Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Worst Editorial Page in America

Is there a worse editorial page writer for any major city newspaper in the United States than the one responsible for editorials at The Tennessean?

Please know that I am not criticizing the Nashville based paper for being liberal. There are certainly other newspapers with editorial pages as liberal or more so than The Tennessean. While I may disagree with those others, I can still acknowledge their ability to write or think. In fact, it is actually good that the editorial page of The Tennessean is liberal. It would not really help the conservative cause to have to defend arguments made as badly as that newspaper does. Goodness knows we have enough trouble with that already.

Anyway, today's editorial begins badly with the following statement:

The moment Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton recently announced a universal health-care proposal, the entire presidential campaign world seemed to have a heart attack.

The very moment, huh? A heart attack? Of course, I know that the writer means this to be taken figuratively, but does anyone have any idea what he is talking about? Ms. Clinton's proposal has certainly generated a lot of reaction from other candidates -- as she intended for it to, as she is now driving much of the debate taking place in both parties. While the other candidates have reacted, I am not sure that any have over-reacted, much less responded in a kind of way that could be referred to as a "heart attack."

The editorial' s second sentence says, "This is odd." Well, all of these metaphorical heart attacks would have been odd if they had happened, but they seem to be figments of the editorialist's imagination, which would make his inner thought process the thing that is odd. Does the editorial writer really find it odd that the other candidates have responded with criticisms and counter proposals? What were they expected to do? Genuflect and kiss Ms. Clinton's ring?

The third and fourth sentences of the editorial:

The concept of providing health care for every American does not start and end with Hillary Clinton. Clinton did not invent the concept of universal health care, although some seem to believe she did — whether they're for universal care or against it.

Well, now, isn't that profound? Let's see. Harry Truman favored universal health care, as did Richard Nixon. The issue has been at least a part of every presidential campaign that I have followed -- going back to 1976. It has been the subject of major reforms in Massachusetts and major reform efforts in California and other states in recent years. So, you say Ms. Clinton didn't start it? Thanks for the information? As for the statement that "some seem to believe she did," one wishes that the writer had given one example. Who believes that? Perhaps some guy out in a corn field? That would be the straw man.

After dismissing debate over Ms. Clinton's proposal as "bluster," the editorial then proceeds to lecture the presidential candidates -- none of whom will be terribly likely to read it, though the writer laments that he "hates to burst [their] bubble" -- about their alleged ignorance of a Mayo Clinic study supporting universal care. Was the existence of a study supposed to cause all to bow down before Ms. Clinton's proposal?

Then, in perhaps the most unintentionally ironic statement of all, the writer laments that this bubble bursting study "barely made a blip on the radar screen of public attention." Of course, since this study was so important and deserving of public attention, I am sure that The Tennessean featured it on their front page, along with reaction from local health care providers, insurers, employers, and health care consumers. Didn't they? Perhaps they did, but when I tried to search the newspaper's website for the story, I couldn't find it.

A newspaper complaining that an important story didn't get public attention, when the newspaper failed to run the story, is just bizarre.

There's so much more, but I think that is enough. The problem really is that this is representative of the quality of the editorial page.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chavez Shafted by The Tennessean

I learned from Volunteer Voters that former The Tennessean columnist Tim Chavez has been denied an opportunity to return to his former position after having gone through a period of disability with leukemia. Mr. Chavez was told that his position had been eliminated, although the paper has simultaneously brought in a new columnist, local talk radio personality Phil Valentine.

Mr. Chavez is being described as the paper's "conservative columnist," but the larger story of his career at the paper is more interesting. The columnist came to Nashville with fairly liberal views, especially on economic issues, and he moved rightward gradually over time. Much of his rightward movement resulted from a growing sense that the political left, while paying lip service to the disadvantaged in society, actually did very little to improve their lot.

As he moved to the right, Mr. Chavez never sought to strive for intellectual consistency as much as he tried to find political principles that would aid the people that he most cared about and that he believed liberalism had failed. Thus, his writing could be unpredictable and inconsistent at times, which had the effect of making his column more interesting. That he has been treated in this manner by his former employer is galling. That he has been replaced by a predictable, knee jerk conservative who frequently sleep walks through his shtick adds insult to injury.

Just a Random Thought

To the American left, it would seem that the fact that the President of Iran hates the United States generally and the Bush administration in particular makes him a voice that should be heard. That he denies the holocaust happened and wants to kill all Jews is inconvenient, but, well, one has to understand where he's coming from.

But, then, he denies that there are any homosexuals in Iran, so now he is a a laughingstock and a dangerous nut.

Oh, well. Regardless of how you got here, welcome to the party.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jerrrr-rrry, Jerrrr-rrry, Jerrrr-rrry, no, that Lee, Lee, Lee

I agreed with those who considered it unseemly for Columbia University to invite Iran's tyrant to speak on its campus. I also consider the "blistering introduction" by university president Lee Bollinger, in which he called the speaker a "petty and cruel dictator," the same way.

What is the point of inviting someone to campus and then trashing him during the introduction? If he was not worthy of a respectful introduction, wouldn't that indicate that he shouldn't have been invited in the first place? Was this Columbia University, or a remote taping of the Jerry Springer Show?

Monday, September 24, 2007

From All the World

D. Michael Lindsay's explanation of some of the reasons for the increasing presence of evangelicals on Ivy League campuses is interesting on many levels:

In part, this can be attributed to the growing number of Asian-American students. On many Ivy League campuses, they have come to dominate evangelical groups. At Yale, 90 percent of the Campus Crusade for Christ members are Asian American; in the 1980s, the same chapter was 100 percent white. In fact, the growing presence of Asian-Americans on elite campuses may be the single largest demographic factor in evangelicalism’s ascent at places like Yale and Harvard.

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

Bureaucratic Light's on, Nobody's Home

When planning to build an addition on to his existing home, Stephen Bainbridge recently learned that his house didn't exist, nor did his street; however, that didn't meant that he wasn't required to pay property taxes.

Read about it here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

HillaryCare: Asta La Vista, Baby

John Fund notes the similarities between Hillary Clinton's health care proposal and the one pushed this year by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Fund contends that the similarities result from the fact that some of the same advisers were used by Ms. Clinton and the governor. He also suggests those praising Ms. Clinton's political brilliance in putting forth the proposal should look at the difficulty that Mr. Schwarzenegger has had in trying to move his proposal forward. It never actually found its way into the legislature.

Of course, Mr. Fund might have added that the governor has said that he will call the General Assembly into special session. His doing so creates the enormously ironic possibility that the marginally Republican governor of California will essentially be running a legislative referendum on HillaryCare.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Interesting Contrast

"Blessed are you, when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."

Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:11, 12a)

"It made my heart sick to see people in the audience at the Emmy's laughing at Griffin's remarks....We believe, however, that as Christians, we should not accept mockery of our Lord quietly."

Russ Hollingsworth, explaining why he is trying to obtain signatures from a "million voices for Christ."

There is a long history, too often now forgotten by Christians in the west, of men and women being martyred for simply living out their faith. One would think that we could bear a few insults. Don't get me wrong: no one likes to have their most basic beliefs ridiculed, and those who love Christ are naturally offended when he is mocked. Nonetheless, I somehow think that bearing insults with gladness, as Jesus taught us, would make more of an impact on our world than just acting like another interest group demanding our rights.

Dan Rather's Latest Attempt to Make Chicken Salad from Chicken S***

When reading the comments of former CBS news reader Dan Rather suggesting that he lost his job as the result of government and corporate pressure on American journalism, one is forced to ask: is this just a desperate effort to rescue his tattered reputation, or is Mr. Rather really this stupid?

