Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Exhibit Demonstrating Folly in ObamaCare Follies

Gentle readers are by now familiar with a key SWNIDish objection to healthcare reform as conceived by the present administration: mandating first-dollar coverage for all kinds of treatments from all kinds of providers.

The absurdity of such a mandate is well illustrated by an article by WaPo's William Wan, drawing attention to the insistence that Christian Science "spiritual health care" practices be covered.

Lest gentle readers conclude that the fringe practice is demanded only by fringe folk, we draw attention to Mr. Wan's note that the House bill, recently passed, originally mandated coverage for said practice. It has received public pledges of support from such solons as John Kerry, protective of the considerable number of Christian Science observants in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, and Orrin Hatch, protective of another quaint cult in Utah.

Given the outlines of Christian Science dogma, we're not sure why Christian Scientists can't simply put their faith in the notion that such coverage actually exists and thus make it so.

Debate on this topic is predictably bouncing between two issues: the efficacy of prayer in healing and the rights of religious minorities. Absent is consideration whether the issue exposes the folly of a publicly funded mandate for first-dollar coverage.

For those wanting a summary response, we ask: Why not just let people decide whether they want first-dollar coverage for chiropractors, podiatrists, acupuncturists, spiritual healers, feng shui experts, paranormalists, and horse whisperers? Or even whether they want first-dollar coverage for their internist? And pay for it themselves if they do? It's the top end of health care where the risk lies, not the first dollar.

The dumbness continues.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What Climate Emails Prove

What can the SWNIDish person learn from the recently unearthed emails exchanged among climate scientists?

Not that all global-warming predictions are fraudulent. Only that some climate scientists were.

But perhaps not much more fraudulent than other scientists, scholars and "experts."

First, the important distinction regarding global warming. There's nothing in these emails to suggest that all data point unambiguously away from the possibility of global warming. Nothing at this stage appears to have disproved the fundamental observation that CO2, methane and other "greenhouse gases" can act to raise temperatures over time. That's true even with the well-known problem that recently temperatures haven't risen. They still could be rising over the long term, and they are demonstrably higher than they were a century ago.

But all the blather about the debate being over and consensus being reached, demanding radical political action yesterday, is now exposed for what it is: the attempt to inflate the certainty of conclusions by suppressing dissent in the scientific community and presenting a self-consciously one-sided view of the evidence.

This, of course, happens all the time in scholarship. Scholars are no less inclined to narcissistic self-promotion and tribal acts of exclusion than are entertainers, politicians, religious-cult leaders or middle-school girls. Donning lab coats or tweed jackets does not make experts less perniciously human.

We offer a case in point from another academic discipline, namely, our own.

The classic puzzle of New Testament studies is the "synoptic problem," the matter of explaining the complex pattern of similarities and differences among the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). For nearly the entire 20th century and continuing into the 21st, the "consensus" solution to this problem is "Markan Priority," the hypothesis that the authors of Matthew and Luke used as their sources the Gospel of Mark, by the hypothesis dubbed the earliest Gospel, and a second, no-longer-extant source, labeled with the algebraic symbol "Q."

Now the problems with this hypothesis have been acknowledged for ages. Briefly, and without sufficient explanation, we would enumerate the verbal agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (numbering over 1000 if one counts Matthew's and Luke's coincident omissions from Mark), Luke's "Great Omission" of a chunk of material from the middle of Mark, and the absence of external evidence for the existence of Q.

These problems should at least have made Markan Priority one explanation among many for a problem that remained for scholars unsolved, perhaps intractably so. But such has never been the case. Since the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, if one wanted a smooth path into the scholarly club in New Testament studies (a PhD, publication, tenure in an established institution), the obvious first step was to affirm that Markan Priority was settled.

In the 20th century, every major development in the study of the Gospels has been predicated on Markan Priority. For every article or monograph examining the foundations of the theory, there were probably twenty expounding some hypothesis based on the assumption of it.

Throughout there were skeptics. Some were rank outsiders, like some of the very few evangelical/fundamentalist scholars prior to the entry of evangelical scholarship into the mainstream in the 1970s and beyond. Some were boutique skeptics proffering an alternative hypothesis in small seminars with no discernible impact beyond their little circle.

Two anecdotes will illustrate the situation.

