Our best journalist on the human nature/biotechnolgy beat, William Saletan, moves from the horribly misugided--if quite understandable--decision of Ashley’s parents to some more general reflections on our emerging power to get smaller for almost any reason we choose. And the future may be with the small: They eat less, live longer, and are altogether less of a burden on others. The "naturally tall" may have higher IQs, some studies show, but maybe they can keep that advantage when theyre shrunk or redesigned to be short. To feel tall but be relatively small might be the real recipe for success, especially for women, in the years to come.
This review of some books on Cary Grant in the current issue of The Atlantic is very much worth reading. Alas, not avaliable on line.
between a party that can count on the media’s, er, forebearance and one that can’t. Not the only difference, mind you. But good intentions surely are buttressed by vigilance.
So, what do you do when the property tax burden for education gets too high? Create new communities where children arent permitted. New Jersey, a state where the cost to educate the average child is over $12,000 a year, is now home to one-fifth of the countrys "adults-only" developments.
Charles thinks that only the real prospect of a redeployment--one that would leave Maliki at the mercy of a civil war in Bagdad--can produce enough nonsectarian behavior for the surge to succeed. He won’t respect us unless he believes we’ll really abandon him if he doesn’t. And without that respect the surge will fail because hell undermine it.
Heres Yuval Levins latest and most eloquent defense of the presidents stem cell policy.
Our friend Patrick Deneen gets some love in this WSJ piece describing the movement best exemplified by Robert George’s Madison Center and the unjustly overlooked Ashbrook Center. The article also points to this interesting new source of funding and inspiration.
Ive been maintaining blog-silence this month while I get this years Index of Leading Environmental Indicators in the can (bonus: this years edition will include a short film on DVD starring Yours Truly), but a couple of things compel me to pop my head above the parapet to comment.
Yesterdays Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed column (not available to non-subscribers so Im skipping a link) from Bjorn Lomborg recounting how Al Gore had ducked out of a previously arranged interview with a Danish newspaper when he found out that Lomborg would be doing the interview. As chance would have it, I spent the afternoon with Lomborg just last week in Zurich going over questions he should ask Gore. (What were you doing in Zurich?--Ed. Lomborg and I were stuffing our Swiss bank accounts with all the ExxonMobil moolah theyve been shoveling our way. . . Just kidding. I couldnt resist the thought of NLT trolls heads exploding. Bjorn and I were speakers at a conference sponsored by this Swiss think tank.)* Im not surprised Gore backed out; he is not very good at answering challenges to his extreme climate gore, so he ducks more debates than Jimmy Carter.
Word around Hollywood is that "An Inconvenient Truthiness" is a shoe-in for the Oscar for best documentary. Which leads me to wonder: rumors are going around Washington that Gore is quietly contacting key Democrats to sound them out about running. Might Gore use the Oscar microphone to announce his candidacy? Where can you have a bigger audience aside from American Idol? Think of how the Hollywood crowd would go nuts if Gore did it. It would also be a way of eclipsing Obamamania. Id almost be willing to quote odds on this idea.
Meanwhile, Rich Karlgaard points to a possible problem for Gore: his involvement in whitewashing Apples options backdating problem. Now, this is one of those lovely "hoist-by-their-own-petard" situations, since the people who froth the most about this problem are Gores constituencies. Couldnt happen to a more deservedly unctuous person.
Finally, is Al Gore actually a harbinger of a new ice age, or is he the Real Mr. Freeze of Batman comics? Several journalists have noted that everywhere Gore goes, he seems to bring record cold temperatures with him. Theres now even an entry about "the Gore Effect" in The Urban Dictionary (a kind of alternative Wikipedia), defined as "The well documented phenomenon that leads to very low, unseasonal temperatures, driving rain, hail, snow or all of the above whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global warming."
*P.S. I regaled my Swiss hosts with Robin Williams old jokes about how wonderful it is that the basic weapon of the Swiss army--the famous knife--comes with a corkscrew. (Their marching chant goes: "I dont know but Ive been told/Chardonnay should be served cold.") I was archly told that only officers are issued Swiss army knives with corkscrews. Which makes it even funnier if you ask me.
