Saturday, December 10, 2005

 

That N****r Was Crazy...

...talented, tortured and damn funny.

Richard Pryor, 1940-2005.

This is one of the most
brutally honest live comedy concert films I've ever seen.

The man had a rough childhood and a painful last few years, dealing with multiple sclerosis and other health issues. But, he gave the word some truly original and biting bits of observational humor.

R.I.P.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

 

Friday & Saturday Entertainment!!!

Yep, it's short-form improv and I'm involved!!

If you're in Manhattan tonight or tomorrow and are free...come on by!!! (Oh, the beer's free too!!)

Friday, December 9th
Saturday, December 10th
8 pm

$15
(general seating)
@ Stonestreet Studios
48 West 21st Street, 8th Floor

Directed by Ralph Buckley

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Montreal Hot Air...

E-mail of the day (why I love my readers):

Why is it that the media get all over the Bush Administration for "cherry picking" intelligence over the War in Iraq, yet they perfectly accept "cherry picked" science reports over global warming? Why? Because the politicians/special interest/academics over the globe can raise money around "green house gases" (anything anti-multi national corporations is sexy) and not the around the Earth nature magnetic field (basic science is not sexy).

Even today, with the full hubbub around the
Montreal U.N. Summit -- even Bill Clinton makes an appearance -- the scientific community once again -- as it has for 150 years-- issued another confirmation that the Earth magnetic field is proceeding toward "geomagnetic reversal."

We have known for 150 years that the
magnetic poles are drifting towards the Equator. There is geological data going back centuries proving this. Scientist also know that the weakened magnetic field, which protects the Earth, allows increasing amounts of solar radiation through to the Earth's stratosphere which is burning the Earth's ozone layer. Gee, there a frickin hole over Anarctica where the Earth's magnetic field has moved from -- hello!! Less ozone -- more global warming.

This is not to say that gas emissions and urban growth from human civilization has NOTHING to do with global warming, but, damn, when are the politicians going to acknowledge that EVEN IF we ended the Industrial Carbon Age today -- the Earth will continue to get warmer and warmer? But, lets face it -- where is the fundraising pitch in that, huh? The Earth's problems are literally at it's Core -- from the increasing earthquakes, to increasing hurricanes, to increasing sea levels to increasing temperature -- it all starts with the Earth's fluctuating geodynamics. Ignorance is not bliss -- whether practiced from the Right or the Left.


Now, there's some a few good grist for the mill. Discuss amongst yourselves, boys and girls.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

Merkel-Rice Pilaf

Keeping with the theme started in yesterday's post on the new head of the UK Conservative Party, I thought to cross over the English Channel and look at Europe -- in particular Germany.

Lots of stuff going on over there of late: A contentious election produced Angela Merkel, both the country's first female chancellor and first born and raised in the former East Germany. Merkel officially became chancellor just two weeks ago, following a protracted struggle to form a government (American readers: think of the 2000 presidential election -- but with more than half a dozen parties, various combinations trading support around).

Anyway, Merkel's first challlenge was
the meeting earlier this week with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Europeans are upset about the rendition issue in principle. But in practice, it may be worse: A Lebanese-born German citizen was improperly held for five months by the CIA -- because his name sounded like the guy who was still in jail. He is now planning on suing.

Anyway, since I've only visited Germany four (or is it five?) times, I reached out and managed to corral a guest to give some insights on the current German government. So, our guest today is Jan Burdinski, a businessman I met a couple of years ago on a Berlin visit. Jan is also currently managing operator of a
libertarian think tank. I asked Jan -- who is a member of the libertarian "Frei Democrats" (FDP), and not a member of the government -- to assess Madame Merkel's debut.

Take it away, Herr Burdinski:

The coalition between [the Frei Democratic Party] and [Christian Democratic Union]did not get a majority, that is why urgently-needed reforms in social security, taxes and health care could not be approached. The media started dismantling the need for reform the next day and it was very costly for Merkel to insist on being Chancellor instead of Schröder, who got almost as many (four less) members of parliament.

