Mirsky reviews a new book about the life of John S. "Jack" Service, a former State Department "China hand" who ran afoul of Joseph McCarthy's hearings after being charged with passing secrets to communist Chinese sympathizers.
Service's story is an interesting one. He really did believe the United States should support Mao Tse Tung over Chaing Kai-Shek and, as the new book confirms, he spoke all too freely with communists and fellow-travelers. Service, who finished his career teaching at Berkeley, was celebrated in the last decades of his life as another unfortunate victim of McCarthyism and the Red Scare.
But Mirsky reveals something that is explosive, if true, and would seem to undermine the conclusion of anticommunist historians Ron Radosh and Harvey Klehr that Service was essentially a dupe but ultimately innocent of espionage.
"If what he told me near the end of his life is true," Mirsky writes, "the word treason no longer seems misplaced."
Certainly the question of "Who lost China?" has some bearing today on the how America battles Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and Asia. Read Mirsky's piece, as well as Klehr's recent review in National Review, and draw your own conclusions.
Technically, the second decade of the 21st century doesn't begin until January 1, 2011. But that chronologically correct distinction* was obliterated in 2000, and so now come the reflections on the Decade That Was. Here is a pretty good, appropriately irreverent entry from The Telegraph's Toby Young:
If the past 10 years had one defining characteristic it was that they allowed human beings to give full expression to their yearning for chaos, one of their darkest unconscious desires. It was the decade in which people’s appetite for destruction became almost insatiable.
* Culturally, of course, "decades" neither begin nor end on their official calendar dates. The '80s, for example, really began in 1982 and ended in 1991. The "Noughties" arguably began on September 11, 2001 and ended last year, with the financial collapse. We're now living in the New Age of Austerity, the Freelance Era, the Silver Age of Irony, or the Twilight of the Old American Order -- take your pick.
(Those are all my terms, by the way -- you're welcome to use them, but you owe me 7.5 cents every time you do.)
(Via Iain Murray on Twitter.)
Ben Stein has a charming piece at the American Spectator about his recent visit with some Marines at Camp Pendleton.
"They had the kinds of faces you used to see in Jimmy Stewart movies, all-American faces, white, brown, black, Asian, but all smiling, all eager to do something for their country," Stein writes. "They did not have the kind of conniving, weasel-like faces I usually see around me in Beverly Hills. They looked like straight shooters, in a word. I guess they are, since every Marine is a rifleman."
Steven Hayward has a short-ish op-ed in Sunday's New York Post that sums up the "Climategate" scandal beautifully.
The piece is a nice abridgment of Hayward's 6,000-word take on the Climate Research Unit e-mail row that appeared last week in the Weekly Standard.
Wow! Did you catch this on Conan O'Brien? William Shatner is brilliant, as always. But Sarah Palin isn't too bad here, either. The transition is a little awkward, but it's a fine bit of comedy. "What made T.J. Hooker's character so interesting...?" Watch to find out. Good stuff.
I'm up to my eyeballs in California land-use regulations, so I didn't actually listen to President Obama's speech in Oslo today and just read it quickly. I haven't quite digested it enough to have an opinion, but I see that Joel played off of Justin Paulette's analysis at NoLeftTurns. I think Joel is a bit to quick to dismiss "just war" theory, what with its centuries-old intellectual pedigree and all.
I do think Daniel Drezner's post-speech challenge is worth highlighting, however:
A contest for readers: pour over the speech and look for evidence suggesting Obama favors the following approaches:
• Neoliberal institutionalism
• Social construcivism
• Democratic peace theory
• Feminist IR theory (I think it's there, but you have to squint)
• Human security
It's easy... and fun!!
The Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll seems to have noticed the same thing, but offers a more dour take: "What comes first — freedom or peace, interests or values? For those with a taste for textual deconstruction, President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech offers ample opportunity."