Heres Michael Medveds take on Obama vis a vis the rest of the aging candidate field. This article does not address the substance of Obama (or lack thereof) but it does, to my mind, explain some of his appeal. Appeal is not everything, of course, but it often wins elections.
My first choices: Steve Hayward’s elegant dissection of Gordon Wood’s approach to history; Paul Cantor’s ruminations on the universality of Shakespeare’s appeal, buttressed by furriners, but discounted by too many of those who speak a version of the Bard’s native language; and Christopher Levenick’s most excellent evisceration of the fulminations of some representatives of the religious Left. I don’t mean to disrespect others by not mentioning them; as they say, RTWT.
Father Neuhaus summarizes "the Technology Policy" of the new Wyoming Catholic College in the February FIRST THINGS: "The premise is that the most powerful piece of technology is the human brain, and it works best when engaged in reading, listening, conversation and prayer. Therefore: There will be no television sets on campus; classroom notes will be made the old-fashioned way; no private Internet access, and limited public access; no cell phones period. All these are replaced by books both great and good galore."
Father Neuhaus doesnt endorse this approach himself, but he is intrigued by it. Its close in some ways to my personal approach as a college teacher. I only very, very rarely will show a film; in class I never used power point or any other such electronic teaching tool; I never give an assignment that depends on drawing anything off the internet or web, and I tell students that they have no right to expect that I will answer their emails. I will admit the existence of and even talk about TV shows, movies, and maybe even blogs--demonstrating my personal media literacy (and in part my personal weakness or ADD), but only in the context of talking about books. Im less tyrannical than WCC, by both necessity and choice, about what students should do on their own time, and, as Ive said before, theyre probably better off with some selective TV and film viewing. But its important that they not confuse such pop culture, pop Cartesian recreation with their real education. (Their real education is what allows them to see the significance of their recreation.)
Now the WCC approach might be criticized for depriving students of the wisdom of blogs, Facebook, on-line papers and journals and such. But from the perspective of genuinely higher education all that stuff is at best harmlesss but time-sucking amusement. Higher education, as Tocqeville says, should be about what you cant learn on the streets or on the screen in a high-tech democracy.
It will be interesting to see how WCC does on the assessment and accreditation front.
Could a learning outcome be to help students kick their compulsive habits when it comes to computers, TVs, and iPods?
Update: On a different front, its clear that the way Obama talks about religion doesnt please all Democrats. While I can imagine the secularist/separationists biting their lips in order to win in 2008, the presence of Obama and HRC (also a card-carrying member of the religious Left) in the Democratic field leaves an opening for someone who wants to carry the separationist banner. John Edwards cant do it. Dennis Kucinich maybe?
All the talk about assessment, learning outcomes, and the bizarre agressiveness our Department of Education is showing toward our accrediting associations has brought out the hidden libertarian in me. I’m much more open to the possibility that the national government should stop subsidizing higher education. If college is such a good investment, why should government pay for it? And doesn’t its subsidizing of individual students mainly drive up tuitions without expanding educational opportunity or improving educational quality all that much? Couldn’t one way to make colleges leaner and cheaper be to free them from the costly burden of having to conform to federal requirements--including increasingly intrusive and trivial outcomes-based accreditation--to get federal money they could probably get by without? (Well, I don’t completely agree with this, but let me know what you think.)
(You have to read Julie’s post below and the comments on it before reading this.) I’m amazed, first of all, that I seem to have thoroughly ticked off more NLT readers on this issue than any other. That "cigarettes represent a metaphor" for Julie/Peggy and even me should have been obvious. And candidates that do exude Bogart/Rick manliness do and really deserve to have an advantage. They have character. I hasten to add that there is Mormon manliness; they’re tough and do better than almost all other Americans in resisting degrading, sophisticated fashion. But Romney, as Juile says, is going to have to find a way to display his to the American people. You don’t HAVE to smoke or drink to be Bogart, and it’s true enough that you’ll usually live longer if you’re only metaphorically a smoker.
