Sam Graham-Felsen writes a long and boring article in The Nation titled, "The New Face of the Campus Left." Kind of a rah-rah-rah, we’re finally getting organized, by something called Campusprogress, from the living-wage campaign (cleverly renamed the 1 John 3 Campaign when it wasn’t getting anywhere; it still isn’t), to anti-war, to guilt-free caffeine. It’s all kind of pathetic, really. This sentence near the start of the story amused me; they really want to pretend that university campuses are not overwhelmingly liberal: "The assumption that America’s campuses are impenetrable bastions of liberalism--where left-leaning faculty predominate, progressive student activism flourishes and conservatism is fiercely marginalized--still rules the day. But in reality, since the 1970s the conservative movement has become the dominant political force on many American campuses." Since the 1970s? Are you kidding? I could help figure out their meaning with the following example. The day we went into Iraq a dozen or so Ashland faculty (all my age, have been on the Left their whole life, I am betting) picketed against the war on the corner of Claremont and College. The next day a dozen or so students were picketing in favor of the war. Still no students on the anti-war side. What is most irritating to the Left professors--the ones that dominate the humanities and social sciences--and The Nation mag, is that they are not persuading the youth. They are there, but they can’t reproduce themselves. Frustration sets in and the result is a focus on guilt-free coffee and other such serious causes.
Apple has launched something called iTunes U. Not sure I like it, but we have crossed another line. We know you can get a degree on-line, but now your degree will be portable; get it on an iPod. You can now listen to lectures on your iPod, and, I suppose, the degree will be an iBA. Not that I dont like my iPod; I just finished listening to Huck Finn, and it was either lighting out for the Territory or listening to Tom Sawyer. I chose the latter. Listen to this, as Tom reflects on his captivity:
"Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged."
Alexander Hamilton starts Federalist 31 like this:
"IN DISQUISITIONS of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind."
And he continues by noting this:
"Of this nature are the maxims in geometry that the whole is greater than its part; that things equal to the same are equal to one another; that two straight lines cannot enclose a space; and that all right angles are equal to each other."
More could be said on self-evident truths, but note Lincoln’s use of Euclid in a letter to H.L. Pierce, just before he famously writes "All honor to Jefferson."
"But soberly, it is now no child’s play to save the principles of Jefferson from total overthrow in this nation.
One would start with great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but, nevertheless, he would fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms. The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied, and evaded, with no small show of success. One dashingly calls them "glittering generalities" another bluntly calls them ’self evident lies’ and still others insidiously argue that they apply only to ’superior races.’"
All this brought to mind by this short article on Pythagoras. Why do I read Physicsweb? Playing cath-up, flunked physics a couple of times in college. Along with Lincoln, I also regret my want of education, and do what I can to supply the want. Also see this.
A reader sends this advice on how to connect to our Podcasts, for those who don’t fully understand. I quote him in full, hoping this helps.
When clicking on the "subscribe" link for the podcasts on the
Ashbrook website, a page comes up
with XML code (which is basically a bunch of
gibberish), and the following directions are
"IF YOU ARE VIEWING THIS PAGE OF XML CODE, BUT THOUGHT YOU WERE CLICKING TO
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR PODCAST, then please copy the URL from the address bar
window above, and paste it into the subscription function of your podcast
However, some people might not know what to do after copying the URL from
the address bar. Here are the step-by-step instructions of what to do
1.) Open iTunes
2.) On the left hand side of iTunes, click on the tab entitled "Podcasts"
3.) At the top of the window (iTunes), click on the tab called "Advanced"
4.) Scroll down to the button called "Subscribe to Podcast..."
5.) Paste the URL from the address bar into the window which comes up. There
are two ways to paste something: push and hold the "control" key on the
keyboard, and then hit "v"; or just right click with the mouse and click on
6.) The podcast will then be put into your list of podcasts within iTunes.
Double click on the podcast, and iTunes will download it. The longer the
podcast, the more time it will take to download. However, that time is
7.) This should be all that is needed to be done. Enjoy!
The temptation is to regard military and legislative chaplaincy as somehow equivalent, but theyre not. The latter can readily be assimilated under the somewhat problematical rubric of "ceremonial deism." The former is essential to provide for the free exercise of religion for soldiers who serve their country in places where they dont readily have access to their own churches. Calling for purely "sectarian" prayer is a harder (but not impossible) case to make in the first instance. In the second, while a chaplain signs on to minister to people of all faiths, he or she also plays a traditional pastoral and ministerial role. Praying in Jesus name is part and parcel of that for those who feel called to do so. Prohibiting or discouraging that limits their free exercise of religion. Accommodating it doesnt amount to an establishment by any reasonable definition.