Jules Crittenden, rarely one to play coy, praises the speech with faint damns: "Maybe, like Nixon going to China, it takes an Obama to make the defense of freedom acceptable. I wonder what happened to him in that Situation Room. Hard, inescapable dose of responsibility?"
Even Commentary's Jennifer Rubin found much to like: "But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics... It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House."
Obama is no neoconservative, and just as it was too early to hand him this rather overblown "honor", it's still too early to say whether this administration is waking up to reality. As always, I recommend anything and everything Angelo Codevilla has to say about foreign policy generally, and Obama's foreign policy in particular.
This is an apple-booze-related post only tangentially, I realize, but I had to pass it along. Ian Knauer -- a "chef, country boy and former food editor at Gourmet" -- writes at Salon today about what may be the greatest culinary marriage since prosciutto hooked up with asparagus: Cider-bourbon braised bacon.
First step, find a thick chunk of slab bacon. You'll have to go to a butcher for this. When you do, ask them for the thickest chunk they've got. The amount is up to you. How much bacon do you eat? A lot? Then get a lot. Just make sure it's all in one piece...
Knauer goes on to show and tell how it's all done. And if the process of merging apples with bourbon and bacon sounds rather involved, well, consider the results: "The bacon can live in your fridge for a month, but it won't last that long, because it's just about the best thing you've eaten." How could it not be?
(Hat tip: Crywalt)
"The skills required to maintain a happy harem take practice, patience, and a bit of internal discipline, not unlike perfecting one’s golf game," advises Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Call Girl and its sequel, Diary of a Married Call Girl. Funny thing is, those are the same skills required to maintain a happy marriage. And, challenging as that can be, it seems much less complicated -- and far more honorable -- than either golf or "harem management" to me.
(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
Michael Steele, one of the greatest in a long line of Republican disappointments, had an awkward exchange with the insipid Mike Barnacle on Morning Joe today.
Politico reports on who said what to whom and why:
...Steele got into it with MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle who, in discussing health care, asked, "What are you people for?"
"You people?" Steele asked. "Who are you people?"
"The Republicans, what are you for?" Barnicle responded.
Laughing, Steele -- the first African American chairman of the RNC -- said, "Mike, I just wanted to you define the pronoun baby, that’s all.”
“Oh, come on,” Barnicle responded.
(Hat tip: Memeorandum.)
My friend Doug Bandow has a provocative article on National Interest Online about Switzerland's vote to ban new minarets on mosques. Bandow believes the vote violates the religious liberty of Muslims living in Switzerland. But he also believes that Muslims living in nations that violate the rights of Christians are in no position to criticize the Swiss.
Indeed, as Bandow demonstrates, the loudest protests have come from countries where Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities suffer varying degrees of discrimination and even persecution.
"Switzerland is a beacon of liberty and reason compared to the Muslim nations," Bandow writes.
It's about the Article II prerogatives of the executive branch. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The Obama administration has asked an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing former Bush administration attorney John Yoo of authorizing the torture of a terrorism suspect, saying federal law does not allow damage claims against lawyers who advise the president on national security issues.
Such lawsuits ask courts to second-guess presidential decisions and pose "the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military's detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict," Justice Department lawyers said Thursday in arguments to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Other sanctions are available for government lawyers who commit misconduct, the department said.
(More from Harper's here: "Indeed, this has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations.")
Joel will almost certainly disagree (and perhaps soon find himself exploring the mysteries of Taoism), but this is a wise strategy on the administration's part. Quite simply, what goes around, comes around. And when it becomes potentially criminal for lawyers to offer candid advice to presidents -- even bad advice, even morally reprehensible advice -- then it becomes more difficult for presidents to carry out their constitutionally prescribed duties. We have ways of correcting the excesses of policy without sending people to jail -- as Joel and I will discuss with University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone on the podcast this weekend.
If you peruse Memeorandum, you might have seen this odd post by a blogger named Suzi Gablik titled "Why I'm Not a Liberal Anymore." Right... what's all this then? A Charles Johnson in reverse? Not exactly.
