"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, May 14, 2007

Rudy at Houston Baptist University

I sat about five feet from Rudy Giuliani while he made his pitch to agree to disagree over abortion. He yam what he yam and all that.

I wrote it up for American Spectator.

A baby burbled audibly in the silent crowd. Perhaps it was pure serendipity that the child wore a t-shirt proclaiming "I love NY," but I remembered the old stories of LBJ's campaign appearances where he exhibited tremendous flair by tossing a gorgeous white Stetson into the assembled mass. What the folks never knew was that the greatest of Texas campaigners had practiced his aim and had a staffer charged with the task of catching that hat at every stop. When Giuliani walked over to the baby, mugged with it, and jumped back to the podium proclaiming, "Hey, I am a politician!" to the obvious delight of the audience, I wondered how often such happy accidents occur. Nobody at HBU was skeptical. They loved it and the ice was broken.

Despite the moment described above, I fully agree with those who think the Giuliani campaign is over and doesn't know it, yet. Read the rest of the article for the explanation.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Will They Shoo Fitz?

I have never been prejudiced against the Blacks, so I follow their case closely and reserve judgment. It’s not every day that a TAS contributor goes on trial, so arguably I have a collegial duty to devour every tidbit of collateral gossip. Well, duty or not, it’s fun for sure. If one of the major networks had the brains to preempt regular programming to show the proceedings, they would sweep the sweeps. The cast of characters here makes Ocean’s Eleven look like the 4-H Club.

First there is – here I rise to point a quivering forefinger – the defendant, Conrad Black. Or Lord Black, of the House of Lords; Baron Black of Crossharbour is the technical title. His sesquipedalian prepotency is a synecdoche among scriveners; he knows a lot of big words. In fact, his friends knew in 1992 he was besotted with Barbara Amiel when he told them she was “quite pulchritudinous”. His media empire included the Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post and most of Canada’s newspapers.

He is being prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald, fresh from jailing Scooter Libby. The accusation is he defrauded stockholders by writing personal bonuses into deeds of sale and disguising them as non-compete payments.

Need help? Okay. Say I create the Miami Scroll to compete with the Herald and quickly gain a million readers. Murdoch offers fifty million to buy it from my company. My fifty-one percent share of the stock would be worth 25.5 million. So we rewrite the deal for 40M and add a 10M personal payment for my promise not to start another paper. My take now: 30.4 million.

Barbara Amiel is the loyal second wife, since he became her fourth husband in ’92. She was the Ann Coulter of Canada, the right-wing bomb-throwing columnist who thrived on being out of step with the liberal media. She played a very important role for high society men, that of the beautiful-woman-smart-enough-to-be-squired-around-by-a-billionaire-without-looking-like-a-dope-who-fell-for-a-Las-Vegas-showgirl. Black was the final feather in her cap and to her credit she is sticking.

The word on the street is that her spending habits put the financial pressure on Black to accelerate his earning. Angry at a delay in a British Airways flight, she prodded her husband to buy a Gulfstream that could cross the Atlantic. There was only one bathroom on the plane for passengers and crew, so a new one was installed to the tune of a quarter-mil. As for her attitude to staff, the following anecdote gives a clue. When each new third butler was given a tour of the house by senior butler Andrew Lightwood, he would take them to the roof and remind them to keep the “landing lights” on at all times: “Madame takes off from here on her broomstick looking for cats.” She grew up poor, you see.

Still, we love her for her prose. In defending soccer players accused of pushing a girl around, she wrote: “Female groupies in see-through tops and micro-minis, trawling spots where footballers hang out, are tinsel-wrapped bait. One can hardly blame footballers for their inability to resist what middle-aged Presidents of the United States cannot.”

The defense attorney, by a special dispensation, is the Canadian superstar “Fast Eddie” Greenspan. To get the court to accept the foreign attorney, Black had to sign a waiver ceding his right to appeal based on inadequate representation. Fast Eddie started slow in the early going, but came on strong last week, humiliating economist-socialite Marie-Josee Kravitz and former Illinois Governor “Big Jim” Thompson on the witness stand. The two of them, members of the auditor board of Black’s company, were testifying for the prosecution to the effect they were gulled by his shenanigans.

Greenspan identified eleven separate reports that each of them had signed which openly included the non-compete payments. Their only response was they had failed to notice them. Greenspan ran them through the wringer, document by document, making them testify again and again they had missed the key entries. Thompson tried to use some bravado by saying he had “skimmed” rather than read. Fast Eddie lighted on that word and asked him one by one whether he had skimmed it; a man has very little credibility with a jury after saying eleven times he had skimmed over multi-million dollar transactions.