Mr. Rather, who once wrote in embarrassingly sycophantic tones for the Wall Street Journal about an interview he had conducted with Saddam Hussein, told Larry King, with a straight face, that "democracy cannot survive" if journalists such as himself are held accountable for using embarrassingly badly forged documents as the basis for a news story.

The former network news reader, who continues to stand by documents purportedly from the 70's and obviously produced by something along the lines of Microsoft Word as real, dismisses a CBS panel's review of the episode as a "fraud."

Which brings us back to the original question: is this a reflection of Mr. Rather's desperation, or his intelligence?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rather Jumps a Shark -- but its His Own Reality

Highlights of Dan Rather's oddball tenure as anchor of the CBS Evening News:


"What's the frequency, Kenneth."

Going dark for 60 seconds while protesting a CBS decision.

Ambushed and stunned by the elder George Bush bringing up the 60 seconds dark incident.

Running with a story based on shoddy journalism using obviously forged documents.

Defending said story after everyone in the world realizes that it was not merely bogus, but embarrassingly so.

And, the post-mortem: quixotically suing his former employer for allegedly undermining him after he ran said story and defended it to the bitter end. I guess CBS was supposed to follow him over the cliff.

The Loss of Legislative Competence

As I talk with regulators, lobbyists, and industry leaders around the country, a common complaint emerges regarding the current condition of state legislatures. Many of these people that I talk with contend that the legislatures in their states now accomplish less than in past years, and that they do so because there are both greater ideological divides and less institutional competence among their members.

When pundits -- whether from the blogosphere or the mainstream media -- discuss the events of the day, we tend to focus on the divides between liberal and conservative policy positions. However, much of what government does requires decision making along lines that really don't break down in that way. It is one thing to have a broad belief system as to how much health care government should provide. It is something else to actually understand how, for example, public health departments function, what their funding needs are, and how their services are delivered. To put it in another way, two politicians may divide along philosophical lines as to whether road funds should be used entirely to fill pot holes, or whether some of it should be used to create greenways. Whatever they decide, someone sheperding legislation governing transportation still needs to understand the needs of those filling the potholes, with whatever funds they ultimately are provided.

It is that latter kind of expertise -- the kind that requires an understanding of pot holes -- that critics say is now lacking.

Of course, legislators have always been subject to this kind of criticism, but the situation is arguably getting worse. Some of the blame may lie with term limits (in states that have them). I have argued in favor of term limits, and I continue to believe that some limitations are appropriate due to the need to offset the powers of incumbency, which tend to create a political class too far removed from ordinary citizens. However, term limit time frames that are too short result in a loss of institutional memory and leadership and leave insufficient time for others to come in and fill the gaps.

While term limits are an issue, I think there are two more important factors. First, the increased use of gerrymandering has resulted in the creation of ever more homogeneous ideological districts. This has tended to favor types of candidates whose primary preoccupation is political vantage point -- whether it be conservative or liberal -- regardless of what they have otherwise accomplished with or learned from their lives. Second, the metaphorical colon exam that candidates must ever more painfully endure when running for office discourages competent, successful people of all political stripes from running. If I am a successful businessman or community leader, but have some strange family members or a skeleton in my closet from 20 years ago, why should I want to have to deal with that public scrutiny?

Most public debate over issues nowadays is limited to very broad strokes. Unfortunately, it often does not get any more detailed than that in the hearing room. If the devil is in the details, then legislatures require competent people from varied fields who can provide leadership in ferreting those details out. As the public is placing less value on that capacity, it is being found less in our public bodies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond Rescue

Vice-President Dick Cheney, trying to rescue President Bush's reputation on economic management in the face of criticism by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, correctly credits the Bush tax cuts for helping to prevent the economy from falling into an extended nose dive following the 9/11 attacks. However, that is not the point on which the President deserves criticism.

While Mr. Cheney argues that spending growth has slowed, the federal budget proposed last year by the President called for spending 51% above his first budget. Interestingly, domestic spending grew as much as military expenditures over that time frame. Mr. Cheney is correct that tax receipts have grown rapidly since the tax cuts. However, that fact makes the failure to balance the budget more damning.

To defend President Bush's fiscal responsibility, Mr. Cheney would have to account for: 1) the creation, in the form of a Medicare drug program, the largest new entitlement since the Johnson administration; and 2) the failure of the President to veto a single spending bill during his 6 years in office, including unconscionable, pork-laden energy and transportation bills. This he cannot do.

Wednesday Sarcasm: Lawmakers and Lawbreakers

At the rate that they are being charged with crimes lately, one begins to wonder: who do members of Congress think they are? Players on the University of Texas football team?

Perhaps Congressmen should also wear orange to work. That way, they will not have to change clothes on the way to their weekend incarceration programs.

A Point for and Against HillaryCare

The editors of National Review are right to strenuously object to Hillary Clinton's mammoth health care overhaul; however, in the course of their argument, they say this:

For many of the sick, the Clinton plan will mean worse care. She promises to generate $35 billion in savings by insisting on “best practices” and reducing the “geographic variation in care.” These are code words for rationing. And there will be more rationing to come.

Well, yes and no.

First, in the hands of Ms. Clinton and her would-be army of Washington bureaucrats, it is likely that her program would lead to rationing health care. However, the issues raised here, best practices and geographic variations in health care, represent legitimate concerns that should be addressed by both the private and the public sectors. The Oracle, who is not a health care provider, has attended numerous health care conferences and seen the hard data regarding geographic variations in health care. As an example, workers' compensation patients in Tennessee have various kinds of surgery at far higher rates than injured workers in other states, even after adjusting for factors such as industry mix in the state, according to the studies by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute. Whether doctors are providing treatment based on evidence based medicine is a legitimate concern across the health care industry. The extent to which they are not is a little bit, well, scary.

Of course, private insurers are sometimes guilty of denying coverage for treatment for reasons having more to do with financial reasons than medical ones, and Washington bureaucrats concerned about ever burgeoning budgets are likely to worsen that problem. In addition, building a system that properly addresses medical utilization in making coverage decisions is problematic, in that even when payers do it correctly, they tend to be criticized, as consumers tend to trust their doctors more than their insurance companies.

Washington administrators leading the charge in driving coverage decisions will likely be trusted even less. That fact leads to this cruel irony. Perhaps the key issue in addressing health care costs is health care utilization. Amping up the government's role in health care will likely make it more difficult to address that key issue.

The Cowboys Aren't Always the Good Guys

Kevin Sharrington says that the Dallas Cowboys, by signing a player that makes Terrell Owens look like a model citizen in comparison, perpetuate a problem that filters down to the college level and even below. After noting that the University of Texas just has now had 7 football players arrested this year, Mr. Sharrington writes:

Anyway, in keeping with the theme of players behaving badly, today's discussion concerns news that the Cowboys have signed Tank Johnson, who can nearly match Texas' recent arrest record all by himself.

And don't think the two situations are mutually exclusive. The actions of college kids are often the natural consequence of situations like Tank's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Imposing Morality?

Statenet provides this tongue-in-cheek account of a cancelled event in Iowa:

NEVER THOUGHT WE'D SEE THE DAY, but consuming copious amounts of corn has become a no-no at the University of IOWA. As noted by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the school recently called off a corn-in-the-cob eating competition that was to be a part of the school's normal "Beat State Week" festivities that precede the annual football game against Iowa State. The reason, school officials say, is that the event would "encourage gluttony." We hear that if this one works out, sloth, lust and avarice are the next targets.

Is Living Well Worth It if You Have to Eat Like This?

I know they mean well, but just from a marketing standpoint, these lists, placed side by side, don't seem like they would be very effective in accomplishing the apparent purpose of the organization that provides them.

Foods they say you should "never" eat include specified brands of ice cream and cheesecake. The foods they offer instead include broccoli, spinach, and microwavable brown rice.