The stuff coming out of "progressive" mouths is all too often on a par with Glenn Beck's abusive rants--both sides (right and left wingers) playing thousand-pound national football with the President as the ball--meaning, kick kick kick, until you bust his dick. This truly makes me sick. (It's meant to be the rhyme from hell.)
Yes, there is some wicked rhetoric in the fever swamps of the left-o-sphere. And...? Turns out, Gablik is upset with her friends and fellow travelers on the left-side of the political spectrum who have lost faith in the Hope and Change that Barack Obama promised. If liberals can turn so quickly on the president, Gablik seems to be arguing, then she doesn't want to be a liberal anymore. (I don't think Gablik would be a fan of Joel's, although he clearly hasn't given up on the president altogether yet.)
So, if Gablik isn't a liberal anymore, what is she?
The answer is I'm a Taoist, even though there isn't a political party yet that goes by that name. And now I can add that I'm also "three in the morning"--which means, in considering both sides of a question, I'm willing to follow two different courses at once. And I'm really glad to have a president who is brave enough and willing to do exactly that, too.
Is there anything in Gablik to be admired? Not really. She slams Beck for "abusive rants," yet what did she write last October?
Palin's cultivated malice almost makes the KKK look untutored.
So much for consistency. And who exactly is Gablik? An art critic with a penchant for grandiose abstraction:
A new paradigm of an engaged, participatory and socially relevant art is emerging . . .
Within the modernist paradigm under which I grew up, art has been typically understood as a collection of prestigious objects, existing in museums and galleries, disconnected from ordinary life and action. . . .
Many of the beliefs about art that our culture subscribes to, that the problems of art are purely aesthetic and that art will never change the world, are beliefs that have diminished the capacity of artists for constructive thought and action. . . .
As many artists shift their work arena from the studio to the more public contexts of political, social, and environmental life, we are all being called, in our understanding of what art is, to move beyond the mode of disinterested contemplation to something that is more participatory and engaged. . . .
Verbose nothingness, the familiar incantation of buzzwords -- "paradigm," "socially relevant," "participatory" -- that function primarily as signifiers of membership in the intellectual ranks. And now, because some liberal critics have turned their guns on Obama, she decides that HuffPo is coterminous with liberalism, and therefore she is not liberal.
Remember this next time somebody tells you conservatives are anti-intellectual morons.
On McCain's last point, it's fair to say conservatives have our own crosses to bear. And God knows we've had our share of family squabbles lately. (This is nothing new, of course. Just look at all the people with whom Harry Jaffa has done battle over the decades.)
Our friends on the left, many of whom count themselves as members of something called the "reality-based community," apparently believed all of the things they said about George W. Bush. That was a mistake. I read somewhere that elections have consequences. That they do. One of those consequences is governing. Governing is not the same as campaigning. And although the majority party might wish the vanquished would just step aside, shut up and let the president have his way, that's just not the way it works in a democratic republic. Almost one full year into Obama's presidency, the idealists who saw Hope and Change realize that he is a politician after all, and politics has limits.
Conservatives might do well to remember that, too. For the moment, however, I'm content to sit back and watch if Taoism stages a comeback.
It's the largest such symposium I've ever seen from Claremont. When I used to put them together, I was lucky to get six or seven contributions. This one has 28! (Glad I kept my suggestions short.) John Kienker, my friend and successor as managing editor of the Claremont Review of Books, reports that this year's list includes
144 around 140 books*, 6 audio books, 7 pieces of music, and two television shows.
I think there is something for just about everyone on it -- including Chris Rywalt and Khabalox -- so check it out.
* Four books repeat.
If I had a dime for every time I looked at some boneheaded policy prescription or egregious piece of legislation and asked, "What are those idiots smoking?" I'd be rich enough to run for governor of California.
