Saturday, June 11, 2005
I have a friend in Nigeria. We met in the states while he was a graduate student. For about $100 I can send a child he knows to a Christian school. For about $1000, his church in America was able to purchase a well for a Nigerian village. I've seen the pictures. If we can purchase great help for people in Nigeria for such nominal prices, why are many in Africa still living in such abhorrent conditions.
I think the only answer can be corruption and inept government. No program of foreign aid will succeed until we resolve that basic problem. Either that or we all get friends in Africa who we can help directly. Anybody got any better ideas?
P.J. O'Rourke could help us. Clearly defined property rights, limited government, and democracy. Do those things and Africa can shine.
"The deal struck by finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations is part of a British-led campaign to rid sub-Saharan Africa of poverty and diseases such as malaria and AIDS that kill millions every year.
"British Finance Minister Gordon Brown said the deal would provide 100 percent write-offs immediately for 18 countries and that more countries would qualify for relief later."
Brtitain, chairing the G8 this year, is seeking to double aid to the world's poorest countries by issuing $100 billion of bonds backed by wealthy nations' development budgets. The United States and Japan oppose the plan.
Reuters reports that former rock music star Bob Geldof and others are "urging a million people to turn up in Gleneagles, Scotland, [at next month's G8 meeting] to demand a deal on aid for Africa."
The debt relief campaigners who are complaining that the deal is a drop in an ocean of need are correct, but there is great room for debate over whether debt relief and more aid directed to the governments of most African nations is the best course.
That debate will certainly arise, and it will undoubtedly be heated.
As we evaluate that argument in the coming weeks, it will be important to bear in mind one central fact:
Nobody in any position of responsibility wants Africa to be mired in poverty, disease, and despair.
Nobody—not the United States and Japan, not Great Britain, not the leaders of other wealthy nations, not the leaders of African nations—nobody wants Africa to be poor.
Everybody, on both sides of the argument over African aid, wants Africa to become healthy and prosperous.
The question is, how to do it. Government-to-government aid and NGO-to-government aid have proven ineffective. There can be no doubt of that. The request for debt forgivness shows that, for if the past half-century of aid directed to African governments had been effective, the present discussion would be moot. Fast growth is possible, but aid to the post-colonial African governments has been a failure. The legacy of colonialism is reall but cannot explain or excuse this failure, for other post-colonial nations have prospered greatly during the same period.
Moreover, it is axiomatic that debt forgiveness rewards profligacy. The relief that is sent seldom trickles down to the people and is instead used to prop up corrupt governments. These are facts, not moral judgments.
The people of Africa, like all people anywhere, deserve better.
The current and proposed rounds of debt forgiveness probably will not do much harm in encouraging corruption among African governments, and should probably move forward. FOr all too many African governments, it would be difficult to be less responsive to the needs of their people.
There are other ways to accomplish aid to Africa, however, and it is time that these move to the fore while we work out the debt relief question.
One excellent proposal is to make the World Bank a true bank, one that allows private organizations in developing nations to draw on accounts that will enable them to implement individualized projects covering a wide variety of constructive activities that give aid where it will do the most good, such as in construction of hospitals, water treatment, malaria prevention, agriciultural technology, building of roads (a critical problem in many African countries), literacy, immunization, AIDS prevention and treatment (including unbiased research into the causes of Africa's high incidence of the disease), and much, much more.
Other, similar, new financing approaches could fund a great flowering of help for Africa, directed where it will do the most good. People in the wealthy nations want to help, but their aid has not been effective.
Governments all over the world have perpetually proven that their first priority is that of retaining their own power. That is a given, and we cannot change it. We can, however, use it to force those governments to allow help from other nations to reach their people. The next wave of aid to Africa, therefore, must include requirements that governments receiving aid allow the kind of targeted, widespread aid outlined here to reach the people of Africa.
Only then will the wealthy nations truly be able to help the people of Africa.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Read about it here.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
One of his special gifts is writing screeds in which he severely punishes left-wing orthodoxy as it manifests itself in various "news" stories. Check it out here.
I particularly liked this bit:
The ongoing freak-out of Deaniacs over religion is becoming a source of great amusement, really; it’s as if they just discovered that those big old buildings with purty glasss windows and pointy spires on top are actually used by people for something other than voting and annual pancake breakfasts.
Identifying the central obstacle that school choice has encountered throughout the half-century since Friedman set the ball rolling, he writes, "we have been repeatedly frustrated by the gulf between the clear and present need, the burning desire of parents to have more control over the schooling of their children, on the one hand, and the adamant and effective opposition of trade union leaders and educational administrators to any change that would in any way reduce their control of the educational system."
