Two commencement address recently were rebloggable. First, an old Neil Postman one that was never actually given, but still has a beaut of an opener:
Members of the faculty, parents, guests, and graduates, have no fear. I am well aware that on a day of such high excitement, what you require, first and foremost, of any speaker is brevity. I shall not fail you in this respect. There are exactly eighty-five sentences in my speech, four of which you have just heard.
I’ve done a lot of graduation speeches in my time, but none compared to one I recently delivered at the lockup unit of San Francisco’s Youth Guidance Center, otherwise known as juvenile hall.
It was for the GED graduation class.
It have to admit that I had my doubts as I was being patted down by the guards. All I could think of was: Michelle Obama is speaking at Spelman College and I’m speaking at juvie hall.
But it all melted away as I entered the room where 10 kids were waiting in gowns and mortar boards with their parents.
Now, some of these kids are in there for some very serious crimes, including murder, so I knew the ceremony wasn’t going to be full of the usual platitudes about standing on the threshold of life.
The valedictorian was a bright young man who opened by talking about how, at age 8, he had joined a gang because his older brother had been killed. And how his brother had been the one person he admired.
He went into all that followed, and how it landed him where he was now – and about how he now needs to work his way out of it.
He ended by saying he’s looking forward to continuing his education, even getting a college degree – behind bars, if he’s not out by then.
When my turn came, I told the kids they had to understand that rules are the rules, and that they had followed the rules to earn a GED. That constitutes a certain key toward your freedom, I told them.
Now once you get this GED, I said, you’ve got to know what the next key is – so one day you won’t be in here celebrating an achievement, you’ll be out there celebrating an achievement.
When I walked out of there, my only thought was that if only one of those cats was impressed enough to say, “I’m going to get that key,” it would be worth more than the whole stack of honorary degrees I’ve been handed over the years.
Hubbard posted this at 10:33 AM CDT on Monday, May 23rd, 2011 as The Right Words
Marine Le Pen is a favorite of The Weekly Standard, despite the reflexive anti-Americanism of her National Front Party. So her qualified approval is of the treatment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is noteworthy:
I don’t particularly like the American justice system, but in my opinion there’s at least one respect in which they have something to teach us: namely, the fact that they treat the immigrant maid and the head of the IMF perfectly equally. We have a lesson to learn from that: …on how to treat the victim [of a sexual assault], on how to treat the powerful and the poor, who should be treated on an equal basis, which is not the case in France. You know very well, if this episode had occurred in France, it would not have turned out [the same way]…
I’m really glad some people, some place voted to put Rand Paul in the Senate:
He’s right, obviously. After watching this, Dorothy argued devil’s advocate: “But if you’re arrested, you have a right to counsel. Why isn’t that slavery?” Comparing the right to counsel to the “right” to medical care is instructive.
The right to counsel only arises because the state is prosecuting you. Neither prosecutions nor de fense attorneys occur in nature. The right to counsel is a right the state gives you because of something the state is doing against you. If there weren’t enough lawyers to represent all the criminal defendants, then the state could either slow down the trial system so that the remaining lawyers would be able to handle all the cases, or simply stop prosecuting people. If no one was prosecuted, no one’s right to counsel would ever be violated.
Health problems do occur in nature, but doctors do not. Cancer is a natural phenomenon, but to become an oncologist a human being has to willfully spend years of his life working very, very hard. If there weren’t enough oncologists, the state would have no way of vindicating a “right” to health care other than to force people to perform a job. The state can’t simply “drop” your cancer the way it can drop your prosecution.
In today’s WSJ, Michael Medved argues that his colleagues’ criticisms of Obama are not only over-the-top and absurd, but that they’re wholly counter-productive:
[T]he White House record of more than 200 years shows plenty of bad decisions but no bad men. For all their foibles, every president attempted to rise to the challenges of leadership and never displayed disloyal or treasonous* intent.
This history makes some of the current charges about Barack Obama especially distasteful—and destructive to the conservative cause.
One typical column appeared on Feb. 5 at the well-regarded American Thinker website, under the heading: “Obama Well Knows What Chaos He Has Unleashed.” Victor Sharpe solemnly declares: “My fear is that Obama is not naïve at all, but he instead knows only too well what he is doing, for he is eagerly promoting Islamic power in the world while diminishing the West.”