Turns out, some guy in Lake Arrowhead didn't realize that was a rhetorical question and wrote up a ballot initiative that would require state legislators to submit to annual drug and alcohol tests.
If passed, any lawmaker who tests positive for drugs or "habitual use of alcohol" would need to complete a substance-abuse program before resuming his or her public duties. Failing a second drug test would result in expulsion from the Legislature.
There is no danger that this initiative will pass, however, let alone make the ballot for voters to reject. The Press-Enterprise reports that the measure is "a long ways short of the nearly 434,000 signatures it needs by Thursday's petition deadline to qualify for the 2010 ballot." This despite plenty of favorable publicity from the John and Ken Show on KFI in Los Angeles. (Have these guys lost their touch or what? Did they ever have it?)
According to the P-E:
(Initiative backer Gary) Ellis said he has no proof of chronic substance abuse among the Legislature's 120 members.
Rather, he saw the initiative as an exercise in democracy, getting lawmakers' attention and avoiding the use of paid signature collectors.
It didn't work.
That's direct democracy for you. But it makes me wonder if we shouldn't force some ballot initiative petitioners to submit to drug and alcohol tests instead? Next year is shaping up to be a wild one for kooky ballot measures, even if they fall short on signatures -- from John Marcotte's "satirical" divorce ban to
Gene Glen Simmons' initiative that would impose criminal penalties on politicians who "knowingly and intentionally (make) a false statement of material fact."
Honestly. What are these idiots smoking?
The Sacramento Bee just launched a feature that lets you search the voting records of every California state legislator: "Wondering how often your legislator broke party ranks, abstained or switched sides? Enter the last and first name of the lawmaker you're researching to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it."
The Web page lets you search by ZIP code and includes a helpful link to the Legislative Council's guide to legislative terminology, although your searches are limited currently to the 2009-10 session. Still, it's a fine start -- and a more user-friendly tool than the Legislature's own site for keeping a closer eye on how your state senators and assembly members may be representing you.
Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well.
Running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.
In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
There is much more to it, of course. Rasmussen, who has been tracking what he calls the Political Class/Mainstream divide since the beginning of the year, notes that "Among the Political Class, not a single respondent picked the Tea Party candidate. However, among those with populist or Mainstream views, 31% prefer the Tea Party, and 26% are undecided. Twenty-three percent (23%) pick a Republican candidate, and 19% are for the Democrat."
Duke Hefland of the L.A. Times has a predictable story today about the American Humanist Association's campaign to promote secularism during this month of religious holidays. I say "predictable" because, of course, such "offbeat" and contrarian features are more likely to get into print than articles about this or that denomination's efforts to minister to the sick, the homeless and the lonely during this season. According to the story:
The group, consisting of atheists and others who say they embrace reason over religion, has launched a national godless holiday campaign, with ads appearing inside or on 250 buses in five U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco starting today. The placards depict smiling people wearing red Santa hats with the slogan: "No God? . . . No problem!"
Just as predictably, some religious organizations think the atheists' $40,000, five-city ad campaign amounts to... (sigh)... "an assault on religion." Hefland does his best to sample the reactions of Catholics, Jews and Muslims. I found myself wincing at the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, nodding at Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and feeling my eyes widen at the pronouncements of Imam Muzammil Siddiqi.
Now, Joel and I tackled the "war on Christmas" for the Scripps-Howard column a couple of weeks ago. "All most people want is to say "Merry Christmas" without a bunch of politically correct Grinches and litigious Scrooges getting bent out of shape," I wrote. "We've traveled a long way to reach this absurd point in American life."
Indeed we have. But the American Humanist's ad campaign doesn't bother me one bit. First, because it doesn't seem to be aimed at anyone other than co-relig... er, fellow skepto-agnostic-Americans. They're preaching to the converted, for the most part, and trying to reassure the faithless that doubt is indeed safe. (As if there was any doubt about that.)
