Friday, February 27, 2009
On this day:

John Henry Newman on Lent

At First Things.

Thursday, February 26, 2009
On this day:

Allan Bloom

Many of us fear that something has gone drastically wrong with our culture today, and we suspect that a small but influential group of intellectuals - mostly on college campuses - might have had something to do with it. Not because they are intellectuals, but because their egos have so often outweighed their ideas.

Professor Allan Bloom shared our fears and validated our suspicions. If you're a conservative who bristles at the charge that conservatism is innately "closed-minded," but you struggle to muster up a credible defense against the charge, you might want to check out Bloom's best-selling book, The Closing of the American Mind. It's even more relevant today than when it was published in 1987. Or if you're a liberal who wants to become unmired from the swamp of intellectual heresy that surrounds you, it would probably do you some good, as well.

And some of Professor Bloom's lectures are accessible on this Youtube page. (They're heavy on philosophy, so if that's not your thing...)

Flannery O'Connor

Author Brad Gooch talks to John J. Miller about his new biography of Flannery O'Connor - one of my favorite short story writers.

A D.C. House seat: an "unconstitutional ruse"

From the editors of National Review:
Congress is on the verge of granting the District of Columbia statehood on the cheap: This week, lawmakers in both chambers are debating a scheme to give the District a permanent seat in the House of Representatives. The bill in question violates the plain meaning of the Constitution and should go no further.

A Republic, if you can keep it

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty-five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

- U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2.
One needn't be a strict constructionist to see that the Constitution's language is indisputable here: the U.S. House of Representatives is to be composed of members chosen by the people in each of the states, of which there are exactly fifty. The District of Columbia is not one of them.

Even so, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are poised to give D.C. a seat in the House and to grant its occupant the same privileges as every other member of that body. Aggression against the Constitution has rarely been so bold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
On this day:

A suggestion

Instead of reading the stimulus bill, we should all read (or re-read) the Federalist Papers (available online here or through Amazon here for a mere $7.95). It's 900 pages shorter, a heckuva lot cheaper, and much more stimulating.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
On this day:

Obama's address

Since today - Mardi Gras - is commonly viewed as a day of indulgence, I can only hope that tonight's speech signals Our President's intent to give up bullshit for Lent.

Monday, February 23, 2009
On this day:

Repeal the 17th Amendment

George Will is on board (H/T Southern Appeal):
A simple apology would have sufficed. Instead, Sen. Russ Feingold has decided to follow his McCain-Feingold evisceration of the First Amendment with Feingold-McCain, more vandalism against the Constitution.

The Wisconsin Democrat, who is steeped in his state's progressive tradition, says, as would-be amenders of the Constitution often do, that he is reluctant to tamper with the document but tamper he must because the threat to the public weal is immense: Some governors have recently behaved badly in appointing people to fill U.S. Senate vacancies. Feingold's solution, of which John McCain is a co-sponsor, is to amend the 17th Amendment. It would be better to repeal it.
Before the 17th Amendment was ratified, U.S. Senators were appointed by their respective state legislatures, giving state governments a direct role in the federal government and thereby providing an essential check against the majoritarian impulses of the popularly-elected House of Representatives. In providing for this delicate balance within the national legislature, the founders sought to guard against a "tyranny of the majority" and the grave threat it posed to individual liberty and state sovereignty.

The idea that more democracy necessarily equates to more freedom is one that was rejected outright by the framers of the Constitution. We would do well to heed their warning. The Constitution was crafted not to impose majority rule, but rather to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

Sunday, February 22, 2009
On this day:

Happy Birthday, President Washington

President George Washington, the Indispensible Man, was born on Feb. 22, 1732.

Sunday funnies

Are you jinxed or did you have it coming?

A new form of eugenics

Pope Benedict issues a prescient warning.

These slopes are slippery, folks. Surely we are experienced enough now to know that. Aren't we?

Friday, February 20, 2009
On this day:

Clinton to the Norks: Stop acting like children

Pretty much. I'm not sure how much the North Koreans will like that message, but I think it's a clear signal to friends, foes, and in-betweens that U.S. policy with respect to North Korea hasn't changed.

The New York Times has more on Clinton's trip to Asia here, here, and here.

The pro-New Deal "consensus"

It just isn't there.