So now the two big parties [conservative Christian Democrats and liberal Social Democrats] form a so-called "grand coalition" and the only thing really 'great' is the increase in taxes that they agreed upon. Merkel made a u-turn on reform policy compared to the election campaign. Normally you would be smooth in the campaign and then get tough once you are elected. Not her. The campaign was full of "blood, sweat and tears", whereas afterwards no "harmful" reforms are on the agenda any more.

Most of my friends, from any party, are quite disappointed in the outcome of the coalition talks we had. No one is satisfied and there is no vision on where to take the country. Her first "Regierungserklärung" -- like a State-of-The-Union address -- was 75 minutes of hopping from one issue to the next, arguing why what could not be done is the best for the country. Very lame. And then we went straight to Paris, Brussels and London.

[Merkel] starting in Paris in my view sends the wrong signal, though her appearance with NATO gave a strong transatlantic signal. She will get along much better with the Bush administration than the old government. Simply because Schröder and Bush did not get along too well personally. Her foreign minister was the old right hand of Schröder and was involved in all the America-bashing activities. That's a little worrying, but not too much as he seems to be very pragmatic.

On the CIA [rendition] thing: in general I have to admit, it is not well received here. Torture is nothing Germans appreciate, even when handling a terrorist. Guantanamo or flying this German Moslem into Afghanistan to detain him accidentally is not even popular among friends of the GOP here.

What gives the whole incident a nice note is the fact, that our old [Schroeder] government obviously knew about this long ago and said nothing. Steinmeier (our foreign minister) was informed about this months ago. This plays well for Merkel, she can be the good girl, who tells Rice that Germany does not agree with that. Will she get loud over this, no way.

She is a true friend of the US.
Thank you, Jan!

Since Ragged Thots appreciates its international fans, we will eagerly await further commentary from some of our other European and Euro-friendly (particularly German) readers for further perspective on Merkel and U.S.-German relations.

UPDATE: Jan's and my mutual friend Steve Clemons has some very disturbing details on Khaled El-Masri, the above-referenced innocent German kept in CIA custody.

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Twenty-Five Years Ago Today...

...the Grim Reaper forced the band to lay...

I'm a couple years younger, but like my colleague,
John Podhoretz (he in college; I in my senior year in high school), I was watching "Monday Night Football" (a cultural institution that ends in its present incarnation this year) , doing homework...when I heard the news, oh boy...

Pod had already bought Double Fantasy, John Lennon's comeback album (his songs alternated with Yoko's, which were...interesting). I don't think I had bought the album at that point, but I'm pretty sure I had the "(Just Like) Starting Over" 45 single -- and was playing it repeatedly.

It had a hook and an odd rhythmic feel that was different from anything else on the Top 40 at the time -- not in a New Wave sense either. (And God knows, I knew what the Top 40 sounded like -- Sundays found me hunched near a radio listening to Casey Kasem count down the hits.)


I hadn't been a huge Beatles fan at that point -- tho a good friend was. Janet immediately came to mind when I heard the news. Her love for everything Beatle was as obsessive as could be without being pathological (well, maybe a little pathological).

We were too young to have absorbed The Beatles when they first arrived, thus hers was not the nostalgic affection of a middle-age Baby Boomer mourning the death of an icon from one's youth. Janet was drawn to the music and immersed herself in all that was possible to know about the band, the members, everything. (A mutual friend reminded me Wednesday how Janet would -- back in the LP record days -- always listen to her Beatles records from beginning to end. She didn't want uneven wear to develop from cherry-picking through songs.)

It was too late to call her that night, but I did end up speaking with a mutual friend, Pat. We both knew that Janet would be devastated (all she had been talking about in the previous few weeks was the Double Fantasy release and the new music coming out; earlier that year, we had gone to see Elton John in Central Park. At the end of the concert, as we exited, Janet joked about whether we should just stroll over to the Dakota and see if "they" were around.)