Second, because the ads betray a certain insecurity. As the Times story notes, "Humanist leaders say the... ad campaign... is meant to counter a barrage of religious messages during the holiday season, letting free-thinking atheists and agnostics know that they are not alone." Well, no kidding. Is the American Humanist Association worried that 30 days of incessant department store sales, 987 covers of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night," and the odd broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life" will lure their members into the embrace of monkish superstition or evangelical Christianity? Dawkins forbid! Seems like the opposite would be more likely.
Although my own faith isn't what it used to be -- and that may well be an understatement -- I've never understood the weird, embattled sense of entitlement espoused by some atheists and agnostics. Is it the idea that so many people believe "nonsense" that grates? As if secularists aren't prone to irrational flights of fancy. I realize that it's impossible to simply "live and let live," but the Christmas season was so much more pleasant and peaceful when people swallowed their personal grievances for a flawed but nevertheless greater good.
If the holidays are supposed to teach anything, regardless of whether or not you are a person of faith, it's that it isn't about you. If you drop the "faith," you're still left with "hope" and "charity" -- and two out of three ain't bad.
Today is the 68th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. For decades, "Remember Pearl Harbor" served shorthand for reminding Americans to be ever-vigilant against threats foreign and domestic, to ensure that we would never again be caught off guard by a scheming enemy. That changed on September 11, 2001. The lessons learned -- or not learned -- from both days of infamy haunt us still.
The Detroit Free-Press today publishes a story about the struggle on behalf of the dwindling number of Pearl Harbor veterans to keep the memory of that day alive.
The article, "Another generation's 9/11 lives in infamy," highlights the stories of a few of the men who were there and still live to tell the tale:
Vincent Rosati, 89, of Macomb Township was a Navy gunner's mate aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix, one of several battleships moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island. A retired Stroh Brewery Co. employee, Rosati said the element of surprise was the most striking similarity between Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
"At Pearl, we should have known better, though," he said. The war had been raging for more than two years by December 1941. "It seems like every generation has to learn the hard way through bloodshed," he said.
"The lessons of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are that someone's always out to get us and we need to be on the alert," said Francis Rogers, 87, of Westland, a retired donut shop owner who was an Army Air Corps gunner on Oahu that morning.
Nathan Weiser, 93, of Dearborn was an Army Air Corps mechanic and radio operator stationed on Oahu when the attack occurred. A retired owner of an iron and metal business, Weiser said, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about people forgetting about Pearl Harbor."
Bill Muehleib, national vice president of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said approximately 4,600 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are still alive. Muehleib acknowledged concerns from some veterans that the nation will someday forget, but he said he believes those fears are misplaced.
I'm not quite as optimistic as Muehleib. Constant vigilance is impossible. Memories are short. Ignorance is bliss. War might have been foreseeable in 1941, yet most Americans went about their daily lives largely unconcerned about the bloodshed and conquest on the far shores of Europe and Asia. Most Americans in the 1990s paid little mind to the threat of radical Islam, and few people knew the name Osama bin Laden before 2001.
What's remarkable today -- and what contrasts our 9/11 from their 12/7 -- is how little most Americans know or understand about the war we're in. The effort to link our current enemy to the old one -- "Islamonazis" or "Islamofascists" -- has not resonated beyond the listening audience of certain radio talk show hosts. And the debate about what to do in Afghanistan has only confused the issue further. Who the hell are we fighting and why? Is this war ever going to end? And what does victory look like?
Even more remarkable is the failure to draw the right lessons from the respective attacks. The myth that America had been totally surprised at Pearl Harbor formed the basis of the rationale for creating the Central Intelligence Agency. The failure to "connect the dots" leading up to 9/11 formed the basis for the rationale for creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But more bureaucracy and insularity hasn't protected the country or made its leaders any more intelligent or capable. On the contrary, our foreign policy decisions are as mushy-headed as they have ever been.
There seems to be a lesson in there somewhere, if only our wise statesmen would choose to heed it.