We are well acquainted with a PhD whose thesis on a Synoptic Gospel explicitly took an "agnostic" position on the exact pattern of synoptic relationships. While completely successful in gaining his degree and publication for the work, he was challenged in his oral defense of the thesis by an examiner who asked him why he didn't do the obvious and easy thing, not least because dissent on the hypothesis was to be found only "among a few, fringe people in America." The examiner let stand the skeptic's response that no solid conclusions could be drawn based solely on a hypothesis as difficult to deem certain as Markan Priority.

We are also well acquainted with a PhD whose thesis actually brought fresh evidence to bear on questions of synoptic origins, challenging the certainty of Markan Priority. In the middle stages of that work, presenting his preliminary findings to a seminar in his department, fellow students were not so much impressed with the impact of his new line of inquiry as befuddled by his even thinking to pursue it. "Why do you want to challenge Markan Priority when it has been such a productive hypothesis?" they asked. "Productive" here means, By assuming this, we've all been able to write a lot of stuff that has furthered our discipline and so furthered our careers.

And so it goes. The tribes of academe apply social pressure all the time to get their members to adhere to tribal codes. Degrees, jobs, publication, tenure and grants go to those who adhere to orthodoxies. Experts reinforce one another's positions of expertise by affirming the orthodoxies to one another.

Thereby, experts make themselves rare and valuable while at the same time living in interior and exterior denial about the things that they simply don't know. To admit that certain key conclusions are "underdetermined," inadequately proved by available evidence and perhaps beyond the ability of humanity ever to resolve with real certainty, is to admit limits of expertise that lower the public's esteem for the experts, and perhaps worst of all, their consequent funding. Who wants to invest money in the investigation of a problem for which a clear answer may never be found?

Over time, however, some of these shams come to light. In the last twenty years in New Testament studies, as some big players have expressed skepticism, it has become more possible to question the settledness of the synoptic problem, not coincidentally as methods for studying the Gospels have moved beyond those dependent on a conclusion about synoptic relationships. And last week, some intrepid hackers provided the fly-on-the-wall perspective to demand a do-over on the assessment of climate science.

Where is this likely to go? We expect the global-warmism hard core to proclaim that there's so much at stake in delay, we simply can't wait for certitude to act. Of course, what's certain to be at stake in non-delay--the retardation of economic growth and so the perpetuation of poverty for millions--is entirely more knowable and more certain.

In such a case, the cautionary fable of Chicken Little is timely. Running in a panic induced by over-interpreted evidence is not prudent, even if the lead barnyard animal has tenure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Invoking Future "History"

Last week, peripatetic Gray Lady columnist Nicholas Kristof presented a rather stale essay arguing that opponents of ObamaCare are on the wrong side of "history." Evidence for such is that their rhetoric resembles that of Social Security's opponents in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s.

We leave aside the question whether with hindsight Americans would again design programs (we started to call them "systems" but realized the exaggeration involved) like these, given the reality that both are impossible to sustain financially. Instead, we ask, what does it mean that "history" is on a particular side? As an abstraction for the sum of human experience--that is, the past--how does "history" declare itself on the issues of the present and the future?

Well, Kristof might assert that it does so by showing how ideas in the past have proved successful in the view of many in the present. Hence, ideas resembling those ought to be assumed to be just as prospectively successful in the future. Well, is that indeed the case in every instance? Allowing the debatable proposition that Social Security and Medicare are successful, we ask whether that means all such social-welfare programs ought to be similarly endorsed. Say, Nixon's proposal of guaranteed income for all? Where do the analogies begin and end by which one can pronounce history's verdict on the future? Does history provide no cautionary tales about government initiatives to improve the quality of life?

Let's note another analogy, however. Marxism was (how sweet to use a past-tense predicate with that noxious subject) fond of describing the inevitable movement of history from capitalism to communism and ultimately socialism. To their destruction did individuals ignore the progress of history (note that "history" here means not the past but the coming utopian future, divined by brilliant intellectuals like Karl Marx). We do not accuse Kristof of being a Marxist, so if his publicist is reading this, don't bother accusing us. We simply note that his rhetoric belies the same sloppy thinking: that one can extrapolate a preferred direction of history and insist that everyone get on board with it. If ObamaCare's opponents are to be condemned because their rhetoric recalls that of recalcitrant conservatives of the 1930s and 1960s, Kristof's is to be condemned because it resembles that of Lenin's hordes in the 1910s and 1920s.