No, thanks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gambling Addiction

State governments, unwilling either to rein in spending or to collect money by legitimate means, are increasingly relying on their citizens behaving foolishly for their fiscal well-being. Statenet provides the shocking numbers:

Seventeen states now derive more than 5 percent of their total annual revenue from gambling, and it makes up over 10 percent of the revenue in four of those states: LOUISIANA (10.9 percent), WEST VIRGINIA (12.1), SOUTH DAKOTA (17.7) and NEVADA (36.6). Faced with the ever-rising costs of health care and education, as well as a looming downturn in the economy, more states could soon be joining those ranks.

Kansas will soon become the first state to actually own and operate a casino. Now, that's a legitimate state function.

The Editor Needs an Editor

The editorial in today's The Tennessean might set a record, even by that newspaper's standards, for syntactical awkwardness. I considered commenting on each oddly written sentence, but doing so would require copying so much of the piece that I could be in violation of federal copyright laws. The reader should have no difficulty identifying the copious problems, of which I will only reproduce two:

Lenders eager to capitalize on "creative" ways of getting people into houses they cannot afford is a huge problem. The flawed approach is coming home to roost in ways those lenders didn't imagine, but should have....

Gimmicks being used to get people to buy houses they can't pay for have been an example of irrational speculation.

Does anyone want to defend the quality of that writing? By the way, for anyone who thinks that I am just a critic taking potshots at the media, I would point out that I have lived in Dallas now for three months and have never held up the local newspaper to this kind of ridicule (The Dallas Morning News is actually a pretty good newspaper). The Tennessean is rather unique in that regard.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Of Course, Stating Reasonable Standards Will Never Be Politically Correct

The following statements found within this article are representative of Utopian educational nonsense, and, as such, represent thinking that is partly responsible for what is wrong with American schools generally and educational planning and assessment in particular:

"Currently, there's no universal standard for all students. All students should be able to accomplish and succeed," said Doug Wood, executive director of the National Academy for Excellent Teaching at the Teachers College of Columbia University.

Kim McClung, an English teacher at Kent-Meridian High School in Washington state, said most teachers teach to the "lowest common denominator, but they need to expect the best from every single student."

Making the Wright Right

Doug Miller notes that the repeal of the unconscionable, anti-competitive Wright Amendment did not bring about the end of DFW Airport or of American Airlines.

It did make life a lot more convenient for consumers, though.

Wahhabi Extremists and the Bureau of Prisons

Stephen Schwartz argues that the federal Bureau of Prisons has bungled its handling of a problem with Muslim extremists infiltrating its chaplaincy program:

The federal prison authorities have committed an exceptional and absurd act of blundering censorship for the same reason they permitted Wahhabi chaplains to infiltrate the system. They are bureaucrats who could not and cannot be bothered to learn enough about Islam to make sensible decisions in combating those who use religion as a pretext for extremism and terror.

Read more here.

"Systematic, Institutionalized Degradation"

Many of those who would liberalize or eliminate laws prohibiting various aspects of the sex trade often dress up their ideological arguments with sanitized revisions of reality. Bob Herbert, writing about a report on the Las Vegas sex industry, provides a helpful corrective:

If you peel back the thin, supposedly sexy veneer of the commercial sex trade, you'll quickly see the rotten inside, where females are bought, sold, raped, beaten, shamed and in many, many cases, physically and emotionally wrecked.

Start with the fact that so many of those who are pulled into the trade are so young – early 20s, late teens and younger. Child prostitutes by the hundreds pass through the Family Division courtroom of Judge William Voy, who views the hapless, vulnerable girls as victims and tries to help them. The girls he sees are as young as 12; the average age is 14.

He told me about a 14-year-old who was seven months pregnant by her pimp. She was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease, had a drug problem, was undernourished and still craved a relationship with the pimp. "These cases will tear your heart out," the judge said.

No Work and All Play

Among her interesting proposals for education reform, Dallas Hillcrest High School history teacher Sue Blanchette offers this suggestion:

•Get past the idea that school should be "fun!" What adults consider fun and what students consider fun are not the same. School should be challenging, interesting, exciting and illuminating, but not necessarily "fun." Sometimes it takes plain old hard work to master a concept. Sesame Street and other well-intentioned shows have done more damage than we realize in reducing education to sound bites. Education should not be all "drill and kill," but it is also not all fun and games. Homework is a necessary reinforcement, and the students won't learn the material as well when the parent decides that soccer practice, dance lessons or work is more important. The message that is being sent to the students is that hard work and practice are not necessary for school work.

She is exactly right about that.


If you awakened this morning with a sudden urge to know more about armadillos, see here.

The article summarizes an interview with Dr. Bill Klemm, the author of 'Dillos: Roadkill on Extinction Highway. The book evidently has a wide array of information, ranging from scientific descriptions to recipes. Connoisseurs say the meat tastes like "greasy pork."

I will take their word for it.

Supporting the Troops -- and Their Families

The Associated Press reports that ground was broken yesterday on a new, first of its kind, center in San Antonio, Texas, to support the families of severely wounded service members.

The Returning Heroes Home will be located near the Brooke Army Medical Center, which includes the army's only burn unit and a recently opened amputee rehabilitation center.

The $4 million dollar facility is being funded by private sources. For information about the facility and about how to donate, see here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Misreporting in Spanish Language Television

Leslie Sanchez points out that the Spanish language network Univision, which recently hosted the first U.S. presidential election debate in Spanish, sometimes misrepresents the positions of the Democratic candidates in order to make them more palatable to socially conservative Hispanics:

John Edwards has not taken a definitive position on abortion. Hillary Clinton's position on the issue is that "she will fight for the defense of children." And Barack Obama wants taxes to be "as low as possible."

Each of these statements is misleading, at best. Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton support "a woman's right to choose" and Mr. Obama wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts. But on Univision, a Spanish-language TV network with an average prime-time audience of about 3.5 million viewers, these and other slanted statements about the presidential candidates are commonplace.

These statements appeared on Univision's Web site, but like much of the network's reporting, they were missed by the mainstream media because they appeared only in Spanish.

Ms. Sanchez also points out that none of the Republican candidates other than John McCain have agreed to participate in a Univision debate. Republicans are fools if they blow off this demographic.

Stone Faced

Barry Horn interviewed legendary broadcaster Pat Summerall, who described his assignment during his playing days to try to steal signals from an opposing team:

When he was playing for the New York Giants, he was once assigned to keep a keen eye on the coach across the field and try to steal some signals. Summerall was dogged in pursuit of purloined information. He requisitioned a pair of binoculars and never took his eyes off Tom Landry.

Did he learn much that day?

"Not really," Summerall said. "Tom's face never changed."

The Fantasy Life of Economists

A New York Times book review of Alan Greenspan's new memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, includes this:

Mr. Greenspan described his own emotional journey in dealing with Mr. Bush, from an initial elation about the return of his old friends from the Ford White House — including Mr. Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense — to astonishment and then disappointment at how much they had changed.

“I indulged in a bit of fantasy, envisioning this as the government that might have existed had Gerald Ford garnered the extra 1 percent of the vote he'd needed to edge past Jimmy Carter,” Mr. Greenspan writes in his memoir. “I thought we had a golden opportunity to advance the ideals of effective, fiscally conservative government and free markets.”

Instead, Mr. Greenspan said, “I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions.”

That reminds me of a response I once heard to someone asking what an economist was. "An economist," it was helpfully explained, "is like an accountant, without the personality."

Friday, September 14, 2007

California Republican Ghetto Mentality

The Hill reports that California's Republican leadership, both in the state house and in Congress, is walking in lockstep in support of a ballot initiative that would change the way that the state allocates its electoral votes. If the ballot initiative passes, instead of the winner of the statewide vote getting all of the state's electoral votes, the winner of each congressional district would get an electoral vote for that district.

