by Jay Richards

Knowledge and Power

by George Gilder

Darwin's Doubt

by Stephen C. Meyer

Wealth and Poverty

by George Gilder

Indivisible Review

by Jay W. Richards

The Israel Test

by George Gilder

God and Evolution

Edited by Jay Richards

Signature in The Cell

by Stephen C. Meyer

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American Media Archives

July 24, 2014

Mosul Atrocities of Epic Nature

The ISIS atrocities in Mosul, Iraq are not getting a fraction of the attention of the conflict in Gaza, but that is mostly because Western reporters dare not go there. Christianity in the region goes back almost 2000 years. Yet Christians, under threat of death, have been forced to flee, an exodus of hundreds of thousands. Churches have been desecrated and turned into mosques, virgin girls are being rounded up to become brides for jihadis, younger girls are being forced into genital mutilation. The UN is being urged to get involved. But so many catastrophes are happening in the world that this one is barely noticed.

July 18, 2014

Window Into Russian Propaganda

Repeatedly this blog has tried (without much success) to call attention to the propaganda campaigns waged within America by the Russian government and the Chinese government. I don't have a problem with their government's making their views known, even while they suppress the accurate representation in their countries of our government's views. What is galling is the failure of American major media to call attention to these organized information (and disinformation) campaigns.

The same goes for Al-Jazzera TV, sponsored by the Emir of Qatar, who has a definite anti-Western agenda on a number of issues.

Now we have a reporter quitting Russia Today news in protest over the editorial censorship. It deserves more play. Imagine if a reporter quit Fox News claiming it was censoring the news; the other major media would be all over it.

July 7, 2014

Gilder's 4 1/2 Minute Israel Mini-Lecture

In a few minutes George Gilder manages to give the viewer of a Prager University video a tutorial in The Israel Test--an education on life as well as on the state of Israel. Over 150,000 people have downloaded it so far, a number that certainly eclipses the number of books of that topic that George has sold.

George, of course, is an old friend and a distinguished founding fellow of Discovery Institute. If you like this video you might also want to get his book of the same name.

Continue reading "Gilder's 4 1/2 Minute Israel Mini-Lecture" »

June 6, 2014

Christian Reaction to Killings

News of a serial killing in your own town literally "hits home". That certainly was true this week when the shootings occurred at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. Several of my colleagues are recent graduates of SPU and the campus has hosted a number of Discovery Institute events over the years. We all have friends there.

A couple of things that stand out from similar serial killings. First was the distinctive way a Christian community rallies round after such an event. Faith brings people together quickly and effectively. Second was the refreshingly respectful way the Seattle Times reported on the religious aspect of that reaction. Many times it seems that reporters don't "get religion"--don't understand it--but this case was a welcome exception.

The Times' second day coverage (of the prayer service held at the school today) was even more focused on the role of faith at SPU.

Continue reading "Christian Reaction to Killings" »

May 25, 2014

Jeb Bush Energizes Gilder Book

Knowledge and Power (Regnery Press), by Discovery Senior Fellow George Gilder, has been out almost a year but its influence continues to grow. In an article by Michael Barbaro, the Sunday New York Times describes the reading list of potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush and puts Gilder's Knowledge and Power in the front rank.

Note that the New York Times has yet to review Knowledge and Power. When it does (which I predict) it likely will do so as a phenomenon of politics, something like a lightening storm, rather than the serious challenge to conventional economics that it is.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush Energizes Gilder Book" »

May 22, 2014

NY Times Escorts Darwinists on Holy Pilgrimage

In case the editorials posing as front page news stories weren't enough evidence of how the New York Times regards itself--namely, as the Bible for scientism in general and Darwinism in particular--the Times is now conducting a pilgrimage to The Darwin Land. The paper's advert says prices for the Scotland and England journey start at $5,150.

In Edinburgh pilgrims will pass the Upper Room where 16 year old Charles Darwin lived, then witness the more recent Blessed Relics of Dolly the Cloned Sheep in a local museum. Later pilgrims tour the Grotto of Shrewsbury, the Shrine of The Origins' Immaculate Conception at Down House, the Sacred Tomb of Darwin Papers at Cambridge and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Darwin Collection at the Museum of Natural History in London.

Continue reading "NY Times Escorts Darwinists on Holy Pilgrimage" »

April 21, 2014

How Media Justify Suicide

Wesley J. Smith of Discovery Institute exposes the template bold and clear at National Review.

April 11, 2014

India's Under-reported Eugenics History

When I was a young man working for the N.Y. Herald Tribune in 1965 I wound up in India, hoping to cover the war of India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Since the government wouldn't let me even near the front they mollified me with visits to socially significant projects in the country-side from agricultural production (which was to skyrocket later in the century) and hospital construction--to population control.

Discovery-linked scientist Michael Egnor posts this week at Evolution New and Views about some of the consequences of India's population control policies. We have heard a great deal about the coercive policies in China, but somehow the blackmail of India by the West in the later 1960s under LBJ and the effective genocide and gender-cide that resulted from Western government and foundation pressure to meet population controls has received far too little notice. From the standpoint of history, eugenics in India paints an ugly picture.

Continue reading "India's Under-reported Eugenics History" »

Debate is the Missing Ingredient of News

A new attempt to cover the news objectively--by progressive pundit Ezra Klein at National Review's Patrick Brennan protesting. Ezra Klein, a well-known polemicist on MSNBC promises to explain the news fairly. Is he kidding?

You can cut through all the hype about getting the real news, at least when it comes to politics, economics, science and culture--by finding out if contrasting views on these subjects are given a chance to speak (as I would put it) in their own voice. Seldom can one count on a reporter, let alone an analyst, to present both sides fairly. He won't feel obliged to do so under the journalistic ethics that apply today, when youth go into journalism as an alternative to politics and regard it as their mission to present their idea of the truth. Moreover, the reporter seldom if ever can report with complete fairness because he doesn't really consider both points of view defensible.

That is why the protagonists in any debate need to be heard in their own voice--not interpreted by rivals or enemies, or analyzed by reporters who think they know a viewpoint, but don't.

Continue reading "Debate is the Missing Ingredient of News" »

April 9, 2014

US Does Respond to Putin's Subversion

The good news is that the Obama Administration has responded to Russia's invasion of Crimea and its current subversion of Eastern Ukraine. The bad news is that the response is an amazing preemptory surrender of US nuclear power, even in advance of treaty obligations--and even after Russia repeatedly broken its treaty commitments.

This news has been downplayed so much that you almost have to hunt for it. Using Google, guess where you can find this story? Answer: At RT: "Russia Today," the Kremlin sponsored site.


Continue reading "US Does Respond to Putin's Subversion" »

New Opponents to Opinion Suppression

Slowly the liberal left--that is, the ones are not committed to illiberal suppression of opposing viewpoints--is finding its voice. Now it even comes from The Nation.

Of course, Liberals Against Viewpoint Supprression have to cover themselves by warning that when things change, and the left in Washington, DC finds itself no longer in charge, liberalism will rue its present willingness to suppress politically incorrect speech.

In fact, that won't happen. There is no way the right could completely take charge in America anytime soon. Even a clean, Reagan-like conservative sweep in the federal elections this year and 2016 would still leave in place a judiciary branch leaning to the left (outside the narrowly divided Supreme Court), a uniformly left wing and intolerant higher education system and the almost equally "progressive" media.

However,one still feels some satisfaction and relief that at least some liberals have not yet lost their minds. Maybe some doors to intellectual diversity will open now.

Continue reading "New Opponents to Opinion Suppression" »

April 3, 2014

Another Climate Change Defector

Somehow, the key experts who decide that the climate change argument is exaggerated get pushed away. Funny thing. Well, the "overwhelming evidence" (as always) is on the other side.

Until you examine the evidence.

James Lovelock, an early guru on climate change, shocked a BBC TV audience recently with the blunt statement that "nobody knows" much anymore about global warming. The UN Panel on climate change, he says, "just guess. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other's guesses."

Continue reading "Another Climate Change Defector" »

March 28, 2014

Russia and China Pay for US Propaganda; But US Media Don't Notice

Every Friday I get a copy of China Daily with my subscription to the Seattle Times. Similar deliveries are made in other cities--to selected zip codes. The paper sometimes has interesting articles, but mostly I look at it to see how the Chinese government--that pays for the newspaper--is covering world events. For example, they mostly dodged on Russia's invasion of Crimea.

Meanwhile, the New York Times this morning (Friday) includes an insert called "Russia Beyond the Headlines." If you look hard you will find teeny, tiny print that says "This special advertising feature is sponsored and written by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) and did not involve the reporting and editing staff of the New York Times. Inserts also have run in the Washington Post.

The lead article in the eight page insert is "How Crimea's Past Complicates its Future." The main thrust of such pieces is not to challenge readers with a direct confrontation but to provide a different point of view than it is assumed most Americans hold.

I don't mind if the Chinese and Russians want to pay for space in American newspapers to propagandize us. I do wish that the nature of the product was more conspicuously proclaimed. For openers, why is there no US news coverage of the foreign propaganda efforts? If some conservative domestic group were to fund an insert into the Times or pay to send whole conservative newspapers along with regular deliveries of local papers you can be sure that the press would find that a very interest news story, at the least. How many days' coverage would it get if the Koch brothers were paying the bill?

Continue reading "Russia and China Pay for US Propaganda; But US Media Don't Notice" »

March 25, 2014

Media Self-Censor News on Autocrats

This space noted that Vladimir Putin does, indeed, have allies among other autocratic regimes. One trait of such regimes is censorship of negative news. Today, the New York Times reports that another editor has left Bloomberg News because it censored a report on corruption among the Chinese elite.

It is bad enough that autocrats censor their own media, are Western news media so worried about staying in good with autocracies where they have bureaus and do business that they, too, must self-censor on negative news?

Continue reading "Media Self-Censor News on Autocrats" »

March 24, 2014

Yes, Putin has Allies

Recent U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael A. McFaul had an important article in Monday's New York Times. It is important, if nothing else, for its more clear eyed awareness of the Russian challenge than the Times' editorial stance so far.

For example, he states ominously, "The shrill anti-Americanism uttered by Russian leaders and echoed on state-controlled television has reached a fanatical pitch with Mr. Putin's annexation of Crimea. He has made clear that he embraces confrontation with the West, no longer feels constrained by international laws and norms, and is unafraid to wield Russian power to revise the international order." Times readers need to hear this kind of wake-up call.

However, Ambassador McFaul makes a strange, but understandably common mistake. He writes, "Mr. Putin's Russia has no real allies. We must keep it that way. Nurturing Chinese distance from a revisionist Russia is especially important, as is fostering the independence of states in Central Asia and the Caucasus."

The observation is true up to a point about China and Central Asia. However, it is a vast oversight to suggest that because Russia does not have allies in a formal manner--secured by treaties--it lacks allies in the real world.

Continue reading "Yes, Putin has Allies" »

March 18, 2014

Funny, What a Great Book Review Can Do

K&P cover.jpg

Some books are like fireworks that shoot up, elicit "ooohs!" and then disappear. Others are like a smoldering fire that gathers attention slowly, but eventually becomes an unavoidable conflagration. George Gilder's Knowledge and Power we think is in the latter category. It was read by one reviewer at Forbes, who passed it on to others. Eventually, there were some six articles on K&P, as well as an occasional piece elsewhere. People who read the book become enthusiastic. FreedomFest declared it the "Book of the Year."

But there was strange lack of notice at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Journal, however, moved today with a glowing review of the book ("The Real Market Makers", by Matthew Rees)--and notification that its contents are not only interesting but important to the future of the economy. He also addresses the "difficult" portions of the book:

positive change in the world is central not only to George Gilder's work, but to Discovery Institute in general.

Continue reading "Funny, What a Great Book Review Can Do" »

March 17, 2014

Newspaper's Great Idea for Political Accountability

Newspapers typically like to give advice to politicians on how to clean up their act, but the papers often fall short of thinking of what they can do besides observing, critiquing and endorsing. Congratulations therefore to the San Francisco Chronicle that has come up with one of the best reform ideas in years--and one they themselves can implement.

The subject is special interest group questionnaires that go out to political candidates trying to pin them down on issues before an election. It sounds harmless until you realize that it can become a kind of extortion. The public views of a candidate--in sync with the electorate--are something else in the questionnaires, constituting a kind of hidden promise.

The prime example used by the Chronicle, as you'll see from the article, is the teachers unions. The demands they make on candidates is breathtaking--almost as daunting as the money the union leaders raise from mandatory dues and then throw into election races. Republicans almost automatically are out of consideration, but Democrats--if they favor school reform--are in a real bind.

Continue reading "Newspaper's Great Idea for Political Accountability" »

March 8, 2014

Qatar Spotlighted as Sponsor of Islamists

Most people think of Qatar merely as one of the six Gulf states that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and part of one of Islam's quieter regions. Yes, it sponsors the often-irritating Al Jazeera television network, but that's about as much notice as it gets in the West.

But to some of its neighbors, Qatar is seen as a hub of finance for radical Islamists and anti-Saudi forces, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the regimes of Iran and Syria. Qatar is accused of financing Hezbollah and its takeover of Beirut. Qatari support helps Assad's regime, but also Assad's most dangerous al-Qaeda linked opponents, al-Nusra. In sum, wherever there is trouble, Qatar seems to be found in the background. Most pertinently, it is widely thought that the Emir of Qatar would like to see the leaders of some of his neighbor states replaced in due course.

Continue reading "Qatar Spotlighted as Sponsor of Islamists" »

February 28, 2014

Yanukoyvch's Palace, and Putin's

One reason for widespread disgust with the administration of ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukoyvch was the display on TV and in newspaper accounts of his secret palace near Kiev. A public servant, supposedly, Yanukoyvch could not have afforded a luxury resort for himself--golf course, restaurant in the shape of a galleon, a zoo, etc. It all had to come from public monies he misdirected.

The damning news reports of stunned locals walking through the palace outside Kiev reminded one of the Russian Revolution and the awe of revolutionaries after they stormed the winter palace in St. Petersburg.

But it is unlikely that Russian media, which echo the official government assertions of Kiev's over throw of Yanukoyvch as the work of "hooligans", have displayed the film footage of the recent kleptocrat's palace.

Why not? One reason is that it would change minds of ordinary Russians about what has happened in Kiev. The other is perhaps that many people believe that Vladimir Putin has built himself an even more elaborate palace on the Black Sea. Reputable news organizations, such as the BBC have reported this story.

Continue reading "Yanukoyvch's Palace, and Putin's" »

February 20, 2014

Nice Little TV Station You've Got Here

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is a federal agency with considerable power. Among other things, it grants broadcast licenses. Should that power be allowed to influence the news coverage of broadcasters?

It is naive to think that the FCC's forthcoming set of interviews with broadcasters will not have an editorial effect. Just asking questions about how much coverage is given to one subject over another, and why, is implicit insertion into the decision-making process. Another example is asking reporters if their news judgement on coverage has been over-ridden by superiors.

It's a bit like "protection" people coming to your store; only it's to a TV or radio station: "Nice little station you've got here; it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it."

Note Howard Kurtz' column for FOX News.

Continue reading "Nice Little TV Station You've Got Here" »

January 16, 2014

French Scandal Beats Out Policy News

French President.jpeg

The US and other media cannot get enough of Francois Hollande's sex scandal. Over and over we have to be told that the French don't care about wayward husbands, except, of course, when they do--such as now.

Meanwhile, however, for those of us supposedly sex-crazed Americans who in reality do not care much about Mr. Hollande's love life, the real news is that the Socialist leader of the second largest economy in Europe is proposing to extricate his country from its current slump through tax cuts for business and spending cuts. A Socialist! A French President who came to office talking about the need for huge tax increases!

Continue reading "French Scandal Beats Out Policy News" »

January 2, 2014

A New Year's Thoughts about a New Economy

The following article by Bret Swanson, founder of Entropy Economics, ran on the excellent Forbes site on Christmas Eve. Since you probably were otherwise occupied that day, it is both saluted and reproduced here. These are excellent insights into George Gilder's new book, Knowledge and Power that should be kept in mind during the current economic debate:

In three short months, Obamacare has exposed, with 200 proof concentration, the fundamental mismatch between government's limited knowledge and its unattenuated power.

The Administration is now "discovering . . . that insurance is complicated to buy" - and to assemble, price, purvey, and regulate. Many health care experts predicted Obamacare's failures with amazing specificity. But why did the Administration's claim that is now "operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness" prove such a deep self-indictment?

In his latest book, Knowledge and Power, George Gilder shows -- fundamentally -- why enterprise excels, and government often fails, at these complex tasks. From top to bottom, foundation to spire, atom to bit, Gilder has integrated economics with the most powerful force of our time -- the science and technology of information.

Continue reading "A New Year's Thoughts about a New Economy" »

December 18, 2013

Scandals and Byzantine Intrigues Rock Turkey


The Islamic AKP (Justice Party) government of Recep Erdogan that overthrew the former secularists rulers of Turkey a few years ago and recently stood ferociously firm against liberal student protesters is now in turmoil, its own coalition visibly split by official bribery charges, arrests and firings. Millions of dollars of cash have been uncovered in police raids, at least three sons of AKP cabinet officers are implicated. Just as remarkable, the Prime Minister's administration has retaliated by dismissing the police chiefs involved in several of the raids.

If it is hard for people in Turkey to understand these complicated affairs, it is truly a murky business for foreigners. The U.S. Government has declined to get involved in a domestic crisis. Like the old song says, "It's nobody's business but the Turks." The trouble is, Turkey is a testy but crucial ally of the U.S. It sits next to troubled Ukraine and potentially explosive Iran. It has received hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Behind the scenes, it appears that the faction in Turkey dominated by Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen--who lives in Pennsylvania, USA, out of Erdogan's reach, and has a reputed base in the Turkish police and judiciary--finally has found an opportunity to move against its rival Islamists in the AKP, led by Prime Minister Erdogan. Earlier Erdogan began to close some of the schools the Gulen movement sponsors.

Continue reading "Scandals and Byzantine Intrigues Rock Turkey" »

December 10, 2013

Correcting the Record on Reagan and So. Africa

There have been some attempts to revise history in a partisan way relative to the life of Nelson Mandela. Arnold Steinberg, therefore, deserves credit for his useful article explaining how President Reagan took a personal role in changing the minds of the rulers of white South Africa in the 80s.

Continue reading "Correcting the Record on Reagan and So. Africa" »

December 4, 2013

Meet Ma and Pa


As the Daily Mail and others are reporting, a geneticist in Georgia contends as a scientific proposition that man descended from pigs as well as chimp-like apes ("Humans evolved after a female chimpanzee mated with a pig': Extraordinary claim made by American geneticist"). Since his is only a variation on Darwinian theory, not a repudiation of it, Dr. Eugene McCarthy's notion is to be treated with professional respect. His work is to be covered seriously.

Now, if his speculation were deeper and dealt with the increasingly daunting problems with Darwinian theory and with the growing evidence of intelligent design, he would have to be ignored or attacked for positions he does not hold.

December 1, 2013

Poland a Success or a Flop?

According to Business Week, Poland is the darling of new hopes for Europe, the "most dynamic economy" around. International companies are locating branches there, tourism is booming, stadiums have been built, etc.

But down near the bottom of the story by Stephan Faris are hints about stubborn unemployment--reaching 26 percent among the young--and failed public development projects and excess borrowing.

A young Pole of our acquaintance is more than skeptical of the generally glowing report.

"You can present whatever you want if you need it for political reasons. Poland now is ruled by postcomunists and social-liberals, so in the media (which they own) they prove that we are a flourishing island. You don't feel that living in Poland. Of course the numbers which they presented are carefully chosen - they didn't mention a three fold growth in public debt, a doubling of unemployment (from 5% in 2007 to about 12% now), massive emigration, especially of the young people, and doubled inflation. This government is completely corrupted. According to the polls, this government is constantly losing support (even when they have virtually all media for their service). Believe me or not - the Polish situation is critical. It hasn't been so bad since communism. I don't think we will ever recover after this bad government."

An outsider would like to see some reporting on such a conflict of perspectives. Poland is an important, but under-reported, country.

November 22, 2013

When the Money Runs Out

by Discovery Sr. Fellow Scott Powell

Most everyone--economists and policywonks alike--take Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's statements at face value and refer to QE (quantitative easing) as a policy developed to help the private economy. QE may have started out with that objective, but after nearly four years of failure to spur job growth, combined with the accumulation of $6 trillion of new federal debt, it may be plausible that QE's purpose has morphed into a policy to enable government to borrow cheaply so that it can spend more money itself--more for corporate and low-income welfare, more to grow state power and more to buy votes.

Continue reading "When the Money Runs Out" »

November 21, 2013

US Ignores Persecution of Middle East Christians

You will search hard for examples of voices raised in the US Government, or even in the Christian community in the US, against the worsening persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Over half of the population of one million Christians in Iraq, for example, has now fled the country. The current population of Christians in Iraq is estimated at 400,000. Similar patterns of flight have developed in Egypt and Syria, among other countries.

The deputy prime minister of Turkey, whose government has done little for the Christian minority under either secularist or Islamic regimes, is proposing the conversion of Hagia Sophia--the great cathedral of Byzantium that later was turned into a mosque, and then in modern times into a museum that honors all its history--back into a mosque. There would be no point to this change other than an assertion of cultural hegemony. Istanbul has many, many mosques.

But the worst problem is the terrorist attacks against churches and Christian neighborhoods in Iraq and Egypt, not to mention Syria. Almost nothing is being said about it by American leaders.

Continue reading "US Ignores Persecution of Middle East Christians" »

November 20, 2013

Story of Rigged Employment Report Still Weak

A new story in The New York Post by John Crudele reports that the House Committee that oversees the Census is going to examine the story about supposed rigging of employment numbers to effect the 2012 election. So, too, as I reported yesterday, are the Inspectors General for the Labor and Commerce departments. That's good, but I would be surprised if much turns up other than conventional employee misbehavior--for example, fudging of interviews ("curbstoning") to meet quotas. In that case, it may well be that the malfeasance was caught and disciplinary action taken--the kind of "personnel" action that is fully warranted but that bureaucracies understandably are loathe to ventilate.

If the curbstoning was more widespread it could represent a pattern the Census Bureau definitely will have to address--if it is has not done so already. But that is a process problem in the statistical system not a political scandal.

What the story still lacks is any evidence that people working for the Census to collect data for the household survey (that in turn provides figures for one of the two federal monthly employment reports) were manipulated by people in the White House or elsewhere to rig the numbers to affect the 2012 election.

Connect the dots? What dots?

Most important, the unexplained fact that the figure at the heart of the story so far--one Julius Buckmon--was no longer employed at the Census Bureau after 2011, while the purported rigging of numbers happened in 2012. How could he have been involved?

Continue reading "Story of Rigged Employment Report Still Weak" »

November 18, 2013

Don't Try to "Fix" It: Repeal and Replace It

To cite that great Obama sage, Rahm Emanuel, never let a crisis go to waste. Wouldn't it be fine if the biggest government fiasco in decades led to real medical reform? And the reform process didn't stop with the insurance issue?

It was worthwhile suggesting a delay in Obamacare as a way of avoiding the government shutdown in October, but that option (you recall) was vehemently and successfully opposed by the President. Now the President himself wants to "allow" delays. He put the onus on dumbfounded insurers while also sowing confusion among state regulators.

The Upton bill passed by the House with 39 Democratic votes and all but four Republicans is not likely to be adopted by the Senate. However, that may be a good thing, because the problems with Obamacare keep getting more extensive and increasingly look terminal. On the current path, even with a nominal delay, everyone's rates may go up as adjustment costs cascade from the individual market to the employer-provided market. The federal government's costs also are going to rise, a story just now being sniffed out in the press. In short, with the exception of insurance being provided for people with previous conditions, there are almost no winners in this deal.

Furthermore (you probably are reading it here first), there soon could be media interest in revelations abaout the political schemes that were undertaken to pass Obamacare. The public doesn't really appreciate the extent of the wheeling and dealing that went on. First, there were the pacts to buy off the insurance companies. Remember the big pro-Obamacare TV ad campaign they provided in compensation, with fulsome "thank you" publicity for senators and congressmen who backed the bill? Then there were the special waivers--political bailouts--for favored unions and major employers that permitted them to retain advantages that were systematically denied others. As the emails and notes describing these deals come to light, what's in those emails and notes may not be pretty.

Continue reading "Don't Try to "Fix" It: Repeal and Replace It" »

November 17, 2013

Reminder of JFK Assassination Aftermath

Fifty years after President Kennedy was killed in Dallas some in the liberal press still cannot quite accept the truth that conservatives didn't do it. The New York Times publishes a review by Steven Weinberg of Dallas 1963, a book by Bill Minutaglio and Steven J. Davis that portrays Dallas as a den of hatred for Kennedy. The problem with the book would appear to be that the authors somehow think that the anti-Kennedy conservatism of Dallas (which was true) was responsible for the act of Lee Harvey Oswald, a communist sympathizer. Worse, Weinberg seems supportive of this hair brained idea.

This is a slander of conservatives in general, not to mention of Dallas, that brings back my own unpleasant memories of the time--and of more recent times, too. People in the liberal media apparently want the perpetrators of crimes to turn out to be conservatives so they can make political hay of it. Since that almost never happens to be realistic--the killers are usually deranged persons of no particular politics--you would think they would have some shame about the habit of leaping to biased conclusions. There is no word I know of for this syndrome, though you might call it victimhood projection. You want your foe to behave in a dastardly fashion so you can pretend to be his victim (or that others are his victims).

James Pierson gave the perfect rejoinder to this way of thinking about November 22, 1963--and Dallas, 1963--in an article that ran only a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, Mr. Pierson, a fellow of the Manhattan Institute, has written Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism" that should be reviewed by the New York Times, too, but probably won't be.

Continue reading "Reminder of JFK Assassination Aftermath" »

November 14, 2013

Obama & Shade of Government Shutdown

The Republicans in Congress deserve an apology from the media, among others.

It was only a month ago, but you would think it was the paleolithic age; the media and the politicracy have forgotten that the infamous government shutdown was fought over the issue of Obamacare. The Republicans wanted to stop it, or at least delay it. The White House and Congressional Democratic were totally, indignantly recalcitrant. The White House and the Democrats won. The Republicans were made to look unreasonable. Their poll rankings sank.

Now President Obama himself is acknowledging the failure of the Obamacare rollout and, quite apart from the federal website screw-ups, is having to face up to the cancellations of millions of individual policies. Actually the problems are just beginning.

Continue reading "Obama & Shade of Government Shutdown" »

October 14, 2013

No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times

Feel pity for the letters editor at the Los Angeles Times,Paul Thornton. He says he will not print letters that are skeptical of the human role in climate change because they are objectively wrong. He must rely on "experts" with "advanced degrees" to opine on this subject.

The hapless Mr. Thornton is proud of his self-limiting deference to experts. One wonders if his cap-doffing awe extends to fields such as finance (where he probably also is not an expert), military affairs (is he an expert on that?) or foreign relations. Do you have to have a doctorate to write a letter to the editor on those topics, too?

Or is only the field of science holy?

Leading critics of the current emphasis on a determinative human role in global warming also have advanced science degrees. But they won't get letters printed in the LA Times, either.

Continue reading "No Dissent, Please, We're the LA Times" »

Open a Window in DC's House of Mirrors

Please remember that the current government shutdown was precipitated by concern over Obamacare. The political left and media subject has changed now to other things: the dangers of default, raising the debt limit and the Democratic desire to prevent the added and scheduled government spending cuts in the sequester law signed by the President two years ago.

But let's get back to to the beginning. Almost all Republicans wanted a year's delay in the insurance mandate for individuals like the one given to big business. They also wanted to lift the new tax on medical devices, since it slows US innovation in life-saving equipment. They further charged that the implementation of Obamacare was disorganized, an impending "train wreck".

The way things are turning out, the train wreck is happening. The start up problems of the exchanges in most cases are major. How did a crowd that prepared the most sophisticated high tech programs to get out the Democratic vote in 2012 come up--after three years' planning--with a health care signup program that doesn't sign people up?

Continue reading "Open a Window in DC's House of Mirrors" »

October 11, 2013

Youth Team Defeats Adolescent Government

A federal court has called a foul on the Interior Department for closing down lacrosse practice fields that the National Park System doesn't even service. Well-to-do McLean, VA, across the Potomac from Washington, DC, is not populated by an easily cowed citizenry, so when the National Park Service forcibly closed the lacrosse fields that a youth league had rented from a local parks office that manages the facilities for the NPS, the team's lawyers took the government to court--and won at least a temporary victory.

It is significant that this story appeared in the Washington Post, not a conservative paper. Observed the reporter, Mark Zapotosky, "McLean Youth Lacrosse's lawsuit does not affect other closed national parks and monuments across the country. Still, it might be somewhat embarrassing to federal officials, who have been accused of closing facilities unnecessarily to exaggerate the shutdown's impact. And it might inspire similar legal actions."

Continue reading "Youth Team Defeats Adolescent Government" »

October 4, 2013

The Maginot Line

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one of the Feds effort to shut down the World War One memorial is a good example. (Hat tip for photo to the Weekly Standard).

October 3, 2013

How to See Texas through Times' Spectacles

One shrugs on seeing a New York Times story about the Texas Board of Education and its science standards that support "critical thinking." Mustn't have any critical thinking in public schools, especially on science!

There are loving pictures of costumed members of the ACLU and the Sierra Club and the misnamed Texas Freedom Network. Still, it is worth recalling that the New York Times openly admits its unwillingness to cover this kind of story by what normally are considered fair standards.

Continue reading "How to See Texas through Times' Spectacles" »

October 1, 2013

The Odds Obamacare Critics Face

Conservatives almost all oppose the misnamed Affordable Care Act (ACA)--Obamacare--but they are frustrated to distraction by their inability to get their points across to the public. The case against Obamacare is objectively clear and (to me) persuasive. The problem is, So What?

Facing media that are 80-90 percent unfriendly (about the odds faced by dissidents in Russia or Venezuela), conservatives in general and Republicans in particular cannot hope to explain a complicated story to the public and get support for a government shutdown as a solution. It's tactics that are driving the Republicans crazy.

Continue reading "The Odds Obamacare Critics Face" »

September 28, 2013

Dear Generalist, Read Some Science

Over lunch recently an influential friend in the media mused that there was "nothing new" in the debate over intelligent design. The arguments have been known for years.

So he was asked what he thought about the news from the Encode project, among other places, that the Darwinians' assertion that "Junk DNA" constitutes the vast majority of the human genome--and the contrary prediction of ID scientists that the "junk" would turn out to have functionality--has now been settled. The ID side won.

Continue reading "Dear Generalist, Read Some Science" »

September 26, 2013

Attacks on Christians Not News?

