Saturday, January 15, 2005

This I Believe (4)

That the highest grossing songs of the 20th Century were Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin and In The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics (not in cash, silly, I mean in Heaven; because every time you hear the former you're nicer to your kids and every time you hear the latter you're nicer to your parents)... this I believe.

This I Believe (3)

That if you only get to read one autobiography of the 20th Century, it should be Witness by Whittaker Chambers. If you have time for one more, it should be A Child Of The Century by Ben Hecht (I promise you'll thank me for this)... this I believe.

Friday, January 14, 2005

This I Believe (2)

That One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is the best novel of the 20th Century.... this I believe.

A New Feature: This I Believe

In the tradition of Trailing Edge Film Reviews, I'm initiating a new feature under the inspiration of Walker Percy. The title is This I Believe. Here's today's declaration:

Abba's Swedish pop sensibility is far more entertaining than anything the Rolling Stones have ever done. This . . .I believe.

I believe I should probably also find a new address before music critic S.T. Karnick comes knocking.

Where Do I Go To Get My Friend Back?

It is not often that life hands you a chance to stand behind your declared principle - immediately following the declaration!

In my column entitled Fingering Armstrong's Handouts, published in Wednesday's American Spectator on line, I made the point that those of us writing on the right wing of the political spectrum are willing to forgo heftier paychecks elsewhere for the sake of maintaining integrity. But I added the modifier: "...although we struggle every day..."

Sure enough, life saw fit to put me to the test.

I play Scrabble on line at games.com and I have painstakingly built myself up to a 1983 rating. The only people with 2000 ratings or higher are literally international champions. It is the equivalent of grandmaster in chess.

So many games had been lost to me by flukes like my computer crashing when it was my turn and the system reading it as a resignation. I could very well have constructed a rationale that said that I had really earned the 2000 and was being thwarted by technical accidents.

Tonight, I was playing an opponent who is known to me personally, the Scrabble champion of a country in Europe. Due to the time difference, it was morning where that person was. Because of their high rating, I would receive 20 points if I won, catapulting me to 2003. However, if they resign, although they lose the 20 points, I do not gain it; that is the system.

Toward the end of the game, my opponent made a move that in my view was defensible as a gamble, but it created an opening for the letter E on the Triple Word Score line. It cost me the E, the Q, and a blank, to make EQUID for 49 points and an insurmountable lead late in the game.

Suddenly, my opponent informs me that the opening was not created as a tactical gamble but as an intentional gift to throw me the game so that I would reach 2000. So there it was: in a flash, I was walking in Armstrong Williams' shoes.

I refused to accept the gift; I knew that you would expect it of me. I offered to unrate the game (an allowable option); my opponent refused, said that I was demonstrating "shockingly bad form" in refusing their gesture.

I said, "But I won't be 2000 if I haven't really won the game." That did not go over real big.

So I gave up the points. My opponent resigned.

I gave up the friendship, too, most probably. It was a great honor and pleasure for me to be acquainted with this genuine champion: gone.

Not much left. Just a much-soiled threadbare mantle of integrity, at least until the next time I fail.

But my column at the Spectator... I can leave up for one more day. Just this once, the tempter came and I did not bite.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Fetter-All Courts And 'opin' For A Mind

Judge Clarence Cooper has ruled that it was un-Constitutional for the Cobb County school district to have affixed a small sticker to the inside of its science textbooks. It read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, concerning the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

How does it feel, folks, to be living in a country that sees (at least in its judicial outlook) this phrasing as an encroachment of religion upon science?

If you scroll down to Monday, January 10, to a piece entitled The Paradoxical Critique, you will see that there are "9 comments". Read those comments and you will see a physicist taking on Hunter and myself on the question of Intelligent Design. I will make no further comment except to promise that you will gain insight into two different approaches toward employing the human mind as a resource for living. (You might want to remember that I have an essay espousing Intelligent Design which is published in a college philosophy textbook called Philosophy: An Introduction Through Literature available through Paragon, the publisher, or Amazon.com.)