HRC has joined John Kerry’s posse, demonstrating the importance of the Kos-sack base to presidential aspirants. We need to remember this in 2008, and to remember, as well, that Kerry and Clinton seem not to be overly concerned with the prospect of winning a Senate majority in 2006. They’re willing to trade the adulation of that base for the possibility of commanding enough votes in the Senate to prevent in ’07 and ’08 all the damage that they now say President Bush can do to the country and the Constitution. These are not serious human beings; they’re poseurs.
Contrary to what a lot of people say, including the execrable Anne Norton, who should know better, Robert Kagan persuasively affirms that he is not a Straussian. I still like his writing and many of his opinions, which seem to me more incisive and better informed than his opinions about Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom, and Straussianism.
Hat tip: Scott Johnson at Power Line.
I was reminded this week of the story of Joshua Hochschild, the erstwhile Wheaton College professor, who was terminated when he converted to Roman Catholicism. Wheaton, an evangelical school, says that Roman Catholicism is inconsistent with its statement of faith. Hochschild begs to differ, not because he thinks Wheaton should be tolerant, but because as he understands Roman Catholicism, he could in good conscience have continued to sign the statement of faith.
The more common, and essentially uninteresting, response to Hochschilds termination is to invoke the shade of academic freedom, identifying liberal education simply with untrammeled inquiry and arguing that any statement of faith is illiberal, retrogressive, intolerant, and hence contrary to the goals of education, properly understood. This conventional wisdom reflexively and uncritically identifies the goals of education with the goals of progressivism. It denies the possibility that an educational community could be organized around the preservation and exploration of a truth revealed in the past.
A rather more interesting line of argument begins from the claim that statements of faith like Wheatons may well serve to exclude Catholics, but has a harder time ruling out liberalizing and ultimately secularizing tendencies within evangelicalism. An exclusive reliance on Scripture, so the argument goes, isnt necessarily proof against "creative" interpretations of Scripture. A statement of faith that accommodates Jim Wallis but excludes J.R.R. Tolkien isnt a good guardian of orthodoxy.
The current issue of the AAUPs journal Academe has several articles devoted to this theme. One simply identifies liberal democratic citizenship with tolerance and denies that communities that make faith demands of their members can cultivate it. Id like a little more nuance, please. Another defends a pluralism of academic communities against the hegemony of liberal tolerance.
Most interesting, however, is this piece, written by a Calvin College philosophy professor:
A religious community is formed by a creed that affirms what that community takes to be the best distillation we have to date of the truth that has been delivered to us about ourselves and the world in which we live. In it, we derive a sense of our origin and destiny, our condition before God, our status in the universe, the virtues that befit a human being, and the basis of human hope and solidarity. We do not take this body of belief to be the simple product of human reflection, poetic invention, psychological need, or social interests. Rather, we take it to be a response to God’s self-disclosure, delivered to us through the agency of the church, so that our ignorance about fundamental matters might be overcome. We receive it gratefully, as one would receive a map and compass in the wilderness.
Clearly, the acceptance of a creed is not irrelevant to the aims of the academy. The academy is dedicated to the pursuit of truth. In expressing and aligning our beliefs about fundamental matters, the creeds—if they are right—can enhance our ability to track the truth about the rest of the world. That is, they can enhance our positive freedom to know the truth by removing a key internal constraint: our striking ignorance of how things stand concerning the ultimate status of God, ourselves, and the world we inhabit. The creeds can therefore be seen as an academic asset, not a liability, as an intellectual resource, not a restriction.
Theres more in the article and in the issue. I have additional reflections about this general issue that Ill save for another post.
Peter and I have both noted Al Gore’s characteristically intemperate comments about the Canadian election. So has the WSJ’s James Taranto, as you’ll see if you scroll to the last item. And if you look at his acknowledgements below that, you’ll find JvH’s name. This puts JvH in the quite rarefied company of David Foster, whose post on Mark Twain and the Middle East attracted similar attention from the master of the snark.
All hail von Heyking and Foster!
Update: In the comments, weve moved from congratulating JvH and DF to debating the role of intellectuals in Canadian politics. Inquiring minds want to know: is Michael Ignatieff a potential philosopher-king?