The next day, the senior class was going to a see a local (our school was in Westchester County) production of Shakespeare. Janet's friend Pat -- who I had chatted with the previous night -- asked me if I had seen Janet.

Nope.

No one had.

We ran to a payphone and called her house. She was there and her mom put her on. Pat and I passed the payphone back and forth and convinced Janet to come to school. She got there in time to make the bus for the trip to the play ("As You Like It"? "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?). She had, of course, been crying. And she was hardly the only one upset. On the bus, the three of us, with others coming in at different times talked...about Lennon...music. Who knows what else? We saw the play and talked more on the trip back. Janet was in better spirits

In retrospect, the fierce emotions of teenagers at a certain moment in time seem almost quaint. However, that terrible moment -- which, of course, had the most profound impact on those closest to Lennon, as well as creating vast ripples across the country and the globe -- had the ironic effect of causing a good friendship to become a great friendship that still endures to this day. How many stand that test of time?

That was the impact of John Lennon's passing on a few people in a little Westchester County, New York, town. I never saw him play live and, in many ways, only got to know him postumously (I raced out and picked up multiple magazines, books and Beatles compilations -- "Blue"/"67-70" is better, in my opinion than "Red"/"62-66" -- I could get my hand on. True fact: My first Playboy was the one on the stands the week after the murder -- with a Lennon/Ono interview that issue's featured article).

A quarter-century later, the words to his most famous solo hit, "
Imagine" seem more naive and distant (and, for many, sacriligeous, to boot) than ever:

Imagine there's no countries,
I
t isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...
....

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

But I am still thankful for his imagination, inspiration and talent that created treasures for millions -- and a particularly enduring gift of friendship that remains precious to me to this day.

John Lennon, New Yorker.

I'll be listening to
The John Lennon Collection just about all day -- as I have since Wednesday afternoon.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

O'Reilly Boycotts Bush**

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON --In a rather shocking move, boisterous broadcaster Bill O'Reilly -- who for several years has been waging a quiet lonely campaign against the secularization of Christmas -- today turned his fire on President Bush and the White House.

Using unusually strong language, O'Reilly
called the president's team, "incredibly dense grinches...so infected with political correctness, so afraid somebody might complain about the word 'Christmas,' that they throw the baby Jesus out with the bathwater."

The cause of O'Reilly's ire? The White House's
decision to send out "holiday" cards instead of the traditional "Christmas" cards:

"Certainly President and Mrs. Bush, because of their faith, celebrate Christmas," said Susan Whitson, Laura Bush's press secretary. "Their cards in recent years have included best wishes for a holiday season, rather than Christmas wishes, because they are sent to people of all faiths."
O'Reilly wasn't taking the White House spin:

The federal holiday of Christmas is once again under siege this year by secular forces that want to wipe out any public display of America's Judeo-Christian traditions. And what a problematic situation this has become, especially for big business. Sears and Kmart will absolutely not mention the word "Christmas" in advertising this year. Wal-Mart will not either, along with [the White House]. The reason these operations give for avoiding the C-word is that they don't want to offend anyone by mentioning a holiday they might not celebrate. These stores believe the greeting "Happy Holidays" is more "inclusive," although I'm sure there are some Americans who don't believe in any holidays, so what about them?
Frankly, [Chief] executives who [have] banished Christmas from...advertising are insane. By doing that, they are offending tens of millions of traditional Americans who respect the Christmas season and want it called exactly what it is -- Christmas.
Mrs. Bush's press secretary declined to answer what sort of cards the First Family sends to Americans who don't believe in any holidays, but did hope that they would, "Have a nice compassionate conservative day."

The White House decision comes just days after House Speaker Dennis Hastert restored the name "Christmas Tree" to the 65-foot spruce that adorns the Capitol Hill lawn during the "holiday" season.


