Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hollywood petition for sympathy for a pedophile

So Roman Polanski, fugitive rapist of a 13-year-old, has finally been nabbed in Europe, no thanks to the French who have been harboring him. Good work, law men. The most obnoxious result so far has been the petition of Hollywood "moral illiterates" pleading for clemency on the basis of the child abuser's artistic talent.

David Lynch, you're dead to me! Martin Scorsese, shame on you! Woody Allen--who??

The commenters at Big Hollywood have some great points:

"They're choosing to rationalize it away that what he did wasn't that bad. They're not dealing with it. I don't believe all these people are morally corrupt. They know Polanski. They like him. There is an explanation for his behavior. There must be. It just shows what happens when you have more faith in your feelings than in facts."

"How was this same group able to turn on Elia Kazan if they couldn't turn on Polanski? That is something I don't understand."

"Unbelievable. Every one of these brave French artists put their names to a petition to protest the arrest of a director convicted of drugging and sodomizing a 13 year old girl. Where were those same names protesting the death threats of a Danish editor who'd published a cartoon?"

Michelle Malkin has a few choice words as well, as does AllahPundit:

I’m assuming “Chinatown” wasn’t so awesome that Polanski would be excused for shooting a kid in the head at point-blank range, so evidently the film’s “worth” less than that but more than a child-rape. Let’s figure out just how much of a liberal hero you have to be to get away with certain crimes.

Ace, God love him, is all over the story, if you want more details and typical Ace snark.

UPDATE: I'll let the eloquent Bill Bennett have the last word (via Power Line).

UPDATE: Uh, make that this last parody (via American Digest).


The Decline of the English Department

From a great essay by William M. Chace at The American Scholar (via Maggie's Farm):

Studying English taught us how to write and think better, and to make articulate many of the inchoate impulses and confusions of our post-adolescent minds. We began to see, as we had not before, how such books could shape and refine our thinking. We began to understand why generations of people coming before us had kept them in libraries and bookstores and in classes such as ours. There was, we got to know, a tradition, a historical culture, that had been assembled around these books. Shakespeare had indeed made a difference—to people before us, now to us, and forever to the language of English-speaking people.

Finding pleasure in such reading, and indeed in majoring in English, was a declaration at the time that education was not at all about getting a job or securing one’s future. In comparison with the pre-professional ambitions that dominate the lives of American undergraduates today, the psychological condition of students of the time was defined by self-reflection, innocence, and a casual irresponsibility about what was coming next....

But by the end of the 1960s, everything was up for grabs and nothing was safe from negative and reductive analysis. Every form of anti-authoritarian energy—concerning sexual mores, race relations, the war in Vietnam, mind-altering drugs—was felt across the nation (I was at Berkeley, the epicenter of all such energies). Against such ferocious intensities, few elements of the cultural patterns of the preceding decades could stand. The long-term consequences of such a spilling-out of the old contents of what college meant reverberate today.

Read the whole thing, about the rise, the Golden Age, and the disintegration of the study and teaching of the humanities, especially English, in American higher education. The essay proposes that a large part of the fall is due to government intervention in higher education, an interesting theory.

As an English major (evidently a rare and dying breed) who started out life loving books, literature and language, this essay rings true, sadly. In my case, majoring in English at college was in no way a casual choice for me--but it was a selfish and purposely impractical one, based on my earning a California State scholarship to study whatever and wherever I liked in California--it was winning the lottery to spend a fantastical hiatus of four years doing whatever I liked before the rest of my real life and having to support myself set in. I thought I'd never get another chance to live the life of the mind for its own sake, for my own education, which to me was represented by the study of English (and Philosophy, in my ignorance of academia back then). I was one of those entering college freshmen for whom nothing was more important in life than “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” For my career I wanted to someday write books, and back in 1972 I thought studying the canon of great literature and majoring in English was the way to go about that.