Perhaps the best line came when Greenspan asked Thompson if his role as head of the auditing committee gave him extra responsibility. “No, it was a very democratic committee,” said Jim.

“Even in a democracy someone has to be the governor,” was Fast Eddie’s fast rejoinder.

This week, Black’s partner and supposed co-conspirator David Radler, not so affectionately nicknamed “the Rat” by their journalist employees, has taken the stand. He cut a deal with the government to talk in return for getting only 29 months in a Canadian jail and paying back umpteen millions. He began Monday with the early history of their partnership in the 1970s and continued Tuesday and Wednesday painting himself as a dupe, guilty only of not asking enough questions about all the millions he was getting. Cross-examination began yesterday with Greenspan establishing Radler had lied to at least 24 different investigators. Stay tuned.

Put a Fork in Him...

He's done. According to the NYT, Giuliani plans on being much more forthright about his support of abortion rights and press his campaign in states where he thinks it will be more well-received. In a way, it's a relief. His half-way talk of "I hate abortion" (which I always took to mean "I hate that abortion matters in Republican politics because it means I'll never get to be President unless we can find some way around it"...) wasn't ever going to get the job done for him. But here's the clear truth of the matter: Giuliani wants to be President and is firmly in favor of a constitutionalized right to kill unborn children *and* thinks that the Congress should spend tax dollars to assist those procedures. He's a consistent supporter of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Death America.

Make him CIA director and sic him on the bad guys. But not President, no way.

More Foolishness from Academia, Part XVXII

So Inside Higher Ed asks if it is "Inclusivity or Tokenism?" that the American Historical Association *requires* that panels include a woman in order to be accepted. Is that even a serious question? What would tokenism be otherwise? For the panel in question, all the folks did was to add in a female scholar to be the chair of the panel, which if you've been to these sorts of meetings you must realize that a chair hardly does anything, except to pass little silly notes trying (usually in vain) to get the loquacious profs to cut short their presentations on the transsexual warrior in 4th century pottery work. It's nice to know that we've made such progress.

The Worst US President in the History of the World

Well, my friends on the left---although the friendship is unrequited---universally agree: Bush is toejam. The Iraq war, the deficits, the...well, the list sort of stops there, but that's enough.

The Iraq thing sucks. The deficits suck.

---But the economy goes ticking along, even though it should have slid into recession after the dotcom bust and the CEO scandal/robberies ala Enron.

---After 9-11, there hasn't been another major Islamicismist attack on American soil.

---And Bush appointed a critical mass to the Supreme Court which finally ruled that piercing viable babies' skulls and sucking their brains out is barbaric, and must end.

He could have done a whole helluva lot of things better, but I don't know a president who couldn't have done things a lot better. As for the money, well, every family goes into debt when an emergency arises. And though we've lost over 3000 brave American lives in Iraq over 4 years, now 4 to 5000 innocent babies might not get their brains sucked out each and every year.

Mebbe we should have left Saddam in place. Mebbe we could have saved the money. Mebbe there was some clever way to handle the threat, like sitting home and inspecting cargo containers. But balancing the scales, I'm OK with Dubya. No attacks, the end of partial birth abortions. It's about our babies, stupid. They're why we do what we do, why we get up in the morning and go off to work and then come right home to bounce them on our knees. I don't even have any children, but they're why I vote like I do.

Which is why I might have to wait on Rudy Giuliani, and look for somebody---anybody---else. I think he'll be great on national security and good on the economy too. But there's that other thing. The babies.

I don't think he would've lifted a finger to save them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Poverty On Wall Street

So John Edwards, Democratic Presidential wannabe and fabulously wealthy trial lawyer, worked part-time at a NY hedge fund because, he says, he wanted to "learn" about markets. And, no, he won't say how much he was paid, though we'll all learn that in May (when he has to file his financial disclosure forms or somesuch). Just wanted to learn about markets. Righty-o, Mr. "Two-Americas," Mr. "we gotta end poverty now", yep, that's entirely believable. Because I'm just sure that there's no-one, not a soul at that fine institution, the University of North Carolina, who could spend, oh, a few days with Mr. Edwards to get him up to speed on markets. Not a soul. Heck, there's no where in the world where you could get such information. You can only learn that sort of stuff while getting some big bucks on the side.

Well, in case you're not entirely convinced by former Sen. Edwards' Richie-rich sorta-faux populism, let me suggest another reason for his working for a NEW YORK hedge fund...donations, donations, donations. The article notes that the employees at his former fund constitute now his single biggest group of contributors. What better way to cut into the Wall Street crowd and lure some campaign contributions than to be shoulder to shoulder with them?

