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Monday, August 29, 2005

Monday Night Football pre-season St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions

4th Quarter 3:23 remaining. STL 37 Det 6

How humiliating.

52 seconds remaining Rams 37 Lions 13.

That's not much better.

Bad Eagle on Searching Bags, Subway Security and Beyond

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin from Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

I was not quite certain how to approach that line. I have been heistant to embrace it in any way dogmatically because in recent history it has been used by right-wingers and (ironically) uber-leftists in opposition to various logical and reasonable policies set forth in the American War on Terror. My brother thought Franklin's statement was reasonable so I continued thinking about it. To a large extent it is true. Taking the approach that Toqueville would make, even, one sees how liberty provides safety and safety largely opens the door to liberty. They are tried together. Taking away certain liberties removes one's own power regarding his safety and places it in the hands of another, an entity which may be less principled yet certainly arbitrary as to the future of one's safety and liberty. Essentially keeping himself safe as such he is free, although total liberty is not essentially safe. There are, of course, lines between total liberty and "essential liberty" but there are things that are inalienable.

Dr. David Yeagley points out that essential liberties are being robbed of Americans in the case of the increased security measures for the New York City subways (instituted in response to the recent London bombings, and I assume other acts of terrorism) and that while all of this being regarded as "a little inconvenience" it is in reality "a strange preference for idealism over practical necessity." Now consider this
American leaders are selling the idea of national safety as more important that individual freedom. Why? because national safety is not being preserved by the most logical means--deporting the enemy from our shores. Instead, American leaders are pleased to inconvenience the wrong people--Americans!

Oh, but everyone is an American now. Just watch the multicultural ads on TV. "I'm an American!" says this immigrant, that ethnicity, this foreigner, that race. "Were' all American." Why, everyone's bags will be searched, not just Arab Muslims. How comforting. How dignified. How transcendent of all offense.

The price we're paying? We're all less free Americans, and therefore, less American.
We're poking and prodding and investigating any American beyond reason just to avoid hurting the feelings of those reasonably suspected. In fact we invade the spaces of free and contextually innocent American citizens rather than simply removing what just be malovelent people who are nothing more than American residents. I have nothing against protecting the innocent and am certain for weeding the guilty from the innocent. Dr. Yeagely makes the argument that deporting segments of our population (and I assume that he is not referring to actual Americans) is preferable to diluting our universal freedoms. We take away the freedoms of some in specific to protect those of all.

The issue is about focus. It's preferable to deport outsiders than to take a chance for the sake of mercy. Dr. Yeagley also supposes that "there's no point in capturing Bin Laden." He believes that it was the same for Saddam Hussein. "The pursuit of the perpetrators ends in nothing. We've demonstrated that since the beginning." Pursuing the villains that are currently dangerous is a valid tactic. Removing them from within our borders and shoring up our own border security works. Going back into the past is merely a point of revenge, and I think a message is better sent in the destruction of many enemies with their deadly potential rather than trying to make up for a mistake late in the game.

Interestingly we have gone a long way towards sacrificing our own needs just to not appear racist.

Template Update

Since Eric Spratling long ago graduated, Arizona State University killed his official Web Devil weblog. I preserve the URL but remove the link from the Roll.

One also observes that towards the end of the G-Philes' collective web manifestation Mister Spratling provided the bulk of the posts. He provided the last weblog post and in fact it was a dead blog after August 27th, 2003, standing prone for awhile after he left civilian life. Now it has been removed from the space by the weblog's ultimate owner(s), Farris and Justin.
Administrative Contact:
Two Nagilas, Inc.
Goldstein, Farris
3500 Cromwell St
Plano, TX 75075-6211
US
469-867-7152
farrisgoldstein@hotmail.com

Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
Justin Rush
Farris Goldstein
901 Lakeside Cir Apt 9305
Lewisville, TX 75057-5065
US
972-670-6898
farrisgoldstein@hotmail.com

The domain is up for grabs September 8th, 2005. It's actually a shame because it was the most notorious fan-weblog for Jonah Goldberg and National Review Online. It had great site design and fine writing. It's also off the list now.

Hopefully the Internet Archive has records and copies of and from both internet publications, but there is only one way to know.

Kevin Melrose has killed his Thought Balloons weblog (which covered a lot of news regarding independent and "alternative" comic books) and left the dead corpse intact; why link to that? He is continuing his blogging at Dark, But Shining but I am not adding that to the list.

Since Christopher Hunter has apparently ended our alliance and removed the link to AD from Panoramically Challenged I am free to note that while he possesses great skills, his primary weblog is nothing special; it's gone.

Jim Lee has closed a chapter on Gelatometti as they open up a new Blogspot host-location to continue the weblog as Sun of Gelatometti. The original weblog still exists as an archive and the new host was apparently activated as the graphic-heavy weblog became increasingly bogged down as new posts were made. I'm replacing the old link with the new, noting that current live blog links to the old archive anyway. Also, typing in the url of http://www.jimlee.net will bring (redirect) you to whatever is the most recent version.

Joshua Elder, winner of the Rising Stars of Manga contest, removed his wonderful, formerly prolific, autobiographical weblog planet krypton to keep a lot of his work and ideas that were located there out of the public view. Of course, because that URL rocks so much, it's being used for an inferior blog that I'd rather not keep a link to. If you really need to get in touch with Mr. Elder, I know how but I'd find it odd that I was the one you asked.

