URLs du Jour

2019-05-27

Memorial Day 2019:

[Memorial Day 2019]

  • Our guest lecturer today is Calvin Coolidge, contradicting somewhat his "Silent Cal" nickname, with his remarks at Arlington National Ceremony on May 30, 1924: "American Citizenship Is a High Estate".

    This principle can not be too definitely or emphatically proclaimed. American citizenship is a high estate. He who holds it is the peer of kings. It has been secured only by untold toil and effort. It will be maintained by no other method. It demands the best that men and women have to give. But it likewise awards to its partakers the best that there is on earth. To attempt to turn it into a thing of ease and inaction would be only to debase it. To cease to struggle and toil and sacrifice for it is not only to cease to be worthy of it but is to start a retreat toward barbarism. No matter what others may say, no matter what others may do, this is the stand that those must maintain who are worthy to be called Americans.

    Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover Calvin Coolidge again.


  • Usually we'd reserve the following for our Sunday "Phony Campaign" featurette, but… it's pretty appropriate for Memorial Day, too. The Daily Wire reports: Dem Candidate Pete Buttigieg On Trump’s Vietnam Deferment: He Used ‘His Privileged Status To Fake A Disability’. An interview with the WaPo's Robert Costa:

    COSTA: Do you think he should have served in Vietnam?

    BUTTIGIEG: Well, I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam.

    COSTA: You believe he faked a disability? Do you believe he has a disability?

    BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, at least not that one. No, I don't mean – this is actually really important because I don't mean to trivialize disability, but I think that's exactly what he did. When you think about the way somebody can exploit the system and needless to say the way he has treated and mocked disabled people is just one more example of the many affronts to just basic decency that this president has inflicted on this country, but manipulating the ability to get a diagnosis. I mean, if he were a conscientious objector, I'd admire that.

    But this is somebody who, I think it's fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was a child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place. And I know that that drudges up old wounds from a complicated time during a complicated war, but I'm also old enough to remember when conservatives talked about character as something that mattered in the presidency. And so I think it deserves to be talked about.

    Yes, conservatives used to talk about character. Then Bill Clinton won anyway.


  • At Cato, Gene Healy looks carefully at Justin Amash's recent take on impeachment. And finds a lot to like, especially Amash's emphasis on "public trust".

    With his emphasis on “the public trust,” our least Hamiltonian congressman is channelling Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65. In that essay, Hamilton described impeachment as a remedy aimed at:

    those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. 

    But that broad understanding wasn’t a point much in dispute among the Framers. James Madison described impeachment as an “indispensable” provision for “defending the Community against the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.” And throughout American history, federal officers have been impeached for offenses ranging from petty corruption, to neglect of duty, to withholding information from Congress, and “behaving in a manner grossly incompatible with the proper function and purpose of the office.” When Amash says that impeachment can extend to “careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct,” it may sound sweeping, but he’s on solid ground.

    I'm not quite persuaded that impeachment is an appropriate check-and-balance tool in the current day, but… maybe I'm getting there.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is nearing the end of its National Review run, so maybe Jonah is getting philosophical: The Problem with Certainty: Its Roots, and Its Consequences.

    I have a love–hate relationship with certainty. I often cannot stand people who inveigh against certainty as if it is a great evil. My go-to example of this is Anthony Lewis’ thumb-sucky (the thumb is silent) “Big Conclusion” of his career. He said: “Certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft.”

    The first response to this, which would cause one of Harry Mudd’s android friends to implode, is “Are you certain about that?”

    Certainty, like dogma, is one of those things that people hate only when they disagree with what people are certain (or dogmatic) about. Certainty about evil things is almost always evil (even when good people are mistakenly certain about it). Certainty about good things can lead to evil if applied poorly (see The Bridge on The River Kwai). But certainty is not an evil thing in itself. I am certain that slavery is bad. I am certain that torturing puppies for fun is bad. My certainty about such things doesn’t make me an enemy of decency any more than being certain that decency is generally a good thing.

    As I get older, I find myself using the phrases "As near as I can tell…" and "I'm pretty sure that…". I could just be saving myself some future embarrassment, or maybe I'm just trying to be a good Bayesian.


  • Michael Huemer undertakes Studies in Irrationality: Marxism.

    I’ve been known to cite Marxism as an example of an irrational political belief. This is controversial in intellectual circles (indeed, some will probably be outraged by this post), but that doesn’t prevent it from being clearly true; it just means that certain forms of irrationality are popular in intellectual circles. In fact, I regard Marxism as the paradigm of an irrational political belief; if it’s not irrational, nothing is. The theory has been as soundly refuted as a social theory can be. Sometimes, people ask me to explain why I say this.

    Click through for Michael's thoroughgoing explanation. Pretty devastating.


  • At Reason, John V. C. Nye has an outrageous suggestion (also in the June 2019 magazine): Make School Hard Again. Taking off from the recent admissions scandal:

    The revelations have understandably provoked much wailing about the corruption of the university admissions process. But much less notice has been paid to another sea change that enabled this scandal to occur: It is still very hard to get into elite schools, but it's not at all difficult to graduate.

    In a different era, obtaining a diploma from an Ivy League school required hard work and real educational attainment for almost any major. The kinds of students admitted through money or connections would often struggle to make it through—hence the so-called "gentleman's C." But the vast majority of those who completed a degree could take pride in their accomplishments and rest easy knowing they were well-prepared to succeed in life.

    Not so anymore. Since the late 1960s, universities have increasingly suffered from grade inflation and an emphasis on ensuring that all admitted students graduate. At the same time, schools have become more liberal about accepting applicants based on unorthodox qualifications, from athletic ability to nonacademic accomplishments, disadvantageous backgrounds, and demonstrated social "awareness."

    Subtext: other things being equal, thanks to demographics, universities face declining enrollments. To keep the cash coming, relaxing admission requirements and dumbing down courses are obvious answers.


  • And (somewhat relevant to the previous item) Dave Barry links to a good, funny article: Why becoming a Wienermobile driver is harder than getting into Harvard. But what really made me punch my fist in the air was:

    (Thanks to Paul Sand)

    Yes! Dave typed my name with his own two hands! I'm feeling immortal today.


Last Modified 2019-06-13 4:50 PM EDT