31 March 2008

Bias In Higher Education

We've written a number of times about the ideological divide at BYU. Generally perceived as a conservative school, like other institutions, BYU has a largely liberal professoriate. We think this is due, in part, to what happens to these professors when they go to grad school. Most of the dominant theories and professors in most of the graduate disciplines--certainly the humanities and social sciences--are liberal ones. This is especially true in any discipline where political ideology can possibly have any influence: engineering, business, hard sciences pretty much don't count here.

At BYU, the generally conservative student population (the political faith of their fathers) runs into their liberal professors. No one is giving bad grades for being conservative. And we haven't heard of any anti-Republican/business/Bush rants. But we have personally witnessed, for example, a debate about gender and the role of "social constructs" in defining gender identity. Certainly the science is not settled, but this was a history class and the popular side, the one promoted by the professor, was the one that said that social constructs define gender identity, not any inborn or innate or inherent sense. Those who argued for social constructs=gender identity were the ones "in the know." They adopted the typical liberal posture of, "if you knew better, you'd agree with us."

We don't want to get sidetracked by the substance of the debate, it's only an example. The point is that BYU is like every other university in the country in the sense that liberal professors wield great power in influencing the politics of their students. There may be 10% fewer registered Democrats (thought we doubt it) and they may be less strident than Ward Churchill, but they affect students just the same.

This was brought home to us this weekend in conversation with one of our friends, a broadcast journalism major. We had spoken before about internships and post-grad job prospects, so we knew about her anti-Fox News bias. We mentioned to her that Drudge had recently listed that Fox News programming had double the viewers of its next closest cable news competitor. This surprised her.

We've asked her before about her dislike of Fox News and she really wasn't able to give us a good answer. It had something to do with the fact that they (her journalism school) didn't like Fox News because they're biased or something and everyone else is, what? Giving us 'just the facts, please, ma'am?' Right.

There's just a kind of attitude towards non-liberal ideas, attitudes and institutions that infects higher education and if you want to get along and be accepted, you have to fall in line.

Sometimes these attitudes infect without the student even knowing it. We've seen this happen with our friends in grad schools (the ones who didn't go to MBA school). Without them even knowing (because they aren't taught as such), they learn to believe in all the -isms of the day: nihilism, relativism, utilitarianism, feminism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, whatever. Our grad school experience at UCL and seminars at Cambridge and Queen Mary was slightly different to the experience of American students. Because they were British institutions, their politics don't divide sharply down party lines. Of course there were more and less acceptable points of view--on Iraq, for example--but we felt our UCL professors were less (if you can believe it) ideological than many of our BYU professors. And certainly less ideological and postmodern than many of the professors teaching our friends in grad school.

This strange difference may have been a product of the fact that BYU professors know about public perception of their school (religious, conservative) and feel like they have to veer hard to the left in order to be accepted when they go to conferences. Again, this isn't true of everyone, but it's certainly true of many.

Back to BYU's J-school. Most editorial pages of most newspapers around the country have a consistent ideology. The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the NYT, Washington Post, USA Today, and LA Times are liberal. The same is not true of BYU's student newspaper, the Daily Universe. There is no coherent and consistent ideology. This is, of course, a result of the fact that the editorial board changes every semester. Different students + different backgrounds + different politics = constantly changing editorial ideology. Fine. But it is here that we see this tension between largely conservative students in a liberal dominated field (according to polls we saw back in 2004, 70% of journalists voted for John Kerry. Journalists do not mirror America.). Young BYU students, ready to liberate themselves from their parents, try out the new ideas they learn in their intro to comms classes. Thus, their reporting and opinion writing is a grab bag of conservative background, liberal journalistic training, and frosh and soph grammar and writing. Point being, sure, the DU often seems juvenile or poorly written, but we shouldn't hold it to an unfair standard.

The most invidious biases are the ones people harbor but about which they are unaware. That journalists in America and professors in higher education (and at BYU specifically) prefer Democrats is not the problem. Problems arise when the echo chambers they inhabit begin to make them think that their biases are the way the world is, rather than just one perspective.

This is the theme that unites our examples: our history class discussion of social constructs and gender, and our friend's J-School taught opinion of Fox News. They don't see the opposing view in terms of differing opinions, they see it in terms of right and wrong, smart and stupid, progressive and antiquated, enlightened and ignorant, educated and, well, uneducated.


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30 March 2008

(Late) Sunday Night Links

These are the stories we've been reading this weekend.

- From the Daily Press, the unintended consequences--black market goodies--of public schools' crackdown on high calorie snacks. Libertarians & econ enthusiasts like us will love this one. (hat tip: Matt Lybbert)

- The Guardian reports on an female Iraqi sprinter who will compete in the Olympics this summer. Our feel-good story of the week, this definitely wouldn't have happened when Saddam was chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee.

- Before the Supreme Court is a very interesting case regarding the criminal trials in Iraq of men holding dual citizenship (US/Iraqi & US/Jordanian). Spiker, what say you?

- Writing in the LA Times, former Ambassador to the UN, and a man for whom we hold a great deal of respect, John Bolton, addresses Taiwan's complicated position. We know very little about this area of the world--what we learned in our Chinese history course at BYU and what we've read since then. Hopefully resident China/Taiwan expert, Dallas Stahle, will weigh in.

- Last, but never least, the only columnist we read every week no matter what (okay, we pretty much always read Daniel Henninger, too)--Mark Steyn. This guy is great. Smart, clever, and insightful. We're sure our liberal friends wish they had someone like him.

This week Steyn analyzes the state of Hillary's campaign. Writes Steyn,
The other day I gave a talk and a Democrat in the audience demanded that I disassociate myself from the sleazy attacks of some Republicans who’ve been referring to “Barack Hussein Obama.” I said I’d be happy to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bob Kerrey who’s been floating the whole nudge-nudge-Hussein-the-secret-Muslim thing, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Bill Shaheen who’s been pushing the Obama-spent-most-of-the-Seventies-selling-cocaine rumors, and to disassociate myself from (Clinton supporter) Andrew Young who’s boasted that Bill Clinton has slept with more black women than Obama. And golly, after I’d got through disassociating myself from all the Democrat sleaze about Obama, I had no time to peddle any sleaze of my own.
Pretty much sums up how we feel.

*UPDATE 31 March 2008 4:38pm MST: Check out Ryan Decker's review of WFB and one of his recent books.


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29 March 2008

A Brief Note On Constitutional Interpretation

This isn't a law blog or a Supreme Court specific blog. We don't pretend to be experts on either of those topics. Therefore, we opine on judicial philosophy with a certain degree of humility. Our opinion derives from our conservative, traditionalist background.

As a historian, we have a respect for primary source documents. They are the tools of our trade. From them we try to construct a humble narrative--one that attempts to get at the "true" history while allowing for difference of opinion on meaning.

When it comes to the Constitution, a document with which we are familiar and about whose history we know a little, we give it the utmost respect. Sure, it had its flaws--slavery foremost among those--but it is still a landmark, awesome, and foundational document.

Unlike any other prior founding and many since, it was adopted by the consent of the people and conceived by their representatives. From it flow all of our laws and the legitimacy of our government.

As the primary law of the United States of America, the Constitution, we believe, has primacy over all other laws--whether created by Congress, decreed by Executive Order or instituted by Supreme Court fiat. We believe that all government officials and all other laws must derive from the powers, authorities, and procedures it describes.