Though the book-writing career has not yet materialized, I was correct in believing that the study of English was worthwhile in its own right, and I have never regretted doing it, although I have my doubts that California would agree that its investment in me has paid off, as I live my life as a Phi Beta Kappa conservative homemaker far from the Left Coast. Am I, a now-marginalized, mostly anonymous, intellectual white elephant (otherwise known as a well-educated American individual in successful pursuit of happiness), evidence that government intrusion into higher education is a good idea or a bad idea? I have wondered that ever since accepting my meal ticket to college from the taxpayers, and I still don't know.

What I do know is that these days there seems to be, in my children's high school, little canon of Great Books and cultural traditions left to study (Shakespeare himself is now marginalized in favor of a politically correct clutch of "issues" writers like Maya Angelou and Amy Tan). As Chace writes:

to teach English today is to do, intellectually, what one pleases. No sense of duty remains toward works of English or American literature; amateur sociology or anthropology or philosophy or comic books or studies of trauma among soldiers or survivors of the Holocaust will do. You need not even believe that works of literature have intelligible meaning; you can announce that they bear no relationship at all to the world beyond the text. Nor do you need to believe that literary history is helpful in understanding the books you teach; history itself can be shucked aside as misleading, irrelevant, or even unknowable. In short, there are few, if any, fixed rules or operating principles to which those teaching English and American literature are obliged to conform.

And not surprisingly, the result of this change in the goals and methods of teaching English is that for almost all the kids I know (except, seemingly, for the innumerable Asian girls who are embracing an older American tradition of being voracious bookworms, as well as classical music players) the study of literature and history are now anathema, i.e. a "boring" and irrelevant chore.

That's a crying shame for all of us, and probably a development that will come to no good. As Chace writes, without a common canon of recognized excellence for all to study and understand: "There will be no common destination." And thus a civilization and a culture cracks.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

What does "political correctness" mean and where did it come from?

Watch this great video narrated by Bill Whittle at PJTV. Awesomely succinct, and he even quotes "Serenity." I never knew about the Frankfurt School, let alone its proximity to Columbia University. It is one more piece of information falling into place to explain for me the unrecognized intellectual puzzle of our modern life, where now even beauty itself is criticized as bourgeois, while millions of average citizens who have never had a consciously philosophical thought in their lives acquiesce (to that and much more) as they swim in our culture.

Ayn Rand had it all pegged right over 50 years ago. Why aren't they studying her in colleges and universities? Oh, right: it isn't politically correct!

Interesting sidebar: Ayn Rand vs. Karl Marx geographic territory in Google searches.

We've got our work cut out for us. The signal will get through. Because the truth shall set you free.

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What I'm reading

"A Virtuous and Moral People," pp. 54-56 of The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen, a study of the principles that founded our nation (with citations in the original text removed by me below):

As James Madison said:

Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men; so that we do not depend upon their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them....

Of course, as Jefferson said, "Virtue is not hereditary."...

Virtue has to be earned and it has to be learned. Neither is virtue a permanent quality in human nature. It has to be cultivated continually and exercised from hour to hour and from day to day. The Founders looked to the home, the school, and the churches to fuel the fires of virtue from generation to generation.

In his Farewell Address, George Washington declared:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.... Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. ...

Benjamin Franklin stressed the same point and added how precious good teachers are:

...I think with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of the state; more so than riches or arms....

I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortations of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented [in youth] than cured [in adults]. I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven....

A Warning from the Founders

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Adams, who is sometimes called the "father of the revolution," wrote to Richard Henry Lee:

I thank God that I have lived to see my country independent and free. She may long enjoy her independence and freedom if she will. It depends on her virtue....

John Adams pointed out why the future of the United States depended upon the level of virtue and morality maintained among the people. He said:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other....

Samuel Adams knew the price of American survival under a Constitutional form of government when he wrote:

The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves....

Today is Sunday, a day of rest, reflection, and study. Are you doing your part, as an individual and as a teacher, to make sure our nation is a virtuous one, deserving of the blessings our Founders made possible for us?