Republicans in California support this initiative because they believe themselves to be perpetual losers. As such, they do not believe that they have ideas with sufficient power and energy to ever turn the political tide in the state.

Given that mentality, they deserve to lose.

Watch the Acronyms

The Dallas Morning News reports that Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones revealed today that the team would use PSL's to help pay for its portion of the cost of the new stadium being built in Arlington. He did not disclose any information about the prices.

The report also relates that the Cowboys' current home, Texas Stadium, was built with the help of SOB's.

No, it really says that. I wouldn't make that up.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Richardson: I Will Only Appoint Judges Who Violate Their Professional Ethics

While in Austin, Texas, yesterday, New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson said that if elected he would only appoint unethical judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Actually, he said that he would only appoint those who specifically affirmed that Roe v. Wade is settled law, but that is essentially the same thing. It is a violation of judicial ethics for a judge to declare in advance how he would rule on cases that will come before him.

And, it is a violation of the rights of litigants, who should have the expectation that a judge will give a fair, non-prejudicial hearing to the facts of a case. Whether pro-life or pro-abortion, no one with the power to appoint judges should require them to go on the record as to how they will rule in hypothetical future cases.

This is not to say that judges do not have philosophies and known viewpoints prior to the commencement of a case. However, in saying that he will "go one step further," Governor Richardson crosses an important line. In so doing, he proves that he is not qualified to fill the role for which he aspires.

George Will Attacks Thompson Candidacy

George Will harshly criticizes Fred Thompson's entry into the race for the Republican presidential nomination as "more belly flop than swan dive." In the course of what follows, Mr. Will expends some ink on a valid criticism of Mr. Thompson followed by a cheap shot at the end.

Mr. Will, who, to his credit, has perhaps been the most persistent and vocal journalistic critic of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform scheme, rightly takes Mr. Thompson to task for both his role in advancing that legislation and his weak attempts to distance himself from that role.

However, the columnist then launches into an odd rant based on the notion that Mr. Thompson is attempting to become the "darling of religious conservatives." Mr. Will's criticizes Mr. Thompson's insincerity based on a response the candidate gave to a question about his church attendance. However, I don't recall Mr. Will criticizing Ronald Reagan's rather infrequent church attendance as evidence of hypocrisy at the time that he also courted religious conservatives.

For that matter, I have never thought of Mr. Thompson as seeking to become the unique candidate for conservatives who are religious. Indeed, there are a whole range of conservatives, religious and otherwise, who are less than overwhelmed by the other alternatives being offered. Is a fiscal conservative supposed to have a lot of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney and his Massachusetts health care fiasco? should one concerned about federalism have any great confidence in the potential judidical selections of Rudy Giuliani? It would seem that Mr. Thompson is seeking to have appeal across that entire range of disaffected Republicans.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly should know that The Oracle is a huge fan of Mr. Will's writing. However, his dislike of religious conservatives has become so vitriolic that it impairs his judgment whenever they enter even the peripheries of the picture.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Future Voters of America

Two former Congressmen, Republican William Goodling and Democrat Lee Hamilton, worry about the quality of American civics education:

How are we doing at instilling in young Americans an understanding of our political heritage, and at equipping them to think critically and participate constructively? We are falling down on the job, according to "The Nation's Report Card: Civics 2006," issued recently by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The NAEP study showed that only 24 percent of fourth graders, 22 percent of eighth graders and 27 percent of twelfth graders have a "proficient" mastery of civics. "America's school children are woefully unprepared to take their place as informed, engaged citizens," lamented Charles N. Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education.

Hat Tip: The Thicket, which has other links related to initiatives related to civics education.

"Like a Diseased Appendix Bursting...Fun Is Insinuating Itself Everywhere"

Matt Labash's description of those promoting "fun at work" is absolutely delightful to this reader:

A considerable corpus of literature on their discipline is amassing. I use the word "literature" loosely, to mean a series of often ungrammatical double-spaced sentences put on paper, slapped between festively colored covers, and sold to mouth-readers with too much discretionary income. While most business books, according to Kihn, are written on about a 7th-grade level (there are exceptions like Who Moved My Cheese? for Teens that are written on a 5th-grade level), the funsultant literature regresses all the way back to primary school. Since we all forget to play as adults, as funsultants repeatedly tell us, they seem intent on speaking to us as though we're children.

Read the entire wonderful and hilarious piece here.

Behavior that Only Partisans Cheer

A year ago a political writer well known to me penned the following:

If Republicans lose the House, it will partly be due to the reasons usually given: the unpopularity of the President and the war. However, it will partly be the result of a public that has become fed up with a Congress that spends so much time posturing that it never gets around to governing. After all, if image is everything, the interior must be hollow.

This week, as I have observed the conduct of Democrats at the Petraus hearings and have read Democratic comments regarding potential nominees for attorney general, it has become ever more readily apparent that Congress changed the party affiliation of its leaders, but not the quality of its leadership. While the American public is not as politically attentive as one might wish, neither is it as stupid as its leaders sometimes seem to think. When leaders offer soundbites and poses without ever actually seriously participating in the governance of the nation, the public will hold them in disdain, and rightly so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review: Rosen, "The Supreme Court

I just finished reading Professor Jeffrey Rosen's book, The Supreme Court: the Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America. It should be noted that marketing experts at publishing houses, not authors, create titles for books. Thus, one should not blame Mr. Rosen that the subtitle goes well beyond what the author of the book claims. Mr. Rosen does not to set out to show what personalities and rivalries helped to define America; he only attempts to explain why certain personalities were more effective than others in shaping American jurisprudence.

Mr. Rosen's thesis is that judicial temperament, more than other characteristics such as judicial philosophy or ideology, is the primary factor in determining the longstanding effectiveness of key figures in the history of American jurisprudence. In order to substantiate that claim, he expounds on four key rivalries in the history of the court: John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall Harlan and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hugo Black and William O. Douglass, and William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia. By his overview, Mr. Rosen seeks to show that the former individual in each of those pairings had a more lasting influence due to differences in judicial temperament.

There is much to be said for that thesis, but Mr. Rosen's argument is weakened somewhat by his rather elastic use of the term judicial temperament. In different situations, that term seems to be used to refer to a judge's collegiality, the ability to get along with those on the other side of a philosophical divide, a willingness to moderate positions, a philosophy that is not prone to taking extreme positions, industriousness in writing opinions, and a discipline in personal lifestyle choices. The elasticity of what Mr. Rosen includes under the heading of judicial temperament allows him to claim one overarching reason for judicial effectiveness, when in reality a number of factors come together to make one judge more effective than another.

That being said, Mr. Rosen's depictions of the various key figures that he discusses are interesting and informative. This book is very much worth the time of anyone with an interest in the court.

9/11 -- 6 Years Later

On the 6th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, the American public is deeply divided. In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the United States, virtually the entire nation, excepting a handful of peaceniks who prefer capitulation over war in every instance and the blame America first crowd, supported, at least in theory, an aggressive response against Islamic militants who opposed not merely the United States, but civilization itself. Whether such resolve remains is unclear, as the nation has divided over the question of whether the war for Iraq is an extension of that against terrorism, or a detour from it.

The first major military target following the 9/11 bombings was an obvious one: Afghanistan, in the aftermath of its war with the Soviet Union, had become a state run by terrorists and a haven for Osama Bin-Laden. Once American forces had done much to destroy key al-Qaeda targets in that nation, the eyes of the administration turned to Iraq.

The notion that the Bush administration went into Iraq solely on the basis of its possession of weapons of mass destruction is widespread now, but the argument was never quite that simple. There were numerous reasons, military and humanitarian, for concern about Iraq, with the possession by a madman of weapons of mass destruction being the most compelling. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein at one time possessed such weapons, as he used them on his own people. Nonetheless, even though the presence of such weapons was never the sole reason for invading Iraq, it certainly was a predominant one, and the failure to find them in the aftermath of the invasion was a major embarrassment for the United States.

