I leave you this fine evening with an essay by James Wolcott.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Between now and 4 November, any criticism of Barack Obama, however gentle and on whatever topic, will be met with the accusation “Racist!” It is designed to intimidate. Don’t be intimidated. Practice saying this: “I don’t discriminate on the basis of race; I discriminate on the basis of values. I would be happy to vote for Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, or Condoleezza Rice. Would you? If not, then you see why I’m not voting for Obama.” You might also point out that Sowell, Thomas, and Rice are all black, not merely half black. This will make your interlocutor’s head hurt. Progressives aren’t known for having supple minds.
4-30-88 Saturday. I’m young enough to feel (and occasionally act) like a teenager, but old enough to notice cycles that occur during my lifetime. For instance, short hair on males (even flattops) is back. This was popular during the 1950s, but not during the 1960s and 1970s. Miniskirts, which were all the rage in the 1960s, are back in fashion. I’ve also noticed a resurgence of movies and television shows with military themes. Recent movies about war include Apocalypse Now and Platoon (both of which I saw and both of which deal with Vietnam), while a number of militaristic television serieses [sic; should be “series”] have begun. Right now, there are serieses [sic] entitled China Beach, Supercarrier, and Tour of Duty. I haven’t watched any of them, but I read about them in the newspaper from time to time. Americans, it seems, once again have an appetite for war.
This is an interesting social phenomenon. During the Vietnam war, people were bombarded daily with images of death and destruction. I’ve heard that casualty figures became a staple of the evening news diet. Every evening, at dinnertime, Americans were confronted with the reality of war. Those who didn’t have a loved one die probably knew someone who did. Naturally, when the war ended in the early 1970s, people wanted to forget about it. They wanted to focus on family and career, not the containment of communism. But many of today’s young people don’t remember the scenes of carnage on the evening news. To them, war is glamorous and exciting; it’s a macho activity that blends adventure, power, patriotism, and pride. Television and movie producers, realizing this new audience for war subjects, have given them to us. To those who are nostalgic about Vietnam (and there are many), the movies and serieses [sic] are welcome. To those who never experienced war firsthand, they are high drama. To those, like me, who study and criticize popular culture, the trend is ominous. I fear that there will be a new machismo in our society and that some leader—George [Herbert Walker] Bush, say—will take advantage of it to “spread democracy” throughout the world. I hate to say it, but a large segment of society is ready for another war.
4-29-88 . . . The Baltimore Orioles finally won a game. Yesterday the Os lost their twenty-first consecutive game at the beginning of a season, setting the major-league record. Now they’re 1-21. It’s hard to believe. In my lifetime, the Orioles have been one of the most successful teams, never finishing near the bottom and often winning the divisional title. Just five seasons ago (1983), the Orioles won the World Series. But they’ve hit bottom. A Baltimore disk jockey stayed on the air for over 200 hours waiting for a victory; there are Oriole jokes going around; and Oriole memorabilia is selling like mad—nationwide. The Os are the laughingstock of baseball and the sports world. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve never liked the Orioles, though I have nothing against their current manager, Frank Robinson. Strangely, Robinson replaced Cal Ripken, Sr, when the latter lost his first six games. What did Robinson do? He went on to lose another fifteen in a row! That should tell you something about managing. Teams win and lose in spite of their managers, not because of them. [The Orioles have not been to the World Series, much less won one, since 1983.]
To the Editor:
“Informal Style of Electronic Messages Is Showing Up in Schoolwork, Study Finds” (news article, April 25) :
While it is understandable that writers of e-mail and text messages find it quicker to write in lowercase, I hope that this practice will not carry over to more formal business correspondence and essays.
Using capital letters to start sentences is similar to indenting, or doublespacing, to indicate paragraph divisions. The practice makes it easier for readers to move through a piece of prose.
As a reader, it is harder to keep one’s place, or to locate a key passage, if one is faced with a large block of words. If writers stop using caps, the next step may be the elimination of spaces between words.
As a former teacher of writing and rhetoric, I emphasized that writers should be sensitive to the needs of their audience. Keeping caps in standard English is one way of showing concern for readers.
Kathleen C. Kern
East Setauket, N.Y., April 25, 2008
Progressives are turning on Jeremiah Wright. Not because they disagree with him, but because it’s now clear that he’s hurting their golden boy’s presidential prospects. Ain’t politics great?
Addendum: Anyone who didn’t know what “throwing someone under the bus” means now knows what it means, for what Barack Obama just did to Wright perfectly exemplifies it.
Addendum 2: I’m not merely being cynical when I say that progressives don’t disagree with Wright. I have reason to believe it. Follow along: If the editorial board of the New York Times really disagreed with him, as it says it does, it would have published this editorial opinion the day after the video of Wright appeared on YouTube. What accounts for the delay? My theory is that the board came to see how much the video is hurting Obama.
Addendum 3: Notice the sly attempt by the editorial board to blame conservatives (including John McCain) for the harm Wright is doing to Obama. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? Some harm is self-imposed, and this is an instance of it. The mere fact that conservatives benefit from Obama’s Wright problem doesn’t mean they’re responsible for it.