Thus, in considering a judicial philosophy--especially for the Supreme Court--we believe that they should take for guidance first the Constitution and then American legal precedence. In trying to determine originalism or original intent or a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, Justices and judges should look to three sources:

First, the intent of the Founders, inasmuch as it can be discerned from the primary source documents (letters, journals, notes) related to its creation.

Second, the understanding of the ratifying masses. There exist newspapers, pamphlets and transcripts of debates about the Constitution during the campaign for ratification. Judges can get at how a given section of the Constitution was understood by the people who ratified it.

Third, a reasonable interpretation of the text itself. We think legal scholars call this textual originalism.

From these three, not necessarily in that order, should derive a reasonable understanding of the Constitution. It is true that American jurisprudence harks to English common law, but unlike the English legal system, we have a written Constitution with holds primacy over the opinion of any given judge.

We believe that strict Constitutional interpretation is far superior to the judge or justice who makes law of their own morals or personal opinion. The Founders outlined a process whereby the Constitution could be changed by democratic process. Within the framework of the Constitution, laws which are not at odds with the Constitution can be created. Laws created by these processes have the virtue of common consent either by the citizens of the United States or their representative officials. Again, this is, in our opinion, far superior to the legal codification of personal opinion by judicial activists. Unable to persuade a large enough majority to adopt their measure or view through democratic process--Congress or Constitutional Amendment--these groups instead impose their views through what amounts to judicial tyranny.

We understand that even our favored judges do not always follow an "originalist" or strict interpretation of the Constitution. Just because they fail to do so does not invalidate the philosophy. And, with the collection and digitization of Constitutionally related primary source documents through Consource, understanding and interpretation of the Constitution is becoming easier and more accessible to everyone.


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28 March 2008

Karl Rove Is Awesome

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Yesterday a friend of ours attended the Karl Rove fundraiser we first linked to on Wednesday. We asked him to take notes and he obliged, writing down a number of interesting things Rove had to say about the current election and President Bush.

- Rove was introduced by Republican congressman, Doc Hastings, who said of Rove that he "understands policy." Ah, the power of understatement.

- Karl opened by saying that he had a lot of "fun" in the White House and then launched in to talking about Clinton and Obama.

- Of Hillary, he said that she was the first, and to his knowledge, the only First Lady to have an office in the West Wing. If anyone had anything they wanted to run past Bill, it went through Hillary first. We leave it to the reader to discern whether this was because Hillary had a lot of influence over Bill or if she just wanted to insert herself wherever possible.

- Regarding their politics, Rove said that Hillary was obviously a liberal Democrat but that Barack was a really, really liberal Democrat.

- Rove said that he first knew Obama through his former deputy, Ken Mehlman who had known Obama at Harvard.

- On their separate spending proposals (to date, not including any future general election bribes/commitments), of which Obama has pledged $662B and Hillary $695B, Rove said that such increases would cause the budget to increase by 25%. Do your own math on what that would require in the way of new and increased taxes.

- When Justices Alito and Roberts reached the Senate floor for confirmation (both of which, mind you, had broad bipartisan support), both Hillary and Barack voted against their confirmation.

Yeah, that Barack, he's such a bipartisan unifier.

- Rove also noted that Obama voted against increased spending to give soldiers much needed body armor, MRE's, and fuel.

We think this is called supporting the troops without actually, you know, supporting the troops.

- He said that he didn't like Hillary, but he grudgingly admitted that she could handle the presidency.

- Rove said that Barack was "one of the most cooly arrogant people in politics." He said that he was "smart and arrogant but he doesn't do his home work." Because of this, Rove doesn't believe that Obama is up to the task. He does not believe that Obama is competent.

- Talking about Obama's background, he said that Barack was a "Chicago machine politician." We suspect there will be more stories about his Chicago background as the election continues.

- Karl predicted that Obama will win the Democratic primary. He admitted that he had first predicted a win for Hillary and that the reason he was wrong was because her "fatal flaws" had emerged earlier than he originally anticipated.

- Switching gears a little bit, Rove talked about Dino Rossi's run for Governor in 2004 in which high shenanigans in King county caused Rossi to lose the election by just over 100 votes. This wouldn't have happened, Rove pointed out, if the 6000 voters in Eastern Washington who voted for President Bush had also voted for Dino Rossi.

With Governor Christine Gregoire's approval rating at an all-time low, those voters will be the key to getting Rossi elected this fall.

- Observing John McCains crossover appeal, Rove suggested that for the first time in a number of years, the Pacific Northwest--specifically Washington and Oregon--could be in play. In our opinion, Oregon has a greater chance of voting for McCain than does Washington, but hey, there's always audacious hope, right?

- For those worried about increased threats from Iran and North Korea and a retreat in either Afghanistan or Iraq, Rove said that "President Bush will exercise all the power available to him to accomplish these goals and keep America safe."

- Widely criticized as an uncaring warmonger, completely out of touch with reality or the impact of the war on soldiers and their families, Rove pointed out that President Bush has in fact met with the families of nearly 3000 soldiers who have lost their lives in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Rove said it was the President's habit to schedule these meetings as the last item of the day so that he would not have to leave early. He further said that it was his habit to give these families as much times as they needed and let them say whatever was in their hearts.

The picture of an uncaring President Bush could not be further from the truth.

Rove spoke of one meeting with the family of a soldier from Reno, Nevada. He attended the meeting with President Bush. This story echoes pretty much exactly what Rove told my father and those with him at the dinner yesterday.

He said that President Bush typically asks each member of the family if there is anything he can do. He finally turned to the father who, Rove noted, seemed a little reserved, to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Rove assumed the father would say something critical of President Bush and the war, which happens from time to time. Instead, the father was angry that Navy regulations prohibited him from serving.

His oldest son, a Marine, had died while serving near Fallujah. His second son was also serving in the military and he wanted to join to honor his sons and provide medical service to hurt soldiers.

So, he asked President Bush to grease the wheels so that he could join the Navy Medical Corps. Krissoff said that his "goal is to work in a combat surgical unit, a forward unit."


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27 March 2008

John McCain & The Straight Talk Express Come To Salt Lake

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This morning, while driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon on our way to Alta, we received an email from our friend at the RNC, e-Communications Director, Liz Mair. Liz is great. She always looks out for us. And today, she let us know about a McCain media event at the SLC airfield. And got us in.

(Of course we skied the fresh snow first.)

Accompanying Senator McCain at the press conference were governors John Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney. Senator McCain spoke first and introduced the governors. Mitt went next and talked about supporting Senator McCain. Romney looked really, really tan.

Governor Huntsman spoke last. He is a long-time McCain supporter--conspicuously so, when Mitt was still in the race. We've heard rumors that Huntsman--as well as Romney--is one of McCain's potential runningmates, and further, that if McCain loses, he (Huntsman) may run for President in 2012.

One of the members of the press asked the senator if these men were here to tryout for VP. As he was asked this, Governor Huntsman pointed towards Governor Romney like, 'look at him, not me.' The three of them did cut quite the picture.

Asked about Governor Huntsman, Senator McCain said that he valued his opinion and leadership. This was why, he said, he had the governor accompany him on a couple of his trips to Iraq. He further pointed out that Governor Huntsman speaks fluent Chinese (we don't know if it's Mandarin or Cantonese) and that such a skill would be very important as China continues to emerge as a world power.