Friedman correctly sees grounds for optimism, however:
"The good news is that, despite these setbacks, public interest in and support for vouchers and tax credits continues to grow. Legislative proposals to channel government funds directly to students rather than to schools are under consideration in something like 20 states. Sooner or later there will be a breakthrough; we shall get a universal voucher plan in one or more states. When we do, a competitive private educational market serving parents who are free to choose the school they believe best for each child will demonstrate how it can revolutionize schooling."
I think that Dr. Friedman is right (as usual!) in predicting that the movement may finally be reaching a point of real influence. A crucial element of this was the Supreme Court's 2002 decision ruling the Cleveland voucher plan constitutional. Prior to that ruling, it was very difficult for school choice to get traction. Since then, however, activity has increased rapidly.
I don't consider school choice a panacea by any means. There are numerous reasons why the American education system is declining. (Friedman aptly quotes Paul Copperman as published in the National Commission of Excellence in Education's 1983 final report, "A Nation at Risk": "Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.") Alas, that statement is more true today than it was in 1983. And it is a scandal.
Although school choice is not all that needs to be done to fix the American education system, I do see it as a necessary condition for any real reform of America's schools. The current system is too powerful and sclerotic to allow change. The diversity and parental choice that vouchers would bring are a critical element of real educational reform in the United States.
Read the article, and then go out and get a copy of Friedman's brilliant book Capitalism and Freedom and read it right away, if you somehow haven't done so yet.
Close your eyes and imagine this.
President Bush is introduced at a great gathering in Topeka, Kan. It is the evening of June 9, 2005. Ruffles and flourishes, "Hail to the Chief," hearty applause from a packed ballroom. Mr. Bush walks to the podium and delivers the following address.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil--and we're the good. I hate Democrats. Let's face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.
But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!"
Noonan created this imaginary speech by using statements from Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton about the Republican party. It helps us understand why Howard will never be president and Hillary probably won't either.
Here's a bit:
What has changed is the class status of evangelicals. In 1929, the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr described born-again Christianity as the "religion of the disinherited." But over the last 40 years, evangelicals have pulled steadily closer in income and education to mainline Protestants in the historically affluent establishment denominations. In the process they have overturned the old social pecking order in which "Episcopalian," for example, was a code word for upper class, and "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" shorthand for lower.
Evangelical Christians are now increasingly likely to be college graduates and in the top income brackets. Evangelical C.E.O.'s pray together on monthly conference calls, evangelical investment bankers study the Bible over lunch on Wall Street and deep-pocketed evangelical donors gather at golf courses for conferences restricted to those who give more than $200,000 annually to Christian causes.
Their growing wealth and education help explain the new influence of evangelicals in American culture and politics. Their buying power fuels the booming market for Christian books, music and films. Their rising income has paid for construction of vast mega-churches in suburbs across the country. Their charitable contributions finance dozens of mission agencies, religious broadcasters and international service groups.
On The Chronicle of Philanthropy's latest list of the 400 top charities, Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical student group, raised more from private donors than the Boy Scouts of America, the Public Broadcasting Service and Easter Seals.
Now a few affluent evangelicals are directing their attention and money at some of the tallest citadels of the secular elite: Ivy League universities. Three years ago a group of evangelical Ivy League alumni formed the Christian Union, an organization intended to "reclaim the Ivy League for Christ," according to its fund-raising materials, and to "shape the hearts and minds of many thousands who graduate from these schools and who become the elites in other American cultural institutions."
How about the post-modern version of it, where the supervisor who gets stuck with the incompetent that he cannot demote, decides to falsely promote him just to clean up that department? Is this my discovery?
Read all about it in my article today about the case of the Doctor who kept messing up and kept getting better jobs....
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Patrick Ruffini is the GOP's top webmaster and he's got a dead-on opinion about the continued implosion that is Howard Dean. In Ruffini's opinion, the early Dean success had a lot to do with Joe Trippi's team and their web savvy. The problem was that they couldn't carry off the conventional political stuff and Dean was a time bomb waiting to go off.
According to Ruffini, what we've seen since then is Dean without his excellent producer and back up singers. Which leaves Howard with lots of fans who keep wondering why he can't come up with another hit after having three big singles on the first album.
Dean at the DNC is Dean without Trippi, Dean without the 15,000 person crowds (who can normally be counted upon to drown out the errant shriek), Dean minus the Movement. As it turned out, Dean was perfectly programmed to succeed in that in-between period (2003) where the activists are paying attention, but when the general public has yet to tune in. Once they did tune in, and the focus turned to personality over process, Dean flopped. The Dean chairmanship now is effectively the bookend to the Dean Scream. Now, virtually no one is tuned in – a development aided by keeping Dean in hiding for most of his chairmanship – which means that not even the activists feel vested in his leadership or committed to supporting him when he screws up.