O'Reilly promptly announced that he was henceforth boycotting the White House gift shop:
Well, humbug...I'm shopping elsewhere. Three wise men once came bearing gifts to honor a baby who would grow up to bring a great message to the world. If corporate chieftains are not wise enough to honor that message as well, they don't deserve any Christmas cheer. Simple as that.
O'Reilly was also weighing action against the vice president's office after hearing Lynn Cheney's secretary wish caller's a "Hally Burton & a Merry New Year."



**Satire alert!!

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There They Go Again...

It had been almost imperceptible, but today's Washington Post confirmed what had seemed to be happening since shortly before Thanksgiving: After months of George W. Bush being on the defensive (essentially since mid-summer), the policy tar pit that is Iraq is once again threatening to drag down Democrats:

Strong antiwar comments in recent days by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean have opened anew a party rift over Iraq, with some lawmakers warning that the leaders' rhetorical blasts could harm efforts to win control of Congress next year.

Several Democrats joined President Bush yesterday in rebuking Dean's declaration to a San Antonio radio station Monday that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."

The critics said that comment could reinforce popular perceptions that the party is weak on military matters and divert attention from the president's growing political problems on the war and other issues. "Dean's take on Iraq makes even less sense than the scream in Iowa: Both are uninformed and unhelpful," said Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), recalling Dean's famous election-night roar after stumbling in Iowa during his 2004 presidential bid.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi's recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.

These sources said the two leaders have expressed worry that Pelosi is playing into Bush's hands by suggesting Democrats are the party of a quick pullout -- an unpopular position in many of the most competitive House races.
These words symbolize a distinct seismic shift. Following Hurricane Katrina, questions on pre-war intelligence, the indictment of Scooter Libby and the death of the 2000th American service member, Bush tumbled precipitously in the polls. But the combination of the fierce Bush-Cheney (and House GOP) pushback, a divided Democratic response plus the ever-reliable Howard Dean has again turned Democrats into Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

Republicans have been cowering for months dealing with Iraq,
Tom DeLay, Bill Frist -- not to mention Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Jack Abramoff -- and what it might mean for the 2006 elections. But, now, for the first time in quite a while, it's Democrats who are getting uneasy about next year's polls. Hey, they know what happened in 2002 and 2004 when this scenario played out -- Bush and the GOP were united with a national security/war policy that might not have been fully formed (or planned), but sounded much more confident than the message of the opposition party that sounded divided, defeatist and depressed. Democrats lost seats in 2002 and the presidential race -- again -- in 2004.

And that's why they say things like, "A year is an eternity in politics."

But, the problem is not going away. More than four years after 9/11, Democrats still have no unified response for when Republicans decide to go to the mat on national security issues. Furthermore, Democrats' worst enemy is themselves. Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are, respectively, from Vermont and San Francisco -- two of the most liberal locales in the country. If Bush & Co. have been willing to take on a clear
military hero like John Murtha over the issue of withdrawal, ya think Dean and Pelosi have the White House quaking in fear?

Shaking with laughter and gratitude before God is more like it.

Meanwhile, Democrats must be starting to get frustrated by what seems to be an interesting "Connecticut-Texas" two-step emerging between Joe Lieberman and George W. Bush. Last week, Lieberman prints an
op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining why the U.S. can't withdraw from Iraq:

We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
The next day, the president praised Lieberman during his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy:
As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."
Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally.
Yesterday, Lieberman turned around and praised Bush's speech:
Last Wednesday, the president laid out his strategy for victory in a speech at the Naval Academy and accompanying white paper. The plan, developed over the 21/2 years since Saddam Hussein's overthrow, has resulted from trial and yes, many errors. It describes the strategy, the tactics, that I saw in Iraq two weeks ago and that I believe are creating progress there.
So, what's up for today's Iraq speech -- Bush offering Lieberman the vice president spot after Cheney "retires" due to ill health?

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The UK's Tory Spelling

For several years, the UK Conservative Party has been almost as hapless as the Democrats in America. Desperate to get back into power after being stuck in the wilderness since 1997, on Tuesday, the party elected a young (39) MP to lead it in the impending post-Blair era.