One reporter asked Senator McCain about the economy. McCain said that he understands the dire straits facing Americans, that as they sit at the kitchen table, they have to consider whether to pick up a 2nd job or take some other drastic measure to make ends meet. Regarding a possible "housing bailout," he said that he was sympathetic to well-intentioned families who might lose their houses, but didn't care at all for the "speculator in Scottsdale" who bought 3 houses for profit and might lose his shirt. Such are the inherent risks of business, we suppose.

Good to see Senator McCain avoid the populist rhetoric favored by his rivals.

While there, we also spoke to a McCain supporter. He has supported McCain for President since he (McCain) first formed his exploratory committee back in 2006. We asked him about the latest kerfuffle about McCain, Iran, and Sunni-Shia confusion. He said that it was pretty typical of the press to seize on every little offhand comment and blow it all out of proportion. Sympathetic, we pointed out to him that we had seen reports that said Iran was funding both Shiite and Sunni groups in an attempt to play the one against the other and foment civil war. He just shrugged, saying he'd seen the same reports, but that those details didn't seem to matter to some members of the press.

It appears to us that they are looking for anything that fits their "McCain is too old" story-line. This is how the Democrats and their surrogates combat their candidates' huge experience deficit.

While there, we ran into former Romney guys Phil Case and BYUSA Vice-President elect, Chance Basinger. (Basinger, you'll remember, is part of the ticket we praised for their willingness to lobby Provo City Council on behalf of BYU students in the ongoing parking dispute.) They, along with our brother, Matt Lybbert, were part of the BYU team that staffed the local Romney call center and mobilized BYU students in support of Mitt. It's nice to see that, like their candidate, they don't harbor any hard feelings and are out in support of McCain.

Unfortunately for the Dems, the polls indicate that Obama & Clinton supporters won't be similarly forgiving.

One last thing, before we forget: During his comments, Governor Huntsman compared John McCain to Ronald Reagan and another of our heroes, Theodore Roosevelt. Hunting for the Reagan legacy was the theme of the early Republican primary. So, nothing to see there. But the Roosevelt comparison piqued our interest.

On the ride home with our brother, we discussed it with him, trying to remember what we learned from our reading of Edmund Morris' 2-part bio (links here & here), appropriately, McCullough's Rooosevelt bio, and the research we did for our Roosevelt paper in History 221 (American history, 1860-Present).

While we don't see Senator McCain challenging anyone to a wrestling match or other feat of strength (Roosevelt's signature), we did find Huntsman's comparison apt when it came to McCain's relationship with business and foreign policy.

TR's time was a whole lot different to today, but he too grappled with issues of corporate responsibility and often wondered about the responsibility of business to people and people to business. As we recall, this historical treatment of government regulation of business was our first introduction to the idea.

Everyone knows TR's famous maxim on foreign policy and defense: speak softly and carry a big stick. Broadly, Senator McCain seems to agree with this policy, advocating as he has an increase in defense spending. TR's proud moment was the world tour of his famous Great White Fleet, so named because of their white paint. Great navies equaled military might and political & diplomatic power.

So, yeah, we buy the McCain - Roosevelt comparison.

*UPDATE 28 March 12:49pm MST: We ask, you respond. Reader and friend Dallas Stahle answered our query regarding Governor Huntsman's language ability. Dallas writes:
Just thought I'd let you know that Huntsman served a[n] [LDS] mission in Taiwan and speaks Mandarin Chinese. Cantonese speakers reside in Hong Kong, Macau, and the southern province of China known as Guangdong or Canton. However, all the Cantonese speakers know Mandarin (except some of the older generation) because it is the National Language of Mainland China. That doesn't mean they speak Mandarin well, but it's passable. The younger generation speaks perfectly because of the school curriculums now.

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26 March 2008

Support The Troops

We were recently "tagged" in a Facebook note by our friend and Marine veteran, Mark Patterson (subscription required). Mark called our attention to a paper recently released by the National Veterans Foundation. The NVF's paper highlights veteran's poor education and health benefits.

Patterson writes, "Why is it that our country can find money to bail out banks who gave irresponsible loans but it can't find the money to provide veterans with a fair education benefit?"

We would add, "why is it that our country can find money to bail out foolish borrowers?" It wasn't just banks at fault.

McCain has called for an increase in defense spending from 4% of GDP to 4.5 or 5%. We hope, and McCain has seemed to indicate, that some of this would go to better healthcare treatment for veterans and, we hope, increased education spending.

Patterson first calls increased veteran education benefits "welfare," saying, "while I oppose welfare in principle, I feel that providing a worthwhile GI Bill ... is an incredible investment for our nation." We too oppose welfare in general, but we don't call education spending for veterans welfare, we call it a smart investment in American human capital, as Patterson later labels it.

As it stands, the military attracts intelligent and capable Americans who forego higher pay in other industries because of a patriotic desire to serve. They, along with the less fortunate who rightly see military service as a way to improve their lives, comprise the best armed forces the world has ever seen.

We suspect there are many who, because of family and other concerns, decide not to join up. Perhaps if we took better care of our troops--increasing pay, bettering health care and education benefits--more people would make the decision to serve.


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BYU, Utah State Caucuses, Iraq, &c.

Over the course of our reports on the BYUSA election and the ongoing debate about the Provo parking issues, we have called for a more unified voice to represent student concerns with the Provo City Council (here, here, here, here, here, here, & here). A report by Emily Hudson in the Daily Universe shows we are not the only ones who recognize the representation deficit.

Hudson reports that the 33,000 BYU students make up roughly 29% of the Provo population. And yet, "in Saturday's downtown meeting, where BYU was not represented, almost all of the discussion of urban variety centered around increasing student activity in the downtown area, student housing issues and transportation. (emphasis added)

How can this be possible?

***

Yesterday Utah held caucus meetings for both Republican and Democrats. This article from the Daily U focuses on the Democrat caucus. In it, Holly Van Woerkom reported that Don Jarvis, Democratic candidate for the Utah State House from district 63, said that the BYU Democrats were "the largest student Democrat club in the state."

That's not saying much.

Meanwhile, friend of Lybberty, Matt Berry, attended the local Republican caucus and was elected as one of the delegates to the Republican State Convention. Berry reported that there were "a lot fewer crazies than I expected" and that the discussion was "smart and passionate." He said they focused on vouchers/school choice and immigration, among other things.

***

Follow up to last week's review of the DU's editorial on Obama's speech. Letter-to-the-editor writer, Max Stoneman called the DU's editorial on Obama's Wright speech a new low (2nd from the top). You'll remember that this was the column with which we agreed and thought was well-written.

Specifically, he said " The DU is also extremely wrong-headed to assume that Obama used the speech to say 'we're all racist in some ways.'" Did Stoneman miss Obama's comment about his grandmother being a "typical white person?" This was a revealing offhand comment that further strengthens the DU's suspicions about Obama's worldview.

To Stoneman: drink less kool-aid.

***

Since we still rely on blogger for all things technical, we don't know why the text spacing changes after we use one of the special features like "centering" or "block quote." If any of you know how to fix this, please email us.

***

This week marks the kickoff to the BYU student sponsored "Choose to Give" campaign. Check out Russell Thacker's piece in the DU appealing to students for their support. We, collectively, have benefited greatly from our attendance at BYU. We recommend you do as the class of 1911 student suggested and "refrain this week from indulging in any evening entertainments that will require an outlay of money."

Small donations from a large percentage of the BYU student population can go a long way to growing student scholarships and expanding programs--like the math lab--that help a lot of students.

