During the Jefferson administration, Secretary of State James Madison and Senator John Quincy Adams, then political adversaries, played an occasional friendly game of chess. Neither man, so far as I know, recorded the outcomes. Too bad. One would like to have sat in on those matches between perhaps the smartest men ever to become Chief Executive. More to the point of this story, they were distinguished alums of Harvard and Princeton (the College of New Jersey), two elite universities that are today routinely waxed in collegiate chess by such burgeoning powers as University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); the University of Texas at Dallas; and Miami Dade College.
The new kings of college chess do it the old fashioned way. They pay for it. They relish the prestige gained by sticking it to the Ivy League. They hire Russian and East European coaches. They offer full-ride scholarships for recruits – many of them from abroad, some outright ringers, once including a 40 year old grandmaster. There have been recent efforts to clean up the sport. Grandmasters over age 25 are now prohibited, although those older but currently competing have been grandfathered in. There is a six-year eligibility limit and a requirement that players maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.0 and at least a half-time course schedule. Presumably boosters have been told not to be too overt in handing over those car keys.
So the next time you feel like complaining about big time college football . . .
Chess has always been more than a disinterested battle of intellect. The Boris Spassky-Bobby Fischer world championship match in Iceland in 1972 was an epic Cold War sports battle – not on par with the Miracle on Ice, but it was something of a small consolation for being rooked out of the Olympic basketball gold medal that year. If someone other than Hank Iba had been coaching that team we’d have won straight away, but I digress.
Fischer was the typical bad-boy American, the John McEnroe of the chessboard, an authentic genius who was eccentric even in the bizarre world of chess. Fischer lost the first game then forfeited the second in a protest over playing conditions. He then breezed to a convincing match victory, after getting completely into Spassky’s head. Fischer later refused to defend his title because of a dispute with the governing body of chess, FIDE. Over the years he went completely off the deep end of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. In 1992 he ran afoul of the U.S. government by playing Spassky in the old Yugoslavia, violating an Executive Order that implemented U.N. sanctions against the Milosevic regime. That of course made him a cause celebe of the international anti-American crowd. He eventually managed to gain political asylum in Iceland. No word if he’d accept a scholarship offer from UMBC.
In the meantime Russian Garry Kasparov, the player generally regarded as Fischer’s main rival as the best ever (he became world champion after Fischer left the scene), has been an outspoken supporter of democracy in Russia and a fierce critic of Putin. Kasparov heads up the United Civil Front, a movement to unite opposition forces ahead of Russia’s 2008 presidential election. He has faced repeated harassment from the Russian police. Chess, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.
Of all the items Joe Knippenberg has posted on Iraq, the most predictable and disturbing are those from Hanson. Pass over quickly the irrelevant historical examples, the confused discussion of offensives, asymmetric warfare and so on. Hansons point is that our military forces must be allowed to operate like a real military; no more emphasis on training and patrolling. Just go out and get the bad guys. This is ridiculous. The reason that the emphasis went to training and patrolling is that we started out with the idea that we should hunt down and kill insurgents and this failed. It failed not for want of firepower or the willingness to use it but because the central problem in Iraq is not military but political. (Consider in this regard NATOs recent public admission that it killed too many Afghan civilians in 2006.) Joe K is simply wrong to say that our military force must first convince our opponents that they cant prevail through violence. Our opponents are part of the current government. They and our other opponents outside the government do not share our view of what victory in Iraq means. We want democracy; they want their factions to prevail. This is a political problem. Should we use force against the factions in the government? Hansons articles are most disturbing because his rhetoric is really the beginning of the argument that we could have prevailed in Iraq if only the military had been allowed to operate without restraints imposed by misguided politicians. The same dumb argument is made about the war in Vietnam. If this myth gains currency, it will prove as harmful as the similar Vietnam myth has proven to be.
At first glance, I find the argument offered here more persuasive than that described here. We indeed cannot afford to lose in Iraq, and I dont think that a "political" solution is possible unless our opponents are convinced that they cant achieve their ends through violence.