Observant readers (there are six, I believe) will note that I removed the link to my Halo 2 blog. That's because I killed it. There was no point in having the weblog and the template cluttering up my Blogger Dashboard and I might as well let someone else use the URL (if they want it). I don't play the game so much (anymore, if I ever did play it so much) and I am not that good at it. Not only that but my obsession with the fact that the Campaign Mode of the released game was a half-assed delivery of a broken promise. It's not the Campaign Mode that was promised to the fans once Halo 2 was announced many years ago. Any commentary or news on the game I can just post here; perhaps I'll also make a special tribute page off of my Michigan State University web-space.

I shifted around the neccessary weblog buttons near the bottom of the sidebar as necessary. Perhaps the host space for some of them will change as well.

Stupidity and Tragedy Without Horse-Sense

Jim Treacher talks about something that is actually quite disgusting that apparently happened. This is, without a doubt, a purely adult topic.

The man died for his idiocy and the tragedy is that he had a family to suffer the consequences. An almost equal tragedy is that since the event involves a horse, Treacher went for the "saddled" pun.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are

from Imprimis April 2005

David McCullough
Historian


David McCullough was born in 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was educated there and at Yale. Author of John Adams, Truman, Brave Companions, Path Between The Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Great Bridge and The Johnstown Flood, he has twice received the Pulitzer Prize and twice the National Book Award, as well as the Francis Parkman Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. His next book, 1776, will be published in May 2005.

The following is an abridged transcript of remarks delivered on February 15, 2005, in Phoenix, Arizona, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on the topic, “American History and America’s Future.”

Harry Truman once said the only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know. Lord Bolingbroke, who was an 18th century political philosopher, said that history is philosophy taught with examples. An old friend, the late Daniel Boorstin, who was a very good historian and Librarian of Congress, said that trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers. We’re raising a lot of cut flowers and trying to plant them, and that’s much of what I want to talk about tonight.

The task of teaching and writing history is infinitely complex and infinitely seductive and rewarding. And it seems to me that one of the truths about history that needs to be portrayed – needs to be made clear to a student or to a reader – is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at any point along the way, just as your own life can. You never know. One thing leads to another. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Actions have consequences. These all sound self-evident. But they’re not self-evident – particularly to a young person trying to understand life.

Nor was there ever anything like the past. Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it. Jefferson, Adams, Washington – they didn’t walk around saying, “Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?” They lived in the present just as we do. The difference was it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either. It’s very easy to stand on the mountaintop as an historian or biographer and find fault with people for why they did this or didn’t do that, because we’re not involved in it, we’re not inside it, we’re not confronting what we don’t know – as everyone who preceded us always was.

Nor is there any such creature as a self-made man or woman. We love that expression, we Americans. But every one who’s ever lived has been affected, changed, shaped, helped, hindered by other people. We all know, in our own lives, who those people are who’ve opened a window, given us an idea, given us encouragement, given us a sense of direction, self-approval, self-worth, or who have straightened us out when we were on the wrong path. Most often they have been parents. Almost as often they have been teachers. Stop and think about those teachers who changed your life, maybe with one sentence, maybe with one lecture, maybe by just taking an interest in your struggle. Family, teachers, friends, rivals, competitors – they’ve all shaped us. And so too have people we’ve never met, never known, because they lived long before us. They have shaped us too – the people who composed the symphonies that move us, the painters, the poets, those who have written the great literature in our language. We walk around everyday, everyone of us, quoting Shakespeare, Cervantes, Pope. We don’t know it, but we are, all the time. We think this is our way of speaking. It isn’t our way of speaking – it’s what we have been given. The laws we live by, the freedoms we enjoy, the institutions that we take for granted – as we should never take for granted – are all the work of other people who went before us. And to be indifferent to that isn’t just to be ignorant, it’s to be rude. And ingratitude is a shabby failing. How can we not want to know about the people who have made it possible for us to live as we live, to have the freedoms we have, to be citizens of this greatest of countries in all time? It’s not just a birthright, it is something that others struggled for, strived for, often suffered for, often were defeated for and died for, for us, for the next generation.

Character And Destiny

Now those who wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia that fateful summer of 1776 were not superhuman by any means. Every single one had his flaws, his failings, his weaknesses. Some of them ardently disliked others of them. Every one of them did things in his life he regretted. But the fact that they could rise to the occasion as they did, these imperfect human beings, and do what they did is also, of course, a testimony to their humanity. We are not just known by our failings, by our weaknesses, by our sins. We are known by being capable of rising to the occasion and exhibiting not just a sense of direction, but strength.

The Greeks said that character is destiny, and the more I read and understand of history, the more convinced I am that they were right. You look at the great paintings by John Trumbull or Charles Willson Peale or Copley or Gilbert Stuart of those remarkable people who were present at the creation of our nation, the Founders as we call them. Those aren’t just likenesses. They are delineations of character and were intended to be. And we need to understand them, and we need to understand that they knew that what they had created was no more perfect than they were. And that has been to our advantage. It has been good for us that it wasn’t all just handed to us in perfect condition, all ready to run in perpetuity – that it needed to be worked at and improved and made to work better. There’s a wonderful incident that took place at the Cambria Iron Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the 19th century, when they were building the first Bessemer steel machinery, adapted from what had been seen of the Bessemer process in Britain. There was a German engineer named John Fritz, and after working for months to get this machinery finished, he came into the plant one morning, and he said, “Alright boys, let’s start her up and see why she doesn’t work.” That’s very American. We will find out what’s not working right and we will fix it, and then maybe it will work right. That’s been our star, that’s what we’ve guided on.

I have just returned from a cruise through the Panama Canal. I think often about why the French failed at Panama and why we succeeded. One of the reasons we succeeded is that we were gifted, we were attuned to adaptation, to doing what works, whereas they were trained to do everything in a certain way. We have a gift for improvisation. We improvise in jazz; we improvise in much of our architectural breakthroughs. Improvisation is one of our traits as a nation, as a people, because it was essential, it was necessary, because we were doing again and again and again what hadn’t been done before.

Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic and they were young. We see their faces in the old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from the money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the continental army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush – one of the most interesting of them all and one of the founders of the antislavery movement in Philadelphia – was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration. They were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work. They had no money, no navy, no real army. There wasn’t a bank in the entire country. There wasn’t but one bridge between New York and Boston. It was a little country of 2,500,000 people, 500,000 of whom were held in slavery, a little fringe of settlement along the east coast. What a story. What a noble beginning. And think of this: almost no nations in the world know when they were born. We know exactly when we began and why we began and who did it.

In the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington hangs John Trumbull’s great painting, “The Declaration of Independence, Fourth of July, 1776.” It’s been seen by more people than any other American painting. It’s our best known scene from our past. And almost nothing about it is accurate. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4th. They didn’t start to sign the Declaration until August 2nd, and only a part of the Congress was then present. They kept coming back in the months that followed from their distant states to take their turn signing the document. The chairs are wrong, the doors are in the wrong place, there were no heavy draperies at the windows, and the display of military flags and banners on the back wall is strictly a figment of Trumbull’s imagination. But what is accurate about it are the faces. Every single one of the 47 men in that painting is an identifiable, and thus accountable, individual. We know what they look like. We know who they were. And that’s what Trumbull wanted. He wanted us to know them and, by God, not to forget them. Because this momentous step wasn’t a paper being handed down by a potentate or a king or a czar, it was the decision of a Congress acting freely.

Our Failure, Our Duty

We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by-and-large historically illiterate. And it’s not their fault. There have been innumerable studies, and there’s no denying it. I’ve experienced it myself again and again. I had a young woman come up to me after a talk one morning at the University of Missouri to tell me that she was glad she came to hear me speak, and I said I was pleased she had shown up. She said, “Yes, I’m very pleased, because until now I never understood that all of the 13 colonies – the original 13 colonies – were on the east coast.” Now you hear that and you think: What in the world have we done? How could this young lady, this wonderful young American, become a student at a fine university and not know that? I taught a seminar at Dartmouth of seniors majoring in history, honor students, 25 of them. The first morning we sat down and I said, “How many of you know who George Marshall was?” Not one. There was a long silence and finally one young man asked, “Did he have, maybe, something to do with the Marshall Plan?” And I said yes, he certainly did, and that’s a good place to begin talking about George Marshall.

We have to do several things. First of all we have to get across the idea that we have to know who we were if we’re to know who we are and where we’re headed. This is essential. We have to value what our forebears – and not just in the 18th century, but our own parents and grandparents – did for us, or we’re not going to take it very seriously, and it can slip away. If you don’t care about it – if you’ve inherited some great work of art that is worth a fortune and you don’t know that it’s worth a fortune, you don’t even know that it’s a great work of art and you’re not interested in it – you’re going to lose it.

We have to do a far better job of teaching our teachers. We have too many teachers who are graduating with degrees in education. They go to schools of education or they major in education, and they graduate knowing something called education, but they don’t know a subject. They’re assigned to teach botany or English literature or history, and of course they can’t perform as they should. Knowing a subject is important because you want to know what you’re talking about when you’re teaching. But beyond that, you can’t love what you don’t know. And the great teachers – the teachers who influence you, who change your lives – almost always, I’m sure, are the teachers that love what they are teaching. It is that wonderful teacher who says “Come over here and look in this microscope, you’re really going to get a kick out of this.”

There was a wonderful professor of child psychology at the University of Pittsburgh named Margaret McFarland who was so wise that I wish her teachings and her ideas and her themes were much better known. She said that attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught. If the teacher has an attitude of enthusiasm for the subject, the student catches that whether the student is in second grade or is in graduate school. She said that if you show them what you love, they’ll get it and they’ll want to get it. Also if the teachers know what they are teaching, they are much less dependent on textbooks. And I don’t know when the last time you picked up a textbook in American history might have been. And there are, to be sure, some very good ones still in print. But most of them, it appears to me, have been published in order to kill any interest that anyone might have in history. I think that students would be better served by cutting out all the pages, clipping up all the page numbers, mixing them all up and then asking students to put the pages back together in the right order. The textbooks are dreary, they’re done by committee, they’re often hilariously politically correct and they’re not doing any good. Students should not have to read anything that we, you and I, wouldn’t want to read ourselves. And there are wonderful books, past and present. There is literature in history. Let’s begin with Longfellow, for example. Let’s begin with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, for example. These are literature. They can read that too.

History isn’t just something that ought to be taught or ought to be read or ought to be encouraged because it’s going to make us a better citizen. It will make us a better citizen; or because it will make us a more thoughtful and understanding human being, which it will; or because it will cause us to behave better, which it will. It should be taught for pleasure: The pleasure of history, like art or music or literature, consists of an expansion of the experience of being alive, which is what education is largely about.

And we need not leave the whole job of teaching history to the teachers. If I could have you come away from what I have to say tonight remembering one thing, it would be this: The teaching of history, the emphasis on the importance of history, the enjoyment of history, should begin at home. We who are parents or grandparents should be taking our children to historic sites. We should be talking about those books in biography or history that we have particularly enjoyed, or that character or those characters in history that have meant something to us. We should be talking about what it was like when we were growing up in the olden days. Children, particularly little children, love this. And in my view, the real focus should be at the grade school level. We all know that those little guys can learn languages so fast it takes your breath away. They can learn anything so fast it takes your breath away. And the other very important truth is that they want to learn. They can be taught to dissect a cow’s eye. They can be taught anything. And there’s no secret to teaching history or to making history interesting. Barbara Tuchman said it in two words, “Tell stories.” That’s what history is: a story. And what’s a story? E.M. Forster gave a wonderful definition to it: If I say to you the king died and then the queen died, that’s a sequence of events. If I say the king died and the queen died of grief, that’s a story. That’s human. That calls for empathy on the part of the teller of the story and of the reader or listener to the story. And we ought to be growing, encouraging, developing historians who have heart and empathy to put students in that place of those people before us who were just as human, just as real – and maybe in some ways more real than we are. We’ve got to teach history and nurture history and encourage history because it’s an antidote to the hubris of the present – the idea that everything we have and everything we do and everything we think is the ultimate, the best.

Going through the Panama Canal, I couldn’t help but think about all that I had read in my research on that story of what they endured to build that great path, how much they had to know and to learn, how many different kinds of talent it took to achieve that success, and what the Americans did under John Stevens and George Goethals in the face of unexpected breakdowns, landslides and floods. They built a canal that cost less than it was expected to cost, was finished before it was expected to be finished and is still running today exactly the same as it was in 1914 when it opened. They didn’t, by present day standards for example, understand the chemistry of making concrete. But when we go and drill into those concrete locks now, we find the deterioration is practically nil and we don’t know how they did it. That ingenious contrivance by the American engineers is a perfect expression of what engineering ought to be at its best – man’s creations working with nature. The giant gates work because they’re floating, they’re hollow like airplane wings. The electric motors that open and close the gates use power which is generated by the spillway from the dam that creates the lake that bridges the isthmus. It’s an extraordinary work of civilization. And we couldn’t do it any better today, and in some ways we probably wouldn’t do it as well. If you were to take a look, for example, at what’s happened with the “Big Dig” in Boston, you realize that we maybe aren’t closer to the angels by any means nearly a hundred years later.

We should never look down on those people and say that they should have known better. What do you think they’re going to be saying about us in the future? They’re going to be saying we should have known better. Why did we do that? What were we thinking of? All this second-guessing and the arrogance of it are unfortunate.

Listening To The Past

Samuel Eliot Morison said we ought to read history because it will help us to behave better. It does. And we ought to read history because it helps to break down the dividers between the disciplines of science, medicine, philosophy, art, music, whatever. It’s all part of the human story and ought to be seen as such. You can’t understand it unless you see it that way. You can’t understand the 18th century, for example, unless you understand the vocabulary of the 18th century. What did they mean by those words? They didn’t necessarily mean the same thing as we do. There’s a line in one of the letters written by John Adams where he’s telling his wife Abigail at home, “We can’t guarantee success in this war, but we can do something better. We can deserve it.” Think how different that is from the attitude today when all that matters is success, being number one, getting ahead, getting to the top. However you betray or gouge or claw or do whatever awful thing is immaterial if you get to the top.

That line in the Adams letter is saying that how the war turns out is in the hands of God. We can’t control that, but we can control how we behave. We can deserve success. When I read that line when I was doing the research on the book, it practically lifted me out of my chair. And then about three weeks later I was reading some correspondence written by George Washington and there was the same line. I thought, wait a minute, what’s going on? And I thought, they’re quoting something. So, as we all often do, I got down good old Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and I started going through the entries from the 18th century and bingo, there it was. It’s a line from the play Cato. They were quoting something that was in the language of the time. They were quoting scripture of a kind, a kind of secular creed if you will. And you can’t understand why they behaved as they did if you don’t understand that. You can’t understand why honor was so important to them and why they were truly ready to put their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor on the line. Those weren’t just words.

I want to read to you, in conclusion, a letter that John Quincy Adams received from his mother. Little John Adams was taken to Europe by his father when his father sailed out of Massachusetts in the midst of winter, in the midst of war, to serve our country in France. Nobody went to sea in the wintertime, on the North Atlantic, if it could possibly be avoided. And nobody did it trying to cut through the British barricade outside of Boston Harbor because the British ships were sitting out there waiting to capture somebody like John Adams and take him to London and to the Tower, where he would have been hanged as a traitor. But they sent this little ten-year-old boy with his father, risking his life, his mother knowing that she wouldn’t see him for months, maybe years at best. Why? Because she and his father wanted John Quincy to be in association with Franklin and the great political philosophers of France, to learn to speak French, to travel in Europe, to be able to soak it all up. And they risked his life for that – for his education. We have no idea what people were willing to do for education in times past. It’s the one sustaining theme through our whole country – that the next generation will be better educated than we are. John Adams himself is a living example of the transforming miracle of education. His father was able to write his name, we know. His mother was almost certainly illiterate. And because he had a scholarship to Harvard, everything changed for him. He said, “I discovered books and read forever,” and he did. And they wanted this for their son.

Well, it was a horrendous voyage. Everything that could have happened to go wrong, went wrong. And when the little boy came back, he said he didn’t ever want to go across the Atlantic again as long as he lived. And then his father was called back, and his mother said you’re going back. And here is what she wrote to him. Now, keep in mind that this is being written to a little kid and listen to how different it is from how we talk to our children in our time. She’s talking as if to a grownup. She’s talking to someone whom they want to bring along quickly because there’s work to do and survival is essential:

These are the times in which genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.

Now, there are several interesting things going on in that letter. For all the times that she mentions the mind, in the last sentence she says, “When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.” In other words, the mind itself isn’t enough. You have to have the heart. Well, of course he went and the history of our country is different because of it. John Quincy Adams, in my view, was the most superbly educated and maybe the most brilliant human being who ever occupied the executive office. He was, in my view, the greatest Secretary of State we’ve ever had. He wrote the Monroe Doctrine, among other things. And he was a wonderful human being and a great writer. Told to keep a diary by his father when he was in Europe, he kept the diary for 65 years. And those diaries are unbelievable. They are essays on all kinds of important, heavy subjects. He never tells you who he had lunch with or what the weather’s like. But if you want to know that, there’s another sort of little Cliff diary that he kept about such things.

Well after the war was over, Abigail went to Europe to be with her husband, particularly when he became our first minister to the court of Saint James. And John Quincy came home from Europe to prepare for Harvard. And he had not been home in Massachusetts very long when Abigail received a letter from her sister saying that John Quincy was a very impressive young man – and of course everybody was quite astonished that he could speak French – but that, alas, he seemed a little overly enamored with himself and with his own opinions and that this was not going over very well in town. So Abigail sat down in a house that still stands on Grosvenor Square in London – it was our first embassy if you will, a little 18th century house – and wrote a letter to John Quincy. And here’s what she said:

If you are conscious to yourself that you possess more knowledge upon some subjects than others of your standing, reflect that you have had greater opportunities of seeing the world and obtaining knowledge of mankind than any of your contemporaries. That you have never wanted a book, but it has been supplied to you. That your whole time has been spent in the company of men of literature and science. How unpardonable would it have been in you to have turned out a blockhead.

How unpardonable it would be for us – with all that we have been given, all the advantages we have, all the continuing opportunities we have to enhance and increase our love of learning – to turn out blockheads or to raise blockheads. What we do in education, what these wonderful teachers and administrators and college presidents and college and university trustees do is the best, most important work there is.

So I salute you all for your interest in education and in the education of Hillsdale. I salute you for coming out tonight to be at an event like this. Not just sitting at home being a spectator. It’s important that we take part. Citizenship isn’t just voting. We all know that. Let’s all pitch in. And let’s not lose heart. They talk about what a difficult, dangerous time we live in. And it is very difficult, very dangerous and very uncertain. But so it has always been. And this nation of ours has been through darker times. And if you don’t know that – as so many who broadcast the news and subject us to their opinions in the press don’t seem to know – that’s because we’re failing in our understanding of history.

The Revolutionary War was as dark a time as we’ve ever been through. 1776, the year we so consistently and rightly celebrate every year, was one of the darkest times, if not the darkest time in the history of the country. Many of us here remember the first months of 1942 after Pearl Harbor when German submarines were sinking our oil tankers right off the coasts of Florida and New Jersey, in sight of the beaches, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. Our recruits were drilling with wooden rifles, we had no air force, half of our navy had been destroyed at Pearl Harbor, and there was nothing to say or guarantee that the Nazi machine could be defeated – nothing. Who was to know? I like to think of what Churchill said when he crossed the Atlantic after Pearl Harbor and gave a magnificent speech. He said we haven’t journeyed this far because we’re made of sugar candy. It’s as true today as it ever was.

Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Check This Out - 1st Place in Supergirl Coloring Contest

I admit to having an initial bias against this image simply because I hate the pencils; essentially I hate the design of the lineart and it's really a prejudice against the Supergirl costume design (more on that later, I suppose) . Once I got past that to realize that the contest is not about that but about the coloring I came to realize what a terrific job Garry "Mudcat" Henderson did.

The worst part is that Mr. Henderson did a better job than the contest Grand Prize Winner. Mr. Henderson at least ahered to the guidelines naturally set by the lineart; colorists are supposed to respect the lineart in most cases I suppose. Enough with the whining and on with the praise!

Look at the details on the planet Earth! Flecks of light represent cities quite cleanly and clearly and we can observe the specks of islands above North America and Europe. Looking at the moon and even at the Earth again we notice a clear attention to the light source and how it is in fact the Sun! The shadows on the edge of Luna and the darkened half of the planet illustrate perfectly the natural light source at work. The costume is clean (well, what costume there is) and the bright red in the S and even the bright shining wonder in the blonde illuminate and illustrate just as if this was a Supergirl comic from the nineties.

The only problem I can see with the finished piece is something that I did not have the heart to point out until the artist admitted it independently: there are no shadows. The light source is clearly behind the character in the foreground yet her abundant chest and all the imagery emblazoned on it is as bright as anything else. Supergirl is mostly lit as if the sun is in front of her and not behind her. There is now either a light source that we cannot account for (unlikely) or the foreground character does not have the proper shadows. Despite these flaws it's a great finished work and hopefully a stepping stone to other projects. Professional criticism and the original pencils are found at the contest homepage.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Character Actors

John Morgan (Bat) Neal, writer for Shooting Star Comics, recently posted on the Dixonverse board on the apparently modern lack of character actors that enjoyed an abundance in the past. His question comes in the form of a title.

Characters actors: A dying breed?
I watch a lot of TV Land. And a lot of Gunsmoke and Bonanza. (Hey TV Land, add some more westerns! Like Rifleman for instance!)

One of the things I notice and love about old television is the sheer epidemic of very talented, colorful and interesting (read non-cookie cuter attractive) actors.

Lord that was a golden age for televison character actors.

Today it seems unless you have a certain amount of attractiveness you aren't allowed on TV. So we have whole casts of people that look mostly similar.

Where are the Ellen Corbys, the Will Geers, the Morgan Woodwards and Royal Danos [all RIP] these days?
There's a call to celebrate them and list them. I'm collecting a list from the thread; if you notice any one missing feel free to lay on a suggestion.

Clancy Brown
Benicio del Toro
Alan Rickman
Luis Guzman
Brad Dourif
Gabriel Byrne
Robert Picardo
Harry Dean Stanton
Bruce Campbell
Michael Wincott
Dan Hedaya
Dwight Schultz
Kevin Pollack
Pete Postlethwaite
James Remar
Steve Buscemi
Michael Madsen
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
James Gammon
Crispin Glover
Joan Cusack
Patrick Warburton
Amy Sedaris
Xander Berkley
Dietrich Bader
Jean Reno
Powers Boothe
John Turturro
Tim Curry
Michael Lerner
Sam Rockwell
Harland Williams
Janene Garafalo
Oliver Platt
Hugh Laurie
Stanley Tucci
Eric Roberts
Tom Sizemore
David Hyde Pierce
Sean Bean
Tony Shaloub
Michael McKean
Sam Elliott
David Alan Grier
Donal Logue
Kevin Spacey
Ed Norton
Paul Giamatti
William H. Macy
Peter Boyle
Doris Roberts
Jock Mahoney
Joey Pants
John Goodman
Johnny Trejo
J.T. Walsh
Paul Gilfoyle
Andreas Katsulas
Clyde Kusatsu
Soon Tek-Oh
Veronica Cartwright
Fred Dalton Thompson
Gloria Foster
Clarence Williams III
Joe Morton
Cheech Marin
Jonathan Pryce
Diane Ladd
Gena Rowlands
Ned Beatty
Dabney Coleman
Reginald Veljohnson
William Atherton
Alan Arkin
Robert Duval
Blythe Danner
J.K. Simmons
Bill Mumy
Stephen Furst
John Larroquette
Hugh Laurie
Rowan Atkinson
Stephen Root
Holly Hunter
John C. McGinley
Kathy Najimy
Eugene Levy
Fred Willard
Frances McDormand
Catherine O'Hara
Christopher Guest
Rip Torn
Jeffrey Tambor
Hank Azaria
David Cross
Bob Odenkirk
Jason Bateman
Tony Hale
Will Arnett
Harve Presnell
John Carol Lynch
Chris Penn
John Hurt
Ian Holm
Tom Skerrit
Harry Dean Stanton
Yappet Kotto
Joe Pesci
Paul Sorvino
Olympia Dukakis
Fred Thompson
Ron Perhlman
Timothy Spall
Christopher Ecclestone
Paul Gleason
Brendan Gleason
Harold Ramis
John Lithgow
Jason Lee
Fairuza Balk
Noah Taylor
Olivia Williams
Lilly Tomlin
Giovanni Ribisi
Will Patton
Robert Patrick
Daniel von Bergen
Bebe Neueith
Piper Laurie
Tom Wilkinson
Robert Carlyle
Jimmy Smits
James Cosmo
John Glover
Louis Gossett Jr
Ray Winstone
Jack Davenport
Richard Schiff
Bradley Whitford
Mary MacCormack
Mary McDonnell
Lance LeGalt
Clint Howard
Rance Howard
Dick Miller
James Cromwell
Larry Miller
Russell Johnson
Martin Mull
Richard Kind
Armin Shimmerman
Brent Spiner
Avery Brooks
Rene Auberjonois

Rest in peace DeForest Kelley, Alan Hale Jr, Lane Smith, and James Doohan
Long live "Bones" McCoy

more later

80s Karaoke

Online

hat tip to Duivba

Monday, August 15, 2005

Constitutional Myths and Realities

from Imprimis August 2005

Stephen Markman
Justice, Michigan Supreme Court


Stephen Markman, who teaches constitutional law at Hillsdale College , was appointed by Governor John Engler in 1999 as Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and subsequently elected to that position. Prior to that he served as United States Attorney in Michigan (appointed by President George H. W. Bush); Assistant Attorney General of the United States (appointed by President Ronald Reagan), in which position he coordinated the federal judicial selection process; Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution; and Deputy Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Justice Markman has written for numerous legal journals, including the Stanford Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review , the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform and the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 29, 2003, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Dearborn, Michigan.

The United States has enjoyed unprecedented liberty, prosperity and stability, in large part because of its Constitution. I would like to discuss a number of myths or misconceptions concerning that inspired document.

Myth or Misconception 1: Public policies of which we approve are constitutional and public policies of which we disapprove are unconstitutional.

It might be nice if those policies that we favor were compelled by the Constitution and those policies that we disfavor were barred by the Constitution. But this is not, by and large, what the Constitution does. Rather, the Constitution creates an architecture of government that is designed to limit the abuse of governmental power. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 sought to create a government that would be effective in carrying out its essential tasks, such as foreign policy and national defense, while not coming to resemble those European governments with which they were so familiar, where the exercise of governmental power was arbitrary and without limits. Therefore, while the Constitution constrains government, it does not generally seek to replace the representative processes of government.

Governments may, and often do, carry out unwise public policies without running afoul of the Constitution. As a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, I often uphold policies that have been enacted in the state legislature, or by cities and counties and townships, that I believe are unwise. But lack of wisdom is not the test for what is or is not constitutional, and lack of wisdom is not what allows me—a judge, not the adult supervisor of society—to exercise the enormous power of judicial review and strike down laws that have been enacted by “we the people” through their elected representatives. Redress for unwise public policies must generally come as the product of democratic debate and at the ballot box, not through judicial correction.

Myth or Misconception 2: The Constitution principally upholds individual rights and liberties through the guarantees of the Bill of Rights.

It is not to denigrate the importance of the Bill of Rights to suggest that the Founders intended that individual rights and liberties would principally be protected by the architecture of the Constitution—the structure of government set forth in its original seven articles. The great animating principles of our Constitution are in evidence everywhere within this architecture. First, there is federalism, in which the powers of government are divided between the national government and the states. To the former belong such powers as those relating to foreign policy and national defense; to the latter such powers as those relating to the criminal justice system and the protection of the family. Second, there is the separation of powers, in which each branch of the national government—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branch—has distinct responsibilities, yet is subject to the checks and balances of the other branches. Third, there is the principle of limited government of a particular sort in which the national government is constrained to exercise only those powers set forth by the Constitution, for example, issuing currency, administering immigration laws, running the post office and waging war. Together, these principles make it more difficult for government to exercise power and to abuse minority rights, and they limit the impact of governmental abuses of power.

Many of the Founders, including James Madison, believed that a Bill of Rights was unnecessary because the Constitution’s architecture itself was sufficient to ensure that national power would not be abused. As Alexander Hamilton remarked in Federalist 84, “the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, a Bill of Rights.” And practically speaking, until 1925, the Bill of Rights was not even thought to apply to the states, only to Congress; yet the individual rights of our citizens remained generally well protected.

Myth or Misconception 3:
The national government and the state governments are regulated similarly by the Constitution.

As the 10th Amendment makes clear, the starting point for any constitutional analysis is that the national, i.e., the federal, government can do nothing under the Constitution unless it is affirmatively authorized by some provision of the Constitution. The states, on the other hand, can do anything under the Constitution unless they are prohibited by some provision of the Constitution. Why then, one might ask, throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century—before the Bill of Rights was thought to apply to the states—did Michigan and other states not generally infringe upon such indispensable freedoms as the freedoms of speech or religion? How were individual rights protected? Well, in two ways principally: First and most obviously, there was simply not majority sentiment on the part of the people of Michigan or other states to encroach upon such freedoms. Second, Michigan and all other states had their own Constitutions that protected such freedoms.

Today the Bill of Rights has been construed by the U.S. Supreme Court to apply to the states, creating more uniform and more centralized constitutional policy. It remains true, however, that the impact of the Constitution upon the national and state governments varies substantially.

Myth or Misconception 4: Federalism is the same thing as states rights.

“State’s rights” in the constitutional sense refers to all of the rights of sovereignty retained by the states under the Constitution. But in this sense, state’s rights refers to only half of what federalism is, the other half consisting of those powers either reserved for the national government or affirmatively prohibited to the states.

In popular use, “state’s rights” has had a checkered history. Before the Civil War, it was the rallying cry of southern opponents of proposals to abolish or restrict slavery. By the 20th century, it had become the watchword of many of those who supported segregation in the public schools, as well as those who criticized generally the growing power of the central government.

While I share the view that federal power has come to supplant “state’s rights” in far too many areas of governmental responsibility, “state’s rights” are truly rights only where an examination of the Constitution reveals both that the national government lacks the authority to act and that there is nothing that prohibits the state governments from acting. There is no “state right,” for example, for one state to impose barriers on trade coming from another, or to establish a separate foreign policy. These responsibilities are reserved to the national government by the Constitution.

Myth or Misconception 5: The Constitution is a document for lawyers and judges.

The Constitution was written for those in whose name it was cast, “we the people.” It is a relatively short document, and it is generally straightforward and clear-cut. With only a few exceptions, there is an absence of legalese or technical terms. While the contemporary constitutional debate has focused overwhelmingly on a few broad phrases of the Constitution such as “due process” and “equal protection,” the overwhelming part of this document specifies, for example, that a member of the House of Representatives must be 25 years of age, seven years a citizen, and an inhabitant of the state from which he is chosen; that a bill becomes a law when approved by both Houses and signed by the president, etc. One willing to invest just a bit more time in understanding the Constitution need only peruse The Federalist Papers to see what Madison, Hamilton or Jay had to say about its provisions to a popular audience in the late-18th century.

One reason I believe that the Constitution, as well as our laws generally, should be interpreted according to the straightforward meaning of their language, is to maintain the law as an institution that belongs to all of the people, and not merely to judges and lawyers. Let me give you an illustration: One creative constitutional scholar has said that the requirement that the president shall be at least 35 years of age really means that a president must have the maturity of a person who was 35 back in 1789 when the Constitution was written. That age today, opines this scholar, might be 30 or 32 or 40 or 42. The problem is that whenever a word or phrase of the Constitution is interpreted in such a “creative” fashion, the Constitution—and the law in general—becomes less accessible and less comprehensible to ordinary citizens, and more the exclusive province of attorneys who are trained in knowing such things as that “35” does not always mean “35.”

One thing, by the way, that is unusual in the constitutional law course that I teach at Hillsdale College is that we actually read the language of the Constitution and discuss its provisions as we do so. What passes for constitutional law study at many colleges and universities is exclusively the study of Supreme Court decisions. While such decisions are obviously important, it is also important to compare what the Supreme Court has said to what the Constitution says. What is also unusual at Hillsdale is that, by the time students take my course, they have been required to study such informing documents as the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, Washington’s First Inaugural Address—and, indeed, the Constitution itself.

Myth or Misconception 6: The role of the judge in interpreting the Constitution is to do justice.

The role of a judge is to do justice under law, a very different concept. Each of us has his or her own innate sense of right and wrong. This is true of every judge I have ever met. But judges are not elected or appointed to impose their personal views of right and wrong upon the legal system. Rather, as Justice Felix Frankfurter once remarked, “The highest example of judicial duty is to subordinate one’s personal will and one’s private views to the law.” The responsible judge must subordinate his personal sense of justice to the public justice of our Constitution and its representative and legal institutions.

I recall one judicial confirmation hearing a number of years ago when I was working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nominee was asked, “If a decision in a particular case was required by law or statute and yet that offended your conscience, what would you do?” The nominee answered, “Senator, I have to be honest with you. If I was faced with a situation like that and it ran against my conscience, I would follow my conscience.” He went on to explain: “I was born and raised in this country, and I believe that I am steeped in its traditions, its mores, its beliefs and its philosophies, and if I felt strongly in a situation like that, I feel that it would be the product of my very being and upbringing. I would follow my conscience.” To my mind, for a judge to render decisions according to his or her personal conscience rather than the law is itself unconscionable.

Myth or Misconception 7: The great debate over the proper judicial role is between judges who are activist and judges who are restrained.

In the same way that excessively “activist” judges may exceed the boundaries of the judicial power by concocting law out of whole cloth, excessively “restrained” judges may unwarrantedly contract protections and rights conferred by the laws and the Constitution. It is inappropriate for a judge to exercise “restraint” when to do so is to neglect his obligation of judicial review—his obligation to compare the law with the requirements set forth by the Constitution. Nor am I enamored with the term “strict construction” to describe the proper duties of the judge, for it is the role of the judge to interpret the words of the law reasonably—not “strictly” or “loosely,” not “broadly” or “narrowly,” just reasonably.

I would prefer to characterize the contemporary judicial debate in terms of interpretivism verses non-interpretivism. In doing this, I would borrow the description of the judicial power used by Chief Justice John Marshall, who 200 years ago in Marbury v. Madison stated that it is the duty of the judge to say what the law is, not what it ought to be (which is the province of the legislature). For the interpretivist, the starting point, and usually the ending point, in giving meaning to the law are the plain words of the law. This is true whether we are construing the law of the Constitution, the law of a statute, or indeed the law of contracts and policies and deeds. In each instance, it is the duty of the judge to give faithful meaning to the words of the lawmaker and let the chips fall where they may.

One prominent illustration of the differing approaches of interpretivism and non-interpretivism arises in the context of the constitutionality of capital punishment. Despite the fact that there are at least six references in the Constitution to the possibility of capital punishment—for example, both the 5th and 14th Amendments assert that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” from which it can clearly be inferred that a person can be deprived of these where there is due process—former Justice William Brennan held, in dissent, that capital punishment was unconstitutional on the grounds apparently that, since 1789, there had arisen an “evolving standard of decency marking the progress of a maturing society” on whose behalf he spoke. Purporting to speak for “generations yet unborn,” Justice Brennan substituted his own opinions on capital punishment for the judgments reached in the Constitution by the Founders. His decision in this regard is the embodiment, but certainly not the only recent example, of non-interpretivism.

Myth or Misconception 8: The Constitution is a living document.

The debate between interpretivists and non-interpretivists over how to give meaning to the Constitution is often framed in the following terms: Is the Constitution a “living” document, in which judges “update” its provisions according to the “needs” of the times? Or is the Constitution an enduring document, in which its original meanings and principles are permanently maintained, subject only to changes adopted in accordance with its amending clause? I believe that it is better described in the latter sense. It is beyond dispute, of course, that the principles of the Constitution must be applied to new circumstances over time—the Fourth Amendment on searches and seizures to electronic wiretaps, the First Amendment on freedom of speech to radio and television and the Internet, the interstate commerce clause to automobiles and planes, etc. However, that is distinct from allowing the words and principles themselves to be altered based upon the preferences of individual judges.

Our Constitution would be an historical artifact—a genuinely dead letter—if its original sense became irrelevant, to be replaced by the views of successive waves of judges and justices intent on “updating” it, or replacing what some judges view as the “dead hand of the past” with contemporary moral theory. This is precisely what the Founders sought to avoid when they instituted a “government of laws, not of men.”

There is no charter of government in the history of mankind that has more wisely set forth the proper relationship between the governed and their government than the American Constitution. For those of us who are committed to constitutional principles and fostering respect for that document, there is no better homage that we can pay it than to understand clearly its design and to take care in the manner in which we describe it.

Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I suppose this is the 300th Post

I imagined that when I got to my 300th post, and I only can take Blogger's word that this is it, it would be a bigger deal and I would have a longer list of notable and intelligent things to say.

I would have hoped that more of my thoughts would have made it to the page, so I would have something to reference from time to time rather than having to explain myself or having to search through my long list of Favorites or Bookmarks to find that one article from wherever.

If this weblog was everything I thought it would be when I started it, it would have been a larger collection of link dumps and certainly have been a more successful reflection of my ideas. Perhaps I would have had a larger following by now if my posting habits had gotten me to entry #300, say, last year! As it is, 300 posts in 3 years is not too bad. To be honest most blogs don't make it for three years and I have been doing this for a wierdly long bit of time.

Doing this would be easier if once in awhile someone donated something to my Paypal account!

It has been fun. I shall do this more often. Maybe I'll acknowledge the fourth anniversary when it comes.