These attitudes thrive well beyond the blogosphere and the right-wing fringe. On Jan. 7, Sarah Palin spoke briefly on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, saying, “What I believe that Obama is doing right now—he is hell-bent on weakening America.” While acknowledging that “it’s gonna get some people all wee-weed up again,” she repeated and amplified her charge that “what Obama is doing” is “purposefully weakening America—because he understood that debt weakened America, domestically and internationally, and yet now he supports increasing debt.”
The assumption that the president intends to harm or destroy the nation that elected him has become so widespread that the chief advertising pitch for Dinesh D’Souza’s best-selling book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” promises to “reveal Obama for who he really is: a man driven by the anti-colonial ideology of his father and the first American president to actually seek to reduce America’s strength, influence and standard of living.”
None of the attacks on Mr. Obama’s intentions offers an even vaguely plausible explanation of how the evil genius, once he has ruined our “strength, influence and standard of living,” hopes to get himself re-elected. In a sense, the president’s most paranoid critics pay him a perverse compliment in maintaining that his idealism burns with such pure, all-consuming heat that he remains blissfully unconcerned with minor matters like his electoral future. They label Mr. Obama as the political equivalent of a suicide bomber: so overcome with hatred (or “rage”) that he’s perfectly willing to blow himself up in order to inflict casualties on a society he loathes.
On his radio show last July 2, the most influential conservative commentator of them all reaffirmed his frequent charge that the president seeks economic suffering “on purpose.” Rush Limbaugh explained: “I think we face something we’ve never faced before in the country—and that is, we’re now governed by people who do not like the country.” In his view, this hostility to the United States relates to a grudge connected to Mr. Obama’s black identity. “There’s no question that payback is what this administration is all about, presiding over the decline of the United States of America, and doing so happily.”
Regardless of the questionable pop psychology of this analysis, as a political strategy it qualifies as almost perfectly imbecilic. Republicans already face a formidable challenge in convincing a closely divided electorate that the president pursues wrong-headed policies. They will never succeed in arguing that those initiatives have been cunningly and purposefully designed to wound the republic. In Mr. Obama’s case, it’s particularly unhelpful to focus on alleged bad intentions and rotten character when every survey shows more favorable views of his personality than his policies.
I feel I should explain my political position in some detail. This is not an easy task. I fear it is not enough to claim that I am—perhaps it would be wiser to say, “believe I am”—a liberal. The term itself raises the first complication. As you well know, “liberal” has different and frequently antagonistic meanings, depending on who says it and where they say it. For example, my late beloved grandmother Carmen used to say that a man was a liberal when referring to a gentleman of dissolute habits, someone who not only did not go to Mass, but also spoke ill of the priests. For her, the prototypic incarnation of a “liberal” was a legendary ancestor of mine who, one fine day in my native city of Arequipa, told his wife that he was going to the main square to buy a newspaper and never returned. The family heard nothing of him until 30 years later, when the fugitive gentleman died in Paris. “So why did that liberal uncle flee to Paris, Grandma?” “Why else, son? To corrupt himself of course!” This story may be the remote origin of my liberalism and my passion for French culture.
Ann Althouse reviews an author’s review of Megan McArdle’s review of the author’s book:
By the way, “their theory” — if I can trust McArdle — is that “people are naturally polyamorous.” The dispute continues with McArdle and the author (Christopher Ryan) throwing shit at each other in a fight about whether people are like bonobos. I’m just saying “throwing shit at each other” because that’s how bonobos fight, and people are like bonobos, right? Not right? Advantage McArdle!!!!!
I wasn’t expecting a PhD thesis (and in fact had hoped to write a post supporting the book as a well-reasoned case for certain principles that upset academics just because it didn’t employ a bunch of pseudo-intellectual tropes). But when I waded into the first couple of chapters, I found that – while I had a lot of sympathy for many of its basic points – it seemed to all but ignore the most obvious counter-arguments that could be raised to any of its assertions. This sounds to me like a pretty good plain English meaning of epistemic closure. The problem with this, of course, is that unwillingness to confront the strongest evidence or arguments contrary to our own beliefs normally means we fail to learn quickly, and therefore persist in correctable error.
I’m not expert on many topics the book addresses, so I flipped to its treatment of a subject that I’ve spent some time studying – global warming – in order to see how it treated a controversy for which I’m at least familiar with the various viewpoints and some of the technical detail.
It was awful. It was so bad that it was like the proverbial clock that chimes 13 times – not only is it obviously wrong, but it is so wrong that it leads you to question every other piece of information it has ever provided.