I asked Fraser Nelson,
columnist for The Scotsman (reg. required), for his take:

It's "Morning In Britain" - this, at least, is the Reaganesque message coming from David Cameron who has stormed from out of the blue to become the new conservative leader. His message is not one of policy, but attitude: no more are the UK Conservatives anti-immigrant, or even anti-Labour. Here are his closing words...

"If you have a passion for positive politics, come and join us. If you want to build a modern, compassionate Conservative Party, come and join us. If you want me and all of us to be a voice for hope, for optimism and for change, come and join us. In this modern, compassionate Conservative Party, everyone is invited."

So its a political equivalent of Woodstock. I was at his launch, at the sense of optimism and energy was palpable. It was as if the Tories are being born again - that's certainly what they hope. A SkyTV Poll on voting at the next general election shows Cameron would beat Gordon Brown, [Prime Minister Tony] Blair's successor-apparent, in an election.

His strategy is to split Labour by supporting Blair (who believes in the market) in his many battles against Brown (who believes in the state). Americans come to Britain and see Blair as a Conservative. So does Cameron, which is why he has taken the radical step of saying he will vote with Blair when the mission is right.

Ladbrokes, UK bookmakers, have cut their odds on the Tories winning the next election to 6-4 -- the lowest odds for 13 years. Cameron doesn't stand for much - he has instincts, rather than policies - but he is willing to learn and is guided by a basic
principle: that "society is not the same thing as government" (this is, alas, a novel concept in theUK) and that he will place more trust and power in the hands of the people. You cant much argue with that.

Thank you, Mr. Nelson.

Interesting.

It would seem as if Mr. Cameron has learned lessons from Blair, who essentially won election in '97 by promising that "New Labour" would not undo too many of the Thatcher economic policies in his first term. To win, he had to calm a populace that was fearful that Labour would run to nationalize everything. Thus Cameron feels the need to, "first do no harm" and get the confidence of the public that the "New Conservatives" aren't planning anything too radical.

Secondly, Cameron has obviously studied George W. Bush to adopt the "modern, compassionate Conservative Party" language. It's interesting to see how that will "translate" across the pond. When first introduced in the late '90s, Bush supporters saw it as a way of transmitting that Bush was not a member of the "Leave Us Alone" coalition and recognizing that government had a role to play in
helping individuals help themselves.

Various parts of the right viewed the phrase "compassionate conservative"
somewhat suspiciously, when GWB first started using it, believing it was implicitly saying there was something wrong with adjective-free "conservatism."

Others thought it was just a euphemism for "
big-government conservatism" -- a valid point, as subsequent events have demonstrated and has been noted repeatedly and with feeling).

Meanwhile, many Democrats thought it was just a "con" -- a way for the Right
to "sell" its agenda to the media and the public (a sentiment that has persisted over the years). Post Hurricane Katrina, the Bush version of compassionate conservatism is either dead to the right, dead to the left -- or possibly making a comeback for some. Only time will tell.

But let that be a cautionary tale for the UK's right. Is it good or bad that Cameron "has instincts, rather than policies"? On the one hand, he and his party still have a few years to develop a full-fledged set of policies to lead his country. On the other hand, "instinct" is not always a perfect substitute for principle.

To end on a lighter note, and I hesitate to bring this up, but, well, someone has to. One of the things that caused the long-time Conservative Party monopoly to collapse in early '90s was the sense that the Tories were, well, um, perverts. There were a series of
sex scandals. Then, in the late '90s, the one-time great Conservative hope, former Defence Minister Michael Portillo, had his chance at the top, uh, blown, partly due to his admission to college-years alternative "experimentation".

Hasn't any Tory taken a close look at their new party leader's name?

David Cameron.

Or, alternately, "D. Cameron."

Those of literary bent may ponder the homonymic closeness of his name to a
certain work of provacative inclination by one Giovanni Boccaccio and whether it could be an omen for some "interesting" times in the Conservative Party's not-too-far future.