Dean is also a victim of his own success. When he first arrived on the scene, leading Democrats were falling over each other to support the Iraq war, which made Dean's appeal unique. (His "What I want to know" DNC remarks in February '03 left me swearing he'd be the frontrunner before this was all over.) Today, every Democrat is anti-Iraq, and even Joe Biden is sounding like Dean. And when everyone is Howard Dean, the original doesn't seem all that necessary or appealing anymore.
Pretty much right, don't you think? (Hat tip to NRO's Jim Geraghty)
Schaeffer took in all kinds of hippies and teenagers and entertained ALL their questions. He was a master of synthesizing information and introducing Christians to the world of intellectual engagement. He ran from nothing. Listened to the disharmonic music of John Cage. Saw the films of Ingemar Bergman. Contemplated nihilistic art and philosophy. Schaeffer wasn't right about everything, but he shattered limitations many fundamentalists and evangelicals placed on the activity of the mind.
His son, formerly called Franky Schaeffer and now called Frank, had a very active role in his ministry and once was a well-known Christian author/filmmaker. After many years, he wrote novels about his childhood viewed as unflattering to his family and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Last year he showed up on Oprah and wrote articles for USA Today about being the father of a military man. One imagines they had no clue about his near-radical pro-life activities of younger days and his status as son of an evangelical celebrity.
David Mills of Touchstone now reports that the younger Schaeffer recently disparaged the new pope as a fundamentalist. Sometimes, it's hard for the son of a great man to find his own way in the world. Unfortunately for those of us who would have liked to see an alternate life for Frank Schaeffer, he's chosen one of the less attractive options. Perhaps he'll soon come out and clarify himself.
1) How many books do I own?
Probably about 500-700 well-culled volumes. I've shed at least that many in moves over the years.
2) What’s the last book I bought?
The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300 by Brian Tierney. Haven't read it, yet, but it's a new classic.
3) What’s the last book I read?
Jonathan Edwards, A Life by George Marsden. Extraordinarily informative about life in 18th century New England. Very thick, but very edifying.
4) What are the 5 books that mean the most to me? (I'm assuming we mean other than the Bible --HB)
I could just list Walker Percy titles here, but I'll try to be more open.
1. Lancelot by Walker Percy. Magnificent book. I went out and bought everything else by Percy right away and read all of it. A southern liberal discovers the existence of evil and draws some radical conclusions.
2. Witness by Whittaker Chambers. I can not think of a book that sums up the Cold War better.
3. In God's Underground by Richard Wurmbrand. Want to know what it was like to be an unsilent Christian behind the Iron Curtain? This is it.
4. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Yes, I know Graham Greene was a bad Catholic. It's still true art.
5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This is the full flower of the materialist worldview.
Honorable Mention: Roland Bainton's Here I Stand, a life of Martin Luther. No anti-Catholic sentiment intended, by the way. Just a great story about an amazing individual.
Next Honorable Mention: Born Again by Charles Colson.
This, while his opposite number at the RNC is Jewish and on the same day that a black Christian woman was voted on as a Bush nominee to the Federal Appeals Court.
The Democrats used to claim to be colorblind; now we see that they weren't kidding.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Baldwin takes the Bushes to task for Mrs. Bush's speech before the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C.
Baldwin accurately recounts what happened:
"In a scripted 'interruption' of the President's remarks, Laura began by comparing herself to the sleazy characters of the television sitcom, Desperate Housewives. She said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife. I mean, if those women on that show think they are desperate, they ought to be with George.' Her remarks only went downhill from there.
"Mrs. Bush continued by saying, 'One night, after George went to bed, [Vice President Dick Cheney's wife] Lynne Cheney, [Secretary of State] Condi Rice, [Bush adviser] Karen Hughes and I went to Chippendales [a strip club where women tuck cash into male dancer's skimpy thongs]. I wouldn't even mention it except [Supreme Court Justices] Ruth Ginsberg and Sandra Day O'Connor saw us there. I won't tell you what happened, but Lynne's Secretary Service code name is now "Dollar Bill."'"
. . . "Mrs. Bush then referenced President Bush's lack of ranching skills by saying, 'He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse.'"
Baldwin is horrified by this, writing as follows:
"[A]s our President and First Lady, Mr. and Mrs. Bush have a duty to hold high the moral standard of our nation. That they are willing to publicly use vulgar and profane innuendos, even in jest, reveals a serious lack of character and discernment."
