A father of a student sent me the enclosed, without comment. The Faculty Senate of the University of Florida, by a vote of 38-28, denied former Governor Jeb Bush an honorary degree. The president of the University said he was "tremendously disappointed." Perhaps, but he shouldn’t have been surprised. Is this arbitrary denial of a normal honor to a very successful governor, albeit a Republican, not revealing about the character of faculty? We may be reaching the point when parents might well begin to consider if it is worth exposing their children to the hard hearts and petty minds of such people. Shameful.
The Evangelical Outpost guy has provided us with more wisdom, more laughs, and more wonderful memories than any official film institute list. He begins with BILLY MADISON and the Whit Stillman trilogy (three of the smartest and funniest movies ever made). And he doesn’t neglect the randomly insightful if mostly dreadful PCU.
[W]hen someone warned Reagan that a particular decision might cost him his support among the
religious right he replied "well who else are they going to vote for?"
Have you heard that? Any idea where I could find it?
Anyone have a source for this story?
By the way, my relative silence stems from the fact that I’m in Savannah, enjoying a homeschool fieldtrip focusing on colonial history.
Kathleen Parker writes about a new kind of "debutante" ball--the "purity ball"--that is, she argues, in response to the extreme sexualization of America’s youth. I had not heard about such balls before reading this and I doubt very much that I would want to attend or send my daughter to one. They, like many other things in this world, are simply not to my taste. On the other hand, I share Parker’s sense that the reaction to them from feminists has been rather breathless and hysterical. And, what’s more, their criticism of these balls is entirely devoid of any criticism of the culture that inspired them. Is it not at least possible for these feminists to consider that the kind of sexual "self-assertion" they have popularized has resulted in some very negative consequences and that--in their own way--these people have chosen to react against it? It is easier, I know, to assume that these people are ignorant buffoons reacting against modernity. To do more would require thought and the acceptance of facts that may not conform with the prevailing feminist ideology.
James Panero at Armavirumque notes the news about a German judge who refused to grant an accelerated divorce to a woman of Moroccan descent. The Moroccan woman claimed spousal abuse as justification for the acceleration of proceedings but the judge, in refusing to grant the acceleration, quoted the Koran and cited passages that lend support to wife-beating to support her argument that there were no grounds for it. The judge speculated that wife-beating was part of Moroccan culture and did not constitute anything out of the ordinary that would justify an accelerated divorce!
In response to this news, Panero quite cleverly points to Sir Charles Napier who famously responded to the custom of suttee in colonial India this way:
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
Peter’s post raises a question that’s long fascinated me. Are Downs people "loving and charming and a joy to have around" as a function of their defect? If they could be "fixed" would they be less loving or lovable?
In the 1991 film Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford plays a ruthless lawyer who as a result of a shooting loses many of his cognitive functions, but in the process becomes a sweet, loving guy. Does this--as well as the Downs example--suggest that the world would be a much happier place if we humans weren’t so darned smart?
Several people (most notably Ryan Rakness) have taken me to task for ignoring the controversial statement of Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler to the effect that, if it turns out that being gay is genetic, we’d be doing God’s work through biomedical interventions in the womb to excise that gene and reduce, at least, the amount of homosexuality in the world. Now Mohler is completely against abortion and would only endorse a procedure that involved "fixing," not killing.
At the same time we read that the experts now recommend that all women get prenatal screening for Downs Syndrome. And the intention there, of course, is to encourage women to abort. Already, of course, such screening has caused a dramatic reduction in the number of Downs babies being born.
Any campaign against gays and people with Downs in the world would, of course, be against genuine human diversity. But the truth is that if there were a way to "fix," as opposing to killing, Downs babies in the womb we’d be for it. Downs people are loving and charming and a joy to have around, but they’re genuinely the result of a genetic defect. We shouldn’t be killing them, but surely we’d be for curing them.
Nobody much is talking about aborting gay babies, because the people who regard homosexuality as a sin have the same opinion about abortion.
And most of the people all for aborting Downs babies are politically correct enough that they couldn’t imagine doing the same to correct for sexual orientation. (Actually libertarian Ronald Bailey would give parents that latter freedom, although he hopes they would be enlightened enough not to use it.)
To say the least, it’s unclear that being gay is a genetic DEFECT on the order of being Downs, and it’s very unclear that the cause of gayness will turn out to be as unambiguously genetic and so as unambiguously fixable in principle as Downs.
But the new studies on gay sheep that are the source of this genetic speculation do suggest to some that an effort to exterminate gay orientation is a war against nature itself.