Stay tuned.

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Crisis on Earth-Wriston: Two Robert Georges & Questions of Identity

"Who am I and why am I here?" (And why the heck did it take so long to write this darn thing!?!?)

Not usually the first thing I think of going to a Manhattan Institute lecture. But then again, how often does Robert George get to hear Robert George speak -- after hearing various people talk about how "rare" and special is "Robert George"?

That's what was happening last week -- on an especially rainy Tuesday night in late November. The Princeton Professor Robert George was speaking on the topic of "civic education" at MI's annual
Wriston Lecture.

And I get to look forward to a whole night of introducing myself as "the other" Robert George all night. Isn’t that special?

To make matters even weirder, one of the first people I run into smiles warmly as she says, "Hi, great to see you. How's Naomi?"

I think, "Naomi?"

Oh, right. "Oh, I'm Robert George, New York Post. You're thinking of
Jason Riley. He writes for The Wall St. Journal. " (Naomi is his wife.)

At this point, most people would be mildly embarassed at making this sort of mistake and quickly change the subject. This brown-haired middle-aged attractive woman was not most people. "You and Jason do look alike; have you heard that before?" Fortunately, I was able to excuse myself as we had to take our seats for dinner.

[Two digressions: 1) For what it's worth, this is at least the third time I've been mistaken for my WSJ counterpart. Interestingly, two of them have been at Manhattan Institute events -- and on both of those occasions, concern for Naomi was the initiating statement.

2) And no, it's not all a black thing: Barely a half-hour into dinner, a lanky gentleman passes by the table. We exchange quick pleasntries. My charming dinner companion -- a self-described "Greenwich housewife" named Karen with adult children between 35 and 42 -- says, "That
Steve Moore is brilliant."

I said, "Oh no, that's the guest of honor (for tonight's purposes, the "real"?) -- Robert George. ]

What's in a name? Sometimes nothing sometimes everything. There's very little difference, fundamentally speaking, between calling a container of sweetened carbonated liquid "soda" (as many of us growing up in the Northeast did) or "pop" (as various Midwesterners or Southerners did).

On the other hand, at certain points in time, groups of people often determine that the burdens of history remain so heavy that changing the name of the group can signify a fundamental difference in how that group is viewed within society.

Thus, in 20th Century America, "Negro" gave way to "colored" which gave way to "Afro-American" which gave way to "black" which now shares space with "African American" (which, yes, dwells within a newly created generic pocket universe of "people of color").

It's easy to be dismissive over the PC obsessiveness of it all. But then again, how many of us ever actually find ourselves in a position where we examine ourselves to such an existential level that we conclude that we have to change our names to reflect a specific change of status or identity?

Well, for 50 percent of Americans -- women -- that point comes at that point of marriage, where name and identity. If a bride chooses the traditional route, she does not merely surrender social freedom for the uniqueness of the marital bond – as does the groom – but she also surrenders her name, how she has defined herself, seen herself, been defined by society and seen by society. It’s not just a transition from “title” – Miss to Mrs. In the most traditional societies, it symbolizes a girl leaving her father’s protection for the security of her husband and the home they create -- a big enough deal to signify it with a changing of the name.

But, on this rainy day in November, journalist
Robert George was to meet Professor Robert George.

In addition to his name, I've always liked Prof. George -- even though I don't always agree with him. He's more of a straightforward social conservative, whereas my own ideological leanings tend to fall in the libertarian camp (though we did show up on National Review Online the same day once -- he in an
interview and me in an article on the same issue). He is strongly supportive of an amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. I am...skeptical of most amendments -- but particularly those seeking to organize intimate human social relationships (in contrast, for example, to an amendment outlawing slavery).

But, I like the professor for precisely the topic he chose at the Wriston Lecture. It was about education -- but not simply policy/ideological issues along the lines of "school choice." Instead, George -- a conservative tenured professor at an Ivy League institution -- was telling fellow conservatives, "Don't give up on the universities...they have the students [who need to be taught]. [Good as they are], Heritage, Hudson, A.E.I. can't do it."