The "Chicago Tea Party"

Let's go. Chicago's nice in the summertime.

Thursday, February 19, 2009
On this day:

Persecuted over a parody

The New York Post has issued an unnecessary and unwarranted apology for its "controversial" cartoon.

I don't know what the Post's cartoonist had in mind, but when I first saw his cartoon, I immediately thought of this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
On this day:

Aid and comfort?

Google Earth is a neat piece of technology, but in addition to raising privacy concerns, it is proving to be an invaluable intelligence tool for America's enemies. Change for the better?

Is it just me, or is the Alabama news site even more difficult to navigate now than it was before its recent "upgrade?"

Best basketball story of the year

I'm not a big fan of basketball, but Michael Lewis's story in the New York Times about Houston Rockets's forward Shane Battier is a great read.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
On this day:

The Animaniacs sing about the Presidents

Pretty good:

Monday, February 16, 2009
On this day:

Reuters: "Obama to lift ban on stem research soon"

The story is as deceitful as the headline. Truth is, there is no federal ban on stem cell research in general or even on embryonic stem cell research in particular. There is only a partial ban, put in place by President Bush in 2001, against providing federal funds for that form of stem cell research that involves the killing of human embryos. This National Review symposium on the subject, published just after President Bush's speech outlining the policy, considers its details and potential ramifications.

Here are the first few paragraphs of that Reuters story...corrected:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will soon issue an executive order lifting an eight-year ban [on federal funding of] embryonic stem cell research imposed by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, a senior adviser said on Sunday.

"We're going to be doing something on that soon, I think. The president is considering that right now," Obama adviser David Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday."

In 2001, Bush limited federal funding for [embryonic] stem cell research only to human embryonic stem cell lines that already existed. It was a gesture to his conservative Christian supporters [and others] who regard embryonic stem cell research as destroying potential life, because the cells must be extracted from human embryos [,which are destroyed in the process].

See, wasn't that easy? With those few minor modifications, we have a fair and balanced news story instead of a propaganda piece.

The enemies of Jim Crow

Jeff Jacoby notes that legally-enforced segregation was by no means universally supported in the post-Civil War South.

I don't know about you, but today I'm celebrating George Washington's Birthday

Presidents' Day? What's that?

Sunday, February 15, 2009
On this day:

Hope and change

After this year's portion of President Obama's "stimulus" package is all spent up, I dearly hope that there's enough loose change scattered around the floors of the Treasury building for Secretary Tim Geithner to hire a tax preparer.

The Vatican on Darwin

Lessons learned:
Evolution and creation pose no opposition to each other, but rather they show themselves to be complementary.

- Father Marc Leclerc, professor of Natural Philosophy at the Gregorian Pontifical University of Rome

The New York Times on indulgences

The Catholic Encyclopedia states clearly what they are not:
To facilitate explanation, it may be well to state what an indulgence is not. It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt which the sinner owes to God. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer's salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory. The absurdity of such notions must be obvious to any one who forms a correct idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches on this subject.
Apparently, no one at the New York Times took the time to read that, or else the many errors that appeared in this article last week wouldn't have made it past the editor's desk.

Saturday, February 14, 2009
On this day:

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hopefully, yours isn't Ronery:

"I'm Hen-e-ry the VIII, I Am"

Sing along to the famous Herman's Hermits song while learning who Henry VIII's wives and offspring were:

Friday, February 13, 2009
On this day:

U.S. to Russia: We'll slow down European-based missile defense in return for help with Iran

This diplomatic initiative by the Obama administration is precisely what needs to be done at the moment to put a brake on Iran's nuclear ambitions and to improve U.S.-Russian relations. Very encouraging. I only hope it succeeds.

How the Alabama delegation voted on the stimulus package

Six of Alabama's seven U.S. Representatives voted "No" on the American Indebtedness Act of 2009, including Democrats Parker Griffith (AL-5) and Bobby Bright (AL-2). Artur Davis (AL-7) provided the Alabama delegation's only "Yes" vote.

Modern economics from Calvin and Hobbes


Lessons from the Swedish Chef

The Swedish Chef making a donut:

Kinda resembles the Democrats making a stimulus package.

Bill Clinton: We need "more balance" on the airwaves

From Politico:
Even though no member of Congress has scheduled hearings on the Fairness Doctrine, it remains on a hot topic on both liberal and conservative shows.