To help Ryan out here, I’m laying out the creepy facts quickly in a linkless way. The only opinion I will offer is that we don’t possess the WISDOM to use the POWER we might conceivably eventually have to choose people’s sexual orientation for them. And in saying that, I’ve said nothing about the morality of homosexuality. God might give some people certain challenges as an opportunity for vritue and grace. Let’s let God do God’s work.
Can be read here. He offers a satisfying and thoughtful analysis of the film’s relative authenticity. According to Hanson, it is accurate and poetic--if that makes sense. I have not seen the movie and my memory of the events covered in the film is dim--but his explanation made some sense to me. Where it matters, he argues, the film gets it right. And where it doesn’t get things right--it gets them wrong in the right (i.e., the Greek) way. In other words, he seems to suggest that it is good storytelling. It tells us a story that we should know in the best way possible for us to understand it.
I almost never go to the movies and, when I do, it is usually for the kids. But I’ve been wanting to see this and Amazing Grace. So will someone who has seen both please tell me which one to pick if I can only see one before they both come out on DVD? Of course, I heard Hugh Hewitt’s movie reviewer say last week that he could not begin to imagine that there was any woman who actually wanted to see 300. But that didn’t really dissuade me . . . their movie reviews are almost always off but have the virtue, at least, of being amusing.
...on May 8. This year it’s the philosopher of manliness; last year it was the novelist of manliness, Tom Wolfe, who talked about "the human beast." Harvey’s topic will be what the humanities can teach science about "How to Understand Politics."
Thompson uses plain talk to criticize Gore’s earth-centric alarmism with hot news from our neighboring planets.
Charles Kesler writes in the new issue of The Claremont Review of Books about an intelligent (and therefore unlikely) way that GOP presidential contenders could make the ’08 race interesting: focus the debate on the Constitution. Democrats have been dictating the terms of the debate in recent years by proposing detailed policy initiatives described (by themselves and by the media) as noble ideas addressing the common good when they actually just answer a myriad of specialized interests. The GOP tendency has been to offer counter-proposals. Why do this tango? If it takes two, let’s fill our dance card with a new step: Constitutionalism. Doing this, Kesler argues, would have all kinds of immediate political benefits. This piece, like everything in the CRB, is worthy of a close read.
Unfortunately, Doug Jeffrey’s fine piece on Larry McMurtry’s American West is not yet available on-line. But that’s just one good reason among many why it’s a good idea to get a subscription.
What does Lawler think of this? I’m leaning toward Fukuyama on this one.
You might have heard about a Congressional subpoena threat. One of the commenters on my earlier post apparently has read at least this, if not necessarily the Congressional Research Service study upon which it was based. Yes, Clinton White House aides testified on 47 different occasions in front of Congressional committees; the vast majority of the occasions had to do with the Whitewater investigation. The CRS report says nothing about how many of the appearances were actually in response to subpoenas, though I have no doubt that the Republicans then controlling Congress threatened subpoenas. (If anyone has numbers here, I’d love to see them.)
But this passage from the CRS report is worth pondering:
The range of executive branch officials who may appropriately assert executive privilege before congressional committees, and the circumstances under which they may do so, remains unresolved by the courts, and is a matter that may be determined by case-by-case accommodation between the political branches. Some guidance in this regard was offered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, when he was Assistant Attorney General in the Nixon Administration. Rehnquist distinguished between “those few executive branch witnesses whose sole responsibility is that of advising the President,” who “should not be required to appear [before Congress] at all, since all of their official responsibilities would be subject to a claim of privilege,” and “the executive branch witness ... whose responsibilities include the administration of departments or agencies established by Congress, and from whom Congress may quite properly require extensive testimony,” subject to “appropriate” claims of privilege.
Following a review of Rehnquist’s statement, precedents and practice
concerning congressional access to executive branch information (particularly, the testimony of presidential advisers), and constitutional issues, it is possible to
suggest some key legal factors that together may determine whether a congressional request for the testimony of one who advises the President will be honored. (1) In the view of the executive, the few individuals whose sole duty is to advise the President should never be required to testify because all of their duties are protected by executive privilege. (2) The executive has conceded that an official who has operational functions in a department or agency established by law may be required
to testify, although at times such an official may invoke executive privilege. (3)
Congress may increase its leverage if the position of the potential witness is subject
to Senate confirmation.
