he was one of the smartest and most cerebral novelists of his time. Heres an unsatisfying wire service death notice. Heres the Big Trunks appreciation (much less "balanced" and much closer to the mark) over at Powerline. Finally, here is the sort of long and comprehensive obituary you expect from the New York Times, and here is the WaPos effort.
The Chicago Tribune does us the favor of republishing this 1996 essay. My favorite part:
Our grandparents, locked up in the Pale of Settlement on Russias western frontier, had never so much as heard of places like Antietam or Vicksburg. But their descendants, the children of my generation, were educated to believe in the American project. It was presented to them in a language foreign to their ancestors; it encouraged them to assume that as free persons, politically and legally equal, they were parties to a rational covenant that made the history of the USA their own history. This was our naive adolescent conviction. What we learned in civics and in American history classes would have to be revised and modified, but it was never to be reversed.
I am well aware that to hard, modern thinkers, all of this will sound perversely simple-minded, sentimental, nostalgic. Modern cosmopolitans and philosophical sophisticates will remind me that the culture of Chicago, this string of industrial villages called a "city," was too ugly and clumsy to be anything but a non-culture, and that the neighborhoods where immigrant peasants and laborers lived were more parochial than the Eastern European and Balkan villages from which they came. On our side of the Atlantic, these arid, working-class neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc., were also rich in hatred and viciousness; but the higher culture developed in Germany (or Russia or France) did not keep the Nazis, and the populations of the countries their armies occupied, from participating in the murder of millions of men, women and children. Our liberal American society (bourgeois-liberal, if you like) has not been guilty of such horrors. It is obvious therefore that the USA, viewed by no small number of Europeans as a dumping ground for everyone the Old World wanted to cast out, has been extraordinarily fortunate in its politics. We have had some dum-dum presidents, but there have been no Hitlers here and no Stalins. With all its disorders, disruptions, bureaucratic idiocies, its chaotic or nihilistic state of feelings, thoughts and passions, democracy here makes more sense and perhaps is more rational than its philosophical founders might have thought possible in a country so huge and so mixed.
My thoughts and prayers to Mr. Bellows family and friends.
Al Gore unveils his new TV network, called "Current." Gore: "Were starting something new and were trying to bring about a change in the way the television medium is used. We know its hard, but were excited about trying." Read this brief Reuters story and tell me if you understand what it all means. I actually dont get it: videos shown, some as long 15 minutes (wow!), somehow tied in to Google, etc.
Gore: "We are about empowering this generation of young people in their 20s, the 18-34 population, to engage in a dialogue of democracy and to tell their stories about whats going in their lives in the dominant media of our time." Thats helpful. Whatever it is, it starts on August 1st. Cant wait.
Washington Times thinks through Sandy Bergers crimes, and is not amused that the Justice Department let him off under such lenient terms.
In todays Washington Times,Arnaud de Borchgrave reminds us the attempt of the Soviet KGB and the Bulgarian DS to assassinate the Pope on May 13, 1981. The elaborate cover-up, etc. Remarkable.
You have to give the KGB credit for recognizing the danger the Pope posed to the Soviet tyranny.
Hat tip: to RealClearPolitics.com
John Brademas, former President of NYU and former Congressman from Indiana, seems dead set on killing off The King’s College, a small evangelical school located in the heart of Manhattan. As a new member of the New York Board of Regents, Brademas is single-handedly threatening TKC’s accreditation.
Here’s Kurtz’s explanation of the root of the problem:
The New York State Board of Regents, which controls public and private education in New York State, is appointed by the state legislature, not the Governor. What’s more, whenever the Republican controlled Senate and the Democratic controlled House disagree on their choices for Regents (i.e. pretty much all the time), the two houses sit together and vote as a unicameral body. Since there are many more seats in the Democratic State Assembly than in the Republican state senate, the Democrats in the lower house have effective control over the appointment of Regents. So although New Yorkers generally divide their government between Republicans and Democrats, the supposedly independent and politically neutral Board of Regents is completely controlled by left-leaning Democrats beholden to teachers’ unions and other liberal interest groups.
Governor Pataki has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor to appoint most of the Regents, while also giving a number of appointments to both the majority and minority parties in the legislature. In contrast, the current system allows for no party checks, and no electoral accountability. The entire process is controlled by one party, and no elected executive officer is answerable for the actions of his appointees. This bizarre institutional anomaly has led to abuse in the past. In 2004, under political pressure from liberal legislators (and ultimately, no doubt, from teachers unions), the supposedly independent Regents refused to accredit a qualified charter school that had been approved by their own education department. Some of less political regents were appalled, though most of them knuckled under. The Brademas outrage appears to be yet another example of what happens to an institution bereft of party checks or public accountability.
Kurtz also provides information about what New York State residents can do about it.
Update: Heres more, including an indignant response from a Brademas spokesman.