***

Last night we watched some associate editor from US News on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We were shocked to learn that news reports (according to the aforementioned editor) on Iraq only totaled 4% of all news time in the month of February.

With violence down, we really shouldn't be surprised, but we were. Fortunately, some reporters have continued to do good work in Iraq--specifically, Michael J. Totten, whom we've cited before. Totten's report on Marine efforts in Karmah, a town in the Anbar province, is his latest and is very good (caution: expletives in link). From that report:
Implementing basic security measures wouldn't work in a counterinsurgency if a significant number of local civilians supported the radicals. But the locals were terrified and savagely murdered and tortured by the radicals on a regular basis. Al Qaeda in Iraq is the self-declared enemy of every human being outside its own members and loyal supporters. Nothing could possibly discredit jihad more completely than the jihadists themselves.

“Insurgent activity was a lot worse,” Sergeant Howell said. “Attacks with small arms fire were constant. IEDs were daily. The difference between this place now and when I first got here is day and night. There was no way kids would be playing soccer in the streets. When we patrolled last time we had a much more aggressive posture. It was a combat patrol.”
Totten is an independent reporter and depends on donations to support himself and his work. Click the Paypal link at the bottom of his page and pitch in. For or against, we owe it to our soldiers to stay informed about the war and what they are doing.


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Meet With Evil Mastermind Karl Rove (TIC)

We don't normally post these things, but we got an email from Luke Esser asking us to pass this along. And, since it's taking place in our hometown, we decided to oblige.



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25 March 2008

History & Film: From The Patriot to John Adams

Yesterday's post about John Adams got us thinking about history in film. Longtime readers know that both our undergraduate and graduate training has been in history and modern history, respectively. Throughout our education, we have been concerned with ideas of collective memory and history and how those things affect collective identity. For many, history doesn't expand beyond 5 years ago.

What we mean is, collective memory and history is the history, or memory of history shared by, in this case, citizens of the United States. To a large degree, our understanding of the past and thus, our collective memory of the past has been shaped by the films we watch. Ask today's average adult about WWII and it is likely their informed opinion was shaped by Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan, Flags of our Fathers, etc. The same is true of other historical events: The Patriot, the American Revolution; Forrest Gump, American history from the 1960's onward.

Despite this loss of role to the electronic media and producers in Hollywood, most historians continue writing books few understand and even fewer will read. This transfer of the ancient role of “story teller” has brought on a popular memory filled with the fantasies of whatever the producer decided to create.

Increasingly this has led to another conflict which rages between the historical field and the electronic media. Historians accuse the media of distorting history for the sake of a healthy bottom line and the media responds accusing historians of being “dry as dust.” This conflict has created a gap between true history, influenced by historical research, and what actually fills the mind of the public—images from the movies.

So powerful is the effect of this medium on the mind of the young that as they see more movies it becomes more and more difficult to distinguish between what they learned in their history class and what they saw at the theater the night before. Clearly both areas play a role in representing history, however, more coordination must occur between those who research history and those who portray it on the screen.

Historian Wulf Kansteiner, in "Searching for an Audience: The Historical Profession in the Media Age," wrote:
the growing insignificance of traditional historiography indicates the need to focus on different…and more challenging questions, for instance on the problem of bridging the gap between scholarly historical narratives and the kind of sweeping, imprecise, visually-based narratives about the past that find the interest of larger audiences; or on the problem of how scholarly protocols for the writing of truthful histories can be transferred to visual media, that is, how histories can be responsibly narrated in images
It is this challenge, we believe, that highlights the need for more collaborative productions like Spielberg & Ambrose's Band of Brothers and Hanks, and Ellis & McCullough's John Adams. These films have their faults, but they at least try to bridge the gap between academic history and "popcorn history."

Let us make a more general argument in favor of history: history needs to become more relevant and better taught so that current and future generations will be able to face the challenges of the day with a little context. Too often, problems are considered in a vacuum.

For example, some make the following argument: Iraq has problems of security and self-governance which in 5 years it has been unable to overcome. Therefore, failure of democracy in Iraq.

A little historical context and understanding of our own country's founding would remind the casual observer that we declared independence in 1776, though actual fighting broke out in 1775, battlefield conflict ceased in 1781, but official peace wasn't declared until 1783. The early coalition of states operated under the Articles of Confederation from 1777 until they were replaced by the Constitution in 1788--12 years after the Declaration of Independence, 7 years after military victory at Yorktown, and 5 years after the official peace-establishing Treaty of Paris. However, 24 years later, we fought another war against England--the War of 1812. A war our British friends remind us was fought to a draw, at best (for us).

Nor should we forget that this is a country that had institutionalized slavery until 1865, 89 years after the Declaration of Independence, and Jim Crow and segregation until about 1968--192 years after Thomas Jefferson first wrote that "we hold these truths to be self evident: That all men are created equal."

Women, by the way, weren't allowed to vote in this country until the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, 144 years after the Declaration of Independence. As you can see, it took us a some time to live up to the lofty ideals first expressed back in 1776. American-style democracy circa 2008 is a bit different to American-style democracy circa 1776.

And some people want to abandon Iraq because they haven't met our benchmarks? Please.

(disclaimer: don't confuse these historical points with the lunatic rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.)

How might a better understanding of our own beginning (which John Adams can help to provide) illuminate our understanding of current events in say, Iraq?

(Aside: All of this highlights the need for, and potential of, Consource--the project to digitize and make available to everyone the primary source documents related to the creation of the American Constitution. This is a project we've written about before: here and when David McCullough got involved, here.)

But don't miss the forest (our overall point about history and film) for the trees (our Iraq example). Even if you think the example fails, we still hope you'll agree that our point about the importance and potential of better joining history and film holds merit. We think that understanding and perspective are some of the most important lessons we can learn from history--lessons that can be better and more widely learned from films like John Adams.


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24 March 2008

David McCullough's John Adams

Last night we watched the first episode of HBO's 7 part series, John Adams. We've read some of McCullough's stuff--notably, Truman--but haven't yet read the similarly titled book on which this series was based.

In fact, we met McCullough in the fall of 2005 and wrote the following about our experience:
McCullough visited campus nearly two weeks ago. Matt (our brother) and we spoke with Mr. McCullough at a breakfast reception where he signed our copies of 1776 and imparted a little advice. It is rare that someone meets expectations and even more rare that they exceed them. As the most renowned popular American historian and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes he could have been exceedingly arrogant. Instead he was incredibly gracious and interested in our educational experience.
McCullough remains those things--a talented writer and popular historian. Even as we write that, we must acknowledge, as historian-in-training, that McCullough's history often says things that the sources he cites do not. That is to say, he sometimes infers things that cannot be inferred or at least would be a stretch to infer from what the primary source documents tell us about a given subject.

Therefore, bear this in mind as you watch John Adams. Know that the history has passed through a number of filters--McCullough's, the screenwriter'(s), the director's, the actor's, etc.--and understand that what you are seeing is not a completely accurate reproduction of the life of John Adams.

That said, we do not mean to be interpreted as saying that such works have little or no value. Quite the opposite is true. We think things like HBO's John Adams are tremendously important. What McCullough has done with Adams and what Stephen Ambrose did with Band of Brothers represent important collaborations with media-types to create good history through film.

It's certainly not perfect, but it tells compelling history in a very approachable fashion: through film. Anyone can sit down and watch John Adams and learn more about the man, the period, his collaborative relationship with Abigail, the Founders, the Constitution, the Revolution, everything, than they previously knew. This is good and important.