If this is correct, everyone in the DoJ is more or less fair game, but the issue remains with respect to folks in the White House. The presumption seems to weigh in favor of claims of privilege here, but the matter is much more likely to be resolved in the court of public opinion than in any other court:
When faced with a refusal by the executive branch to comply with a demand for information, Congress has several alternatives to inherent and statutory contempt, although these alternatives are not without their own limitations. One approach is to seek declaratory or other relief in the courts. Previous attempts to seek judicial
resolution of inter-branch conflicts over information access issues have encountered
procedural obstacles and have demonstrated the reluctance of the courts to resolve
sensitive separation of powers issues. Other approaches may include, inter alia,
appropriations riders, impeachment, and a delay in the confirmation of presidential
If you care to read more, here’s an article ("Congressional Access to Information: Using Legislative Will and Leverage") by Louis Fisher, one of the deans of separation of powers studies.
Update: As the commenter John below notes, roughly half the Clinton Administration appearances were before a Democratic Congress; the other half, by my count, took place after the Republicans gained control of Congress. Here’s Byron York in an article summarizing the CRS report:
Republicans argue that the U.S. attorney issue is different from Whitewater, in which by 1994 the Clinton administration had sought the appointment of an independent counsel to conduct a criminal investigation. In the U.S. attorney controversy, says Michael Carvin, who served in several top jobs in the Reagan Justice Department, “All they are complaining about is what everybody concedes is a prerogative of the president to make decisions about at-will employees. Since there is no allegation that the president has done anything in the sense of exercising a power he doesn’t have, they are going on a fishing exhibition.”
“The only conceivable reason I could think for making them testify under oath is to set a perjury trap,” adds Noel Francisco, who in recent years served in the Bush White House counsel’s office as well as the Justice Department. “They are not challenging the legality of anything the president has done; they are just snooping around. I can’t imagine why they want to get people under oath other than to play this game of gotcha.”
Of course, Democrats have different views. Constitutionally, the Republicans are, I think, on stronger ground: privilege surely gives way before a criminal investigation, but not necessarily in a merely "political" dispute. Whether the Republicans have a comparably strong political ground remains to be seen.
Here’s a good analysis of why Thompson could quickly rise to the first ttier of candidates and replace Mitt as THE conservative choice, along with some reservations (whch I share) about his actual qualifications. I don’t share the view that Fred might not want to run. He’s making all the right "plain speaking" moves right now and obviously getting some excellent expert advice. (Thanks to Ivan the K)
NRO’S Kathryn Jean Lopez writes a very nice pro-Thompson puff piece, focusing on his eloquent and reliably conservative talk-show performance. He is clearly very smart and informed and has good political instincts. The fact that he doesn’t seem to lust after the Oval Office, K-Lo concludes, "only makes us want him more." Fred certainly is competent at talking competence, but I want more evidence that he has a real-life record of competence
Democrats were upset that, under the Bush plan, the interviews would not be conducted under oath or with a transcript. Without being under oath, aides would not face the same level of criminal charges if they were found to have intentionally lied to Congress, the Democrats said.
I think that this is a battle the President can and ought to win, especially since U.S. v. Nixon limits claims of executive privilege only during criminal proceedings. The most that’s being alleged here is a "politicization" of some prosecutors, which no one is calling a crime. Of course, the Democrats would dearly love to turn the testimony into an occasion for criminalizable misstatements.
If, as GWB says, you want information, we’re going to be forthcoming, but we’re not going to walk into a trap or contribute to a show trial. Good for him.
The Democrats may well run the risk of overreaching here, if they push too hard for their terms. But the President has to keep hammering them on his offer and keep defending his eminently reasonable version of executive privilege. He’s surely not going to get the same kind of help from the press that Bill Clinton got in his various confrontations with Congressional Republicans. But, as I said, if he handles this correctly, there’s at least a chance that any Democratic hectoring will redound to his favor.
Mac Owens is recovering from throat surgery. Because you can’t keep a Marine down, he is back to writing and fighting even as he heals. His first recovery piece is on the
Copperheads as understood then and now. Nice piece, Mac. Semper fi.
Maggie Gallagher examines David Blankenhorn’s book The Future of Marriage and finds much to recommend it. Her article rightly points out the crux of the matter--which is also a bit of an irony--in the debate over marriage: the clamoring for "gay marriage" seems to subtract from rather than add to the definition of marriage. A taste: In a court brief recently, 30 professors of history and family law told judges that marriages are "committed, interdependent partnerships between consenting adults." What’s missing from our understanding of marriage these days, she points out rather incredulously, is love and eros. By stretching the limits of marriage to include every conceivable union between two consenting adults, don’t we make it rather milquetoast and unappealing? Exactly.
