Saturday, January 29, 2005

Apparel All Parka Crashes

The Vice President is being criticized for attending the Auschwitz memorial ceremony in a ski parka and knit cap instead of a suit. Perhaps he has been overeating at the inauguration parties and his suits don't fit (not like Johnny Carson's, anyway).

As a less-than-well man, he should remember what Orson Welles said: "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

Bottom line, ski parka = tres tacky. As Evelyn Waugh said, "I can abide formality or intimacy, but I detest informality."

Bullet Points From Party Headquarters

The experiment in Palestinian democracy proceeds apace.

After Hamas had a strong showing in local elections in Gaza, they called a little victory rally. They celebrated by chanting slogans and their opposition, Fatah, responded by spraying the crowd with bullets.

Apparently, Palestinians and democracy go well together - like Smith and Wesson.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Companies Upsizing?

As I have mentioned, I am on the road in Savannah, Georgia, and have limited access to the Internet. This morning and afternoon were delightfully spent with some cousins over in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Briefly, I wanted to share a thought about this latest pattern of 'padding' that seems to be at the heart of a few scandals, from the Krispy Kreme orders and profit reports to the Boy Scout enrollment numbers, not to mention some questions about charitable foundations (oh, oh, I can feel the double entendre crowd starting to heat up).

Do we as a nation have a particular cultural problem that pushes us to always want to seem bigger than we might be in actuality?

Conservative Philosophers Get Together

Francis Beckwith emailed to let me know that he's joined a new weblog staffed by conservative philosophers, including one Roger Scruton.

It's a nice counterpart to Left2Right, which was discussed on this site some time ago. Go check out The Conservative Philosopher! They've been in operation about three days and are already getting a couple thousand or so hits daily. Not bad.

Some Awesome Scalia Action . . .

From Christianity Today's Weblog:

Last week, however, Scalia had less jurisprudential matters on his mind when addressing a Louisiana chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

"To believe in traditional Christianity is something else," Scalia told a group of about 350.
For the Son of God to be born of a virgin? I mean, really. To believe that he rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven? How utterly ridiculous. To believe in miracles? Or that those who obey God will rise from the dead and those who do not will burn in hell?

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools … and he has not been disappointed. …

Intellect and reason need not be laid aside for religion. It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain. There is something wrong with rejecting a priori the existence of miracles. …

If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

Constitution and Koran?

I found Peggy Noonan's dour assessment of the inaugural speech deflating, but I'm not likely to doubt her judgement. I have to admit that I flinched when Bush referenced our national identity being built on "the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, and the words of the Koran (italics mine)."

I think David Gelerntner already covered this ground somewhere out there in the aether, but I'm having a little trouble with that third part simply as a matter of history. I'd love to see someone produce a believable explanation of how the words of the Koran affected our constitutional development or helped promote self-government.

Yes, yes, Bush was playing down the confrontation between Christianity and Judaism on one side and Islam on the other. That's smart. He should do that. He has a responsibility to America's Muslims to do so, but let's not falsify the record.

By the way, none of this goes to say that I think Muslims are incapable of democracy or any of that business. If you had intercepted Christian civilization at various points, you would have likely said the same about Christians. Certainly, the twentieth century was full of Protestants heavy-handedly making that accusation about Catholics.

Wake Up, Mourning Noonanite

The American Spectator today includes an article which wonders if Peggy Noonan has gone a bit wobbly of late. Among her sins is an article in which she expresses her concern that there are not enough forces of deletion arrayed against the forces of insertion in the Administration's speechwriting give-and-take.

In truth, she may well be right. I once wrote that editors 'haunt the writer's Eden', but if there was ever a place where editors should outnumber writers it is in the White House. Since the presidential speech by definition must be rhetoric wedded closely to policy, the flights of literary fancy that the scrivener classes adore should very rarely be flown by Air Force One.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Freedom From Wisdom

I am often amused and sometimes enlightened by the writings of Arnaud de Borchgrave, a 30-year Newsweek veteran and now editor at large of UPI and The Washington Times. I tend to share his skepticism, though not his pessimism, about using our taxes and military for secular missionary work in Iraq and elsewhere. His January 24 column, however, traveled a bridge too far:

“Democracy and freedom,” he wrote, “mean different things to different peoples around the world. For countless millions in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and China, it means the freedom not to emulate America's anything-goes freedom -- where surveys show the rich getting richer and the poor standing still, and almost daily mega swindles on Wall Street. For almost half of humanity, which survives $2 a day per person or less, it means freedom from want, hunger and disease.”

Even aside from this gratuitous leftist bias (oddly attributed to “surveys”) against affluence and Wall Street, Borchgrave’s notion that the concept of freedom is culturally subjective is both offensive and absurd.

Residents of our maximum-security prisons have “freedom from want” and hunger. And their medical care is free too.

Kofi Anan---Defender of Jews

It's really quite amusing. Having presided for years over some of the most virulent Jew hatred ever seen at the UN---no small achievement---the ineffable Kofi Anan, emceeing the current UN memorial observations for this 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, now states that "The tragedy of the Jewish people was unique." The Hatikva was played for the General Assembly. Memories of the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism in Durban went down the memory hole, as well they should from Kofi's standpoint, as that "conference" degenerated quickly into a cauldron of Israel bashing, anti-Semitism, and the widely-agreed equation of Jews with Nazis.

So what gives? This is, after all, the Kofi Anan of the Tutsi slaughter fame, of the Srbenica massacre fame, of the oil-for-food fiasco, ad nauseam. Could it be that our beloved Kofi, reeling from one scandal to another, beset by calls for his resignation, etc., now has discovered that he needs friends? Like Hillary's announcement during her 2000 Senate race that chicken soup flows through her veins, Kofi knows that a friend in need is a friend indeed, and what better friends could there be than the Jews? Thus has our beloved Kofi demonstrated once again an eternal principle: Where Kofi stands depends on where Kofi sits. That the chattering classes defend the UN as a citadel of "moral authority" is appalling.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bayh to Moderate Status

Hunter notes that "Evan Bayh, Democrat Senator from Indiana and much-lauded moderate, voted 'no' on Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State. She was confirmed by a large margin regardless, but I can't help but see his 'no' vote as a surprisingly unpleasant gesture.

"What was he thinking? Is he that secure in 'red' Indiana?"

Certainly he does remain immensely popular, and his next Senate reelection campaign is not for a while, but I think there is more to it than that.

This is as far to the Left as I've ever seen Evan Bayh openly go. The vote suggests that he is trying to solidify his base among Democrats. It is quite possible that this vote--the first big one of this session--signals Bayh's intention to pursue the Democrat Party's nomination for president in 2008. It also suggests that he feels it necessary to move openly to the Left in order to have a plausible chance.

So Much for His Moderate Reputation . . .

I can't believe it. Evan Bayh, Democrat Senator from Indiana and much-lauded moderate, voted "no" on Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State. She was confirmed by a large margin regardless, but I can't help but see his "no" vote as a surprisingly unpleasant gesture.

What was he thinking? Is he that secure in "red" Indiana? Help me out here, Mr. Karnick.

Nathan Hatch Named Next President of Wake Forest

This is a shocking turn of events. Along with George Marsden and Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch is a member of the famed trio of evangelical historians who have had a major impact on the American academy. All three men stand for the nurturance and rigorous application of the Christian mind.

Hatch was previously Provost at Notre Dame (a rare feat for an evangelical) and should make things interesting at Wake Forest. Wake doesn't have much of its Baptist identity left, so he won't be able to make huge changes, but he may be able to plant some very promising seeds.

The Future of Children's Entertainment

Many of you know there has been a raging controversy over a video that uses various cartoon characters to promote diversity and tolerance. An accompanying web pledge apparently makes clear that tolerance includes sexual orientation. We could parse that issue to death.

Instead of giving you my two cents, I came across a very interesting interview between Christianity Today and Veggietales creator Phil Vischer (aka Bob the Tomato). Here's a worthwhile bit:

Kids' shows themselves very seldom have agendas beyond the crassly commercial. Individual writers, however, sometimes do. Writers may slip something into a script for their own amusement or socio-political gratification that the producers of the show will never notice. We evangelicals will pick up on those subtle intrusions and assume they are systemic.