Not So Thankful...

Inside Higher Ed reports that a professor at Glendale Community College is likely going to lose his job because he sent around an email to all the rest of the faculty with a Thanksgiving message by George Washington. But, apparently, that's not quite the problem. The real problem is the he acknowledged where he saw that message, Pat Buchanan's blog, and there were anti-immigration messages on the website - five employees complained that such messages constituted harrassment.

That's just ridiculous.


Monday, May 07, 2007

I Fear (Pt. II)

A nation unglued, continued---via Philosoraptor, a Scripps poll supports Rasmussen:

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."

36% of the public would correlate with Rasmussen's 61% of Democrats, and is even more alarming than Rasmussen's total of 22% of all Americans. This is bad.

Philosoraptor makes a rational defense of such irrationality, that Bush drove 'em crazy, what with stealing the 2000 election and lying us into war and all. Still, it can no longer be denied that Bush Derangement Syndrome indeed exists, and is far more virulent than first suspected.

On the other hand, the lefty "netroots" must be ecstatic. They apparently got their message out, and how. They must be very proud of how they've changed the country.


Friday, May 04, 2007

For the first time in my life, I fear for my country...

(Via RedState) Pollster Rasmussen Reports:

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.

61% of the reality-based community believe that is or may be a FACT? And almost a quarter of our whole nation? No wonder they hate Bush's guts. I would too, if I were that deranged.

I just can't wrap my mind around this yet, and my astonishment is genuine. I had no idea, really. It's one thing for Harry Reid to shoot his mouth off for the netroots. It's one thing for the lefties to cocoon themselves against any and all dissent to enjoy the self-pleasure of bashing the other guys. But folks, this is national madness. We are one nation, come unglued.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The LA Times: The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

According to a front-page headline in today's LA Times, "France's Royal Relishes the Role of Underdog." Really? She wouldn't rather be ahead in the polls? Just asking.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Times Sinks Deeper Into the Abyss

I see that the new newspaper circulation numbers are out, and the ineffable Los Angeles Times, chock full of self-esteem, leftist silliness, and journalistic ignorance, is down over 4 percent from last year. The numbers apparently are for only print circulation, a revealing bit of myopia on the part of the bean counters, but I rather doubt that online readership could possibly compensate very substantially for the reported decline.

Let us be very clear and very blunt: The readership decline is driven by the biases and ignorance inherent in modern journalism. The LA Times in particular is a swamp of leftist assumptions, analytic ignorance, and pedantic silliness masquerading as "reporting." An example: The recent front-page, above-the-fold tear-jerking stories about the injuries suffered by a man and his daughter at the claws of a bear. Was this story really worth something on the order of 7000-8000 words or more? And then there are the editorials, not quite as knee-jerk leftist as a couple of years ago, but still pretty silly. And the op-ed page: a repository of high-minded ignorance from the likes of Rosa Brooks and Erin Aubry Kaplan and other worthies with little to say, poor writing skills, little information to reveal, few analytic talents, but a column to file each week. Even the ineffable Robert Scheer was worth more space than this crew. The problems of modern newspapers are far deeper than any tension between the newsroom and the accoutants. I have said it once before and I am happy to repeat: Modern journalism is a swamp of ignorance, stupidity, laziness, dishonesty, bias, and arrogance. And they wonder why their business model is failing. Actually, I suspect that they do not wonder; it would be no surprise if they blame it on the perceived ignorance of the masses.


Hiring Bias?

The NY Sun has this article about Mark Moyar, an historian who has had a very hard time getting a job, in part, it seems, because his major book attempts to argue that Vietnam was not a mistake. Now, on the face of it, it sure seems pretty odd. Moyar has two books, has very good credentials, and should be able to find a job, regardless of his conservative credentials. And I think the presumption has to be that his views, as opposed to his scholarship, made it more difficult for him. But it's not quite a slam-dunk case. History departments have been weeding out military history positions for years (they'd rather teach the history of fashion or peasants or sex or something) and job searches are notoriously fickle things. You just don't know what goes on when a bunch of prickly, over-sensitive, egoistic types get together in a committee room and try to agree on a candidate.

But fair warning: if you're interested in being a professor, be careful with what you write.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Dang. Abstinence Fails Yet Again...

Vice paid its tribute to virtue again the other day, or however the saying goes, when Bush’s chief of the $15 billion African AIDS initiative, which pushes abstinence, got outed as a consumer of professional sex services.

Although it must be, um, liberating to have little in the way of standards, I wouldn't deny anyone their schadenfreude at someone else violating theirs. It's only human, both the failing and the schadenfreude.