While attending the Sundance Film Festival yesterday, Al Gore accused Canadian Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper of being "an ultra-conservative" who won the election because the oil industry "poured a lot of money and support behind" Harper. This despite the fact that Canadian law prevents corporations from donating more than $1000 per year to a political party and holds individuals to $5000 per year. Furthermore, Gore asserts that the issue of the oil companies’ influence didn’t get much press during the election because "media concentration has taken a toll on democratic principles around the world, and Canada is no exception."
Larry Sabato on the upcoming
Senate races. "It will be a surprise if 2006 is not a Democratic year, with the only question being how Democratic." His details are more interesting than such an overly careful statement considering the history of the "six year itch" in the the Senate, but file it and we’ll talk about it later. An L.A. Times Poll finds Bushs popularity sinking to 43% and "he faces widespread discontent over his job performance and the nations direction that could threaten his party in the 2006 election." Sure, just note that Ron Brownstein is the writer. More later. Tough day.
Author of Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, published last fall, Breyer said that justices have “six possible places to look” when deciding on a case.
He then cited the text of the Constitution, the history, the tradition, precedent, the purpose or values that underlie the text and the consequences to those values. He said that some justices emphasize the first four more than the latter two, and vice versa.
“One of the things that is very difficult to me,” Breyer said, is determining “what precisely are the values that underlie” the Establishment Clause, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.
The idea behind the language “comes out of the wars of religion” between Catholics and Protestants in 17th-century Europe, he said, noting that the writers of the Constitution wanted only to ensure that Americans could practice their religion and teach it to their children.
Of course, those, er, values have lost their mooring, such as it ever was, in history:
The interpretation of the Establishment Clause has evolved in the 20th century, as the country changed and immigrants introduced dozens of new religions into the United States.
“The Founders did engage in a lot of activities that would be forbidden today under … current interpretations of the Establishment Clause,” said Breyer, because they lived in a generally homogenous nation.
As the nation has changed, the court’s view of the Establishment Clause has changed, but Breyer believes it has still stayed true to the original values that the Founders intended.
It sounds to me like, for Breyer, values and consequences overshadow text, history, and tradition by a wide margin, with precedent serving as an authority so long as it squares with one’s contextual assessment of those wonderfully plastic values.
Our friends at The Politic have a delicious post about the reactions of the American Left to the Canadian election.
Our other Canadian friend, John von Heyking, sends along this link and asks, "Who is this person, ’Al Gore’?" An interesting example of Gore’s mindset from the article is here:
Gore believes the issue of the oilsands and the sway he contends the industry holds with Harper didn’t garner news coverage during the election because "media concentration has taken a toll on democratic principles around the world, and Canada is no exception."
Now let me get this straight. The Tories won because of media concentration? Huh? Had it not been for the efforts of bloggers--one in particular, if Glenn Reynolds is to be believed--the Canadian MSM would likely have given the Liberals a free pass on their scandals.
To my delight, I recently discovered that I can listen to books on my iPod while I walk with my dog. I then discovered that I can listen to lectures, talks, news programs, and other such stuff. Well, because there are so many benefits and uses to which Podcasts can be put, we decided to do it. The Ashbrook Center’s podcasting takes three forms. First, there is my weekly You Americans podcast. I will have a short conversation with someone interesting at least once a week. Conversations with Robert Alt and Bill Kristol are now up. Second, we are making available Ashbrook Events, lectures and seminars, in podcast form. We will add new ones each week. Talks by Karl Rove and Steve Hayward are now up. Third, we also have the Teaching American History Podcast in which we make available seminars conducted with high school teachers. Ones by James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer are now up. One of the great benefits of all this is that unlike with streaming audio, you can burn these talks onto a CD, and, you can play it on your MP3 player as you swagger down the street with your handsome lab. If you get it, you can access all three poscasts here. And if you don’t know what podcasts are, go here first.
This is the new Gallup Poll that I dont hear anyone talking about. I wonder why? Because 51% of the respondents said that they would never vote for her. Now, if I were a Democrat interested in running for the presidency (say a former governor of Virginia, whom even George Allen praises) this poll would become my battle cry: Hillary cant be elected, we must stop her from winning the primary, vote for me. It might work. Yet the money and the MSM attention will (is) flow to her.
Geoffrey Bests Churchill and War just landed on my desk. Just the kind of interruptions I like!
Peggy Noonan admires President Bush, but wishes hed be a little more like (dare I say it?) Richard Nixon on a good day.