While I don’t doubt that there are sincere and good people who advocate for the "right" of homosexuals to marry each other because they wish to fulfill some romantic longings, it would be foolish to ignore how unromantic marriage becomes when it is no longer an institution that ties eros to a social purpose. The social purpose is now the protection of a "right" and the eros (if it even exists) is incidental and no longer essential to that purpose. From the expectant longing of a Jane Austen novel we now descend into the mind-numbing morass of a legal brief. Hooray for us.
That’s what Joe Klein calls Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback. Well, there’s a lot of confusion in Klein, and perhaps even some in Huckabee and Brownback, at least as they’re portrayed by Klein. Surely we can hold sin and grace together in the same thought. And surely it’s impossible to conceive of good works without thinking about the sinful creatures who at both ends of the "good works" relationship.
Still, Klein seems to me to get one thing right: a lot of Republicans have a hard time knowing quite what to make of these guys.
Here. 11 o’clock on Sunday morning may well be the most segregated hour in America, but I wonder what the press would say about a candidate who answered an altar call in a church explicitly dedicated to a "white value system."
Here’s a charming and often incisive--if a bit too objectivist/capitalist--summation and refutation of "the Gospel of John and Oko." The author, who grew up under Soviet communism, makes a pretty good case that we’re still unduly influenced by such silly progressivist imaginings. (Thanks to the always free Frank Warner.)
Here, if you have lots of time, are all the briefs in the case. Of especial interest are those strange bedfellows--briefs from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Christian Legal Society, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the ACLU, to choose just a few.
If I had to bet, the Court will find some sort of narrow way of deciding this case, either following Ken Starr’s argument that student speech about drug abuse can be controlled (but limiting it to this particular issue) or finding against the principal because she tried to exercise authority off school grounds when the student was, in effect, on his own time. I can’t imagine a sweeping vindication of the school’s authority here. If the Court did so, the concerns expressed by the conservative religious amici would have been vindicated, and the ability of school authorities to suppress student religious exercise would be next to impossible to resist.
Update #2: Christianity Today has more, with oodles of links. A thought occurred to me about how this rather odd-seeming alliance, which (as one of the participants noted) is difficult to explain in a press release, indicates something of the political and legal maturation of Christian conservatives. They’re willing, after all, to support an "unpopular" cause that likely has more friends on the libertarian left. Yes, there’s a long-term interest they’re trying to protect, but they can see past the immediate fog to protect it. And they may have to explain it to some supporters, but I regard that as a good thing, for it will teach those supporters something about the complexities of life in a pluralistic society.
Fred Thompson’s directness is appealing. He tells us what he thinks of the Persians’ view that the movie "300" is "cultural and psychological warfare." Is Fred Thompson going to get in the race? Rich Lowry thinks that too many conservatives in the race will insure a victory for a non-conservative. Maybe, but part of me just wants to see the fun. Besides, if Romney doesn’t re-group, and Gingrich has collapsed before starting, how many conservatives are in any way?
Well, maybe. Consider, for example, the Mafia-like behavior of the cowbird. One difference between Tony Soprano and the cowbird that the experts still acknowledge: He really knows what he’s doing and understands the consequences. That may be a pretty big difference.
I grabbed the Sunday paper on my way out of Albuquerque this morning. Two articles caught my eye.
The first, titled "Iglesias’ Tenure a Low-Key Affair," offered an extensive account of David Iglesias’ career as a federal prosecutor. It cites a memo prepared for A.G. Gonzales in 2005:
The 2005 memo provides a biography of Iglesias, a demographic breakdown of New Mexico and a list of significant pending cases. Gonzales was attending a conference in New Mexico on border issues but had to leave because of terrorist bombings in London. He returned in the summer of 2006.
Cases listed as "significant" include:
A firearm case that resulted in a 30-year prison sentence for a felon possessing a gun during a robbery. The memo doesn’t mention similar cases the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to prosecute.
An investigation into an immigrant smuggling organization that included federal wiretaps that resulted in a 30-month sentence for the ringleader and even less time for his co-defendants.
A federal tax evasion case involving attorneys and accountants in which no one so far has received any jail time.
A fraud and conspiracy case involving Los Alamos National Laboratory that resulted in sentences of six months and one year for the two defendants.
An anti-heroin initiative in the Española area that began in the late 1990s under then-U.S. Attorney John Kelly and was continuing under Iglesias.
I may be mistaken, but this doesn’t sound like a record assembled by a go-getter prosecutor. Here’s more along those lines:
But the memo provided to Gonzales gives only partial insight into how the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico operated under Iglesias.
Some insiders said they considered the office "risk averse"; in other words, extremely cautious about taking on high- visibility criminal cases.