But let's not pretend that the "reasonable" people have any genuine enthusiasm whatsoever for the concept of abstinence. If they did, they'd be disappointed, not gleeful, that Randall Tobias failed his duty:

It’s denied by no one that only abstinence can prevent AIDS. The ideal, the 100% solution.

The agreed-upon protocol for AIDS prevention, and generally held across the ideological spectrum to have effectiveness , has been ABC: Abstinence (for the single), Be faithful (for the married partnered), and, of course, Condoms.

However, since the American education establishment might fairly be regarded as “progressive,” as is the western social science community, which includes those NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations, better understood as secular do-gooders as opposed to religious do-gooders) who prowl Africa, you have to wonder about the "progressive" commitment to abstinence as a desirable thing. This is the 21st century after all, not the 19th, and tradititional sexual moralities are so, I dunno, bourgeois.

I expect the average progressive ABC program goes something like this:

"Be careful about who you have sex with. Don't just sleep with any old body. The more careful you are, the more you know about your partners, and the less casual your sex, the safer you are.*"

Now that we’ve got that out of the way,

“…people are going to have sex whether or not they're taught about abstinence, as studies show. So teaching people how to have sex in the safest manner possible is therefore better than teaching them nothing about how to more safely have sex.*”

So here’s how to use a condom…

There’s been a spate of sociology lately indicating that abstinence programs are ineffective, and that should not be dismissed out of hand. However, the objections to abstinence were a dogma of their own and started well before any survey results started trickling in. People are going to have sex anyway.

But the hole in the condom, if you will, is that they aren't 100% effective, and 90% is pretty much as generous as estimates get (and 5-10% less in male-to-male relations).

It might be true that Africa could be educated more deeply on proper use and into a better percentage, but the fact remains that in the media- and sex education-saturated US, the failure rate of condoms is pretty much the same. By the light of reality-based metrics, how much improvement we can reasonably expect is questionable.

Further, even if the use of condoms could be successfully be framed as safer (although still not safe) sex, the failure rate in the face of a fatal disease is unacceptable by any standard we use for safety in any other hazardous situation, like crossing the street or climbing a ladder.

If my understanding of the math is correct, condom failure rates are annualized: If you have sex even with a condom in Botswana---where 35% of the population is already infected---your risk of exposure over 10 years is 35%. Not good. In fact, since condom failure rates are calculated by the resulting pregnancies, not by actual failure and trickle-down theories, "exposure" might not fully describe the awful truth.

Which brings up an imaginary dialogue with me playing both parts (since lefties aren’t as game as Socrates’ foil Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic):

If you had a pill that could make smoking safe for 90% of people, but would leave the others at grave risk, would you still dispense it?


Would you stop urging people to quit smoking?

---That’s ridiculous.

Would you be afraid that dispensing the pill might make people less apt to quit?

---Human nature being what it is, I'd have to say that's possible, if not likely.

That people might actually be less afraid to take up smoking?

---Again, human nature being what it is...

If anyone could tell me with a straight face that some progressive person or NGO could teach abstinence in the US or Africa with the same passion as they could an anti-smoking class, perhaps I'd change my mind. But most would admit that’s a laughable mental image.

Turns out that the right isn't the only side capable of cultural imperialism. And if I felt they'd done the math on the true risk of sex in Africa even with condom use, and had a true appreciation of just how many deaths a 10% failure rate amounts to, I wouldn't be writing on this, and neither would Harvard researcher Edward C. Green. This is his opinion/account of Africa being used as a proxy battlefield in the West’s own culture war (do read the whole thing):

Condoms have been regarded as the first line of defense for everyone, everywhere, and anyone who disagrees with this orthodoxy has been dismissed as a religious fanatic with ‘an agenda...'

...reality is very different from the Western experts' perception. Surveys today suggest that more than half of African males and females between the ages of 15 and 19 are abstaining from premarital sex, and increasing proportions of adults are having sex with only one partner. Yet few who work in AIDS prevention have called attention to these important trends, perhaps because they contradict the image of the hypersexed African that Western AIDS experts have been selling since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. They depict Africans as "polygamous by nature," and supposedly so driven by hormones and poverty that commercial and transactional sex, and the inability to make responsible decisions about sex, are simply part of what it means to be African. If you accept this condescending view, condoms seem to be the only realistic solution to AIDS.