But let's take another point. Does "history" always turn out for the good? We are fond of observing that life is better for a lot of people than it once was, but is such movement inevitable? Simply because many governments have provided more social services to their citizens, is progress inevitably in that direction? Are the dystopian futures imagined by Wells, Huxley, Orwell and lesser lights in no way reminders that social welfare experiments may go terribly wrong?

Or let's take a different historical analogy altogether. Were those who opposed Lincoln's Homestead Act (the law whereby the federal government gave western settlers free land), which stressed individual initiative and responsibility, on the wrong side of history? Is that analogy at all instructive about the present debate?

Mr. Kristof, we can indeed imagine a better future after healthcare reform. The reform we imagine is different from Obama's, however. It involves individual insurance, not employer-provided insurance. It insures not the first dollar but the expense that can't be covered by savings or credit, the catastrophic dollar. It puts the economic decisions in the hands of the patient, restoring natural market forces that keep costs in check. It works more like the other stuff in life works. In that respect, it has oodles of history on its side.

Anecdote: friends with a new baby and without first-dollar health insurance coverage noted that in their delivery their obstetrician deliberately did not order tests that would otherwise be routine. The reason? He knew they'd pay out of pocket for them, and he didn't believe such tests were necessary given the costs. Had they carried insurance, he would have ordered the tests instantly. They thanked him profusely. They are all quite healthy, and less poor than they would be otherwise.

What does that historical incident tell us about history, Mr. Kristof?

Obama to Copenhagen: Theater for the Lefty Base

Having been theatrically begged by the environmental hard core to attend the Copenhagen global warming summit, President Obama has theatrically announced that he will indeed attend and will indeed "commit the United States to substantial cuts in greenhouse gas pollution over the next decade" says the AP.

Consider this another in a series of exhibits demonstrating the triumph of style over substance in politics and diplomacy. Nothing will come of this move, for multiple reasons. To be assured of such, one need only note that Obama, limited by the US Constitution, has no ability to deliver on the pledge himself; that the Democratic-controlled Congress can't pass its signature healthcare legislation, let alone cap-and-trade that is sharply opposed by significant elements of its coalition like organized labor; that the previous global-warming summit at Kyoto has become both a touchstone of orthodoxy for global warmism and a prime example of diplomatic failure, with treaty agreements and targets now expressly out of reach; or that the Obama administration, with its fictional tallies of "jobs created or saved" is adept at concocting statistics to measure the success of what it has managed to initiate.

Obama, of course, campaigns. He does not govern. The key to this trip is simply to make the trip. Symbolism is what the Left values most. Caring about problems is more important than actually addressing them. Hope matters more than change.

So this trip simply fits the paradigm. Go to the stylish Scandinavian capital. Deliver the signature speech. Smile and wave for the photo ops. Trash the Evil Bush Administration yet again. Pledge support for the utopian future. Then come home and blame the Republicans for stopping legislation that your own party doesn't really want, as it jets and drives and lights and heats its way to still more relatively inconsequential alteration of the Earth's atmosphere while continuing the theatrical hand-wringing and blame-casting.

Obama's Copenhagen trip is like the annual address given by Republican Presidents to right-to-life folks on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It accomplishes nothing for the issue, but it placates those who care about the issue that the President is Their Man.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A SWNIDish Thanksgiving

On the eve of every American's favorite holiday, we offer a list of items, mostly in random order, for which to give thanks SWNIDishly.

We have no doubt whatsoever that we are thankful for the following, and urge you to be thankful for them also:

