Friday, 8 June 2007

“He’s Not Perfect, but He’s Our Guy”

This column by Kathryn Jean Lopez pretty well summarizes my feelings about President Bush.

The Rule of Law

This column about Scooter Libby is nothing more than an appeal to emotion. Libby was duly convicted of offenses—perjury and obstruction of justice—that go to the heart of our criminal-justice system. He deserves severe punishment for these transgressions. What message will be sent if he is pardoned by President Bush? That one may lie to (and obstruct) investigators if one has powerful friends? That it’s permissible to obstruct justice if one believes that the investigation is improper? Nobody is above the law. Let Libby appeal. If his convictions are upheld, he must serve out his sentence.

Environmentalism and Deontology

If environmentalists were consequentialists rather than deontologists, they would be indifferent to means. They would pursue whichever actions or policies maximized the good (by their lights). In fact, many environmentalists are not consequentialists. They care about means as well as ends. That is to say, there are certain actions or policies that they rule out, simply because of the types of action or policy they are. One such action is working with oil companies. The idea seems to be that one must not work with oil companies, whatever the consequences, i.e., even if doing so would maximize the good. While I respect deontology, this seems a self-defeating instance of it. See here.


Here is Peggy Noonan’s latest column. Here is Peg Kaplan’s latest post. By the way, I’ve never seen The Sopranos. Is it any good? What’s it about?


James Drake sent a link to this, which is pretty funny, when you think about it. By the university president’s logic, we should not live in separate abodes. People should be free to enter anyone else’s house—with or without permission.

Sally Thomas on Home Schooling

In recent years, as homeschooling has moved closer to the mainstream, much has been said about the successes of homeschooled children, especially regarding their statistically superior performance on standardized tests and the attractiveness of their transcripts and portfolios to college-admissions boards. Less, I think, has been said about how and why these successes happen. The fact is that homeschooling is an efficient way to teach and learn. It’s time-effective, in that a homeschooled child, working independently or one-on-one with a parent or an older sibling, can get through more work or master a concept more quickly than a child who’s one of twenty-five in a classroom. It’s effort-effective, in that a child doesn’t spend needless hours over a concept already mastered simply because others haven’t mastered it yet. Conversely, a child doesn’t spend years in school quietly not learning a subject, under the teacher’s radar, only to face the massive and depressing task of remediation when the deficiency is finally caught.

To my mind, however, homeschooling’s greatest efficiency lies in its capacity for a rightly ordered life. A child in school almost inevitably has a separate existence, a “school life,” that too easily weakens parental authority and values and that also encourages an artificial boundary between learning and everything else. Children come home exhausted from a day at school—and for a child with working parents, that day can be twelve hours long—and the last thing they want is to pick up a book or have a conversation. Television and video games demand relatively little, and they seem a blessed departure from what the children have been doing all day. “You know I don’t read all that stuff you read,” a neighbor child scornfully told my eldest some years ago during one of those archetypal childhood arguments about what to play. Our daughter wanted to play Treasure-Seekers or Betsy-Tacy and Tib; her friend insisted on playing the Disney cartoon character Kim Possible. Book-talk was for school, and she wasn’t at school just then, thank you.

(Sally Thomas, “Schooling at Home,” First Things [April 2007]: 9-10, at 9-10 [italics in original])

Best of the Web Today

Here. (Still no mention of immigration, which, by any reasonable standard, is the hottest story of the day. You can be sure that if James Taranto agreed with his bosses about this issue [they want open borders], he’d be writing about it. My guess is that, rather than rankle them, and thereby jeopardize his position, he’s decided to ignore it. Another possibility is that he agrees with his bosses, but doesn’t want to alienate his conservative readers. Either way, it’s hardly a profile in courage.)

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Peter W. Rodman and William Shawcross are following the traditional political script for when an unjust war goes horribly bad: argue that continuing the war is still better than defeat.

The Johnson and Nixon administrations made all the same arguments that Mr. Rodman and Mr. Shawcross now make once it became obvious that the Vietnam War was a monumental mistake.

Sadly, these arguments always fall on many sympathetic ears because of people’s basic psychological reluctance to accept defeat. The real question now is how to begin restoring the credibility we have lost.

A continued United States presence in Iraq will be interpreted only as oil theft or, more generally, as obstinate imperialism. Our only just course of action is the long and arduous task of apologizing for our unilateral aggression, offering full reparations for the human disaster we have caused, and, of course, withdrawing our military from Iraq.

Are we strong enough a nation to behave so maturely? Can we resist the instinctive obstinance Mr. Rodman and Mr. Shawcross try to incite in us?

Hendrik Van den Berg
Lincoln, Neb., June 7, 2007

Note from KBJ: Are we entitled to gratitude for ridding Iraqis of their tyrant?

Note 2 from KBJ: I’m troubled by the letter writer’s third paragraph. He seems to be saying that there’s something wrong with reluctance to accept defeat. There are two possible mistakes: (1) not accepting defeat when one should; and (2) accepting defeat when one shouldn’t. I would say that the second mistake is worse than the first. Since it’s not always clear when one should accept defeat, and since defeat is bad, shouldn’t one err on the side of forging ahead rather than giving up, especially if forging ahead makes defeat less likely? I should think that reluctance to accept defeat is a good thing, not a bad thing. Anyone else care to comment on this?

A Year Ago