RONLT (Readers of NLT) know that I am helpless to resist the ever-evolving comedia of Silvio Berlusconi. I once proffered that his name would go down in history as a shorthand verb:
To Berlusconi: To act in the most egregiously juvenile manner while in a position of utmost authority without ever suffering the slightest consequences.
Well, he's done it again:
An Italian court on Saturday dismissed a corruption case against Silvio Berlusconi, ruling that the statute of limitations had expired on charges that the Italian billionaire allegedly paid his lawyer to give false testimony in the 1990s to shield him from prosecution.
Try to keep this in perspective. As the paper notes:
Over his 18 years in politics, Mr. Berlusconi has survived dozens of criminal investigations and many trials. In some trials, he was acquitted while in other trials the statute of limitations expired.
Of course, il caveliere lost his hold on the reigns of political power in November. Yet his personal powers of evasion still seem strong. I think that Italy and the world have not seen the last of Berlusconi - and it is a more interesting place for him.
From today's WSJ:
New York City on Friday released for the first time a database ranking nearly 18,000 public schoolteachers based on their students' test scores, a historic move that lifted the curtain on one measure of quality in the classroom.
How can it be that teachers are only now being evaluated on the basis of their work output? A teacher's job is to instill knowledge of a subject in their pupils. It seems only rational that their performance would be judged on the basis of how much knowledge they instill. By what standard have they been measured up to this point?
Of course, the answer is that they haven't been held to any standards whatsoever. That fact is reflected by the teachers' and union's zealous opposition to the evaluation database. The unions have a lucrative public monopoly over education and teachers are immune from discipline based on their performance - neither group have an interest in subjecting themselves to criticism, implementing objective standards of performance and upsetting the status quo.
I've written on American educational exceptionalism before and have been heavily critical of unions and public school unaccountability. The education bureaucracy surely sees any form of comparable evaluation criteria as one step in the direction of market competition in American education. Competition would certainly favor private, parochial schools - to the fiscal and political detriment of unions and to the utter dismay of liberal secularists. These cultural, political and economic factors are the true motivations behind America's public education policies and the opposition witnessed to teacher evaluation databases.
The cover of Newsweek:
The Seals: How Obama Learned to Use His Secret Weapon.
Shouldn't that be "America's Secret Weapon"?
Quote of the Day
In honor of Rick Santorum.
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest
And John Winthrop:
There is now set before us life and good, death and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his commandments and his ordinance and his laws, and the articles of our covenant with him, that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other God-our pleasures and profits-and serve them , it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it: Therefore let us choose life, that we and our seed may live by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life, and our prosperity.
Instapundit point us to this incident, in which a citizen was denied the right to travel because he damaged the chip in his passport: "The claim has been made that breaking the chip in the passport shows that you disrespect the privilege of owning a passport, and that the airport was justified in denying this child from using the passport."
But is holding a passport a "privilege" or a "right"? Interestingly the dissenters in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark (Fuller, joined by Harlan) noted that "birthright" or the notion that soil determines citizenship, was associated with subjecthood--under common law, anyone born on soil belonging to the king could only leave the country with his explicit consent. That's why that argued that in 1776 the U.S. broke from not just allegiance to the crown, but also from the idea of birthright. They argued that American citizenship was based upon the principles of 1776--mutual consent between current citizens and any new would-be citizen. It seems some of our bureaucrats are following the logic of "birthright citizenship" all too well.
NY Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin exhibits American virtues, not Chinese ones. One could conclude this from simple observation as well from this book on Chinese (PRC) professional baseketball. "Why are there no Jeremy Lins [point guards] coming out of China?" The answer lies in politics--the sports of a free society and those of a totalitarian one.
Speaking of Lincoln, note this 1860 cartoon of the presidential candidates, featuring baseball metaphors. Lincoln installed a baseball diamond on the White House grounds, as Diana Schaub relates in her classic essay on the All-American sport.
This WaPo account of how various Republicans (why only them, one might ask) use/ransack the founding fathers pits the politicians against historians who criticize this alleged naievete.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology history professor Pauline Maier, author of several books about the period from the 1760s to the writing of the Constitution, says: "It is interesting why so many politicians and even judges today want to show that their ideas had firm foundations among the founders. In some ways, I suppose that defines a new phase in the culture wars over 'who is most American.' "
But, she adds, "that can also be very regressive: No founder ever embraced abortion or endorsed affirmative action. Eighteenth-century Americans did take rights seriously, but their rank list of rights was probably different than those of rights-conscious people today. They lived, after all, over two centuries ago and on the rights front can seem pretty dated."
Like another fine historian of the Declaration, Carl Becker, Maier falls prey to historicism, the notion that one's historical circumstances poses an absolute barrier to finding transcendent truth. Evidently, to judge just from the professors cited in this article (Jack Rakove, among others), it's the scholars versus divisive Republican politicians.
But the contrast shows how much the defense of the Constitution resides in ordinary citizens and the politicians who reflect their concern. As the Progressives predicted and urged they would, intellectuals take the side of progress and history against the people's pride in their country as founded. Of course, not all thinkers agree with those consumed by Progressivism. Here's a shorter piece.