Peggy Noonan writes a lovely little piece tying together many of the ceremonial sights and sounds of the new year: New Years Eve, Gerald Fords funeral, and Nancy Pelosis ascension to power. The substance of them aside, what about the ceremonies themselves? The ceremonies that unite us as a people and what they say about us as a people . . . these things deserve comment. She did not note this, but I could not help but wonder about the difference between these ceremonies of joviality, nobility, and civility and the ceremony of execution that took place last week in Iraq. If Iraqis want to know how far they have to come, contrasting these things would be a good place to start.
Bill McClay offers a richly nuanced article on the current (non-, in his view) crisis of conservatism. He reminds us that Bush 43 has a good bit in common with Reagan, including some of the same critics (who now cite Reagan against him) and criticisms.
I gathered much the same from reading Paul Kengor’s Crusader, which offers a compelling and detailed portrait of RWR’s "crusade" against the Soviet Union, a crusade undergirded by Reagan’s understanding of the universality of liberty.
But to return, for a moment, to McClay:
It is in fact a perfectly respectable conservative principle that leadership sometimes demands bold actions undertaken with the right ends in view. This, indeed, is the situation in which we find ourselves today, in what is likely to be a prolonged conflict with determined, well-organized, and well-funded transnational Islamic terrorists. It was one thing to assert, with John Quincy Adams in 1821, that the United States does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy; at the time, in any case, there was hardly much choice about the matter. It is quite another thing to stand on such a dictum in 2006, in the name of limited government, while remaining oblivious to the nature of the challenges before us.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, along with the incapacity or unwillingness of international and multilateral organizations to contain or control them and our own growing vulnerability to their use by shadowy proxies or groups accountable to no one, leaves the United States no responsible choice but to act vigorously and even preemptively in ways that an older conservatism could never have envisioned and would not have approved. That fact does not make such action imprudent; on the contrary, a failure to act, because of prior ideological commitments to a particular understanding of conservatism, would represent a lapse of prudence, and a betrayal of the core conservative imperative to defend and protect what is one’s own.
For Americans, as for others, a conservative sense of the past is expressed partly through shared stories and sufferings and customs, the mystic chords of memory. But that is only part of the story. In the United States, national identity is expressed as well through loyalty to the country’s founding principles and propositions, and to quasi-scriptural documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which seek to express them.
Many of these principles, including the “self-evident” assertion that “all men are created equal” and possess “inalienable rights,” have always been put forward as statements of universal scope, and not merely particular or local values. Their universalistic implications have a tendency, indeed, to cut against the equally vital elements in the conservative tradition that argue for the primacy of the local, the settled, and the particular. The same is true of the culturally dominant Protestant emphasis on the primacy of the individual conscience, which also takes on a universalistic character, putting loyalty to principle above loyalty to settled traditions.
To revere America without honoring these principles would mean revering a different country from the one we actually inhabit. But it is true that the principles are not always themselves conservative, either in their applications or their effects. Hence the inherent tendency of American conservatism to show, as the political scientist Walter Berns has pointed out, a dual aspect, combining the customary and the propositional, the affective and the rational, the particular and the general. One should love one’s country both for what it is and for what it stands for; both because it is one’s own and because it embodies or aspires to the highest and finest ideals.
Charles Krauthammer writes the best explanation Ive seen as to why the botched execution of Saddam Hussein should be troubling--even as it is hard to lose sleep over any indignities Hussein suffered. Along these lines, Kathleen Parker writes a thought provoking article questioning our willingness to click on and view Saddams pathetic execution. It seems to have caused her to question the death penalty--not for its justice but for the effect it has on those who view it--which, now, apparently, is everyone.
For my part, I cant get past the need for the death penalty for justices sake though I think there is a valid point to be found somewhere in Parkers analysis. Internet executions are not a good development, it seems to me. And, like Krauthammer, I regret, very much, that more justice was not served in a proper trial and execution of Saddam Hussein and that his evil will never be more fully digested by the vast majority who tuned in to view his last moments. I confess to have viewed them myself and they were annoyingly anti-climatic and seedy. They seemed to have allowed him more pride than he deserved--their taunting was just as ignoble and in the service of something just as ignoble as Saddam. Too bad, but it seems these folks have--in this as in so many other things--shown themselves to be unfit (for now) for democracy.