The trouble with the image of the hypersexed African is that it was never true for most Africans. Meanwhile, sexual behavior in Africa has changed. Not only in Uganda, but also perhaps in Senegal, Kenya, and elsewhere, abstinence and faithfulness have worked better than condoms. I document the evidence for Uganda and Senegal in detail in my 2003 book Rethinking AIDS Prevention. I also show that in about 1999, Kenya switched to a Uganda-style approach. In the past four to five years, casual sex on the part of Kenyan men and women has declined by about 50 percent, and HIV infection rates have fallen...

For the record, I don't necessarily accept Green's proposition that A and B are even occasionally more effective than C. But it issues a serious challenge to abstinence being a lost cause, that people can't or won't adopt new behaviors. Indeed, C, trying to get people to use condoms, stakes many lives on the belief that people will.

The New Papacy, of modernism, of sociology, of statistics, must be content to work from worst to best on hopes of a better average. But that approach never gets anywhere near its destination, because what is not easily and universally achievable, the best course, must be discarded. We’re realists, after all, and there’s no time for idealism.

Fair enough, but we cannot surrender the conduct of human events over to (by definition) mediocrity, or more etymologically correct, the meanness of the social sciences. No society can survive by aiming toward the lowest, by being happy just to bail water.

As a matter of little-known fact, the Bush Africa AIDS program is not "A only"---it just guarantees a certain level of funding for abstinence programs because nobody else in the world will. It's been made out as “A only” by proponents of “C only” because they want abstinence to fail; I must suspect that they are doing everything possible to make sure it does. If they were solely, and properly, concerned with African lives, they’d bite the anti-bullet and tolerate even religion being enlisted into the cause. But if abstinence saves just one life…

(No, I don’t think that riff will work. Oh, well.)

I myself don’t know anyone on the right who’s opposed to the distribution and instruction in the use of condoms. (Such folks exist, of course, and likely believe Elvis is still alive too. No offense.) But the rest of us wouldn’t stop passing out Kevlar vests to our troops, although if it led to overestimating their effectiveness and therefore to unnecessary risks, concern for their lives would require that we emphasize their failure rate over and over.

And, of course, if there were a 100% guaranteed way of not getting shot, we would make that the primary focus of their education.

But those who favor the Kama Sutra and disdain the Bible don’t feel that way. They don’t want bourgeois sexual morality to prove out, for abstinence to succeed, and God forbid that the Bible regain any traction, even tangentially.

In this reality-based age, where every bean can be counted and the social sciences are both king and queen, such a thing would be intolerable. But the Golden Age of Sexuality that today's progressives and their ideological spawn revere---the Fifties to the Eighties of the past century---of liberation, of contraception and penicillin, where all sex was consequence-free, is gone. Dead and gone.

It all seemed so sweet at the time, but its taste now is of ashes.

*actual quotes

Friday, April 27, 2007

Is It Because I'm Black? Well, no, it isn't...

I hate to even somewhat disagree with John McWhorter---whom I regard as a giant---re the Magic Negro Theory.

As a gentleman of the right, I must first perform my obligatory tap-dance about "Magic Negro" in reference to Barack Obama. It was originated by a gentleman of the left, so that's the PC cover.

But we must use "Magic Negro" because it's so damned apt. No other riff can do the proposition justice, that white folks will make Sen. Obama our next president because it would serve as a refutation of America's egregious racist past. (And present.)

There's some currency to that: I admit to favorable affirmative action sentiments because black folk have undeniably gotten a crappy deal from America to date, but it's not even about making reparation as much as a hope that we can somehow, as a nation, pull together.

A black US president would be a good thing, domestically and internationally.

But the main reason I oppose affirmative action as a formal policy, whether in government, government contracts, or law or medical schools is that it diminishes genuine black achievement. I worked as a headhunter in the medical field briefly, and let me tell you, people are wary of black surgeons. Black man x might be the greatest surgeon in human history, but as long as affirmative action exists, you can't know by what means he came to hold that scalpel. Somebody still gets through medical school but graduates at the bottom of his class. Nobody wants to play those odds, and don't think black folk haven't figured out the same thing themselves.

So with the tap-dance completed, I think that attributing any significant level of Barack Obama's success so far to his blackness denigrates him. If the GOP is the stupid party (and it is), the Democrats are the foolish party, which fact places Sen. Obama head and shoulders above the rest of the Demo wannabes, each of whom have had their moments of foolishness. He's as handsome as Jack Kennedy, not quite as winningly glib (but it's early yet), has the political philosophy of Jack's dissipated brother Edward, and hasn't made a fool of himself.

A JFK with Ted's politics? Who's also not a self-proved fool? Are you kidding me? That brings ecstasy to this new Democrat core, the victorious-at-last McGovernites.

So, I disagree with the "Negro" part completely. But "Magic" is magic, and Democratically speaking, Obama's got it.