In the course of her column, she also calls attention to a few things he said in this speech. He twice uses the expression "natural rights" in a way that is intelligible and intelligent. So far as I can tell, he has only used this expression once before, in his speech at Goree Island, Senegal. Am I right about this?
If Hamas has won, it is bad news indeed. The Belmont Club thinks that this will make it more likely that Benjamin Netanyahu will become Israels next prime minister. Also see Oxblog. This wasnt supposed to happen. Everyone was talking about how to deal with Hamas as a large minority after the elections. That was problem enough. Now, a party who thinks that Islam (as they understand it, i.e., no Muslim can believe in the existence of Israel) is the solution will govern. Is it possible that they will moderate themslves? Probably not.
The reductio ad absurdam of the culture war was reached with this AP headline today:
"Bush Says He Hasnt Seen Brokeback Mountain."
Stay tuned for equally compelling and important news stories, such as: "Bush Hasnt Seen The Vagina Monologues." Subhed: "But He Once Snuck Into Last Tango in Paris as a Youth."
Despite the efforts of the WaPo reporter, the glass looks half-full to me.
I didn’t get to this yesterday, but the Bush Administration is making an exceptional effort to promote its side of the argument in the warrantless wiretapping brouhaha. You can read about it here, here, here, and here.
Roe settled nothing because its result finds so little resonance in our nation’s political and philosophical currents (speculating on whether Washington or Jefferson or Lincoln would be pro-choice or pro-life just doesn’t get us very far). Roe remains controversial because abortion is genuinely and fundamentally controversial for us in a way that no Court decision could resolve. And the only way to keep the Court from becoming overly politicized by that controversy, from continuing to lose the legitimacy that comes from appearing merely to interpret the Constitution, as Scalia writes, is for it to get out of the abortion business.
But the American people and their elected representatives should, as result of Roe’s reversal, be politicized by our controversy over abortion. They, under our Constitution, have no choice but to decide for themselves whether and to what extent the life of an unborn baby (or fetus, to remain impartial) trumps the women’s right to choose an abortion. For the other branches of government, the state legislatures, and the people themselves to let the Court get away with Roe would be a massive evasion of moral and political responsibility. It’s a tribute to our people that they elected a President whom they knew would appoint justices who would vote to return that responsibility to them.
Update #2: Virginia will have a same-sex marriage ban on the ballot this fall as a proposed constitutional amendment, while Republicans in Maryland are still maneuvering to put the issue before the voters.
John von Heyking reflects on the elections in Canada. While it is not a regime change, it means this:
"Canadians can expect changes in the ways government is held accountable and minor changes in taxes and healthcare, but no changes to social policy including same-sex marriage and abortion. With the Bloc, the Conservatives will try to decentralize some powers to the provinces. Positive changes will occur in foreign and defense policy, as the Conservatives will attempt to repair Canada-US relations and to start the process of returning the once world-class Canadian military to international prominence."
[L]istening to Mozart calls to mind (and in some ways turns you into) a certain kind of person, a more complicated sort than we mostly go in for today. Not a redemptive Wagnerian hero or cynical slacker, not a high-minded virtuoso of compassion and/or righteous indignation, not a "realist" or an "idealist," but someone who both acknowledges, lives in, accepts the viewpoint of, and participates in, all human feelings--even the ugly ones, as we see in the marvelous revenge arias given to the Count, Dr. Bartolo, and Figaro--but who also, in the end, maintains as sovereign the viewpoint of rationality and order. (That is why, in their own ways, all three of those arias are come-dic, even the Counts, which is also partly genuinely scary.)
In invoking, and to some degree creating, such a person, Mozart implicitly makes a kind of moral case, a case for how we should live. It is not "aesthetic" in the sense of replacing the moral with formal beauty; it is much closer to what we find in Shakespeares Tempest or Measure for Measure; i.e., models of a kind of control of the passions that gives them their due. Yet it is presented aesthetically, not through argument or exhortation.
Joe Klein thinks that the Democratic primary battle in Ohio for the right to try to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Mike DeWine is the most interesting thing he could talk about. It is a race between Paul Hackett, the new darling of the hopeful Dems who fall flat on his face, and the "a traditional lunch-pail-liberal Congressman named Sherrod Brown," who will win the primary. O.K., but the real story is in the Ohio GOP, and how it will maintain power in the state by re-grouping and becoming more conservative. It will do that with Ken Blackwell (running for governor), whom Steven Malanga calls "Ronald Reagans unlikely heir." For Malanga, Blackwell "represents a new political calculus with the power to shake up American politics." Read the article, please.