The disturbing increase of Islamist attacks on Christians from Africa to Central Asia--most recently a horrific bombing of an Anglican Church in Pakistan--is being treated as barely worthy of news coverage in the West, especially in the U.S.

It was a topic over dinner among some friends tonight. Mention was made of the extraordinarily useful site,, for its coverage of the subject.

Terry Mattingly points out that Pope Francis supposedly is big news whenever he speaks, but somehow that doesn't apply to the topic of worsening persecution of Christians. Is it because the pope really is of interest only if he is speaking about issues that obsess Americans, such as sex?

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September 25, 2013

Revealing the Activist "Experts"

Activists frustrated by representative democracy seek ways to circumvent the public and impose their will. One way is to try to shape public opinion by agenda-driven journalism--the kind that slants the news. Another is to seek jobs in the bureaucracy--the permanent government. Biased bureaucrats, as we have seen with Lois Lerner at the IRS, raise particularly pernicious problems. Laws that create regulations tend to attract enforcers who come to their job with a sense of ideological mission. You get a lot of that in many affirmative action enforcement programs. The offices tend to be staffed by people with a chip on their shoulder.

You often get these kangaroo courts in environmental enforcement, too, of course. What kinds of people do you think join such staffs, cause-oriented environmentalists or disinterested people who try to apply the regulations with an understanding of all the interests involved? Only a few such bodies try to work out settlements to the benefit of all involved.

Yet another way for an ideologue to employ unelected power is to volunteer for special purpose committees of professional associations--say, legal societies or academic boards. If they are willing to go to a lot of boring meetings and eat lots of hotel food they can get on the committees that announce the professional organization's stands on all kinds of controversial issues. Having seen this up close, I assure you that most of the time such committees don't know what they are signing onto. The activists just roll them.

But one of the best ways an activist can try to lead the public is by presenting himself as an expert on some tedious-seeming panel that, somehow, comes out with sensational findings of what is called "science".

Continue reading "Revealing the Activist "Experts"" »

September 20, 2013

DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs

The trouble revealed by the reversal to Rep. Tom DeLay's conviction is not just with media bias (see previous post). It also is with the prosecutorial system.

One of the most terrifying aspects of totalitarianism (or authoritarianism) is the power of government officials to find legal excuses to torment and even jail political opponents. We have seen this repeatedly now in Russia. The failed prosecution of Rep. Tom DeLay--whatever you think of his politics, as conservative leader Richard Viguerie says--shows how ambitious and over-zealous prosecutors like Ronnie Earle of Travis County,Texas (Houston) can upend the rule of law even in this country.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Also Shows Need for Curbs" »

September 19, 2013

DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check

It is hard for an outsider to know the details of a political corruption trial, but the trial and conviction of former House leader Tom DeLay didn't ring true at the time. The promoters were partisan Democrats with a long history of targeting DeLay, a tough political player himself. But the real pressure for indictment and conviction came from the media. I will leave it for others to cite all the editorials and self-righteous columns that attacked him.

Now his conviction has been overturned and, effectively, DeLay is exonerated. His hardball politics is no different from what we see daily in Democratic campaigns. Well, there is a difference. DeLay was forced out of office while the current crowd are in office and making the rules.

Continue reading "DeLay Decision Should Open Media Check" »

September 8, 2013

Earth is Cooling, "Scientists Say"

The ice cap in the Arctic is 60 percent bigger than this time last year, scientists say. A new era of cooling may be underway.

I hereby again establish the term "Scientists Say" as a category of media hype that keeps the credulous public in a state of constant and unnecessary alarm. Why? "Because," as folks used to say, "it sells papers."

Nonetheless, the climate change community (nee, global warming community) is in a dither, according to the London Telegraph. Documents leaked to another British paper, the London Mail, from the UN International Panel on Climate indicate that governments that finance the UN studies are demanding 1,500 changes in the preliminary report.

Only a couple of weeks ago an earlier leak from different sources (presumably) anticipated a UNIPCC report that confirmed human-caused global warming.

Now we have some scientists predicting a decade or more of cooling. Therefore earlier reported IPCC assertions of growing confidence levels in a warming trend (95%, no less) are looking as mushy as a melting snowman.

Continue reading "Earth is Cooling, "Scientists Say"" »

August 24, 2013

Meyer, Ruse Debate ID on NPR

Interfaith Radio has a debate running on NPR stations this weekend--featuring Discovery Sr. Fellow (and author of Darwin's Doubt) versus Michael Ruse. You can follow it here (27 minutes).

Some of the best lines, as usual, got cut, but it is still worth your time!

July 19, 2013

Anti-Religion Party Now Targets Star of David

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), the group that has been trying to intimidate Ball State University in Indiana over a course on the interface of science and religion, has a new cause. It is calling for removal of a Star of David in a holocaust memorial at the state capitol in Ohio.

The remarkable thing is not that such a public, tax-exempt foundation exists, but that it attracts such credulous acceptance in the progressive media and in academia. All by itself it has caused the Ball State administration in Muncie, IN to take seriously--and over agonizing months--an attempted assault on the academic freedom of one of its professors. (The professor's crime is including some papers on intelligent design in his reading list.) You would think the the FFRF was some sort of respected legal watchdog group concerned to protect civil liberties. In reality, it is an aggressively atheist lobby bent on extirpating any positive reference to religion in the public square.

Continue reading "Anti-Religion Party Now Targets Star of David" »

July 18, 2013

New IRS Scandals; When Comes Justice?

It now turns out that someone leaked tax information of Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, leading to a unjustified (but newsworthy) lien on property of hers. Do you want to paint a candidate in a negative way that will cost her politically? Smear her with false claims of illegality.

O'Donnell was not a sympathetic candidate as far as most people were concerned. So what? This is America. The IRS is not a political action unit of the dominant party. When people in it break the law--and the public trust--they must be found and prosecuted. This sort of thing is not just the standard Washington, DC news leak.

July 15, 2013

The Odds of Re-trying Zimmerman

Attorney General Eric Holder suggests that the Department of Justice may try to re-try George Zimmerman, despite his acquittal this past weekend. Lawyer and Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter offers the following analysis of the problems facing the DOJ if it does so.

I did a little research on three possible legal avenues, and it appears difficult for any of them to be successfully used against Zimmerman.

The three are: (1) Florida civil case; (2) federal civil rights case; (3) federal hate crimes case.

State Wrongful Death Civil Case

There appears at most a narrow window under Florida law. A defendant who successfully invokes Florida's "stand your ground" (SYG) self-defense law is immune from civil suits . Zimmerman did NOT invoke SYG in the criminal case, for fear that an unsympathetic judge would deny a request for application of SYG. Such does not operate as a permanent waiver, however. Zimmerman can now plead SYG as a bar to civil suit.

Continue reading "The Odds of Re-trying Zimmerman" »

July 11, 2013

New "Never Mind" On Science Consensus

Whether the subject is evolution or climate change, there is an iron-clad, non-violable "scientific consensus". Don't dare question it, even if you are a scientist.

But then, from time to time, the scientific consensus just quietly evaporates. Perhaps that is because in some cases the monied and left-wing lobbies (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health) are not engaged.

So, it turns out that salt is not bad for your health. All that scolding from "scientists"?

"Never mind."

Continue reading "New "Never Mind" On Science Consensus" »

Humble Beauty in the Face of Death

An outstanding entry in the Smithsonian's competition for very short films is "The Coffinmaker" by Jesse Solomon Clark. Somehow the essence of Marcus Daly, the wood craftsman on Vashon Island and owner of Marian Caskets, is brought out in the 3.40 minute video. The prevailing spirit is peace.

You can watch it here.

And if you like it (you will) you can vote for it at the Smithsonian site.

I know Marcus Daly and his large family. A longer film about their lives together in the forest by Puget Sound also would be gripping, especially since they are at once humble in their faith and living it fully.

Continue reading "Humble Beauty in the Face of Death" »

Freedom in Egypt, then Democracy

Discovery Sr. Fellow John Wohlstetter carefully disentangles the concept of democracy--which many in the world, including some in the U.S.--confuse with majority rule, regardless of safeguards for freedom--freedom for minorities of politics and religion and ethnicity. The problem at hand is Egypt, but it could be most of the former USSR, Africa and Asia.

July 9, 2013

Government is Chilling Private Speech is running a column by me today on the growing number of ways the government can collect--and use private data--on citizens.

July 8, 2013

So, Junior is a Vegetarian


When my younger son at age 13 announced he was a vegetarian he said the no longer should be served chicken or pork or beef. How about steaks? Nope.

How about hamburgers? Long pause.

Maybe, sometimes.

Well, that didn't last long.

Today that young man, all grown up, is an accomplished avocational grill-chef. He prepared an especially well-seasoned pork roast last night. His mother is a vegetarian (some fish, occasional chicken, no red meat). But his father will eat almost anything that tastes good.

The key is not letting a child decide what the family eats. Not when he or she is eating for free.

Yet an article by Casey Seidenberg of the Washington Post suggests a different approach. Find out what vegetarian meals most appeal to the little gourmet. Maybe she (or he) will eat some kinds of meat; say, fish. Negotiate, in other words.

Continue reading "So, Junior is a Vegetarian" »

The Good Job News is Bad

Ben Wattenberg, author of numerous contrarian books from the 60s to the 90s that showed America doing better than critics asserted, had a trope that "the good news is the bad news is wrong."

Unfortunately, when it comes to economic news, right now the bad news is that the good news is wrong. A fine analysis from James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI also is home to Ben Wattenberg) describes last week's jobs report as a disappointment masked in media accounts as "better than expected" employment gains.

It turns out that the increases in part time jobs is large, but is almost offset by the loss of full time jobs. That is, less desirable, low-wage, no-benefit jobs are increasing, not coincidentally, as good jobs with benefits and higher pay disappear. Writes Pethokoukis, " The underemployment rate surged to 14.3% from 13.8%" last month. Why is that happening?

Continue reading "The Good Job News is Bad" »

July 3, 2013

Hard Fate of Obama's "New" Policy on Muslims

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President Obama's new foreign policy on Muslim countries--the "New Beginning" declared in Cairo in 2009--is now visibly in ruins.

Under Mr. Obama the US Government seems to have an excellent instinct for choosing sides at just the wrong moment. In Egypt we gave up on Mubarak only as his exit was being assured and now the same with Morsi. Placards in the anti-Morsi crowds last week deplored Obama and the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Ann Patterson, for urging Egyptians not to take part in the demonstrations.

Writes Egyptian Dr. Tawfik Hamid of the Potomac Institute, "Egyptian and Arab liberals alike cannot understand why the Obama administration did not take a clear stand against the several anti-democratic actions Morsi took after he came to power. These included seizing all powers in the country, breaking his promise to select a Coptic vice president, encouraging Islamic thugs to surround the Supreme Constitutional Court and threaten its judges if they issued any ruling against Morsi, and above all, cheating in the referendum on the new constitution of the country for the benefit of the Islamists."

Under George W. Bush we stood for freedom and democracy, even if there was some inevitable hypocrisy involved. Under Obama the fulsome speech in Cairo about new relations with Muslim countries was followed by a foreign policy that essentially is opportunistic, impulsive and--in the end--incoherent.

We couldn't express support for the pro-democracy crowds in tyrannical Iran, seemed eager to abandon democrats in Iraq, are wishy-washy in Afghanistan, unclear in Syria, and so it goes. If some conspiracy-minded people thought that Barack Obama was the Manchurian Candidate--a secret Islamist--that person would have to admit that the conspiracy must have gotten mixed up somehow. Either that or the Candidate turned out to be incompetent,

Continue reading "Hard Fate of Obama's "New" Policy on Muslims" »

Green Energy's Future in Scrap Salvage

Green innovations have become the tattoos of the energy economy. Tattoos look good at first and people complement you on how "awesome" you've become, even if hardly anyone gets close enough to study the clever etchings on your body parts. Then you wish you hadn't. And one fair day, after another embarrassing swim in the neighborhood pool, you start figuring how to make them go away.

There is still a business etching the torsos of the young and guileless and printing indelible roses on the ankles of just-divorced matrons. But fashion changes, and there already is a big business in removing the magenta signs of disillusionment.

So it goes with windmills for generating electricity. It was only yesterday that they were the dazzling promise on the horizon. All you had to do was burn railroad loads of coal and oil, and mine vast pits of ore, to have them manufactured and erected above the mere human scale environment of the countryside. Then off they went, making their unearthly whooshing sounds, flap-flapping the heads off migrating endangered species birds, and slightly denting the peak energy needs of power companies whose corporate enthusiasm had been greased by crony government subsidies. But nowadays the controversy is less how to build them, more about how to tear them out.

Continue reading "Green Energy's Future in Scrap Salvage" »

July 2, 2013

"Middletown" Paper Gets it Right

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The Star-Press of Muncie, Indiana, home to Ball State University, is a local newspaper that still reports the news, and, remarkably, tries to report fairly.

When a Ball State professor who teaches a class on "The Boundaries of Science" was assailed gratuitously by the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, WI and biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, the University President did not handle the charges the same way charges were handled against a professor a decade ago. In the earlier instance, a professor charged with "anti-American, pro-terrorist" views was defended immediately on academic freedom grounds. Case closed. But in the current case of Dr. Eric Hedin, who is charged with expressing personal theistic beliefs (imagine that, in a course on science and religion!), the University set up an investigative committee and stacked it with pro-Darwinians critical of intelligent design.

The Muncie paper simply reported the news. How refreshing. Of course, for not following the censorship playbook, the Star-Press and Indiana in general have come under invidious attack by Dr. Coyne. "I was told," he writes in his blog, "that, in religious terms, Indiana is effectively a Southern state, but I didn't believe it until now." (Hell hath no fury like an atheist scorned.)

Continue reading ""Middletown" Paper Gets it Right" »

July 1, 2013

Meyer Book Hits Best Seller Lists

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Over the weekend we learned that both the New York Times and Publishers' Weekly have Steve Meyer's Darwin's Doubt on their respective Best Sellers Lists for the coming week. The book is number seven on the NYT and number ten on Publishers' Weekly.

This success testifies to the growing audience for intelligent design and scientific criticism of Darwinian theory. All our previous books and films, especially Steve's Signature in the Cell, have helped us to circumvent the mainstream media and develop what might be considered a counter-culture appetite. We have always known that there is a public sympathy for our position, but now we see developing a population of scores of thousands who not only identify with ID, but also understand and support it. That audience follows the topic now and, obviously, will welcome the new book.

Continue reading "Meyer Book Hits Best Seller Lists" »

June 26, 2013

Reviewer Calls Gilder's Knowledge and Power "Book of the New Millenium"

Rich Karlgaard writes in the July 15 issue of Forbes, "Gilder, age 73, is now back with a new book, Knowledge and Power (Regnery), based on information theory. I will say that Gilder's newest is his best-the book of the year, maybe of the new millennium. I'll be referring to Knowledge and Power in coming issues. Meanwhile, buy it and read it so we can compare notes!"

June 25, 2013

National Service Would be an Obama-Corps

The American Spectator today runs an article by me that makes some of the arguments in the blogpost yesterday, along with some others. Stay tuned.

June 24, 2013

Catholic Radio Hosts ID Series

Catholic scientists and philosophers who support intelligent design, such as Dr. Michael Behe, Fr. Michael Chabarek, Dr. Ann Gauger and Dr. Jay Richards, along with a number of non-Catholics who are leaders in the field, such as Dr. Steve Meyer, Dr. Doug Axe and Casey Luskin, are showcased in a new radio series from Radio Maria.

A key benefit of the online series is that it allows intelligent design proponents to speak in their own voices, instead of having their views filtered through a second party. A total of some 20 interviews are underway, hosted by Tim Murname.

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London Mayor Lampoons Climate Change

Boris Johnson often is mentioned as a possible future Conservative Prime Minister for Britain. Whether that ever happen, the ruffle-haired blond Mayor of London has a sly satirical wit that should endear him to the voters.

His column on the case suburban swimming pool builders in England have against the threats--make that the "promises"--of global warming makes delicious reading. So do the comments that follow it.

President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and all the Establishment of the U.S. and U.K. just know that global warming is real and man made--and horrific. The greatest danger facing the world, the President says.

But it's a big letdown for swimming pool builders in England's green and pleasant land.

June 23, 2013

Academic Discrimination? Follow the $

Some opportunities for investigative journalism are huge, but unexplored. As a glaring example I give you the subject of academic discrimination and the suppression of dissent.

We all tend to assume it is the product of an increasingly conformist culture. But consider the alternative, or additional explanation, of intellectual corruption--the willingness to promote a point of view--based on grant money--to the exclusion of views disapproved by the grant-makers.

Continue reading "Academic Discrimination? Follow the $" »

Plan Well to Commemorate 500th Anniversary of Protestant Reformation

Christians are beginning to realize that a potentially embarrassing anniversary is coming up in 2017, only four years from this October: the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It could serve to underscore the continuing division of the Church, "the Body of Christ." It could highlight the diminished authority that Christianity receives in the West, even as Africans and Asians converts seek the faith. Worst of all, reliving the tumultuous history of the 16th and 17th centuries could rekindle the flames of mutual animosity.

Or, more likely, Christians of all sorts, under assault by a culture increasingly indifferent to faith where it is not hostile, may rally to common convictions. Perhaps, they can hope for substantially more unity coming out of the anniversary commemorations than they have going in. Planning for a substantive anniversary, therefore, would seem to commend itself to leaders in all denominations.

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June 21, 2013

How to Move a Boulder

Virtually all large state and private universities discriminate against conservatives in hiring and in tolerance for diversity. At least that is the nearly universal opinion of conservatives. Colorado's state regents have decided--perhaps for the first time in the country's public university systems--to order a study on the subject. Technically, they will inquire as to whether there is an atmosphere of ideological intolerance in the university system, and especially at the flagship Boulder campus. Practically, they will inquire as to what can be done about it.

The University of Colorado already is doing something positive and original by hiring Reagan biographer and public policy intellectual Dr. Steven C. Hayward to teach a course on conservatism. I expect it will be well-enrolled and help start a conversation about effective academic hostility to ideological debate. Some of the progressives will be foolish enough to belittle the enterprise, which, of course, will help validate the point of its need.

Continue reading "How to Move a Boulder" »

June 20, 2013

The Obama State Intimidates Media

Question of the day: How much does AP really care about freedom of the press? How much does CBS?

Even before Republicans won the U. S. House of Representatives in the 2010 elections the Administration let it be known that going forward it would try to enact its measures by administrative means. In other words, it was going around Congress. The AP and other media seemed to take that in stride. The news spotlight today is still often on Congress, and the Administration likes to use the Republicans in Congress as a foil and Congress (I include both parties) is less relevant now than it has been in a generation.

For example, one reason for hostility to the Gang of Eight immigration act is public suspicion that whatever measures for increased border security are enacted, the Administration simply will enforce the ones its likes and ignore or neglect the others.

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June 19, 2013

Gilder's New Paradigm on Kudlow Show

George Gilder and his book Knowledge and Power were given a warm welcome on the Larry Kudlow show last night. Here is a link to a short segment.

June 18, 2013

Larry Kudlow has Hour of Gilder Tonight

CNBC's Kudlow & Co has George Gilder on tonight from 7pm-8pm ET for a full hour as the featured guest. It's part of the roll-out of Knowledge and Power.

Meanwhile, Steve Meyer is on after 3 p.m. ET on the Dennis Miller Show.

June 14, 2013

How to Purge Faculties of Real Diversity

The "fourth criterion" for tenure should be "collegiality", according to a current stream of university thinking. (The first three are said to be "research, teaching and service.")

We are supposed to want "productive dissent," and the key word that must be interpreted, of course, is "productive." Who decides? A scientific critic of Darwin's theory in the biology department is, by definition, an unproductive dissenter. An advocate of free market economics in most universities does not add the stimulus of intellectual diversity, you see, but instead threatens "unproductive" dissent.

Continue reading "How to Purge Faculties of Real Diversity" »

June 12, 2013

Major Libertarian Award Goes to Gilder

George Gilder received notice today from Mark Skousen, noted libertarian leader and organizer of the 1800 member Freedomfest that is held in Las Vegas each July:

"I'm happy to announce that you have won the Leonard E. Read Book Award for 2013 for your breakthrough work 'Knowledge and Power.' This award is given yearly at FreedomFest for the outstanding libertarian book of the year. Congratulations!

"We will present the award at this year's FreedomFest (time to be announced) in front of the entire audience, and encourage attendees to go to your session on Saturday when you will be discussing it, followed by an autograph session."

Leonard E. Read was famous, among other things, for the great essay in economics, "I, Pencil", on the genius of collaborative free enterprise worldwide--the kind of unforced cooperation that lets hundreds of groups and thousands of people produce everything, from a pencil on..

It's very appropriate, given Knowledge and Power's new and unique explanation of the nature of creativity.

Regulatory State Morphs into Snooping State

The NSA controversy has some people in both parties understandably worried that the Government has over-reached. However, it is likely that we will find that the NSA's broad sweep of data is far safer for civil liberties--and for national security--than the alternative means that might be needed if the NSA were not on the job.

Regardless, we are in danger of the NSA imbroglio distracting us from more imminent and damaging domestic intrusions on citizen privacy. Do you remember when the President after the 2010 elections--and the return of a Republican House--let it be known that he would effect his will through administrative means, rather than relying on legislation? In agency after agency that is transpiring in ways that endanger liberty.

Continue reading "Regulatory State Morphs into Snooping State" »

June 10, 2013

Forbes Hails Gilder as "A Modern Prometheus"

This is publication day for Knowledge and Power (Regnery Press). Forbes gets things rolling with a review by Ralph Benko that describes the book as Gilder's "most brilliant work yet--one of potentially explosive importance if taken to heart by our political and policy thought leaders."

Benko acknowledges that Knowledge and Power is "not for the faint of heart or the closed of mind," a book to sit down and read, not an amusement while standing in line at an airport. "Its early chapters drive the reader up a challenging learning curve." But it is worth it because "this near pitch-perfect book" proves that Gilder is "an intellectual Titan, in fact, a modern Prometheus..(bringing) humanity the fire of Knowledge..and Power."

george-gilder-1.jpgA very agreeable insight from Benko is that the new Gilder book "imports the fruits of a vividly fresh worldview from the intellectually vibrant Discovery Institute, based in Washington State, to the too-often stagnant Washington, D.C." This month, as it happens, also will see publication of another pathfinding book by Discovery Sr. Fellow Stephen C. Meyer: Darwin's Doubt (Harper). In August the public can expect Jay Richards' Infiltration(McGraw-Hill), the first new explanation of the housing and financial bust of '08 and how its repetition may be prevented.

The core messages of Gilder's new economic theory are based on information theory. "Once we, of DC, get done rethinking economic policy along Gilderian lines the world likely never will be the same," writes Benko. "It will be better. Information theory laps classical economics and, perhaps at last, drives the wooden stake into the heart of undead Keynians dogma haunting the capital. Gilderianism eats Keynesianism for breakfast."

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Computer Privacy a Growing Imperative

Hand-wringing about computer security breaches by foreign and domestic hackers, combined with NSA's intelligence-gathering and hacking counter-attacks, leave the individual feeling helpless. The annoyance factor is monstrously large, though hard to quantify, but the danger of serious compromises of intellectual property and personal privacy is in even more serious territory. George Gilder's recent breakthrough paper on this should be read by anyone concerned about the developing headline story.

Meanwhile, Dell is one example of an original equipment manufacturer that is trying to fill an obvious need with a new private product. Constant fixes and patches are not enough.

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June 9, 2013

For Now, Hold Your Fire on the NSA

Edward Snowden, the 29 year old contract employee who revealed the NSA data-mining. is no hero. The data processor, like Private Bradley Manning, had an inside but ant's level view of the NSA projects. Snowden sounds very much like a self-dramatizing romantic.

He says he doesn't want to hurt anyone, but if his revelations to a left-wing writer for the UK Guardian results is one or more terror plots getting past scrutiny, he definitely will have done great damage to real people.

On the other hand, the increasing ambition of the NSA has to be a source of concern for any civil libertarian. Concern, but not hysteria. Congress, in particular, needs to review its oversight functions.

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June 8, 2013

Census, the IRS and Issue of Trust in Government

The issue of trust in government agencies like the Bureau of the Census is sure to come up in confirmation hearings for John H. Thompson, President Obama's new nominee for Director. That is not due to any problems with the distinguished Dr. Thompson or with the Census Bureau, despite cyclical demands that the Census stop asking people so many questions.

The looming trouble for the Bureau and other data-gathering agencies is that people's fears and indignation have been excited as never before by the recent IRS scandals, the snooping on AP and FOX and revelations about cyber-data gathering. It bears noting, therefore, that the Bureau's questions are not unfair or adversarial, let alone selectively targeted at any group, and that they are well justified under both the enumeration clause and the commerce language of the U.S. Constitution. That's why Sen. Rand Paul's legislation to sharply limit Census questions, however appealing it may appear superficially, isn't going anywhere.

The Census should not bear the stigma of the IRS' shame. That's not only important to the Bureau and other statistical agencies, but also to the public.

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A Public Defender's Potpourri Day

What would offend the olfactory nerves of a public defender? "Ryan" gets to find out at a city not far away. Here's his report (reposted from

I stepped into the elevator in my building this afternoon and had to breathe slowly. It brought me back to the old bowling alley; cigarette butts, leftover something, spilled beer. Those smells don't bother me too much, but when you add in a mix of body odor, gingivitis, and an overdose of cheap perfume, I start to have a negative sensory overload. I had three floors to guess the mixture of clients...

The woman in her Betty Boop fleece pants with the frayed bottoms - they looked just fine when she held them up to her waist at the store, but she was wearing heels at the time so they typically find themselves a few inches below her flip-flops at home. Her hair is a stringy blond and her face is gaunt. She walks with exaggerated movements, almost as if there is some sort of opiate coursing through her veins, seeming to reduce the force of gravity just a bit. If she goes for more than four hours without a fix, she becomes violently ill. We will talk all about her case in my office and she'll be ready to resolve, but when we get into the courtroom, it will be the same thing as last time and every time - not today! My cats; my rent; my... - until one day she doesn't show up at all and gets picked up on a warrant.

Next to her sits a little gang banger, the source of that "vat o' perfume" smell; flat billed baseball cap from some team with bright red colors. He can't even name the sport, but I comment anyway just because it gives me an inward chuckle: boy, that Votto sure is on fire. Those two grand-slams really killed my fantasy team this week! He just stares at me through bloodshot eyes and pulls out the medical marijuana card that he got for his early-onset low back pain. That's great, bud, but I don't see anywhere on this card where it says you can take off running for three blocks before finally stopping to pull the taser prongs out of your thigh.

Continue reading "A Public Defender's Potpourri Day" »

June 7, 2013

The News They're Not Reporting

The reader probably has some frustrations similar to mine: There are so many news stories that are not getting reported. Part of the problem is the lack of investigative reporter depth in the media. You would think otherwise, given the controversies regularly and breathlessly announced. But in reality, the news reporting teams of the broadcast and cable networks mostly chase stories that have been covered in a couple of major daily newspapers, plus a few online blog posts that cannot be safely ignored.

The money on TV long haas gone to glitz settings and big names rather than gumshoe reporting. Serious investigative journalism takes time and doesn't produce quick results that pay off in high ratings. The same is true now of print media.

Conservatives are particularly bereft in this environment. To the extent the kinds of issues they would like examined are ignored in the mainstream media, while the "conservatives" on camera seem addicted to the same sensationalized formulas and repetitious "personalities". It's hard, apparently, to vet new people for interviews and opinions, so why not go with the same Congressman or former this or that--over and over and over?

Would that this modest blog site were able to do more original research. It it were possible, there would be, for example, a reporter calling on the judge and prosecutor--and the parole office--that put Nakoula Basseley Nakoula away last fall after his vulgar video on Islam was wrongly cited for provoking the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Wasn't his parole violation, seen in the light of reality, far too trivial to warrant such a long sentence? (He's still in jail.) Wasn't the promise of prosecution proffered by then-Secretary Clinton & Co. essentially political in nature? And if it was an exaggerated penalty, what does that say about the danger of politicized justice in America? Just asking: did local law enforcement have any contact with State Department or other federal officials?

Continue reading "The News They're Not Reporting" »

Ball State Should Get on the Ball

Ron Coody writes today in the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel that the Freedom from Religion Foundation of Madison, WI has provoked an "inquisition" into the teaching of a professor of physics at Ball State University in Indiana. Mr. Coody points out that the challenge to Prof. Eric Hedin in his class on the boundaries of science and religion essentially would deny the Indiana professor the same kinds of academic freedom that his critics--notably Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago--exercise regularly in their own classes.

The question Mr. Coody does not ask is why did Ball State respond to an attack on academic freedom by launching an "investigation" of the matter? Why was it not dismissed it out of hand, the way it would have been if the professor had been accused of athiesm? And, once launched, why has has the investigation taken over three weeks so far to resolve? Failure to stand up to attempts at academic intimidation, especially ones coming from an activist group in another state, cannot add prestige to Ball State University.

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June 3, 2013

Worst IRS Offense: Divulging Tax Files

Stories pile up that the IRS investigations into conservative groups was not just about the Tea Party, but also about pro-life groups, pro-Israel groups and conservatives in general. It also was about pursuing donors and principals in such groups. This is in sharp contradiction of early assertions that the attacks were the product of a few "rogue" IRS agents in Cincinnati and "not political".

But maybe the most damning aspect of the IRS scandal is that confidential tax files about Tea Party people and others may have been disclosed to their political opponents and adversaries in the media. There is no way to excuse or explain that away. The people responsible should be found and prosecuted. It's a thoroughgoing criminal act. It is the kind of thing that destroys confidence in government.

I understand what Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) meant today when he said that Tea Party groups had asked for special tax treatment. Yes, but so did groups on the left--who got the tax breaks quickly. You may argue against having such tax breaks, but how do you argue for selective application of them?

Furthermore, there isn't even any ambiguity about leaking people's tax returns to their political foes. That is a job-firing, jail-time offense.

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May 24, 2013

Goodbye Al Qaida: Hello, Islamist "Loners"

President Obama picked a fine time to announce that the war on terror is winding down and that Al Qaida is on the run. The Benghazi attack last September should have destroyed that argument as a campaign theme; but it didn't, since a video-maker was falsely but successfully blamed for provoking the attack. (The official script eventually was changed, but, bizarrely, Nakoula Baseley Nakoula, the hapless video-maker, is still in jail.) Now Mr. Obama is making the claim again, just after a likely confederate of the Tsarnaevs dies in a confrontation with the FBI in Orlando and two self-proclaimed Islamists murder and butcher a British soldier on the street in London.

Speaking yesterday, the President announced a cutback in the use of drones and a renewed intention to close Guantanamo prison, asserting that such moves are justified in part because of the decline of Al Qaida. We're effectively back to the campaign theme of 2012: "GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead."

War on terror? Says the Commander-in-Chief: "This war must end. That is what history advises. That is what democracy demands."


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May 22, 2013

Contagious Apophenia in the Senate

The Honorable Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island is getting a lot of well-deserved criticism for stating that natural disasters such as the tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma this week are the products of climate change (nee, "global warming") and, therefore, somehow the responsibility of climate change doubters. Moreover, since many Republicans are among those questioning the assertions of global warming and especially the idea that people mainly cause it, he said, they ultimately are responsible for forcing the rest of the country--including his state--to help pay the costs of disaster relief.

This kind of thing would be the stuff of satire if it were not taking advantage of the recent tornado deaths and destruction in Oklahoma.

Discovery fellows Steve Meyer (author of the forthcoming, Darwin's Doubt) and Jay Richards were on the Michael Medved show today to talk about a variety of similar claims fraudulently made in the name of science.

Misperceiving patterns and lessons from random information is a form of psychiatric disease called "apophenia," a delusional condition the sufferer confuses with reality. The political and metaphorical version of it is conspiracy theory, or, in this case, an attempt to claim for climate change what even scientists (including those who fully accept the idea that the Earth is warming and that people are responsible for it) don't claim; namely, that specific severe weather can be attributed to climate change.

Moreover, even if you did hold weather is a reflection of climate change, you would have to deal with the statistics that until this week's tornados, the past year has been notable for a relative paucity of tornados. In the same way, Hurricane Sandy last year was terrible in its destruction in the populous Northeast, but otherwise not an example of a trend in hurricanes.

The Medved program did a good job dispatching the Sheldon Whitehouse case of political aprophenia. The trouble is, the disease is contagious, as comments from Sen. Barbara Boxer show.

Continue reading "Contagious Apophenia in the Senate" »

May 15, 2013

U.S. Should Quiz Turkish P.M. on Churches

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey will be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow to meet with President Obama, the main topic being the future of Syria, Turkey's embattled neighbor. In that connection, the President should ask him again about the continuing failure of the Turkish government to allow freedom of worship for Christians in Turkey itself. In particular, the Turks should be asked to allow the ">reopening of the Eastern Orthodox Halki Seminary.

Continue reading "U.S. Should Quiz Turkish P.M. on Churches" »

May 13, 2013

Pressure Cooker Whistle Blows

Pressure Cooker.jpg

A Saudi Arabian has been detained as he entered the US at Detroit carrying a pressure cooker in his luggage.

The Tsarnaev brothers' weapon of choice, the pressure cooker apparently can be converted to a bomb following directions online, courtesy of al Qaida.

Will we soon have pressure to ban pressure cookers? Well, some Miami-Dade County students have a petition for just that cause. Williams-Sonoma already has taken pressure cookers off their store shelves. Can Crate&Barrel be far behind?

Continue reading "Pressure Cooker Whistle Blows" »

May 9, 2013

Added Voices Raised on "Benghazi Patsy"

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the petty crook and video-maker in Los Angeles who was made the fall guy for the Benghazi killings, was the subject of a discussion with my Discovery colleagues yesterday before I blogged "Free Nakoula". Was I going out on a limb? Not at all.

Not only has Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit been on this topic for months, but today Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, also has a fine piece on "The Benghazi Patsy" at

Remember, after the killings, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised the father of one of those killed that the maker of the video would be "arrested and prosecuted." Indeed, he was. And he is still in jail, though ostensibly for parole violation.

Continue reading "Added Voices Raised on "Benghazi Patsy"" »

May 8, 2013

Free Nakoula

America is supposed to be a country that doesn't have political prisoners. But Nakoula Basseley Nakoula looks increasingly like one, a small time Los Angeles crook made a scape goat to cover up the Obama Administration's failure in Libya and the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The claim that Nakoula's puerile video against Islam led to a violent "demonstration" in Benghazi was immediately obvious at the time to Gregory Hicks, career diplomat and Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, as a fabrication. He has just testified to Congress, "I was stunned. My jaw dropped."

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May 7, 2013

The Usefulness of Controversy

It is an irony that the Reinhart-Rogoff study on national debt's role in limiting economic growth was not widely known until the left started pummeling it recently. It was ushered into prime time by Rachel Maddow at MSNBC as if it were a new Watergate scandal. (Bengazigate gets no such attention.) Reinhart-Rogoff had omitted some data that changed the nature of their claim that after 90 percent national debt, economies flag. But, after they corrected their data, the validity of their main argument remains.

Our Discovery Senior Fellow Scott Powell finds it all distracting. You don't need the Reinhart-Rogoff study to know that governments that borrow to much are also borrowing trouble.

Continue reading "The Usefulness of Controversy" »

May 3, 2013

George W's Decency

Bush Dancing.jpg

One reason George W. Bush is regaining popularity is that the truth will out, even in this wicked world! In Bush's case, the truth is flattering. For example, without fanfare the former president entertains wounded vets at his ranch about once a month. It is his way of showing appreciation and support. Recovery from a serious injury can be very lonely, and having some attention paid by the former Commander in Chief has to help.

Here is a picture of "43" dancing with a female vet. He's informal, he's obviously sincere and gentle. A gentle man.

Photo Credit

May 2, 2013

Okay to Kill Babies After Birth?

The uncomfortable subject of infanticide can be obscured by academic rhetoric and by changing the subject, such as to costs to the parent(s), costs to society, legal "rights", etc. Let's tut-tut about those. Of course, the same used to happen when the subject was a black person's ability to vote or the ante-bellum issue of slavery. There always are excuses; the human imagination is resourceful.

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May 1, 2013

May Day! May Day!

Thumbnail image for May Pole.jpg Thumbnail image for May Day Riot.png

Parades usually see the populace thronging the sidewalks to applaud the paraders. May Day parades, however, usually are regarded as threats to the peace, a kind of annual "Occupy" protest that is run (like Occupy) by individuals who have no regard for others. Accordingly, instead of setting out lawn chairs to watch the fun, offices along the May Day route in Seattle this year, as in other cities, are closing down early and getting out of the way.

The far left is not as agitated now as they would be if a Republican were President, but they never lack for manufactured indignation. Each subgroup will have its own cheeky assaults on good taste and decorum. Police are schooled in tolerant tactics that let the paraders/demonstrators have their way right up to the point--and usually well past it--where windows are broken. Certainly there will be no limit on noise. The whole point is to disturb others and make normal business impossible. Here come the same old drum corps, the same old style of chants and all the retread tactics of the anti-war movement of the 60s and the anti-nuke movement that preceded it.

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March 23, 2012

"Narcissism as Analysis"


James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal "Best of the Web" column (subscription only) has skewered the pomposities of liberal legal commentators who seek not only to disagree with, and misrepresent, conservatives on the subject of ObamaCare, but also would have the reader think that everyone who is the least bit smart agrees with the liberal evaluation. If they don't agree, then, that just shows that they are not smart. A wise managing editor would not allow such impishness to see print.

Taranto's target today is Dahlia Lithwick (Newsweek and Slate), who writes that the case before the Supreme Court is "uncontroversial" because it's obvious that the law is constitutional. The only question is whether a majority of justices will agree, or instead will stoop to invidious politics.

"The second proposition, however, disproves Lithwick's claim that the first proposition is uncontroversial," Taronto points out. "Indeed, the very fact that there is a controversy before the court is sufficient to disprove the claim that the constitutionality of ObamaCare is uncontroversial. Lithwick seems to mistake the absence of doubt in her own mind for an absence of controversy. It's narcissism as legal analysis."

Well put.

A bird of similar feather to Lithwick is Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times. She explains that it isn't necessary to give respectful treatment to critics of ObamaCare because they are beyond the pale of sensible opinion. Yesterday, Taranto quoted Greenhouse on her standards:

"'Journalistic convention requires that when there are two identifiable sides to a story, each side gets its say, in neutral fashion, without the writer's thumb on the scale. This rule presents a challenge when one side of a controversy obviously lacks merit. But mainstream journalism has learned to navigate those challenges, choosing evolution over 'intelligent design,' for example, and treating climate change naysayers as cranks.'"

Get that? You don't have to think about intelligent design, nor do you have to treat critics of climate change as anything other than cranks.

Indeed, there is a whole list of cranks who don't deserve to be taken seriously. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research would be in that category. So would people who are alarmed by the increase in government sanctioned euthanasia or assisted suicide for newly born infants and seriously ill adults. Tea Party protests against runaway public spending.

Every dictator and every dictatorial mass movement attempts to demonize and degrade its opponents this way. It is why liberalism in the classic style came about in the first place. However, much of the left decided to become illiberal a generation ago (a la Herbert Marcuse). Real public dialogue can't take place in such an environment or propagandizing. No wonder incivility and crudeness reign.

Continue reading ""Narcissism as Analysis"" »

March 2, 2012

Sr. Fellow Richards on NY Times Bestseller List

by Rob Crowther

We just learned that Discovery Senior Fellow Jay Richard's book, Indivisible , co-authored with James Robison, has just hit the New York Times bestseller list at No. 5 this week. Earlier this week the Huffington Post pleasantly surprised us by publishing an excellent piece on the necessary role of faith in public life, by Richards and Robison ("Accepting the Obvious: Faith Is an Integral Part of American Public Life"). If you want to get a signed copy of Indivisible, be sure to join us March 13, 2012 for the launch of Discovery's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality featuring Jay Richards and George Gilder. And finally, keep up with all the related news on the new blog Indivisible Review .

UPDATE: Indivisible is number two on the Wall Street Journal list for non-fiction! Paper comes out tomorrow, but the list is available now.

February 24, 2012

New Book by Jay Richards an Early Best-Seller!

Indivisible-Cover.jpgSenior Fellow Jay Richards' new book Indivisible, co-authored with James Robison and released just this past Monday (February 20th), is already topping the best-seller lists! In its first week in release, the book is appearing in the #1 slot for all books on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee calls the book "a must-needed game changer for America" while American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks states: "Indivisible defines the right role of government (and) explains why social and fiscal conservatives should embrace the morality of markets."

Dr. Richards, Director of Discovery Institute's new Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, is currently on a bus tour promoting Indivisible. He will appear, along with Senior Fellow George Gilder, at an event in Seattle on Tuesday, March 13th. Please consider joining us!

January 17, 2012

Thatcherites in Hollywood?

Meryl Streep is a great actress, except sometimes when she plays herself, as she did two nights ago at the Golden Globes Awards banquet. There she launched into vulgarities and unbecoming humor. The one thing she apparently felt obliged to demonstrate--as she was named "best actress" for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady--was that she is not at all like Lady Thatcher. Let it be said in Ms. Streep's defense that her Golden Globes award speech was not a persuasive act. She's better than that.

Elsewhere Streep has acknowledged that getting into the character of Margaret Thatcher made her much more sympathetic to Prime Minister Thatcher the human being. It's hard to imagine it being otherwise. Thatcher was refined gold in the bourse of politics, a "conviction politician," to use Mrs. T's own expression.

Right now the voting public in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe could do worse than see The Iron Lady. Yes, it probably exaggerates the dementia of Mrs. Thatcher today, just as her indignant family asserts. And it skimps on Mrs. Thatcher's role with Ronald Reagan and John Paull II in winning the Cold War. But it does abundantly show something greatly wanting in our own time, the life and career of a courageous truth-teller, a leader who successfully called on her countrymen to own up to their government's wastefulness and to show the patience required to reap in time the reward of renewed prosperity and national pride.

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January 9, 2012

Tony Blankley: Effervescense of Champagne


It was a shocking blow to learn that Tony Blankley, my old comrade from the Reagan years, died suddenly this past weekend at 63. He and a friend, John Roberts, were in their early 30s when they left the Education Department, where they were critics of liberal looseness in curriculum and testing, and joined me at the White House Office of Planning and Evaluation. Tony was fine company, a gentle wit, very Californian, yet droll and sage. Even without his English accent (he was 10 when his parents immigrated to the U.S.) he was a palpably authentic scholar of his hero, Winston Churchill. He was a sartorial sophisticate and a crisp literary stylist.

Tony, however, longed for direct action and was attracted by the "Conservative Opportunity Society" that House GOP leader Newt Gingrich was promoting in the mid-80s. Knowing that Newt was aiming to be the first Republican House Speaker in six decades, Tony left for the Hill, becoming in time press secretary to the new Speaker, and, later, a columnist and witty commentator on television programs. For five years he was the bouncy editorial page editor of The Washington Times, shaping news as well as observing it.

I asked him in an email three weeks ago how he assessed Newt Gingrich's run for President. The core of his characteristically jaunty reply:

"...Great question, is there a new, more disciplined Newt? I
think for all of us --me, Nixon, you, Newt, anyone-- we are pretty
fully formed as a personality by our 20's. After that we may grow
wiser or more foolish, we may learn to manage the externalitites of
our personalities better (or worse)--but the fundamentals exist at the
core. In the aggressiveness , confidence, creativity and quicksilver
essence of Newt's mind , he will always be capable of explosive
comments. That is both good and bad. You can't have champagne without
the effervescence. But you will not get the sparkle and thrill of
champagne from a flat wine. Newt is incapable of sustained boringness..."

Tony himself had a "quicksilver essense" and a smart personality with the "effervescence" of champagne. He lent it to Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and all he knew and all whose lives he touched.

November 17, 2011

Are Legal Settlements in the Public Interest?

Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith, drawing on years as an advocate on legal issues, contends in the San Francisco Chronicle today, that there are too many private lawsuit settlements--as in the alleged Herman Cain sex harassment cases.

The points Wesley makes are sensible and probably just. Of course, a newspaper like the Chronicle is always happy to print an article calling for "less secrecy", which, frankly, is not in the article's favor, however. Society today could stand a little more privacy, if not secrecy, and I don't think we should let businesses that profit from scandalmongering (e.g., the media) dictate how to shape the law on such subjects. There is a difference between the public interest and a news organization's interest. They'd move into your house--literally--if they thought they could get a story out of it.

My own concern as a member of the public is the misuse of the legal process and the PC push of the 70s to intimidate corporations into cash settlements that may have no basis in truth. This is indirectly corrupting of the law. The idea of the "settlement" is that the complainant will stop making the claim, but these private agreements increasingly have a way of becoming public if enough publicity is attached to the original target of the complaint. Barrack Obama probably would not would not have been elected to the Senate from Illinois in 2004 (only seven years ago!) if the leading contender for the job, the Republican Jack Ryan, had not had his "sealed" divorce records spread all over the Chicago Tribune, which sued successfully to have them opened.

Continue reading "Are Legal Settlements in the Public Interest?" »

September 2, 2011

China Daily Grows Semi-Official Influence in U.S.

China Daily, the state-owned English language paper produced in Beijing, arrives at the stoop of thousands of Seattle residences at least once a week, unbidden and, of course, un-purchased. The same happens in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta. The paper says that Boston enters the list next. A new 28 page insert of commentary also was introduced today. China Daily claims 150,000 circulation in the U.S. now and expects that figure to rise to 200,000 soon.

When you are giving away papers, as well as selling them, who knows what "200,000" actually means? But at the least it means the Chinese government has a new way to influence U.S. public opinion. Well, okay, but that does make one wonder whether a U.S. paper produced by the state would be welcome to circulate free in China in such numbers.

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September 1, 2011

Rove (of all People) Says, Don't Count on Polls

Karl Rove, former Presidential aide and "the architect" of G. W. Bush's victories, probably is one of the most savvy of poll data users. Yet, in his professional capacity the present-day analyst and pundit is warning, don't put much stock in polls today for an election fourteen months from now. He has many good historical examples.

Indeed, you can't even count on polls two weeks before an election (or Tom Dewey would have beat Harry Truman in 1948), or, in the case of the 2000 election, even the polls taken the night before an election.

I see at least one wild card in any hand the pollsters try to deal before an election: turnout. Many young people don't own land phone lines, so polls can't really measure them adequately, and their turnout can spike unpredictably as election excitement grows, as it did in 2008. Similarly, they and other supposed voting blocs (labor, Latinos, blacks) may vary widely in enthusiasm, dropping off (for example) greatly, as in 2010. Regardless, anticipating turnout over a year in advance is really risky.

Besides, polls don't tell you much about the complex weave of motivations that move voters--and decide elections.

August 31, 2011

Gilder Tours his Oeuvre on ReasonTV

Reason TV has just put up its Nick Gillespie interview of George Gilder from the recent Freedomfest in Las Vegas, and, as usual, George is entertaining and provocative.

Gilder thinks President Obama is a "hard leftist" by background who has done more damage to America's economy than a "nuclear bomb". He would take any of the Republican alternatives, but when asked who would be best, he says, "Newt Gingrich, if he weren't such a jerk."

But mainly the 21 minute program is a tour of Gilder's works over 40 years and his efforts to link supply side economics with technology futurism and social conservatism.

(Also at Freedomfest, Gilder "debated" Peter Thiel on whether the future of technology is bright or dark. See Richard Rahn's article in The Washington Times.)

August 25, 2011

Ann Coulter on Hell with Chris Matthews

Ann Coulter is so funny that people fail to notice the well read public intellectual behind the laughing smile and endless blonde tresses. In this piece in Human Events she reminds us (she is not shy) that she had produced a No. 1 bestseller on the evolution topic (Godless: The church of Liberalism)--even though the New York Times, the top of whose list she graced, did not bother to review it.

She jokes of Chris Matthews, who plainly has not had a bestseller or any-seller on evolution, and yet thinks he is an expert, "The definition of hell is being condescended to by idiots. It will probably be MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Contessa Brewer sneering at you for all of eternity for not believing in evolution."

Matthews, as Coulter notes, likes to nag presidential aspirants with a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question on evolution. I would like to ask Matthews if he believes in asking intelligent questions and allowing guests to give a full answer before interrupting them.

August 16, 2011

Great! White Mouse IS Being Made into Movie

Bruce Beresford

A few days ago (August 11), noting the death of Nancy Wake at 98, I suggested that the life of this remarkable woman would make a great movie. (A mini-series on TV was constructed more or less about her, and the fictional Charlotte Gray was inspired by her.) Well, a reader advises me that it is being made into a movie, named, appropriately, The White Mouse, the code name the Gestapo gave the Allied spy. The true story of Nancy Wake needs no embellishment, just dramatization.

The film-maker is the famous Australian, Bruce Beresford, director of a long parade of films with great stories, often with dramatic but understated didacticism. Breaker Morant, Black Robe and Driving Miss Daisy are some of them. It appears that Beresford may be producing rather than directing this one.

Shooting of the film starts next year. Wish I could be there.

Photo: Samuel Goldwyn

August 11, 2011

The White Mouse: Film this True Story!


The death in England of Nancy Wake, 98, has given rise to hundreds of obituaries that chronicle the spectacular spy career of a feisty, lovely young Australian woman who saved hundreds of allied soldiers and airmen from the Nazis in World War II. Dubbed the "White Mouse" by the Gestapo, Wake's life is a brilliant saga of wartime derring-do.

Wake was charmingly feminine in style, up to the point where she went into spy action, when she could strangle a man with her bare hands.

I had never heard of Nancy Wake. Apparently, there were biographies of her, a memoir in 1985 and a TV miniseries Wake scorned for its inaccuracies. Wake was proud that she had run a network of spies herself, as well as being a spy herself.

"'For goodness sake, did the allies parachute me into France to fry eggs and bacon for the men?,' she asked. ''There wasn't an egg to be had for love nor money, and even if there had been, why would I be frying it when I had men to do that sort of thing?'"

For goodness sake, make a high quality movie of this amazing woman's life!

News Ltd

August 8, 2011

Times Starts "Debate", Then Reports It

One of the favorite tropes of the New York Times is to find some development it deplores, then find someone who shares the scorn of the editors--and then report the reaction it sought as the news peg. This approach is on full display in a revelation of a "debate" growing over the religiosity of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. The debate really starts with the TImes.

Perry is expected to announce a race for President this week. But instead of reporting on that, the progressive New York Times seeks to make an issue out of Perry's conservative Christian faith. They do that by looking for people to interview who don't like that faith--at least not in a candidate.

This is shooting ducks in a barrel for the Times. Perry is the kind of politician one often sees in Texas, and much of the rest of the country--and in much of American history--who wears his religion on his sleeve. In Manhattan, however, that is considered dangerous, subversive, and certainly "fundamentalist".

Do you have a sense you've seen this movie before?

July 25, 2011

Media Over-Eager to Tag Killer a "Christian"

As soon as I saw the Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik described by NPR, The New York Times and others as a "right wing fundamentalist Christian" (with variations), I suspected another misspent media attempt to demonize conservative Christians. That suspicion was well founded. There are points in Breivik's 1500 page of ramblings online that show he identifies with an anit-muslim, "Christian" Europe, but not as a believing Christian himself. He doesn't hold "serious" religious views of any kind, he says, and there doesn't seem to be any connection between his sociopathic actions and whatever metaphysical views he does have. Much of his online manifesto is plagarized from Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber.

Indeed, like the Columbine murderers or Charles Manson, however, Breivik is clear that he supports Darwinism. Survival of the fittest, and all that. "Science" must prevail over religion. In his interview of himself he says:

Q: What should be our civilizational objectives, how do you envision a perfect Europe?
A: "Logic" and rationalist thought (a certain degree of national Darwinism) should be the fundament of our societies.

However, this killer's motivations are not to be laid at anyone's feet but his own. Overall, the picture is of a deranged and dangerous mind, though perhaps one allied with similar fanatics. It would be nice if the mainstream media reported it that way, rather than indulging again in their politically motivated fantasies.

July 20, 2011

Are the News of the World Hackers Worse than Wikileaks?

The English reporters and maybe editors who undertook hacking of the phones and email accounts of people in the news are getting condign condemnation. Shame on them. Laws may have been broken, and, if so, the guilty should be punished. In any case, the ethics involved are appalling.

However, one notices that some of the people who are quickest to denounce Rupert Murdoch and the Fox organization that own(ed) the News of the World seem to be some of the same folks who had a quite lax attitude toward the even more appalling security attacks of Wikileaks. Remember?

In fact, some of them published those patently illegal leaks, didn't they?

July 16, 2011

Film on Scopes Trial Wins "Freedomfest" Award


The Anthem Film Festival, held in conjunction with the annual libertarian festival "Freedomfest" tonight presented two surprise awards, including "Best Narrative Drama", to Alleged, a film on the Scopes Trial. Producer Fred Foote accepted the awards. Discovery Sr. Fellow John West was a consultant on the film. Brian Dennehy plays Clarence Darrow in the drama, while former Sen. Fred Thompson plays William Jennings Bryan.

June 23, 2011

World Magazine Breaks the Silence Code

Everyone knows about the struggle between Darwinists and their critics--especially the intelligent design advocates. What is less well known is that there is a rift among conservatives over the issue, with libertarians tending to side with Darwinism and traditionalists tending to back ID (or even creationism). There is also a rift among Christians, especially among the numerous population of evangelicals. Many embrace criticism of Darwinism, but others are put off. They don't want to be isolated from their academic and church peers who are more liberal.

That is why the new issue of World Magazine, an orthodox evangelical news weekly edited by Marvin Olasky, is such a revelation. World's "Books of the Year" showcases in the latest issue two critiques of Darwinism in its theistic evolution (TE) guise--the position that says you logically can embrace both God and (Darwinian) evolution. The two books are Discovery Institute Press' God and Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin's Challenge to Faith, edited by Jay W. Richards and Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, by Norman Nevin, a British medical geneticist.

There are a couple of fascinating things about this prominent magazine notice: 1) World, by highlighting these books, rescues them from the shunning accorded critics of Darwinism by the mainstream press, including the religious mainstream press. 2) It asks Christians finally to take account of TE's heterodox religious views. 3) It examines for the first time the influence of the billion dollar Templeton Foundation, which has been wielded explicitly to promote "research academics who are critical of the anti-evolution intelligent design position."

As for the "Best Books" pick of World, I especially recommend God and Evolution for anyone who thinks he already knows what this whole debate is about. Reading about Protestant, Catholic and Jewish efforts to make Darwinism compatible with faith will reveal a great deal the reader did not know, I promise.

The significance of the World award is further highlighted on Evolution News in a recent post.

June 18, 2011

Father's Day, Gather 'Round The Tree of Life

Tree of life movie (1).jpg

At first I didn't understand how Tree of Life, the film by Terrence Malick, could be getting such lavishly favorable reviews in the establishment media when it supposedly is a "spiritual" work. So I saw it.

I now understand it to be a work of highly original cinematic art informed by a Christian sensibility. Maybe (as some tell it) Terrence Malick, the son of an Assyrian Christian immigrant, is not religious. Regardless, his work speaks for itself.

But, everyone is free to draw his own conclusions. Roger Ebert, famous critic from the Chicago Sun-Times, in the course of an ecstatic review, somehow concludes that the movie is about--ahem--evolution.

Continue reading "Father's Day, Gather 'Round The Tree of Life" »

May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Patriotic Surge

It has long seemed that Americans don't take their patriotic holidays seriously. Memorial Day, Presidents' Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day are regarded mostly as vacation days and their significance largely ignored. But for some reason this Memorial Day appears to be different. Radio and television, newspapers and magazines, even Internet sites have run reflective pieces this weekend about remembering the war dead.

There also seem to be a growing number of people observing the day at cemeteries. In Seattle, for example, there is a little cemetery near my home--part of a park--dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic, that is, to Union soldiers who settled here after the Civil War. A local group has helped restore the gravestones and otherwise maintain the grounds. It held a brief service there yesterday and the local news stations covered the event.

Some 10,000 Union soldiers immigrated to the Seattle area when the city was only 15 years old and Washington was still a Territory. One sees hints of New England and the Middle West in older residential parts of the city. Boston Street is near the GAR Cemetery, as are Boylston Street, Harvard Avenue and--imagine this!--Republican Street.

The United States of America has three wars going today. Prayers for the hallowed dead are joined by prayers for the honored service members in harm's way right now.

May 27, 2011

Netanyahu a Big Failure--in New York Times

Melanie Phillips points out the exasperating truth that major media abroad get their opinions of US opinion by seeing what is written by editorialists and pundits at The New York Times and The Washington Post. But those views actually are often reflective of nothing but themselves.

Meanwhile, the US and UK press get their views on foreign opinion from people in other countries who have been channeling them. In other words, it's a closed circle.

Case in point: Netanyahu's trip to America. She nails the reaction.

(I am hoping to post the actual text of George Gilder's important article in June's print issue of The American Spectator as soon as possible. Watch this space.)

Catholic Liberals Jeer, Conservatives Cheer

E. J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist, would like to support those "social justice Catholics" who think cutting the federal budget is immoral. His attitude reflects those in the Catholic Church who conflate God's "preference for the poor" with Caesar's tax policies. Former Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie answers Dionne today and also notes the slanted way The Post covered the commencement address that Speaker John Boehner gave at Catholic University a few days ago. Little was said of the content of Boehner's address, the reasons for his honorary doctorate or the friendly response of the students and parents. Much was made of opposition to Boehner by Catholic liberals.

It's all going to cause more reflection about Christian social thought, and that is all to the good.

The Boehner speech at Catholic U. follows a recent controversy over federal budgetary issues. The chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the U.S., Archbishop Dolan, recently praised Rep. Paul Ryan. This has received far too little coverage, too. He didn't "endorse" Ryan's plan, but the way Ryan has gone about preparing it. He also underscored the church's commitment to the principle of "subsidiarity," that problems should be handled as much as possible by groups close to them, such as families, charities, local communities and associations of various kinds. This has been a favorite theme of such Catholic intellectuals as Michael Novak, Fr. Robert Sirico and George Weigel.

Continue reading "Catholic Liberals Jeer, Conservatives Cheer" »

April 22, 2011

Obama Rules Evoke Film, "Atlas Shrugged"


The National Labor Relations Board proposed this week that Boeing had wrongfully built a new plant in South Carolina to wreak revenge on the Boeing union in Washington State. It's a strange way of second-guessing a business decision. Without taking sides in present or past labor disputes, doesn't a company have a right to build its plants where it wants without the federal government dictating to it?

Also this week, it was revealed that the White House is considering an Executive Order to require all contractors doing business with the government to provide lists of any campaign contributions it and its executives have made to political parties or candidates. The pose is that of "transparency," but, in fact, it is a bold effort to intimidate businessmen from supporting political foes of the President. Do you think politics is ever considered by this Administration in the awarding of contracts? Does "GM" mean anything to you, or "GE"?

The proposed order notably would exempt campaign contributions by unions. No reason for "transparency", there, no sir!

Traveling around a few hundred theaters this same week is "Part 1" of the trilogy based on Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's classic novel of libertarianism (or "Objectivism" in the Rand version). Rand's America, in this film set in 2016, evokes the era in which wrote the novel six decades ago, but it also seems set credibly in present day America, as well as a wholly believable imminent future in which government over-spending and over-regulation have wrecked most of the economy and torn apart society. Today's crony capitalism has reached the point (in the film) where almost no one can succeed without government approval and true entrepreneurs are punished. Government language is Orwellian. The Washington officials in the film use Obama-like rhetoric to justify "fair" competition that actually is rigged. The results of such government management of the economy are disastrous. A gallon of gas costs $37.50 and Depression style soup lines are commonplace on urban streets.

Reviews of Atlas Shrugged are mixed, but reliable liberals like Roger Ebert have had to resort to mischaracterizations to damn the project. I am no Randian, and the bloodless heroes are not very appealing in the movie. But the content is timely and provocative, in the best tradition of political films. Last weekend Atlas Shrugged played in only 299 theaters; but this week it expands to 465. If it continues to gain an audience by word of mouth it will be the result of its scary echoes of what Washington, DC already is becoming.

April 4, 2011

The Power of an "ad"

Our libertarian friend, Mark Skousen, has produced a wonderful spoof of those pharmaceutical ads you see on TV, only this one is for "Obamacare".

March 25, 2011

Vogue Gets Bad Case of Asma

Vogue magazine is all fashion, but little common sense. The magazine continues to get criticism for its February 25 number that featured a homey profile of Asma, the "dynamic" wife of Bashar al Assad of Syria. It makes one uncomfortable reading it, given the news stories these days. But even before the violent repression of peaceful protests lately, Syria has been widely known as a dictatorship allied to Iran, a country that has tried to build nukes, a country that was used as a springboard for terrorists attacking US troops in Iraq.

The First Lady of Syria is very glamorous. Not so her husband and his regime.

March 16, 2011

More Danger from Alarmism than Radiation

The Cosmo Oil Refinery erupts in flames in Ichihara

A couple of days ago I asked people wringing their hands over the nuclear reactors in Japan how a 9.0 earthquake and 25 foot tsunami might have affected hydroelectric dams, gas, oil or coal plants, or even solar panels and wind farms, had such existed on the northeast coast of Japan. At least one oil refinery, at Ichiwara, near Toyko, did go up in spectacular flames after the earthquake, but with little international comment.

To repeat, there are no hydro plants near the quake zone in Japan, but there certainly are on the West Coast of the US. Anybody interested?

Some people I talk to actually suppose that a nuclear power plant meltdown could result in an atom bomb explosion. That's wrong, but if anyone on TV has disabused people of such misconceptions I haven't seen it. In other words, emotionalism is not being restrained, but encouraged.

Meanwhile, let's say that like the Germans this week we decide to halt operations of nuclear plants, and to prevent construction of new plants. What exactly do all the strident voices on TV suppose we can do then to reduce the carbon emissions that on other days they are warning about? What happened to their fretful concern about climate change? Is there anybody who supposes we could get along with solar panels and windmills?

It will be ironic if the main result of the nuclear reactor problems following Japan's earthquake and tsunami is removal of the one major energy technology most conservatives and liberals in this country have agreed on.

Photo: AP

John Cochrane on How to Exit Economic Mess

Entropy chief Bret Swanson, friend and former Discovery Fellow, has an interview with Chicago economist John Cochrane that should be read by media and politicos. We need serious management now of spending and regulation, not the current Obama drift, to avoid major--possibly swift--decline. Particularly sobering is Dr. Cochrane's predictions on rapid inflation.

March 11, 2011

Radicalization Hearing Was Well-Warranted


The US House Homeland Security Committee hearing on radicalization of American Muslims burned up C-Span for four long hours. Some of the reporting has called it a "witch hunt", and at the hearing many, if not most, of the Democrats on the Committee used their five minutes question time each to assail the decision to hold the hearing and to demand hearings instead on other kinds of terrorist threats, such as the KKK. That kind of tendentious objection flavored many of the news stories as well.

The controversy, for some, is not properly the subject of how some young people in this country are radicalized and join Islamist terror groups. No, our concern should rather be whether having a hearing on that subject is politically correct.

The first problem facing the critics, however, was the presence of a panel of experts who in varying ways were all concerned with the reality of radicalization. The perpetually eruptive Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee thought it "ironic" to say that Muslims were not concerned enough about terrorism, when the panel itself, she noted, included Muslims who are concerned. It was ironic, all right, though not in the way the Gentlelady from Houston thought. Two panelists were Muslim, but they were there in eloquent agreement with the contention of Rep. Peter King, Committee Chairman that more needs to be done to counter subversive activities by agents of Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Continue reading "Radicalization Hearing Was Well-Warranted" »

March 8, 2011

NPR Describes Way it Covers Science

NPR is taking it licks for the surreptiticiously recorded conversation two of its top officers had with men pretending to be part of a Muslim Brotherhood funded foundation. There are now hundreds of news reports and commentaries on the story and even the ones on NPR, in the New York Times and the Washington Post are damaging to the proposition--if it still is believed anywhere--that NPR is objective and unbiased.

In the course of a long lunch in Georgetown, NPR's Sr. Vice President Ron Schiller and development officer Betsy Liley manage to say things that are likely to offend many evangelicals, Jews, white people, conservatives generally and the Tea Party in particular. They are sad that the "so-called elite" aren't more numerous. And they give unintentional comfort to those who want to stop government funding of NPR by saying they wish it were possible.

One particularly interesting segment of the tapes is an exchange in which the NPR officials explain how their network covers controversial subjects in science. Betsy Liley is heard describing another funding source who wanted NPR not to report the views of global warming skeptics:

"This funder said to us, ' you know you would like us to support your environmental coverage, but we really don't want to give you money if you're going to talk to the people who think climate change is not happening,'" Ms. Liley recounted (as reported by the Washington Times).

Continue reading "NPR Describes Way it Covers Science" »

February 25, 2011

Public Pro-Walker, But Wavering on Details of Wisconsin Budget Proposal

Polls are showing public a) opposition to teachers' unions b) disapproval of the Wisconsin Democratic Senators' tactic of high-tailing it to Illinois to prevent a quorum; but also c) approval of collective bargaining for public employees. (Three polls have made the latter point; including one from Gallup. However, over all, the public sides with Walker.)

The problem for Republicans is "c". People don't understand yet what collective bargaining is. Hence the contradictory views (anti-union, pro-collective bargaining). They probably don't know that Gov. Walker aims to restrict collective bargaining to non-pay issues, and that collective bargaining on such non-pay issues as health and pension benefits in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) is responsible for hidden deals that are contributing to the long range insolvency of many state budgets. In the private sector, writes Robert M. Costrell in the Friday Wall Street Journal, typical health/pension benefits equal 24 cents to each dollar of pay; but for public employees in Wisconsin the figure is now up to 74 cents for each dollar of pay.

January 28, 2011

In Egypt, Facebook Stoked the Revolution; But Can it Govern?

The revolution in Egypt is another historic product of alternative media, espeically Facebook, home to the "April 6 movement" that commemorates the brutal beating death of a young Egyptian blogger who had exposed the 2008 beating of a demonstrator in the industrial city of El-Mahalla El-Jubra. Instead of stopping the communication, the police beatings provoked a huge following. And then a revolution.

Sonia Verma reports in The Globe and Mail (Toronto), "An estimated 3.4 million Egyptians use the (Facebook) social networking site, the vast majority under the age of 25. Egypt is the number 1 user of Facebook in the Arab world, and No. 23 globally." Many have mobilized behind the April 6 movement.

Twitter, meanwhile, keeps cryptic messages pouring out, some from foreigners imposing their own interpretations on Egyptian events (such as a crowd of enthusiasts from Chavez' Venezuela), but most from Egyptians telling fellow protestors where to show up for the next demonstration. YouTube videos provide homemade news coverage that leaves international broadcasters one step behind. The Mubarak government cracked down on cell phones and the internet for a while, but tonight some reportedly are operating again.

Continue reading "In Egypt, Facebook Stoked the Revolution; But Can it Govern?" »

January 17, 2011

Sneak Hit Film Heads to Oscars

Duty, family, self-abnegation, friendship: these are not the usual themes of winning movies these days. It is wonderful, therefore, to see The King's Speech--an English film that opened in only a few theaters appealing to the art house crowd over 55--slowly surge on word of mouth reviews and become a runaway hit.

It's a come from behind story a bit like that shown in the film.

January 11, 2011

"Stamp Out Hate": Ode to the N.Y. Times

Day after day, in editorials and columns, the way the New York Times and similar media organs attempt--against any evidence--to link the Jared Loughner murders in Tucson to political conservatives. It has become the kind of slander that even one of the few moderates at the Times, David Brooks, descries as "vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness." He was not naming his own paper, but his observation is so apt as to indicate that he will not be allowed on the op-ed page much longer if he continues in that vein.

Here is the Times editorial that sets the party line:

"It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats......

"That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of "the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country." . . .

"Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments." (Italics added.)

The Times editors and their like remind me of a satirical song (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Mary Rodgers) from the 1960s, when lumpen revolutionaries were preaching "peace" in very unpeaceful ways. The difference between then and now is that then the vicious peaceniks were in the streets and now they are in editorial offices and faculty lounges.

Here is part of the "Hate Song".

We're gonna stamp out hate
That's our creed
Wipe out violence, intolerance and greed
We're gonna start right now
Tomorrow is too late
We're gonna stamp out hate.

We're gonna stamp out hate
Stamp it in the ground
And then take happiness and spread it all around
We'll put an end to grief
We can hardly wait
We're gonna stamp out hate.

We're gonna stamp out hate
Sock it in the eye
Shoot it in the stomach yelling, die, die, die!
We'll pull its insides out
And look at look at what it ate
We're gonna stamp out hate.

We're gonna stamp out hate
Lash it with a switch
Amputate its arms and legs and see how long they twitch
We'll put its toes on hooks
And dangle them for bait
We're gonna stamp out hate.

January 9, 2011

Mental Illness Makes Sense of Arizona Killings

The wrong lessons, as usual, are being taken from the weekend attacks in Tucson, AZ.

The first reports on the shooting of some 18 people in Arizona--with six dead, including a federal judge, and the critical wounding of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon--led almost at once to speculation that the shooter might have been someone influenced by the tea parties and by Sarah Palin, in particular. The fact that the Congresswoman was a Democrat who had been opposed by a tea party backed candidate in the last election gave rise to this assertion, but in no way justified it.

Now that we know that Jared Loughner, 22, was a mentally disturbed person with a grab bag of incoherent grievances about the government's supposed control of grammar and interference with consciousness, there obviously is no future in trying to blame conservatives for the killing spree. (The federal judge who was killed, in fact, was an appointee for Pres. George H. Bush). So, instead, there are mutterings about "hateful speech" in the media (meaning conservative talk radio, one guesses) that would inspire such an atrocity. The New York Times even hints that the controversy over federal funding of health care may be responsible.

That is exploitative, free-floating speculation. Promoting civility in public life is a great idea. But there is nothing at all to suggest that this deranged young man was motivated by anyone in or out of politics.

Here instead is the real question: what was such a sociopath doing on the loose? Why was he not in a mental institution? Let that question guide the investigation ahead. It's the best way to make sense of this and similar terrible incidents, and to prevent more of the same.

The most perverse message film of all time may have been One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975. Brilliantly scripted and acted, the movie that won five Oscars; however, as several reviewers noted at the time, it lent itself to political assumptions against mental hospitals that were overwrought, at the least. The film and other tales of wrongful incarceration of people whose only offense was harmless eccentricities, led to a spate of laws to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill and raise the bar even for compulsory incarceration of those who are potentially dangerous to society. As I said at the time, it forged an unholy alliance of politicians eager to save money and politicians eager to advance libertarian individualism.

In recent years I have seen examples of how good care can salvage the life of a mentally ill person who is, indeed, potentially dangerous. But such cases take attention and professional services. Unfortunately, since the 70s, neither political party has made mental illness a high priority. Yet who among us would disagree that Jared Loughner should have been in an institutional setting, not loose on the street?

Every time we have one of these "senseless killings", as they usually are called, it seems that an unbalanced person is involved. Every time there nonetheless are media voices trying to find some political explanation or demanding a ban on guns. Isn't it time to get serious about such killings and provide help for the mentally ill who are potential killers--and safety for the rest of society?

January 7, 2011

The Latest Story of Israel "Atrocities"

Remember the news over the holidays about the poor Palestinian shepherd who was minding his sheep when a gang of Israeli settlers drove up, attacked him and set fire to the hillside, killing much of his flock? Well, it seemed strange, and, in any case, it was untrue.The shepherd set fire to the hillside himself, by accident, and decided to blame the Israelis.

A little hole in his story got wider with the telling. He said the settlers were Orthodox Jews wearing kippahs (skull caps) and performed their attack on Saturday. Not only was there no good motive for such an attack, but Orthodox Jews wouldn't be driving on the sabbath, or setting a fire on that day.

Caroline Glick's fine website carries analysis at length, helping to give us again an illustration of the way a lie about Israel can travel have way around the world (to paraphrase Churchill) before the truth can put on its shoes on. Indeed, I'm not sure the truth's shoes are fully on yet. While I saw the news about the initial charge, I haven't seen any follow up stories in the US mainstream media showing it to be a fraud.

January 4, 2011

True Grit, and Animal Rights

Paramount Pictures

Wesley J. Smith reviews True Grit, Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, making the sage observation that while the movie stealer in the original was John Wayne, the movie stealer in the remake is Hailee Steinfield, the female lead. More than that, Smith notes that the film raises a moral issue that undoubtedly will get lots of comments: a horse is ridden to death to save a human life. Is that defensible?

To the animal rights crowd, maybe not. Fortunately, the film takes another view.

December 12, 2010

Medved Comments on FIFTH Lion

Michael Medved comments on the blog below and also notes the specific similarity of the failed Islamist bomber in Sweden to the bumbling jihadists of the film Four Lions.

"You're right, of course --- especially because this latest individual, like the lead character in Four Lions, seems to have been a nice-looking, reasonably well-integrated guy.

"The amazing thing about Naziism and Communism wasn't the existence of monsters -- like Hitler and Stalin themselves --- but the involvement of pleasant, well-adjusted, happily married individuals in the most monstrous imaginable forms of evil. (Extremist) Islam appears to offer the same devastatingly dangerous power to turn 'nice' into murderous. The striking thing about all the recent American cases of would-be jihadists is that, like the losers in the movie, they all seem perfectly ordinary and quotidian-- with perhaps more than ordinary levels of goofiness and incompetence."

December 5, 2010

Washington Post Sees "Censorship": Spare Me

For the past century or so decadence in art has always centered on shocking the middle class (épater les bourgeois ). Revenge of supposed free thinkers in society is a way of forging a union of the cultural left and the monied left. It's a pretty tired theme by now and requires ever more sensationalism to excite the old tittilation. If you can get the taxpayers to pay for offending their own deepest values, that at least improves the prospect of overcoming the majority of the public's indifference to your calculated insult.

The past week the the Smithsonian gained publicity for an exhibit at the Portrait Gallery called "Hide/Seek" that chiefly features assorted edgy sexual content and, among other things, a four minute video of ants crawling over Jesus Christ. The Smithsonian apparently thought that this would be a good seasonal antidote to too much Christmas cheer. However, the Catholic League protested and the National Portrait Gallery took down the video, but none of the rest of the exhibit.

The Washington Post went into a dither at that point. It's art critic railed two days ago. The editors ranted yesterday, criticizing the Republicans on the Hill for daring to criticize the exhibit, "The Censors Arrive." "'Hide/Seek' should be a platform for cultural debate, not the target of a misguided political vendetta," the Post snorted.

Wait a minute, isn't this the same Washington Post editorial page that five years ago objected to the showing of the film The Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History? Oh, yes, it is. The Post was entirely on the other side of the censorship barricade then. No talk in that case about a needed "platform for cultural debate."

So, smutty art is sacred. But a film that suggests that there is scientific evidence for design in the universe, that is just too offensive the Ruling Class to permit.

To say that the Post and the Smithsonian are both hypocritical on the censorship issue is putting too good a face on hypocrisy.

November 24, 2010

NY Times Misrepresents Pope--on Purpose?

by Jay Richards

In the last few days, The New York Times has participated in a misinformation campaign about Pope Benedict's comments from a recent book based on a reporter's interview with the Pontiff. I don't know if it's the result of ignorance or malice. In either case, it's misinformation.

The New York Times trope is that the Pope has changed longstanding "policy" on the morality of condom use--as if the Catholic Church had policies analogous to the platform of a political party. This is nonsense, as many commentators, from George Weigel to Jonah Goldberg, have explained. Weigel is a Catholic theologian who wrote the foreword for the book, so one would think that The New York Times could manage to fix the error, or at least stop perpetuating it.

But no. They're still at it. This morning (November 24), they have another installment, by Rachel Donadio and Laurie Goodstein. Now they're reporting on the controversy that ensued in large measure because of the perverse articles in The New York Times itself.

Anyone with a basic grasp of moral reasoning could understand Benedict's point: While condom use is wrong as a form of contraception, it could be less bad for a male prostitute with HIV to use a condom than not to use one, since he would at least be trying to avoid the spread of the virus. Apparently such distinctions are too fine for the Times.

I can't resist mentioning that the co-author of today's story, Laurie Goodstein, has also written on intelligent design, with a similar unwillingness to report a position as its proponent holds it. Hmm.

August 1, 2010

Careful who you call "Crazy"

David Klinghoffer, a Discovery Institute fellow, published a column today in the LA Times descrying the descent of conservatism from the heights of "neocons" to the swamps of "crazycons", from the high-minded polemics of Bill Buckley (who did not see himself as a neocon, by the way), Irving Kristol and Richard John Neuhaus, to, well, internet innovator Andrew Breitbart and his supposedly "deceptive" attempt to reveal Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod as a racist. The latter episode, Klinghoffer thinks, typifies a rise of uncivil behavior and a decline of interest in positive policy alternatives.

The article is bound to provoke misunderstandings. Liberals will use it to pummel all conservatives and all conservative arguments, though that, of course, is not what Klinghoffer intended. (Exactly what he did intend is not at all clear.) Conservatives will see it--also incorrectly--as a demand that the Right lay off attacks on liberal leadership failures that are all too apparent in Washington, D.C.

This reminds me, sadly, of the early 60s when George Gilder and I criticized the Goldwaterites for tolerating segregationists and the John Birchers who was who were calling President Eisenhower a communist. We had good arguments on both points and maybe they helped lead to change. It certainly is gratifying to read recent historical accounts that show how Bill Buckley and others made a successful effort to turn the conservative movement around on civil rights and rhetorical extremism. Republicans in Congress at the time, as it happens, supported civil rights legislations in higher percentages than Democrats did, and the influence of the John Birch Society's paranoia managed to evaporate rather fast.

But meantime, many of the positive things Gilder and I were trying to contribute to right of center politics temporarily got lost in the controversy. Constructive conservative initiatives we tried to present languished. We found that we were perceived as foes by many on the right (that abated in time, of course), while the left only valued what we had to say so long as they could use it as a weapon against conservatives. The lesson I learned is that conservatives can make news by criticizing their natural allies, but seldom (given mainstream media bias) by criticizing their natural adversaries or by offering new policy ideas.

In only a few years it became clear, in any case, that the real locus of extremism was on the left. America and the West are still suffering from what the 60s and 70s wrought.

On the right, the conservative movement went on to triumph in the election and policies of Ronald Reagan. Buckley and Reagan brought people like Gilder and me more closely into the conservative fold. Both of us, in different ways, were able to provide ideas and leadership on national policies in the now-iconic Reagan administration.

Yes, today there are a few cringe making voices on the Right. Still others make mistakes, despite generally solid analyses. But it is one of the Left's favorite tactics to exaggerate and misrepresent mistakes by conservatives and to try to marginalize conservative spokesmen based on opportunistic and one-sided criteria of political correctness. I have not followed the case closely, but that may have happened to Andrew Breitbart.

Self-indulgence of stridency once again is much more pronounced on the Left. Only recently, for example, Tea Party activists were being accused of violent tendencies. When a federal judge voided much of the Arizona law on illegal immigration, who demonstrated in the streets? The angry Right? Nope, the Left.

Conservatives do need more policy initiatives in both domestic and international policy. The country needs it from them. But that hardly warrants now taking the spotlight off the destructive policies presently in place in Washington, D.C. First things first.

July 21, 2010

New Republic Reviewer's Strange Caveat

It is great that The New Republic , in an article called "Animal Spirits", has reviewed Wesley J. Smith's A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, and even better that the reviewer credits Smith's reporting on the extremism of the animal rights movement. But the reviewer feels a need to condescend to Smith, upraiding him for failure to emphasize that a key demonstration of the exceptionalism of human beings is the understanding we have that humane care for animals is part of our stewardship of nature.

Reviewer Michael David suggests, "Though we have an obligation as the only moral creatures that care for the welfare of animals, Smith might also have discussed the inverse. Does mistreating animals diminish our humanity?"

The trouble is, Smith addressed this issue straight on right at the beginning of his book, even using almost the exact words--"diminishes our own humanity":

Writes Smith (on page 3), "I am very well aware that these positions--once nearly universally accepted--have, in recent years, become intensely controversial. Indeed, few issues generate such intense emotionalism or fervent support by its adherents as does "animal rights." Thus, I want to make it very clear at the outset--as I will throughout the book--that I love animals and like most people, I wince when I see them in pain. Moreover, I believe strongly that as enlightened people, we have a profound moral and ethical obligation to treat animals humanely and with proper respect--a core obligation of human exceptionalism--and by all means, to never cause them to suffer for frivolous reasons. I also strongly support laws against cruelty to animals and support strengthening them when appropriate. Indeed, I believe that animal abuse is a terrible wrong, not only because it causes the victimized animal to suffer, but also because cruelty to animals diminishes our own humanity."

Smith also praises the work of animal reform advocates such as Dr. Temple Grandin, who has helped promote more humane forms of animal slaughter.

Smith is all for "animal welfare." We all should be. He believes, however, and argues persuasively, that what has become "animal rights" is another critter altogether.

July 1, 2010

World Magazine Hails Three Discovery Authors

In its July 3 issue, World Magazine's "2010 Book of the Year" is Arthur C. Miller's The Battle , "How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government will Shape America's Future." As the U.S. economy sags, the book by Miller (the new CEO of American Enterprise Institute) is a timely and telling--and ultimately inspiring--critique of current challenges.

We're pleased also to see that World gives three "Honorable Mentions" to books by Discovery Institute fellows: William Dembski's The End of Christianity, Stephen C. Meyer's Signature in the Cell, and Jay Richards' Money, Greed and God.

June 20, 2010

US Media, Please Take Us Inside BP

What do BP and Barack Obama have in common?

You would think from the White House puffery that President Obama harbors long standing resentments toward BP. But the truth is that BP is a corporation that some time ago decided to throw in with political "progressives" and "green" policies. In the U.S. it has tended to support liberals in election campaigns--including Barack Obama.

The real story apparently is well known in Britain, where former Thatcher strategist Norman Tebbit remains bristly, humorous and apt as a commentator. He has a regular blog for the London Telegraph, making the point today that BP ran off some of its cautious, old-time engineers and other experts in recent years, the kind of people who might have prevented the egregious Gulf spill.

"The facts are clear enough," writes Lord Tebbit. "Under the leadership of Lord Browne, BP not only contracted out the management of those nasty dirty jobs like drilling for oil and refining it, it progressively got rid of anyone who knew any thing about such old-fashioned activities. The New, Modern, Green, Progressive, BP made excellent profits, but failed to heed the failures in parts of its business for which it was still responsible but had discarded the skills to manage."

We need some American media to take us inside the real BP.

June 4, 2010

Hearst's Helen Thomas: Israeli Jews Should "Go Back to Poland and Germany"

White House Officials and the press corps love to indulge Helen Thomas,
"La Passionaria" of the White House press corps, now attached to the Hearst corporation. She says harsh things, but, hey, she's reliably progressive, isn't she? The President even provided her with a birthday party last year.

Okay, well, here she is on Israel and the Jews.

Once the Jews were in Israel. Then the Romans slaughtered many of them and threw the rest out. They wound up in places like Poland and Germany, where sixty five years ago six million were exterminated. There are now six million Jews in Israel. Ms Thomas wants them out of there again, and back where they belong. In Poland and Germany.

Good ol' Helen! What an adornment to the press corps! (Update: How inspiring that she is defended by former Press Secretary Joe Lockhart!)

June 2, 2010

Google: How To Save The News


An article in the the new Atlantic, How To Save The News, looks at the changes coming to journalism in general and to newspapers specifically. Most originally, it looks at how the sometime newspaper slayer Google is working on changing the business of news delivery, thereby possibly saving the newspapers.

It has some interesting insights on the collection and distribution of news and information (something we do a bit of ourselves here at Discovery) -- albeit ones the author and sources probably don't even recognize themselves. Especially the big one: institutional bias. In this case, the bias installed by an institution into mass numbers of individuals who go out and in turn propogate the bias, often unwittingly.

Take this short blurb:

Continue reading "Google: How To Save The News " »

May 6, 2010

"You don't have to be Jewish...."

The New York Times is cool on Israel, that's for sure, so it is not surprising that the nation's leading metro daily would run an article, as it did today, suggesting that ordinary Jewish Americans hold less enthusiastic views toward Israel than do the leaders of national Jewish organizations.

There is no awareness in the article that Israel is being pressured by the Obama Administration on one issue after another and that Israelis at all levels of society increasingly and justifiably fear for their safety. Almost across the political spectrum they are disillusioned with Barack Obama. Roughly 90 percent reportedly disapprove of him. These details are not well covered in the U.S. media, however.

On the other hand, it is not clear that the top Jewish organizations in America have done enough to make such matters known. They are running full page ads in the Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications in support of Israel, but these ads (the ones I have seen) don't criticize Mr. Obama directly.

It may be that Jewish leaders in this country are hesitant to get too far out in front of their constituents, 55 percent of whom still support Mr. Obama. What will it take for these leaders to explain the reality more boldly? When will the leaders lead?

To find out how much the United States depends for its own security and economic well being on Israel, citizens of all backgrounds could start by reading George Gilder's, The Israel Test.

It makes me think of a 1960s ad campaign in New York that followed the theme, "You don't have to be Jewish to Love Levy's Bread."

You don't have to be Jewish to figure out why Israel is both important and truly threatened right now.

But it wouldn't hurt.

May 4, 2010

Neglected Nashville


The flooding in Nashville remains a major disaster and much worse than most Americans--preoccupied by the Gulf oil spill and the terrorist attempt in Times Square--realize. The federal government has been slow to mobilize and, reports Discovery senior fellow Yuri Mamchur. But local people are exceedingly energetic.

The flooding of the Cumberland River continues, thanks to upriver creeks that are feeding it, and significant lowering of the water levels is yet days away. Greatly damaged are many landmarks such as the Grand Old Opry and the Opryland Hotel, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (built for $126 million in 2006), the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, LP Field (home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee State teams), St. George's Episcopal Church and many office buildings, stores and restaurants.

Whole buildings floated down the river and across freeways at the height of the 48 hour storm that began early last Saturday. Golf Club clubhouses were among them, as was at least one school whose dramatic destruction was chronicled on TV.

Some 29 people have died, some in drownings when their cars were swamped. Others died in a tornado that accompanied the rain. Nashville's stellar hospitals--many with helipads for emergency airlifts--have been relatively unscathed. But food ran out at a number of fast food restaurants and some supermarkets. Many people store food in freezers in basements and even houses on hills were partially flooded, in many cases. One MacDonalds owner shut off his lights and announced to shouting, horn honking people outside, "I'm out of food. There's nothing left!"

Most major freeways were flooded, but, except for I-24, most are now reopened. The I-24 has serious damage as road surfaces crumbled.

No one has calculated the costs yet. This is the beginning of one of the busiest tourist seasons for Nashville, and, while Grand Old Opry and other programs will find temporary replacement venues, the outlook short term is not good. But Tennesseans are pretty resilient people. As Yuri says, they are very energetic right now.

February 21, 2010

Best Journalistic Update on Climate Issue

Since there are billions of dollars in direct costs attendant on climate change legislation and regulations, and billions more in indirect costs, it is important to follow the data reports and revelations.

This is one of the best journalistic treatments I have seen. It is written by Mark Landsbaum in the Orange County Register.

February 7, 2010

"See No Evil" at Harvard, MIT & Columbia Journalism Review

What has the Columbia Journalism Review learned from the campaign it waged with Chris Mooney (see immediately previous post) to disallow scientific evidence against massive man-caused global warming? What have "media experts" at Harvard and MIT learned from the efforts to disallow the critics from being heard?

Why, at a seminar last week on "Scientists, Skeptics and the Media" they learned that media must be even more ardent in support of the alarmist viewpoint. No one seems to have considered the possibility that the skeptics might have a case deserving of coverage.

Mooney is a sometime Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. Philip J. Hilts, professor of "science journalism" and the current head of the Knight program (presumably funded with money from the Knight newspaper chain's charitable arm), covers the seminar for the CJR.

"Like doctors gathered around the operating table in mid-surgery, a group of media experts at Harvard yesterday offered their diagnoses of the ailing body of journalism. The symptom: a surprising decline in public belief that climate change is real or important."

The journalist-doctors go on to offer one idea after another on how to convince the public that its growing skepticism is a mistake. Only a small group in the population are true skeptics, after all. And the way to restore a proper sense of alarm among the others might be to tie climate change to people's personal health concerns....Etc.

A comment on the CJR blog by "JLD" makes the pertinent response:

"I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah -- or perhaps cluelessness -- to examine the drop in public trust in climate science without once mentioning Climategate or the very real scandals that are now plaguing this 'settled science.'

"Let's make a short tally: Phil Jones dismissed from office, and facing possible legal action; Michael 'hockey puck' Mann under investigation; the IPCC reports riddled with falsehoods. And now Rajendra Pachaur (the IPCC head with numerous conflicts of interest) is suggesting that critics (including Greenpeace) should go rub their faces with asbestos. What a great guy to have as your representative. Good thing he can't be voted out of office.

"But being a recent graduate of the Kennedy School I would expect nothing less than a complete whitewash of anything that offends liberal sensibilities. By all means keep 'fighting back' against the 'denialists' -- it might feel good, but it won't convince anyone outside of Harvard Square."

January 26, 2010

Terrorists: Journalists Also are "the Enemy"

The scene from the Babylon Hotel, frequented by foreigners, after it was attacked January 26. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

The successful attacks Monday on the three leading international hotels in Baghdad tell us a lot:

1) Media have lost much of their interest in the Iraq War since it was "won" and Iraq appeared to be on the path to democracy. As U.S. and other troops leave, the level of coverage has declined--to the point that these three brazen bombings are not even the top news in the West. Is there any doubt that they would have been our leading stories four or five years ago?

2) Journalists may think of themselves as observers, but al Qaeda and its terrorist pals are not confused: journalists are seen as enemies of militant Islamists. The three targeted hotels hit Monday are in what was called the "Red Zone;" namely, everything outside the highly secured government "Green Zone." All, including al Hamra, where I stayed six years ago, are frequented largely, if not mainly, by journalists. Many news organizations have offices as well as dwellings there.

3) Even the most "secure" locations are still vulnerable. The al Hamra has been hit before, but never so directly. The breached fortifications were substantial.

My heart goes out to all those, including the hotel staffs and small concessionaires, who have been assaulted.

We are not done yet in Iraq.

January 24, 2010

Hold Science Journals to Account

The New Scientist is just one of those science journals that boast falsely of their professionalism. It is obvious on the face of it, however, that they routinely employ ad hominem comments and sheer rank-pulling to disparage critics of what they regard as the "scientific consensus" (e.g., dogma). Don't confuse them with the evidence.

Now they and other supposedly objective media are being exposed by demonstration after demonstration that they have allowed the books on climate change to be hidden or rigged. Climategate, as the Investor's Business Daily says, is a scandal that extends far beyond some mischief in East Anglia. People in the science media who should have been investigating these situations instead have buried them.

Someone in the mainstream media is going to pick up on the increasing examples of fraud, misuse of public and foundation money and plain ideological presumption. It will make a great newspaper series, book and documentary. Good work already is being done in all these categories, but not in the media major leagues.

There is no question that human beings contribute to air and water pollution. There is no doubt that the West needs to wean itself from imported oil. But collaboration on win-win solutions is hampered, not helped, by groups of ideologues who are willing to hide data and avoid scrutiny. Their loyalty apparently is not to science, or even to the general welfare, but to their worldview.

Do you think I am wrong? Then where are the debates that let both sides be heard?

December 16, 2009

Growing Media/Liberal Disconnect from Public; Why Obama is Missing his Chance

The more public opposition to Obamacare grows, the more the mainstream media tries to block criticism from being heard. The editorial pages of major dailies ignore critics. So do many news broadcasts. George Stephanopolous, former Clinton aide supposedly performing now as an objective newsman on Good Morning America, features one defense after another of Obamacare and scolds Howard Dean for imperiling the Obama Presidency--as if GMA were an official mouthpiece for the Administration.

The same is happening on climate change. Instead of encouraging discussion (or even debate), the MSM reaction to Copenhagen is to try to shut down critics. When officials cut off the microphone of a questioner, only the Washington Times reports it. Where there could be agreement (e.g., hybrid cars, nuclear power), there is only grandstanding on crisis claims.

The public is not buying the propaganda approach. What to do? Get a new public?

For nearly a year we have been urging Mr. Obama to be the kind of president he promised to be: one who listens, who tries to find common ground, who is genuinely bi-partisan. Had he followed that path he could have had a health bill by now that enjoyed Republican as well as Democratic support and he could have had energy and environmental policies that were reasonable, forward looking and productive. The reason these paths have not been pursued has to be ideological. It is not smart politics or statesman-like policy.

Oddly, even the liberal base (e.g., Howard Dean) isn't happy now. The Administration is failing, and while that is good political news for Republicans, it probably is bad for American leadership in the world. Only on Afghanistan, where the President actually has listened (to Defense Secretary Bob Gates) is his approach working.

Why wait, as Bill Clinton did, for a mid-term defeat in the Congressional elections for a mid-term correction in policy, Mr. President?

December 2, 2009

Nature's Nature Unveiled

The supposedly august Nature magazine shows its true stuff with an attempt to dismiss the Climate Gate emails. To them, the problem is only computer hacking. That would be quite irrelevant, of course, if the Shoe-on-the-Other-Foot rule were applied; if the Climate Research Unit, in other words, had been covering up evidence for global warming.

Nature's editorial speaks volumes about the way the journal itself is complicit in arrogant avoidance of contrary evidence on this, or any other subject where an iron "consensus" must be established, controlled and enforced.

The big news today is that Australia has just declined to embrace Cap and Trade. In the U.K., the head of the CRU has been forced to step down pending an investigation.

But, pay no attention, Nature says that there's no story here.

December 1, 2009

ClimateGate Avoidance Just Got Harder


The lead scientist in the global warming scandal, Dr. Phil Jones, has just agreed to step down, pending an investigation by the University of East Anglia. Nothing can be done to spin this as a good development for those arguing that the recent email disclosures are irrelevant or trivial.

Will this rouse the mainstream media to admit there is something major here that is worth covering in full?

The story is like so many others recently where news develops on the Internet and is carefully avoided by the New York Times, the AP, et al, until they are all shown to be far behind the curve on something important. Do you think such mistakes may have something to do with declining public support for the MSM?

The key reason such stories are late arrivals in news rooms of liberal media is that they embarrass the ideological party line. That's just about all there is to it.

November 29, 2009

Inconvenient Truths About Climate Emails Expand

Wesley Smith's First Things blog nails the connection between the ClimateGate emails and the similar authoritarian approach to Darwin and design. The Wall Street Journal editorial he cites elicits comparable comments from several other readers who noted the paper's article online.

Consider these lines from the editorial:

"The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced...

"According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges from critics outside this clique are dismissed and disparaged.

"As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003. Mr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal "Climate Research" published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal!"

"Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed.."

As Bill Dembski has noted at Uncommon Descent, "Sound familiar?"

(Meanwhile, the London Telegraph's Christopher Booker reminds us that the scientists involved in ClimateGate are the leaders of the warming pack, not just a few who share the supposed consensus opinion. It is their work upon which the international consensus is based.)

November 12, 2009

Keeping Commentaries on Fanatics Sane

There seems to be a middle way between asserting that the Fort Hood massacre was the product of a religious fanatic and claiming that it was the product of a deranged mind. A fanatic is often deranged or slightly so. That does not usually excuse the individual from the consequences of his actions. Osama bin Laden in an American uniform probably might well have done the same as Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

David Klinghoffer points out that atheist evangelizers want the Fort Hood killings to be laid at the foot of Islam almost as badly as some right wingers do. They are not wrong about the way the religious thinking of Dr. Hasan was turned to violence. And it is certainly correct to notice that Islam these days does seem to provide a great many violent agitators. But, as I have said before, there are many Muslims who are fighting and dying against just such fanatics around the world, whether their foe is Al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan or the oppressive regime in Iran. Please make clear, then, that the danger comes from Islamic extremists.

And, meanwhile, as Klinghoffer says, if you want to trace the works of ideas in our civilization, let's bring in the parade of secularists. (Shall I mention North Korea?)

November 9, 2009

Reagan's Writers

Plenty of speech writers like to take credit for this or that speech that a President, in particular, gives. Often it is not deserved, for major speeches are the products of more than one hand. And one of the hands belongs to the President himself.

But the speechwriters of Ronald Reagan are a special case. Tony Dolan, who has an historically significant article in this morning's Wall Street Journal about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, ran a presidential speech writers staff that was famous in its day and deserves to be called great by any measure.

Almost all the team members were fiercely loyal to the President, self-effacing, truly smart, able craftsmen and serious in-house diplomats. A group of them went off to found the White House Writers Group (Clark Judge, Josh Gilder, et al.) Novelist and Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson has helped lead a revolution among Dartmouth alumni. Several others have written well-received books, including, of course, Peggy Noonan.

Lodged in what is now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (the onetime War Department) across Executive Avenue (closed to traffic) from the West Wing of the White House, the writers labored on many chores at once. They obviously had a primary obligation to heed the desires of the President, but they also had to take more attentive direction (sometimes unwanted) from assorted Chiefs of Staff and Communications Directors. Mrs. Reagan was known to let her views intrude on occasion.

Then there were all the department heads that had to be consulted. Usually they got to clear text that dealt with "their" issues, and Ronald Reagan was generous--maybe too generous--in heeding the voices of caution. But on important matters he also put his foot down, as in the instance of the Berlin Wall speech. His willing accomplices were the Presidential Speech Writers. They had him figured out about as well as anyone. He liked them, they loved him.

November 6, 2009

James Baker Understates Ronald Reagan's Role


One reads over Jim Baker's article for the new Newsweek, looking for acknowledgement of President Ronald Reagan's crucial role in bringing down the Berlin Wall in 1989. It turns out that Reagan is mentioned by Baker, but only in passing. Others are credited more.

But it was Reagan who rebuilt America's military might, confronted the Soviets around the world, promoted Star Wars and revived the American economy while the Soviet's command economy was crumbling. In diplomacy, it was Reagan who pursued "peace through strength" when dealing--brilliantly--with Mikhail Gorbachev.

It was Ronald Reagan who stood before the Wall in 1987 and demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The famous declaration was made in the teeth of advice from his own White House staff and top State Department officials that he not provoke the Russians and embarrass the Germans. The famous line, writes Steven Hayward in his fine new history of the time, The Age of Reagan, actually was extracted from early drafts of the speech text several times by would-be in-house censors. The President kept putting it back in. Hayward describes a conversation between the President and his aide, Kenneth Duberstein, in which Reagan actually has to remind his own staffer that he is the President and the staffer is not!

Ronald Reagan does not deserve all of the credit for the end of "The Evil Empire," as he called it (also famously, and to the howls of his domestic critics). But he deserves a lot of the credit, along with Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher, one should say, and, of course, countless Eastern European martyrs to freedom and such luminary intellects as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. So, yes, give credit to Mikhail Gorbachev, to George H. Bush, and, by the way, to Jim Baker, too. But without Ronald Reagan it probably would not have happened.

James Baker was Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush at the time the wall came down, ten months after Reagan left office. (He was Chief of Staff in the Reagan White House in the early years.) I well recall Mr. Baker's reaction the day in 1989 that the wall first was pried open by East German youth. I was watching TV, thrilled, tears coming to my eyes.

Secretary Baker was asked (by CNN, I think) for his reaction. He said he thought it was "a good first step." I couldn't get over that tepid reaction. I said to the television: "A good first step, Jim? The Berlin Wall is coming down!"

It is likely that the Mr. Baker was just being professionally cautious. After all, he must have thought it important not to celebrate too much in public while the Soviets could still use troops to quell the change.

Still, Jim Baker seemed as surprised as anyone.

In contrast was Ronald Reagan, who often had predicted the defeat of communism. He worked most of his adult life to that end. He also and a very few others also saw ahead to the fall of the Wall. Give him due credit.

PLEASE NOTE: I will have the pleasure of introducing Steve Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan, at Discovery Institute headquarters, 208 Columbia, Seattle at 4:30 p.m. Monday--the 20th anniversary of the fall of The Wall. Email Mollie Tschida at if you'd like to join us.

November 5, 2009

Hitchens Apologizes

Among those picking up our October 30 news post (see below) on Christopher Hitchens' unseemly attack on Mother Theresa--made in a debate on the Dennis Miller radio show--was William Donohue of the Catholic League. Today, Donahue declares that Hitchens contacted him to apologize, at least in large measure. Donahue tells his email list today:

"On November 2, I criticized Christopher Hitchens for saying that Mother Teresa was 'a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it's a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to.'"

"At the end of the news release, we published his e-mail address, and he was roundly condemned, sometimes maliciously, by angry Catholics (he forwarded some of the e-mails to me). I subsequently e-mailed him, saying, "Seems like you've heard from the faithful." I also took the opportunity to invite him for drinks the next time he is in New York. Why? Although we've had it out several times in the past--in person and on TV--and although I strongly disagree with him, the man is no phony, and that means a great deal to me. Unlike most of those whom I do battle with, Hitchens is intellectually honest.

"Christopher wrote back to me today, saying, "The first thing to say is that I felt remorse for employing the word 'bitch' as soon as it was out of my mouth." Forgiven. As I have always said, when someone apologizes, Christians have no choice but to accept it. Besides, anyone who fights for a cause, myself included, occasionally lets his emotions get the best of him. The difference is, Christopher admits it.

"A few years back, Christopher wrote a piece in Vanity Fair on abortion that was so fair that it moved me to write a letter in praise of it; it was published. In other words, this is not the first time we have broken bread. But who needs the bread? Christopher and I have some serious drinking to do."

Donahue shows again that while he is relentless in pursuit of bias and discrimination, he also is gracious when given the opportunity.

October 30, 2009

Hitchens Manages to Top Richard Dawkins, Assails Mother Theresa


Catholics and other Christians probably don't care what anyone says about them anymore, given the relative lack of outrage over Richard Dawkins' comments in The Washington Post this week. (See blog post below). So who will notice what Christopher Hitchens just unloaded on the Dennis Miller show this morning? Miller, let it be said, was not buying it at all--merely letting Hitchens spout this about abortion and Mother Theresa:

"Mother Theresa spent her whole life saying (that what Calcutta needs) is a huge campaign against family planning. I mean, who comes to that conclusion who isn't a complete fanatic? She took - and I would directly say stole...millions and millions of dollars and spent all the money not on the poor, but on the building of nearly 200 convents in her own name around the world to glorify herself and to continue to spread the doctrine that, as she put it -- when she got her absurd Nobel Peace Prize -- that the main threat to world peace is abortion and contraception. The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it's a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to."

Christopher Hitchens is a regular contributor to The New Republic, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair.

October 22, 2009

Numbers Guy Skewers Misleading Health Care Stats


You do not have to be a statistician (I'm not) to appreciate the work of someone like Carl Bialik who writes the Numbers Guy column for the Wall Street Journal. When I served at the Census Bureau during the Reagan Administration I privately urged the Journal editors to create such a post and find some who not only could crunch numbers, but write well. Belatedly (by a few decades), it has happened. Bialik is the man. Regardless, there is nothing else like this column in mainstream journalism.

Yesterday's Numbers Guy piece, "Ill-Conceived Ranking Makes for Unhealthy Debate", is a fine example expert reportage made pertinent to everyone. I especially like the article because it validates some of the assertions on health care I made a few days ago (October 19, below)!

October 3, 2009

As Acorn Scandal Deepens, Call a Special Prosecutor


Andrew Breitbart, who learned of the videos of Acorn staff making now-infamous suggestions to supposed seekers of federally supported home mortgages, is a conservative public relations man. He also is an internet entrepreneur who, ironically, was an organizer of the the liberal Huffington Post site.

This story, Breitbart saw, was huge. Here apparently were publicly backed non-profit Acorn staff--in one city after another--offering help to a man and woman who said they wanted to open a brothel; a brothel, no less, for young girls brought in from El Salvador.

Breitbart, who shrewdly suggested sending out the explosive videos ad seriatim, rather than all at once, made it possible for the story to break slowly and then build. The story marks another triumph for new media.

Regardless, what the young amateur investigators found, and Breitbart helped publicize, merits appointment of an independent counsel. An inquiry conducted within the Department of Justice will not suffice.

The videos may be just a glimpse inside Acorn. Lending credibility to suspicions of wider malfeasance are public lawsuits over alleged electioneering fraud by Acorn, including one attracting attention this past week in Nevada

The Census Bureau, stung by Judicial Watch FOIAs that inquired into Acorn activities with the coming 2010 Decennial Census and wisely worried about the perceived integrity of the census count, cut off relations with Acorn several weeks ago. Then other federal agencies did, as well. Congress fled for the exists--even many former friends of Acorn.

Now foundations are dropping Acorn, and some are saying (belatedly) that they have been suspicious of the organization for some time.

It also appears that Acorn benefitted from a number of possibly coerced deals with banks that were given to understand that their own good relations with the federal government, and such quasi-governmental bodies as Fannie Mae, depended on agreements to fund Acorn programs.

Special prosecutors have been over-used in recent decades. But a volatile scandal like this one needs to be put into conspicuously disinterested hands. If the problems aren't thoroughly and fairly investigated, they are likely to happen again in a new guise.

September 21, 2009

Intensity of Opinion Most Important on Health Care Issue


Machiavelli, the Dick Morris of medieval Florence, warned readers of The Prince that when opinion is divided between a minority that feels passionately and a majority whose passion is weak, the minority may prove more potent in the end. The passionate minority will act on their feelings, while the uninspired majority may not.

Right now, as polls show, opinion on health care reform (so called) is about evenly divided. But polls are only snapshots of opinion and the proponents are counting on a vague appeal--not specific elements in a bill--to win the day. But, opponents are confident of long term success on the politics because the members of the public who are suspicious of what is going on in Washington on this issue are almost sure to remember it and vote accordingly.

September 15, 2009

Listen Up, Little People!

Rhetoric has been a substitute for substance for some time in this Administration. It's great rhetoric, but it lacks a foundation. The health care speech--now remembered mainly by the controversy over a Congressional heckler--has been followed by an empty speech on the economy.

The President went to Wall Street yesterday to tell off the daytime residents. But it is doubtful if they were impressed. No matter, they weren't the true audience.

No, the President really was hoping to speak over the heads of the greedy Wall Streeters (many of whom voted for him) to the Little People of America. The trouble is, the predictable drone of vacuous generalities is not really getting the Little People's attention any more. Reality is.

Back in Washington, DC, the news is that the economy there, at least, is holding up. Another 140,000 jobs are expected next year. They are all in the government. We, the Little People, are paying for them.

August 19, 2009

Bob Novak: Love Of America--and Dislike of Nonsense


Bob was a gloriously flawed, constantly seeking child of God who will be followed on his path by many prayers of those who knew him. In the history or our time he was a writer whose scrupulous honesty and rigorous fairness illuminated one "crisis" and "scandal" after another, and enobled the otherwise sad state of journalism.

I first met Bob in 1963 when George Gilder (old friend, Discovery co-founder) and I were undergraduates at Harvard, publishing a rebel Republican magazine, Advance. We interviewed Bob and his co-writer, Rowland Evans, about the condition of the Republicans in Congress. We all agreed, it turned out, that they were ill-serving their mission.

On occasion, George and I provided fodder for Evans and Novak and their column in the New York Herald Tribune. We enjoyed their company at the Republican Convention in 1964. I myself went to work for the Trib in '65 and when the paper folded in '66 (I had nothing to do with it--promise!) I happened to be in the office of Walter Thayer, Trib President and Everyone's Mentor, when Bob called to ask Walter if he thought Bob and Rollie should try to go with The Washington Post. Walter agreed that it was a good idea, and I think the Evans and Novak column must have lasted 35 years, until Evans' death, and then another decade while it was the Novak column.

At every turn Bob Novak was a no-nonsense newsman who scooped all kinds of other people, some virtuous, some not. In the early days he and Rollie were Kennedy liberals, then unpredictable, then both veered right. By the Carter years they were fed up with the Left and became one of the few column outlets for news items that conservatives wanted ventilated. Among other things, they defended Ed Meese in the Reagan years when he was being grilled by the Left in Congress. They managed all the while to keep their Washington Post slot, largely (I suspect) because they kept breaking and making news, as well as reporting it.

I don't think that is at all wrong for a columnist; in fact, there is a certain admirable sport to it. Novak was an opinion former, mainly because he was a true news breaker.

Crusty, acerbic, Bob was perversely beloved for his unlovable public persona on TV as well his column. In essence, everyone knew that his ultimate loyalty was to the truth as he saw it. And the truth as he saw it increasingly had a faith in America and our system of government and economics behind it. He also had a redeeming sense of humor.

I saw a bit of Bob in recent years, usually when he was traveling the country in support of conservative youth development. By conservative he meant the principles of the American founding and the principles of free enterprise. And the principle--forever--of no nonsense.

In his last big contretemps he was involved in exposing the political machinations of CIA analyst Valerie Plame. Oddly, he did not become an issue, only a platform in that pseudo-scandal. The victim, it turned out, was not Plame (what a joke), but Scooter Libby in the White House, sacrificed at the end, sadly, by President Bush, who should have pardoned him. (Bob would have agreed completely with that.) This is another story, of course.

The main thing is that hard-working Bob Novak gave far more to American journalism than almost any of his contemporaries.

In his private life he traveled the path of skeptical secularism to a surprising conversion to Catholicism and the moving account of same that he provided in his final book, The Prince of Darkness. For all of us, he remains a symbol of integrity.

Blessings and peace upon him.

August 10, 2009

New York Times Expelled Ben Stein


Ben Stein probably thought he could do his work on the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and not himself endure the kind of personal attacks that, in the film, he defended Darwin critics against. In fact, what he found was that Darwinism is at the root of the worldview of the materialist Left and even the materialist Right. You can't say or do anything to offend them. You can't even advocate academic freedom.

The people who demanded free speech in the 60s and shouted down figures of authority are now the tenured faculty and newsroom editors of the Establishment. And now they are disallowing any criticism at all.

So, unlikely as it seems, Ben Stein became a martyr. Richard Dawkins intervened at the University of Vermont last spring to deny Stein a gig as Commencement Speaker. Now Ben has been disingenously trashed by The New York Times. Typically, when firing Stein as a business columnist the Times couldn't give the actual reason--which is ideological--and instead had to insinuate that he had a "conflict of interest." That is a joke as well as an insult.

Actually, I think Ben may come to enjoy the role of martyr. Like many of us, he never really suffered much discrimination in his life and may find it an interesting experience. As middle age creeps into Medicare Age, he may even find the sting of the lash will stimulate his muse--his comic muse, I hope. It is notable that his American Spectator column on the firing has generated hundreds of comments, almost all favorable, the others sublimely ignorant and smug.

Think of the new material you've been handed, Ben. Maybe the Intelligent Designer is priming you for a book!

July 25, 2009

Obamacare Engine Is Backfiring

The Obama idea ran something like this: People know there are problems with health care, they want the uninsured covered and they want relief from what they may regard as an unfair bureaucracy at many insurance companies. Therefore, the scheme went, this is the time to introduce the vehicle of "reform" that will be sold as limited, but end up in a couple of elections with nationalized (socialized) health care in the supposedly great European tradition.

With President Obama riding a wave of popularity and with media that literally would eat out of his hand if they could get that close, the Administration bet that a big push should be made this year. The Recession didn't bother them; they tried to turn it to their advantage, asserting that somehow increased spending on government medical care would save money for the economy.

What has happened politically is very different from what the Obama Administration hoped. Instead of the President's popularity carrying the medical care proposals to victory, the increasing public unease over a costly new entitlement has cut into Obama's job approval rates.

Meanwhile, the reporting of the major media finally is beginning to take cognizance of the problems with the assorted Democratic bills in Congress. Until the public's opposition started to firm up, Establishment organs were describing each development in language that the White House might have crafted itself. The failure of the public to see the proposed changes as mere "reforms", however, as Democratic leaders and the media have presented them, is testimony to the discernment of public opinion once a subject finally gets enough attention that people can see behind the headlines and the spin.

Hats off to The Wall Street Journal editorial pages on this one. The Journal's Peggy Noonan's insightful weekend piece quickly became the "most emailed" of the paper's work. But outstanding digging went on by other columnists, including John Fund and Kimberley Strassel.

The Journal's editorial writers on Friday ("A Better Health Reform") called, wisely, for Obama to respond to the current de facto reversal of momentum on the Administration-favored Congressional health care bills to develop a program that would have bi-partisan support. He could start by taking a fresh look at what Sen. McCain proposed last fall.

In truth, the President should step back and realize that his big scheme is not going to make it, even with much of the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies and apparently the bulk of the American Medical Association having thrown in with him in hopes of being spared government revenge. If, instead, he made a more limited proposal that ordinary people in both parties could understand and applaud, the political reality is that it is he who would be given credit in the end. He could just adopt John McCain's proposals and the public would still call it Obama Care. That would be bad for Republicans politically, but it would be good for the country and the economy.

Instead the President seems intent on pushing ahead. As a result, his public approval ratings are falling fast and, with them, his whole domestic program. Critics say that the Rassmussen Poll is often skewed toward Republicans, but there is no ignoring what it says about the trend.

July 22, 2009

Brain Pollution

Diane Medved is a mother and clinical psychologist who has written sagely about the way the material we witness in the media cannot help but affect us, even if indirectly. Pornography, for example, may not arouse; it may, instead, depress. Either way, a message of bleakness behind the "action" seeps into the mind, like advertising, whether you want it or not. After all, corporations pay lots of money to get their impressions into your head, trusting that it will pay off. What makes you think other messages don't also sink in?

The issue at hand is Bruno. Diane Medved, whose husband, Michael, is a movie critic and has to go see films like Bruno, declined to attend a screening of this picture. She explained this on her blog (July 8). I was going to comment on the film about that same time, but figured that my comments would be dismissed by many readers if I didn't bother to see the film. So I saw it. By and large, Diane was right.

Let it be said that Sasha Baron Cohen is a master comic with a particular gift for reality-tv, Candid Camera style embarrassment. Some of his inventive scenes are inescapably hilarious; others are merely cringe inducing. Regardless, unlike the great comics of yore, such as Charlie Chaplin, deep down Cohen seems to be a misanthrope, a nihilist. He doesn't even really like his own characters. His "Bruno", the gay Austrian fashionista, is a hollow man. There is no way to care about him or anyone else in the film.

In the Victorian Era public art was famously prudish, and the eventual reaction against it was based largely on the proposition that the Victorian moralists were, among other things, hypocrites. In private, they supposedly indulged in the very kinds of vices they deplored in public. Today, we have a new dominant morality, in which the effective highest good is "tolerance" and "diversity". But this morality is hypocritical in its own way, allowing people to defend a behavior (and congratulate themselves in doing so) even while privately scorning that behavior. That is part of Sasha Baron Cohen's insight; he exploits a moral duplicity within his own audience, even while lampooning it. The audience is laughing, but the audience is also the target.

The film presents itself as a satire on celebrity culture. Bruno lets stars like Paula Abdul and Elton John make themselves look foolish, knowing that such people don't really care ultimately if they are exposed as kooks as long as the public continues to notice them. A great many people in this civilization really do care about fame and money to the exclusion of reputation. (Whatever their faults, the Victorians were not so shallow.)

If that was all there was to it, the film would be a small masterpiece. But a satire of celebrity is only the outer layer of the movie. Deeper down, the film is a meditation about itself, and its self not only seems to loathe its subjects, its characters and you, the audience, but also life.

July 2, 2009

Great Independence Day Reading

n206434345572_1384.jpg carries a very timely article this morning by Hans Zeiger that reminds political and media elites that "dialogue" requires reciprocity.

May 30, 2009

As Predicted: a "Scandal" About U.S. Lawmakers' Expenses

I predicted here a while back that the zesty British scandal about the abuse of personnel spending allowances for second homes for members of Parliament would be picked up as a theme tailored for American audiences. That now happens (and with direct references to our English cousins) on the front page of The Wall Street Journal today.

It's pretty thin, I think. The fancy camera of the Ohio Congressman is probably used by the office to photograph him with constituents and to prepare photos for the newsletter sent out to the district--something all members do. The Lexus story and some others raise eyebrows, perhaps.

If this is the best the media can come up with, we're a pretty honest bunch in the U.S. Not even one charge for cleaning a moat or renting porno movies! But I doubt that we have heard the last of the search effort.

May 23, 2009

Sister City Movement Unheralded Success

Dedication%20of%20Plaque.jpgIn ways that seldom catch public attention the Sister City movement seems worthy of notice this Memorial Day Weekend. War in the 20th Century seems to stimulated people to want to connect and finding a specific foreign city--maybe like one's own and maybe different--as a way to implement the aim of "people to people" diplomacy.

It started after World War I with allies France and England. Then, after World War II Coventry, England and Dresden, Germany became sister cities--the two cities were among the worst bombed in the European Theater of the war. During the Cold War, Seattle became a sister-city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, then a part of the USSR.

President Eisenhower made the program popular in the 50s when it was still part of the National League of Cities. Now the program is under the umbrella of Sister Cities International.

Exchange%20Students.jpgThe stories of sister city relationships continue a visible signs of the desire of ordinary citizens for peace and true cultural diversity. Howard and Betsy Chapman, my brother and sister-in-law in Fort Wayne, Indiana, took up an avocational interest in the program a quarter century ago, establishing life-long friendships in Takaoka, Japan. Eventually, they set up a program to allow students from Fort Wayne's sister cities to come to Fort Wayne and for Fort Wayne youth to study in the sister city schools. On a recent trip to Plotz, Poland, Howard (a sometime columnist and Adjunct Fellow of Discovery Institute) found himself the surprise beneficiary of an honor: the dedication of a beautiful new "Chapman Hall" in one of two schools he visited. That moved him, but not as much as meeting some of the Polish young people who told him how their lives had been enriched by the time they had spent as guest students in Indiana.

The Sister City program is one way to honor the sacrifices of soldiers who died to make peaceful understanding the norm rather than the exception in the world. Little steps in "people to people diplomacy": who knows how far they will take us?

May 22, 2009

Letter from Capitol Charms Dennis Miller

The smooth funny-man, social and political critic Dennis Miller toasted Discovery Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter's ideas coast-to-coast May 21, asking, "Johnny, where have you been all my life?"

Wohlstetter, author of The Long War Ahead (Discovery Institute Press) and the regular blog, Letter from the Capitol described the trap Speaker Nancy Pelosi finds herself in with CIA Director Leon Panetta and the trap the President finds himself in with former Vice President Cheney.

On Gitmo, Wohlstetter commented: "What Obama should do to spin this is he should go down to Gitmo himself (inspect it publicly) and then turn around and say, 'Any one in the world who say's Gitmo's a terrible place, open your own jails to the photographers."

Miller loved the idea (good for the country, good for national security and even for President Obama). "Look at you, Johnny! Christian (his producer), we have to get him back on as soon as possible."

Wohlstetter continues to build an audience and appeal on interview programs nationally.

April 28, 2009

The Media as Willing Victims of Manipulation

One reason that MSNBC and CNN (not to mention certain other media) are withering in the ratings is their insistence on hashing over old news even while major breaking stories go undeveloped.

We are supposed to be exercised about the issue of legal memos of six or seven years ago that justified what turned out to be the water boarding of a handful of captured terrorists.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is teetering, Afghanistan and Iraq have seen an upsurge of violence in what used to be known as the War on Terrorism, but now is--I don't know what it's called, maybe "The Struggle Against Man-Made Disasters."

The Islamic Republic of Iran is close to getting atomic weapons, threatening the existence of Israel and working to destabilize Egypt and the Gulf States.

And The People's Republic of North Korea is testing long range missiles.

And never mind about domestic issues of major significance, including runaway public spending and huge domestic changes looming in health care, cloning and energy. Don't tell me these topics aren't as interesting as old DOJ memos.

Rather, it appears that someone is trying to manufacture public interest in old memos in order to distract attention from what is imminent and pressing. The media that are fascinated are not naive, either. It's doesn't seem to bother them that the public really isn't following their lead.

April 3, 2009

Medved Pummels Political Correctness


In a speech at Discovery Institute, where he is a Senior Fellow, Michael
Medved described the origin and startling trajectory of his latest book,
"The Ten Big Lies About America." Medved advised an enthusiastic crowd gathered at a book party that his book has been ignored by major reviewers, but (as happens these days), already has gone through nine editions since it first appeared four months ago.

The Medved book is winning an especially appreciative audience among conservatives and other tradition-minded Americans for its defense of the history and values of the United States, a history often misrepresented in the media and institutions of public education.

Introducing Medved, Discovery President Bruce Chapman, described the author and national talk show host, as "a pioneer, an explorer on a voyage of rediscovery" of America's true past and present. The new book, he said, is a treasure trove of useful information for anyone faced with the arguments commonly advanced by advocates of political correctness.

Watch the video here.

April 2, 2009

Media's Contrasting Views of Prosecutorial Scandal

The Wall Street Journal got it right, as they usually do on such issues.

But The Washington Post thinks the main point is that Stevens somehow got away with a crime. They apparently missed the news that the main government witness plainly lied about the amount of money involved in the Stevens house rehab--$80,000, not $240,000. Eighty thousand is not a lot for remodeling a house.

In comparison, how much has been spent on a wrongful prosecution of a sitting U.S. senator? What price does The Post think should be placed on the government's legal manipulation of a federal election?

UPDATE: Anger (well justified) in Alaska:

March 23, 2009

Hanson's Reactionary Rant is Valid

Victor David Hanson lets dismay get the better of him today.

Like Harry Truman from a still earlier generation, Hanson probably was raised to say, "Fine, thank you," whenever someone inquired how he was. Until today, it was regarded as impolite, after all, to burden others with one's own troubles. But, once in a while a person has to let the truth out, if only to make a larger point, and what Hanson sees in America today is genuinely and significantly depressing.

When you read about the fairy tale economy we have created you have only touched the broad surface of cultural decline. Hanson has opened a subject that invites many other examples.

This is a twilight age when people are out of work and pinching pennies, yet you have trouble finding a high school student to mow the lawn. The reason is that so many teens get whatever money they need from their parents. Is there a moment when that turns around?

The saddest thing for me is the coarsening of manners that Hanson describes, the way that spontaneity and candor have been elevated over reserve and consideration. What Hanson says about air travel and stores is simply obvious to anyone who grew up before the late 60s or had relatively strict parents.

He might have added that honest disagreements, which Americans never minded acknowledging, are now touted as justifications for shutting down contrasting opinions. The coercive atmosphere of universities, for example, seems to grow in proportion to the growth in doubt about old intellectual standard bearers like Marx and Freud and Darwin. Meanwhile, there is less civilized discussion about public issues on our 100 plus television channels and endless internet and iPod chat than was found on TV when it was live, black and white and arrived over only three stations.

Hanson might have written about the way the supposedly concerned, less formal society has ushered in presumptuous, slightly imperious impersonality, just as C. S. Lewis predicted. Think of the false familiarity that now poses as respect in dealing with strangers. In a clinic waiting room, for example, bored nursing assistants call out octegenarians by their first names--"Annie!", "Peter!" Doctors who think they are still entitled to be called "Doctor" apparently regard that kind of thing as a way to establish--what? "Intimacy?" "Friendliness!" Going to the doctor (some doctors, anyhow) is about as truly "friendly" as being hailed at a restaurant chain where a bumptious voice over a microphone announces, "Chapman, Party of Four!"

Former Senator Slade Gorton says that such eras of unapologetic rudeness eventually encounter backlash and the re-establishment of social sobriety. I am wondering when that will come about, and how.

March 20, 2009

The Financial Behind-the-Times


The salmon-colored Financial Times seemed for a while like a potential rival for The Wall Street Journal. Now it seems like Yesterday's Times.

Coverage of the AIG scandal and what the new American Administration's actions portend for world markets is an example of a business newspaper that swooned so hopelessly for candidate Obama that it cannot bear to look reality in the face. Investors of all income groups are sitting on their money, a vote of no-confidence in Obamanomics, but that is not the view that prevails in the FT's "leaders". The amateurish way Prime Minister Gordon Brown was treated at the White House recently didn't register much, either. The trade war Obama has provoked with Mexico is a setback for NAFTA, but apparently not worthy of reproach in liberal London. The near-unanimity of European leaders that the US is over-doing its stimulus programs and is over-reaching in calling on them to do the same--that, too, is not what the FT views as particularly instructive.

The paper's own core constituency surely must reside in London's "City", and those folks can read and figure things out. They, too, probably were ga-ga for Barack and the Democratic Congress a few months ago, but their revised opinions at least are beginning to be heard in news columns. And ever so slowly and mildly the editorialists are starting to come around.

Meanwhile, the slowness of the editorial columns seems to have seeped even into the circulation department. Finding the FT increasingly irrelevant this winter I tried to save time and money by canceling my subscription. Not only would the FT not accept the cancellation (twice), they started sending me two copies.

March 16, 2009

Seattle, Post The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Bobbi McCallum Fountain

Today's editorial in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ("Too Many Posers") assails the majority Democrats in the Washington State Legislature for not following through on their promise to adopt green "cap and trade" legislation. It would have been much better for them to respond to the recession by commiting political suicide, apparently.

It was a perfectly pitched swan song for the unfailingly liberal voice of Seattle's rainy, gritty (sometimes faux gritty) Left Coast culture. Tomorrow the 146 year old news organization ceases paper publication and goes solely online. I will miss the paper.

I don't want to belabor the failure of the paper to include more right wing commentary over the years, not to mention the failure to cover news that conservatives regard as important. But it is fair criticism. There may not be more than about a quarter of Seattle area readers who are right of center, but writing them off would seem to have been a publishing mistake. As is, I suspect that conservatives are giving up big city newspapers faster than anyone.

Likewise, as the downward trend of revenues reduced formerly standard features, business coverage was an especially unfortunate loss. Once the high end business reader decamps to, say, the Puget Sound Business Journal, the relevance of a metro daily declines in the minds of the very people an advertising salesman needs to reach. Or so it seems to me.

Regardless, let's be fair: a lack of balance didn't kill The P.I., and the decline of business coverage was more a symptom than a cause of collapse. Surely the Internet turned out to more deadly a foe than imagined. The cost of newsprint, meanwhile, rose high enough to absorb the entire expense that the subscriber pays, and more. And maybe, just maybe, our post-modern schools are producing readers with very short attention spans and relatively small understanding of how society actually works. You can't interest someone in the failure of the Legislature to pass cap and trade (to use today's editorial as an example) if they barely know what a Legislature does.

Resolute newspaper reader that I remain, and one-time editorial writer (New York Herald-Tribune in 1965-66, during my tender youth and the paper's final agonies) it is sad to witness this loss. As has been said before, while its product is almost always forgotten in a few hours, a great city newspaper is somehow a living creature. In a proper history of our era you would have a newspaper's account of what people at a certain time thought was important, but you also would have the paper's own role in those events, and behind that the people doing the writing, making the policy decisions (what's newsworthy, what's not, what's adequately sourced, what is hearsay). Someone realistic might even find some time to recall the poor souls in advertising and circulation who tried to make the money that allowed the paper to continue. Someone truly magnanimous might find some sympathy for the "suits" of management.

For myself this afternoon, considering the P.I., I recollect the roles the paper played in such seminal events as the Century 21 World's Fair that restored Seattle's Progressive Era ambitions, and the Forward Thrust bond issues whose enactment saw the city through the "Boeing Recession" of 1970-'72. The paper was criticized as a "booster" in those days, which criticism it usually ignored and which it always should have ignored. A newspaper that wants community support needs to support the community.

The P.I. was politically daring, in any case, often the chip-on-the-shoulder guy, the underdog. I think back, usually in rueful fondness, to a parade of political campaigns. The paper helped create Governor Dixy Lee Ray and then helped bring her down. Earlier its exposé of scandal in the Seattle Police Department contributed to the electoral defeat of County Prosecutor Charles O. Carroll and his replacement by the young, reform-minded Christopher Bayley. The comparable changeover in the City Council during the 1970s, led by C.H.E.C.C. ("Choose an Effective City Council"), also bore second hand finger prints from enthusiastic P.I. editors. That being true, the P.I. (and The Times) also can be said to have helped forge the changes that made Seattle one of the nation's "most livable cities."

I am recalling the bright young reporter of the 60s, Bobbi McCallum, who (it occurs to me now) was one of the trailblazers for female journalists. (May I also recall that she was lovely and fun?) Memory summons, too, the idealistic suburban mom, Ruth Howell, who worked her way into a great career as the P.I.'s devoted and provocative editorial page editor in the early '70s. Both these fine women were writing almost to the time they died, which adds a sharp poignance to their personal stories.

The roster of writers and editors is a bit painful to recall generally, because a number became friends. There was a time when, along with everyone else, my breakfast always included the droll gossip and wry opinions of the late Emmett Watson. Maybe in my time I even sent him a few items?

Other P.I. writers of note are still around. Shelby Scates, the Tennessee-born, corruption-scenting hound dog of the Legislature--who retired to write about some of the remarkable figures with whom his career intersected, such as Warren Magnuson and (an example of Scates' national reach), Maurice Rosenblatt. The latter, Scates explained, not only pioneered what became the modern political action committee (the Committee for a More Effective Congress), but also was an under-appreciated force in the anti-McCarthy movement. Committed reporter/columnists sniff out such unusual characters and stories and make journalism into history.

I could mention the conscientious, thoroughly professional Charles Dunsire, whom I met when he was covering the City Council and then again when he was editorial page editor in the early '90s. Chuck gave me a weekly column and defended it, even though it often surely grated on some of his colleagues. (His successor told me I would have to stop attacking scientific materialism, so I quit.)

Now, of course, you have Joel Connelly, columnist and former political reporter, who has been a scourge of Republicans for so long that some have developed a secret affection for him. Mere nodding notice from this redoubtable liberal is like a bouquet of roses from John Carlson (of KVI talk radio). For his part, Connelly can count on a number of legislative initiatives that were inched along their way over the decades by his advocacy at the P.I.--the North Cascades National Park comes to mind as one monument.

The sports reporter/philosopher Art Thiel, the ace business and technology writer Bill Virgin, the brilliant, and, of course, unfair, David Horsey, nationally admired editorial cartoonist--the roster goes on. It is going to be hard for them and others to turn the page. I know what closing a paper is like--saying goodbye to people like that. It's awful.

For what seems like decades I have sent op-ed drafts to Kimberly Mills, but truth is, it's been years since we actually have seen one another. I hope all good things happen to her, Mark Trahant and to all the other serious and talented people at The P.I.

A person's death often ends with an obit in the papers. In the case of a newspaper, it seems almost an afterthought that someone should have been celebrating the 146 years of The P.I before the end came. Love it, hate it, it's a real story.

When Bobbi McCallum died her friends commissioned a statue and fountain by the renowned sculptor, George Tsutakawa. It has welcomed visitors to the entrance of The P.I. at the old headquarters as well as the new. I wonder where it is going now.

March 5, 2009

Owellian Rewrite Folks at Fox and AP

Fox runs a revised story from AP headlined "Creationists Blast Vatican...." The new lede changes the meaning (someone up there--in Rewrite--doesn't like us) and makes this out to be a story about "creationists" and has the target "the Vatican". The origin was my statement responding to the AP reporter about the role the Templeton Foundation had in shaping the conference and keeping out intelligent design scientists.

Here you have a conference set up largely to attack intelligent design, and that denies its targets the chance to defend themselves. The funder has called the shots. I point out that this represents Templeton policy.

I am not a creationist. i quoted Pope Benedict XVI extensively and positively.

So how have "Creationists Blasted the Vatican"?

February 21, 2009

The Face of Phony Compassion

There is a tricky game of false compassion the media played during the Iraq War, as earlier, wherein TV programs and newspapers daily ran the names and pictures of Americans killed in action (or a soldier who died for any reason in the war zone). Another version of the trick was to show the flag covered coffins of the slain being unloaded ceremoniously at Dover Airbase in Delaware. The superficial implication was that people would want to show sympathy for the dead and their families and acknowledge their sacrifices.

People do want to show such sympathy. Some families appreciate it. Some don't like the intrusion into their privacy.

Regardless, for some the real reason for the photos was to build popular dismay at the cost of war in American lives. It was meant to demoralize. Almost everyone in the media and the military and the government surely knows the effect and therefore the motive. That is why Franklin Roosevelt banned pictures of Americans being killed in World War II. George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eventually decided in most cases to keep the media away from the delivery of the coffins of the deceased personnel. But the reason the government doesn't want to dwell on the pictures is also why the left wing media want them. They have an agenda.

There have been a number of articles lately about the possibility of a change in policy in the Obama Administration that, one way or another, would reopen the opportunity for the media to show pictures of arriving coffins.

There are two remarkable facets of this. First, the media want to show the coffins of Americans killed overseas, even though that now predominantly means coffins from Afghanistan, where President Obama--whose election they overwhelming supported--is sending more troops to fight, just as he said he would during the campaign. The media are suddenly and already willing to undercut the man they helped elect president--only a month after he took office.

Second, some of the media are fairly obvious in hinting at their true motives. You don't have to read too much between the lines, for example, to gather the anti-war policy agenda of this editorial of The Palm Beach Post.

There is, however, another possible hidden motive in this situation, however unlikely it seems. If President Obama actually now wants to get out of Afghanistan as well as Iraq--despite his past commitments--and wants the public to end its support for the Afghan War before he does so officially, then changing the policy on photos of arriving coffins would be a good way to get the "change" underway. In that case, editorials like the Post's are just getting ahead of Mr. Obama, not turning against him.

For my part, and for the good of the all-too real war on terrorism, I hope that the new president does not grant the media rights to showcase American deaths and instead gives sustained support to defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

February 13, 2009

Open Letter to Steve Forbes

Dear Steve,

Your magazine's lively online service,, has been attacked by biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne for allowing several scientists who support intelligent design to dissent from an other-wise fawning parade of Darwinists who appeared in your spaces to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

coyne_170x170.jpgCoyne compares your carrying articles critical of Darwinian theory to support for Holocaust denial, among other extremities. He says you have "debased journalism as well as science."

Oh, my.

Actually, it is instructive to have Coyne exhibit in public the spirit of angry censorship that now pervades Darwinian science. Behind the scenes Coyne and his colleagues have intimidated a number of other media from publishing or interviewing scientific contrarians. It has become a trend.

There even was a legal effort by several Darwinists to block the showing of the 2008 Ben Stein film, Expelled. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful. Recently, a telephone call from Richard Dawkins helped inveigle the president of the University of Vermont to dispense with Ben Stein as one of this year's commencement speakers. Stein's crime was to defend the academic freedom of intelligent design scientists in his film.

Egnor.jpgThe academic left's assault on free speech and academic freedom is often accompanied by adhominem attack, as in Coyne's repeated false characterization of Dr. Michael Egnor of SUNY (Stonybrook)--one of your recent writers--as a "creationist". Egnor further is a mere medical doctor, in Coyne's telling, not a "genuine scientist" like Coyne.

In reality, Dr. Egnor is, indeed, a well-known neurosurgeon, but he also is a distinguished neuroscientist. He not only teaches, but he also has conducted pathfinding research with an intelligent design perspective. He has been a visiting professor at Stanford, Harvard, and UCLA, among other leading institutions, and his discoveries about the manner in which blood flows into the brain after head injuries have influenced surgical practice.

Who is Jerry Coyne to question the bona fides of such a man?

Forbes proudly calls itself "The Capitalist Tool," and you personally have dedicated yourself first and foremost to the advancement of freedom in many arenas, especially economics.

You don't need to be reminded, therefore, that there have been places and times where the arguments for capitalism and against socialism have been banished--by definition!--from economics classes, exactly as Darwinists want to forbid the weaknesses of Darwinian theory from being heard in America's high schools and to prevent scientists who support intelligent design from being employed at universities--or read on the pages of your publication.

There is an arrogant, almost totalitarian mentality among certain scientists and Coyne is a prime example. There is a coercive ideology behind their calculations that challenges all friends of liberty.

With best regards,

Bruce Chapman

December 15, 2008

Three Examples of Worthy "Public" Television

Some of the best political reporting in Pacific Northwest broadcasting is by C. R. Douglas on the Seattle Channel. That is remarkable because the station is part of city government, with offices in the basement of the new City Hall. But the host, who founded the operation about ten years ago, has mastered the art of provoking his guests without sandbagging them. In preparing for last week's debate about the future of the Seattle waterfront (new elevated Viaduct, all-surface option or a combined deep bore tunnel and waterfront boulevard), one of the participants challenged Douglas, "You sound like a television reporter!"

"He IS a television reporter!" I pointed out. In this case, that is a compliment. Here is the piece if you'd like to watch it.

The Washington state analog of the Seattle Channel It has been around since the 80s and now has its own building in Olympia. I don't know but I suspect that TVW probably does a better job of covering state issues--always broadly understood, too--than their counterparts elsewhere in other states.

Then there is C-Span. In some ways it is the grand-daddy of such outfits of course, attracting serious national listeners in serious numbers (about 250,000 at a time). Sometimes I think C-Span is the real public television in America since it credits the viewer with enough intelligence to figure out for himself whether speakers or debaters are telling the truth or fudging. As a result C-Span is popular with both parties, even though there is no public money in it. The cable companies pay for it.

Right now C-Span is airing its own documentary on the White House, its history and current operations as seen from the inside. Having worked there once (under Ronald Reagan) I found myself surprised and fascinated last night as the cameras not only explained how the public areas were developed, but also how the President's private areas work now. It is engaging and beautiful, and frankly makes you proud to be an American. You can order copies of the 105 minute program for only $9.95, though they won't guarantee arrival before Christmas.

I don't mind promoting C-Span or this production. Like Seattle Channel and TVW--and their counterparts around the land--they think it a service to show you what is going on and to resist the call to self-dramatizing sarcasm and irony. For all that they deserve praise and gratitude.

December 2, 2008

What is So Rare, or Beautiful, as Real Satire in a Newspaper?

It is hard to write good political satire and harder still to get it past editors. I did once and was told I had to label it satire since some readers might think it was serious.

What is almost as funny as the adroit whimsy of Katherine Kersten's piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reading the turgid criticisms of some readers in their comments that follow it. Don't miss them.

November 20, 2008

It's Not the Truth that is Remarkable

What is remarkable is the straight, high profile coverage.
The Seattle Times ran this as the top feature, page one, above the fold. The Seattle Weekly ran a story that also, overall, was fair. KOMO-TV picked it up.

How do readers (and viewers) handle this? If they are pro-choice they can treat it as merely an interesting human interest story about the individuals involved. Or they can trivialize it. (As one critic says, three quarters of human embryos are not viable. Never mind that of the 400,000 frozen embryos in the country the other quarter represents 100,000 human beings . Or they can grouse to themselves, "There probably is something wrong with this that they are not reporting," and turn the page.

Or they can have an epiphany moment and look reality in the face. This is another demonstration of what it means to be human.

Does one have to be a couple longing to adopt a child--and finds it possible through this service--in order to accept the truth? The mind having seen clearly, what does it take to have a conversion of heart?

November 7, 2008

Award for the Worst Campaign and Post-campaign Issue

And the winner is...(envelope please).....Sarah Palin's expensive campaign wardrobe!

The Governor and her glad rags

It is almost unimaginable that anyone tried to make this an issue, let alone that the media covered it as if it meant something. Even more astonishing is the performance of the backstabber on the McCain staff who leaked--or made up--more of a story on it after the campaign, and, yet again, that FOX or anyone allowed such a pseudo-scandal to keep going after the election.

Forget all the price tag numbers and the disparaging language by the "leaker": On the campaign trail, a candidate (let's face it, especially a woman, even now) has to look good every day and for several appearances a day. During the primary season even males typically take weeks to get into the sartorial rhythm of having clean, presentable clothes available for every occasion, But at least people don't normally critique men's suits. If Palin had been stuck with any normal woman's wardrobe and yet had tried to look fresh and well-groomed on the road, public event after public event, it would have led to amused press comments stories about her inadequate style. In fact, that is where the press was headed before Sarah headed for Neiman Marcus. It's a funny thing how ordinary, middle class people on a budget seem to have such "poor taste", isn't it? Why some are even "second homeless"! It makes them unqualified for high office, don't you know?

Therefore, as in many campaigns, Gov. Palin's personal costs--in this case her handsome dresses and suits--were appropriate campaign expenses. Most campaign supporters undoubtedly would have been delighted to know that their contributions went to such a useful purpose. It beats having your cash used for, oh, say, a $700,000 rally in Berlin, or another television ad to match the one that just ran 90 seconds earlier.

Most important, Palin's wardrobe was a campaign expense, not a taxpayer expense. The faux-furor in the media made some people think it was somehow a public cost. The proper reply to the story right from the beginning should have been, "So, what? This is an expenditure the Republican National Committee was pleased to make. And, by the way, we absolutely expect Gov. Palin to keep the clothes after the election. Why not?"

Finally, we are left with the pitiful spite of whoever brought this story to the media from inside the Republican camp. What odious political gnome would refer to the Palins as "Wassila hillbillies"?

This year we seem to have conquered racial bigotry, but not class and regional bigotry.

Overall, Gov. Sarah Palin rose admirably to the challenge suddenly thrust upon her at the Republican Convention. She and Todd, her dignified, yet cheerful husband (who comes across as a natural gentleman, savvy and decent), managed to leap into campaign mode from a standing start. Good for them. Which of the fault-finders could have done as well?

November 3, 2008

The Bush Legacy, a Preliminary Review

George W. Bush was supposed to cut taxes and spending as president, appoint able constitutionalist judges, open America more to Latin America and avoid "nation building" exercises overseas.

He did cut taxes, which helped spur huge economic gains for over five years. He appointed many excellent judges, though Democrats held up numerous other worthy appointments. For several wasted years Republicans in control of Congress actually joined Democrats in promoting higher spending, including a new entitlement (the prescription drug program for seniors). They thought they would get great political benefit from such spending, it seems. They got none.

We still have done far too little to engage Latin America--our home region--and, thanks to 9/11, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we certainly are engaged in "nation building" on a grand scale elsewhere. History handed G.W.B. and all of us a number of unwelcome surprises.

In the course of time, the tax cuts, the wise judicial appointments and the war on terrorism, despite many missteps, will be regarded as a serious and sound legacy for Bush. If the new president doesn't mess up, Iraq in particular will result in a hugely important foreign policy success with excellent long term consequences. Too bad the president's critics won't give him now the credit that he deserves.

There probably were other policy successes. (One thinks of the historically high commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa, for example.) It would be nice to say that there were many such examples. But the truth is that the Administration has been so concentrated on the huge issues of the war on terror, taxes and judges that it has neglected other areas where it could have accomplished without too much strain. Obviously, Bush should have pushed harder for reform of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. He tried, but weakly. The crash we have endured and which is undoing conservative government, however, is not the fault of this Administration. On the contrary, as a host of yet-unwritten books will show, under-regulation in some areas and over-regulation in others were the products chiefly of 15 years of liberal interest politics.

Still, as the nation votes tomorrow for his successor some of us should pause and reflect that President George W. Bush has received a bum rap from adversaries and the media,(as some of his staffers say). I trust that history will treat him much better.

October 30, 2008

What Happened to Global Warming Issue?

The strange life of policy issues has one replacing another as the two year presidential marathon campaign closes. Supposedly vital issues aren't resolved, just shed. Global warming, for example, was on every TV screen this time a year ago - Climate change 'Cold War' looms, Climate change a 'mega disaster', Climate outlook 'beyond grim' - but now come back of the newspaper stories of record early snows from the Alps to the Cascades (of the Pacific Northwest). The October cold snap in Florida beats a 150 year record (though I must suspiciously wonder who was keeping accurate modern records in 1858).

It's been really cold in Alaska this year. The glaciers are filling up. What does that mean? Apparently, definable global warming slowed or stopped a decade ago. Is that true? Why aren't we hearing about the reasons?

Yes, of course we shouldn't look to daily or even yearly figures for support for macro-climate theories. But, if that is so, why were they used to explain the significance of hurricanes and warming weather phenomena only a couple of years ago--until the temperatures dropped?

In general, I support many policies that also are backed by people alarmed by global warming. Plug-in hybrid cars. Experiments with algae as an alternate fuel. Government encouragement of solar. Certainly nuclear power and natural gas. (However, I also support "clean coal" and drilling off-shore, in Alaska and in shale to help us replace imported oil.) Yet the global warming analysis is a separate matter. It has been used to harass people and make them feel guilty for a lifestyle of abundance and to promote increased government control over people's lives. In other words, it has an element of liberal ideology about it. If the assumptions behind the global warming analysis are wrong, we risk losing common ground for policies that would promote greater energy conservation, developing new fuel sources and holding down costs for consumers. It would be nice therefore to see greater skepticism--and honesty--on this topic.

October 27, 2008

RX for Ailing Newspapers


Circulation continues to decline steeply at almost all major city dailies. The only exceptions are USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Is it the Internet that is killing them? Well, it is a major part of the problem.

But another is the decline of effective literacy among the young and the even steeper decline in understanding of basic citizenship (what used to be called "civics") and economics. Newspapers can't rely anymore on their readers to possess a basic grasp of how Congress, the courts or administrative agencies work, let alone state and local governments. Stories therefore have to be sensationalized or dumbed down. Smart people then flee the papers for more intelligent coverage and the papers are stuck with a downscale readership.

Why don't young people understand civics? Because the schools either neglect the subject or downplay it or turn it into a left wing morality tale that ultimately is demoralizing.

And who has supported all these changes in schools? Often it is the local big city newspaper.

Then there is one other reason for readership decline, and that is growing media bias. If you can't count on straight news and editing, then you just give up on your local papers. Why waste your time with the views and opinions of some reporter who knows little but has a high opinion of himself? One reads a paper to get news--straight news, real news. When one finds that the real news is not found there, he stops using the paper as a resource.

For all of us who treasure newspapers--and sequential thought--it is sad to see all this happening. The end of newspapers isn't going to improve the sum knowledge and responsibility of the electorate.

Please, someone, give us newspapers that report the news in such a way that one can't discern the personal views of the reporters and editors. And use the editorial pages to campaign for better schooling in civics. You'll have to fight the teachers' union, but that, as they say, is another story.

October 23, 2008

News Organizations Show Their Partisan Colors

The longest presidential campaign in U.S. history is now eleven days from completion, unless the lawyers take over after the polls close and keep the show running even longer. The television and radio broadcasters increasingly are taking sides without much embarrassment. Are we developing a system of openly partisan media as in Jeffersonian days? It would seem so. The masks are coming off. Maybe that will prove healthier in the long run. Once people realize the bias of the press and broadcast media they will be better on guard against it.

One example is the way malfeasance in the election process itself is handled. There is no question that ACORN is under criticism for fraudulent voter registration in over a dozen states nationwide. ACORN plainly aims to benefit the Democratic Party, though it is supported by the government. So brazen is ACORN that even Democratic elections officials, as in Nevada, have been incensed by the group's improprieties. (From my experience, most elections officials are honest and want to run an honest operation, regardless of their own affiliation.)

So, when CNN wants to show an example of election fraud, what do they do? They run a segment about the rare Republican who has been indicted. There was a time thirty years ago when CNN truly tried to present news objectively. Those days are gone.

Then there is the Sarah Palin treatment. It is preposterous that Gov. Palin and her husband should be hauled before a state personnel board in Alaska eleven days before a presidential election. But no one seems to protest in the media. Instead, they will be at the hearing with hundreds of cameras and reporters.

Enormously important issues like the coming crisis with Iran are going unremarked in the media during this campaign. That makes it particularly breathtaking to see the fourth estate wallowing in such trivia as Palin's clothing. Dan Henninger gets much of it in today's Wall Street Journal column.

October 13, 2008

Canadian Polls Show Why You Can't Count on Polls

Canada's Thanksgiving Day is today. Tomorrow is the federal election for Parliament. Therefore, except for last-minute polling that interrupts people's family turkey dinners, the final polls are from yesterday. And they diverge considerably. And there still is uncertainty shown in the electorate, with a 46 percent "undecided" column in one poll. Granted, the "undecided" term may represent people who in the end are not going to vote anyway. Nonetheless, the lesson for Americans in our own election should be, don't count on the polls.

All three top polls show the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper winning re-election, but only to another minority government. The differences come in the prospective margins.

The Strategic Counsel poll conducted for the Toronto Globe and Mail and CTV has the Conservatives ahead of their closest rivals, the Liberals, by only 33 percent to 28 percent (five point spread), with the New Democrats (NDP) coming in at 18 percent, the Greens at 11 and the Bloc Quebecois at 10 (that is all in Quebec, of course, where the Bloc vote stands at a nearly commanding 42 percent).

The Harris/Decima poll shows the Conservatives ahead by nine points (35 percent to the Liberals' 26 percent--NDP at 18. That is a nine point spread.

The Ekos Research poll falls between the others, with the Conservatives ahead 34 to 27 over the Liberals (six points).

Somebody's wrong, which is to say, the samples are different.

October 10, 2008

Under-reported News and Issues

Serious news developments are going under-reported and significant national issues un-discussed in the presidential race because we are all deluged with stock market stories. There are even many stories related to the market that are not getting play yet.

The recent hurricanes damaged U.S. production of oil and temporarily slowed the slide in oil prices, but they did terrible damage to Cuba. Since there are few American reporters there and the Communist regime is not really interested in exposing its weaknesses, the reality goes mostly un-noticed. But here is a story with some insight.

Cuba depends on Venezuela for oil now, but Hugo Chavez also must be facing strains now that the prices for his country's main product have dropped from $147 a barrel to $80. Leftists like Chavez are seldom careful about spending commitments, so it is likely that his regime is going to feel serious strain now. Great story. Not reported yet.

The same squeeze is on Iran and Russia, of course. Already the Russian government's recent hostility toward the West seems to be abating. As I noted several months ago, it usually is not a good idea to threaten one's customers, but that is what Russia was doing to the Europeans. It is a temptation that the Kremlin is finding it easier to resist right now. (By the way, Russia reportedly has huge cash reserves. How is that affecting the economy in the current international crisis? Doesn't Bloomberg News' excellent team in Moscow have a story in depth to tell us about that?)

Another under-reported international story is in the field of human rights. It is a mystery to me why the McCain campaign has not publicized the fact that Sen. Joe Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been holding up passage of the Wilberforce Act of 2008, a bill that would strengthen the law against human trafficking. His reported reasons are bureaucratic, trivial and unresponsive to the world wide problem of slavery. A new film (Call + Response) highlights the situation, and among other things, features Discovery Senior Fellow John R. Miller, former U.S. Ambassador for Human Trafficking Issues.

Domestically, there has been a doubling of money going to Amtrak to improve service, but it was voted through in the midst of the bailout legislation and without any apparent discussion or debate. America needs a first class passenger rail system to supplement air and auto carriers. But because of unenlightened union opposition the Democrats in recent years have prevented any effort at reform and partnership with the private sector. The new money won't really change much at all. Given the overall energy issue and the pressures on the present transportation system you might think that at least one of the candidates for President would be talking about this. But they aren't doing so, are they? Do they imagine that travelers in states on the Eastern Seaboard, the Great Lakes region and the West Coast are not interested?

Speaking of energy, there is the under-emphasized potential of nuclear power. McCain is all for it. But why isn't he conspicuously going to the places where it could be installed and calling attention to the subject? Nuclear power is back in vogue, even among many environmentalists, and it promises the responsible, relatively inexpensive energy that U.S. industries need to save and create jobs. He mentions it, but he doesn't hammer it home the way Ronald Reagan did--by giving TV viewers a backdrop image.

Another issue that McCain under-plays is his support for expanding the personal income tax exemption for people raising children. Reagan doubled it in '86, as McCain undoubtedly knows. It would be a huge break for parents (single parents as well as two parent households). But it is being lost in the din. McCain needs to be in people's kitchens explaining the issue.

One could go on and on, but let me end with this observation: In a time when the stock market is telling us that a recession is surely at hand, one might expect that the federal government would be doing all it can to at least push out of the Treasury pipeline funds for various public projects in transportation and other fields that already are authorized and appropriated. The market crash is about to start rippling through the economy, with building slowdowns and job losses. Already existing federal projects could help take up the slack. I'm not talking about a big new public works program--the kind that typically wouldn't be effective until after the recession is over--but planned projects that the bureaucrats just can't seem to get into action. They need a push. Why aren't they getting one?

September 24, 2008

A Hospital for Ailing Old Words

Leave it to the English to try to rescue fine old words that have fallen on hard times.

My favorite in this collection is "skirr", the whirring sound of birds' beating wings. Give that to a poet as a present. He'll thank you.

"Recrement" also seems serviceable. After all, "waste matter" is not always sufficiently, shall we say, redolent of the reality. "Griseous" is a happy discovery worthy of revivification, don't you think? "Streaked with grey" is just too cumbrous a synonym.

For my own part, I would like to propose a few dear old words that reside in the Chapman Home for Semi-Retired Words. With a little exercise and refurbishment they could be put back on the road. There is, for example, "pullulation", the busy action of many participants; as, for example, what an ant hill does. (E.g., "The campaign office pullulates with volunteers.")

Another underappreciated latinate word is "scrofulous", an appearance of disease or contamination. It is the sort of thing that eventually might characterize the uncleared "recrement" in your kitchen sink.

September 11, 2008

Forbes Magazine's Little Oversight

The September 15 issue of Forbescarries one of its signature stories, this one a list of the 100 "Most Powerful Women" in the world. There are some obvious international business CEOs and heads of state on the list, but also some curiosities. Among the latter are Katie Couric of CBS (# 62), Barbara Walters of ABC (#63), Diane Sawyer of Good Morning America (#65), and Christianne Amanpour of CNN (#91).

Notably missing: Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

The magazine probably went to bed with this story weeks ago, one supposes. Still.

Minor oversights like this notwithstanding, Forbes remains the best business magazine out there and Steve Forbes' columns on business, finance and politics are essential reading. Publisher Rich Karlgaard is both an insightful businessman and a principled futurist.

Conservatives Are Beginning to Laugh

The rampant over-reaction of the mainstream media and the political left to the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin has been helping the Republican ticket. It is mobilizing conservatives to work harder. it also is making them chuckle.

One reason is that the critics clearly don't know what they are talking about. Here you have silver screen tough guy Matt Damon saying how "terrified" he is of Palin. He demands to know if she really believes dinosaurs lived four thousand years ago. He doesn't even wonder why he imagines that she does believe such a thing. The poor man supposes that speculations by liberal commentators and Internet hysterics constitute reliable sources for Palin's views.

The daily papers are filled with article after article that seek to find chinks in Palin's armor. Investigative reporters from New York and Washington are helping to elongate the Alaska tourist season as they try find dirt on Palin, or some tundra scruff that can be made to look like dirt. Hostile, sarcastic reporters on Cable TV chastise Sarah for not letting them interview her. They even ruminate that she probably fears they will try to set her up with some gotcha quote ("Who is the prime minister of Uzebekistan?"). That just helps readers and listeners to do some ruminating themselves: "The media really are out to get her!"

Most of all, Damon-like liberals replace factual comment with what is known as "projection". They conjure up the views that would most discredit a conservative and then assume the targeted politico must hold such opinions. They don't have any conservative friends to give them a reality check, apparently, and just let their paranoia run away with them.

Then they are shocked when their public attacks backfire.

Conservatives are finding this almost too good to be true. The media are doing a jujitsu move on themselves.

August 2, 2008

The Misplaced Kindness of "Septalingualism"

What does "septalingualism" mean, a colleague asked in the hallway after seeing the following article about New York Mayor Blomberg's latest costly idea. It means you have a pompous vocabulary, was my reply.

Columnist Deroy Murdock gives Discovery senior fellow Yuri Mamchur the main rebuttal in this excellent story.

July 8, 2008

Another Expose of Wikipedia

Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers (on global warming), has an accurate and trenchant piece on National Review Online about the deceits of Wikipedia. As he says, what is true of the global warming debate (where no "debate" in to be acknowledged by the Left), is true of many other issues that Wikipedia supposedly covers, including abortion and intelligent design.

July 5, 2008

Washington Post's Excellent Scoop

In an important Washington Post inside story Robert Mugabe is thoroughly and unmistakably displayed as a particularly ruthless, thuggish dictator. Which apologists can pretend otherwise now?

It was a fine accomplishment to get such detailed accounts of Mugabe's internal organization and its deliberations. Did the CIA possibly hand this story to the Post?

The more significant question is why all African states have not cut off ties with Zimbabwe and begun to assist what will have to be a guerrilla movement. Mugabe effectively has closed the door to lawful and peaceful change.

July 4, 2008

The Hurt at the New York Times

What Tim Egan writes about in The New York Times--the survival risks facing newspapers --is notably true of The New York Times itself.

There are many reasons for the decline of advertising and readers, but one that is almost always neglected in stories like Egan's is that many center-right readers finally have had it with the bias of much news coverage. Bias is understandable on editorial pages, although the Times' unintentionally droll quarrel with Barack Obama today surprises one by the extent of the paper's dogmatic liberalism. It is that dogmatic liberalism, unfortunately, that spills readily into other sections of the paper and alienates conservatives and many moderates. You just can't count on the Times for objective news coverage, and that goes double for feature stories.

Some people take their view-cues from the Times and will never notice when the paper is factually unfair. Others recognize the lack of objectivity when they see a story on a subject they know personally, but they wrongly assume that other stories probably are accurate. Still others--including a body of readers who would like a national paper of serious depth, but have come to believe that The New York Times simply cannot be trusted--don't read it at all.

Editors and owners of the Times don't care, of course. They are willing to write off such readership. But they can't expect others to care, either, when their flagship runs into rough seas.

June 2, 2008

Now for a Film about Yoko Ono, Would-Be Censor

There are several good news stories on today's development in the federal court case in which Yoko Ono seeks to prevent further distribution of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein film. And then there is this one from ars technica:

Notice the way the writer feels obliged to abuse free speech--by misrepresenting intelligent design--even as he defends it.

We still do have free speech protections in America, but we also have the right to tie up opponents in tactical lawsuits, which is just what Yoko Ono did at a crucial point in the screening of Expelled. Nonetheless, Expelled has become one of the most-viewed theater-released documentaries ever.

We are not quite at the point where there should be a film about the way Expelled itself was attacked, but there is a story there.

The spirit of authoritarian censorship is all over the cultural left these days. These were the same people who opposed authority back in the 60s, weren't they--people like John Lennon and Yoko Ono? "Imagine"!

April 18, 2008

Wikipedia Under (Justifiable) Attack Again

The amazing thing is how awareness of Left Wing censorship at the supposedly open and fair-minded Wikipedia is growing. I was delighted that the author of the National Post article recognized it. Tell your friends: except for non-ideological arcana, Wikipedia cannot be trusted for anything like accuracy or objectivity.

April 11, 2008

The (ink) Well Runneth Drier

Despite what is expected to be an unseasonably sunny few days, at least one hundred Seattleites will have lousy weekends. By Monday, 131 soon-to-be former employees of the Seattle Times Company, the owner of Washington State's largest daily, will have to decide whether they want to be bought out or laid off.

In a decision made public on Monday, the Times said it'll "slice its flagship newspaper's staff by nearly 200 and make other cuts aimed at saving $15 million." That casualty list will include circulation, advertising and newsroom personnel, a spokesperson for the company said.

Vice President Alayne Fardella said in an e-mail to employees that up to 45 circulation workers, 30 newsroom employees and 24 advertising staff could be laid off. The exact number will depend on how many employees choose to accept buyouts and leave voluntarily, she said.

On the other coast, if The New York Times and Variety are to be believed (a suspension of disbelief chasm too wide for many to fjord, I know), then The Seattle Times' journalistic brethren at CBS News should prepare for a similar agonizing future weekend of weighing the buy-out versus laid-off option. If rumors and a news report in the Old Grey Lady prove true, then CBS brass is giving serious consideration to subcontracting its "newsgathering operations to CNN." (Read: The reporting, off-air producing, etc., that fills the 30 minute news hole between America's affiliate coverage and the network's weekly evening sitcoms.) Although Variety reports that the sharp-penned MBAs at CNN and CBS are discounting the rumor, another unnamed insider said they "would eventually resume the discussion about a merger or alliance."

Huh. Two examples. Two different media. One week. It's a tough time to be in or supporting "the business," as journalists like to refer to the profession. And regardless of one's view of the amorphous yet seemingly omniscient mainstream media, the reasons for and consequences of a slow but steady death of the Fourth Estate in America -- at least what has become the conventional understanding of the mainstream press -- is worth at least a few seconds of thought.

Fuel Shortage. At one point, owning a newspaper was basically a license to print money. Not anymore. As readership and circulation numbers have declined at a precipitous rate, the advertisers (the self-proclaimed fuel of a free press) have gone elsewhere. (See: Online.) You don't need a complex market segmentation analysis to understand that it just doesn't make as much sense to allocate money to space in newsprint when fewer and fewer people are going to see it. Without the advertising dollars, newspapers can't hit the margins needed to keep employees (front office, back office, circulation, reporters, editors and the copy desk) on the payroll. That's sad and short-sighted. And it's in part what's happening to the 131 soon-to-be unemployed Seattle Times' staffers.

Mis-Modeled. In the age of the Internet, citizen journalism and online aggregators, many people's concept of the "news" just ain't what it once was. A story from one of the wires isn't worth as much over morning coffee if you read it the night before on your laptop while sipping your nightcap. There have always been two great differentiators with the news -- speed and veracity. But in a world where the speed of the Internet makes the procedure of the "daily miracle" appear glacial, and when the veil of journalistic objectivity and accuracy have had more than their share of pummeling by high-profile cases, anything other than "traditional" or "mainstream" media is the new black. The old stuff? A vague, faded, grayish hue. Again, sad and unfortunate.

This Matters. I never like to hear about someone losing a job. And I really don't like to see good journalists and support staff being asked to walk because of corporate cutbacks. But, regrettably, none of this is surprising; the business end of journalism -- the accountants, executive editors and management -- haven't figured out how to balance the market with their accounting ledgers. Journalism suffers. And what ultimately matters, and what Americans should care about, is how the business will recalibrate and what effect that might have on the flow of information. Blogs are great. Citizen journalism has its purity. But, even for those who cry "bias" with regard to the mainstream media (and I'm among that crowd at times), newspapers and the mainstream media serve a function critical to democracy: Ideally leveraging reporting and writing talent to cover events, stories, people and places in a timely, reliable fashion with the goal (paraphrasing one of my professors at Missouri's journalism school) of reaching the closest verifiable approximation of the truth under deadline. Yes, reporters sometimes miss the mark. But it's much better than having no mark at all.

It's said that no medium ever fully replaces another. And although the hit business self-help book, "Who Moved My Cheese," keeps coming to mind, some sort of symbiotic coexistence instead of replacement will probably be the eventual case with the Fourth Estate. The mainstream media won't be replaced entirely by blogs, camera phone reports from citizens, and online news sources not connected to a "mainstream" source. And I'd say that's a very good thing for the Republic. It's nice to have an adult in the room.

Good journalists aren't made overnight and the more who are forced out (or never enter the business in the first place) will make it that much harder for the information pendulum to swing back to equilibrium. So let's hope that someone, somewhere is figuring this out. Who knows, maybe the new black will meet the faded, grayish hue halfway. Then we might end up with something useful and maybe even better -- something that hits the mark of TRVTH that the mainstream media says serves as its touchstone, and the market demand to support it.

April 6, 2008

Bromide of the Week

Today's editorial page of the Sunday Seattle Post-Intelligencer carries an op-ed by Ilan Goldenberg, policy director of a group called the National Security Network. It offers a new "Responsible Plan" for Iraq. Clearly this is a campaign document for aspiring Democratic candidates for the U. S. House of Representatives and I suppose it is being offered to a number of papers around the country where such aspirants are found.

Nothing wrong with that.

It is just that this "plan" is almost banal, a bottle of bromides. Read it for yourself if you're having trouble getting to sleep tonight.

The "Plan" thus illustrates the increasing hollowness of real debate over Iraq. Most informed people have come to understand that we cannot and should not leave Iraq at this point, and I suspect that many realize that a free Iraqi government may actually prevail. Some expect the U.S. and our Coalition allies to win, some just expect to muddle through.

An aide to Sen. Obama is suggesting that U.S. troops will need to stay in Iraq until 2010. Obama himself seems to envisage a drawdown that is so slow--a division a month--that our troops will be there for several years, at least. So how is this at substantial variance--other than in the rhetoric--with the Bush Administration's aims or those of Sen. McCain, let alone of Sen. Clinton?

We seem reduced to feelings pure and simple now. The Republicans want to stabilize Iraq and then get out as soon as possible after that, starting next year, they hope. The Democrats REALLY want to get out as soon as possible, starting next year, they hope. Get it? They "really, really" want to. Cross their heart!

One guesses that the far left--the folks who want to remove the troops in the minimum time required to vacate the premises (about four months)-- is now so invested in the presidential race that they don't realize that they have been seduced and abandoned.

January 21, 2008

Talk Radio and the GOP Presidential Race

On the presidential races, my analyses have been tracking closely--no surprise--with those of Discovery Institute colleague and nationally prominent talk show host, Michael Medved. But this week, in his Townhall column, Michael has done a remarkable thing. He has taken on virtually all his conservative fellow hosts for weeks of trashing two of the Republican candidates, Mike Huckabee and John McCain.

I myself would hesitate to criticize such a powerful group, but I have to say that I, too, have been wondering how it is that the bulk of conservative airwave warriors have not yet seemed to stop the two candidates they targeted. Maybe it is because in a field of five or six candidates it is hard to damage one or two unless you have one that you openly advocate, and the talk folks don't have that one. They can't decide between Romney and Thompson, so assailing McCain and Huckabee doesn't really provide much help for either of the preferred alternatives. This could change. It may be that the talk jocks' power still may be demonstrated as Florida and then Tsunami Tuesday develop. (NOTE: Medved the Super Analyst himself will handicap the races in both parties at a Discovery Institute dinner in Seattle on the eve of the big February 5 rush of primaries and caucuses. See our homepage for details.)

Another reason the conservative talk shows have not been determinative is that few conservatives, even the talk show hosts, are positively excited about anyone, including Romney and Thompson. It is obvious that each of the candidates (in both parties) has serious flaws. Conversely, each of the candidates has virtues. And, by the way, each certainly deserves credit for marathon stamina in this elongated campaign. My own runs for office took a few months and seemed like an eternity. This year's presidential campaign literally is taking years. The runners must be exhausted already. Mainly the people having fun are the broadcast and cable TV media who are treating it all as what I call Politainment, politics consumed as a glossy, gossipy alternative to the Britney Spears story of the day.

Meanwhile, the voters probably should not be too critical of the combatants, despite negativity and carping, because we benefit in the end. After all, they give us choices. And, if they are not perfect choices, they could be worse.

And talk radio? Maybe it does better at refining choices than defining them, at fanning fires rather than starting them. Talk show hosts are quick to announce the end of the mainstream media's control of the agenda, but talk radio itself has not replaced the MSM, either. Neither has the internet. Nobody's in charge anymore.

Except, perhaps, the voters. That is, when we get a chance to vote.

December 4, 2007

Breathtaking: the Real Reaction to the Report on Iran

You would gather from much of the media today that the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program somehow shows either 1) a Bush failure to understand what is going on in Iran, or 2) Bush's desire to mislead the public heretofore about the seriousness of Iran's nuclear plans.

All of this is bizarre. It is getting to the point that you can't trust a news account unless you do your own reading and research.

The NIE was sent to Bush to provide him information. (It is contrary, by the way, to earlier NIE reports.) Then the Administration released it. The only thing remarkable about this process is that someone in the spook world with an axe to grind didn't leak the report ahead of time.

Anyhow, the White House late today published a list of reactions from other countries and multi-lateral organizations that is far more representative of reality. Here they are:

"What They're Saying..."

International Response To The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) On Iran

Spokesperson For British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: The report "confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons (and) shows that the sanctions program and international pressure were having an effect in that they seem to have abandoned the weaponisation element." "It also shows the intent is there and the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious issue." (Zahra Hosseinian, "France And UK Urge Pressure On Iran Despite U.S. Report," Reuters, 12/4/07; "Bush Says Iran A 'Danger' Despite Intelligence Report," Agence France-Presse, 12/4/07)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: "The NIE report confirmed 'the double approach chosen by the international community of incentives and measures from the United Nations Security Council was right,' German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement released Monday, Nov. 3." ("EU To Keep Up Pressure On Iran After US Report," Deutsche Welle [Germany], 12/4/07)

French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Pascale Andreani: "It appears that Iran is not respecting its international obligations. ... We must keep up the pressure on Iran ... we will continue to work on the introduction of restrictive measures in the framework of the United Nations." (Zahra Hosseinian, "Bush, Allies Urge Pressure On Iran Despite U.S. Report," Reuters, 12/4/07)

Russian President Vladimir Putin: "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday told Iran's top nuclear negotiator that the country's nuclear program should be transparent and remain under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 'We welcome the extension of your cooperation with the IAEA. We expect that your programs in the nuclear sphere will be open, transparent and be conducted under control of the authoritative international organization,' Putin said at the start of a meeting with Saeed Jalili at the presidential residence on Moscow's outskirts." (Vladimir Isachenkov, "Putin Tells Iran To Keep Nuclear Program Under IAEA Control," The Associated Press, 12/4/07)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "It is vital to pursue efforts to prevent Iran from developing a capability like this and we will continue doing so along with our friends the United States." (Zahra Hosseinian, "Bush Allies Urge Pressure On Iran Despite U.S. Report," Reuters, 12/4/07)

Spokesperson For EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, Cristina Gallach: "Solana's spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report 'proves that transparency about (Iran's) nuclear activities and its intentions are fundamental.'" ("EU To Keep Up Pressure On Iran After US Report," Deutsche Welle [Germany], 12/4/07)

November 24, 2007

Fog of War Befuddles Hollywood and The Chronicle

War is hell. At least it is for Hollywood and The San Francisco Chronicle. It was a another liberal assualt on good sense for The Chronicle to write a story about the commerical failure of the half dozen anti-Iraq War films that have come out this fall. The reporter writes that he can't understand it. After all, most of the films had famous stars and got good reviews! Moreover, several anti-war veterans he interviewed are likewise disappointed, if not aggrieved! The American public--save "San Francisco intellectuals", which surely must mean 90% of the population there--just seem to be so lackadaisical and unresponsive. Maybe the films should have been even more provocative.

Nowhere did the reporter wonder the opposite: how Hollywood might have done if it had produced war films that expressed support and understanding for the U.S. mission in Iraq and the way our troops are making progress under great difficulties.

The real mistake, however, was not the article--typical left win gibberish and self-delusion--but the provision of a way for readers to comment on line. They do comment, and they make all the right points: people may be tired of the war, but they are really tired of Hollywood thinking it has found the truth about the war and using its wiles to manipulate the rest of us; and why did the reporter only talk to anti-war veterans? If there is any room for embarrassment at The Chronicle newsroom, reading the 165 plus comments to their piece should fill it to overflowing.

Here's the link:

November 15, 2007

Michael Medved Joins Discovery Institute as Senior Fellow

Michael Medved, nationally syndicated talk radio host and bestselling author, has joined the Discovery Institute in the role of senior fellow. The position cements a longstanding friendship and recognizes a commonality of values and projects across a spectrum of issues.

"Michael Medved is an intellectual entrepreneur, a political and cultural polymath with great insights, judgment and wit. We are delighted to have this new relationship with him," said Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman.

The sixth largest talk radio audience in the country, 3.7 million listeners, hears Medved's daily three-hour radio program, The Michael Medved Show. Michael's show is carried on more than 200 stations across America. The author of several books, including Hollywood vs. America and a recent autobiography, Right Turns, the one-time "punk liberal activist" turned "lovable conservative curmudgeon" is currently at work on a book on The Ten Big Lies About America.

Chapman saluted Medved "as the national radio host--make that 'media host'--who is best able to understand science issues, including the current conflict over Darwinism and intelligent design. He's very smart, quick and resourceful. Yet he also is respectful of those he disagrees with."

"Over the years, I've greatly appreciated Discovery's scholarship and advocacy in many areas," Medved commented. "We may not agree on every issue, but I often have been struck by how much our worldviews overlap. It has been my pleasure to have Discovery fellows on my show as guests, including Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, and David Klinghoffer. Formalizing the relationship will, I'm sure, only deepen the feeling of collegiality I already have with my friends at Discovery. I look forward to working with Discovery on future projects."

Medved's first book, What Really Happened to the Class of '65?, provided one of the first skeptical reconsiderations of the 1960s counterculture. His tenth book, Right Turns, drew national attention in 2005, offering 35 "unconventional lessons" from Michael's dramatic political and religious evolution. The New York Times called Right Turns "A provocative memoir... Even many of his readers who hold to very different political and social views will concede, grudgingly, the quality of Medved's intellect."

Crown Forum will publish The Ten Big Lies About America, certain to be hugely controversial, in June 2008.

Long active in the Jewish community, Medved has served as president of an Orthodox congregation and co-founder of a Jewish Day School. Since 1996, Michael and his wife, Dr. Diane Medved

November 1, 2007

AP Mystified by Drop in Iraq Deaths

The Associated Press' Douglas Birch writes in today's papers--a bit after it was reported in many other places--that US deaths in Iraq were way down in October, and so were civilian deaths. But Birch apparently just can't figure out why that is so.

Is it because there are so few people left to kill, now that Sunni areas have been depopulated by Shia militia, and vice versa? Is it because so many people have fled the country?

In the AP version run in the Thursday Seattle Post-Intelligencer, at least, the one explanation not mentioned is that the decline in deaths might have something to do with the success of the U.S. military's Surge.

It reminds me of the stories about high prison incarceration numbers. They are high, one hears, even though the crime rate has gone down. It doesn't occur to reporters providing such coverage that crime might have declined precisely because so many criminals have been caught and incarcerated. And it may not occur to the AP (unless this was just an editor's error) that the reason deaths of US service personnel have declined might have something to do with growing success in combatting the terrorists.

Why avoid the obvious?

I'll Gladly Flak for this Film

I wrote last week about Bella and urged you to see it. (See below.)

Anyhow, people in large numbers did attend the opening weekend, though the number of screens on which the film appeared was limited (800 nationally). That means it has not opened yet in certain big cities such as Seattle, or smaller cities like Fort Wayne, say, or Boca Raton, not to mention small towns like Galesburg, Illinois. It will now, I guess, so see it. I don't want to give away the plot, but I will say that it says much worthwhile about America today, our heritage and the positive influence of the "new" hispanic culture. (It has nothing to do with illegal immigration, however!)

Here is what the people promoting the film just sent film supporters (note the link to the Ebert review):

Because of your help Bella broke records on opening weekend! Bella achieved:
-#1 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in our category in the world this year!
-#2 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in the world on Friday & Saturday
-#1 highest avg Box Office per screen of any film in the world on Sunday

Ebert's incredible thumbs up review.

Last week Tony Bennett spontaneously took the microphone from lead actor Eduardo Verastegui after the premiere at Tribeca and gave an impassioned speech thru his tears saying; "it is a perfect movie, an artistic masterpiece that every American must see". He said a lot more and you can see the video on You Tube. You can also see Eduardo's appearance on Fox and other interviews at

Warm, sweet and funny. -Roger Ebert,

Versategui is a natural on the big screen, a compelling presence. -Ruthe Stein,

SF Chronicle "A sweet, life-affirming picture" - Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

"A bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light" -Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Cynics need not apply, but I found "Bella" a real heart tugger." - Lou Lumenick, New York Post

An unforgettable experience! A celebration of family, food, music and life-affirming values -Michael Medved

Powerful and moving... a true inspiration. -CNN, Ana Maria Montero

"The warmest family drama I've seen in years" -Frank Lovece - Film Journal FOX NEWS

October 23, 2007

Bella is Beautiful: See this Movie

Take someone you love (or would like to love you) to see the opening of Bella this weekend. It will be on some 800 screens, which is a nice number, but to get it shown in out of the way places (like Seattle!) it needs a big first weekend success. So you'll be doing the rest of us, as well as yourself, a favor by going this Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

You won't be sorry. It is a gorgeous, surprising, life-affirming story that confounds the usual Hollywood tropes. It's hero, Eduardo Verastegui ("Veras-teg-wee") is a Mexican media heart-throb making his Hollywood debut. You're surely going to hear much more from him after this.

I saw the film a couple of months ago at a special screening and was stunned by its fine quality. So, apparently, was the Toronto Film Festival, where it won a surprising award last year. I won't give away the story, but let's just say that it is not the sort of cynical and downbeat fare that many mainstream reviewers like. Well, you can't trust them.

Trust me, instead. This could be an important film. It definitely is an enjoyable one.

Check it out here.

October 21, 2007

How to Interpret Polls on Iraq

Campaign polls are least reliable the farther one is from an election, because most people (as in the current presidential race) are not really paying attention yet.

Polls also are unreliable in the transition from one reality in the news to a new one. The improving U.S. performance in Iraq is not yet reflected in polls, such as this one from Gallup, because of the lag time between changes in complex situations. When the changes are adequately reported and then, even more, when a new reality filters fully into the public mind, poll results begin to reflect the change. The development of a new poll consensus on Iraq will emerge, but only after time--assuming, of course, that prospects in Iraq do continue to get brighter for the Coalition and anti-terrorist Iraqis.

Part of the difficulty is that polls are very good at providing answers to specific questions, but not so good at measuring intensity of feeling or--to the point here--whether an opinion is fixed or fluid. Before an opinion given to a pollster shifts, it first softens, and that softening is often hard for survey takers to catch.

In economics, likewise, public opinioin measured in polls suggest that in a period where the economy first starts to deteriorate, people appear to be slow to realize it. And, they seem slow to shift their understanding again the next time the economy improves. You see it especially on employment figures and inflation, matters where an opinion poll majority can sometimes conflict with hard data.

People usually take their time in changing their assessments.

October 16, 2007

The Silence of the Doves

Two of the best tools for interpreting the news:

1) Ask, what if the shoe were on the other foot? When you see an attack on some organization or person for a comment or opinion implicitly or explicitly regarded as "beyond the pale," ask yourself, would this story be played this way if the target was on the other side politically? Numerous examples could be cited, but that's for another day. I want to get on to the second helpful tool.

2) Ask yourself, what news is not getting a big play in the media, or is being under-reported? This always makes me think of the famous forensic shrewdness of Sherlock Holmes when he helped solve a murder case by noting the dog that did not bark in the night. The significance in that case--and in many instances of newsworthy importance--was what didn't happen. Very often, what doesn't get reported or emphasized in daily reporting is what history will judge most consequential.

When it became clear that the Berlin War was coming down and the end of the Communist empire was coming to an end, there was widespread surprise. Few had predicted that such a thing would happen in their lifetimes. (Two that did were Herman Kahn, founder of Hudson Institute, and Ronald Reagan.) The stories of Soviet collapse ultimately did make the news, of course, but hardly anyone bothered to show that the decades-old peace movement in Europe and the U.S., with its warnings of nuclear doom and recommendations of unilateral disarmament, had now been discredited and effectively decommissioned. If you thought that the only way to a peaceful future was to "converge" with the Soviets, as the Left had long argued, then a surprising capitulation by the USSR was not cause for dancing in the streets. It was cause for a kind of sullen and unreflective silence. But instead of investigating that defeat for the Left, most news organizations--themselves gulled for years by the peaceniks--simply ignored the topic.

My current prospect for relatively under-reported news is the apparent disintegration of the Al Qaeda campaign in Iraq and the world-wide improvement of the war against Islamist terroists.

The U.S.-led Coalition troops during the Surge have greatly diminished the effectiveness of Al Qaeda . Some Sunni insurgent groups have come over to the Coalition or are inert. Most importantly, the pro-Iranian Shia "Mahdi" militia is both fractured and increasingly unpopular among the Shiites themselves.

The story of opposition to the U.S. Coalition and to any non-terrorist government in Iraq has been a complex one and it is apparent that the Bush Administration didn't understand that complexity going in. Nonetheless, the situation on the ground seems to be improving for real. Even with more U.S. troops exposed to danger under the Surge, U.S. combat deaths are down by half over the past six months. So are civilian Iraqi deaths. Civic life and business are getting better.

This is really a big story. We know it largely through the Internet. You wouldn't know it from most MSM news coverage, but you can tell it from the way that the presidential candidates are reacting. Suddenly, the issue of immediate withdrawal is not discussed, but only the question of how and when to acknowledge victory and withdraw in stages. The under-reported but real story is partly responsible for the decline in the prospects of Senator Barack Obama, the viable candidate most invested in a pullout strategy. Perversely, it also may be hurting the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, since he has been seen to some extent as the most outspoken proponent of seeing the war through. Now that position is almost a consensus on the GOP side, making other issues that are less advantageous to him seem more important.

But the political impact is not the true significance of the War in Iraq, in any case. What may be happening is that America's often stumbling, but consistently firm pursuit of the war against Islamist terrorists is emerging as a possible success, if we will only persevere. It won't be fast or even complete. There will be setbacks. But if we can win in Iraq, even to the point that a non-terror regime that is not actively hostile to the U.S., prevails, it will be a victory globally. That has enormous and hopeful consequences for world security and economic, and even environmental, progress.

It was asserted by Osama Bin Laden only a few years ago that the United States lacks tenacity and, thus, our will can be broken. That has not been true under George W. Bush.

It is a big story, and thus far it is under-reported. It will just kill the MSM to give credit where it's due.

October 8, 2007

The Missing News from the War on Terrorists

There are many helpful sites on the Internet that can provide real news on the war against Islamofascist terrorism, including the war in Iraq, but I want to recommend this one now, The Long War Journal: It, in turn, will lead you to various sites that offer current reports from the many fronts of what is, yes, "The Long War".

Did you know about the successful meeting of 300 tribal leaders just held in Iraq? An earlier meeting that was disrupted by the terrorists managed to make the news, but mainly because of the attack, not because of the positive organizational commitments being made by the tribes.

Did you know about the capture of Iranian trained militia, especially in the detail given at this site?

Or the foreign fighters killed in the past two days in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Sadly, there often are few ways to find out this kind of thing from the mainstream media. They are too busy trying to convict the private contractors of Blackwater. That is because they hope that Blackwater might write what many in the media regard as the only valid script for Iraq: U.S. failure. There are many fine reporters covering facets of the war against terrorists, but the daily headlines seems to have concentrated on problems with the U.S., especially anything that could be worked up as a scandal. We are seen as the center of attention. The focus is rather chauvinistic, in its perverse way.

In contrast, can you rely on the accuracy of The Long War Journal? I don't don't know its provenance, but I do note that its accounts cite officials in government (ours and others) and the military as sources. Its scope is truly global.

So, friends, is the war. And this historic global war is not mainly about us--certainly not in Thailand or Indonesia or even Somalia. It is not about us when the terrorists' cells are uncovered in Europe. It is about fanatical Islamists out to undermine Muslim countries first, and then the West.

September 23, 2007

Timely Capitulation at The New York Times

A parade of cut-rate ads for politicos and causes--accompanied by all kinds of controversy--probably has been avoided now as The New York Times admits that it mishandled the "General Betray Us" ad by The impetus was a column by the Times' ombudsman; however, it could not have been entirely unwelcomed by management, which has found itself facing criticism for unfairly giving a more than 50 percent price reduction for the cuttting political ad, and also facing a likely demand from a string of candidates and others for comparable price breaks. Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was only the first in line to take advantage of the hole the paper shot in its own ad policies (and hats off to him for doing so at once).