Update: Here is Rick Moran on Pearl Harbor and the "mystic chords of memory":
Where does Pearl Harbor fit into our historical consciousness today? We like to take “lessons” from history but in truth, this is nonsense. The currents and eddies underlying the historical tides on which we are but reluctant passengers are too complex, too obscure to glean what we might commonly refer to as “lessons” to be learned from historical events. In this respect, Pearl Harbor was the culmination of decades of history; the rise of Japan as a westernized imperial power went back to the turn of the century, for instance.And from the moment of the opening of Japan in the middle of the 19th century, the prospect of a collision between their imperialist ambitions, and our own commercial empire building in the Far East was virtually assured.
Nothing is ever as easy as it appears as far as history is concerned. And that’s why it is easy to fall into a “false” historical consciousness when it comes to events like 9/11 or even Pearl Harbor. Rather than history teaching us anything, it is far better to have it inform us, animate our spirit, and act as an undergird to our most closely held beliefs and values.
The old Saturday Night Live, Chris Rywalt writes, "is actually much, much worse than we remember. The current season only seems like a severe drop in quality. The show has actually always sucked."
Rywalt, as usual, isn't entirely wrong. But he isn't quite right, either. (And vice-versa.) In more than 30 years on the air, Saturday Night Live has produced many gems. Think of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys, the Samurai Deli, Gumby, Willie and Frankie, Billy Crystal's Joe Franklin Show bits, Ebony and Ivory, Chris Farley's Motivational Speaker, The Sinatra Group, "More Cowbell." Think of those great ad parodies like Schmitt's Gay and Bad Idea Jeans. But a show that has 90 minutes to fill also produces a lot of unfunny garbage. How many sketches have we seen over the years that went on for six or seven minutes with few laughs and lame endings?
Andy Samberg's digital shorts are exemplars of the best and worst of Saturday Night Live currently. I'm a big fan of Samberg's humor-laced brand of Jewish hip-hop. As good as those videos are, however, there always seems to be something that strikes a sour note. The Taser punch line in "On the Ground" doesn't quite work for me. And there is something about Shy Ronnie's "accident" that falls one or two degrees short of funny to me, even though the ending is terrific.
Subjective? Well, in matters of taste there is no argument, as the sages say. I believe I'll have another potato chip.
Sarah Palin on Thursday told radio talk show host Rusty Humphries that the provenance of Barack Obama's birth certificate is "a fair question, just like I think past associations and past voting record — all of that is fair game."
Well... ain't that a gas? AllahPundit at Hot Air writes: "Something for (almost) everyone here: For the left, smoking-gun proof that she’s a fringe character, and for Birthers, smoking-gun proof that their concerns are mainstream."
And how. Joel Mathis is so upset, in fact, he's threatened to eat some baronial linen fine art paper.
Moments before, responding to the question of whether she would "make the birth certificate an issue" if she ran, Palin said: "I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue ’cause I think there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers."
Allah again: "It’s the same thing as Truthers saying that all they’re doing is 'asking questions.' The answers have already been provided; they just reject them because they’re married to their conspiracies."
Meantime, Pajamas Media's Rick Moran, whose work I'm liking more and more lately, utterly destroys Palin's assertions:
No, it is not a “fair question.” It is a silly, stupid, ignorant question. No, “the public” is not making this an issue — only looney tune numbskulls are pursuing it. No, there aren’t “enough (whatever that means) members of the electorate who still want answers.” Only a small subset of the entire electorate cares.
By even entertaining the question the way she did, Palin has lent some mainstream legitimacy to a fringe theory. Doing so doesn't help her chances at anything other than winning the goodwill of nutters. And, indeed, her stake puts every Republican elected official on defense. Writes Moran:
(S)he is now going to force every GOP candidate for the House and Senate to come out and declare whether they are birther nuts or not. Even if they’re not, being forced to answer in the first place makes the party look even kookier than it has to this point in time. You can bet Democratic opponents of Republican candidates will be asking whether they agree with Palin or not — and they will do it every chance they get. The press will gleefully repeat the question, no matter how many times the GOP candidate answers it.