Buzz for Miracle Cure

Miracle Cure is a new book by Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute that takes on the question of uninsured individuals and reform of the health care system. I've just had the chance to read some reviews and comments by Walter Williams about the book, but it looks like a very serious critical analysis of American and Canadian health care. No lame talk show sloganeering, here. This looks like the real deal. She's got endorsements from Milton Friedman and Steve Forbes, both of whom have been known to take an interest in innovative policy development. Here's a nice excerpt from Williams' column about the book:

"The recently published 'Miracle Cure,' by Sally Pipes, president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, exposes health-care myths while explaining why the sometimes-touted Canadian style health care isn't the answer. Myth: Uninsured individuals have no access to medical care. Fact: It turns out that in 2004 uninsured Americans received $125 billion of health care, of which $41 billion was provided totally free of charge. Myth: Skyrocketing prescription drugs are driving health-care spending up. Fact: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as a whole, Americans spend about 1 percent of their income on drugs. Seniors spend about 3 percent on drugs, less than the amount they spend on entertainment. Spending on drugs, as a percent of total health-care spending, was 10 percent in 1960. It's roughly the same today."

The link I've provided at the top of this post takes you to a page where you can get much more indepth information about the book, including the full 10 myths and facts about health care in the press kit. If Mr. Karnick were still putting out American Outlook, I'm sure he'd have a nice article by Ms. Pipes out in the next issue.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Armstrong's Cashout

Our fellow Reform Club contributor Jay Homnick has an article in today's issue of the American Spectator, "Fingering Armstrong's Handouts," in which he discusses the disturbing case of the talk-show host Armstrong Williams accepting a quarter of a million dollars to promote the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education reform initiative. I have no objection whatever to Armstrong having accepted money to produce a couple of advertisements for the administration, but what is highly unseemly is that, according to a USA Today story, the contract contains a clause requiring Armstrong "to regularly comment . . . during the course of his broadcasts."

I'm aware that countless other journalists have made an incalculable amount of money by being on the payrolls of politicians, business, activist groups, and the like, but that doesn't make it right. This is a matter of selling influence. If Armstrong would have been inclined to comment positively on the administration's plan anyway, then taking the money is fraud, because in accepting payment for the activity, he implied that he was doing them an exclusive service. And if he took the money knowing that he would not otherwise have commented positively on the administration's plan, he has deceived his audience by saying things that were not his real thoughts.

By signing that contract—if it truly contained the clause the USA Today reported, or something like it—Armstrong has unquestionably forfeited his credibility as a journalist.

The issue of money and journalism is a complex one, but this story is, alas, all too simple, if true.

The Weighty Issue

In my own self-defense, I post the link to what I still consider to be the best thing I ever wrote. Follow this link to "I Might Be a Giant." I'll also include the slightly less funny, but still worth reading "A Big and Tall Tale."

"Around" The World With Hunter Baker

This news just in from the Hunter Baker Fan Club:


(Official communique of HBFC)
In a thinly veiled attack on Hunter Baker, the United States Department of Agriculture has announced that Americans need to lose weight.

In related news, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman has denounced Hunter Baker for calling her "a nag". We wish to report Hunter's denial and clarification. What he actually said was, "No Secretary in Ag can tell me what not to eat."

He did not say, "No Secretary, a nag....."

The Baylor Meme

is gaining momentum. The Hugh Hewitt-inspired blog Evangelical Outpost has picked up the story and run with it. I'm hoping some of the rest of the Hewittverse will kick in and do their part. No one should underestimate the importance of having at least one true research university giving serious consideration to the Christian perspective.

One negative point though is that commenters from other Christian colleges have knocked Baylor out of loyalty to their own schools. This is not a competition, guys and gals. Wheaton, Calvin College, etc. are not making any effort to reach research university and doctoral granting status. They've got their niche covered well, but we need this more comprehensive approach.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Passing" Along An Open Question

This patriarchal blog seems like a prime venue for posing the following question to my colleagues and to male or female readers. What exactly constitues making a "pass" at a woman?

Many times a woman will tell me that so-and-so made a pass at her. On a few occasions I was so foolhardy as to ask what the pass consisted of and how one is sure that it was indeed a "pass". This query is inevitably greeted with frosty condescension: "Don't you think I know what a pass is?"

Well, you may well know, sweetheart, but I sure as heck don't.

Incidentally, because I have a number of actresses and models as friends, I occasionally hear about celebrities who made such passes. One of the reasons why I have never included any of these in my journalism is because I am frankly an agnostic about this whole "pass" business and suspect that women often magnify more-or-less innocent comments into this category. (Only once did I hear about a celebrity who "pawed" a friend of mine; yes, you guessed right, he is now a governor.)