. . . Patsy Cline used to sing. And that is what we need, it seems to me. We need the equivalent of a smoker on our ticket in O8. "Say what?" you ask. Read Lawlers posts below about Obamas smoking and check the links, then read on.
I hadnt even considered the marked contrast between the cool smoker Obama and Mitt Romney until Lawler brought it up in his post below. Consider that contrast for a moment . . . Oooouch! That would be bad for us, it seems. And it wouldnt so much be an anti-Mormon thing as it is an anti-goody-too-shoes thing. That, of course plays into the stereo-type of Republicans as a bunch of uptight old guys with really bad wedgies. Romney would have to work very hard to prove that his own preferences against these doing these things himself do not reflect any kind of new-age temperance movement. But then, Lincoln didnt smoke or drink and yet was able to thoroughly enjoy the company of those who did and, moreover, not make them feel embarrassed for their choices. I suppose Romney might, if he were very clever, be able to use the sentiment Obama could create against the Democrats: i.e., he could demonstrate that the positions Obama takes on the issues show a real and more devastating kind of intolerance to personal choice and that the Democratic party does more oppressively represent the soft-despotism of the finger-wagging old school. He would have to differentiate big from small vices. But he would have to be very clever to pull it off if he does not indulge in even the smallest of vices. If he got any traction at all here, the left would trot out their tired, old, but amazingly effective gun about sexual liberation and the perceived Republican backwardness on these issues. Not to mention their anti-science superstitions (to use their words).
Dont we have any cooler, rougher seeming Republicans who could work this issue and carve this image right?
Giuliani seems better than Romney for the "coolness" factor at first glance. Speaking only about his general appeal and not his positions on the issues, I have always thought that I would prefer him to any of the other contenders. He is a tough guy who messed with the mob and talked tough to the terrorists after all. There is a kind of old-fashioned manly quality to his brusque New York ways. But his stated opinions on these moral questions and his own problems in that arena mean that he would have to more or less leave the charge of prudishness in the Republican party unanswered. His silence would leave the party susceptible to further charges of hypocrisy. I dont think its a smart strategy for Republicans to try and sweep that issue under the rug if they mean to--as they must do--make gains among the young.
Because the GOP will never win anything without social conservatives and because the country will collapse into degeneracy if social conservatives are entirely ignored, there is nothing left to do here, it seems, but to persuade young people that the GOP is right about this stuff. The question is, who can best do that? I have no good answer to that question but I know this much: he has to be cool--not a church lady. He has to have a great sense of humor and a thick skin. He should be a little vulnerable on these questions--but not have gaping holes in his moral armor--and where vulnerable show appropriate self-deprecating humor but not pretend to excuse himself. He must be able to make an appeal to morality that is based in more than glittering "higher truths" (though he mustnt denounce these). He should, it seems to me, ground his appeal in self-interest rightly understood and cold, calculating reason. Find that guy, and we will do well now and well into the future. Fail to find him, and I think we will continue to lose ground.
One of the most problematical of the many problematical expressions in the judicial attempts to interpret and apply the First Amendment religion clauses is the notion of "pervasive sectarianism," which the plurality in Mitchell v. Helms argued has a rather shameful provenance in anti-Catholic bigotry and, in any event, should not matter, so long as the government’s permissible purposes coincide with those of the recipients of government aid. Nevertheless, the notion of a "pervasively sectarian" entity--and the implication that it is unworthy as a recipient of otherwise reasonable government aid or contracts lives on, surfacing most recently in the decision handed down by a federal judge in Iowa finding Iowa’s contract the Prison Fellowship Ministries’ InnerChange Freedom unconstitutional (for briefs on the other side in the appeal go here).
Well, in a sense the shoe is now on the other foot. Colorado’s pro-life Democratic Governor Bill Ritter has announced that he will resume providing state funds to Planned Parenthood, so long as PP doesn’t use the money for promoting or providing abortion. Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput doesn’t think that PP can properly segregate its funds, implying in effect that PP exemplifies a kind of pervasive sectarianism.