That is correct.
Joel and I dispensed with the Birther business in a Scripps-Howard column in August. I wrote:
Every calorie burned and every neuron fired on the subject of President Obama's birthplace -- yes, contrary to what you might have heard Alan Keyes say, he is president -- is energy better spent elsewhere.
It is energy not spent opposing the president's very real policies. Congress is busy debating a $1 trillion health-reform bill that would fundamentally change the way Americans get medical care, and yet some Americans would rather argue over Obama's certification of live birth.
Why? Because of the fallacy of "if only." If only we can show that Obama is constitutionally unqualified to be president, it would all just go away -- the crazy socialized medicine schemes, the cap and tax energy legislation, the suicidal debt increases, the ridiculous posturing to Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, all of it.
If only politics were so simple. Forget the fringe. Obama isn't going anywhere. But his agenda presents conservatives with real opportunities to craft and articulate sound alternatives. Conspiracy theories, like the poor, will always be with us. But they don't win elections.
For her own part, Palin revised and extended her remarks on Facebook under the headline "Stupid Conspiracies":
Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I’ve pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point – not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews – have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.
If the conspiracy theories are as stupid as Palin says, she ought not do her part to fuel them. By the way, notice how well parsed her last sentence is. Very deft. And who could be against regular folks asking questions...?
Joel tweets: "It's fun to watch the media ponder 'the meaning' of Tiger's transgressions, as though it had any meaning at all."
Yep. I've done my level best to avoid the "coverage" of this "story." (Could I possibly work any more sneer quotes into this post? We'll "see.") I just can't get worked up about it. Until a few moments ago, I could barely muster even an iota of amusement.
But then Jonah Goldberg posted this video of a Chinese TV news story, complete with computer reenactments of the events leading up to the "accident."
It's a "riot."
When I was co-moderating RedBlueAmerica.com, I had an excellent intern/editorial assistant/researcher by the name of Charles Johnson. Charlie -- or Chas, or Chuck -- is an industrious and entrepreneurial student at Claremont McKenna College who blogs at the Claremont Conservative. Though a man of the right, Charlie interned for Alan Dershowitz... in high school. In his short but illustrious career, Carlito has worked for Scripps-Howard, Amity Shlaes, the Kauffmann Foundation, and the Claremont Institute. I told Chuck not too long ago that I'd be working for him some day, and I wasn't kidding. He's going places.
My Charles Johnson, in other words, shouldn't be mistaken for this Charles Johnson. He's not going anywhere.
A man who considers Robert Stacy McCain to be a "fascist" doesn't know what fascism is. (Update: McCain replies to Johnson.) A man who believes opposing abortion is akin "throwing women back into the Dark Ages" doesn't understand history or the present. A man who believes Hot Air and Ace of Spades are redoubts for "raging hate speech" debases the language. A man who conflates the tea party movement with the birther conspiracy has parted ways with his judgment and taken leave of his senses.
I don't begrudge Johnson his success, his reach or his influence. Then again, until I saw his post linked from Memeorandum earlier tonight, I hadn't read his site in months.
These are strange, unsettled times in our politics. The Republicans are struggling and the Democrats are dispirited and confused. The old left-right, conservative-liberal paradigm no longer seems adequate to the task of explaining or understanding where we stand or why vote the way we do. But I would not recommend conflating or confusing Johnson's peculiar prejudices, eccentricities and self-absorption with the political independence many Americans now embrace. His constituency is a cult. Once you understand that, it's easier to see the service Johnson has done explaining why he's "parted ways with the right."
Put another way: I wouldn't go to the wall for Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or a particular Charles Johnson.