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Democrats willing to lie to and kill American citizens to achieve their policies

Alas, this is not hyperbole, and it is not some science fiction fantasy. I never thought I'd see the day when Democrats, as a party (or more accurately, as some ghoulish cabal), would so boldly display their malicious avarice for power. But sadly we are seeing these days now before us. Democrats in Congress, along with the President, are so eager to intrude government into the free market that they are willing to kill American citizens, as will happen in the latest health care scheme being hatched in Washington. They expect American doctors to succumb to their scheme and become complicit in turning their backs on their professional ethics and their Hippocratic oath.

It's not bad enough that Democrats are willing to lie about and hide what they are doing from the American people. What they seek to hide are the effects their policies will have. They seek to hide this because they know damn well what the effects will be. They think we, their fellow Americans, have no right to protest the policies, the methods, or the would-be murderers themselves trying to do this to us and our families.

I used to feel it took a pretty ignorant or stupid or even sometimes a clearly venal person to want to be a Democrat, given how much their everflowing wellspring of tired old foolishly conceived policies end up hurting people in the long run--and how corruption seems not only to dog the party, but seems endemic in the party. Now I'm beginning to think the majority of Democrats have more in common philosophically with the KGB than they do as a simple alternative political party seeking to persuade thinking Americans who deserve common respect. Clearly, to Democrats, respecting their fellow Americans is no longer a part of their equation.

They pretend to be doing it all for the public good, while they end up lying to Americans, killing Americans and prolonging suffering. Just as President Obama does, they talk a good game while they play an entirely different one under the table.

UPDATE: As I said, the Democrats know damn well what the effects of their policies will be. What they are counting on is for the rest of us not to know--until it's too late to reverse course.

UPDATE: Why most Americans think Obamacare is a BAD idea. Via Neal Boortz

UPDATE: Failed policies: "Are We Witnessing the Collapse of Liberalism?"

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Social justice" means no real justice

"Social justice" is a buzz-phrase used by progressives, communists, socialists, and other collectivists to mean redistribution of wealth or political power to affect outcomes, in the name of "equality" (although in truth, "social justice" seeks to elevate favored groups over unfavored groups of special interests). This is diametrically opposed to the kind of justice our Founding Fathers sought to encourage in our land, according to the definition of justice as described in the Old Testament--the kind of justice personified by the figure of a blindfolded judge, impartially weighing the case of rich and poor, man and woman, stranger and citizen, with equal respect, in order to protect the rights of all under the rule of law. Anyone seeking to further "social justice" is either an ignorant do-gooder who doesn't understand the ramifications, or is purposefully seeking to undermine true justice. And there are such people.

They are at work in the Tuscon Unified School Distict, according to Neal Boortz, which has set up "a two-tiered system for student discipline. One tier will be for blacks and Hispanics ... and the other tier will be for everyone else." (If I were a parent with a child in this district, no matter what my race, I would call it quits and start homeschooling.)

No, it's not a joke. The movement to undermine true justice is serious and it is on the move in our country in many more places than just the public schools. This kind of effective reverse discrimination, in the name of correcting past discrimination, only makes race relations much, much worse.

Don't be fooled by good intentions. Think through the ramifications. Two wrongs never make things right. They just compound the harm. The movement for "social justice" is a harmful one, that will only make the world worse.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ACORN: the news scoop of the year

Just as the internet website Drudge Report in 1998 broke the seminal (excuse me) news story that Newsweek refused to run, of Monica Lewinski's little blue dress, which opened the floodgates of media reporting on Bill Clinton's peccadillos, now two conservative activists (what an amazing phrase, that) have gone undercover in a flamboyant and pointed fashion (guerrilla theater, man!--or filmmaking history, man!) to break the story of ACORN's essential criminality--and all that that entails.

Read the roundup here at Power Line. This couple, O'Keefe and Giles, are my heroes, too. And the boycott of the news by the mainstream media as also summarized here--as was also done last week in the case of Van Jones--is nothing short of jawdropping.

O'Keefe and Giles are working in the tradition of Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Woodward and Bernstein in uncovering criminal actions that in the case of ACORN may extend all the way to the highest places in Washington, D.C. One may say they are doing the job the American news media won't do. I wonder when these righteously upstart kids will be inducted into the Newseum or have an admiring movie made about them?