Kimball Meet Karnick . . .

Bernard Chapin has an incredible knack for obtaining interviews with interesting conservative figures. I keep meaning to ask how he does it. His latest is the third of three with Roger Kimball from The New Criterion, which is an excellent magazine to which I intend to subscribe in the near future. Here's an excerpt that fits in perfectly with S.T. Karnick's motivation for having the blog in the first place (which I regrettably dilute and bastardize from time to time):

BC: I often (unfortunately) hear, from people the question, “Why are you are a conservative?” When I’m asked that I usually say that I think it’s a superb idea to conserve what we have in America today. How do you answer such inquiries?

RK: I am a conservative because I am a liberal. That sounds glib, but it is true. (I take the formulation from Russell Kirk.) What is a conservative? A believer in freedom who understands that civilization, the precondition for liberty, is a fragile achievement won at great cost and preserved only at the expense of unceasing vigilance. A “liberal” in the contemporary sense is often someone who is willing to barter freedom for the sake of some utopian dream, someone who discounts the reality of human imperfection and the constant temptation to evil and chaos, someone who trusts in “planning,” “rational solutions,” and “education.” I ended my book Tenured Radicals with this passage from Evelyn Waugh; it sums up one important reason I am a conservative: “Barbarism,” Waugh wrote in 1938,

is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly will commit every conceivable atrocity. The danger does not come merely from habitual hooligans; we are all potential recruits for anarchy. Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace; there is only a margin of energy left over for experiment however beneficent. Once the prisons of the mind have been opened, the orgy is on. There is no more agreeable position than that of dissident from a stable society. Theirs are all the solid advantages of other people's creation and preservation, and all the fun of detecting hypocrisies and inconsistencies. There are times when dissidents are not only enviable but valuable. The work of preserving society is sometimes onerous, sometimes almost effortless. The more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat. At a time like the present it is notably precarious. If it falls we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but of the spiritual and material achievements of our history."

Hanging On To The Dowry

The Dow just closed at 10550 or thereabouts, so perhaps I should mention a word or two about how I manage my portfolio. A week ago we had some discussion about the fact that professional advisers average a return of 6.8 percent while private individuals average 6.4.

I took over management of my own retirement fund on April 16, 2003, so I am approaching the 21 month mark, and I have achieved 17.5 percent growth, averaging out to almost exactly 10 percent a year.

The only item that I trade is the Dow Jones Diamonds (symbol=DIA), which essentially follow the Dow index. In other words, if the Dow is 10000, the Diamond sells for approximately $100. This way my fate is tied to the Dow, which has averaged 10 percent annual growth for almost a century.

It also pays a small dividend and is a great all-around deal. Since I'm a bit of a market timer, I sold them all at $107.96 apiece at the end of December, right below the peak of $108.55 and am now sitting on the sidelines with cash, waiting for a more hospitable climate for reentry.

A Baylor Clarification

The excellent blog Southern Appeal linked my National Review story of Baylor's President Sloan under siege for leading an educational revolution and elaborated on events at the school. He noted that Dr. Sloan was on the losing end of a lopsided faculty referendum. What should be noted is that many faculty members boycotted the referendum, which made the tally look very skewed. Their position was that leadership of a university is not akin to a popularity contest. I tend to agree. Where would Jack Welch have gotten with GE if his employees had been able to toss him out for bringing needed reform?

American Spectator, WOW!

Okay, forgive me while I give an unpaid advertisement. I got my start online writing for The American Spectator, which opened doors to all kinds of other opportunities. In fact, that's how I met one S.T. Karnick. I still write for them every chance I get. Their website started pretty modestly in the wake of the magazine being essentially killed by the Clinton machine, but is now on the third generation of makeovers. The new design is fabulous. I urge you to get yourself over to www.spectator.org right away and check it out. They are now offering almost as much content daily as National Review and will soon be making their magazine more affordable through digital subscriptions.

Those Hip God-Fearing Kids of Today

National Review Online interviews Naomi Schaefer Riley on her new book God in the Quad. It looks like another very interesting act of pop sociology similar to The New Faithful by Colleen Carroll from a few years back. The message is the same. Generation "M" for missionary is on the rise. I wonder whether we're going to see the same kind of youth movement that erupted when John Mott called for "the evangelization of the world in a single generation" back in the early part of the 20th century?