Here. The conclusion:
Our past errors were not so much dissolving a scattered Iraqi military or even de-Baathification, but rather giving an appearance of impotence, whether in allowing the looting to continue or pulling back from Fallujah or giving a reprieve to the Sadr militias.
So, yes, send more troops to Iraq — but only if they are going to be allowed to hunt down and kill vicious and sectarians in a manner that they have not been allowed to previously.
This surge should be not viewed in terms of manpower alone. Rather it should be planned as the corrective to past misguided laxity, in which no quarter will now be given to die-hard jihadists as we pursue victory, not better policing. We owe that assurance to the thousands more of young Americans who now will be sent into harm’s way.
Read the whole thing.
E.J. Dionne, Jr. explores the options Democrats have in responding to a surge. The least likely is Congress’ exercise of its constitutional power of the purse; the most likely is a resolution that amounts to mere posturing without assuming any real responsibility for the consequences.
The middle ground--revisiting the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq--has the advantage, to my mind, of a debate (whether it can be reasonable is another question altogether) about practical U.S. aims in Iraq.
I remember some examinations of the 2006 exit polls which suggested that not all the opposition to the President’s iraq policy came from those who wanted to get out as quickly as possible. Is there, perhaps, still a majority for doing what it takes to win in Iraq? This would lead Congress in a different direction than that imagined by Dionne.
Update: Here, courtesy of The Corner, is the Reid/Pelosi preemptive stike against a surge.
My husband thought I was being ridiculous when I told him how much I spent on postage for our family Christmas cards this year. Now I’ll have him look at this! John and Teresa Heinz Kerry sent out 75,000 Christmas cards (and imagine, I didn’t get one!). The postage on that alone would be, according to this article, $29,000! But even more amusing --it is as if they were trying to do a caricature of themselves--is the description of the card itself and the INSTRUCTIONS (yes, the card came with instructions, complicated instructions) for proper disposal! How can you make up stuff like this? There is no room for parody with this guy!
Hat tip: James Taranto
We took the kids to see Charlotte’s Web last night as we round out the long Christmas break. It has been a couple years since I read it to my daughter, and my son is still slogging through Stuart Little but I’ve read it and seen the old animated version enough to know that I would probably cry. Of course, I did. My daughter cried too--because, as you know, the spider dies. She asked me if that was why I was crying. "Not really," I said, "though knowing that certainly adds to my tears." It was interesting to see that she sensed there was something more to my tears because they came at two different points in the story than hers did: when Charlotte tells Wilbur that his friendship made her (a spider, of all things!) beautiful and when Wilbur reflects that it’s not often you come across a good friend who is also a good writer. "Charlotte was both," he says to emphasize the rarity and the treasure of it.
I love that book because it very cleverly teaches a very grown up lesson about the transformative powers of love and and the need for and treasure of friendship in a way that children can grasp and even as adults can return to again and again.
The new movie is, by the way, a worthwhile effort and suitable for all ages. It does, however, walk very awkwardly between two time periods--the early 60s or late 50s (?) and the present. It was hard to tell when it was supposed to be as the wardrobe and settings seemed alternately retro and current. Adults may find that distracting, but kids wont notice. Certainly the scene with the kids riding standing up in the back of the truck would not fly in the current times! (I saw more than a few mothers eyebrows raised indignantly at the prospect and then soften--probably as they remembered with fondness doing something very similar!) The ad-lib humor was decidedly not E.B. White’s--and often involved the obligatory jokes about bodily functions and other gross-out things that kids these days seem to favor (though perhaps they always did favor them--its just a new thing to pander to it). The crows, I must admit, were quite funny and, if not strictly from the book, added to rather than distracted from Templeton’s story line. I missed all the music ("Fine swine, wish he was mine, so what if hes not so big . . .") that was a part of the old animated classic and I guess, if I had to pick between the two films, I still favor the original for that reason. But I see no real reason to choose if you can have them both and, of course, read the book. As I said above, this is a story you can come to again and again. (As I will and cry every time I do it!)
