January 28, 2005

Let's Get Ethical

My AmSpec column today catalogs and judges the various commentator-ethics scandals that have popped up lately.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:19 AM | Comments (1)

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?

Posted by John Tabin at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:15 AM | Comments (2)

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.)

Posted by John Tabin at 12:47 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2005

Defending Federalism

Ramesh Ponnuru ably takes on William Stuntz's argument that conservative legal theory is unconservative. But I'd like to add one point.

Stuntz writes:

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?

Posted by John Tabin at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by John Tabin at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2005

Electoral Vote to Edwards

It's official:

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.

This means-- just for the record-- that candidates receiving the vote of yours truly in 2004 racked up 287 electoral votes.

Posted by John Tabin at 03:22 AM | Comments (3)

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.)

Posted by John Tabin at 10:04 PM | Comments (3)

Happy New Year

I'm back, (yes, I know I never got around to annnouncing I was gone) and my newest AmSpec column casts a contrarian eye on other commentators' New Year's predictions.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:38 AM | Comments (2)