A letter addressed to Gonzales was being circulated among some federal prosecutors here last week. Some had signed it but were undecided whether to send it because of speculation Gonzales might lose his job. Others didn’t share the views expressed.
The letter address[es] the recent controversy, describing Iglesias as an absentee boss who was more interested in travel than in running the office.
It said he "abdicated his responsibility as United States Attorney, turning over virtually every important decision to his subordinates."
The letter also said that Iglesias’ "lack of leadership" resulted in a decline in the quality of work produced by his office and that the reputation of the office had suffered during his tenure.
Apparently, Iglesias’ office had increased signficantly the number of immigration cases it handled (but most involved merely pushing paper and deporting the illegal immigrant), but hadn’t really increased its workload in other respects. (I’m summarizing and quoting extensively because the article is available only by means of a "premium" trial pass.)
was excessive delay in pursuing the public’s business. It is erroneous to assume that Iglesias was being asked to rush anything. He was simply being called upon to fulfill his duties to the country in a timely fashion. Congressional delegations from any state routinely check on the performance of federal prosecutors in their districts and try to help that U.S. attorney to obtain additional resources if needed.
After noting that Senate Democrats on more than one occasion inquired about prosecutors’ investigation of "Plame-gate," he continues:
The truth will out. Iglesias was fired for not doing his job.
I am sure that the theatrical and politically ambitious Iglesias "felt pressured," because his terrible performance in office was, yet again, being called to account. The facts will show that Iglesias was often missing in action as a U.S. attorney. He was often not in his office, misused senior assistant U.S. attorneys’ time and talents and failed to move prosecutions for political corruption in New Mexico in a timely fashion.
His failures of management are well known in the New Mexico legal community. He was repeatedly asked by Domenici if his office needed more resources, and didn’t respond, although he now claims otherwise. The Senate Ethics Committee will discover that calls for his removal for failure of performance began as early as 2003.
And, lest you think that this is mere partisan hackery, consider this concluding paragraph:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in keeping with the Bush administration’s chronic ineptitude, finally fired eight U.S. attorneys in a fashion guaranteed to create a political firestorm.
Yup, Albuquerque is one interesting place.
We’ve lost interest in exploring space. Maybe our indifference has a "deep psychological connection with a badly battered grand narrative of progress." The uplifting project of Americanizing the universe portrayed on STAR TREK has been replaced by shows that suggest that our way of life and our planet have no future. But we also have to consider that our transhumanists have turned our techno-visions of the future away from "outer space" to "cyberspace" and "nano-scale robots." I’d like to add maybe we’ve gotten realistic enough to no longer believe that Carl Sagan (CONTACT) baloney that there are kinder smarter ETs out there who can unravel the mystery of Being for us and save us from our screw-up selves. Ever since the psychologically sensitive first MEN IN BLACK, we’ve known that ETs will be at least as screwed up as we are, and probably more dangerous.
Catholic homeschooler Sally Thomas describes her family’s routine, which sounds familiar, when translated into the language of the Reformed tradition for the Knippenberg household.
In addition, having spoken with a couple of folks in Albuquerque, I’m thinking of introducing my son to Euclid starting next year. In the mean time, I might try the Famous Mathematicians book she mentions.
Update: The Friar has a bit more, focusing on some of the "vices" homeschoolers display when they end up in college. It seems to me, however, that many of the vices (grade expectations, narcissism, and slovenliness, for example) are hardly unique to homeschoolers, even if they have slightly different sources.
Update #2: The Friar has more, responding both to this thread and to a question I posed to him (but failed to proofread).
...shows Obama rapidly closing the gap on Hillary and running even against Giuliani. It also shows Giuliani with a huge lead over McCain but running no better than John in November.
NEWSWEEK (which I have in my lap and so can’t link without trouble) disagrees with TIME and Bill Kristol on Newt’s confession: "Even if GOP primary voters see it as a transparent tactic; the’re likely to embrace its personal nature." Newt’s confession on "Jame Dobson’s radio show," the article judges, "has become an obligatory ritual for any sinner seeking the evangelical vote," although Newt is the only sinner so far to perform that ritual. And the article includes this judgment by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention: "The fact that McCain has that marriage [to Cindy], and it’s a committed one and it’s of long standing, gives him a real leg up on Gingrich. Gingrich’s confession gives him a slight leg up on Giuliani."
Neal Stephenson’s piece on the movie"300" is worth reading. Although I don’t exactly agree with his point regarding the "few conservatives still able to hold up one end of a Socratic dialogue are those in the ostracized libertarian wing," yet he has a point. I have always been fond of science fiction, including Jerry Pournelle’s books, like this or this.