Here I think it important to note that Baldwin's accusation of the President having used "vulgar and profane innuendos" in public is entirely unfounded. Mrs. Bush is the only one of the two to whom the accusation may apply.
But let us proceed to Baldwin's main contention:
"The real point of this story, again, is not the misjudgments and misconduct of the Bush family, but the unwillingness of the Religious Right to hold this President to the same standards that they would hold Al Gore, John Kerry, or any other Democratic president to.
"This is simply another glaring lesson on the dangers of Christians putting partisan politics above commitment to bedrock principle. Unfortunately, it's been going on since President Bush was first elected in 2000 and there is no sign that it will stop anytime soon."
Baldwin notes that Mrs. Bush has said that she supports Roe v. Wade, and once stood up to applaud a play about a transvestite (which I have not seen and hence cannot judge its merits, if any). Those are things of which the Christian Right strongly disapproves.
I am not aware, however, that Mrs. Bush made any statements supporting Roe v. Wade at the correspondents' dinner or at any other time since her husband was elected president. And even if she did, I would not care about it from a policy point of view: her husband is the president, and she isn't.
Of course Mrs. Bush's attempt at humor was vulgar and stupid—because it was so horribly inept and unfunny. Her writers should be shot. But that is not Mr. Baldwin's complaint.
It is that good Christian people, especially right-wing preachers, have not jumped up to denounce President Bush: "Their willingness to overlook, and even condone, the improper conduct of President Bush, or in this case, First Lady Laura Bush is appalling."
That may well be true, but it is important to recognize that there are serious religious reasons for much of the Christian Right to refrain from making a big deal out of this.
The big reason is to avoid being hypocrites and vipers.
Yes, Mrs. Bush's monologue was putrid and inane, and the Bushes don't remind us of the Cromwells.
But what, exactly, would Mr. Baldwin suggest President Bush do about his wife? Divorce her? Muzzle her? Beat her? Forbid her to go to the theater? This seems a rather strange attitude, to me.
The point Mr. Baldwin is aiming to make is that the Christian Right should condemn President Bush as a bad man, or at least a bad Christian, because he does not prevent his wife from acting a little weird at times. If that is correct, then my wife is a very bad woman for not preventing me from being as foolish as I frequently am.
I think we can all agree that the Bushes are far from perfect, or even as moral as Chuck Baldwin claims to be. But I cannot get worked up about it, and I guess it is because I do not come from a pietistic religious tradition, as Mr. Baldwin evidently does, and am highly aware of my own imperfections. To me what counts is what you stand for, and if you are morally weak and unimaginably far from perfect, then we definitely have something in common.
Baldwin says that the preachers of the Right refuse to criticize President Bush because . . . well, he never does say precisely why the Christian Right supports President Bush so unquestioningly in this case and others. But it is a question he has to answer if his claim is to have any credibility at all. Exactly what is it that the Christian Right gets from President Bush that they would not have got from a President Kerry?
I would submit that what the Christian Right gets from President Bush is rhetoric, and that they are very grateful for it. Rhetoric is powerful and can change the world.
Many people stand for antinomianism and live like it, and they have a great effect on the course of society. The Bushes stand for morality and live it about as well as the rest of us do, on average. I certainly cannot claim superiority, and I suspect that some of the preachers Mr. Baldwin condemns feel the same way about themselves, that their own lives have not been devoid of transgressions, and they are acutely aware of their own weaknesses. As long as a person stands for morality, even though he or she falls short of Baldwin-like perfection, the Christian Right ought to be expected to stand behind them.
Hence, I shall respectfully refrain from casting stones in this particular case.
Earlier this year, at the time of the DNC hiring Howard Dean as its head, I maintained that Dean would calm down and act responsibly in that position, as he did in his years as Governor of Vermont, and there would be a net gain to the Democratic Party. Dr. Benjamin Zycher predicted that Dean would continue his bomb-throwing hijinks and provide much entertainment for us at the expense of the Dems.
Well, the results are pretty clear. Dean is consistently acting like a pit bull and is a disaster for the Democrats.
Verdict is in: Dr. Zycher was right, I was wrong.
First, on Felt:
Was Mr. Felt a hero? No one wants to be hard on an ailing 91-year-old man. Mr. Felt no doubt operated in some perceived jeopardy and judged himself brave. He had every right to disapprove of and wish to stop what he saw as new moves to politicize the FBI. But a hero would have come forward, resigned his position, declared his reasons, and exposed himself to public scrutiny. He would have taken the blows and the kudos. (Knowing both Nixon and the media, there would have been plenty of both.) Heroes pay the price. Mr. Felt simply leaked information gained from his position in government to damage those who were doing what he didn't want done. Then he retired with a government pension. This does not appear to have been heroism, and he appears to have known it. Thus, perhaps, the great silence.