Looking at the world of kids' television today, I can't think of any shows with an overt sexual identity agenda. I do think that will change over the next 5-10 years, though. Since the early 1970s, promoting diversity has been considered vitally important in children's television, especially in the New York-Washington D.C. school of children's programming exemplified by Sesame Street. Nickelodeon has made it a major focus as well.

But for the last 30 years, diversity has meant gender and race. As a result, liberals and conservatives could agree on their children's programming. Sesame Street, a product of the "Blue States," worked just fine in the "Red States" as well. Over the next 5-10 years I think this will change. Sesame Workshop (the foundation behind Sesame Street) and Nickelodeon will come under increasing pressure from their Blue buddies to positively portray sexual diversity alongside racial and gender diversity. The day a same-sex couple moves onto Sesame Street will mark the day the Red States and the Blue States (or more accurately, the Red Counties and the Blue Counties) will no longer watch the same children's shows. How far away is that day? Maybe two years. Maybe ten years. But it will happen. (Italics mine)

Isn't that an interesting prediction. I hadn't thought of it before.

Where's S.T. Karnick? An Explanation.

I'm sure many Reform Club readers are wondering about the whereabouts of one S.T. Karnick, the founder of this weblog. I have been in contact with the hardest working man in conservative journalism and find that he has been under tight deadlines for the several publications he edits for the Heartland Institute in Chicago. He has also experienced trouble with the home office set-up, which includes internet access.

Fear not. The greatest living film critic in the English language (there are some guys in the Middle East whose jocks he couldn't wash) will be back in the near future, perhaps provoked by a very poorly considered parenthetical remark!

L'Chaim, To Pro-Life

The great Hunter Baker has requested that I address the very important question of Jewish pro-life belief and activity. This will require some fairly thorough treatment, and I will commit to returning to this matter within a few days. However, I need to get on the road tomorrow morning; I'm driving from Miami to Savannah, Georgia, to spend the weekend with friends. Gotta get meself into a bed for five or so hours.

In brief, let me just say that normative Jewish belief, based on explicit Jewish law, is that abortion is forbidden, and considered an act of murder, except to save the life of the mother. However, there is some extra latitude given to abortions within the first forty days from conception; the child is legally considered unformed until that time.

As to the question of to what extent has there been an effort to promulgate this view within the culture and to fight for it in the political realm, we will leave that until I have a tad more time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I'm going on record right now. New England will beat the Philadelphia Eagles decisively in the Super Bowl. Bill Bellichek (sp?) has won me over.

I believe he is the greatest coaching genius in NFL history this side of Lombardi. Because he spent a lot of years as Bill Parcell's assistant, we even have to wonder how much of the Parcells mystique is attributable to the unassuming fellow with the graveyard expression.

Michael Moore Speech Avoided! Celebration Spills Into Streets

From Newsday:

Mel Gibson's religious blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ" missed out on main categories, but did pick up nominations for cinematography, makeup and original score.

Michael Moore's gamble to hold his hit film "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of the documentary category -- to boost its best-picture prospects -- backfired. The movie was shut out across the board. Moore won the documentary prize two years ago for "Bowling for Columbine."

Cross-cultural Exchange on Life

Jay, having heard you express the desire to protect the life of Terri Schiavo, it occurs to me that I don't usually associate Jewish voices with the sanctity of life movement. Is there a strong pro-life strain in Judaism? If so, could you describe it?

Shame On Us, Shame On US

Very, very sad that the Supreme Court will let Terry Schiavo die. The Talmud says that the Second Temple had a chance of being saved until one person did one creepy act of stealing another man's wife and then, when the man fell behind in alimony payments, hiring the man and forcing him to be their butler while they partied.

The pain of one human being weighs so much in God's eyes, especially if we cannot construct a society to protect such a precious life from a heartless predator.

Monday, January 24, 2005

On Interview Styles . . .