American resolve in the war effort has been softened further as the battle has become more protracted and the American military has been asked to do something that it is not typically called upon to do. Militaries exist to defeat enemies, not to build nations, but policing and rebuilding a country is what the military has been asked to do over much of the last 4 years. In addition, much of the country was shocked by the utopianism of President Bush's second inaugural address, in which he spoke of "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny." Many Americans -- including your humble correspondent -- have long supported the importance of the United States as a beacon of freedom -- or as a city on a hill, to use the long standing metaphor. However, saying that American force and influence can be used to end tyranny takes that notion much further as an ideal than reality can support.

All of this brings us to the present, at which more Americans seem focused on the testimony of a General before Congress than on flying flags and expressing patriotic sentiments. There is a certain lack of realism on both sides of this debate -- supporters of the war insisting that the surge is working, but not realizing that they are sharing the same optimistic thoughts that they have been claiming for the last several years; opponents of the war claiming that we can just walk away from the war, without recognizing any cause for worry over American self-interest or humanitarian concerns as a result of that precipitous action.

The choices we now face are difficult, for imminent victory will not happen, and failure is still not an option. As the American public, and its political leaders, review those choices, we will learn much about whether true resolve remains in a world that will regrettably continue to be shaped by the realities made manifest on September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Leaving Local Control of Education Behind

For those educators who think that it could get no worse than the No Child Left Behind Act, Dan Lips warns that the reauthorization bill is worse. In short, greater federal intrusions combined with lessened accountability results in a burdensome statutory scheme lacking in meaningful benefits.

Not Enough to Disagree or Dismiss

Some people seem to have a felt need to hate religious people. Theodore Dalrymple describes it thus:

I once made the mistake of writing an article in as left-wing publication saying that, in my experience, the best people were usually religious and on the whole religious people behaved better in their day to day lives than non-religious once: and I wrote this, as I made clear, as a man without any religious belief.

As a frequent contributor to the public prints, I am accustomed to a certain amount of hate-mail, and can even recognise the envelopes that contain it with a fair, though not total, degree of accuracy. Of course, e-mail has made it far easier for those consumed with bile to communicate it, and on the whole it exceeds in vileness what most bilious people are prepared to commit to paper. I don’t think I have ever hated anyone as much as some of my correspondents have hated me.

Suffice it to say that I have never received such hate mail as when I suggested that religious people were better than non-religious in their conduct. It seemed that many of the people who responded to me were not content merely not to believe, but had to hate. Although I had not denied that religious motivation could motivate very bad behaviour, something which indeed can hardly be denied, I was treated to a summary of the historical crimes of religion such as many adolescents could provide who had recently discovered to their fury that they had been made to attend boring religious services when the arguments for the existence of God had never been irrefutable.

He concludes provocatively:

Perhaps one of the reasons that contemporary secularists do not simply reject religion but hate it is that they know that, while they can easily rise to the levels of hatred that religion has sometimes encouraged, they will always find it difficult to rise to the levels of love that it has sometimes encouraged.

Hat Tip: World Mag Blog

Because the One Who Pays the Bills Wants Some Say

After some rough years, Hillsdale College is doing well, according to this report by John J. Miller. In the account, Mr. Miller provides some information about Hillsdale that might serve as good advice both for conservatives seeking public funds through vouchers for private education and for liberals seeking public funding for the arts:

Worried about meddlesome bureaucrats from Lansing, Hillsdale also recently quit accepting state aid.

Hillsdale already refused to accept federal aid.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Its Not Paranoia if Everyone Really Is out to Get You

The Lone Star Times has a quick review of the week's latest and greatest conspiracy theories.

I Only Mean Swearing Off Money from Your Lobbyist Friends

While finding hypocrisy for which Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards deserves criticism is not exactly a daunting task, Alan K. Henderson has a well-stated thought about a recent expression of it:

John Edwards is telling a union crowd that he's anti-lobbyist? Isn't that like telling a crowd of children that you're anti-candy?

Indeed. Hillary Clinton deserves credit for refusing to kowtow to Mr. Edwards' populist demagoguery.

Is That the Best You've Got?

Evan at Rick Perry vs The World looked at the initial missive fired at newly official Republican candidate Fred Thompson and was unimpressed:

I read this Fred Thompson opponent-fed oppo research piece with amusement. Fred's rivals have had months to plan their announcement counter-attack, and this was the best they could come up with? What went wrong -- could the New York Times not track down any of Jeri Thompson's ex-boyfriends? How terribly disappointing!

More seriously, it appears that Fred's rivals will try to paint him as a creature of Washington. If it defines him, it will sink him, of course. But it's pretty unlikely to define him, because it's not true and the American people will see that. Non-true messages rarely work in high-profile races. Fred's certainly been around Washington for awhile -- Watergate counsel, lobbyist, Senator -- but that doesn't make him a creature of Washington.* Journalists may not understand the difference, but voters do.

No Health Care Reform in California This Year

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee writes that efforts at major health care reform in California appear to be dead for this year. While it is possible that the governor will call the legislature into a special session to address the issue, my sources are telling me that it is more likely that the issue will be negotiated behind closed doors in hopes of arriving at a solution that can be passed in early 2008.

Although both the Democratic legislature and the increasingly marginally Republican governor both supported reform, those groups divided over the means of financing it. Democrats wanted to put the entire fiscal onus on employers, while Governor Schwarzenegger wanted to fund it through a fee to be paid by doctors and hospitals. Republicans in the legislature opposed both plans, and they were right to do so. Note that the governor chose to call his funding mechanism a "fee" rather than a "tax." Tax increases require a supermajority in the state legislature, and it will not be possible to muster one. However, the linguistic gamesmanship would almost certainly be the subject of a judicial challenge should it pass.

In addition, Californians would be wise to remember an axiom from their Republican governor from 40 years ago. Businesses are not taxpayers: they are tax collectors. Imposing a tax on businesses, whether those businesses are health care providers or employers, only results in higher costs being passed on to consumers to pay the tax.

Not Far from Where I Go to Church?

The Dallas Morning News has a gossipy story speculating about where the President might move in Dallas after he leaves office. Most of the story discusses potential homes in areas near where he lived with his family before his election as governor of Texas.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

In Pursuit of Olfactory, Chemical, and Tactical Cues

Professor of Psychology Gordon Gallup proves that some people can even make a kiss seem boring:

The exchange of complex information that occurs during a kiss, in terms of olfactory cues and chemical cues and tactile cues and postural adjustment, may tap into primitive, evolved mechanisms that make a determination about instances of potential genetic incompatibility.

It turns out, in the words of the reporter, that he has a more simple explanation of the importance of a kiss: "He says the bottom line is that a good kiss doesn't make a relationship, but a bad kiss can kill a relationship."

Hat Tip: Ann Althouse

Appreciating Ability While Disagreeing on Politics

Evidently, the Seattle Seahawks' Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Strong have received exceptionally hostile reactions based on their appearance at a George W. Bush fundraiser. While the blame for that has been expressed as the result of their playing in a blue state and supporting a red state candidate, I don't understand why that should be the case.