There are many reasons to write a book. One view is that a book is just another consumer product, and if people want to buy Jalapeno-and-oyster flavored ice cream, then companies will sell it to them. If the point of Liberty and Tyranny was to sell a lot of copies, it was obviously an excellent book. Further, despite what intellectuals will often claim, most people (including me) don’t really want their assumptions challenged most of the time (e.g., the most intense readers of automobile ads are people who have just bought the advertised car, because they want to validate their already-made decision). I get that people often want comfort food when they read. Fair enough. But if you’re someone who read this book in order to help form an honest opinion about global warming, then you were suckered. Liberty and Tyranny does not present a reasoned overview of the global warming debate; it doesn’t even present a reasoned argument for a specific point of view, other than that of willful ignorance. This section of the book is an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.
I’ve had a half-mind to read Liberty & Tyranny for much of the same reason I read Twilight and saw Avatar: not only because they’re all wildly popular, but also because people I know and trust found profoundly disliked them, and I’m curious to see who’s right. Next time I’m a the library, I’ll borrow a copy.
But I will purchase — at full price, if necessary — Manzi’s next book.
Update: Predictable reactions form Manzi’s fellow Cornerites, K-Lo and Andy McCarthy.
Yes, Wikipedia often gets things wrong. But sometimes, as in the case of this article about Cocktail glasses, it get things gloriously right [emphasis added]:
Oversized cocktail glasses, ranging in capacity from 6 fl oz to cartoonishly large glasses of 12 fl oz and over, have become popular in recent years, driven mainly by the rise in popularity of the Gin & It, Vodka & It, and other similar castrato cocktails mistakenly believed to be martinis.
Admittedly, I agree with Judge Bork that olives belong in salads rather than martinis, but I think Wiki just hit one out of the park here.
Hubbard posted this at 10:50 PM CDT on Friday, March 19th, 2010 as The Right Words
I am affectionately attached to the republican theory. This is the real language of my heart. In candor, [however,] I ought also to add that…I consider its success as yet a problem.
I have so much confidence in the good sense of man, and his qualification for self government…where reason is left free…that I will agree to be stoned as a false prophet if all does not end well in this country.
* Brookhiser, Richard. Alexander Hamilton: American. The Free Press, 1999. p 108
** Weisberger, Bernard A. America Afire. William Morrow, 2000., p 129
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. . .
It is a truth to be universally acknowledged that few pleasures in life are so exquisite as a book review hatchet job. Chesa Boudin appears to be the Communist equivalent of a Capitalist tool, as New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner observes:
Because of the interesting contradictions of his life thus far — son of militant radicals! Rhodes scholar! — you might expect Mr. Boudin to have interesting things to say about himself and perhaps even about the places he visits. If only.
His mistakes begin with his book’s epigraph. He’s chosen lines from Paul Theroux’s “Old Patagonian Express,” and they aren’t bad; they’re about how travel writers are “essentially optimists.”
But Mr. Boudin seems unaware that Mr. Theroux is, at heart, the obverse of an optimist; his writing’s baseline swat comes from its misanthropy, its cruel accuracy. And Mr. Theroux is an acid stylist, not at all the sort of writer Mr. Boudin wants to place up against his own bland sentences.
His presidency may have mixed disaster with brilliance, but Nixon’s still my favorite presidential personality, largely because his is most similar to my own. A great anecdote for the day:
In 1938, in the midst of the real Great Depression, Richard Nixon, then working as an attorney in Whittier and La Habra, California, bought a stripped-down black two-door Oldsmobile (no heater or radio) and saved a little more money by picking it up at the factory in Michigan. He decided to take along his eight-year-old brother Edward. They hopped a train to Detroit, picked up the car, and then started home to Whittier. Ed said, “Dick handed me a map and said, ‘We’re going to Los Angeles, and we’re taking Route 66. If you can find a stretch of road that’s long and straight enough, I’l let you drive.’ He let me drive plenty, as it turned out.”
Will Rogers had died three years before, and so the brothers stopped off in Claremore, Oklahoma to see the Rogers Memorial, which had just opened. Richard pointed to a bronze plaque at the base of Rogers’ statue and asked his little brother to read out the humorist and commentator’s most famous quotation: “I never yet met a man that I didn’t like.”
As Ed tells it, “Dick said, ‘What do you think that means?’ I replied, ‘I guess it means he hasn’t met everyone yet’.”