Robbin' Givin's

The two conservative writers that everyone loves most to hate are Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson. Various rationales will be offered by their detractors, but you and I know the truth; it's because they're so darned good-looking. And it does not help that they can both write, are quite witty, and have mastered the rare art of being a likeably wry conservative on TV.

As you may have gathered, I love 'em both, and for all the same reasons. Plus Ann has a super-special place in my heart for the amazing behind-the-scenes legal work that she did to assure Bill Clinton's impeachment, as told very dramatically in Isikoff's book (the title of which eludes me on three hours of sleep).

But Tucker is wrong today in his column on JewishWorldReview.com when he says that 'we don't give (charity) so that others will feel good about us, we give so that we can feel good about ourselves'. Brrr. What a sentiment!

One can't help hearkening back to the Talmud (Bava Batra 10b) and its attack on the governments of its time: "All the charity and assistance that they expend is a sin because they do it only for self-aggrandizement... they do it only to maintain political viability... they do it only to feed their egos... "

Giving is not a form of therapy. Giving is not a disguised form of taking - whether taking credit or taking self-satisfaction. Giving is about caring for the other. You give "of" yourself. You give "to" others. Any receiving of good feeling on your part is a secondary process, a tangential outgrowth. (Philosophy students will recall that Bishop Butler clarified this point in the 1800s to deflect the critics who said that philanthropists are not admirable since giving charity makes one feel good.)

If our giving is anything less than that, then we have a long way to go before we can appreciate an Abraham running out during his post-operative rehabilitation at age ninety-nine to invite dusty wayfarers in for some of his best delicacies.

(I still love Tucker, and I hope he appreciates that this is a gentle nudge offered in a spirit of friendship and respect.)

Simmering (Simian?) Symmetry

Well, it's 4 a.m., and even in Miami it's time to go to sleep.

But first a thought about Intelligent Design:

If there is no Design, then love is just a hiccup.....
.....then a flower is just a weed.....
.....then a soul is just a shadow.....
.....then a dream is just a mirage.....
.....then a heart is just a pump.....
.....then a smile is just a grimace.....
.....then yesterday is today's stepmother.....
.....and tomorrow is today's banana peel.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Paradoxical Critique

I just got an email from a fellow attacking my NRO article on Baylor. His rationale was that if I'm willing to discuss Intelligent Design on this website, then I must be one of the people who would stifle inquiry in a university setting. Huh? The way I see it, by being willing to discuss the interplay of I.D. and Darwin's theory, I'm talking about more things rather than fewer things. Why is that so hard to get?

Live from Brigham Young:

This comment was in response to the NRO article about Baylor. I take a lot of heat from disenchanted Baylor types who argue by insult rather than by addressing content, so it's refreshing to give space to this student from Brigham Young.

Anonymous said...

I am a senior at Brigham Young University and was at attendance at a forum which Sloan spoke at a few years ago here in Provo. He impressed me and from what I saw, Baylor would be foolish to replace him. I commend Baylor's effort to integrate reason and revelation. True reason and true revelation will never contradict one another because God is a God of truth. By observing the success and practicality with which BYU integrates the two, I can attest to the possibility of both teaching religious principles and building a respected educational institution while preparing students for success after college. I warn that many will never accept the validity of religious principles and to try to please them would be akin (though not identical) to Jesus trying to please the leaders of the Pharisees. Were any institution to stand down from its founding principles due to pressure form the outside, the world would lose interest - resulting in a loss of support from those who believe in the founding principles and no net gain from seeking other's praise.

Interesting stuff from this Mormon fellow.

News Clips

I fancy myself first and foremost a fiction afficionado, but stuff like this you can't invent. UPI reports today that the People's Republic of North Korea has been running public service announcements on its television broadcasts encouraging men to take shorter haircuts to reflect the appropriate "socialist lifestyle".

One of the clever things that I was taught in my classical Jewish education is that all forms of idolatry eventually take on the same mold. Apparently, the famous Golden Calf haircut mentioned in Exodus (32:25) is back in a new incarnation to celebrate the great 20th Century idol as it hobbles into the 21st.

Welcome NRO Readers!

You’ve followed the link to a group of diverse bloggers, but I’m the one who writes frequently about the interesting dynamics present at Baylor University. To learn more, I strongly urge you to follow this link that explains Baylor’s new direction.

