Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I have thought a lot about the place that religion might play in our public deliberations (and I mean two-chapters-in-a-dissertation-a-lot) and I have tried to resist the temptation to chalk up the differing views on the matter to mere partisan affiliation (i.e. you approve of the religious arguments that are conducive to your side). But it's awfully hard to do so, awfully hard.
Monday, April 23, 2007
We are Virginia Tech
We are sad today
We will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning
We are Virginia Tech
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
And we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again
We are Virginia Tech
We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does a child in Africa
Dying of AIDS
Neither do the Invisible Children
Walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community
Be devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking
For fresh water
Neither does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed
By a boulder
Because the land was destabilized
No one deserves a tragedy
We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands
We are strong
We are better than we think
And not yet quite what we want to be
We are alive to imagination
And open to possibility
We will continue
To invent the future
Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness
We are the Hokies
We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail
---Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
It appears that vociferous lefty Alec Baldwin's ex-wife, Kim Basinger, slipped to the press Baldwin's profanity-pumped voicemail to his daughter after she missed yet another phone date. Hannity, whom Baldwin once called on the air a no-talent construction worker, had his payback, and today spent a goodly portion of his radio show and evening Fox News show making that payback a goodly hell.
Look, all's fair in love, war, and partisan politics, but family is out of bounds. Reprehensible, and when Hannity rhetorically linked the Virginia Tech obscenity to Baldwin's relatively tame profanities under the guise that Baldwin is somehow dangerous to his daughter, "reprehensible" started to seem not strong enough.
But that's Hannity's lookout. An infotainer makes his living on the edge, and if and when he goes too far, the market decides his punishment. Don Corleone wouldn't judge how a man makes his living and feeds his own family, so neither will I.
But there is a growing connection between the toy department of infotainment and the real world of politics. I still get a guilty pleasure from Ann Coulter, who dares to say some things that need to be said. But she's lost her place at the grownups' table---I don't want her anywhere near any Republican Party function, whose electoral success isn't a matter of entertaining debate, but of life and death.
As for Sean Hannity, I don't want him around either unless he backs down, which I think won't happen because it would be out of character. If he'll use a man's family troubles to settle a personal vendetta, then he's a bedfellow I want at arm's length.
I never expected the Democratic Party to repudiate Al Sharpton for the sake of mere decency. Votes are votes, and throwing them away is unilateral political disarmament. Sean Hannity is immensely popular, with a fiercely loyal following; the best thing about Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah moment was that it cost him absolutely nothing. (Who the hell was Sister Souljah, anyway? No Sean Hannity, to be sure. Not even an Al Sharpton.)
Reputed Christians Hannity and Sharpton are debating this very night, which is entirely fitting and proper. Each side has its strange bedfellows, and crosses to bear. I just wish one or both would repent, but I don't think either one ever will. For my part, if and when Sean Hannity gets away with this (and he will, sort of), and is a celebrity host at a party function, I'll feel a little less proud of being a Republican.
But they were nothing like what the Dems have to offer. In the House, you have a Speaker who thinks it's just dandy - as Speaker, as Third-in-line to the Presidency - to go and play footsie with a nasty dictator whose country (Syria) is, for all intents and purposes at war with us. In the Senate, you have a Majority Leader who condemns a court decision upholding a bill HE VOTED FOR and thinks that the best way to "win" a war is to withdraw and hand the country over to our enemies. On the Presidential campaign trail, you have *every single* contender rushing to defend an unspeakably gruesome medical procedure under the blatantly false idea that (a) we're putting women's health in danger and (b) that we shouldn't have the state interfering in medical decisions. (It's amazing how libertarian these guys become when it comes to killing unborn children).
Now that's some embarrassment.
For those who aren't in academia, here's how the hiring process generally works. A department has a certain number of budget lines that determine how many people they can hire. And so when they have an open line (either through someone leaving, retiring or just getting a new line) they'll come together and decide what sort of scholar they'd like to hire. So when a political science department (my discipline) has an open line, they'll decide whether they want to hire someone who teaches political theory or comparative politics or whatever. What's more, they'll typically even have a preference, say someone who teaches women's politics or Latin American politics. They do this because they're either trying to fill a gap in their teaching or because they think the area is important intellectually. Of course, sometimes these rules are merely prima facie and if the department finds a truly excellent candidate who is outside what they advertised, they may go ahead and hire him or her anyway. Typically, though, to put it in sports terms, academic hiring is sort of like a team that drafts the best position player as opposed to just the best athelete.
At Colgate, the President wants the departments to elevate their "diversity" priority over subspecialty because, he says, Colgate has a hard time hanging on to their minority candidates. (They don't seem to have a problem holding onto their female candidates as the faculty is 40% female). In practice, this will mean that the President is urging departments to prioritize hiring the best minority (read black or hispanic) candidate, irrespective of sub-discipline. If departments actually *do* this (and I doubt they will), this might mean they'd have a bunch of people who might be quite good, but who don't cover the department's teaching needs. A good political theorist should be able to teach, at an undergraduate level, the full range of theory courses (Plato to NATO, as the saying goes) but he won't be any good at teaching, say, Latin American politics or political economy or Congress.