From the first episode, one event stands out: the aftermath and trial resulting from the Boston Massacre. We refer the reader to the source of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, for a brief background.

The history of the Boston Massacre is tough to unpack, mostly because of the partisan telling of the tale. Sam Adam's Sons of Liberty wanted to use it to galvanize public opinion in favor of independence and agains the Crown. This made a fair trial with an unbiased jury and witness difficult to procure. Furthermore, it made it difficult to find an attorney willing to represent the British soldiers accused of committing murder.

In steps John Adams. Adams, with the constant support of his wife Abigail braved the public backlash and defended the soldiers. All but two were acquitted. The two who were not, were convicted of lesser charges.

This incident proved to the King and England and anyone else who cared to notice that the Rule of Law was in full effect in the American colonies. It would have been easier and more satisfying to the public to have a show trial and string them up. But the law prevailed.

We strongly encourage anyone with HBO or with a friend who has HBO to watch John Adams. There are lots of ways to spend your idle time, this is a good one.


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23 March 2008

Easter Means We Shall Live Again

From the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verses 1-6:
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, cam Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the spulchre.
2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
6 He is not here: for he is risen
And in Mark, chapter 16, verse 6:
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here
Again, in Luke, chapter 24, verses 5-6:
5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen
Finally, from John, chapter 20, verses 1-17:
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
Taken collectively, these are four witnesses to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: that though we may die, because He died and rose again, so too shall we all live again.


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22 March 2008

Saturday Link Dump

We have a lot of links to a lot of good articles. We'd like to have incorporated them all into different posts, but it just isn't going to happen. That said, we didn't just want to simply forget about them, so we figured we'd include them in a really, really huge Saturday link post. They are all worth clicking through and reading.

(note: please excuse the oversight if we forgot to give you a "hat tip" for recommending a particular article. email us and we'll take care of it.)

Want to read the collected speeches and letters of Abraham Lincoln? DailyLit has got you covered with daily installments via email. Even better, it's free.

Be sure to check out the Newt Gingrich Q&A at the freakonomics blog. (hat tip: Matt Lybbert)

Iraq:

- 'Re-Liberators' by Rich Lowry.
- Michael Totten on Iraq opinion.
- Pete Hesgeth's reports from Iraq 1 & 2.
- Report Detailing Saddam's Terrorist Ties.

2nd Amendment & Supreme Court Links:

- Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society, Professor of Law at Northwestern on The Right Judicial Litmus Test.
- Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center will give you a test to see if you are an Originalist.
- Lawrence Solum on Semantic and Normative Originalism.
- John Yoo examines the impact of Clarence Thomas' "fidelity" to the Constitution.
- Jonah Goldberg on a "living Constitution."
- Judge Bork weighs in on the "uphill fight" to restore constitutional order.
- Ramesh Ponnuru examines the cause of constitutional conservatives.
- Randy Barnett is a professor of constitutional law at the Georgetown Law Center and worked on an amicus brief in the Heller 2nd Amendment case.
- From the Becker-Posner blog, Posner on Gun Control.

Free Trade & The Economy:

- Ever wonder where the candidates get their economic policy advice? Check out "Who the candidates really listen to." (hat tip: Ryan Decker, Pendulum Politics)
- Get past the campaign boilerplate on trade with Greg Mankiw.
- Think tariffs and quotas are the solution to our economic woes? Tim Worstall argues in favor of technology and changes in transportation.
- Reed Smoot (homer nods: we previously attributed this bad piece of legislation to Abraham Smoot, after whom the BYU admin building was named. Since corrected. Thanks, Branden) helped tip the world economy into the Great Depression. Democrat threats to withdraw from Nafta and other free trade agreements could do the same. Smoot, good man, economically illiterate.
- From Commentary magazine, John Steele Gordon on "who's afraid of free trade." We'll give you a clue: not us.
- An NRO symposium on the economics of the current presidential election and what it could mean for our economy long-term.
- Walter Williams calls our attention to poor government policy--ethanol--that has exacerbated the rise in oil prices. (hat tip: Matt Perkins)

Colombia

- NRO editors say that "Uribe deserves our support." Indeed.
- Rich Lowry agrees that Colombia is the Israel of South America. And it's a good thing because both of those countries are staunch allies of the USA.

&c.

- Michael Barone on Romney. (hat tip: S. Lybbert)
- Weekend Interview with the President of the Czech Republic.
- Mark Steyn on WFB.
- Ann coulter on WFB.
- Seattle Mariners' pitcher hopes to go from Westpoint to the majors.
- Law and economics from the Becker-Posner Blog.
- Get the latest edition of the BYU Political Review. Just one article from someone studying economics. And it's about Spitzer, not econ.

Finally, Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard evolutionary biologist, writes about cancer. Per the prefatory note by Steve Dunn:
As far as I'm concerned, Gould's The Median Isn't the Message is the wisest, most humane thing ever written about cancer and statistics. It is the antidote both to those who say that, "the statistics don't matter," and to those who have the unfortunate habit of pronouncing death sentences on patients who face a difficult prognosis. Anyone who researches the medical literature will confront the statistics for their disease. Anyone who reads this will be armed with reason and with hope.
(hat tip: S. Lybbert)


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21 March 2008

Obama, Lincoln & The American Family

We're currently about half-way done with a collection of Lincoln's speeches and letters. His most notable speeches--to the Young Men's Lyceum, 1st Inaugural, Gettysburg Address, 2nd Inaugural--we've read a number of times. They are awesome. His 2nd Inaugural Address may be the greatest speech in American history.

We've also listened to and read a number of Barack Obama's speeches. He is, as MJ says, a powerful speaker. However, we agree with a point made by Peggy Noonan a few weeks ago (WSJ subscription required). Barack Obama is an intelligent, articulate speaker. His ability to work a crowd and speak extemporaneously is awesome. We've done a bit of the latter and appreciate his ability all the more for it.

But we distinguish between the power of a speaker and the lasting effect and power of their words. Obama's speeches and rhetoric lose their power when read from the page. They are insipid and narcissistic. "We are the ones we've been waiting for." The culmination of human history.

With all due respect to our friend MJ--and really, we can't blame him, because he's only parroting the line of the liberal intelligentsia--suggesting that Obama rivals Lincoln, belies either a complete ignorance of Lincoln's speeches or a blind obsession for Barack Obama. His last speech was good, and it may save his candidacy from its association with Wright, but we're familiar with Lincoln's speeches and writing, and Barack Obama is no Abraham Lincoln.

***

We cite, but two examples from his recent speech:

In his speech, Barack Obama used his grandmother to communicate the depth of his association with Wright, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." Why not? He goes on:
[she was] a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Did he really need to out his grandmother as a racist? Does he really believe or expect any of the rest of us to believe that his grandmother's private utterances are on par with the repeated and public racist statements of his chosen pastor?

This, folks, is moral equivalence. And it doesn't explain or excuse Wright's statements. Wright didn't privately mention his racist prejudices to Obama, he peddled them in church week after week and then packaged them in a series of DVDs and sold them to the general public.

In his speech, Obama said that he didn't think that racism was endemic in America (read: white people) but then, in a New York Times follow up to the comment about his grandmother, he said that she was "a typical white person." (emphasis added)

Nice racial stereotype, Barack.

This contradicts his speech-professed belief that white America is not racist.

What will it be, Barack? Are we all racists like Wright and your poor grandmother?

