So it’s getting to the end of a long semester. I’ve got finals looming, a term paper that needs revision, clerkship applications winding up, and an internship winding down. In short, I’m fairly busy and a little stressed out.
But, lo, as though the gods of law knew I needed a pick me up, what do I find in my mail box today but the two most delightful words to any law student: Class Action!
That’s right, I had no clue that these people had wronged me, I have no records of my employment to scour through, and, until today, I barely remembered working there. But thanks to the magical workings of the class action, I should be getting money from them in a couple of months. Wowee!
And this isn’t one of those “You were overcharged for long distance service, here’s your $1.35″ class actions. No, my calculations tell me I should get real money from this one — $10, maybe $15! There’s going to be an all-day Double Stack and Frosty feast when that check comes in.
The most distressing aspect of the torture issue — worse, to my mind, than either the harm done to detainees or the intelligence that may have been compromised — has been our inability to debate the subject seriously and rationally. This is not a back-door way of criticizing those who disagree with me: 99% of the arguments put forward by both sides rely on the kind of circular logic that admits no honest disagreement. In short, the debated has been poisoned.
That we’ve been unable to discuss a subject this important — though for entirely different reasons, depending on whom you ask — for more than five years speaks very, very poorly for us; after 200 years of practice with republicanism, one would think our citizens could have an intelligent public debate about a controversial subject.
Jim Manzi’s post on the Corner is a genuine exception and something of an antidote: it frames the debate rationally, weighs arguments for and against, and then makes a reasoned judgment. It’s by no means a definitive statement, but it’s the kind of argument we need.
My thoughts are below the fold, but they’re less important than what Manzi wrote. Go read the whole thing.
Notre Dame caused a flap when it invited President Obama (who might be more pro-abortion than any other politician in federal office) to speak at graduation. To defend itself, Notre Dame released some talking points, including this:
- We have said from the start, that this invitation does not mean we agree with all positions the President has taken. We do not condone the President’s positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. We have crucial differences with him on issues of protecting human life. Fr. Jenkins made that clear.
- But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invite him to Notre Dame. We can never change the President’s views unless he listens to us. And how can we expect him to listen to us if we won’t listen to him?
- And President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.
- We think having the President come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the President and for the causes we care about.
Professor Glendon has (rightly) hit the roof at being a fig leaf:
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops’ guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame’s example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.
It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.
Good for Ms. Glendon. It Looks like this particular clusterbungle will harass Notre Dame for some time. . .
Having satisfied its readers’ appetite for insightful commentary about the entertainment industry and popular culture, the fine folks at Big Hollywood treat us to this original and thoughtful essay on the torture controversy by one Jeffrey Jena:
So what is torture? There is no definition of torture anywhere that I can find. Is playing loud music torture? Then the kid next door to me needs to get a visit from the Attorney General so I can get some sleep. Bugs where you sleep? I always knew camping was torture! Cold and naked, that was my four years in college. Someone puts underpants on your head? Ever been to a kegger? Annoying voices saying things you find offensive, then Obama and Pelosi torture me every day.
How would the left extract information from terrorists? Sit them down in a well lit room with some nice Lazy-e-Boys and a cold soda, lean in close and say, “Do you have something to tell me?” Then lean back and wait until they are ready to open up? Maybe we could put them in therapy and in six or seven years they would have a breakthrough!
One wonders how Mr. Jena imagines policemen do their work. Do they torture murder suspects into a confession, or do they ask them nice questions while massaging thier feet and ordering Pad Thai? I can’t think of any other possibilities.
I’ve been seeing Kathryn Lopez link to this list of books that some people think “all” high schoolers should read before graduating. I’m definately with JohnDerbyshire on this. Back in high school I somehow got it into my head that I needed to read a bunch of Great Books in order to be smart. I read most of the stuff on that list (though I didn’t know of the list’s existence until a couple of days ago), as well as a few dozen books not on the list. I read a lot, honestly.
Then about half way through Anna Karenina, it dawned on me that virtually everything I was reading was a crashing bore. In the ten years since that reading spree, the only fiction I’ve read that wasn’t assigned to me in a class was Tolkien. Turning reading into something I had to do completely killed my desire to read. I think forcing any 16 year-old to read Virgil would have a similar effect; it’s simply more fun to watch television.
The negative consequences of forcing teenagers to read aside, I looked at the list, and I would actually advise against high schoolers reading most of what’s on there. Read the rest of this entry »
What does that even mean? “He’s like a cross between Geoffrey Chaucer and Emilio Estevez.” “He’s like a cross between Charles de Gaulle and Larry Flynt.” You can’t just pick two random people and “cross” them.
As best I can tell, Biden’s comment only makes sense if you translate it as, “He’s like Franklin Roosevelt, but black.” It’s a completely useless description except to comment on the fact that Obama is black.
The story refers to Joe Biden as “gaffe-prone.” I no longer think that’s true. When you consistently say stupid things, they’re not gaffes, they’re just stupid things you say.
Apollo posted this at 4:51 PM CDT on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 as Buffoon Watch
Lytton Strachey, debunker of Victorians, once argued that “discretion is not the better part of biography.” Christo Buckley has apparently taken this to heart, airing a good chunk of dirty laundry in The New York Times about a visit from Caitlin Buckley and Kate Kennedy (granddaughters of WFB and RFK):
At some point, Mum turned to — on might be the more exact preposition — Kate, informing her that she (Mum) had been an alternate juror in the murder trial of Kate’s father’s first cousin Michael Skakel. Skakel, nephew of Ethel Kennedy, Kate’s grandmother, was (as you might be aware) the defendant in a sensational murder trial in Stamford several years before, for the 1975 murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley. Having presented this astonishing and perfectly untrue credential, Mum then proceeded to launch into a protracted lecture on the villainy of Kate’s relative.