Susan Estrich is trying to wake up the women of America to the "fact" that women are still grossly underpaid in comparison to men. Larry Elder made this wonderful point yesterday on his show: If this is true, then why dont the same greedy corporate big-wigs who hate the minimum wage so much, simply fire all the men and hire women? Wouldnt there be more money in the pot for themselves in the end? And now that women comprise more than half of all college graduates, shouldnt this be a fairly easy task for corporate execs?
And isnt it interesting that her "solutions" to this problem always seem to involve clever ways of forcing people to do things that nature and circumstance does not otherwise incline them to do: convince more female doctors to go into high paying specialties (rather than work as OBGYNs or pediatricians); or demand higher salaries for those specialties that do not pay as well. That ought to do wonders for lowering skyrocketing medical costs! Sorry, Susan. Im not losing any sleep over this "travesty." Im too worried about the damage of your proposed fixes!
Id be interested to see whether theres anything about Republican Clinton-hatred in the book, because the article focuses on liberals and libertarians, with only a gesture in the direction of Ann Coulter--marginalized, he says, on the right. (I have to confess that Im dismayed by the number of otherwise mild-mannered conservative friends who profess to like her.)
Robert Novak tries to put Bob Casey, Jr. on the hook on stem cell research. If, as expected, President Bush vetoes the promised bill, Caseys could well be the 33rd vote necessary to sustain the veto in the Senate. The House probably wont vote to override in any event, according to Novak.
Here is the NYTimes article on the plan. It will be located about 150 north of Baghdad.
Obama writes "courageously" on behalf of ethics reform, proposing an independent ethics commission, the Constitutional separation of powers and division of enforcement responsibilities to the contrary notwithstanding. All, of course, for the sake of being "above politics."
George Will on the Democrats "New Deal nostalgia" re the minimum wage, which, rather than be raised, should be lowered to $0! Will is exactly right, but, alas, it wont happen. In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi is already calling herself "the most powerful woman in America." She talks about breaking glass and marble ceilings (how many are there?) and about "the power" and about cutting in line, and having tea with women, etc. I am reminded of Rosalind in As You Like It: "Do you know I am a woman? When I think I must speak." I love politics.
Maggie Gallagher notes that New York (along with Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and many other urban school districts) is shutting down failing public middle schools and moving back to the old K-8 model. She thinks it is a terrific idea with all kinds of social and educational benefits. I tend to agree but, as a product of a K-8 system, I reserve the right to a certain amount of skepticism. It sounds good in theory but, like all systemic fixes, it requires a certain amount of fortitude on the part of administrators to keep it in line with the theory.
At my Catholic K-8 school in a small town in Ohio, there was plenty of the adolescent angst Gallagher describes. It came from all the usual suspects--disturbed families, lax discipline, flaky teachers, innate naughtiness, hormones. Still, on the whole, I suppose we were better off than some of our public school friends in the mega middle schools.
My kids school has a unique system that came about more as a function of necessity than of thought, I suspect. But I am hopeful about it. The school is a Christian K-8 school but, starting in 3rd through 5th grade the kids go to a different (but nearby) campus. Many of the parents complain about having to drive between the two, but I think it may be worth the extra gas. The effect (I hope) is to keep the so-called "middle school" or "Jr. High" students among the very young students (K-2) rather than among the more impressionable 3-5 students. It seems to work. The Jr. High kids look after rather than torment their very young peers and the kids on the other campus do not have the pressure of trying to act like the older kids. They are off to themselves and still get to act like kids.
Of course, this is all very theoretical at this point. My daughter will be a 3rd grader next year. Then I will see if the theory holds up.