I wonder less about the demise of the so-called former mainstream media including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the three former "major" news networks. They are obviously no longer in the business of reporting current news (somehow the Senate last night knew what the mainstream media declined to publish when they passed an amendment to defund ACORN). People in the know now get their real news from other outlets: FoxNews, talk radio's Glenn Beck, and the internet. The formerly mainstream media have now rendered themselves obsolete as vehicles reporting real news. They are perhaps now "mainstream" commentary, but no longer reliable news outlets. And that means that in time they will no longer be mainstream anything.

Whoa man, the times they are a-changin'.

UPDATE: We are the mainstream media: "The American people are the Fourth Estate." That was always true, as long as the newspapers remained the voice of the people.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

2 million Tea Party protestors gather in D.C.

It was an historic day. There are lots of photos from yesterday's Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C., but here are a couple I especially like. True, it was the conservatives' Woodstock (via Maggie's Farm) and an undeniable turning point.

I wish I could've been there too. I was there in spirit with my fellow Americans from all over the nation, of all political persuasions, who believe passionately enough to drive hundreds of miles and stand in the rain, in the urgent necessity of turning our country away from its long, deadly rush toward big government and back onto the wiser track envisioned by our Founders.

And this is just the beginning. It's only been just less than 7 months since Rick Santelli's nationally-broadcast rallying cry. It's an exciting time to be an American and finally finding your voice in American politics.

Keep up the debate and may the truth win out.

UPDATE: NOT 2 million? But a record crowd.

UPDATE: Neal Boortz asks: Was this a moment or a movement?

UPDATE: Besides the big march in Washington, D.C. there were many other tea party protests around the nation. I like this film from the one in Los Angeles.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

A 9/11 tribute to Shreyas Ranganath

Srinivasa Shreyas Ranganath was beloved and admired by people who knew him on two continents.

He was born January 4, 1975 in the southern Indian town of Bhadravati, and grew up in the big city of Bangalore. “Shreyu” was remembered by family and friends as a sharply intelligent, fun-loving boy, with a mischievous grin, an outstanding singing voice, and a twinkle in his eye. He was the rallying central figure in the informal but intense cricket matches and hide-and-seek games that he played so passionately with neighborhood friends on warm summer nights in the streets or in the backyard of his family’s home. Even as a youngster “Shreyu” seemed to have more than a hint of the hero and the role-model about him—many of his friends sensed it, and no one looked up to him and admired him more than did his own younger brother, who knew him best.

As Shreyas grew older and attended middle school and high school with his friends, he was transformed into a serious and diligent student devoted to his education--not afraid of hard work and very willing to immerse himself in books. Yet along with his mental talents, he also had a generous spirit. At 16, while a member of the National Cadet Corp and attending a camp event, he pretended to be 18 years old so that he might, along with the adults there, donate blood to the wounded soldiers in the Indian Army. It was evident to many who knew him that Shreyas was “a great soul.”

He studied at the Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering in Bangalore, and lived in the Basavangudi area of the city. But his interest in seeing the world and “meeting people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs” brought him to the United States, where he enrolled in the master’s degree program in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah. Completing only one semester (Fall 1999), he decided to return to India—either because of health problems, as one source said, or because he found the winters in Utah too cold. Friends and colleagues who knew him in Utah remember him as soft-spoken, “the sweetest person I’ve ever known,” and “a very sincere student, very quiet, not into parties.” He did, however, like eating the sandwiches at the local Subway deli.

Back in his hometown of Bangalore, Shreyas developed a new passion. Once the center of British colonial rule in South India, Bangalore is now the country’s third-largest city with a population of over 6 million, and is known as India’s “Silicon Valley,” the center of high-tech innovations. There Shreyas became an expert professional in software design. “For him, it became an addiction,” said one friend. “He had a great love for software.”

He landed a job at Wipro Technologies, a global software services company, and “the largest independent R&D services provider in the world.” He worked long 16- and 18-hour days as a code-cruncher, but loved the work. And he still found time to help others, including bright young kids from his neighborhood who needed financial help to stay in school.