Tony Blair has called for general elections for May 5th. He will seek his third term as PM. I would be surprised if Labour didnt win.
If any NLT readers will be attending this conference over the weekend, or have some other reason for being in Vancouver, B.C., please drop me a line. Lets enjoy some sort of adult beverage together.
Brandon Crocker provides an update on the University of Colorados investigation of Ward Churchill.
The University has found that "the allegations of research misconduct, related to plagiarism, misuse of others work and fabrication, have sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry."
The University of Colorado,however, will not dismiss Churchill for saying that "more 9/11s are necessary." And George W. Bush thinks that all non-whites are "sub-human."
Brandon Crocker continues: While it is all well and good that the University of Colorado is taking a hard look at these allegations, why isnt it going to touch the 800-pound gorilla -- the question of Mr. Churchills academic merit? "Appropriately," Chancellor DiStefano claims, "we in academe are held to high standards of integrity, competence, and accuracy" but then goes on to say that the University cannot make any judgment on Mr. Churchills value to the University based on Mr. Churchills writings or speeches (i.e. his "scholarship") -- no matter how "egregious" or "as strongly as we may reject the substance of those remarks." That would be a violation of "academic freedom."
In a speech at the University of Colorado,the mild-mannered and soft-spoken Rudy Giuliani explains why he thinks Ward Churchill should not be allowed to teach again.
My friend, and former student, and now teacher in Colorado, Florian Hild, was born in Germany and has just passed his citizenship examination. I congratulate him. He is now friend and citizen. This, from Mark Twain (1890), is for him: "We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."
Timothy Lehmann reviews Sarkozy’s La République, les religions, l’espérance (The Republic, religions, and hope). Lehmann claims that Sarkozy (former minister of finance, and as current head of the Union for a Popular Movement, Chirac’s party, thought to be the next president) has something very interesting up his sleeve:
Sarkozy has thus far been the most visible and articulate interpreter of the question of religion and politics and his views have come into daylight with the publication of this book. La Republic vigorously challenges France’s existing laws and status quo, reinvigorates questions about the soul, and throws into doubt widely accepted and encrusted beliefs about the temporal and the eternal. While Sarkozy’s practical concern is how to improve French society and promote tolerance among Muslims, Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers in France, his overall approach to the question of religion and society has much in common with the views of many American conservatives.
Lehmann thinks that Sarkozy acknowledges the importance of religion in France, and is paying particular attention to the rise of Islam in there. He thinks that there are ways of moderating it. Sarkozy thinks there ought to be, for example, an Islam of France, not an Islam in France. Thoughtful review of an apparently thoughtful book by a fellow who is likely to run France a few years from now.
Pulitzer Prizes are announced. Note that David Hackett Fischer won in History for Washingtons Crossing, a very good book, although I was rooting for Allen Guelzos Lincolns Emancipation. Note that in the Fiction category, Marilynne Robinson won it for Gilead, which I am now reading and--so far--find it good, finely textured, the quiet rhythm of a dying reverend, writing to his son about loving life. Here is an early paragraph:
I really cant tell whats beautiful anymore. I passed two young fellows on the street the other day. I know who they are, they work at the garage. Theyre not churchgoing, either one of them, just decent rascally young fellows who have to be joking all the time, and there they were, propped against the garage wall in the sunshine, lighting up their cigarettes. Theyre always so black with grease and so strong with gasoline I dont know why they dont catch fire themselves. They were passing remarks back and forth the way they do and laughing that wicked way they have. And it seemed beautiful to me. It is an amazing thing to watch people laugh, the way it sort of takes them over. Sometimes they really do struggle with it. I see that in church often enough. So I wonder what it is and where it comes from, and I wonder what it expends out of your system, so that you have to do it till youre done, like crying in a way, I suppose, except that laughter is much more easily spent.
When they saw me coming, of course the joking stopped, but I could see they were still laughing to themselves, thinking what the old preacher almost heard them say.
I felt like telling them, I appreciate a joke as much as anyone else. There have been many occassions in my life when I have wanted to say that. But its not a thing people are willing to accept....
Here is Michael Scott Doran’s article from Jan/Feb 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs, and this follow-up dated March, 2005. Both articles consider the relationship between Iraq, Palestine, and American strategy. Doran is a protege of Bernard Lewis at Princeton, and his name has recently appeared in a more public setting for reasons this article explains (he may not get tenure for reasons you suspect). Doran recently gave a talk on al Qaeda’s grand strategy and Tiger Hawk attended the lecture and took plenty of notes; very interesting stuff. (Thanks to Charles Johnson). Because Tiger Hawk makes some references on Sayyid Qutb, you might want to read Luke Loboda’s Ashbrook Thesis by way of introduction to Qutb. Also see this by Doran on why Muslim anti-Americanism is not what it’s cracked up to be, on why it’s not a unifying force in the Arab world.