Crossfire Done?

CNN is apparently canceling Crossfire and The Capital Gang in favor of a pure news format. I'm filled with nostalgia at the news. Without Crossfire, I'm not sure I ever would have studied politics, economics, public administration, law, and religion.

A friend put me onto the show in our senior year of high school and I was hooked. We called each other during the commercial breaks and at the end of the show to talk about what we'd seen. Pat Buchanan was still a superb presence in the conservative movement at that time.

I wish he'd never run for office. His autobiography, Right from the Beginning, written during those glory years, is a great read.

Crossfire suffered from Buchanan's departure and never regained its form. The battles between Buchanan and Kinsley were especially worth watching. Many of you may enjoy Hannity and Colmes, but I don't think it comes close to the glory that was Crossfire in the 1980's.

Tom Wolfe and Darwin?

Here's a piece of American Spectator's excellent interview with Tom Wolfe, which they've now happily posted on the net:

TAS: What do you predict for 21st-century journalism?

Tom Wolfe: I have no predictions. But I am struck by one thing: Try to think of a single important idea that has ever come out of these media. The fact is they are technically less advanced than print at getting across ideas and theories and simply explaining things in a way that can change history. I am struck by the fact that Karl Marx, this unpleasant man sitting alone in the British museum writing these abstruse essays, really did change the world. Look at Darwin. My God, what a powerful theory. Incidentally, I give that one about 40 more years, and it will go down in flames.

TAS: Why 40 years?

Tom Wolfe: Look at the Big Bang. That's a fairly recent theory, and it is already burning out. There are too many scientists who are saying this is rubbish. Just think about the theory of the Big Bang or this ridiculous theory about where the first cell came from. Now they say it probably came from outer space when an asteroid hit the earth and a few of these things bounced out. It is because of all this silly stuff that Darwinism is going to go down in flames.

Quick Note on the Intelligent Design Debate

We had a lot of posting on Intelligent Design several days back, but I remembered something worth sharing. When Lawrence Van Dyke (sp?), a student on the Harvard Law Review, published a positive notice on Francis Beckwith's book about Intelligent Design and the law, several hard core Darwin types freaked out. I wrote about it for National Review Online and had an email correspondence with Mr. Van Dyke in which he told me he was an engineer by training. He said something that has stayed with me since that time:

"As an engineer, I know that nothing EVER works unless it was well-designed."

I mentioned Van Dyke's sentiments to my father, who was an accomplished engineer for the Monsanto Corporation for many years and now works on missile defense. He heartily agreed.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

You Bade Your Med, Now Lie About It?

Let's admit it, we're all heartsick about the Rush Limbaugh situation. I live one county south of him here in Florida, so I get to read about it locally.

Basically, if they can prove that he was doctor shopping, i.e. going to two or more doctors concurrently and soliciting the identical prescription, then he can go to jail. They raided the offices of some doctors and got some evidence, presumably not "doctored". Rush is fighting the search warrants based on a narrow interpretation of patient-doctor privilege, but it sure as heck sounds as if they got the goods.

He and his friends (including Matt Drudge, another neighbor) claim that no one gets prosecuted under these laws. Well, that didn't help Abe Fortas, when I was a kid, or Michael Milken a bit later. When you're high profile, any ambitious D.A. will want to feather his cap and his bed by taking you down, Democrat or Republican.

Rush officially denies the doctor shopping. I hope that turns out to be true; we all owe him a great deal.

Don't Hang On To Those Genes Too Tightly

Sadly, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are splitting, apparently over her continued reluctance to have a child.

If there is one thing that can be singled out as the most destructive outgrowth of the morality shift that grew out of the 60s, it is this message to women to delay having children until they very often are defeated by the biological clock. A healthy society needs its brightest, prettiest and most talented people to reproduce. Very, very sad to think that there will be no genetic remake of such women as Condolleezza Rice and Oprah Winfrey. Come on, Ann Coulter, make your move.

Penning A Ton Of Congrats

Congratulations to Chad Pennington and the New York Jets for winning a playoff game, something they do with unbecoming rarity.

When they won the Super Bowl back in 1969, I was just an 11-year-old kid with a transistor radio. Now I'm a 46-year-old scribbler with 2 grandchildren. Life, eh? Just keeps chugging along.