Today, radio host Mario Solis Marich asked former President Bill Clinton if it was time for "some type of enforced media accountability."

"Well, you either ought to have the Fairness Doctrine or we ought to have more balance on the other side," Clinton said, "because essentially there's always been a lot of big money to support the right wing talk shows and let face it, you know, Rush Limbaugh is fairly entertaining even when he is saying things that I think are ridiculous...."

Clinton said that there needs to be either "more balance in the programs or have some opportunity for people to offer countervailing opinions." Clinton added that he didn't support repealing the Fairness Doctrine, an act done under Reagan's FCC.
Rush Limbaugh IS balance, Mr. President.

Lincoln at 200

Rick Brookhiser comments on why Lincoln still has such a hold on our minds.

Thursday, February 12, 2009
On this day:

Abraham Lincoln

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday - a fitting time to read or re-read the Lincoln-Douglas debates that were held in 1858 during the Illinois race* for U.S. Senate. You can find the text of those debates here.

* It may be a misnomer to call that contest a "race," since in 1858 U.S. Senators were still chosen by the state legislatures.

Remembering Charles Darwin

Today is the 200th Anniversary of Darwin's birth. As my dad used to point out in his high school biology class, faith and reason are not polar opposites. They are two sides of the same coin, joined together by a common love of truth. And so Darwin's theory of evolution shouldn't be viewed as an affront to faith, but rather as an admirable attempt to answer the "how" of our existence. It has never been so proud as to attempt to answer "why."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
On this day:

Stimulus: A history of folly

James K. Glassman doubts that President Obama's stimulus package will be any more effective than its predecessors, and quotes F.A. Hayek:
If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.

On prejudice

All of us hold certain prejudices - some that are reasonable and some that aren't - but it's only when we act on them unjustly or intemperately that it becomes a problem for others.

The young lady in the CNN story I mentioned two posts back obviously had a prejudice against Southerners. Had she left that unspoken - or had she at least not acted on it - there would be little cause for offense. As it stands, I think she and her sponsors at American University owe the good people of Arab, Alabama a contrite apology.

Social welfare: a threat to individual liberty

When people become dependent on government assistance for their material well-being, their business becomes our business to a much greater degree than if such assistance were not offered. Consider the case of the California woman who recently gave birth to octuplets. No doubt the popular outrage that has already been unleashed against her will only grow as taxpayers get clued in to the fact that they will bear the financial consequences of her decision:
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A big share of the financial burden of raising Nadya Suleman's 14 children could fall on the shoulders of California's taxpayers, compounding the public furor in a state already billions of dollars in the red.

Even before the 33-year-old single, unemployed mother gave birth to octuplets last month, she had been caring for her six other children with the help of $490 a month in food stamps plus Social Security disability payments for three of the youngsters. The public aid will almost certainly be increased with the new additions to her family.

Also, the hospital where the octuplets are expected to spend seven to 12 weeks has requested reimbursement from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, for care of the premature babies, according to the Los Angeles Times. The cost has not been disclosed.

Word of the public assistance has stoked the furor over Suleman's decision to have so many children by having embryos implanted in her womb.

Now, imagine a society in which all of us - or most of us - are as dependent on government as Ms. Suleman and her children are. Or in which all companies depend on government as much as those who are currently on the receiving end of federally-provided bailout funds. Some would call such a society "progressive," but progressive for whom?

Government is intrusive enough when it exercises those duties that are intended to preserve liberty. (See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 for one listing of such duties.) How much more intrusive will it become if we grant it powers which by their nature stand opposed to liberty?

Confronting prejudice in Arab, Alabama

From CNN:
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Hailey Woldt put on the traditional black abaya, expecting the worst.

The last time she'd worn the Muslim dress that, with a head scarf, covered everything but her face, hands and feet, she was in Miami International Airport, where the stares were many and the security check thorough.

This time, she was in a small town called Arab. Arab, Alabama, no less.

"I expected people to say, 'What is this terrorist doing here? We don't want your kind here,' " said Woldt, a 22-year-old blue-eyed Catholic, recalling her anticipation before stepping into a local barbecue joint. "I thought I wouldn't even be served."