At the age of 26 he, along with three other colleagues from Wipro-Bangalore, was sent abroad to work as a software consultant on a three-month project for the firm of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global professional services firm which in 2001 had 57,000 employees and an annual revenue of $10 billion. Once again Shreyas found himself able to visit the United States, enjoying his work while seeing new places and meeting new people (with his Sony Walkman as his “constant companion,” usually playing his favorite songs by the Irish rock band U2). He was assigned to work specifically for Marsh Inc., an insurance brokerage subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, located on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One in Manhattan.

A longtime friend and fellow employee of Wipro offered to share his Hackensack, New Jersey home with Shreyas and one of the other three consultants on the same assignment, Shashi Kiran L. Kadaba, a young man who was engaged to be married the following year. These three men spent many congenial evenings together, cooking elaborate meals of gourmet Indian food, or watching Hindi movies. Shreyas “appreciated Hollywood movies,” said the friend, “but he had a great taste for Indian movies.” On the evening of September 10, 2001 the three consumed “a wonderful dinner” in honor of the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna.

The following morning, a clear and beautiful Tuesday, Shreyas Ranganath and his three fellow colleagues from Wipro in Bangalore (Hemanth Kamar Putter, Deepika Kumar, and Shashi Kiran Kadaba) reported for work as usual. When they spoke by telephone with their immediate superior in Bangalore, “the four sounded cheerful, at the beginning of yet another busy day in New York.” About an hour later they were murdered along with 291 other employees and associates of the Marsh & McLennan Companies who worked on floors 93 to 100 of the North Tower. Forty-six other Wipro employees present in New York City that day were spared.

Shreyas Ranganath touched the hearts of many people in his short life. He had a certain quiet charm, a twinkle of fun, and an easy, sweet nature that many would later remark upon. His hard-working diligence, his excellence in his chosen field, and most of all, his generous spirit were his gift and inspiration left to the world. Wipro named a hall in Bangalore in his honor; the Marsh & McLennan monument and website bear his name. But more permanent than stone are the memories of small kindnesses and the not-so-small contributions he left and still leaves in the lives of the people he personally touched as he passed.

Shreyas Ranganath is not forgotten.

I have reposted this tribute (first run last September 11th, 2006).

This story is just one among 2,996 as told by The 2,996 Project. I did not know Shreyas Ranganath but after having written his story, I am sorry I didn't. I will not forget him.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pretend to be a dictator!

What goes on in your kid's social studies classroom:

I once observed an eight grade class spend several days discussing how government can combat unemployment. The plans which were analyzed and discussed where chosen by the teacher, and students read news stories and articles about the successes of these various plans. The plans which were discusse[d] were either schemes of wealth redistribution or government-provided jobs. A constant theme of the discussion was that businesses were evil, that earning profits was evil, and that attempts to establish efficiency in business by letting go inefficient or unproductive employees was evil. This teacher believed that the purpose of a business was to provide a job, regardless or production or profit entailed from this.

This is what is going on in education. Think about this when you send your children back to school this week.

Read the whole thing, and then explore the blog of A Conservative Teacher.

Oh, and don't forget Obama's address to your children at school on September 8th!

And it's also now once again time for the American Library Association's Banned Books Week. Is your kid's media center specialist providing your kid's class with a list of "challenged" books to go check out, in "celebration" of their First Amendment Right to "read whatever they want to"? Mine is! Even though Banned Books Week isn't until the end of September. And even though she never acknowledges to the kids that she and the ALA are really celebrating the librarians' authority to decide what these underge kids should read in the public school libraries over the authority of the parents who pay their salaries. But it's never too early to seize any opportunity to indoctrinate the kids.

Welcome back to another year of U.S. public school. Remember, Dana Loesch says it's up to us to teach our children "that the power of America rests in the hands of its people, no one else." You can't expect the schools to teach that honestly anymore.

(Via Instapundit)

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin digs deeper into Obama's classroom campaigning. Imagine how many teachers would be eager to follow this lesson plan if George W. Bush were behind it!

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