Screw affirmative action, then---mebbe he gets a marginal credit, but that cannot swing a candidate from the minus column into the plus. They'd vote for Barack Obama as surgeon-in-chief even if he had the obstacle of both parents happening to be Caucasian to overcome.

Which makes Barack Obama all the more alarming. He's not the black candidate, or the affirmative action candidate, he's the leftist candidate. He talks JFK, but he walks EMK. Danger, Will Robinson...

Broder, Reid, and the Democratization of Discourse

David Broder has written that Harry Reid should abdicate the Senate Majority Leader's position.

I think this event deserves a discussion of the media context.

Let me start simply this way. David Broder is the "unchallenged dean" of the Washington commentariat. No op-ed columnist has enjoyed the respect and prestige David Broder has. (I don't need to go further to tell you that Broder is nobody's conservative.)

This is the man who has called for the resignation of one Harry Reid.

Once upon a time, this Broder pronouncement might well have created a tidal wave. Harry Reid might have been halfway out the door by the afternoon of the Broder column's publication. In short, Harry Reid might have been given the full Trent Lott treatment on a matter much more richly deserving it.

The case is easy to make and Broder made it. Reid conducts himself in an aggressively boorish manner. In an apparently desperate bid to be invited to the next Yearly Kos meeting, he recently yelped that "The war is lost," despite the fact that we have poured a rather large amount of blood and treasure into Iraq, the fact that the United States is never outgunned, but only loses its nerve, and the fact that there are several million Iraqis hoping we don't pull a cute Vietnam-style see ya later (and quite a few terrorists who hope we do). Reid badly undermined us with both enemies and allies.

Broder said all this (just a little more nicely than me, but not much) and Pejman and I have to share the news. It did not generate its own massive press explosion. I'm not sure Broder's announcement will mean more than Mark Levin's a few days ago. To a person who remembers life before the blogosphere, that's a little surprising.

(Personally, I pray the Democrats fall to common sense and send Reid to the back benches. David Broder is not the enemy of the Democrat party. He probably lifted a toast on that unhappy November night last year. They should heed his advice.)

But guys like David Broder don't carry the influence they once did. I can think of no position in the established media that has been more thoroughly damaged by the internet than the once small ranks of op-ed columnists. Not so long ago, there were just a handful of political column writers who could hope to influence national opinion. In the age of the internet, the ranks of well-educated opiners with something to say are legion and they are constantly cranking out content. The democratization of discourse is in effect.

Broder's column may just sink beneath the waves of the opinion ocean. It's too bad. Because this time (no, it's not the only time) the dean is right.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Homosexual Activist Resents “Hate”

If you want a large amount of whine with your cheese check out this LA Times opinion piece by a homosexual senior citizen. This man is convinced that straights hate gays, and he spends the entire piece lamenting that opinion. I was going to say fact, but that some heterosexuals “hate” homosexuals is a fact; that most heterosexuals hate homosexuals is narcissistic paranoia.

This guy is that paragon of what it means to be an “activist.” Such people are myopic in the extreme. Either you are absolutely for what they believe, or you are the enemy (he even uses just that word). He is especially exercised that most Americans and most politicians are not willing to redefine the definition of marriage. This is the epitome of hate according to our whining activist.

He is also convinced that homosexuals are being beaten and killed every day. Maybe in counties where Islam reigns supreme, but certainly not in America; America may as well be Saudi Arabia in drag according to our whining activist. I’ll give you a little taste of his whine.

What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.

And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.

You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.
I find it very interesting that people who are not religious tell us what religion must be. For this man religion is reduced to love, which means no judgment, no moral distinctions. Love is acceptance “pure and simple.” And we must accept what he thinks is morally acceptable or we are filled with hate. As with most anti-religious bigots they caricature religion (and there can be no doubt this man is most disgusted with Christianity) and then deem it unacceptable.

For the record, Christians do not hate anyone (or they are commanded not to—we are told to even love our enemies, for goodness sake!), let alone homosexuals. We believe in a moral code handed down to us in the Scripture, the Old and the New Testaments. We all fall short, as the text says, of the glory of God. When you understand what the mercy and grace of God means, and you understand the depth of your own sin, you realize you have no right to judge another human being. As the old saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.

Yet we are also not commanded to be phony. We must call what God says is evil what it is. We must affirm what is wrong as well is what is right, regardless of the cultural winds that howl around us. We live in one of the most live and let live societies in the history of the world. Too bad this isn’t enough for our activist whiner, because as it looks for the foreseeable future this is the best he’s going to get.

Hillary, Call Your Office

Shocking message from Hollywood:

In Wednesday's episode of Boston Legal, William Shatner's character was given the following line.