In Tennessee, future hall of famer Eddie George was very vociferous in supporting Democratic candidates, even recording phone messages in behalf of candidates, but he remains widely loved by Titans fans. At the end of his career, fans questioned whether Mr. George's skills had deteriorated due to his heavy workload on the field, but otherwise he remained, and remains, in high regard. Partisan disagreements end not only at the nation's shores, but at the edge of the gridiron.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin

On Therapy and Therapism

Before stating "the mental health industry's dirty little secret," the blogger at Shrinkwrapped distinguishes therapy from its popular counterfeit, therapism:

The primary misunderstanding of Freud and Psychoanalysis, a misunderstanding that continues to be propagated by the forces of Therapism, concerns the locus of responsibility for our behavior. Freud's greatest insight was that to a large extent our manifest behavior is the outcome of compromises among many impulses and inhibitions, most of them unconscious, which sum and move us to action. As such, the goal of Psychoanalysis has always been to make us more aware of our hitherto unconscious motivations so that we can take more responsibility for our behavior. Therapism does the exact opposite; it attempts to relieve us of responsibility by assigning motivation and blame to all sorts of agencies (parents, society, brain chemistry) which are by definition outside the realm of our moral agency.

Read "the dirty little secret" here.

Teaching History in an Interesting Way

The Dirksen Congressional Center has published the editorial cartoon collection of former senate minority leader Everitt Dirksen, along with instructions for their use and lesson plans.

These cartoons could be a great resource for those teachers who understand that history is not just about names and dates.

And for football coaches teaching history, I would point out that cartoons rely on pictures.

Hat Tip: The Thicket

The Things We Do for Love

I rarely post about personal matters, but what the heck. The blogger at Graceless in Love has an interesting post on the games played in dating (ht: Music City Bloggers). Like the blogger there, The Oracle has never felt himself to be very adept at picking up on the hints, positive or negative, that other people seem quite readily to understand.

Nonetheless, I was interested that Ms. Graceless explained that the game of "playing hard to get" is one that inevitably works for her, when she is able to do it. I must admit that women who play that game will always lose me. In the aftermath of a rather embarrassing experience last year in which I continued to chase someone who I in retrospect know did not want to be caught, I now usually assume that if a lady doesn't seem to be interested, it is probably because she decided she is not.

'Tis a very confusing world out there.

An Overwrought Defense

Idaho Republican congressman Mike Simpson thinks that Senator Larry Craig's senate colleagues have treated him unkindly: "I hope I never stub my toe and they throw me under the bus. It kind of makes you wonder what party you want to be a member of."

Of course, it might be expected that a friend will defend a colleague from his home state. However, if Rep. Simpson really cannot discern the difference between pleading guilty to a crime as a result of an apparent solicitation of sexual activity in a public bathroom and stubbing one's toe, then one wonders how he can possibly have an aptitude for making the nation's laws.

Skepticism, not Cynicism

While acknowledging that there is valid reason for skepticism toward politicians who suddenly have a change of heart on an important issue while running for office, William F. Buckley, Jr. also argues the incorrectness of automatically dismissing candidates who do so as being guilty of pandering:

This is the season in which, quite obviously, lascivious ears tune up for hypocrisy on the part of politicians. More often than not the scorn is justified. It can’t be a surprise that politicians seeking public office will adopt positions that, they calculate, will most appeal to the voters. And it is to be expected that, if a politician changes his stance on an issue, critics will judge the changed position as being opportunistic and insincere....

Isn’t it an obligation of some kind, in a society that yields to public discourse for judgments on the law, to permit a contender for high office to change his mind on basic issues without incurring the charge of hypocrite or opportunist?

Indeed, it can and does happen. I am currently reading Jeffrey Rosen's The Supreme Court, in which two remarkable examples of this (though by judges, not elected officials) are discussed. John Marshall Harlan, a former slave owner from Kentucky, was the sole dissenter in the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson case that was later unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. One of the justices in that latter case was Hugo Black, a former KKK member from Alabama who consistently opposed segregation while on the bench.

Those pursuing elective office should not be automatically dismissed as being insincere when changing sides. However, they should be challenged to explain their thought process that resulted in their change of mind.

Too Much Scratching in Baseball

The Milwaukee Brewers, who are embroiled in a race for the playoffs with the Chicago Cubs, lost a key game last night to the Cincinnati Reds. According to the Brewers, however, it was a bug, not bad pitching, that started them on the path to an 11-4 defeat:

"It all started with a mosquito bite," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said.

Yost had been bitten earlier. In the first inning, Milwaukee third-base coach Nick Leyva saw Yost's scratching and thought the manager wanted Gabe Gross to steal third. Gross, who had doubled, was thrown out trying to steal third as Ryan Braun struck out.

"It set the tone for the night. I looked up and saw Gabe coming and thought, 'What the heck is going on?'"

The Oracle, who is travelling this weekend, is planning to spend the evening at Great American Ballpark -- if the rain stays away.

Friday, September 07, 2007

An "Opportunity to Do Something Unique"

Dallas Mavericks owner and zillionaire Mark Cuban explains why he agreed to be on Dancing with the Stars:

Because I can....When I'm 90 years old and talking to my grand kids and hopefully great grand kids, I won't be the grandparent who tells them about the things I wished I had done and how they should experience life, I will be the grandparent with tons of great stories that hopefully inspires them to live their lives to the fullest .

Read the rest here.

Better Late than Premature

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander suggests that the late entry of his fellow Tennessean into the presidential sweepstakes will be to Fred Thompson's advantage, saying that those candidates who have been laboring in the race for months already will be "less fresh" to voters.

Of course, Senator Alexander would be expected to spin the situation in favor of his former colleague. However, the argument is also a plausible one. In their quest for an early lead, the other candidates have been knocking themselves out at a time when most of the country is not yet paying attention and, in fact, resents the intrusion of the election in their lives more than a year prior to the actual event.

Most of those claiming that Mr. Thompson's late entry will have a negative impact are political junkies and pundits who live and breathe this stuff -- or whispering lieutenants of one of the major candidates hoping that saying its true makes it so.

Mom Threw Mine in the Trash

A 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card was sold last week for $2.8 million.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Locking the Door on Qualified Teachers

Harrison Scott Key has a rant regarding required training for educators:

K-12 teacher certification is a real racket. I have been hired by reputable universities to teach English, but mediocre high schools would more than likely have to turn down my application. That's because college teachers need no certification. They need degrees. And they need their peers – presumably those who are on the hiring committee and who will be working with them – to believe they have the ability and capacity to teach. But not K-12 teachers. They need to be stamped by the education industry, mainly with lots of courses in a non-subject called “education” – which includes everything from useless child psychology to useless bulletin-board making.

I agree wholeheartedly. It really irritates The Oracle -- who has a master's degree and therefore could teach courses in his field at the college level -- that he is deemed unqualified to teach high school history, though a football coach who hasn't read a book since third grade is deemed qualified.

Thank You for Your Support

For a current list of which presidential candidates have received endorsements from which members of Congress, see The Hill here.

Today, Thadd Cochran was added to the list of members supporting Fred Thompson.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Evangelical Christianity without the Christianity

An interesting article in The New Republic suggests that an increasing number of evangelicals are moving to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Though I have not seen any evidence that this is happening in any great numbers, such a trend would in some ways reflect my own spiritual experience, and therefore it is not surprising to me.

To be frank, the dominant forms of conservative Christianity prevalent in the United States today do not want people like me. Too frequently, the churches are characterized by what might be termed as evangelical Christianity without the Christianity. That is, evangelicalism is now more about a certain style and sentimentality than a coherent set of beliefs about God. And evangelical churches want people who emote. They don't care about people who think. They don't exist "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Their primary goal and measure of success involves the numbers of butts in seats.

Those factors have led me away from the Baptist churches that I grew up in -- and once held leadership roles in -- and into a rather traditional Presbyterian Church. Some of that change is theological. However, much of it results from a sense of boredom and discontent with vacuous church services featuring the ad nauseum repetition of shallow choruses and smarmy pep talks from the minister. What is lacking in modern evangelical churches is a sense of the majesty of God. The Lord now resides in the hip pocket of the one with the unfortunate title "worship leader."