Because of my old job at a Georgia think tank/advocacy group, I've done a fair bit of radio interview work and even some television. My point about interview styles and bias works both ways.

Without exception, my "mainstream" media contacts have been more difficult than the work with Christian or conservative outlets. I did an interview with Moody Radio today (no chance at a Reform Club plug, sorry S.T.) and felt like I was sitting in a friend's living room. I suspect that members of the Democratic party feel that way when they go on ABC!

Whisk Those Cons In

The son of Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, Sowande Okomunde, has been arrested, along with four compadres, for slashing the tires of Republican Party vehicles on Election Day. The evidence indicates that the vandalism was part of a concerted effort entitled (You can't make this stuff up) 'Operation Elephant Takeover'.

They will no doubt be tried in front of a friendly judge, so I would not imagine tht jail time is very likely, although a name like Okomunde would make a jailhouse memoir into a guaranteed best-seller.

We have to give credit for the cops who successfully prosecuted and executed their part of what we might call 'Operation Donkey Dunk'.

Stale Aire with Terri Gross

Are you like me? Are you a conservative who hates himself for occasionally (or often) turning the radio dial to National Public Radio only to get whacked in the head with obvious bias?

With most NPR features, the bias manifests itself in story selection. For example, we must have a million different angles on the quagmire of Iraq. My radio station would say, "Assume lots of horrible crap is taking place all the time. We'll update you when the situation changes."

Terri Gross and Fresh Aire is my least favorite of the bunch. She interviews all kinds of people (liberal and conservative) in a long program. One interesting feature: When she interviews conservatives (like Grover Norquist), you can FEEEEEEL the tension. When she interviews any liberal figure they're just chatting like old buddies. Wow, is it irritating.

Listen and tell me I'm wrong. Better yet, don't bother. If you'd like to have the NPR quality and tone without the annoying content, go to NPR alum Ken Myers' Mars Hill Audio. They have a tape subscription service that absolutely rocks. Check that out.

Gen-X Carson React

Yes, there is no news today. Blogging is at an absolute standstill. Thus, for the first time (I think), I go into celebrity commentary.

Johnny Carson is memorable to me for a few reasons. The first is sartorial. The man wore the tightest cut sportcoats I've ever seen. Though he was reed slender, his sportcoats were always very closely fitted to his shoulders, chest, and waist. My father used to complain about a salesman at a men's store who got him to buy a suit that was far too tight by pushing it as being "Johnny Carson style."

Second, I reflect on the guests of Carson's show. Except for new comedians, I always recognized the guests on The Tonite Show. I am thoroughly convinced there were far fewer celebrities back then so that it was possible to know them all. It makes sense. You had three channels and the movies for most of the run. Very different from today's celeb universe where you could never watch MTV and consequently not know many apparently "famous persons."

Third, is his significance as a cultural marker. For many of us, Carson signaled forbidden territory. Bedtime occurred well before Ed made the big introduction, so to actually see Johnny on screen or hear the monologue seemed like a great privilege, even if you didn't get the jokes.

Fourth, is the Letterman-Leno fiasco that followed Johnny's retirement. I'm a Letterman guy. I just find him more entertaining. Can't be helped. He is the natural heir. Neither Carson nor Letterman were classic stand-up comedy guys like Leno, who could jump right back into standing in front of a brick wall with "The Improv" in neon. Both Johnny and Dave easily got as many laughs from their mannerisms or reaction to telling a lame joke as they did from punchlines.

Letterman also has a natural "in" with people in my age group (late 20's to early to mid 30's). His original show following Carson was arguably the best and most original thing on television many nights of the week. The Top Ten List is still one of the better gags around. Plus, he captured the 80's beautifully with his curly, disheveled hair and sportcoats worn with basketball sneakers. You can still watch those shows today and get a tremendous charge of nostalgia. I'm not sure you'll be able to say that about anything associated with Jay Leno, who is apparently a very nice and funny guy.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tonight No Show

Johnny Carson has passed on, as too Rosemary Woods. In memoriam, look for Leno to observe eighteen minutes of silence tomorrow night.

Once and forever, Johnny took the neb out of Nebraska. Rest in peace.