There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life. Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing. Today in fact strongly innovative economic forces are reshaping social structures; on the other hand, scientific achievements in the area of biotechnology underline the need to defend human life at all its different stages, while the promises of a new society — successfully presented to a bewildered public opinion — urgently demand clear political decisions in favour of the family, young people, the elderly and the marginalized.
In this context, it is helpful to turn to the example of Saint Thomas More, who distinguished himself by his constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions precisely in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice. His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue. Unwavering in this rigorous moral stance, this English statesman placed his own public activity at the service of the person, especially if that person was weak or poor; he dealt with social controversies with a superb sense of fairness; he was vigorously committed to favouring and defending the family; he supported the all-round education of the young. His profound detachment from honours and wealth, his serene and joyful humility, his balanced knowledge of human nature and of the vanity of success, his certainty of judgement rooted in faith: these all gave him that confident inner strength that sustained him in adversity and in the face of death. His sanctity shone forth in his martyrdom, but it had been prepared by an entire life of work devoted to God and neighbour.
This is a voice, not readily duplicated, that will be sorely missed.
There have been questions about the Minuteman Project--a volunteer citizen group which seeks to assist in preventing illegal immigration. Michelle Malkin discusses the group on her Immigration blog here, and here, and here. The Arizona Star recounts the group’s assistance of an immigrant in distress here. AP offers a story here, while the New York Times weighs in here. I have not had the time to read all of the material about the group and their activities, so I pass along the links at this point without judgment or comment for your perusal.
Here are a couple of articles on John Paul II and his legacy worth reading: Kenneth L. Woodward, Charles Krauthammer, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Barone, Timothy Garton Nash, Jaroslav Pelikan, William Kristol and The Belmont Club has more.
I just returned last night from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in San Jose, where I was once again reminded of why I no longer make a habit of attending the big historical conferences. This one was a disaster by just about anyone’s reckoning, attracting several hundred fewer participants than expected. This was the result of a last-minute change of venue. It was originally scheduled for San Francisco, but the hotel where it was to be held was in the midst of a labor dispute. The OAH sent a survey to its membership, asking if they’d be willing to cross a picket line, and--surprise, surprise--the members decided overwhelmingly to express solidarity with the horny-handed sons of toil. So there was a scramble to book a venue in San Jose, and we ended up sharing the local convention center with a much larger group of Bible enthusiasts. This fact elicited a great deal in the way of snide comments from the assembled historians. In any event, the decision to move from San Francisco to San Jose probably cost the organization about twenty percent of its attendees. One longtime member told me that the OAH lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, leading to speculation that this might be the end for the venerable organization.
As for the conference itself, there’s very little to report. Suffice it to say that at one point I was imprudent enough to let on to a young woman that I had voted for George W. Bush. "And yet you write books," she responded.
It appears that the Communists in China are concerned about the ideological purity of the young. Check out this news report from the ’South China Morning Post.’
CPO/Social Base: College Campuses to Get Compulsory Dose of Moral Fiber (3/30/05, South China Morning Post)
A central government campaign to strengthen the nation’s moral fiber will reach university campuses in September with the introduction of compulsory classes on ideology and morals. The new curriculum takes effect under guidelines recently issued by the Publicity Department and the Ministry of Education, and comes after a State Council circular on ideological and moral education last year. Xinhua reported the guidelines stipulated that students must take four compulsory courses: basic Marxist theory; Maoism, Deng Xiaoping Theory and ex-president Jiang Zemin’s Theory of Three Represents; modern Chinese history; and moral and basic legal studies. Teachers trained by publicity and education departments will introduce the amended curriculum to first-year students on a trial basis from September before it is formally rolled out nationwide a year later. Beijing introduced moral and ideology classes at schools in 1985 and the curriculum was revised in 1998 with greater emphasis on Marxism and Deng Xiaoping Theory. Courses on Mr. Jiang’s theory started in 2003. The central government’s recent focus on university students comes after a State Council circular issued in February last year called for efforts to improve ideological education among juveniles. Wang Sunyu, from Tsinghua University’s Education Institute, said every country was concerned about the ideological and moral education of its citizens. "Nowadays, students have much easier access to all kinds of information and they may develop different values," Professor Wang said. "If there is no positive and correct direction, turbulence could emerge and that would not good for society or the reigning authority." However, second-year Shandong University student Zou Xie said the ideology classes were boring and widely disliked. "Although they are compulsory courses and we must pass them to earn academic credits, the class attendance rate is very low," Mr. Zou said. "We usually neglect them and try to cram some knowledge in before the exams."
Reuters has printed profiles of potential Papal candidates who could be considered by the College of Cardinals. Interesting stuff. However, because this is Reuters, I don’t know how much credence to give to their assessments.