***

The second point also draws on Obama's poor comparison between his grandmother and Rev. Wright. Obama's does not address and again, gives tacit approval to, the racial double standard that exists in this country. It is a double standard characterized by the soft bigotry of low expectations:
For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
He's right about one thing: Democratic politicians have always exploited black anger. And the liberal elites in this country permit a racial double standard that does African Americans no favors.

It wasn't just Wright and his generation applauding his conspiratorial racism, young African Americans cheered when he talked about the government's secret plans to use AIDS and crack cocaine to kill blacks. He is inculcating his racism and bigotry in yet another generation.

If we want to end the problem of racism in this country, we cannot continue to allow one standard for whites and another for blacks. We are a member of the NAACP. We don't agree with all of their policies, but we appreciate their historical fight for Civil Rights. If Barack Obama wanted to be a unifier, he would encourage, nay, demand, that the racial double standard end.

***

The biggest single problem disadvantaging not only blacks, but every ethnicity in this country, is the breakdown of the family. As Peggy Noonan mentioned in the same column:
That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family.
The division is not between white and black or haves and have-nots, it's between those with functioning families and those without. There are exceptions, but a dysfunctional family is very difficult to overcome. Every problem Obama mentioned in the latter part of his speech can be combatted and overcome by fortifying the American family.


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20 March 2008

Kanye West, Barack Obama & Jeremiah Wright

Yesterday we read, as we always do, James Taranto's Best of the Web. It mostly treated the various responses and takes on Barack Obama's race speech. Byron York reported on the scene in Philadelphia. Lisa Miller addressed the response of black religious leaders. Taranto reminded us that Obama (rightly) led the charge against Don Imus. Mickey Kaus pointed out that many voters like to be able to vote for Obama.

The least interesting point, initially, was the one made by John McWhorter, a pundit we've referenced before. Among other things, McWhorter discussed the tone and supposed entertainment value of Wright's rhetoric.
They hear a stirring articulation of rebellion, listenable according to a sense that fealty to one's race entails at least a gestural nod to sticking a finger in whitey's eye now and then. The tone, the music of the statements is more vivid than the content. Sermons like this are Sunday morning's version of gangsta rap.
That comparison struck us as a bit odd. "Sunday morning's version of gangsta rap?"

We've long enjoyed hip hop music and some people, including some readers of this blog, have chided us for it. We enjoy some of the silly lyrics and the fun beats like those found in a song Friend of Lybberty, Morgan Habedank, recently wrote about.

After having read Taranto's column, we were driving down the canyon, and we started listening to a song by hip hop philosopher, he of George-Bush-hates-black-people fame, Kanye West. We were particularly struck by some of the lyrics from his song "Heard 'Em Say." (caution: explicit language in link)
And I heard 'em say, nothin ever promised tomorrow today.
From the Chi, like Tim its the Hard-a-way,
So this is in the name of love, like Robert says
Before you ask me to get a job today, can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?
OK, mostly words that kind of rhyme with a little political plug thrown in for good measure. But then there's this:
And I know the government administered AIDS,
So I guess we just pray like the minister say,
There's that pesky little conspiracy theory of Reverend Wright's, that the government somehow gave black people AIDS in order to have an African-American genocide. But it doesn't end there. From his song "Crack Music." (again, caution, explicit language in link)
How we stop the black panthers?
Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer
You hear that?
What Gil Scott was hearin
When our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin.
Crack raised the murder rate in DC and Maryland
We invested in that it's like we got Merril-Lynched
And we been hangin from the same tree ever since
This time, Ronald Reagan concocted crack-cocaine to "lynch" African Americans. Later on in the same song, Kanye asks,
Who gave Saddam anthrax?
George Bush got the answers
Back in the hood it's a different type of chemical
Kanye West's lyrics are of a piece with the so-called Black Liberation Theology preached by Reverend Wright. Kanye isn't alone in propagating this garbage, he's just the most current and prominent. Nor is Reverend Wright the only pastor who teaches this to a very receptive audience (according to the video we've seen).

Regrettably, this theology can be found in many African-American churches (those churches that teach the aforementioned Black Liberation Theology) and the hip hop culture (Kanye and other hip hop artists like him). It is a theology of conspiracy, hate, racism, and other divisive language. It teaches African-Americans to believe that white Americans want nothing more than to keep them down and will do anything--AIDS, crack, etc.--to keep them in de facto slavery.

Barack Obama is supposed to be the post-racial Presidential candidate who helps America move past the ugliest parts of its history--slavery, Jim Crow--and yet for 20 years he associated with, was married by, received counsel from, had baptize his daughters, had as one of his campaign advisors, one of the major purveyors of this theology of hate.

And this is the thing that gets us: not all, or even most, African-American churches teach this crap. There are plenty which teach the Good Word of God. Why couldn't Obama have attended one of those?

None of this should be interpreted to mean that we think Obama believed or believes Wright's racist, hateful rhetoric. We don't. When he repudiated Wright's statement, we took him at his word. Of course, it was a politically expedient move. But his longstanding attendance at that Chicago church seemed to indicate a sort of tacit approval.

For over 20 years, Barack Obama was willing to look the other way in order to maintain the support of a very influential African-American leader, church, and congregation in Chicago.

At the very least, this reveals that Barack Obama is just like every other politician, willing to do whatever it takes to boost his electoral appeal.

(sorry to burst the bubble)


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19 March 2008

BYU Daily Universe Review

[Our brother doubles as our editor and sounding board. If there are typos, and there always are, it's because he hasn't yet read what we wrote and let us know of the error. We can't be bothered to read what we've written once we're done with it.]

With no new issue of BYU Political Review to dissect (Mr. Decker, get to work), we're left with the Daily Universe.

Another kerfuffle at BYU over the editors' decision not to print recent Dilbert comic strips that invoked the name of Jesus Christ. In a recent column, the editorial page responded to criticisms of their decision by saying that "the unrestrained flow of information (even with something as non-consequential as a cartoon) is not our highest aim at The Daily Universe."

Fair enough. We won't quibble with their decision. But we do have one question: what, exactly, does this, their concluding paragraph mean?
The unrestrained flow of information cannot be the ultimate good for a news organization. It is a marvelous good and a good for which we will always fight, but a good that cannot be made sovereign. Something isn't good because it is free. It is good because of the ideals for which it stands. Necessarily, something must be free in order to ultimately be good, but its own liberality does not make it good. For this reason newspapers fight against outside restrictions. But freedom from outside restrictions does not absolve media outlets of their own standards and responsibilities.
We don't pretend to be the smartest blogger on the internet, but we think that we are smart enough to be able to understand the writing in a university editorial. Frankly, we have no idea what this paragraph is trying to say. It reads like Miss South Carolina's response to why U.S. Americans can't find the United States on a world map.

It strikes us as a just whole lot of words designed to make the writer appear to be an intelligent sophisticate--you know, so they can be like adult journalists. Remember, we're not arguing that these writers agree with us politically. At this point, we'd be satisfied with an editorial that makes sense.

***

Frequently the Daily Universe runs syndicated opinions written in other college newspapers. Judging by the op-ed we cited above, they should do this more often. On Monday, the DU ran a piece by Raja Karthikeya, a contributor to Georgetown's The Hoya. Writing about Kosovo's recent declaration of independence, Karthikeya said,
Condoning the independence of Kosovo is the worst mistake the international community has made in recent years in Europe. Kosovo is not a simple case of self-determinism of its people: It is about setting a precedent of secession that undermines the integrity of pluralistic nations everywhere.
Broadly, we support other people's in their struggle for independence from tyrannical domination. And with just a cursory look at the situation in Kosovo, we supported their split. We're not ready to back away form that position, but Karthikeya's column does raise some important points to consider.