It sounds like an odd exhortation, but it is appropriate. Conservatives often sound too whiny when it comes to academia. On the one hand, they complain about liberal bias in the academy. Yet, when asked about where the conservatives are, they decry how conservatives are actually treated among fellow academics. In short, they sound like traditional victims of discrimination complaining about glass ceilings. Too many of them run to the protected ivory towers that are even more closed off than the ones in which their primarily liberal brethren reside: the think-tank "community."

Professor Robbie George, on the other hand, chooses to make his stand in the true academic world. He is better for it -- and the strength of his arguments are better because he encounters "real people" in a regular way far more frequently than Senior Fellow X in Institute Y. Contrary to the image that many have of today's college student, George finds that they "come wanting to know American History better" and are "bright and willing to learn."

However, he feels that the broader education system has failed students by not ingraining a full understanding of the principles and debates at the heart of the American founding. "Students have no knowledge of the philosophy of American constitutional government...It is the rare student that enters the university who understands that the true bulwark of freedom is limited government."

In short, students enter academies of higher education missing a key perception of America's full identity -- a sense of the debates that helped shape the nation's foundation. He observes that few know that Madison and Hamilton actually opposed the creation of the Bill of Rights -- out of a fear that BoR would undermine the principle of limited government.

A critic might say that Professor George is driven partly by the current ideological controversies surrounding the issue of judges and the courts. "'Who checks the courts?' is a question that students can't answer," he says. However, he doesn't belabor the point. In fact, his overall message is non-partisan. The fact is that, arguably, the goals of conservatives and liberals could well do with a regular bathing in the waters of original debate.

The professor calls for a K-12 "commitment to promote the principles of the American Founding" and the general "principle of order liberty."

"Insist upon it," he exhorts. Because, "We do students a great service inviting them into a discussion of the nation's Founding."

And keeping America' students informed has a ripple effect: "People of the world look to America as the gold standard of freedom and ordered liberty."

He quotes Madison's statement that "Only well-educated people can be a free people." He fears that a failure to follow this basic education requirement would have dire consequences: 1) Because basic freedoms are "hard-won and easily lost"; and, 2) the purpose of a "polis" (in the original Greek sense) is not merely to provide security, but to provide the conditions for citizens to lead good and decent lives.

The professor concludes, "Our posture cannot be one of complacency. Renewal and reform must be our constant endeavor...an urgent priority."

As the evening ends, Robert A. George, the journalist, asks Robert P. George, the academic: "You say we do students a 'great service' by introducing them into the conversation. Given that the culture from which they come speaks daily in terms of race, class, gender, how do you describe the nature of that conversation? Is it that the highest of man's thought happened to be created by imperfect men -- white, male, property owners -- or..."

Professor George is at his most animated in response: "The [students] are sick of hearing about race and class. They've heard it all... Construct the conversation...by recreating the circumstances...Tell them the story of the individuals who had lost freedom of speech...to worship as they wish...to peaceably assemble...and then they looked at a huge land mass with different religions, accents, and figure out how it's going to run. Once you've done that -- not even getting into the white male stuff -- you've got the students engaged. They want this conversation."

George is right -- and that passion in his answer demonstrates how profoundly he believes it.

But what he was describing was something ideologues of any stripe desperately need to learn -- the art of translation.

The educating process can be described in various ways -- teaching, training, persuading, convincing -- depending on whether the focus is student, worker, voter or "other"

But to be succesful, the process depends on the teacher first being able to deconstruct and rebuild -- marry accumulated knowledge -- "the conversation"-- to the life experience of the student.

Conservatives too often don't see this translation step -- or are wary of it. Again, it has become natural to George because he sees a value in teaching -- not just in writing, giving speeches and expounding on cable news shows. Thus, it seems to this Robert George that the other Robert George actually had two messages forhis audience last week: It is vital for the continued health of the United States of America that our young people be schooled in principles and debates of the nation's birth. But, conservatives can't just sit on their butts and hope that this happens.