Leave aside the issue of Skakel’s culpability, for which he is, at any rate, currently serving a 20-years-to-life sentence. Over the years, I heard Mum utter whoppers that would make Pinocchio look button-nosed, but this one really took the prize, in several categories, the first being Manners. Why on earth would you inflict a jeremiad on an innocent 18-year-old girl, your own granddaughter’s best friend? The mind — as Mum herself used to put it — boggles.
Over at The American Scene, Alan Jacobs admits he hasn’t finished the essay, but says, “But if we don’t go on to learn just how much—oh, how much—Mum had done for which she bloody well needed to be forgiven, and therefore learn just how gracious and forbearing her son had become, I will eat every hat I own.” Mr. Jacobs really should finish the essay. Buckely writes about excoriating his mother, to the point where she wouldn’t open his letters any more. The last words that would describe Buckley’s conduct towards his parents are “gracious” and “forbearing.” Indeed, it is quite clear that Buckley regrets not being more gracious and forbearing.
A larger point of these things is the sometimes peculiar relationships between parents and children. Even the happiest family has rocky patches, largely because families are still composed of human beings—and part of being human is making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, accidentally hurting someone, burning when one meant to singe. Biographies have two related flaws: the first is to gloss away every unpleasant aspect of a man’s life, the second is to focus on nothing but the ugly. What comes through with Chris Buckley’s piece is that yes, his parents had their flaws—but Pat Buckley was a remarkable woman who livened up most of her parties and dearly loved her son despite his flaws. WFB had his weak points, too, but he was a good man who did great things.
If there is a family trait, all three Buckleys seem a touch stuck on himself (or herself). It causes them to drive each other crazy, but they still love each other despite all this. Christo Buckley has tried his best to write an even handed family biography; the excerpt shows that he is, in ways good and bad, his parents’ son.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
11:00 AM (Luncheon to Follow)
Featuring Tim Reif, General Counsel, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (remarks off the record);Anne Kim, Economic Program Director, Third Way; and Dan Ikenson, Associate Director, Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.
. . .
To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email email@example.com, fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by 11:00 AM, Monday, April 27, 2009. Please arrive early. Seating is limited and not guaranteed. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200.
If you can’t make it to the Cato Institute, watch this forum live online.
How, exactly, does Mr. Reif give off the record remarks at an advertised forum? Particularly one that’s going to webcast live? Erik Wemple at the Washington City Paper suggests this as a possible story under the given constraints:
Yesterday, Tim Reif, general counsel of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative participated in a discussion about trade policy at the Cato Institute. The session touched on the splintering of a political consensus that guided the country through NAFTA and other free-trade pacts but fell apart under the Bush administration. In a heated discussion, the Cato Institute’s Dan Ikenson argued that low trade barriers are so important that the United States should consider taking unilateral steps in that direction. Reif responded.
Picking up on Reif’s comments, Anne Kim argued that what Reif said wasn’t necessarily the case. Reif then said something else.
The service law expands ways for students and seniors to earn money for college through their volunteer work.
If there’s one thing I know about volunteer work, it’s that you don’t get paid for it.
It aims to foster and fulfill people’s desire to make a difference, such as by mentoring children, cleaning up parks or buildings and weatherizing homes for the poor.
No, it aims to pay people to mentor children, clean up parks or buildings and weatherize homes for the poor. Whether differences are made or desires fulfilled is beside the point. We know this is true because if there is no money paid out to “voluteers,” the program will be considered a failure; so long as it is paying out money to “volunteers,” though, it will be a success, even if no person’s desire to make a difference is fostered.
Bolstering voluntary public service programs has been a priority of Obama, who credits his work as a community organizer in his early 20s for giving him direction in life. The president cited his work in Chicago as an example of how one person can make a difference.
“All that’s required on your part is a willingness to make a difference,” Obama said. “That’s the beauty of it; everybody can do it.”
Oh good grief! I remember back in the campaign when people were looking at young Barry’s days as a “community organizer” (he was paid; it wasn’t volunteer work either), no one could show an example of him “making a difference.” The only person who seems to have concretely benefited from that time period is him. “Making a difference” – to the extent that phrase has any meaning at all – is not about willingness, it’s about resources and competence. Neither of which did our president have during his “community organizing” days.
AmeriCorps offers a range of volunteer opportunities including housing construction, youth outreach, disaster response and caring for the elderly. Most receive an annual stipend of slightly less than $12,000 for working 10 months to a year.
Not a lot of money; also, though, not volunteer work.
Alan Solomont, who chairs AmeriCorps’ board, said former President John F. Kennedy’s call to service inspired more people to help others than just those who joined the Peace Corps. He said this national service legislation could produce the same effect.
“It is not unlike the moment in 1960 when President Kennedy asked Americans, you know, to serve, but it is certainly going to engage millions more today,” Solomont said in a conference call arranged by the White House.
First, Dwight Eisenhower was president in 1960. Second, Peace Corps maxed out in 1966 with around 15,000 people; it currently has 7,876. It has a budget of $330,800,000, which means it costs the taxpayers right at $42,000 per “volunteer.” The wire story is noticeably short on facts about how the law’s $5,700,000,000 will be spent, and the White House’s website is a fact-free zone since it became Changeland™ a few months ago, so I can’t really break down how much each Americorp “volunteer” will cost. But in the Age of Obama, nothing costs less than 10 digits, not even inspiration.