"If Hillary becomes President, I'm gonna puke. Now Obama... him I could live with."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finals Time

So I'm sitting here giving a final to a class of about 25 (and blogging to avoid grading a paper from another class). It's funny, I never gave much thought to constructing exams until I started teaching - it's actually quite an art. You have to balance relatively easy questions with hard ones, try to cover the class's most important material and make it intellectually challenging. Plus, you have to make it long enough so that people are actually challenged, but not so long that you kill your students. And, of course, you have to make it so that you can actually grade it rather quickly.

Finals Time

It's finals time, which means getting to spend hours grading exams and papers and despairing over the fact that at least some of my students have clearly not learned a doggone thing this whole semester. Well, maybe they learned a little. The whole thing makes me want to just chuck it all and grade like the Law Professors do.

Old Gay Lady

It is considered very postmodern to do a movie about a movie. Yet it is considered almost plagiaristic to do an article about an article. Where is the justice? I, for one, see this as a form of prejudice against what I like to call homojournalism.

To fight this discrimination, let us examine an important article in last Thursday’s New York Times. A remarkable piece that straddled the social, the cultural, the political and the economic. It covered a topic that will no doubt engage social scientists for generations to come. Namely, do gay people have affinities for different motor vehicles than other citizens?

The author, fearlessly taking on this live-wire issue, informs us that some gays believe gays have preferences in cars which reflect their sexual proclivities. In support of this view they cite the existence of websites such as Gaywheels dedicated to automotive transportation for gays. Other gays contend this is a) baloney and b) “homophobia plain and simple”. (The notion of plainness and simplicity entering this conversation in any context itself provides amusement aplenty.)

The first set would like to see more car ads in gay magazines, presumably fine-tuned to the unique tastes of their readers. The second group would find it offensive if particular cars were deemed to draw gays’ gaze.

Had the date of publication been April 1, we could have issued a collective chuckle at the April Fools Day gag. Instead it comes on the eve of tax day on April 17, a time when no one is kidding anymore. Which means they’re serious. Oy!

The obvious comment, after the incredulous groans, is that this premise is in any case irrelevant to car advertising or sales. If they are right that gay males like more feminine cars and gay females like more masculine cars, and we are always told that men and women are gay in equal proportions, then the same amount of masculine cars are sold whether they are being bought by female homosexuals or male heterosexuals – and vice versa. Your male-directed advertisements will attract the gay females and your female-directed advertisements will attract the gay males, why create new gay-directed ads?

In truth, this whole thing is steeped in the same baloney that is retailed in discussions about homosexual issues. They speak of male homosexuals as being one particular type; the same for females. But when you meet real-life homosexual couples you find that one plays the man and one plays the woman. Often the differences are more exaggerated than in heterosexual couples. Then all your gay car-choosing stats become skewed, because now you have masculine and feminine types in both groups.

Hollywood acknowledges this. They allow themselves to depict limp-wristed lisping types as homosexuals, although if a Jerry Falwell type points this out, they act shocked. But you will notice they never put two of these together as lovers. This is because that type of effeminate affectation is the signal of the homosexual who wants to play the feminine role in their imitation of marriage. This is widely acknowledged in cultural portrayals but can never be alluded to in journalism.

Why is that? Because it gives the lie to the contention that homosexuality is genetic. If gay partners are actually opposite personality types it becomes absurd to say they are the product of one particular gene. And to postulate two separate genes diverging from the heterosexual reproductive construct is the height of lunacy. Thus, male homosexuals have to be spoken of in pseudo-scientific articles as one (yes, homogeneous) monolithic group, in direct negation of the life experience of people living in the real world.

All of this presupposes a fact which is itself not in evidence, namely that men and women buy radically different cars to begin with. Certain predilections may exist, and here or there you might identify a car that is bought on a 60-40 ratio between the genders. Still, plenty of heterosexual men like sleek little cars and tons of heterosexual women, especially married women, prefer massive blocky cars and trucks for the security they provide. So all in all, the whole business is a crock.

Fifty years ago, the journalism was also baloney. It portrayed everyone as presumptive heterosexuals and gave no clue that Rock Hudson or Gertrude Stein were anything but single people longing for a nice wedding someday. At least that pretense created a vision of family life that promoted marriage and children. The new baloney, hailed originally as a beneficial openness, builds lies on top of presumptions on top of unsubstantiated claims and creates a grotesque caricature of reality.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Those Crazy Catholic Justices

Perhaps you've been following the contretemps over the Supreme Court's recent decision that upheld a *very popular* law banning the partial-birth abortion procedure. Any number of commentators have noted that the five justices in the majority are all Catholic (though my understanding is that Kennedy's Catholicism is not particularly energetic). Chief among those making the claim that the Justices' Catholicism had *something* to do with the decision (it's never very clear what - maybe some albino priest came and told them what to do...hmmm...I'm seeing a book...) was Geoffrey Stone's post over at the University of Chicago's Law Prof blog. The post is, to my mind, a bit of an embarrassment and this post over at Mirror of Justice points out why.