Since I would assume that he’d eschew that language and analysis with regard to Catholic and other religious institutions, I wish he’d extend the courtesy to PP (leaving open the possibility, of course, that PP could fail to live up to its obligations). And I’d hope that PP and its allies would return the favor with respect to faith-based organizations that they may not happen to like.
Update: I should explain that this post grew out of an email exchange with MOJ’s Rob Vischer, whose post is here.
Next Friday, January 26th, the famous Darcy Wudel will be speaking on "Tocqueville and Associations: A Comparative Perspective" at Oglethorpe. If youre interested in attending, shoot me an email.
(Don’t read this until you review Julie’s comments 20 and 21 below under my Obama/smoking post.) Julie,
I hope Obama doesn’t read your brilliant strategy and sign you up. It’s true that smoking is catching on again among the young, especially young women. They (admittedly stupidly) seem to think that cigarettes are sexy in some way. And it’s equally true that smoking is a small and humanizing vice (compared, say, with the famous vices of President Clinton or former Congressman Foley), one that shows one’s dissent from the fanaticism of soft-despotic, schoolmarmish, health-and-safety obsessed political correctness. No real man works too hard to look young or live forever. If his Hillary’s schoolmarms criticize Obama for killing babies with second-hand smoke, he can respond reasonably and humorously that the occasional cigarette on the back porch or out on the sidewalk ain’t hurting anybody (well, there’s a small but significant danger to the senator himself--but his embrace of that risk makes him a man in the great tradition of Bogart etc.). The single women that allegedly are Hillary’s core might switch over to a manly but still orthodox liberal guy. Julie really sees the path that can make his campaign (which as far as I can see will be boring and platitude driven in terms of content) very seductive and very dangerous for us Republicans. Consider the showdown between between the smoker Obama and a Mormon who doesn’t smoke or drink (even coffee!)....
Ashland beats Hillsdale in basketball.
Antony: "Theres not a minute of our lives should stretch/Without some pleasure now."
Barack Obama, as everyone knows, was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, teaching these courses. He should have a reasonably well thought out approach to the Constitution and to constitutional adjudication. Do we have any evidence of it anywhere, other than in these very political instances? I confess that I didn’t find anything particularly thought-provoking or, for that matter, surprising, given his general orientation.
I did a quick lexisnexis search a few days ago and didn’t find anything, but I’ll go over the Harvard Law Review more closely for his time at that august institution to see if if fact he made it into print (which he should have, given that he was President of the HLR).
Anyone who has anything more specific or interesting should feel free to email me.
I can’t tell whether this is good or bad, but the fact that it’s coming from the educrats at the DoE makes me dubious. We are headed, I fear, in the direction of "No College Student Left Behind," to which the modal response will be: create an "objective" assessment tool and then teach to it. Not exactly Socratic or liberal, by my lights.
Max rightly sees it as a worthy and risky effort to salvage our huge investment so far. There are no credible alternatives. But are we putting too much weight on the surge by thinking of it "as one final effort"?
Here’s why our booming economy is rightly called the Bush economy.
You can judge for yourself Obamas smoky voice here.
I guess its time to dredge up the piece I wrote last summer about his speech on religion and politics, which differs little from whats in his new book on the subject. If youre interested, you might also want to take a look at his churchs website, these "precepts" and "covenantal statements", and this account of a visit to the church. This church takes its Afro-centrism seriously, but does qualify it in the following way:
W.E.B. DuBois indicated that the problem in the 20th century was going to be the problem of the color line. He was absolutely correct. Our job as servants of God is to address that problem and eradicate it in the name of Him who came for the whole world by calling all men, women, boys and girls to Christ.
Im not quite sure how this squares with, for example, a "[p]ersonal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System," as the precepts call for; perhaps some enterprising reporter will ask Obama about it.
Well, maybe he shouldnt. Smoking may be the cause of his "magic voice." And being unable or deciding not to kick the habit is one way he can really distinguish himself from fashionable liberals.