His motives were apparently mixed, as motives often are. He was passed over to replace J. Edgar Hoover as director of the FBI by President Nixon, who apparently wanted in that place not a Hoover man but a more malleable appointee. Mr. Felt was resentful. He believed Nixon meant to jeopardize the agency's independence. Here we have a hitch in the story. The liberal story line on the FBI was that under Hoover it had too much independence, which Hoover protected with his famous secret files and a reputation for ruthlessness. Mr. Felt was a Hoover man who joined the FBI in 1942, when it was young; he rose under Hoover and never knew another director. When Hooverism was threatened, Mr. Felt moved. In this sense Richard Nixon was J. Edgar Hoover's last victim. History is an irony factory.
Next, on Colson (who I met while working at Prison Fellowship as a law student, so I'm partisan):
Were there heroes of Watergate? Surely many unknown ones, those who did their best to be constructive and not destructive, those who didn't think it was all about their beautiful careers. I'll give you a candidate for great man of the era: Chuck Colson. Colson functioned in the Nixon White House as a genuinely bad man, went to prison and emerged a genuinely good man. He told the truth about himself in "Born Again," a book not fully appreciated as the great Washington classic it is, and has devoted his life to helping prisoners and their families. He paid the price, told the truth, blamed no one but himself, and turned his shame into something helpful. Children aren't dead because of him. There are children who are alive because of him.
I think Noonan is right in her assessment of both men.
One of the reasons I never liked Dennis Miller that much or really bought into his re-emergence as a conservative hero is that I once heard him rip Chuck Colson in a way that showed he had no concept of the transformation the man had undergone both privately and publicly. You can't read Born Again and not see the sincerity.
Of course, what she suggests about Felt is absolutely fascinating. Nobody has really evaluated him as a dyed-in-the-wool Hoover man.
This last book is hardly necessary. Dean Kelley (of the liberal National Council of Churches, of all places) documented the trend decades ago. The reason for the loss of members to liberal churches has been commented upon repeatedly: there's no God there. The liberal churches simply proclaim a spirit of the age who is the same person as the people in the seats. Don't need no Savior. We're doin' just fine. "I'm okay. You're okay." Or something like that.
Nevertheless, Shiflett has done numerous interviews for the new book and it may prove interesting. He's done two pieces for NRO about it. Read the latest here.
I almost forgot, the title of the book is Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity.
Monday, June 06, 2005
1. Our packers (yes, for the first time we hired packers) stayed in our house for something like 13 hours. They were incredibly slow (we lived in a small duplex) and actually packed the contents of our filing cabinets, which was not a happy thing.
2. While wife and kiddies took a plane, I drove the cats 14 hours from Waco to our intermediate stopping point in Alabama where my folks live. After a round of cat urination and ear-rattling screeching from one of the felines, I found a small-town vet enroute to inject them with tranquilizers. The rest of the trip went better, but I couldn't stop for fear of rousing them. My only stops were gas and restroom visits combined.
3. I listened to a dense unabridged audio tape of George Washington's life. Like most such volumes, it made the man sound significantly less interesting than we think he was. It also made the Revolutionary War sound less exciting and victorious than advertised. I'm going to hope David McCullough's new book will revive both subjects for me.
4. I forgot to mention two massive interstate traffic jams along the way and a skull-ripping headache in the midst of the last jam a mere twenty miles from home. Did you ever want to know what makes a grown man weep? I know the answer.
5. We purchased a Honda Odyssey minivan (don't worry paleocons, it was built in Alabama) prior to leaving for Georgia. I love it. The family man thing has its compensations.
6. The cats rode in the originally urine-stained vehicle for the last leg of the trip, which my wife drove while I got kid duty. The same cat obliged again, despite being tranquilized.
7. Anybody know what gets out the nightmare ammonia smell of cat urine from a Honda Accord?
8. We arrived in our old house rental in Athens, Georgia. It has a lot of charm, but . . .
9. The basement floods a bit, the air-conditioner gave out on the fourth day, and the kitchen floor is approximately seven decades old.
10. Back with more later . . .
Sunday, June 05, 2005
The dialogue between writers like Karnick and Klinghoffer is interesting because it occurs within the confines of a political alliance. It's as if fellow soldiers turned to one another and said, "Let's talk about something that's been bothering me." Dangerous, but probably necessary.