J.R. Dunn cautions America’s foes against drawing unfair and over-wrought comparisons between America and Rome . . . lest their cries of "foul" become self-fulfilling prophecies. A thoughtful and engaging piece.
Kathleen Parker deconstructs John Edwards populism with her usual sharp wit. But she rightly cautions, toward the end, that Edwards act is very good and, despite his recent bad luck, could be very effective. You have to be very sophisticated, after all, to be a multi-multi millionaire politician and pull off the "regular guy" routine. Edwards has it down pat, according to Parker. Hillarys team should focus their energy on him right now and forget Rudy.
Our friend John von Heyking sends this along. Turns out Stephen Harper, John Howard, and George W. Bush are all incipient Schmittians, which of course makes them Nazis-in-training.
Im a couple of chapters into the new book, but am thinking I need to get hold of the old book as well:
A senior Republican strategist who will be advising a GOP presidential candidate in 2008 said he did not see anything in the book that would be a "disqualifier," but he cautioned that Obama has not yet gone through an intense vetting process and that a problem could arise if there is more to his story than he has chosen to share. The strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also suggested that there will be high tolerance for marijuana use among voters because many baby boomers probably tried the drug in the 60s.
Not because of this, but for other reasons, Ruth Marcus hopes hell wait.
Betsey and Gene were courageous, thoughtful, and uncompromising in all that they did, and took a lot of flak for the stands they took.
Update: My understanding is that the funeral will be held this Friday at this church.
Update #2: Robert George has an appreciation at National Review Online. Sorry I can’t provide a link, but I’m working from my dad’s computer in S.C. and can’t figure out how to adjust his window.
Last Update (for now): Here’s the link, courtesy of my mom’s computer.
Even in France, where some mock protestors are objecting to the new year:
Parodying the French readiness to say "non", the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: "No to 2007" and "Now is better!" The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop times "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future.
This reasonably well informed article shows that Mormon beliefs on certain key issues are more flexible or less doctrinal than those of Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics. They’re not against all abortion and don’t regard abortion as murder, because they have no particular view on when a fetus acquires a soul. They disagree on killing embryos to acquire stem cells for research, and a majority of them are not against it. Not only that, as a recently persecuted religious minority they’re all for a rather strict separation of church and state. So they’re against government’s funding of faith-based initiatives, because that would inevitably compromise the integrity of a chruch’s spiritual mission. (Mormon religious officials for the most part don’t even accept salaries.) And they take no position on evolution and don’t really care whether it’s taught in public schools or not. They don’t let public education shape their kids morally or spiritually; they take care of that at home and through private, "seminary" instruction.
But maybe we should be troubled that Mormon founder Joseoph Smith ran for president in 1844 (although nobody noticed it) and was a communist and an abolitionist, not to mention a polygamist. Although Mormons are rather uniformly conservative and Republican today, the LDS church does not really have a conservative tradition. But neither does America, really.
The president needs to do more than follow the advice of military leaders on Iraq. He needs to find the self-confidence and informed strategic sense that guided Churchill and Roosevelt in their less than optimum but certainly correct choice to aid Stalin against Hitler. The surge shows promise only if the president is clear on what we can now reasonably hope to accomplish. Its his indispensable job to tell our military leaders what they now must do.
Happy New Year, for those of you bleary-eyed from watching the conclusion of the NFL regular season and the holiday bowl games. You may have other reasons for being hung over, but I pass these by.