Because the basic doctrinal beliefs -- when known -- of the leaders of the evangelical megachurches are fairly traditional (scripture is authoritative, Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead, etc.), many fail to notice how truly radical these churches are. Not only have they jettisoned the importance of Christian heritage, they have fundamentally altered the center of the church's mission. No longer is Christ at the center of the church's mission. People, especially those termed seekers, have replaced God as the central point of worship.

Hat Tip: World Mag Blog

The Week the Media Died

Jonah Goldberg noticed that in all of the retrospectives on Katrina last week, that there was one significant story that was not covered: "the unmitigated media disaster." Mr. Goldberg writes:

TV reporters raced to the bottom to see who could moralistically preen the most. Interviewers transformed into outright scolds of administration officials.

Meanwhile, the distortions, exaggerations and flat-out fictions being offered by New Orleans officials were accelerated and amplified by the media echo chamber. Glib predictions of 10,000 dead, and the chief of police’s insistence that there were “little babies getting raped,” swirled around the media like so much free-flowing sewage.It was as though journalistic skepticism of government officials was reserved for the White House, and everyone else got a free pass.

Of course the Bush administration made serious mistakes — politically, logistically and otherwise — in a difficult situation. But Katrina unleashed a virus of sanctimony and credulity for urban legends almost without precedent.

Reports of the Superdome being a slaughterhouse were repeated, even though dozens of news organizations had access to the building. CBS alone had 200 people in New Orleans, and yet it couldn’t find those bodies stacked to the ceiling or a single rape victim from the roving bands of Mad Max-style marauders. That’s because nobody was raped or murdered in the Superdome.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Casual Cruelty

From George Will:

Last week, there was nationwide merriment at the expense of an 18-year-old participant in a South Carolina beauty pageant. Asked a question about why many Americans might lack elementary knowledge about the world, she got lost in syntactical tangles and spoke nonsense. Although there was not a shred of news value in it, Fox News and CNN played the tape of her mortification, and by last Friday YouTube's presentation of it had generated more than 10 million hits. The casual cruelty of publicizing her discomfort, and the widespread entertainment pleasure derived from it, is evidence that standards of decency are evolving in the wrong direction.

I have long had similar thoughts about those who abuse college age athletes over decisions made in the heat of battle.

Hat Tip: Paul Mirengoff, who objected to another portion of the column

Forces for Freedom and Decency

In writing a review of this book, Michael Barone makes this important point:

The militant atheists of our time like to dwell on the religious persecutions and wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the fashionable multiculturalists of our time appear to believe that all non-western cultures are morally superior to our own. Burleigh's book is an impassioned and scholarly reminder that Christianity (and Judaism) have been forces for freedom and decency over the last hundred years, and that the Islamist fundamentalism of recent years is a force for the opposite.

Because I Should Be Allowed at Least One Humorous and Salty Post per Day....

In discussing the possibility of relationships between much older men and younger women, Dr. Helen Smith includes this exchange from Don Surber's blog:

Don asks: “A 90-year-old farmer in India became a father for the 21st time. What kind of woman has sex with a 90-year-old man? I mean, what kind of woman under 70 has sex with a 90-year-old man?”

Commenter Jeremy answers: “My kind of girl.”

Hat Tip: Michael Silence

I regretfully point out that The Oracle has had relationships with older women and relationships with younger women. The fact that I am currently totally unattached would indicate that it doesn't make much difference.

Originated Between the Species

Today's posting by The Anchoress is even more full of both wisdom and humor than normal, so the entire thing merits reading. However, here is my favorite bit of insight:

In Health Care News, animals and people are being conjoined at the embryonic level…no one in support of it seems the least bit cognizant of the fact that they themselves are making distinctions between the species thus highlighting the humanity of the human embryo, but someone will figure it out soon and then the story will get buried…


In Pursuit of Minimalism

I don't fully endorse this view, but there is much to be said for it:

When I vote in any local or state election, I vote for the candidate who I think will do the least. Not the least of anything specific, just the least amount of everything. The perfect candidate for me would be one that would walk around kissing babies. I think we have enough state and federals. We have 200+ years of making local and state laws. That's enough.

That's actually nearly the opening of a fairly well-thought out essay. The only downside: the hint of libertarianism brought out the Ron Paul loonies in the comments.

When People Should Be Left Alone

One day last week, I was at the airport. It was the day that actor Owen Wilson was fortunate enough to be unsuccessful in his attempt at suicide, and the anchor for the television network that seems ubiquitous at airports was reading a statement from Mr. Wilson in which he requested that his privacy be respected during his period of recovery. Immediately after reading the statement, the anchor -- I lie not -- looked into the camera and with a straight face declared that the network would continue to monitor the story and pass along information as it became available.

That closing sentence is a common throwaway line at the end of a news segment, and there is some likelihood that the newsman did not even notice the irony of its juxtaposition with the request from Mr. Wilson. However, the moment did serve as a reminder, once again, of the way that the American public treats celebrities as cartoon figures and derives entertainment from their emotional traumas.

Similarly, today the Associated Press is reporting that Senator Craig's children believe his assurances that he is not a homosexual. Whatever the public may think about Mr. Craig's credibility on this point, it strikes me as obvious that this is the kind of issue that the family should be permitted to resolve without the glare of the public spotlight. Of course, there was a legitimately public aspect to this story. A sitting U.S. Senator had pleaded guilty to a criminal charge that arose from some rather unseemly behavior, and his colleagues rightly demanded that he leave his position once those facts became known. All of that merits public attention. But at some point, the public's legitimate need to know ends, and the right of a person or a family to go away and figure it all out ought to begin.

Some years ago in Tennessee, a state representative was arrested after being caught fondling himself at a public swimming pool. There were children present at the time, so the crime was a serious one for which he deserved to go to jail. However, following the arrest, the man was subjected to every kind of ridicule from newspaper columnists and talk show wags. A few days later, he stuck a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

In some ways, it is surprising that the same does not happen with greater frequency. Don't get me wrong: justice should be swift when individuals are guilty of wrongdoing. Throw perpetrators in jail, and toss the key in the bottom of the ocean. Just leave aside the ridicule, and leave the families alone.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Preferring Savage to the Brave New World

Someone reading about John Edwards' proposal to force all Americans to submit to medical treatment, whether they want to or not, might be tempted to dismiss the idea as indefensible; however, defenses are being attempted. Thus, Frank Pasquale attempts to support the concept by tagging opponents with the "L word:"

[Ann] Althouse's lament is part of a more general libertarian pincer movement to erode social solidarity.

Ah, so those who oppose this intrusion on our personal freedoms are categorized as libertarians?

In the course of responding to that silly notion, Professor Bainbridge provides a needed reminder from Milton Friedman that freedom is messy business:

I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there’s something wrong, pass a law and do something about it.

That is sadly true. Nonetheless, many Americans (one begins to wonder if it is still most) would prefer to live in a world that is sometimes chaotic yet free.

Some Things Really Are Relative

A recent research study purports to show that men may be more likely to sacrifice achievement for the sake of a romantic relationship, but I don't believe it.

I've known of numerous situations where a young woman dropped pretty much everything to go where her boyfriend/husband's job situation or whim lead him. I have rarely seen it happen in the opposite direction.

Perhaps the young men in the study understood sacrifice differently than the women involved? Most of us have made the sacrifice of sitting through a chick flick for the sake of a romantic relationship. Does that count?

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

I'll Have a Screwdriver -- Hold the Orange Juice

Back in the lead up to the 2000 election, I have to admit that I practically gloated at the dim prospects of the Democrats. The President was popular and the economy was in good shape, but I was strongly of the belief that President Clinton had built much of his favor at the expense of his party (they had lost control of Congress and numerous governorships and state legislatures).