  • Joe Lieberman. We like a politician who is old enough and successful enough to speak his mind directly and consequentially. We figure that Lieberman was steeled in contrarian thinking through a lifetime of Jewish observance in a nominally Christian, essentially post-Christian culture. Hooray for Joe's stand on no public option of any kind.
  • Dick Cheney. Those old enough to remember the VP debate at Centre College in 2000 will recall that it was billed beforehand as the battle of the solons and hailed afterward as a pinnacle of informed, civil political discourse. Thirty months later, Cheney was evil personified. Lieberman got the same tar and feathers about six months later. Like Lieberman, Cheney didn't care. Now he's a sort of political prophet, calling out the present administration's fecklessness about security matters and, it appears, successfully goading them into taking some kind of reasonable action in Afghanistan.
  • The 24-hour news cycle's accelerating of political developments. Thanks to the way that everything political is sliced and diced all the time, folks are modifying their opinions with reckless abandon. That doesn't promote stability, but stability is not a good thing when courses need correcting. The public has now made up its mind about Obama's actual political agenda, faster than one could have imagined it would. We therefore hope for real change in the coming months.
  • Moral hazard. We refer to the way that certain rewards and punishments created by authorities can perversely act on individuals to incentivize them to do bad things. Moral hazard is at work when loans are too cheap and easy, incentivizing people to overspend. It's at work when investors can expect to be bailed out by the government, incentivizing stupid risks. It's at work when a third party pays for something, incentivizing overconsumption. We give thanks for it because it becomes so obvious over time, providing repeated cautionary tales that the body politic must reckon constantly with the perversity of human nature. Which leads us to . . .
  • Cautionary tales. History provides bushels of examples of what not to do. Don't invade Russia. Don't tax without representation. Don't impose protective tariffs during a recession. Don't believe it when someone says, "Things are totally different now." Etc. Which leads us to . . .
  • The 1970s. It was a bad era for just about everything, and it steeled us late boomers for the present. Attention, Generations X, Y, Z, Millennials and whatever other term some pop demographer has applied to the latest group of post-adolescents going through their predictable and constant developmental stages: things are bad, but they've been worse. Not only did my generation have to endure the Munich Olympics Massacre, Watergate, Saigon's fall, Whip Inflation Now, multiple fuel crises, stagflation, the Iran Hostage Crisis, Jimmy Carter, Roselyn Carter, Amy Carter, Billy Carter, Miss Lillian Carter, and KC and the Sunshine Band, we also had to endure our parents' stories about the Great Depression. Which leads us to . . .
  • Adaptability. Say what you will about Darwinism, it identifies something that makes us happy. Successful species, like humans, manage to adapt to a changing environment. We are grateful for the dozens of people we know who have not just endured but overcome the kinds of circumstances that--we are told on a daily basis--ought to be dreadfully feared with dreadful fear by all thoughtful individuals. And we therefore castigate those who strive to create a nanny state to protect what they imagine as masses of frozen androids incapable of changing as circumstances change.
  • Music educators. Despite constant publicity given to cutbacks on music education in schools, the observable fact is that musicians are getting better and better with every passing year. Popular music has always been mostly dreck, and it remains so today. But looking beyond what is sold to the Philistine masses, we can honestly say that more people play and sing better today than ever before. Many truly amazing musicians live in penury, simply because there are so many of them. That ensures a massive supply of fine sounds for all of us. Furthermore, many who learn music but don't pursue it professionally later testify to the way that their music educations formed them for other things. Behind lots of amazing people are music teachers, whom we invite to take a bow.
  • Agricultural sciences. The true "green revolution" continues as folks who study the raising of food continue to discover and propagate innovations that increase yields. Just this week we noted a friend who is busy showing subsistence farmers in east Africa how improved cultivation techniques can increase their yields from 300 kg per hectare to several metric tons per hectare, while vastly reducing wind erosion and overcultivation. And as the production of surplus food has historically been the key to improved social welfare, we figure that the world is getting not just less hungry but more enriched generally.
  • The profit motive.The possibility of profits induces selfish humans to do good things for others. Aside from conversion, it's the main force keeping people from simply killing each other. Hooray for capitalism, which has done more to alleviate poverty, sickness and illiteracy than just about anything, including something that we note below.
  • Immigration, free trade and global travel. Thanks to these things, our Republic enjoy a surfeit of foods, manufactured goods, arts, sciences, and friendships. Facilitated by these things, the family of Christian faith is expanded so that the people in the East and South considerably outnumber SWNID and SWNIDish neighbors in the north.
  • Altruism. Despite the constant disappointment that human nature provides, the human family continues to celebrate those who give of themselves for the sake of others and to aspire to do the same. The motive gives meaning to lives that would otherwise be lived in brutish shortness. Of course, we are confident that the impulse has little do to with the sociological and biological factors imagined by, well, sociobiologists. Rather, we affirm it as a sign that humans bear the image of their Creator, the God who gave his own life for the sake of others. Our altruism doesn't so much make the world substantially better in the big picture, though it definitely does in the small cases. Rather, it points us to the One who does offer what we comprehensively call "salvation."
  • The human condition. It's miserable all the time, but that's not all bad. People who imagine that their job, workplace, family, friends, circumstances and prospects are the worst ever need only contemplate the lives of others. Count your blessings indeed, but count the curse and be amazed that people whose lives are like yours can survive and even thrive. Put your misery in perspective, get to know the God whose strength is made perfect in weakness, and find out who in the world you are.
  • Bullet points. This typographical invention makes possible essay writing without genuine coherence, a boon to bloggers everywhere.
  • Hyperlinks. Like breadcrumbs dropped on the path but never eaten by birds, they let us follow where others have surfed before, providing an endless set of opportunities to absorb the wonders of cyberspace. But when absent, as in this posting, they unburden us from the temptation to linger too long on pointless blather.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Palin = Symbol

We assert with relief that Sarah Palin has no future as a political candidate, though she will likely run for the Republican prez nom in 2012, splitting the core Religious Right vote with the slightly less distasteful Mike Huckabee.

We assert with interest that Sarah Palin will remain a potent political symbol for both sides of the spectrum for years to come. She has the power to incite deep hatred on the left and profound affection on the right, even among many conservatives who think that she's incapable of staying afloat in the deep end of the pool.*

As a case in point, we note today's American Thinker contribution from "Robin of Berkeley," a self-styled recovering liberal and a psychotherapist. The anonymous Robin characterizes the left's treatment of Palin as a metaphorical but tangible "wilding," that is, a tactical rape designed to terrorize her and her tribe.

Along the way, the author describes her own revelation as to the true meaning of feminism for her liberal former friends who happened to be male. It was all about having women available to them for unlimited sex, she surmises.

The essay is not for the squeamish. Neither is it for the easily incited. Read it soberly, for the insights, and for the sheer novelty of seeing postmodern tropes being used against the left.

*She also has the power, like Al Gore, to turn her political failure into personal wealth. That's another subject for another time.

So, In Less Than a Year

Rasmussen shows that Obama is now in deep disapproval. Strong disapproves are at 41%; strong approves at 28%. The approval index is in double-digit negative territory for nine days in a row.

That plus Joe Lieberman's principled opposition to a "public option" portend ill for ObamaCare. Minus the public option, lefties like Feingold will bolt, and Obama lacks the skill or popularity to keep all 60 Dems in the fold.

So, a little over a year since the election and much less than a year since the inauguration, it's worth remembering that Obama was elected opposing a health-insurance mandate, a point with which he pummeled Hillary in the primaries, and with a pledge to practice post-partisan politics. So much for promises, so much for approval.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Report from China: What BHO Didn't See

WSJ Asia editor Leslie Hook reminds readers of that astute news outlet what President Obama could have visited in China but didn't: a Chinese "house" church.

The article nicely summarizes what the roughly 100 million Chinese Christians face as their loyalties contest those demanded by their very peculiar government. And it notes who is likely to win the contest:

But freedom of faith is something not even history's most repressive governments have ever been fully able to snuff out: not the Romans in their suppression of the earliest Christians; not the communists in their efforts to substitute History for God; not Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong or Kim Il Sung, who attempted to substitute themselves for God. So while Shouwang has no place to meet this coming Sunday, the church will still be there, only more deeply steeled in its faith. This is the side of China—the one Mr. Obama opted not to see—that will ultimately determine its future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Which Lawyer Came to Work Prepared?

If we taught in law school (a personal nightmare), we'd require first-year students to watch this exchange between Attorney General Eric Holder and Senator Lindsey Graham. Then we'd ask, Which attorney would you rather be? What makes that attorney different?

The obvious answers are "Graham," and "He seems to know what he's talking about, while Holder hasn't a clue about things that should be settled."

As in someone thought things through and did his homework, while someone else didn't.

How does the Attorney General of the United States go to a Senate committee hearing, having announced civilian trials for 9/11 conspirators, and not expect to be asked what he'd do with Bin Laden? How does the Justice Department not already have a plan for Bin Laden's disposition when he's captured?

Answers, to be applied multiply and randomly to the questions above: (1) They're making it up as they go. (2) They're focused on satisfying the editorial board of The Nation, not the Congress or the electorate. (3) Despite having campaigned on Bin Laden's noncapture, they have no means or desire to effect his capture.

We really think that Holder looks like he's in over his head in this exchange. Graham is deferential to his niceness, almost as if to say that he's sorry to expose the fact that he's not really up to the job.