Professor Robbie George was talking about the origins of the American experiment -- and the nation's continued existence in its current identity. But, in doing so, he may have forced conservatives to consider their own. They will have to ask that important question, "Who am I and why am I here?" Engaging themselves, they may realize the importance of engaging the future leaders of the world. Conservatives -- or their younger peers -- will eventually have to surrender the safe conveniences of the think tank world; they must go back to the universities to make this renewal possible.

If the conservatives have the courage of their convictions, that's a battlefield that must not be abandon.

Amazing the things that come to mind once one is forced to think about what's in a name.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

Now We Know Why They Call Him "Randy"!

Great! L'Affaire Cunningham isn't just about POLITICAL whoring...

Remember the good old days? When Democratic scandals were about sex -- and Republican ones were about money? Admittedly, Bill Clinton, "New Democrat", blurred the distinction during his administration's eight years.


However, we now see that the Republicans are doing their part on the other side.

Or doing each other's parts...


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Monday, December 05, 2005

 

Random Weekend Sports Observations...

1) NCAA Football: Combined score of games featuring the Number One and Two teams in the country: 136-22. One of those games involved a "conference championship" match-up and the other was a throw-out-the-records-it's-a-crosstown-rival game.


Gotta love that parity thing.

Hunch: USC beats Texas by at least ten points in The Rose Bowl. Why? Well, USC destroyed a fairly good UCLA team on Saturday -- with the reigning (though not for long) Heisman Trophy winner having a bad game. Texas winning depends on the Longhorns taking out Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and "other" running back Lendale White. USC winning depends -- partly -- on the Trojans taking out Vince Young. What's more likely?

2) National Football League: The teams with (or tied) for the best records after twelve weeks are Indianapolis (12-0), Cincinnatti (9-3) and Chicago (9-3). For what it's worth, all three teams have African-American head coaches (including the Bears' Lovie Smith).

(And, yes, the Jets' Herman Edwards proves that mediocrity is an equal opportunity employer. Arizona's Dennis Green and Cleveland's Romeo Crennell are the other two.)

What does it mean? Not necessarily a whole lot, but given that just a few years ago, the NFL only had one black head coach, the success that these teams are having -- and the record total of six black coaches is a sign of some major progress. The ideal, of course, is that we reach a point when no one notices race when a coach is fired or hired. That moment may not be hear yet, the NFL appears heading in the right direction.

On a related note, Kansas State hires Virginia's offensive coordinator Ron Prince to become its head coach. Prince becomes one of four black head coaches in Division 1-A college football (including UCLA's Karl Dorrell, who was on the wrong end of that 66-19 pasting by USC).

UPDATE: Ah, got to learn to go with my first instinct! I originally listed Seattle as having one of the top four NFL records -- and that three of the four top teams had black coaches. Somehow, when I wrote that, I gave the Seahawks one more loss than they had. Well, obviously, Monday night's game showed just how impressive the 10-2 Seahawks (coached by Mike Holmgren) really are. Of course, the Giants should have beaten them a week ago...

UPDATE II/CORRECTION: Oh, of course, this is actually Bears coach Lovie Smith's second year -- despite what I originally wrote above! Thanks everyone who pointed that out. This is the last time in a while that I will be doing any football blogging...

Um, EXCEPT to to say that everyone should get off Tony Dungy's back on whether he should rest is starters once the Colt's clinch the division and home field advantage through the playoffs. How about waiting until it actually happens before everybody gets on their "he'd better force all of his players on the field." In short, Dungy should coach in a directly contrary way to the instincts that have helped him direct the Colt's greatest season in decades? So, the rules that say you protect your players in order to win a championship should be sacrificed for "perfection"? And if they finish 16-0 and Peyton Manning rips up his shoulder with 20 minutes to go in the sixteenth game, thus dooming their playoff chances?

Real smart.

Grrr....

(Okay! No more football blogging this week.)


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