Joel and I tackle the so-called "War on Christmas" in this week's Scripps-Howard column. Joel thinks the whole business is a construct of the theocon-Fox News-Industrial Complex, and urges everyone to chill out. I think the whole business is a construct of ACLU provocateurs abetted by lily-livered bureaucrats, and urge everyone to chill out.
It's the least plausible column we've done in quite some time.
I have a new op-ed in Friday's Sacramento Bee about the folly of Race to the Top, which is the Obama Administration's futile exercise in imposing innovation on the schools from the top down. Because if at first you don't succeed, spend hundreds of billions over four decades until you can claim some semblance of success. (Save your wisecracks about America's misadventures abroad, please.)
My piece is a rebuttal to The Bee's Sunday editorial urging the Assembly to pass legislation that would make California eligible for up to $500 million in Race to the Top grants. The Bee argues that the money could help patch over the state's horrific budget situation.
Well, sure it could -- for about a year or so. One of the problems with Race to the Top, like so many other reforms that emerge from Washington D.C., is that the mandates they create last forever.
But that isn't the only drawback. My piece could just as easily be a rebuttal -- albeit indirectly -- to the commentary that appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal under the byline of Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner, and Eli Broad. The authors worry that the feds are "being pressured to dilute the program's requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform."
I argue that those reforms in and of themselves are inadequate to the task. What fundamentally ails the schools isn't a lack of competition or accountability -- although those are surely disabilities -- but what E.D. Hirsch has called the anti-curriculum ideology. So more charter schools won't help if they're using the same curriculum as the traditional public schools, for example.
I'm pretty sure that the Legislature will come through at the last minute anyway, with predictable results: "But if history teaches anything, it's that these mad dashes for dollars amount to little in the long run. Just look at the expensive results of Title I, Head Start, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. In five years, when we're debating the next great reform initiative -- call it 'Speed to Success' -- it's a fair bet we'll ignore the wreckage of Race to the Top as well."
One last thing: Good grief, I really need to get a new headshot. I've lost weight since that photo was taken. And I've got the Leninesque facial hair now. In all, I come off as a goober, when I should really look more like a bookish thug.
My favorite Thanksgiving story involves a drunken man, his son, a plate glass window, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. This year, the Los Angeles Times recounts tales of Thanksgiving excess from local emergency rooms.
“If you thaw a turkey wrong or cook a turkey wrong ... it’s an opportunity for turkeys to get even with the human population.”
No, not football. The immortal WKRP turkey drop episode, of course...
What are you thankful for? Because, really, it doesn't get much better than this...
Here's our posts from last year, and a year or two before. This stuff never gets old. The moral of this story? You can't trust the system. Also, don't deep fry your turkey, no matter how enticing it looks on Alton Brown. Do brine your turkey before roasting, however.
And give thanks you aren't any one of the turkeys in those videos. (No, I don't mean the birds.)
Update: Steve Hayward makes it look soooooo easy. No fireballs, explosion, shrieks of alarm or anything. Worst. Video. Ever.
The American Enterprise Institute's Nick Schulz shares a graph depicting the percentage of cabinet officials since 1900 with prior private sector experience. It includes secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, but excludes others, including Postmaster General, Secretaries of the Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. In all, 432 cabinet secretaries are represented.
Schulz observes: "When one considers that public sector employment has ranged since the 1950s at between 15 percent and 19 percent of the population, the makeup of the current cabinet—over 90 percent of its prior experience was in the public sector—is remarkable."
Here is Edward Skidelsky writing about "words that think for us" in Prospect:
As a society, we strive to eradicate moral language, hoping to eliminate the intolerance that often accompanies it. But intolerance has not been eliminated, merely thrust underground. "Inappropriate" and "unacceptable" are the catchwords of a moralism that dare not speak its name. They hide all measure of righteous fury behind the mask of bureaucratic neutrality. For the sake of our own humanity, we should strike them from our vocabulary.
There's more. It's brief, and well worth reading.
(Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily)