January 28, 2005
Let's Get Ethical
My AmSpec column today catalogs and judges the various commentator-ethics scandals that have popped up lately.
January 26, 2005
The Appearance of Impropriety
Though it was, as Howard Kurtz suggests, a rather unseemly ethical lapse for Maggie Gallagher to fail to disclose that she'd worked for the Department of Health and Human Services in connection to the marriage initiative she touted in columns, I'll buy her defense; being paid to do something for HHS isn't the same as being paid by a department to shill for a law a la Armstrong Williams and No Child Left Behind.
But I can't help but think: As Jonah Goldberg has put it, "if Bill Clinton had proposed spending piles of money on marriage counseling -- other than for himself -- conservatives would have screamed bloody murder about liberal social engineering and whatnot." A massive, intrusive education program would have likewise been anathema if Clinton had proposed it (and indeed a lot of House conservatives voted nay-- it passed with more Democratic support than Republican support). Is it just a coincidence that it's these issues where commentators are compromised?
January 24, 2005
Here's a blurry picture of me hanging out with the National Review crowd last Friday taken by Cam Edwards; That's John J. Miller in the center, and I'm the one on his left, looking roughly in the direction of the camera. (The person talking to JJM is a reporter for National Journal named Neil, whose last name I missed; Jim Robbins, who was present for most of that conversation, was in the restroom at that point.)
I complimented Kate O'Beirne on her NR piece on No Child Left Behind, noting that I drew on it for an NCLB-bashing column of my own. O'Beirne suggested that, rather than pay Armstrong Williams to shill for them, the Department of Education "should have paid us to shut up."
As good an idea as that was, Ramesh Ponnuru had an even better one: the lilliputian Ponnuru (a bit shorter than me-- I'm 5'7"), tried to convince the brobdignagian Jonah Goldberg (as Hulk-like as this guy suggests) to get him a beer, on the theory that tall people have an obligation to short people by virtue of ability to get a bartender's attention. The logic here seems pretty much airtight to me.
January 21, 2005
The Exit Poll-Taking Kids Aren't Alright
I thought Bush's inauguration speech was really good, and I was going to write a column about it. But since the report on those faulty exit polls came out during inauguration week precisely because the exit pollsters hoped they wouldn't get too much attention, I decided to write a column about that instead.
January 18, 2005
Art in the Trashbin
Capping off a weekend in New York, my girlfriend and I stopped at the newly-renovated Museum of Modern Art yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the galleries showcasing late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century works were crowded, while those showcasing later work were nearly deserted. In the course of mocking what passes for contemporary art, I recounted the story of the installation-- a wastebasket surrounded by carefully arranged trash-- that was cleaned up and disposed of by a janitor in London a few years ago. By a strange coincidences, the same story is recounted today by Christopher Orlet; there's been a similar problem, evidently, with Frankfurt sanitation workers cleaning up the "art" on display in the streets.
Camille Paglia incisively diagnosed the state of contemporary art years ago:
When will artists climb out of the postmodernist ditch and accept their high mission to address a general audience? An art of chic coteries, whether in rococo aristocratic France or in drearily ironic, nervously posturing New York, ends up in a mental mousehole.(The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica-- the web version of which, obviously, needs copy-editing-- was amusingly blunt in its entry on the rococo period to which Paglia compares the contemporary scene.)
January 11, 2005
Public employees' unions tilt to the left -- and those unions find it much easier to capture local agencies than national ones. In America, teachers' unions have a hammerlock on big-city school systems. The best way to break their hold is to ally the federal government with the market -- holding urban schools to higher standards and giving vouchers to parents when schools flunk the test. That won't happen if federalist judges bar Congress and the White House from doing anything about education. Constitutional federalism is a large gift to the NEA.In practice, this assessment is simply wrong. The NEA lives off of federal education legislation-- its magazine for members is almost a monthly cover-to-cover rant against No Child Left Behind. In fact, federal-level school reform unites teachers' unions with the states-- their adversaries in negotion over state-level reform-- against Washington. Indeed, much of the need for a National Education Association stems from the existence of federal education policies; it's reasonable to suppose that affiliated unions might be more flexible to reform if the national leadership, and its lobbyists, were less politically important.
The fact that NCLB is a pretty bad piece of legislation further underscores the superiority of federalism in education policy: 50 laboratories are better than one. By most accounts, the school voucher programs in Florida and Wisconsin work much better than the one in Ohio. Does it really make sense to count on Congress to get it right for the whole country?
January 09, 2005
Public Service Announcement
Do not let the critical acclaim for Jonathan Caouette's autobiographical documentary Tarnation hoodwink you into thinking it might be worth seeing. It is an abject piece of garbage that should not be viewed by anyone-- unless, of course, you are for some reason interested by the mental debris of a disturbed and traumatized manchild narcissist who cruelly and offensively exploits his own family to produce what amounts to propaganda for the view that homosexuality is a decadence-induced disease.
I first encountered John Douglas of the Grand Rapids Press when I searched and found his Tarnation review, so I don't know if he's generally reliable, but he sure is dead-on with this one.
January 07, 2005
Electoral Vote to Edwards
286 [electoral votes] for Bush, 251 for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and one vote for Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, D-N.C.The faithless elector in Minnesota, who probably just wrote down the wrong name absent-mindedly, actually voted for "John Ewards," but it's been counted as a vote for Edwards.
January 03, 2005
Home to the World's Greatest Painters, Chefs and Anti-Semites
John J. Miller has an anti-Gaullist New York Times op-ed today, touching on themes covered in his and Mark Molesky's fascinating book, Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disasterous Relationship with France. Not long after it went online, someone on a machine set to Central European Time-- that is, France's time zone-- found this site by Googling for "John J. Miller jEW."
They never disappoint, do they? (I'm pretty sure the answer is "non," by the way.)