***

Finally, today's op-ed on on Obama's exculpatory Wright-speech.

After the non-sense of the first column, the DU's editors redeemed themselves with a strong editorial about Obama's missed opportunity. In particular, these paragraphs echo the questions we have about Obama's association with Wright and the questions that association raises about his judgment:
The worry with Wright's comments never was that they directly represented Obama's personal views. It was Obama's judgment. How could a man who's been campaigning on sound judgment in the absence of experience, choose Wright as his family's spiritual adviser?

Obama's best chance for success Tuesday would have been to condemn Wright's comments and then say he was gravely mistaken to have chosen him as his family's spiritual adviser. Instead, he continued to sell Wright off as the crazy uncle whom he loves, disagrees with, but [who] still makes a good point - despite all his hate and anger.
(emphasis added)

We were most bothered by the moral equivalence reflected in Obama's comparison of Rev. Wright to his (Obama's) poor grandmother. Does anyone really believe that the private prejudice of Barack's grandmother is on par with the hateful, divisive, racist, conspiracy theories of Jeremiah Wright? Give us a break.

Saying that Wright's position is OK or understandable is just another example of what one of our favorite writers--One Cosmos--calls "the soft bigotry of low or no expectations for blacks."
(article link)

As much as anything else, Obama's speech showed that he is just repackaging and rebranding the same old liberal drivel.


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Supreme Court Will Rule In Favour Of 2nd Amendment

From the Financial Times and My Way News, word that the Supreme court has ruled for individual possession of firearms.

Bravo, Supreme Court. Intellectually, historically, legally, there was only one way they could have ruled: in favor of the individual right to bear arms over some amorphous-collective-militia.

Any student (including BYU's American Heritage students, with whom we, as former TA, are well acquainted) of the Constitution knows that the Bill of Rights were written to guarantee the rights of the individual against incursions from the government. The fear when writing the Bill of Rights was that government would assume it could do anything not specifically prohibited by the Bill of Rights.

But some Founders, rather than worrying about the tale (Bill of Rights) wagging the dog (Constitutionally outlined powers), anticipated correctly the exponential growth of government and knew that citizen's individual rights would need to be protected. Thus, the "afterthought" of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution--the Bill of Rights.

So, summary: the Bill of Rights were written to protect the rights of the indivudal--the 2nd Amendment is no different to all the rest. Fortunately, the anti-2nd Amendment judicial activism du jour did not persuade swing-voter Anthony Kennedy.

Score one for Constitutional originalism.

*UPDATE 19 March 1:43am: The Left Fires a Counter-Volley, Meet the NRA's little known, highly influential opponents (subscription required, email us if you'd like to receive a digital copy of the article).


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18 March 2008

University College London, BYU, Obama, &c.

Image link

If the New York Times doesn't think a story is newsworthy, did it really happen?

You may recall that a few weeks ago the NYT ran a story about John McCain. None of their anonymous sources (who, mind you, didn't even meet their own rules on sourcing) said that McCain actually did anything, rather, it was a supposed to be a story about McCain's judgment and associations.

Along comes a story that is largely about Barack Obama's association and judgment. Where is the New York Times coverage? Buried. Journalistic double standard anyone?

Again, we don't think Obama personally espouses any of Reverend Wright's crazy ideas, but his 20 year relationship with Wright does raise questions (like the recent revelations about a deeper relationship with Rezko than previously thought) about his associations and judgment. Juan Williams, a liberal former Washington Post writer and current NPR and Fox News contributor, for whom we hold great respect, also agreed that this raises questions about Obama's judgment.

Barack Obama's Speech Transcript
Analysis: Obama Grabs Race Issue
Obama Rebukes Preacher, Urges Race Healing
Obama Confronts Racial Division In US

*UPDATE 6:15pm MST: Friend of Lybberty and Lost Boy writer, Morgan Habedank, weighs in on Reverend Wright's comments. We noted in the comments section of his post and repeat here: it is important for the less politically inclined, but no less intelligent among us, to sometimes hold forth on issues like this.

We believe that political pundits sometimes suffer from a myopia that afflicts all disciplines (this includes us). Thoughtful opinion from someone outside the political echo chamber can help us gain a greater understanding of issues and put them in proper perspective. Bravo, Mr. Habedank.

***

We want to call attention and give credit to the fledgling BYU Ski Team. We have a couple of friends on the team who give us irregular reports about the team's performance. This article from the Daily Universe is the first we've seen on the team. They race and train without any official recognition from BYU and, all things considered, have done quite well. This year they narrowly missed qualifying for the National Championships. Good job, BYU ski team.

***

From an otherwise unremarkable article about Provo development, the Daily Universe reported on a few interesting comments regarding Provo's student population:
Exclusiveness in Provo was an area of concern. Residents voiced their opinion that the city needs to market more to the student population as well as the non-LDS members of the community.

According to numbers from the city records for 2007, university students make up approximately 45 percent of Provo's population. Also, according to the city's Web site, more than 20 different religious groups are present in Provo.

"Students offer a very unique population that can really be capitalized upon," Simonson said. "Students don't usually have a large discretionary income, but they're always looking for something to do."

Melanie McCoard, an active member of the community who ran for city council three times, said some recent decisions made by the city council have caused some students to think Provo is anti-student.

"Opening up the downtown to students could help dissolve that perception," McCoard said.
As far as contentious relationships between longtime city residents and student populations go, BYU vs. Provo isn't breaking any records. That said, the Provo City Council and some residents resentful attitude towards students is irritating. Students don't vote here and supposedly pay little in taxes.

However, this superficial look at the benefit of BYU students in the Utah Valley does not tell the whole tale.

BYU employs thousands of people and provides innumerable (and, often, unknown) services to the greater Provo community. Students alone give hundreds of thousands of hours of services each year. They are helping out in schools, providing daycare for special needs kids so their parents can have a few hours to shop or whatever, they are cleaning up parks and neighborhoods and on and on. BYU students aren't simply entering to learn and going forth to serve once graduated, they are serving the entire time they are at BYU.

In exchange, they are ignored and patronized and sometimes demonized by Provo residents. The Provo City Council refuses to make student concerns a top priority when making parking policy.

Of course, they can get away with it because BYU students don't vote in local elections. But that doesn't make it or them, right.

***

Finally, a bit o news from my grad school, UCL. Student politics are interesting in London. In a post last year, we wrote about our experience with the UCL Student Union--essentially, their debate club (click here for the link).

Undergraduate and graduate involvement in UCL student government is an interesting thing. In one sense, they have more say over more things, but in another sense, their interest in the University beyond their emphasis is less than BYU students.

Be that as it may, we were struck by a recent email we received from one of our sources at UCL regarding the latest tempest in a teapot at the UCL Union:
On Wednesday the 5th of March, UCL Union held an [sic] "Reconvened Annual General Meeting". Since then, the sabbaticals and Chief Executive have received a substantial number of complaints regarding the democratic procedure of the meeting and subsequently questioning its legitimacy.