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 the Hokies, My Friend

Via my friend Winston Smith---the Virginia Tech murderer's award-winning poetess/professor contributed a eulogy. Comment deferred to the comments section---it must be read on its own terms, far above our poor power to add or detract. It should be discussed, but first it needs to be shared:

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
Our own
And reaches out
With open heart and mind
To those who offer their hearts and hands

We are strong
And brave
And innocent
And unafraid

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

We are
Virginia Tech

---Nikki Giovanni, delivered at the Convocation, April 17, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sean's Insanity

Infotainer Sean Hannity is fond of the word "reprehensible" in describing the words and actions of America's left, and as his ideological bedfellow I can't resist nodding in agreement. But Sean, welcome to their club.

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.

What Embarrassment

I'm not, generally speaking, a "party" guy. (I'm not much of a partying guy, either, but that's a different story). I generally vote GOP, but unlike, say Hugh Hewitt, I'm not as engaged in making sure "my" guys win, even if I think they're simply awful on the most important issues. (So, for example, there's no way I'd vote for or lend my support to Rudy Giuliani for President). And I found the GOP leadership of Congress in the last few years a thoroughgoing embarrassment.

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.

"Diversity" Uber Alles

This story just looks atrocious. According to Inside Higher Ed, Colgate University's President is urging his departments to alter their hiring criteria so as to value "diversity" over subfield specialization.

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

Weird Man on Campus

And Terry was weird. I mean, world-class weird. He gave everyone the creeps.

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.

Grimm Fairy Tale

This column by Fred Grimm in the April 19 Miami Herald elicited my first-ever letter to a fellow columnist.

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

A Killer's Family

This essay on NRO by Jennifer Roback Morse reminds me of something that I meant to write about the other day, that is, how awful it must be for the parents of that young man. I once had a boss, a retired Navy Captain, whose son killed himself (over a girl) two days before he was supposed to graduate and get commissioned in the Navy. For a year afterwards, I would find him occasionally just sitting at his desk, staring out the window, lost in his own thoughts. There is little more tragic than losing one's child and I can't think of a worse way to lose a child than through suicide. But add to it the knowledge that your child took with him 32 innocent bystanders has to be unbelievably devastating. I don't have any idea how one could cope with that.

Librescu Libris

Where, Kathy Hutchins thoughtfully asks, does a Jew conversant in the traditions reach for inspiration in a moment when he or she is called upon to give up life to save others from death or pain? A wonderful question.

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

His Name Was Liviu Librescu

Life isn't just a matter of technique, a little more this, a little less that. Not the important things. If you were there the other day at Virginia Tech, no matter what you would have done, you would probably still die, or not. Let's stipulate that.

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.

Virginia Tech and the Cultivation of Courage

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.

Gun Control As Religion

I am just astounded: There actually are any number of supposedly serious people now arguing that the massive tragedy at Virginia Tech underscores the need for more gun control laws. How many existing laws did the killer violate? I'd guess, offhand, a dozen or more. But, sayeth the sophisticates, another law would have prevented this bloodbath. By the way, not only do the various laws fail to keep, say, cocaine out of the hands of those who want it, we seem not to be able to keep drugs out of prisons, the most controlled environments we have. We do seem to be able to keep guns away from prisoners, but do we want---or could we even manage to create even if we wanted to do so---the entire nation to be, as it were, a prison so as to keep guns away from citizens? I rather doubt it.

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."

Our Responsibilities

Read this op-ed in the NYT by Kirk Johnson, a dear friend of mine's brother, who worked in Baghdad and Fallujah with USAID. We have, it seems to me, a responsibility to those Iraqis whose fortunes have been irreperably harmed by their commitments to us and the very least we could do is to open our doors and give them the chance to reconstruct (and perhaps save) their lives. For more background on this, see this article in the New Yorker.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playing (to the) Bass

Smokin' Tom, bass player for the Van Dykes, wrote below:

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.

Weekend GOP Prez-Wannabe Report

Well, they all went to Iowa, except for Fred, who, as the only smart one, stayed home and watched NASCAR. (My man Jeff Burton with the win! Booyah!)

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...