But I guess this really isn't about the education the school gives the students, it's more about what the school can do to make itself feel better about the color of its faculty. Very sad.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
He was one of the few black guys at our college, but he never spoke to the other ones or anyone else besides me as far as I could tell, and our conversations ran about a word a minute.
He kept a Jimi Hendrix 'fro, and dressed with a Jimi-type style, style being something that eluded the rest of us completely. In fact, he had a white Fender Stratocaster just like Jimi. Maybe his roommate fled the first week, but anyway, Terry was the only one in the dorm who lived alone. You could hear his tuneless playing through a little Pignose amp echo down the halls sometimes.
I played a bit too, so I struck up our halting imitation of conversation, and he even let me in to jam with him. "Jam" used loosely---he didn't know any songs or even how to make chords, but he did have one piece where he put one finger on one string and moved it around to just the right three places. Over and over, round and round, some sort of mantra, and it sounded sort of good. I filled in with my acoustic as well as I could, but half an hour of few words and even less music was usually my limit.
Terry had a vintage Camaro in semi-decent shape---black, with a few red-black-green Africa decals on it. It always seemed to be parked in the space closest to the dorm doors, backed in and facing out, wheels turned and pointing to the exit. His room had a perfect view of the space, and we figured Terry sat at his window watching and pouncing on it when it opened up.
Terry took his meals in the cafeteria alone, always looking straight ahead. Two dinner rolls, the butter not spread inside, but parked on top. I found out later that's penitentiary-style, a show of existential resistance.
The one time we ever went out together, a Saturday night, we drove through one of the small and very Old South towns outside of Miami. Terry got stopped for speeding and they put him in jail. I knew nothing of the new Old South back then, in fact, I didn't even know we were in it. I thought Florida was like New York City, only with more Jews and better weather. I was wrong. Standard Negro Procedure, I thought at my epiphany when they summarily hauled him away. Today they call it DWB.
They let me drive Terry's car back to campus, saving him the impound charge, which was mighty white of them, I guess, but they didn't let him out until Monday morning. I picked Terry up, but we, or at least he, said nothing.
I'm not sure we ever spoke again. A week or a month later, the black Camaro was gone, for good.
The events of this past week reminded me of Terry. I never heard of him again, certainly not in the national news. He seemed a gentle soul, but with a Bartleby-like muteness and a thousand-yard stare that he used to separate himself from everyone and everything in the world around him. I don't know if he ever hurt anyone, or he ended up hurting himself. I hope not, but maybe just now I'll pray he didn't. There's so much I still don't understand.
Here it is:
Dear Mr. Grimm,
This is a first for me at age 48. As a columnist myself, I refrain from hassling my colleagues. But your column today was simply astonishing.
You make the point, not by reasoning but as a casual assumption, that the Virginia Tech massacre reflected badly on the guns-at-work bill. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but even I can recognize when a conclusion is at exact odds with the evidence adduced.
A bunch of unarmed people are gunned down in their workplace by a madman and that is an argument against law-abiding people like college professors arming themselves at work? What am I missing here? Looks to me like a responsible legislature would immediately step in to make sure that armed citizens are in place to provide a bulwark against such atrocities.
I am not an NRA member but I respect them a great deal. They are a lobby of concerned citizens, essentially the same thing as a labor union, except they fight to keep people safe. I am 48, as I said, and I read the news with a fine-tooth comb ever since age 10. I do not recall a single instance where a major crime was committed by an NRA member. I do, however, recall many stories of rescues by NRA members.
This is a bad week for the NRA? Sad to say, crass as it sounds, nothing could be 'better' for the NRA.
Yours In Puzzlement,
Jay D. Homnick
The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Hanina, son of Tradion, who was killed by the Romans for group teaching of the Bible. They burned him at the stake by wrapping a Torah scroll around his body and setting it afire. To prolong the agony, they strategically placed moist sponges around the vital organs so the fire would not kill him quickly.
The guard assigned to managing the pyre was a Roman named Klastinuri. He said, "Rabbi, if I remove the sponges so you suffer less, will I get a place in Heaven?" The scholar assured him he would. Klastinuri removed the sponges and then fell on his own sword. It was said that a prophetic echo was heard to announce: "Rabbi Hanina and Klastinuri have been cleared to enter Heaven immediately."
Before he died, the Jews who were there asked Rabbi Hanina what he saw. "I see the scroll burning but the letters are flying through the air." Those letters are still flying two thousand years later, against all odds and historic tendency, and the noble people in every generation can reach up and pluck them for their own.
Think about Judah in Genesis (44:33) stepping forward and saying: "Take me as a slave instead and let my younger brother go home to his father."
Think about Moses in what stands as the greatest act - or series of acts - of pure heroism ever recorded. First (Exodus 2:11) this adopted grandson of the king of Egypt leaves the palace to see the plight of his Jewish brothers. (The text does not record who told him he was a Jew, but the Talmudic tradition is that his adoptive mother, Pharaoh's daughter, secretly converted to Judaism.) That was already a risky course of action for someone who enjoyed personal immunity from the Jewish laws, not to mention a life of luxury in the royal family.
Then he witnesses a beating being administered unjustly by an Egyptian to a Jew. (The text offers no background, other than the general vibe that this sort of thing happened in this oppressive environment. The tradition is that the Egyptian had sent the Jew on an assignment away from home, then gone in and raped his wife. When the husband came home earlier than expected, the Egyptian started whipping.) Moses looks around to be sure there are no witnesses and then smashes the Egyptian (with his fist?) and kills him.
Although he tried to be circumspect, he was certainly risking his cushy life. Sure enough, the Jew he saved blabbed to others, among whom was an informer. A death warrant was issued for Moses and he became a fugitive.
He ran to Midian and he "camped near the lake".
Take a moment to consider his plight. Not long ago he was an Egyptian prince. Now he is wanted for murder. The trial process has been conducted already in absentia (according to tradition he was there and escaped later but the text does not reflect this), so at this point the orders are to kill on sight. He is forced to run to a foreign country. Probably he does not even know the language. But even if he does he is still identifiable as an "Egyptian man", by accent or garb or appearance. So he has no local citizenship, he has no local resources or friends, and he would prefer to avoid the expatriate Egyptians that a traveler would ordinarily call upon for help.
No family, no friends, no job, no money, no protection, he sets up a little homeless existence alongside a lake, drinking lake water, maybe catching a few fish. Most important of all is to avoid being seen and identified. Most likely, he stays camouflaged during the day, observing his surroundings through a little peephole he has fashioned between the thick branches of a tree. At night he forages for his meager sustenance. Getting by, marking time, forced to learn gritty survival skills his palace tutor left out of the syllabus.
Then he witnesses a nasty scene. A group of sisters brings a flock of sheep to drink from the lake. They worked diligently to draw water in their pails and then fill the troughs. Before they could line the sheep up to drink, a group of male shepherds came to chase them away.
How crazy would it be to step forward? He cannot afford to make any waves and call attention to itself. Even if he could singlehandedly intimidate a group of shepherds (the exact amount is not given), they are sure to spread the word. He could be killed by their gang of friends or he could be handed over to the authorities and extradited: the king of Midian would love to score points with the king of Egypt, the regional power. And the girls are not in real danger. They are just being ripped off and pushed around.
Sure enough, Moses "stands up" and saves them. He risked everything to fight injustice.
Lucky for him, they had an influential father who took him in and gave him a job. (Although the tradition says he had to hide Moses in a cave for some months until the local furor died down. Zipporah brought him his food in the hiding place and that is where their romance sprouted, leading eventually to marriage and children.) Having established himself as a savior at all costs, the stage is set for God to give him a much bigger salvation role.
Think about Esther, once again a Jew protected in the king's palace, this time as the queen. Her cousin (and adoptive father) Mordecai tells her (Esther 4:13-14): "Don't imagine that you can escape the fate of the Jews in the house of the king. If you are silent at this time, relief and salvation may come to the Jews from another source, but you and your family will be the losers." And he adds: "...and who knows if for just such a moment you achieved majesty?"
It is a calling, you see. Salvation may not even depend on you, but if you are in the right place at the right time, you must step forward.
Esther responds (4:16): "And so I will go to the king against the rules, and whatever I lose I lose."
The one who is willing to lose is the ultimate gainer. The book gets named after her for all time.
Liviu Librescu. You wrote the ultimate book. May your name live in liberty.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
But, coincidentally, or not, one of my blogbrothers (actually my blogsister, Miz H) mused today that the Catholic tradition suggests that we must think through such things before they happen, so that our moral decision is already made, and not at the mercy of our fight-or-flee instinct. (Flee! What, are you crazy?)
And, I would add, our blogbrother Jay Homnick, who was brought up in the rabbinic tradition, tells us that it presents the young not with theology, but with moral and ethical puzzles. What would you do if x happened?
That the one hero of Virginia Tech that we know of---who stood up against the murderer, who enabled almost everyone else to escape---was a Jew, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli, is not a matter of coincidence. His entire life led to that moment.
The rest of us, we (me, anyway), remain as children in our largely cushy and morally uncomplicated country. But perhaps our curiosity about this one isn't just morbid curiosity, but our search for meaning in this meaningless, nihilistic act. This isn't like watching the Anna Nicole trainwreck. That was easy to sit back on, go tut-tut, and assume some stance of moral superiority.
We're all trying to find ourselves somewhere in here.
His name was Liviu Librescu. We should all learn his name, inscribe it in the Book of Life, and remember it for the rest of our lives. And perhaps at our moment of truth (and it will come to each of us), we might lay down our own lives or reputations or whatever we hold of value for others, as he did.
This was a man.
I remember going for an evening walk with my young wife some years ago. As we strolled past a heavily wooded yard with a house barely visible, I suddenly heard the menacing growl of a very obviously big and mean dog. My immediate reaction was to run. The big muscles in my legs flexed and fired. The only thing that stopped me was my wife's anguished cry, "Hunter, don't leave me!" I forced down the fear impulse, backed up and put myself between her and the threatening sound. We walked on and nothing happened.
When Professor Librescu, an old man, a septuagenarian whose body had been through the terrors of the Holocaust, spotted a terrible threat he pushed his weight against a door and tried to keep a killer from murdering his students. All but two of the students and Librescu got away. In an email exchange yesterday, one of our Redstate contributors wondered why able-bodied young men would have chosen to run instead of coming to the assistance of their heroic professor.
Thinking of my own experience and looking at what happened in that besieged classroom in Virginia, I think I know the answer. Liviu Librescu had seen death up close much earlier in life. He very probably saw his friends and neighbors killed and had many opportunities to measure his own reactions in light of right and wrong, valor and heroism. It is no surprise to me that such a man would resist rather than run. I suggest to you that he knew exactly who he was. The young men in that classroom were probably a lot like me in the situation with the dog. They were untested and had probably never been in serious physical danger. More important, they had probably never stopped to consider what they would expect of themselves in a life and death situation.
There are a couple of lessons that come to mind. The one that many conservatives will point to is that we have a culture that does not successfully impute manliness. We already knew the ethic of dedication to wife and children had slipped badly. We knew less well that we weren't raising boys with expectations of self-sacrifice and protectiveness toward others. But this is the smaller of the two lessons.
The greater lesson is that we should all take pains to reflect on who we want to be and what we really believe. It was once common to speak of the examined life. That phrase fell under the massive heap of self-help materials and endless reflection on why we don't have a better sex life, more money, and a better job. But the examined life goes deeper than that. It comes down to knowing who you are. Without it, you will almost inevitably run in the face of danger, quail before the bully, and excel in self-justification after the fact rather than action in the relevant frame.
Jeff Emanuel made the point in his post that none of us know how we will react in these situations. I believe he is right about that, but I am at least equally sure that we can prepare ourselves for the event and drastically increase the chance that we WILL do what we merely hope we would.
It truly is amazing. Are the Dems actually going to be sufficiently stupid to make gun control an issue in '08? Gun control arguably cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000; what else explains his failure to carry Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia? Well, OK: Hobnobbing with the Hollywood Beautiful People probably did not help him. But it seems that the Dems are striving mightily to wrest from the clutches of the Republicans the coveted title "The Stupid Party."
Monday, April 16, 2007
And Mike Huckabee played bass. No word on whether he was any good at it, but he probably was. Any idiot can play bass.
Judge for yourself: a home-made Pop-Up Video of Capitol Offense, courtesy of C-Span. (Pop-Up text has not been verified for accuracy, and at least some of it is most certainly Completely Made Up.) Also notice the governor is not playing just any bass, but a Tobias Growler.
Ordinarily I would have put this fluff in a comment, but our comments section, being Not As Smart as Fred Thompson, wouldn't allow anything as elaborate as an embedded YouTube video.
Fredophiles are already pointing out that we didn't do too badly the last time we elected an actor as president; Huckabee seems like a nice fellow and I hope he doesn't suffer from reflections on what we got the last time we elected a governor of Arkansas with a musical instrument on a neckstrap.
Thinking of running for president, or at least governor of Arkansas...
Judging from the audio, Capitol Offense has an opening for a lead singer.
John McCain was in favor of beating the Islamofrackheads in Iraq. Rudy was against losing to 'em.
Mitt was against abortion before he was for it but now he's against it again.
And Mike Huckabee played bass.
No word on whether he was any good at it, but he probably was. Any idiot can play bass, in fact, I play a little bass meself. Thinking of running for president, or at least governor of Arkansas...
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I have been convinced for at least two years that McCain had no chance in 2008. Back before Patrick Ruffini went to work for Guiliani, he ran a blog where he gave away the kind of political and polling analysis for which Rudy is probably paying through the nose now. A feature of that blog was a rolling presidential candidate straw poll crosstabbed by state. And you saw the usual 'favorite son' dynamic at work there -- Virginians supported George Allen (that'll give you a clue about how many political tectonic plates have shifted since then), Massachusetts went for Mitt Romney, Minnesotans voted for Tim Pawlenty, etc. The glaring exception was McCain. For the many months I tracked this poll, Arizonans supported McCain at about half the level he polled among respondents as a whole. When the people who know you best dislike you twice as much as complete strangers do, the intense scrutiny of a national campaign is not going to trend your way. And the YouToobification of political discourse will ensure that every temper tantrum, every irritable outburst, and every pissy self-righteous arrogant expression that crosses his face when he can't help himself will be broadbanded around the world while Terry Nelson's still tying his shoes.
Granted that dynamic, I am a bit surprised that this YouTube offering hasn't received more attention. As far as I can tell, it marks the complete and utter disintegration of Newt Gingrich's chances to ever be elected to any office again.
Look, I understand what he was trying to say, and I thought he got a bad rap over the original comments. I admire Newt's intellect and accomplishments, and although I don't think he would be a very good presidential candidate, and is probably not presidential timber, he would be a valuable asset to any conservative administration that was intelligent enough to appreciate his virtues and patient enough to overlook his flaws. But if Newt emerges as a serious primary contender, there is no way this Muy Dorko Gringo thing stays off the urban airwaves. Good grief, he sounds like an extra from a Spanish class scene in a Napoleon Dynamite movie.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Now they tell me I will never hear it again, nor will you or the 2.75 million people who habitually did in the past. CBS has asked the I-Man to take his creaky, oft-broken old bones and shuffle off in his absurdly tacky cowboy boots for parts unknown, following MSNBC’s snappier dismissal. This in the wake of his describing the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, Cinderella finalists against Tennessee for the NCAA championship, as a group of “nappy-headed hos”.
The singular of that is “ho”, listed in Homnick’s Dictionary of Modern Slang as: 1. a soothing Hawaiian lounge singer with fifty or so kids. 2. half a cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled cake manufactured by Hostess. 3. a third of a holiday greeting by Santa Claus. 4. the unnamed female protagonist in rap songs who needs to get the **** over here and engage in various sordid activities involving large quantities of asterisks. Short, one presumes, for the more Biblical “whore”, a word used variously to describe a woman either loose or commercial in her sexual proclivities. And, of course, Mr. Imus has now encountered the last definition: 5. (with heave-) the unceremonious process of being evicted or fired; the bum’s rush.
Is the I-Man’s career over? I think not. He will not be satisfied to let his 40-year run finish in unrelieved ignominy. Either he will sign with a lesser network for much less money or he will follow his mortal nemesis, Howard Stern, to satellite radio. His corporate sponsors like Procter & Gamble will give way to the sleazy ads endemic to the medium: baldness cures, get-rich-quick home business packages and virility aids. And most of his big-name guests will scurry for cover into taller grass.
It could not have happened to a less nice guy. Imus is to Dale Carnegie as Al Sharpton is to Emily Post. He may have been a Marine, but his buddies are none too proud of his simpering for a fee. If I rise to defend him, I do it with nose firmly held. He can make me laugh but he can never make me smile. (This is not to minimize his considerable acts of charity. But writing a check does not whitewash a disreputable personage.)
Am I the first guy to notice this is neither a racist nor a sexist slur? A slur, I should think, impugns the character in some way. Racist means attributing some debility or unwholesome behavior to members of a particular genetic group. Sexist – vile word! – indicates a presumption of inferior human fiber on the part of one gender (an intrinsically absurd notion, since every human being has one father and one mother). Now find me that, any of that in Imus’ gibbering.
Was he disparaging these girls’ chastity? Of course not. Was he trying to asperse their style of dress? Ridiculous: all college basketball players wear a uniform outfit, differentiated only by team colors. Was he saying they must be whores because they are black? Ludicrous; Rutgers is no blacker than other college teams. Was he saying all women are whores? Gimme a break.
What he was saying, in silly street language coined by black wastrels, is that these girls projected a kind of tough street persona, a court sensibility that tells an opponent: you can’t hurt me anymore than I have been out there in the big bad world, and I’ll keep clawing until I have your crown. In fact, if you have been around sports long enough, you know that some teams cultivate that sort of image to intimidate opponents. Whether or not they have a valedictorian and a musical genius in their ranks.
Irony of ironies. What he said was offensive, but only on grounds of generalized crudity. He did not insult the Rutgers girls or blacks at large or women in general, he only insulted a standard of decorum most of his listeners would deem effete. Think about it… then laugh at the foolishness… and cry at our national idiocy.
An explanation is available here for those allergic to Tom Clancy.
Speaking of Fred, I was a little confused when I came across slate.com's John Dickerson slagging a candidate with:
an undistinguished eight years in the Senate, an acting career, and a youthful turn as co-counsel in the Watergate hearings
'Cause I didn't think liberals would be so upfront about Hillary Clinton's First Lady years being a stage performance. But then I realized he was talking about Fred.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
It was agreed that maybe they shouldn't do that one, and Ed noted that they were really in trouble if Al Bundy was their arbiter of taste.
Which brings us to Al Sharpton volunteering himself to head America's new Legion of Public Decency. We're in trouble, folks. When Sharpton began his own career of public speaking, people died. He followed that with libeling a New York assistant DA, charging him with rape in the Tawana Brawley case. (Stephen Pagones was innocent.)
"Reverend" Al never even said he was sorry. Don Imus did, but Sharpton refused to forgive him, and instead marched into CBS Radio headquarters today and had Imus' scalp delivered unto him.
There is a book that Brother Sharpton putatively holds to be gospel truth. One passage goes something like this:
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
It's a very good book, Mister Sharpton. Word up.
"Police have far better things to do with their time than to arrest people for this," said Kenneth Sherrill, professor at Hunter College of The City University of New York. "Being 'sex police' in bathrooms strikes me as a perversion of rational law enforcement activities."
I wonder if the reporter giggled when he typed in that quote. Perversion, indeed....
Dean, well observed. Such things will happen as each of our hearts grow fainter.
Paul Harvey's opening today was nothing but bad news on the Iraq butchery front as well, bad news on re-enlistments and bad news that the administration asked three retired 4-star generals to return to active duty and help straighten out this mess. (They declined.)
If there's a Cronkite still around, wouldn't it be Paul Harvey?
Most of our nation has lost faith in President Bush, let's face it. So be it. If one consumes only mainstream news, and most folks do, no other opinion is possible.
But I think what's beginning to happen is that the decent people in the United States are losing their faith that there is still a critical mass of decent people left in Iraq. We're growing disgusted. Day by day, person by person, Americans stand up for themselves. The Iraqi people are not.
So we're starting to question whether we should continue to support and encourage our brave military men and women who are willing to risk their lives to save theirs.
Did I say brave? No, that's too faint of praise. Heroic, and we weaker folk should never stand in the way of heroes.
The moment I perceive that these heroes have come to see themselves as the unwilling led by the incompetent to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful, as they put it in the days of the Vietnam War, conscience requires us all to pull a Cronkite, too.
The "incompetent" part has support virtually across the left-right board. We shoulda done this (more troops), shouldna done that (disband the Ba'athist army). Can't say the criticism is off---there's always more incompetence than brilliance in any war. That's how human events tend to work.
But the "ungrateful" part is getting more plausible by the day. And should America's first heroes of the 21st Century become unwilling, the unnecessary part will become moot. You can't give anyone a gift they don't want, whether it's their freedom or even their lives. (I mean you can, but they'll return it, stick it in a closet, or simply throw it away.)
I'll continue to listen as best as I can hear, and trust their judgment. I'm having a great moral dilemma about abandoning the good people in Iraq to the butchers, and our heroes are, too.
These are perilous times, shorn of all frivolity.
Perhaps that's a good thing in light of the current situation, but one jokes at his own peril, and that's a drag. I don't know how Homnick does it.
Friday, April 06, 2007
But something held me back. McCain's silly but well-intentioned campaign finance reform was in the grand scheme of things small potatoes. His objection to the first round of Bush tax cuts was disconcerting, but at least he wasn't a tax-raiser. No, it had to do with John McCain, the man.
I caught McCain's run-in with CNN's Iraq correspondent/pundit Michael Ware at the doctor's office (I'm fine, thanks for asking, but I thought I'd slip that in to explain why I've been MIA here lately). McCain said that Baghdad was getting quite safe. Ware, albeit keeping himself purposefully but understandably constantly drunk in the Apocolypse Now that is today's Iraq, was quite right to scoff.
In an attempt to defend his assertion, Sen. McCain donned a Kevlar vest and rounded up a US military posse to accompany him in a tour of an Iraq open-air market. That was shown to be ridiculous---an American, not to mention a US senator, can't walk around freely in Baghdad. Nor could most members of the Iraq government.
McCain will back off in an interview to be telecast on Sunday:
"Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," said McCain, according to 60 Minutes.
John McCain, when his emotional temperature permits, has worked to heal his (minor) ideological rifts with the GOP since the 2004 presidential campaign, when he stumped for President Dubya in New Hampshire, and has made appearances on behalf of any Republican congressional candidate who's asked. In the war against the Islamo-Badguys, he's been a rock.
Success or failure in Iraq is the transcendent issue for our foreign policy and our national security. People say they want to defeat the terrorists, but if we withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it will be the terrorists' greatest triumph.
There it is, put better than anyone anywhere at this moment. I wish I could say my regard for John McCain is unbounded, but it has bounds.
McCain forgives himself for misspeaking, but in this day and age, with a 24/7 news cycle/reality show that includes al-Jazeera and the Daily Kos, a president just can't "misspeak" anymore. Even that silver-tongued devil Bill Clinton didn't have to run such a gauntlet.
Amazingly, except for a single mention of the incendiary word "crusade" shortly after 9-11, the putatively most inarticulate commander in chief in American history has seldom if ever "misspoke." By contrast, Bush rival John Kerry shot his own candidacy through the mouth with his "I voted for it before I voted against it" moronism shortly after his nomination.
I don't think America's genuine enemies really give a damn about political rhetoric; in that way they're smarter than us. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can deny the Holocaust or speak of the annihilation of Israel or the US and nobody blinks an eye, especially America's theoretical friends, the western left that rules Europe and holds great sway in our own nation's Democratic Party.
But let a member of the world's real reality-based community, the diminishing non-leftist Anglosphere, slip off the rails just once, and he's dead meat. For all his virtue and decency, a quick google of "McCain" and "Iraq" shows the jackal pack punching his ticket to the political abattoir.
A man can be great, a man can be good, but to be our president in this day and age, he or she must first be clever. Senator McCain, I hope that it's some consolation that two out of three ain't bad, atall atall.
Here is her remarkable defense of Pelosi's Syrian adventure, and I pass it along for your perusal without prejudice.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Rudy Giuliani's message to social conservatives: If you don't like my views, don't vote for me.Well, if you put it that way, Rudy, I’m inclined not to vote for you, and I would bet so a majority of Republican primary voters as well. You have to wonder what Rudy and his advisors are thinking putting out such an in your face assertion, especially in South Carolina. He’s asking a lot for pro-life conservatives to set aside their commitment to the cause to vote for him, but it’s quite another thing for him to rub their face in it.
The Republican presidential frontrunner Thursday reaffirmed his support for federal funding for some abortions, a position which puts him at odds with many conservatives. During a press conference at the State Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, he said he didn't expect to win over 100 percent of the voters.
"If that's real important to you, if that's the most important thing, I'm comfortable with the fact that you won't vote for me," the former mayor said.
Who expects to win 100 percent of any voters? So why say it? I could see him saying something like this, though I wouldn’t like it, if he’d already won the nomination. But alienating strong pro-lifers, who are a majority of the voters he’s trying to persuade to vote for him in the primaries is not a smart strategy.
He declared his fealty to the Hyde amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion to cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Which is great, but he affirms that abortion is an individual right and that a woman “can make that choice.” He also states that he hates abortion, but not enough to do anything about it. Somehow it’s a woman’s “right,” I guess because a hand full of Supreme Court justices declared it so, so it is!
If this is part of Rudy’s strategy for winning the Republican nomination he can just quit now. As much as I love the guy for what he did in NYC and on 9/11, I would have a very difficult time voting for somebody who appears so tone deaf to the concerns of pro-life conservatives. Prior to this he seemed to be doing a pretty good job of walking the tight rope, but I think he may now have fallen off.
Monday, April 02, 2007
My own childhood yields no such memories. I remember only a thrilling atmosphere, with my Dad managing the flow deftly. And until I was 11 years old, we had the added bonus of my paternal grandfather being there to sing our family songs.
In this respect I am aware that we were blessed with a unique legacy. My family was musically inclined since forever (including the tradition of descending from King David), and we sing tunes probably heard nowhere else, ancestral compositions.
My Dad is still going strong in New York at age 75, while I do my thing here in Miami. You have to figure that if we are still doing this 3300 years later, it is a good bet the prophecy is true that there will be Jews as long as there are people.
Until heir apparent Rudy stumbles into a rhetorical ditch, John McCain learns to make friends without adding enemies, or Mitt Romney climbs above 3% in the polls, Fred's where the action is.
At some point, we'll have to add something on the Democrats if Hillary goes broke or Barack Obama says something of actual substance, but neither event is anticipated at this time.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Well, that's no doubt part of the story. Adjunct and non-tenure track faculty are cheaper than the tenure-track sort. But if it's the case that "market forces" are driving things, then why is it that this change is occuring precisely while university tuition has been increasing at rates far above tuition (something like 6-8% per year) and while university endowments have seen spectacular growth? Maybe it's because I just finished teaching Marx to my modern political thought class, but with just those set of facts at hand, it sure looks like it's just a product of universities squeezing the faculty to enrich themselves (or at least the institutions they control).
But I don't think that's the whole story - or even the most important part of the story. Universities are controlled, in ways most people just don't get, by the faculty as a whole. Faculty individually might not like the increase in the number of adjuncts or part-time lecturers, but the acquiesce in their employment because, truth be told, those folks serve the tenured profs' interests. Suppose that the resources available to any particular university were to remain constant and the faculty decided that they would make an effort to have fewer adjuncts teaching their classes. One of two things would happen: either the school would hire more tenure-track faculty or the current faculty would teach more students. The first we can discount, since no faculty I've ever heard of has voted themselves a pay cut in order to hire more faculty. (For all their anti-capitalist rhetoric, university faculty are plenty attentive to their economic interests, even at the expense of others). So why not do the latter, and have the current faculty teach more - either teach more students in their current classes or teach more classes?
Because that would interfere with their research and publication? And less research and publication means less prestige? And since universities are almost entirely now in the prestige business (as opposed to the knowledge or truth business), they dare not do that. So even though I think French is right to point to "market forces" as an important element in the changes in higher education employment structures, such an analysis is just incomplete.
My mother grew up in small-town Alabama. She was Catholic and went to a parochial school through the eighth grade. When she went to the local public high school she got a taste of anti-Catholic prejudice. People asked her questions like, "Is it true that when you get married, you have to sleep with a priest before you sleep with your husband?" It was a sometimes humiliating experience, but she lived through it and today, Catholic and Protestant relations in that same town are very comfortable. In fact, the pastor at a Southern Baptist church in the city gave a sermon praising John Paul II after his death. He went on to say that we should fervently hope the next Pope is a man like him because the Pope is the face of Christianity around the world. This rapprochement between Catholics and Evangelicals hasn't happened by avoiding questions or hiding behind identity politics. It has been earned through engagement.
So now, Hugh Hewitt writes a book about Mitt Romney as the first Mormon in the White House. I've already questioned whether the book is premature in the extreme. It's not as if there has been some amazing groundswell for the one term governor of Massachusetts who skipped out on the second term at least in part because everyone knows he would likely have lost. But the part that concerns us here is Hewitt's claim that by acting as if Romney's faith matters at all we somehow violate the spirit of Article VI's prohibition on religious tests for officeholding and that evangelical Christians in particular should hesitate to consider Romney's religion because they don't want to have their own political hopes stymied by others considering their faith.
I think Hewitt is fundamentally wrong. Let's tease this thing out a bit, shall we?
Article VI prohibits any religious test for officeholding in the federal government. So we will have no official requirement that only Episcopalians or whoever may serve in the federal government. Historically we know that set-up was basically about federalism (different states endorsing different denominations thus requiring federal stalemate), but let's forget that and deal with it as we see it today. No official test set in legislation, executive order, etc. Fine. But then there is the question of the individual's vote and you may exercise that however you wish. No Article VI interaction there.
Now, Hugh Hewitt wants to play the left-wing game and say that Article VI sets out an American value we should observe and that paying any attention to Romney's religion is a violation of that value.
I disliked that argument just as much the first time I read it in a little book titled The Godless Constitution by Isaac Kramnick and Laurence Moore. Kramnick and Moore were concerned that evangelicals and Catholics would refuse to consider a candidate who wasn't religious enough and would therefore, apply a sort of religious test against an atheist, for example, running for President.
Historically, there is plenty of precedent for considering a candidate's religion and it hasn't been such a terrible thing. Jefferson was nobody's idea of an orthodox Christian. He was the perfect picture of a deist, believing in morality and punishments and rewards in the afterlife, but not in the specific Christian revelation. New England Clergy who were members of the Federalist party raged against Jefferson's lack of correct faith. They preferred Adams, who was also not a picture perfect Christian in theology, but who was more favorable to religious establishments. Tellingly, Jefferson's supporters felt the need to deny the attacks on his Christianity.* Despite the religious controversy, Jefferson did defeat Adams and won the presidency. He required no rule against debating religious convictions of a candidate to do so.
John F. Kennedy was another example. In order to keep the Democratic party's southern support base intact, he had to deal with the issue of his Catholicism by taking it up directly with the people, as he did with Baptist ministers in Houston. Kennedy insisted he would be the president and not a proxy for Rome. Work it out for yourself whether that was correct theologically for a Roman Catholic, but Kennedy didn't hide behind some kind of insistence that his faith was off limits.
In interviewing Erick Erickson, Hugh Hewitt wanted to compare caring about Mitt Romney's religion to caring about someone's race. The entire line of argument is wrong-headed. The left has enchanted us into thinking about everything in terms of categories and how wrong it is to consider categories. On the face of it, Hewitt is right. Certainly, it would be illogical and malicious to refuse to consider voting for someone based on the surface reason of their race or religion. But there is a second layer to the inquiry. If a white candidate's beliefs about the world, about government, and about culture were significantly impacted by his race, then I think it's fair ground to know exactly how. If it leads him to believe in some kind of white superiority, then it's worth taking into account when voting. The same is obviously true of a disciple of Louis Farrakahn, in which case we are considering his race AND religion. I do not say such persons have no right to run for or hold office. I am saying WE have to right to ask such persons questions and to withhold our vote from such persons.
Would anyone willingly relinquish that right?
The point Erick made repeatedly in the interview that Hewitt treated as though it were no point at all is that there is very little public knowledge about the Church of Latter Day Saints. As a Ph.D. candidate in religion and politics, I know a great deal about some of the ways Mormons have been terribly mistreated in American history, but I know very little about their actual theology. I'm an evangelical Christian with great sympathies toward the Catholic Church. My theology certainly affects my view of politics and I think I would be a cad to take the position that if I were running for office no one would have a right to ask me about it and wait to hear what I would say. I would assume that equal respect for a Mormon would be to assume that his religious beliefs are not purely private but actually have some impact on what he thinks, believes, and does.
To hold otherwise is to become a secularist who says that religion is only private and doesn't matter in the public square. I don't think Hugh Hewitt has come out in favor of secularism before, but maybe that's his new position. Religion is private and doesn't matter a whit to politics. Is that what you think, Mr. Hewitt?
No, Erick Erickson had the correct position. It's okay to be curious about the Mormon faith. It's okay for Mitt Romney to face questions about how his faith impacts the other areas of his life, including his political life. There's nothing unconstitutional or immoral about it. This is the process that will make the Church of Latter Day Saints a part of the fabric of American religious, political, and social life. Just being open to engagement is the key.
*The part about Jefferson's backers defending him from attacks on Christianity is telling because it denies the claim that the founding generation wasn't much concerned with the Christian faith. Jefferson couldn't come straight out with it and hope to still be elected.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Me, I watched the Clippers game, but they both sounded interesting.