Addendum 4: Just for old time’s sake, watch this. It gives you a real good feeling about Obama, doesn’t it? Please don’t say that it’s Obama, rather than Wright, who is running for president. That Obama would have anything to do with this vile cretin speaks volumes about him.
Addendum 5: Here is Michelle Malkin’s blog post, which incorporates her latest column.
Reasonable people of good faith disagree on the morality and efficacy of capital punishment, and for many who oppose it, no method of execution would ever be acceptable. But as Justice Frankfurter stressed in Resweber, “[o]ne must be on guard against finding in personal disapproval a reflection of more or less prevailing condemnation.” 329 U. S., at 471 (concurring opinion). This Court has ruled that capital punishment is not prohibited under our Constitution, and that the States may enact laws specifying that sanction. “[T]he power of a State to pass laws means little if the State cannot enforce them.” McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U. S. 467, 491 (1991). State efforts to implement capital punishment must certainly comply with the Eighth Amendment, but what that Amendment prohibits is wanton exposure to “objectively intolerable risk,” Farmer, 511 U. S., at 846, and n. 9, not simply the possibility of pain.
Kentucky has adopted a method of execution believed to be the most humane available, one it shares with 35 other States. Petitioners agree that, if administered as intended, that procedure will result in a painless death. The risks of maladministration they have suggested—such as improper mixing of chemicals and improper setting of IVs by trained and experienced personnel—cannot remotely be characterized as “objectively intolerable.” Kentucky’s decision to adhere to its protocol despite these asserted risks, while adopting safeguards to protect against them, cannot be viewed as probative of the wanton infliction of pain under the Eighth Amendment. Finally, the alternative that petitioners belatedly propose has problems of its own, and has never been tried by a single State.
Throughout our history, whenever a method of execution has been challenged in this Court as cruel and unusual, the Court has rejected the challenge. Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment. The firing squad, hanging, the electric chair, and the gas chamber have each in turn given way to more humane methods, culminating in today’s consensus on lethal injection. Gomez v. United States Dist. Court for Northern Dist. of Cal., 503 U. S. 653, 657 (1992) (STEVENS, J., dissenting); App. 755. The broad framework of the Eighth Amendment has accommodated this progress toward more humane methods of execution, and our approval of a particular method in the past has not precluded legislatures from taking the steps they deem appropriate, in light of new developments, to ensure humane capital punishment. There is no reason to suppose that today’s decision will be any different.
(John G. Roberts Jr, Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S. ___  [brackets in original; footnote omitted])
Here’s the situation. The Texas Rangers trail the Kansas City Royals, 9-5, in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Rangers have two outs and runners on first and second bases. The count is full. Is there any advantage to having the runners moving on the pitch? If so, what is it? My friend Hawk says there is, but he can’t articulate it. I say there isn’t, since not only must both runners score for the game to continue, but so must the batter.
Addendum: It’s important that you keep the situation in mind. Unless the batter reaches base, the game is over. It’s therefore essential that the on-deck batter come to the plate. So my question is this: How does moving the runners help to bring the on-deck batter to the plate? If it doesn’t, then there is no advantage to moving them. I’m not saying there is a disadvantage. I’m saying there is no advantage.
Addendum 2: Thanks for the comments. I’m persuaded that there is an advantage to moving the runners in that situation. That answers my question. The next question is whether there are any disadvantages, and, if so, whether they outweigh the advantages. Mark listed one disadvantage (a runner being struck by a batted ball). Are there any others?
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Here, in case you’re curious, are the study questions for my Philosophy of Law examination next week.
To the Editor:
Elizabeth Edwards, an admirable public figure and veteran political campaigner, joins an enduring list of critics who blame American mass media for the decrepit state of our political dialogue. For years, media critics and academic scholars have railed against the tendency of popular media to obsess over the horse-race element of campaigns, to the detriment of serious discussions of issues.
It is a legitimate criticism, magnified by today’s proliferation of competitive news outlets scrambling to hold onto increasingly fragmented audiences and advertisers.
On the other hand, we should not delude ourselves by thinking that if only those media sources were more responsible, our political dialogue would be magically uplifted. That is because political candidates and their handlers typically prefer the slick, shallow and safe sound bite over extended, in-depth conversations. And because they also understand that really telling the truth (or revealing too many uncomfortable specifics) about an issue might be political suicide.
Another sad reality is that, despite more in-depth coverage of political issues by leading national newspapers, weekly newsmagazines, public issue periodicals and public broadcasting (all of which are experiencing losses, not gains), most Americans seem to prefer the speeded-up, less reflective headline version found on commercial TV, cable and the Internet.
Younger Americans, particularly, look to the Internet and satirical news features like “The Daily Show” for a quick political fix.
Yes, there is a problem threatening our political dialogue. But it goes deeper than just pointing a finger at our most visible media messengers.
Carl R. Ramey
Pinehurst, N.C., April 28, 2008
The writer is a retired communications lawyer and the author of “Mass Media Unleashed: How Washington Policymakers Shortchanged the American Public.”
Note from KBJ: Here is a paragraph from Elizabeth Edwards’s op-ed column:
What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.
Hint: She’s talking about her husband. She can’t bear the thought that voters knew all they needed to know about him and rejected him.