Instead, Woldt's experiment in social anthropology opened her own eyes. Apart from the initial glances reserved for any outsider who might venture through a small-town restaurant's doors, her experience was a pleasant one.

And so it seems that the real prejudice here was not held by those rural Alabamians who were the subjects of this delusional academic experiment, but rather by those who conducted it. Those of us who actually live in Alabama aren't the least bit surprised.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
On this day:

Praising Charles Darwin

February 12 would be Darwin's 200th birthday. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, writes:
One of the things that mars our culture is the fracture between faith and science. It impoverishes our inquiry into the realities that make up our life and world. This is a false opposition.

If we see the two as fundamentally opposed - science endangering and undermining faith, or faith obstructing knowledge - then distortions are produced on both sides. For example, some Christians argue for “Young Earth Creationism” or Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolutionary theory. Creationism is the belief that the biblical stories of Creation as described in the Book of Genesis are literally true.

Is genuine Christianity obliged to adopt any of these positions? No, it is not. Belief in creation is not equivalent to any one of them. It is a mistake to treat the theology of creation in the Book of Genesis as a scientific textbook. It does unfold a profound and valid truth about the world in which we live, its order and purpose. The Book of Genesis speaks about the relationship between God and creation and especially about the place of humanity in that relationship. That wonderful narrative of creation offers us a first vision of an “ecology of holiness” in which every material and living thing has a place and its creativity is consecrated in goodness by God. The account of creation in Genesis is pointing us beyond the question “how?” to the question “why?” Ultimately, science as well as faith must come to that most fundamental of all questions: the question of meaning and purpose.

Well said.

Later, the Cardinal makes an interesting point that is often lost in this debate: that creationists and ID'ers aren't the only ones to draw false conclusions from Darwin's theory. And as luck would have it, there's a good example of that in today's New York Times:
Darwin also had the intellectual toughness to stick with the deeply discomfiting consequences of his theory, that natural selection has no goal or purpose. Alfred Wallace, who independently thought of natural selection, later lost faith in the power of the idea and turned to spiritualism to explain the human mind. “Darwin had the courage to face the implications of what he had done, but poor Wallace couldn’t bear it,” says William Provine, a historian at Cornell University.
Now, I don't know whether Darwin really thought that one consequence of his theory was that "natural selection has no goal or purpose" or whether the Times is putting words into his mouth. I suspect the latter, since Darwin was a very smart man who was not inclined to make that type of logical error. While the ultimate goal of natural selection may not be discernable through the scientific method, Darwin's theory certainly doesn't exclude the possibility that a Creator had some purpose in mind from the moment he set the process into motion. As Jim Manzi wrote: "[The Discovery Institute's John G. West] claims that Neo-Darwinism asserts 'that the evolution of life was an unplanned process of chance and necessity.' While some scientists may say that, there is no such scientific finding."

Monday, February 09, 2009
On this day:

Milton Friedman on capitalism and "greed"

Professor Friedman takes on Phil Donahue and delivers a knockout:

The only point that Friedman didn't make that I wish he would have is that acting in one's economic self-interest does not necessarily constitute "greed," since greed is characterized by an intemperate desire for wealth and riches.

Friday, February 06, 2009
On this day:

NYT: Japan's Big-Works Stimulus is Lesson

The New York Times had this timely and surprisingly balanced piece yesterday on the results of Japan's decade-long experience with fiscal "stimulus." An excerpt:
Japan’s rural areas have been paved over and filled in with roads, dams and other big infrastructure projects, the legacy of trillions of dollars spent to lift the economy from a severe downturn caused by the bursting of a real estate bubble in the late 1980s. During those nearly two decades, Japan accumulated the largest public debt in the developed world — totaling 180 percent of its $5.5 trillion economy — while failing to generate a convincing recovery.

Now, as the Obama administration embarks on a similar path, proposing to spend more than $820 billion to stimulate the sagging American economy, many economists are taking a fresh look at Japan’s troubled experience. While Japan is not exactly comparable to the United States — especially as a late developer with a history of heavy state investment in infrastructure — economists say it can still offer important lessons about the pitfalls, and chances for success, of a stimulus package in an advanced economy.


Because all economies have performance issues:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009
On this day:

Constitutional conservatism

The Hoover Institution's Peter Berkowitz's has an excellent essay on the topic.