[T]the Christian virtue of hospitality, according to Aurelie Hagstrom, a theology professor at Providence College, “reflects a radically different and compelling alternative to tolerance.” While tolerance is a “false sort of engagement” given its tendency “to trivialize what is most important to us,” hospitality demands “a personal, authentic encounter that is self-emptying and open even to those with whom we have deep philosophical, theological, and political disagreements.” Under this view, the university’s sponsoring religious community acts as host, and community members from other religious traditions are welcomed as guests. In today’s hyper-egalitarian campus environment, attaching the “guest” label to non-Christians will smack of paternalism, but the host-guest paradigm may be inescapable if the Christian story is to have a privileged role as a shaper of the institution and its mission.
Read the whole thing.
Because I am either a chronic underachiever or because I simply do not have enough ’g,’ I have absolutely no interest in re-opening the can of worms that Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve opened in 1994. But being over-prudent has never been one of my setbacks either, so here it is. His Opinion Journal essay today and the promise of more to come in the next few days on the subject, is certainly worthy of serious consideration by those who think they have enough ’g’ to handle it. My sense (I won’t call it a view, having not studied the subject in any serious way) is that there is probably some merit to it.
My experience working at my kids’ kindergarten for two years, seems to confirm my sense of the thing. This school is a very intense, almost one-to-one teaching experience. But no matter what you do with some kids, you get little back. It is hard to say why that is. It appears that some have nothing going on inside their minds--as if they were asleep mentally. One doesn’t know if that is because the kid is still immature or if the kid just hasn’t got it. Still others are so advanced that they pay you no mind at all because you and the idea of learning bores them. There are other kids who run circles around you and dazzle you with brilliance. Most are just work-a-day plodders like my kids and myself. To be sure, you can get better results with this individualized kind of teaching--but I’m not even so sure about that as I used to be. So much depends on the wisdom and the experience of the teacher.
I used to have a history teacher in high school who had the reputation of being difficult. On the other hand, he told us that we could all get an "A" in his class if we really wanted it. I don’t think he really believed what he was saying in the strictest sense, but it was a noble lie. He said it with so much passion, anyway, that I believed him. And because I believed him, I did get an "A." I knew a few students who worked as hard (or harder) as I did and could still only get "Bs." But I suppose they might only have achieved a C or D if they hadn’t tried so hard to get the "A." Of course, the grades don’t really mean anything in the scheme of life, I know. But the lesson of learning to believe you are capable of more than you think you are is indispensable. That is almost always true. Perhaps the most we can hope for from education is that it do its level best to inspire each kid to give his best.
In Afghanistan, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of attacks on U.S. and allied forces by Taliban members who seek to reestablish their hold over the country. Currently there are only 24,000 U.S. troops in that country, where the Al-Qaeda presence is considerably stronger than it is in Iraq. Moreover, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are operating with the tacit assistance of the Pakistanis, who are tolerating insurgent sanctuaries within their borders.
"For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to the NY Times analysis of census results." Mona Charen objects to some editorializing in the report, and notes the class implications of the marriage issue. This, while interesting, of course is not the end of the story. I just spoke to a young woman yesterday (a college grad, now working, circa 24 in age). She says she is worried because in two years of work she has not yet met a man that was sensible enough to marry; she assumed she would (because she did not meet one in college). Her practical remedy is this: she is attending two to three church services (different churches!) each week hoping to increase the odds of meeting someone more normal. The ones she has met through other venues have been a "little rough", as she put it. So far, she has had no luck. This is common, and in a couple of more years her worry will turn to panic. In over thirty years of observing young men and women on their dating habits--their ways of getting along with one another--things have only become more difficult, more complicated, more bizarre over the years. What will happen?
Thats the modest proposal of Free Frank Warner. Frank wants NLT reaction to his ingenious argument--one he thinks everyone should like. Give him some. Frank is a national greatness liberal, and Senator Lieberman should certainly hire him.
Im working my way through this Pew survey report about young people today. So far (in my reading), the "bad" is that one-third of them have tatoos, theyre focused on fame and fortune, and 20% are atheistic or religiously unaffiliated, while the good is they tend to favor privatization of social security. Right now, theyre more Democrat than Republican, though that could change (we hope).