After investigating these complaints, the sabbatical team took the decision on the 10th of March to initiate disciplinary proceedings examining the chair of the meeting, UCL Union's General Secretary. The General Secretary has therefore been suspended from office pending the results of this disciplinary, which will hopefully be taking place in the first week of the third term. The disciplinary panel will be composed of senior members of College and sabbatical officers from other London students' unions.

Following this decision, a March 12th meeting of UCL Union Governance Committee resolved to temporarily suspend the decisions made at the "Reconvened Annual General Meeting" pending the outcome of the disciplinary panel, and will report back to the Union's Executive by the 6th of May.
In one sense, we're relieved to see that BYU isn't the only university that blows procedural things out of proportion, in another sense we're dismayed at the suspension of democracy and lack of transparency. This is all the information we could get about the actions of the General Secretary.

But stay tuned, if we can find it, we'll give you the rest of the story.


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17 March 2008

OL&L: "Rants To Get Your Monday Started Wright!"

- Obama's Rev. Wright kerfuffle continues.

To answer MJ's questions, no, we won't question "what members of a church say OR what members of a church believe God has told them." Reverend Wright isn't any old member of Barack's church. He's a leader. And according to the things we've read and watched fall from Wright's lips, it doesn't seem like he's claiming that his statements have a divine source--they are just his opinion.

Regarding the argument that Rev. Wright's arguments have been taken out of context: how could they possibly be put in context? The clips we've seen and things we've read aren't stray sentences, they are full paragraphs. This isn't the case of a single statement being out character with the rest of a body of work. Rev. Wright serially bashes this country using racist, anti-semitic language punctuated by crazy conspiracy theories.

We want to know why Obama maintained such a close relationship with this loon--he married the Obama's, baptized their child, served as an advisor on his campaign, and provided the title for his book, "The Audacity Of Hope." We don't think Obama believes any of the ridiculous things spewed by Wright, but we'd like to know why Obama associated himself so closely with Wright for 20+ years. A reasonable request, no?

It may be that their choice of church was prompted by Michelle Obama who is on the record as not being proud of this country until her husband's presidential candidacy. Maybe it's Michelle Obama who is sympathetic to Wright's whacked out world view. We don't know.

Here's the latest from the newswire:

Obama Decries Racial Rhetoric
Obama Plans Major Race Speech Tomorrow

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- lybberty.com is sponsoring (read: organizing and providing make up prizes) a Facebook/CBS Sportsline NCAA tournament bracket. It's open to all so join and invite your friends.

Beat Marc Sitterud

- The Seattle PI just won't let Rachel Corrie die. First it was all the stories about how Israeli forces intentionally killed the misguided young woman, then it was the idiotic off-Broadway play (yes, an oxymoron), and now they have published her diary and the PI is running a few excerpts.

Her death is tragic. But not for the reasons the PI and their readership believe. What's tragic is that Rachel died naively promoting the Palestinian cause. It's not that we don't hope for peace in the Middle East, it's that peace is never going to come so long as Palestinians continue to support and vote for Hamas, a group whose stated goal is the outright elimination of Israel.

The tragedy is that Rachel was used and turned into a tool of propaganda by these terrorists. For the love of Pete, let her RIP.

- We don't mean to defame the entire NYC theatre industry, there are a few smart people, like playwright David Mamet. He recently wrote a piece entitled "Why I am no longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal' for the Village Voice. From that article:
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind. As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.... [Now I] question my hatred for 'the Corporations' -- the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live. And I began to question my distrust of the 'Bad, Bad Military' of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.... I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.
- Speaking of industries dominated by liberals, if you're conservative and in Hollywood, you're not entirely alone. Dave Berg, political director for The Tonight Show spoke about conservatism in Hollywood at a recent Republican gathering. From The Politico:
Berg, the "Tonight Show" segment producer, delivered an informal talk about the pride and pitfalls of being a conservative working in Hollywood. Peppering his speech with references to Michael Moore, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other Tinseltown lefties, he argued against the liberal mindset that he believes dominates the industry.

“We [conservatives] believe capitalism isn’t a dirty word,” he said. “If you’ve seen Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of a greedy, sinister oilman in ‘There Will Be Blood,’ it’s just another example of the Hollywood left’s contempt for capitalism.”
Click the link, the whole article is worth the read.

- According to a Pew Research Poll, a majority of Americans now believe that "the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals" in Iraq.

Good to see the positive news of the surge is getting through the mainstream media filter.

- Be sure and read this transcript of a speech given by Lt. General Raymond T. Odierno, Commanding General of U.S. III Corps given at The Heritage Foundation. He reviewed his experience with Iraq from November 2006 to his recent return home.

No Rachel Corrie moral equivalence here, we join with General Odierno in honoring the memory of those who were injured and lost their lives in Iraq:
The gates of freedom remain open today because of our fallen comrades: noble and gallant warriors who gave everything so others can enjoy life, liberty, and happiness. We will honor their memory and remain dedicated to ensuring their sacrifices are never forgotten.
This seems as good of a place as any to end this long post.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.


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14 March 2008

Barack Obama & The (Rev.) Wright-Wing Nut

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If it's alright for the liberal press to call into question Mitt Romney's judgment for being a member of a church that denied the priesthood to blacks over 30 years ago, then Barack Obama's ongoing, 20-year, close personal relationship with his America-hating pastor is fair game.

Among other things, Reverend Wright preached that:
- The US is like al-Qaeda
- HIV is a genocidal plot by the American government to eliminate African Americans
- Drugs are/were promoted by the government as a way to imprison blacks
- America deserved 9/11
- FDR and the US government knew the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor
- Honored virulent anti-semite, Louis Farrakhan and traveled with him to visit Libyan tyrant/terrorist Muammar al-Gaddafi
- Uses anti-semitic language**

The list goes on. And it's all sick. The last thing Obama needs now is for someone to find a clip of Rev. Wright ranting with a cut to Barack and family in the audience, cheering and nodding their heads. Believe it or not, we honestly hope Barack never found himself nodding as this crazed loon spouted off about some crazy 9/11 truther-inspired conspiracy.

Here are the links:
Obama And The Minister
As Obama Talks Religion, Questions Surround His Controversial Pastor
Wright Leaves Obama Campaign
Obama Denounces His Pastor's Statements

Could you imagine if this were John McCain or even Hillary Clinton and their white religious leader were doing the same thing? We strongly defend Wright's right to say these things (and, after all, this isn't Canada), but he and those who associate with him will suffer the consequences in the court of public opinion. And in Pennsylvania next month.

It looks like Christmas came early for the Clinton camp this year.

We don't think Barack Obama hates America or believes what Reverend Wright preaches, but maybe his attitudes are closer to the attitude of his wife who infamously stated that Barack's candidacy for President was the first time she has been proud of her country.

If he doesn't agree with these things, why did Obama associate himself with Rev. Wright for 20 years?


*UPDATE 15 March 5:07pm MST: Video from Barack Obama's interview with Major Garrett on Fox News.

**UPDATE 17 March 12:59pm MST: A sample of Rev. Wright's anti-semitic language:
In sermons and interviews, Dr. Wright has equated Zionism with racism and Israel with South Africa under its previous policy of apartheid. On the Sunday after 9/11, Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later, Wright suggested that the attacks were retribution for America’s racism.

“In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01,” Wright wrote in a church-affiliated magazine. “White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”

In one of his sermons, Wright said, “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”

As for Israel, “The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for over 40 years now,” Wright has said. “Divestment has now hit the table again as a strategy to wake the business community and wake up Americans concerning the injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism.”

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