Joe Pa, sitting with his injured leg in the press box, beat Phillip Fullmer in whatever brand-name bowl game Penn State played. Good. Michigan now will, or should, stop complaining about being left out of the BCS championship game. Before the Rose Bowl there was already a constituency arguing that Michigan should be named co-national champions (being so voted in the presumptive final AP poll), following the inevitable dismantling of USC and perhaps a lucky, tainted Florida victory over Ohio State. Could there be any other kind? Instead we had a game that brought back memories of the old Pac-10 dominance of the Rose Bowl. The real #2 team in the country – if not Florida – seems to be USC. Or Boise State. About which more later.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Michigan fans or draw cosmic conclusions from the Rose Bowl, especially in terms of Ohio State’s chances against Florida. The time lag between the last game of the regular season and the January bowls is so long that teams seldom perform as they would had that game had been played much closer to the event – as in a playoff system. USC evidently recovered from a very bad loss to UCLA better than Michigan did from a much more explicable loss to Ohio State. Even then the Rose Bowl was tied at halftime. But the system is what it is, so all credit to Pete Carroll. And a memo to NFL personnel directors: if you draft USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and are surprised to find yourself with a T.O or Randy Moss situation on your hands, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Now about Boise State’s victory over Oklahoma, the insane post-midnight ending of which those of you in the eastern and central time zones may have missed (don’t get me started on TV scheduling and the timing rules in college football). Full disclosure: yes, I am a native of Idaho.
Yes, it was an absolute classic. Hollywood would have rejected the script of the game as completely improbable. It included three trick plays, including the old backyard favorite, the Statue of Liberty, that turned the tide after all seemed lost. The star running back proposed marriage to his girlfriend/cheerleader on national TV, a few minutes after he scored the winning two-point conversion. The critical moments will be replayed for years to come, like Vince Young’s TD run in last year’s Rose Bowl – or, even more apt, “the band is out on the field” conclusion to the Stanford-Cal game. It was a reminder why college sports are worth watching despite all the problems. It is why they play the game. If they show it on ESPN Classic, tape it and watch it.
BSU’s win was not quite as stunning as the original “Rocky,” or Hickory High School (in real life, Milan High School) of “Hoosiers” fame, or even George Mason during the 2006 NCAA basketball tournament. (George Mason, by the way, took out a full page add in the Boise newspaper before the game, offering support from one Cinderella to another.) The school is perhaps best known nationally for its silly blue playing field in Boise – but the win was no fluke. Boise State has a distinguished football tradition. That matters in sports. As a junior college it won the old JC Rose Bowl. It won a NCAA Division I-AA championship. Over the last few years, BSU has been ranked consistently in the NCAA D-I Top 25 and finished #7 in 2004.
And no, the team is not composed of innocent raw young men who are persuaded to leave the potato fields and who are astonished to see the big city. There are a fair number of players from Idaho – which is increasingly urbanized and has produced NFL players like Jerry Kramer and Jake Plummer. But the largest contingent comes from the high school football factories in California. BSU for years has successfully recruited those Californians, such as running back Ian Johnson, who don’t quite make the cut to USC. But they are pretty darned good nonetheless, and they have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. First-year coach Chris Peterson was the offensive mastermind behind BSU’s success over the past few seasons and his innovation and play-calling courage (after being somewhat too conservative in the second half) was inspired. BSU’s defense, especially against the run, was surprisingly stout and opportunistic until it wore down.
The real reason for college football fans to cheer Boise State’s win is that it helps open up the game. The schools from the six power conferences don’t want to see the Boise States’ of the world succeed, any more than they wanted George Mason to get on a run last spring. To be sure, if this particular Boise State team played in the Pac-10 or the Big-10 or the SEC, rather than the WAC, it almost certainly would not have been undefeated. It’s very hard to see the current Broncos winning two more games in a national championship playoff. But if Boise State or its non-BCS conference fellows had equal access to money, facilities, and TV exposure – who knows? As it is, the performance gap is not nearly as wide as most think. And there is the underdog factor. Far more Boise State fans made the trip than did Oklahoma supporters. Casual fans watching on TV instantly chose their allegiance. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, no fool, knew all that coming into the game. He knew BSU was good. He probably wasn’t thrilled with a match up that he could not win, no matter the final score.
That’s why they play the game. And in spite of everything, why we watch. And why college football, including Big-10 football, would be even better if the competition base is expanded.
It turns out that liberal Democratic senators are much more generous than conservative Republican ones, at least when it comes to giving to their partys candidates. The rather incredible stinginess of safe-seat Republicans may have cost their party the Senate. More evidence still of the power-for-powers-sake complacency that brought our party down...