An interesting observation for those dissatisfied with George Bushs America is that, across the board, people are pretty doggone happy: more than 80% in every age group report their quality of life as excellent or good, and over 80% say theyre very or pretty happy. But nevertheless, "the country" is going in the wrong direction. By what measure?
THE NATIONAL REVIEW editor sees no evidence that it will address the real reason for insurgent effectiveness and the real threat of Iran. And the president didn’t explain why withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster. I don’t agree, and I certainly think we should let the president make the call for now. But Buckley’s opinion deserves our respectful consideration.
As long as we’re reflecting on civic education, I’d be interested in the answers our gentle readers have to offer to Peter Levine’s post, both in general and considering the questions he poses at the end. If you read it, you’ll see why I’m particularly interested.
Ill share my own thoughts later, for reasons that should also be obvious.
This is related to Joes post below. Not only do I (and we) teach King in all the ways you would expect, but we also use his Dream speech (with the Declaration and the Gettysburg Address) as the core document around which our Presidential Academy revolves.
For a number of reasons, this article is disheartening. Note, for example, whats now being blamed for our students lack of civic knowledge, as if that began with the Bush Administration.
Andy Busch on Martin Luther King, as a response to Ricks Perlstein’s attack on him (and the Ashbrook Center) in the latest TNR. Very good!
Heres a perceptive review of THE QUEEN, surely the best political film of the year. Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair actually make each other better and discover what they share in common, despite their great differences in style, class background, and political opinion. And their shared political responsibility fends off the challenge of the popular but empty "humanitarian" compassion
of and for the celebrity Diana.
Yuval Levin reports on the mixture of demagoguery, tragedy, and farce that is the debate in Congress over funding research with embryonic stem cells.
The economy turns out to be in "surprisingly" strong shape, and it’s probably going to get even stronger. Let’s hope divided government doesn’t screw it up.
Heres a detailed and nuanced account of Emory University historian Kenneth Steins differences with Jimmy Carter. Stein cites chapter and verse regarding his disagreement with Carters version of a meeting with Hafez Assad they both attended, arguing that Carters version is intended to place Israel in a less favorable light. But he also has some nice things to say about Carter.
Today’s Atlanta paper has a rather prominent package of articles on the book I noted here. We also learn about this LAT review, where the reviewer criticizes Hedges for, in essence, calling for an abridgement of First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech to deal with those he describes as incipient fascists. The better response, the reviewer argues, is political. He’s right, of course.
What Hedges can’t concede, and sell any books, is how marginal genuine theocrats are among conservative Christians. He can make his case only by willfully misunderstanding the language of dominion.
Another point, and I’m done. Hedges taxes conservative Christians with reaching out to broken people and manipulating them. First of all, would he not have them reach out to broken people (which, according to at least one version of the Christian tradition is everyone)? And isn’t it arguably authentically Christian to tell those broken people that their redemption ultimately can’t be found in this world? Even if we take his understanding of brokenness (mostly economic and psychological, all apparently explicable in material terms), would he not have churches reach out to them, offering a variety of different kinds of support (not only spiritual, but also material)? If churches didn’t mix the spiritual with the material, they’d be no different from the secular welfare and therapeutic bureaucracies, and hence ultimately dispensable. But perhaps that’s what someone who thinks the First Amendment can be readily jettisoned in the face of a very speculative threat wants.
Our goal should no longer be to bring regime change in the direction of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. All we need or can do is manage the regional civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis by strategically supporting both sides. Remember that Ed’s track record on predictions is at best uneven. I leave this for you to discuss.
London Times notes that so-called black activists are not yet supporting Barack Obama, and wonders why. Does it have to do with Hillary? Harry Belefonte on Obama (An "influential civil rights activist"? Oh, never mind.): "We don’t know what he’s truly about." And then there is the poetry of presidential candidate Al Sharpton: "Right now we’re hearing a lot of media razzle-dazzle. I’m not hearing a lot of meat, or a lot of content. I think when the meat hits the fire, we’ll find out if it’s just fat, or if there’s some real meat there." I like that.