The tables have turned. The portion of the above description about a popular President doesn't apply, but the loss of favor due to short-sighted leadership, both presidential and congressional, certainly does.

Robert Novak's column today aptly gives a synopsis of recent occurrences that reinforce the depression that Republicans feel over Republican leadership. I have written in the past that my whole life doesn't revolve around politics, and it is a good thing. It is also a good thing that I don't drink. Not so far, anyway.

Spread 'Em

If Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards gets his way, every American will be forced to periodically go to the doctor whether he wants to or not. Speaking in Iowa, he said:

It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care. If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK.

Of course, preventive care is a good idea, but when Mr. Edwards says that it will be "required," one immediately wonders how the federal government would enforce mandatory check ups? Mr. Edwards is all about universal coverage, so one would think that he would consider the threat of loss of coverage to be counterproductive. Would he instead propose criminal penalties? What are the other enforcement alternatives?

So will failure to get a prostate exam be a felony or a misdemeanor under Mr. Edwards' law?

Update. Steve Bainbridge suggests that this proposal may be more "totalitarian than the old Soviet system.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I Hate It When That Happens

Rob Huddleston was excited about the start of the college football season and furious that some doubted that the University of Tennessee would win:

As the Vols prepare to take on California later today, I am amazed that every media outlet is picking Cal to win. Lou Holtz, ESPN analyst and former coaching cancer, quite honestly, should be wary of ever stepping foot in this state again.But we really should thank idiots like Holtz, because we are best when no one believes. We are best when our backs are against the wall. We are Tennessee.

In case you missed it, the final score: Cal 45 Tennessee 31

Finding Need; Creating Need

Sometimes politicians pass laws in response to public demand for change, but sometimes political rhetoric creates a a demand, or at least a greater demand than previously existed. Thus, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee writes regarding how Californians perceive their health care system:

The new Field Poll, released last week as the state budget stalemate ended and the Capitol turned to other issues, found that satisfaction with health care has plummeted from 51 percent of registered voters last December, just before Schwarzenegger launched his crusade, to just 28 percent this month, while dissatisfaction has leaped from 44 percent to 69 percent.

Where to Eat When Doing Business with the State?

Brian Weberg posts about some favorite restaurants in state capitols and invites commenters to add to the list. I hope he gets more responses. It is certainly a thread I will check back on.

Charlie Brown, You'd Better Get Your Girl

National Geographic says that redheads may be extinct by 2060. Less than 2% of the world's population has red hair.

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

Another Quote for Today

But on questions of institutional competence, who “ought” to decide necessarily depends on an “is”—on the actual strengths and weaknesses of existing institutions. That is the whole point of debates about institutional competence. Arguing that Congress ought to do things beyond its capacities is like arguing that earthworms ought to fly, even if none of them have done so lately.

-- Prof. Douglass Laycock, responding to an argument made by Prof. Marci Hamilton, who was responding to a "scathing" review by Mr. Laycock of a book she recently authored. For all of the relevant links, see Stuart Buck here.

Whatever Happened to the Content of One's Character

The unfortunate quote of the week:

He's not black and he can't represent me, that's just the bottom line. I don't care how people try to dress is up, it always comes down to race and he can't know what it's like to be black.

-- Rev. Robert Poindexter of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, addressing U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) at a meeting organized by a group of black ministers in Memphis. The organizers later apologized to Cohen for the way that the meeting was conducted.

Mr. Cohen won a hotly contested race last year for the seat previously held by Harold Ford, Jr., who left the seat in order to run an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for election to the U.S. Senate.

Hat Tip: Adam Groves

Oversight Is for Little People

At least, that seems to be the attitude of some of those running America's institutions of higher learning. For the version of that theme now running at Dartmouth College, see here.

Finding Firm Results in Straw Polls

The Oracle usually does not have much to say about the results of early polls -- straw or otherwise -- in political races, as the weekly fluctuations tend not to mean as much later as candidates and pundits try to make of them at the time. That is certainly true of straw polls taken well in advance of a race, since results are likely to say more about the amount of effort a candidate put into wooing delegates than about his or her ultimate viability. However, a few conclusions can be drawn from yesterday's Texas Republican straw poll by looking at the results in combination with other related factors.

For those who have not followed the lead up to this event. None of the major declared candidates (Giuliani, Romney, McCain) participated. Mike Huckabee originally said he would attend, but subsequently cancelled after the results of the Iowa straw poll gave him the appearance of viability. Fred Thompson also was a no-show. Thus, the vote totals of the party leaders were depressed due to their non-participation, a fact which skewed the ultimate results in favor of those who will not have any chance of winning next year.

Nonetheless, here are a few conclusions that one can take to the bank:

  1. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) worked hard and won the straw poll with 41% of the delegate votes. While his team will claim that this moves him into the pack of frontrunners, it really doesn't mean much more in the long-term than Mr. Huckabee's win in Iowa. Neither will be a serious candidate at the start of 2008.
  2. For anyone who only gets their political news from the internet and imagines that all of the noise generated by Rep. Ron Paul's rabid supporters indicates some sort of groundswell of support, it is time to get over it. Dr. Paul finished third in the race in his home state, in spite of the fact that he made an effort to bus delegates in from all over the state. His supporters at the event, many of whom evidently just emerged from hiding behind trees (those would be Birch trees), immediately declared a conspiracy to suppress the votes. One declared the results "totally wrong," adding that there were "10 times as many Ron Paul supporters here than anyone else had." Dr. Paul in reality garnered 16%.
  3. When a candidate who has not declared himself for the race and doesn't participate in the event still finishes second, that is a pretty strong showing. Fred Thompson finished with 20.5 % of the vote without putting any effort into the meeting. Other no-shows trailed badly: Huckabee and Giuliani had about 6%; Romney less than 5%; McCain less than 1%. The other interesting factor about Mr. Thompson is that he seems to be the second choice of nearly everyone initially supporting someone else. That should serve Mr. Thompson well as other candidates drop from the race down the road.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Justice Delayed

In a story that will get little national coverage, the Associated Press reports that a charge that the Texas Association of Business used funds illegally to support political campaigns in 2002 legislative races has been tossed out of court. Related charges, still pending, filed against Tom Delay led to his resignation from Congress.

Goodness knows that Mr. Delay's repudiation of what once were considered to be Republican principles (such as fiscal restraint and limited government), as evidenced by his pursuit of the "K-Street Project," makes him no friend of fiscal conservatives. It is somewhat unfortunate that this overzealous prosecution based on trumped up charges by a political opponent ultimately led to his downfall.

Straw Men and Straw Polls

As up to 3,000 Texas Republicans gather in Ft. Worth to conduct a straw poll to select a favorite candidate for next year's presidential race, Robert Paul, the son of quixotic GOP candidate Ron Paul, sought to spin the results: "If we do really well, it would show the rest of the country that the Constitution is important and that people believe in the rule of law."

For better or worse, it will show no such thing. Nor will it show widespread support for Dr. Paul in his home state. None of the major candidates have shown up for the event, but according to the report, Dr. Paul has rented buses in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin to haul in supporters for the event. A strong vote will only show that he had an effective strategy for winning a straw poll that no one else really cared about.

Being Watched

"What I heard during the [legislative] session is that some people were upset about the Big Brother idea of having cameras in use on the highways."

-- Texas Transportation Department spokesman Christopher Lippincott, announcing that the state was postponing plans to launch a pilot project testing the use of cameras to catch speeders. Initially, the state planned to mail warnings to those caught by the cameras.

Cameras are already widely used by local governments in the state to ticket people who run red lights. I heard one report recently that there are 150 intersections in the Metroplex at which cameras have been installed for such a purpose. In addition, cameras are used on tollways, which are ubiquitous in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Drivers who drive through without paying or without having purchased a tolltag are mailed notices demanding payment.