Shelby Steele considers Hillary’s "plantation" speech. I hope she reads it.
Yesterday I said that if Harper is elected in Canada he would be the first Westerner. I was wrong, as a number of readers (thanks John and Tom, for example) have pointed out. Here is one e-mail:
"Stephen Harper would be Canadas 6th PM from Western
Canada and second from Calgary, Alberta (Richard Bennett was PM from
However, youre right to hypothesize that he may very well be the 1st PM
from the West of any consequence in Canadian history. The last three,
John Turner (from Vancouver, 1984), Kim Campbell (Vancouver, 1993), and
Joe Clark (rural Alberta, 1979-80), held minority governments that
failed to last longer than 18 months while the other one, John
Diefenbaker (from Saskatchewan, 1957-63) is considered more of a blip in
a century of mostly Liberal (and eastern) rule."
For those who are interested, John von Heyking will be appearing on the Cleveland NPR radio station at 9:00am this morning. For those in the Cleveland area, it is 90.3 on your radio. For the rest of you, you can listen live from their website.
Kathleen Parker writes that Hillarys "soul-sister moment" was "like watching a whiffed high-five, embarrassing as watching middle-aged white guys playing air guitar. Stop it." Read it all. I like Parker. A pretty woman who writes! Know wuddumsayin?
This Der Spiegel article on Morocco is worth a read. "Moroccos 42-year-old King Mohammed VI has discovered religion as a means of modernizing his society -- and progress through piety seems to be the order of the day. By granting new rights to women and strengthening civil liberties, the ruler of this country of 30 million on Africas northern edge, which is 99 percent Muslim, plans to democratize Morocco through a tolerant interpretation of the Koran." (via Arts and Letters Daily). This short BBC piece is on one of the Berber languages. The Arabs call the Amazigh people Berbers. Berber means barbarian in Arabic, but Amazigh means free or noble in their own language. Berber is making a comeback and the ancient script of Tifinagh is being used to write a language that has been an oral tradition, mainly spoken by some Tuareg nomads. The Amazighs are now allowed (even encouraged) by Moroccos laws to learn Tifinagh in schools. Progress.
This favorable book review of Sherwin B. Nulands Maimonides reminds me to say that I have read the book and also think it is a good introduction to the man and the endlessly fascinating times (and places) in which he lived. While Nulands book is not an attempt to understand Maimonidess difficult mind, he touches on some core issues raised by him (as well as Averroes, Avicenna, and then Aquinas) regarding the connection between faith and reason. At least part of the three centuries represented by these minds came alive for me in reading Nulands book. And some passing facts stand out: There were 20,000 people in Marseilles in the first half of the fourteenth century and only five percent of them were Jewish. There were 23 physicians in the city, and 10 of them were Jewish. Why? Nuland (also a physician, as was Maimonides) explains. The reviewer says this is his favorite paragraph from Maimonides:
"There is a group of human beings who consider it a grievous thing that causes should be given for any law; what would please them most is that the intellect would not find a meaning for the commandments and prohibitions. What compels them to feel thus is a sickness that they find in their souls, a sickness to which they are unable to give utterance and of which they cannot furnish a satisfactory account. For they think that if those laws were useful in this existence and had been given to us for this or that reason, it would be as if they derived from the reflection and the understanding of some intelligent being. If, however, there is a thing for which the intellect could not find any meaning at all and that does not lead to something useful, it indubitably derives from God; for the reflection of man would not lead to such a thing. It is as if, according to these people of weak intellects, man were more perfect than his Maker; for man speaks and acts in a manner that leads to some intended end, whereas the Deity does not act thus but commands us to do things that are not useful to us and forbids us to do things that are not harmful to us."
The polls in Canada seem to show that the Liberals might lose in a big way in tomorrows elections. The Conservative Stephen Harper, I believe, would be the first Prime Minister from the Canadian West. Harper is confident of victory. John von Heyking will explain it to us all once the votes are counted.
New immigration policies, including the taking of examinations at the country of origin, are in place in the Netherlands. Other measures are being considered that would prevent "French situations": "One of these might be to establish military camps to discipline troublesome youths. There are 40,000 jobless youths in the Netherlands, who have left school without degrees. The majority of them is of foreign origin. Many become involved in criminal activities." Denmark is also tackling third world immigration. (Thanks to NRO).
If this article is any indication, many journalists are incapable of even the simplest math.