So "The $64,000 Question" that I asked earlier has been answered. How cozy was The Times with in giving a special rate and a set date for the "General Betray Us" ad? The answer is...very. The timing concession was one indication. But another is the publisher's rueful statement that whatever mistakes were made, it is important to keep in mind the important goal of encouraging robust public speech. That seems like an attempt to offer at least a partial excuse for the decision to print the ad, even though it contradicted The Times' policy on price, timing and ad hominem content and put competitive points of view at a disadvantage.

So one cannot now assume, after all, that the ad's acceptance and placement was just an accident. Contrary to what I was prepared to grant, one probably can assume bias was involved. The very fact that The Times didn't acknowledge any error for days gives credence to that conclusion, and so now do Mr. Zulzberger's comments.

The paper should be embarrassed and should apologize. (What a thought for a newspaper that routinely demands apologies from others!)

Meanwhile, what The Times did importantly accomplish for itself was the refreshment of a rationale for keeping further political ads at reduced rates out of the paper.

September 14, 2007

$64,000 Question and The New York Times

The New York Times ran a reduced price ad ($64,575) for the Giuliani campaign today attacking a similar ad Monday by that called General Petraeus "General Betray Us". Guiliani's campaign also chastised Sen. Hilary Clinton for declining to distance herself from the ad. The price of both ads was far below the standard full-page price most often quoted for the Times ($181,000).

Rather late in the discussion, the Times now says that it merely gave a rate it gives other non-profits if they are willing to let the Times decide what day (within a week's schedule) an ad will appear. That makes sense as a negotiating practice, actually.

However, somehow the MoveOn ad appeared on the very day that General Petraeus testified before Congress and knew ahead of time that it was running (it told people so). This suggests a certain amount of cooperation that, in fact, negated the whole idea that the "cheap" price was due to scheduling uncertainty.

This raises the question of how cozy the Times was with and whether the group did, in practice, get special consideration.

However, suspicion about the ads should probably be set aside at this point. Real life often fails to support a suspicious interpretation of events. (Oh, that Times reporters themselves had that attitude more often.) One thing is clear, though, we now know how much a Times full page ad really costs! It is fungible. As I wrote below, in coming months you probably will see a whole parade of candidates and groups taking advantage of the suddenly visible "special" New York Times rate.

September 13, 2007

New York Times Embarrassed Again

You probably are aware of the mini-scandal over discovery that the New York Times ran an ad by that not only described Gen. Petraeus as "General Betray Us", but also managed to finagle a cut-rate on its ad space purchase from the Times. It may be illegal, and it certainly raises questions about the integrity of the Times.

Hand it to Ruddy Giuliani. He not only denounced the ad, but demanded to run one of his own in the Times at the same price. Surely, one thought, the Times will explain that there was some perfectly understandable reason why got such a low price ($65,000). But, no, it now appears that they are going to sell an ad to Ruddy for the same amount.

How embarrassing. It would appear that the Times really does let editorial policy dictate how other departments of the paper behave. One might alert the Ombudsman (reader rep), if one thought that column might do anything.

What will happen, I submit, is that the Times will hold an "investigation," decide they had made a mistake--and THEN let any and all presidential candidates rent their page for at least one time at $65 K.

Well down in the Times' blog on politics today you can find most of the story.

August 27, 2007

How to Read the News Without Raising Your Blood Pressure

Rich Karlgaard, the dapper and insightful publisher of Forbes (under Steve Forbes), has an amusing column on the way to read business news ("Only the Bad News is Fit to Print").

Sadly, even business news is afflicted with a bias toward the negative and a tendency to report opinion as fact.

Obviously, we can apply the same device to examine, say, The New York Times.

This blog is subtitled, "All the Views that Fit." It's a pun, of course, but also has the merit of candor.

August 22, 2007

Hollywood Gets Message About Suppression of Intelligent Design

A few days ago I sat in one of the rooms where the producers of a new film, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," were screening a trailer and passing the word to interested individuals and groups. It's the same pre-release publicity approach used recently for other Hollywood offerings, including documentaries. My emotion was almost as much one of relief as excitement. It is going to be a terrific film treatment of the whole controversy, and far fairer than any we have encountered.

For two years we have known that the Hollywood actor/critic/comedian/writer Ben Stein was making a film with a company called Premise Media that would inspect the controversy over Darwinian theory and intelligent design. Let's just say that some people at Discovery Institute were eager to cooperate, others more cautious. We have been burned so often by sweet-talking film-makers and television people who wanted to hear about "the science" and to hear our "side" of the controversy, only to be appalled by the one-sided, selectively edited final products that resulted.

Continue reading "Hollywood Gets Message About Suppression of Intelligent Design" »

August 8, 2007

Big News From Iraq Often Only Appears Small

The stories I watch most closely from Iraq now are the ones that tend to get buried in the newspapers, or ignored altogether.

The New York Times reports online today that U. S. troops killed 32 Iraqis in attacks in the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

As you examine it, the American military reports that all or nearly all those killed were Shia terrorists, so this story Is not not bad news about deaths in Iraq, per se, but good news about terrorists terminated in combat. Other than having such terrorists surrender, I don't know how the news could be better. These are the folks we believe are getting material aid from Iran.

(To be fair, I don't know how prominently the N. Y. Times will run this story in the print edition.)

Meanwhile, Stratfor's subscription-only intelligence briefing reports that the Saudis are preparing to reopen their embassy in Baghdad. This is will help restore confidence in Iraq's future and provide closer means of cooperation in shutting down Al Qaida operatives from Saudi Arabia that have been coming in through Syria.

The U.S., we also learn, is talking with Syria and other of Iraq's neighbors, as well as the Saudis and Iranians. The Iraqis are doing so, too, of course. Of significance, again according to Stratfor, are Iraqi agreements with Turkey to cooperate in curbing the activities of the PKK Kurdish terrorists that roam over the international border and attack Turkish soldiers, police and even civilians. They are not supported by the Iraqis (or the other Kurds), but their mere existence within the Kurdish region of Iraq has stirred the passions of the Turkish military, among others. The Erdogan government in Turkey, backed by the U.S., is eager to stop the PKK provocations.

All of these diplomatic developments are positive accompaniments for the apparently improving military situation.

August 7, 2007

Who Picks Reviewers at the N.Y. Times?

I just threw up my hands when I saw that the New York Times Review of Books had assigned Richard Dawkins to review Michael Behe's excellent new book, The Edge of Evolution. A more temperate soul, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things takes apart the Times's decision with greater care.

The tendentious Dawkins does not answer Behe, but merely vilifies him. This seems to be the standard Darwinist reply to scientific critics of their One True Faith. The mild surprise is not Dawkins, therefore, but the Times' rabid partisanship in asking him to review the book in the first place.

The Times is having its problems, as are most newspapers. As a lover of print media, I hate to see it. As someone who looks for objective news and balanced commentary, however, I observe that they are reaping what they sow. One reason that sensationalist radio and TV gain market is that papers like the Times are becoming indistinguishable from them in the quality of their product. And radio and TV demand less attention.

July 30, 2007

Tide Turns in Iraq; Even NY Times Notices

I advised a friend over lunch last week that his "weariness" with the war in Iraq is unwarranted. If the United States stays with it, we will win. The problem is the way in which our domestic morale has been undermined by incomplete reporting. I saw it in relation to the elections of 2004 when I visited Baghdad. The Iraqis were upbeat about voting, the media cynical, not bothering, apparently, to find out from the people whether they cared about voting. Millions did, of course.

The media did warn about a "civil war" between the Sunnis and the Shia, and that was a valid concern. But the analysis of causes was not adequate. Behind the strife were two forces trying to force conflict: Al Qaeda (and former Baathists) and Al Sadr's Shia militia. Each provoked the others.

Now one sees that the average Iraqi is quite fed up with both extremes and recognizes that the United States does not want to hang around as an occupier--that the greater danger, in fact, is that we will leave too soon--and that Iraq cannot trust the Muslim extremists.

Now we are finally beginning to get some media reports that dare to diverge from the negative line laid down so long. John Burns, NY Times bureau chief in Baghdad, has long been giving an opinion that contrasts sharply with the snide sarcasm and defeatism of his employer's editorials. Now comes an op-ed (and congratulations to the Times for running it) by two think tank observers from the liberal Brookings Institution.

Someone once pointed out to me a sad condition of conservatism; namely, that writers at the National Review didn't used to believe something unless they saw it in the NY Times, even though they disliked the Times. (I hope that day is past, but sometimes I wonder.) But perhaps in a similar vein, liberals also won't believe good news about long term prospects in Iraq until they see it in the Times. Is that possibly happening now?

July 19, 2007

More News from Iraq

It is getting tiresome to find out that major successes in Iraq simply are ignored in the mainstream media. This time Max Boot, a defense analyst, author and former Wall Street Journal editor provides the useful source for news directly from the front. The way he gets it is to ask American personnel on the scene to tell him what is going on. What a concept! Quick, pick up the phone and call the Medill School of Journalism.

We do know from the MSM that once-tormented Anbar Province has become much less dangerous since the Surge and the decision of Sunni tribes to distance themselves from--and then, turn on--al Qaeda. Here, from Colonel John Charlton in Ramadi, via Max Boot's Contentions blog at Commentary magazine's site, is a report on a major al Qaeda attack that recently was thwarted, with most of the 50 attackers killed or captured.

July 11, 2007

Talk Shows Defended

My article on the so-called Fairness Doctrine ran today in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It is a credit to the P.I., and also the Seattle Times, that they accept op-eds from conservatives. Many papers effectively do not. Or they accept those that fit their own ideology (a conservative writing an article denouncing the war in Iraq, for example) or are irrelevant to the biting controversies of the time. My favorite was a Bill Buckley piece on the joys of sailing that the New York Times ran a few years ago. A Buckley piece skewering a favorite Times sacred cow; that would be a different matter.

When I have run articles in the past that stirred controversy, a number of the letters to the editor were based on personal attack: Why do you allow such a person (with such a view) to be published in your paper? But I don't take it personally. Increasingly, censorship is the liberal grass roots (and "net-roots") response to conservative analysis and critique. In other words, liberal editors will get in trouble with readers for running conservative articles and never will get in trouble for failing to run them.

The problem is particularly acute now on issues that touch on science and technology. The media are overwhelmingly populated by liberals, of course, but in the past that meant that they agreed with the old-liberal idea of a marketplace of ideas. The attacks on conservatives by the kind of people that populate the left today always start by saying that, of course they support free speech, academic freedom, etc. (Oh, but, of course!) "HOWEVER," there must be an exception in the case of.....fill in the blank with whatever issue is under debate. In science, the trope is that that "science has spoken" on some hot topic (Darwinian evolution, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, the extent of man's role in global warming, etc.) and therefore contrary views should receive no more attention than one would give (and this is always the example), say, Holocaust denial.

You wouldn't want to be equated with Holocaust denial, would you? Good, so don't publish an article that splits from the liberal herd on embryonic stem cells, or whatever. This is pure demagogy, but it apparently goes down easily at editorial departments where the editors already agree with the the policy perspective of the complainant.

That is why the Washington Post--that has sensible things to say about the war in Iraq, for example--will not publish an article defending intelligent design or criticizing Darwinian evolution, even though the subject has attracted huge audiences nationally and has even come up in presidential debates. The Atlanta Constitution won't run any anti-Darwin op-ed, even "balanced" with a pro-Darwin article, as a matter of policy.

But it is not just science-related issues. For supporters of the war in Iraq, the window of response is slowly closing. Even some conservative columnists feel the squeeze. Their pro-Iraq articles somehow don't get published in as many of their syndicated papers as others do, so why keep writing them? Academic freedom articles are newsworthy only when the assailed professor holds views with which the editors are sympathetic, regardless of topic.

Which brings me back to my article on the Fairness Doctrine in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Yes, talk radio has some real goons in it; some are embarrassing, regardless of your point of view. And yes, talk radio doesn't lend itself easily to discursive analysis. Speak over 30 seconds on a talk show and the "Snooze" button sounds and the host interrupts. You can understand why, because talk radio is designed to be part entertainment and all action. It was, after all, a means to get away from the old format of "talking heads" that typically induced terrible ratings. Small audience, low ratings, few advertisers, no program. That's the way it is, and that probably is the way it should be. Within that understanding, commercial talk radio and tv have been a huge boon to public participation in "public" debate. That is probably why liberal public radio has tried to imitate it.

To be clear, for someone like me who loves newspapers and magazines, even when I hate them, talk radio (even when I love it!) is not a sufficient substitute for long interesting articles in major dailies and weeklies.

But it is "A" substitute ,and some of its practitioners are gutsy when other media, including supposedly conservative newspapers and magazines, are cowardly. And it gets results. It is needed. It is one of the few major safety valves conservative opinion has left in America. The proposition that the left should not tolerate it appears to me to border on the totalitarian in motive (witting or not) and the cheapest politics in practice.

In Case You Missed It: Bruce Chapman in the Seattle PI

Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman has a column in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the Fairness Doctrine:

Read it below the fold!

Continue reading "In Case You Missed It: Bruce Chapman in the Seattle PI" »

July 7, 2007

Will Heads Roll at Associated Press?

Wouldn't you think an atrocity in which little children's heads were cut off by al Qaeda would merit coverage by American news media? Especially if the reporters had been told about it? Especially if a different atrocity that was supposed to show sectarian conflict was reported, only to be proved a fabrication?

A public investigation surely seems warranted. At some point the American people have to ask more probing questions about the quality of news they are getting and what the sources are that the US media are employing--figuratively and literally. And if the news executives back in the States have integrity they will want to fire people who are not doing their jobs properly.

May 3, 2007

Could the MSM Be Wrong About Turkey, Too?

The besetting temptation of American media on foreign policy is to serve up over-simplified accounts of overseas developments and to follow the conventional script that already is in the reader's or viewer's mind. (Foreign media do it to us, too. One such trope is that America is such a violent, gun-crazed society that one dare not walk down most city streets at night. Every story of a killing in the U.S. supposedly proves this point.) The more I have traveled around the world, and having served abroad, the more I regret this tendency to mislead by wrong-headed generalities. I see it now in Iraq, in Russia and Mexico. The recent developments in Turkey suggest that the same cliched, un-nuanced coverage often obtains there, too. As an excellent corrective, read this fine article from the Turkish Daily Times by our firend, Mustafa Akyol. Oddly, Christians who are badly discriminated against in Turkey (they cannot even build a church or operate a seminary) might do better with a nominally Islamic government than a nominally "secular" regime that oppresses all religious groups. In any case, the political story in Turkey is not as easily understood as many news accounts suggest.

April 16, 2007

N.Y. Times Bureau Chief versus N.Y. Times Editorial Page?

Am I the only one to think that the estimable New York Times Baghdad Bureau chief, John F. Burns, may hold opinions about the Iraq War that are at variance with the editorial policies of his employer? I have suspected so for some time. Burns' stories have a texture of close familiarity that are lacking in the ideological emissions from Times Square. Now the Sunday online Times carries a video of an interview that Burns gave the Canadian Broadcast Channel on "The Battle for Baghdad," and it says several remarkable things.

Click here to watch all three short installments of the video series, "Battle for Baghdad".

Among them, Burns suggests that, yes indeed, there is--and apparently was--a tactical alliance between Saddam's Baathists and al Qaeda and that, further, some two billion dollars of Baathist funds help fund al Qaeda even now.

In the course of three short installments, the interview also indicates that Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, want the American troops to stay on to help stabilize the country. This is the "only way" that stability can be achieved in Iraq, Burns says. The alternative is a civil war "that will bring in the neighbors," including not only Iran, but also Saudi Arabia and even Turkey, destabilizing the whole Middle East. If Iraq has a full blown civil war, King Abdullah in Jordan may fall, and if he does, Israel will be in greater danger.

When it comes to the Surge, then, there is "no choice but to try and make it work." Burns obviously is critical of much of the war and the way it has been waged, but he still comes to the conclusion that the U.S. should not give up.

Such counsel, ladies and gentlemen, is wise, but it is not the wisdom of the editorial page of the New York Times. It is also not the thrust of reporting by the MSM or the political posture of the Democrats in Washington.

April 3, 2007

Wicked Wikipedia

Wikipedia logoIt sounds like such a nice idea and it really does appear useful at first, but Wikipedia turns out to have a fatal flaw: While you can edit material on its listings, malicious persons can change it at their leisure. Worse, some editor you can't find is able to sabotage even the best efforts to make corrections.

That has happened to Discovery Institute thanks to an editor who calls himself "FeloniousMonk" (get it? it's a pun on the great jazzman Theloniuus Monk). The pen name is shared by a number of people on the Internet, so this one clearly is in hiding. But he doesn't shirk from making sure that a factually untruthful picture of Discovery Institute is posted on Wikipedia, no matter how we try to correct it.

But we are not the only ones complaining. I notice most recently that the scientist Douglas Hofstadter, author of "Godel, Escher, Bach," among other things, has this exchange with an interviewer (Deborah Solomon) in the Sunday New York Times Magazine:

(Q) "Your entry in Wikipedia says that your work has inspired many students to begin careers in computing and artificial intelligence."
(A) "I have no interest in artificial intelligence. The entry is filled with inaccuracies, and it kind of depresses me."
(Q) "So, fix it."
(A) "The next day someone will fix it back."

It would appear that Douglas Hofstadter has a Felonious Monk assigned to him, as we do.

Moral: you can't trust anything on Wikipedia. Felonies against the truth don't get prosecuted there.

This Just In: A Rasmussen poll shows that 25% of visitors found errors on Wikipedia. Imagine how high the number would be if they polled people mentioned in Wikipedia items. Sinbad (the entertainer) was amused recently to read on Wikipedia that he was dead!

March 13, 2007

Inside the Opinion Balloon

It is hard for people who live in an opinion balloon to see that they do. All they see is what's inside the balloon. The current case is the relentless, daily media and political assault on American prosecution of the war in Iraq, and, really, all parts of the war on terrorists. The innuendo, the mood, the leitmotif of every single day's newspaper and broadcast is that America is in a hopeless war in which our very involvement is both imprudent and immoral, and that Americans' rights (thanks to the Patriot Act, etc.) are being undermined, as are the human rights of accused terrorists. There is no satisfaction in these quarters when criminal terrorists are captured, tried and convicted. Those are small stories and almost insignificant. The same goes for U.S. achievements in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. The major success in Somalia has been nearly ignored.

And there is no alternative scenario. Once we stop going after terrorists, they, presumably will just go away.

One of the oddities is that when American troops kill terrorists the new stories sometimes only refer to them as "Iraqis", or even "civilians", or maybe "suspected terrorists." As mentioned before in this space, days when there is no news of American deaths in Baghdad should be noteworthy; but they are ignored.

Ours is a civilization increasingly manipulated by people on the cultural left who disapprove of it profoundly. They have support in the media, academia, the foundations, the courts and even the bureaucracy. But they are all living in a balloon, a kind of malign Truman Show. They are not willing to confront the real challenge--well-funded and varied forms of Islamist extremism--so they turn on their own government and society, a target they can't miss. Their government and fellow Americans don't fight back the way the real enemy does. So, if you lack the resolve and courage to criticize the true foe, criticize the people who do fight them. It's like a scene where neighbors attack the firefighters trying to put out a house fire, or the occasional incidence of swimmers heedlessly grabbing hold of a lifeguard who is trying to rescue people in the water. Odd, perverse, but it does happen.

Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, alluded to this perversity in a speech just made to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (brought to my attention by Peter Wehner in the White House). Contrary to his recent press treatment, Sen. Lieberman has long been a staunch Democrat, and a real partisan when he ran for Vice President with Al Gore. But we are at war. He knows it. He is not confused about the difference between the fireman and the fire.

"There is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism. There is something profoundly wrong when there is so much distrust of our intelligence community that some Americans doubt the plain and ominous facts about the threat to us posed by Iran. And there is something profoundly wrong when, in the face of attacks by radical Islam, we think we can find safety and stability by pulling back, by talking to and accommodating our enemies, and abandoning our friends and allies. Some of this wrong-headed thinking about the world is happening because we're in a political climate where, for many people, when George Bush says "yes," their reflex reaction is to say "no." That is unacceptable."

January 30, 2007

The Humorless Media; It isn't a Funny Problem

When Hillary Clinton made a funny eye gesture and repeated a question from someone in an Iowa audience this weekend, the media jumped all over it, and her. She later complained, ""You guys keep telling me, 'Lighten up, be funny,'" yet when she does, they attack her. (Howard Kurtz' account in the Washington Post is here.) She is absolutely right about that. The media can't allow politicians to kid, to tease, and to speak with spontaneity. All jokes must be rehearsed and examined for problems by advisors, before they can be tried out. Reporters will not allow any little mistake or secondary meaning.

These are the same reporters who complain that celebrity politicos like Sen. Clinton don't make themselves available to the media except in set-piece conversations where they are very much on their guard--while pretending (as they must) to be at ease. As the old Hollywood adage about acting goes, "Just be natural. When you can fake that, you're a pro."

Already John McCain, who made his reputation with the media by his informality and accessibility back in the 2000 presidential primaries, is finding that he has to watch himself more these days. Reporters loved his maverick role then; he was the in-house Republican critic. Now he is backing President Bush on Iraq (most of the time), so they don't like him any more and will be looking for opportunities to find a verbal misstep, any little quip that can be twisted or taken out of context. You, the reader, can watch for it; it will come. If some trigger-happy interest group's leader can be found to denounce him and claim the joke "wasn't funny" and was in fact an "insult" to somebody somewhere, then the media have a new "gotcha!" trophy. The off-hand quip will be paraded as a supposed insight into the true character of the man, etc., etc.

The reason we cannot allow politicians to let their hair down and be amusing in front of reporters is the same reason that we have packaged discussion on serious issues, instead of sincere rumination. Politicians know that whatever they say can be subjected to invidious interpretation by rivals and by the accommodating media. Some marginal observation suddenly becomes tomorrow's headline. Again, the false assumption of the news is that the subject on the politician's mind is not the important one. It isn't even his true view. Rather some slip of the tongue--or something that can be construed as a slip--reveals his real purpose.

This is nonsense. Ask yourself whether you could be fairly judged by your off-hand quips, comments or thoughts.

Ronald Reagan was an amusing raconteur and his stories usually had a bite. But by the time he was running for president for real in 1980 his managers had to keep him away from informal situations. The same with George W. Bush. Ditto former Vice President Mondale--a wit much appreciated in his Senate years--and even former V.P. Al Gore, who in private is not at all the stuffed shirt of his political image. Hillary of course, has been totally swathed in a kind of publicity burkha ever since she was First Lady.

It isn't just the candidates and office holders that are given an inappropriate examination that usually misses the truths in plain sight in favor of the supposed illumination provided by a gaffe or side-comment. In the realm of serious ideas, we are not learning real news from the media much of the time, but instead seem to be following a script developed by editors and mouthed by anchormen and columnists. For several years, the script has been that the war on terror is really about whether the US was right to go into Iraq and whether our presence there is not perhaps the cause of terrorists' activities. This script is spelled out as the likely explanation in a number of dispatches that focus on Iraqis' weirdness (message: we should not be there) and the myriad problems in the war (there were no problems in the American Revolution, the Civil War or World War II, of course). We learn at length about the failure of our friends, the Israelis, to live up to the highest possible standards of civilized warfare (while their opponents are treated merely as a force of nature). Worst, there is very little news about the development of terrorists in places where no one could possibly blame the US (e.g., Bangladesh, as Yehudit Barsky reports here today). We don't learn about such stories because they seem to dispute the script that the US is not just trying to stop the advance of terrorism, but is somehow, as a result, the cause of it. To the media, the US is guilty of thinking too highly of its goals. But to the media, if something goes on that doesn't directly involve the US (much African news, for another example), then it isn't even important! Who's the real "ethno-centrist"?

There are plenty of stories about the global nature of the terror threat waiting to be written. Plenty of people in the know would talk with a reporter whom they didn't suspect of trying to expose the official for some misconduct (think Libby indictment). I believe that such stories are downplayed because they would tend to validate a very different script than that favored by the cynical media.

In short, studied humorlessness and cynicism are part of a mindset that sees the media's main job as policing the political class, and doing so as adversaries. Finding fault with elected officials especially is more significant a purpose than letting the public know what those officials actually think and what actually is facing America.

The above is a generalization. There are exceptions. Certain politicians not only are allowed to be informal, they are lionized (as Sen. McCain was in 2000 and Sen. Obama is today). Of course, that is precisely because they fit the media script of the moment. There are certain exceptional and serious reporters, too, who try to cover the real news. Since, as a result, they are badgered and second-guessed by others in their profession and rarely get the professional awards and recognition, they deserve especial gratitude from the public.

So, like I said, I am making a generalization that I think has validity. Please, Mr. Reporter, please don't jump on something I just wrote and distort it. Please. Please!

December 6, 2006

Commentary Magazine's Role in Changing Political Culture

Discovery Institute fights against the conceit that only a secularized culture can have a legitimate public life. Indeed, we would argue that people of serious religious perspectives not only have a full, long-recognized right to contribute to the leadership of political culture (broadly defined), but also that they often provide intellectual insights beyond the reach of the culturally deracinated secularist. In consequence of this stand we find ourselves described by foes on the Darwinist evolution debate as a "Christian" or "religious" think tank. That is really an ignorant, philistine description, though one that always amuses those Discovery fellows who are Jewish or non-religious.

We do weigh many issues in the scales of ethics that have been employed for centuries in the Judeo-Christian world. We do so without apology. The standards are sound even without reference to religion. In staking out this ground, we are constantly intrigued by a number of brilliantly edited magazines that look at politics and culture through a religious lens. The wonderful thing about such magazines as Touchstone, First Things, Crisis, World, Christianity Today and Commentary is that within their respective circles of writers, one actually finds more diversity of religious backgrounds--and more true tolerance--than, say, at The Nation or The New York Times magazine, and more relevance to lasting consequences of public policy than one encounters at certain increasingly rudderless conservative journals.

Commentary is an example that stands out in this group of magazines because its Jewishness is ethnic as much as religious, and because it has an utterly unique history and record of achievements. (One of our own senior fellows, David Berlinski, has been responsible for some of those achievements.) A new account of Commentary's history by Nathan Abrams obviously doesn't do the subject justice, if Benjamin Balint is to be believed. And my own familiarity with the magazine over the decades suggests that Balint is to be believed, indeed. His review of Abrams' book, running in the new issue of The Weekly Standard, has real authority.

Balint explicitly asserts that "Commentary showed that there is no contradiction between ethnic particularities and participation in the larger culture," and that the path to full participation need not fall into the trap of cultural relativism or "multiculturalism". Abrams apparently doesn't come close to grasping that point.

Overall, Balint's fine review suggests that the full story of one of America's most under-recognized cultural resources--Commentary magazine--has still to be written.

November 5, 2006

"Vanity, Vanity": Neo-Cons Learn How Far You Can Trust Mainstream Media

What they found out is, not very far. I had to learn this lesson myself, I regret, as I've dealt with the evolution issue in the past couple of years. When the MSM have an agenda, you either agree to validate it or you stay away from them. They are not going to let you represent your own views responsibly.

Unfortunately, some foreign policy neo-conservatives who probably think themselves sophisticates just got taken in by Vanity Fair in a pre-election hit piece on the Iraq War. As soon as I heard about it on NPR Saturday (where it was presented with breathless urgency, of course) I figured out that the neo-cons in question (Richard Perle, Ken Adelman and David Frum, among others) had been bamboozled into doing interviews on the war with the the understanding (now betrayed) that the Vanity Fair issue with the resulting article wouldn't come out until January. In monthly magazine scheduling, that normally means issues with the "January" article would not hit newsstands and mailboxes until early December. But this is early November, isn't it?

Why would the magazine do a promotional story a full month ahead of time? Well, because it was a way to influence the election and get the magazine's name some major publicity, that's why. It really is funny, in a sad way, that men as well-schooled in politics and media as Perle and Frum were taken in by bogus promises made to them by the magazine. But, the magazine editors probably are saying (tongue in cheek): We only said the January issue wouldn't be out until December, we didn't say we wouldn't publicize it before then! Ha, ha, ha! Gotcha!

The neo-cons should have anticipated as much. Now their reported criticisms of Iraq war tactics are not being treated as constructive, but as crass political desertion that can be used to defeat candidates they themselves probably favor in Tuesday's election. They are now protesting in National Review Online that they not only were misrepresented, but also taken out of context by the Vanity Fair leak. And they seem to have a case. But, again, they should have thought about this ahead of time. Vanity Fair HATES conservatives and has no scruples at all about abusing the trust of such people. Why should the interviewees have expected otherwise?

I do sympathize with the neo-cons who inadvertently lent themselves to this bit of election campaign trickery. They thought they were contributing to a deliberative review of Iraq policy that is probably not only desirable but inevitable before the new Congress takes office--regardless of how the election comes out. The trouble is, the review needs to be conducted with clear eyes, and not in the political fog of political war that exists up to the closure of the polls.

America cannot abandon Iraq any more than it can abandon the war on terror as a whole. Of course people feel tired of it all. The terrorists may even feel tired, some of them. But reality is not about feelings.

Politics sometimes is about feelings, however. And the media are almost entirely about feelings these days.

There has been some amazing political journalistic chicanery in election coverage and some truly inspired political public relations activities on the left. The conservatives in general are not up to the game.

I close with John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress (1678):

"When they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. At this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures....lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not."

What were the nice neo-con gentlemen doing in a place like that, anyhow?

October 25, 2006

Welcome to Discovery Blog!

The work of Discovery Institute and its fellows is varied, and so are the blogs that report on aspects of it--but not diverse enough to cover many of the exciting subjects encompassed in our mission to "make a positive vision of the future practical."

You get foreign policy and defense news from John Wohlstetter's Letter from the Capitol (, technology and democracy news and commentary on Disco-Tech (, media critique about evolution on, intelligent design commentary on, bioethics coverage on Second Hand Smoke (, and Russian and Eastern Europe reporting from the Real Russia Project at will cover the rest, including the views of institute officers and fellows on transportation, regionalism, economics, politics, current cultural developments, and developments of the institute itself. The writer, as is customary, is the only one responsible for the blogs written, of course.

I personally am delighted at this development because it provides an outlet for my own opinions, which extend to subjects not always embraced by DI projects. I also will be able to share news promptly about the institute, its people and events that otherwise might have to wait for the printed publication, Discovery Views. We can't manage a thread for comments, but you all somehow find ways to reach us about the other blogs, and I'm sure the same will be true here.

Thanks, meanwhile, for noticing.

Bruce Chapman, President, Discovery Institute

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