We're trying not to imagine the confusion behind the scenes as Justice plays out its civilian show trials while intelligence agencies wonder what they'll have to do with the next bad guy who's captured.

Harvard Med School Chief Articulates SWNIDish Position

We haven't posted much lately because so much of what's in the news is covered by prior pontifications. Today we break silence to note that others are similarly pontificating, and they're closer to actual pontiffs.

Specifically, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, who happens to be no less than Dean of Harvard Medical School (a fact with which Dr. Flier opens his article, both obviating the usual biographical note appended at the end and reinforcing the stereotype of Harvard types), opines in today's WSJ that the present state of so-called healthcare reform is deserving of a "failing grade."

For those who expect a stalwart of academe to insist that the current bills aren't trendy-lefty enough, we note the surprise that Flier objects on economic grounds. What the present reforms will do, he argues, is drive prices higher faster than would happen otherwise.

Flier offers nothing of an alternative, but he does hint as he assesses the present:

Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.

So the solutions ought to be to reform tax policy to decouple employment and insurance, tax overinsurance, reduce regulation, and reform Medicare and Medicaid away from payment for service. We seem to remember someone trying to do something about such things once.

Despite Flier's throwaway remarks decrying both parties' approaches to the issue, the reality is that his diagnosis would call for the kinds of actions proposed by the Bush administration and instantly torpedoed by Democrats in Congress.

Cost control and quality improvement, Flier says, can't happen when "The true costs of health care are disguised, competition based on price and quality are almost impossible, and patients lose their ability to be the ultimate judges of value."

So the solution would be to put patients in charge of their healthcare dollars, with a financial incentive to save. Just the thing that high-deductible policies with health savings accounts would do. Which is to say the very thing that the present administration and Congress refuses to allow to continue, let alone grow. And the very thing for which Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was nearly crucified for advocating weeks ago.

Flier can't say that, apparently. He must respect the rule that people in his position not support such reactionary, right-wing ideas. But it's clear enough what must be done if his analysis has any merit at all.

We continue to think that the Obama-Pelosi initiative is doomed by its stupidity. We are heartened that some of those most deeply embedded in the institutions of the liberal establishment seem to agree.

Cultural Opportunity Not to Be Missed

Our Fair City's renowned musical assemblage, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, this weekend offers an appealing program at an appealing price.

The program is a newly composed piece followed by two chestnuts, Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto and Brahms' Second Symphony.

The price is whatever you want to pay. They're recommending $10 per ticket, but they're accepting any amount you name.

Info on obtaining tickets is available here. And here's a little video that introduces the program from the perspective of some of they players:

Monday, November 09, 2009

And It Was Torn Down

On this anniversary of the Berlin Wall's apocalyptic destruction, we link a recording, of Ronald Reagan's remarkable 1987 speech that momentously called for that very event. The speech has been edited into three parts to conform to the time limits imposed by YouTube.

We link this extensive digest as opposed to briefer excerpts of the climactic phrase for a reason. As we look back on the democratic West's victory over Communism in the Cold War, we must reckon that the conflict was concluded successfully when Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II added to the historic strategy of containment a determination to roll back the oppression of Communist regimes that were both morally evil and politically rotten.

Reagan's delivery is clear, though betraying some fatigue. He muddles the German phrases, though they are received warmly by his audience. But he delivers not just a call to destroy the wall but an assertion of his core political values: that freedom is both right morally and pragmatic economically. The West was strong because freedom makes its citizens strong and prosperous, while the Communist bloc was weak because oppression makes people weak and poor.

That didn't mean confrontation alone. It meant diplomacy, and most of the speech is about possible diplomatic moves. But it was the aim of the diplomacy that never wavered: Reagan proposed diplomacy not simply to keep the peace but to promote liberty. Avoiding hostility was by itself far too small a goal to channel Reagan's idealism.

And so here is the speech, in three parts:

As a coda,we note that WSJ carries today a there-at-the-creation essay by one of Reagan's speechwriters, noting how the President himself championed the inclusion of the four words that Foggy Bottom sought to excise.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why Is Tonight Different from All Other Nights?

For a range of conservative punditry on today's extremely off-year elections, we recommend NRO's symposium.

The consensus: conservatives will mostly win, demonstrating the backlash against Big Government and a return to core conservative values.

The advice: Rs need to be conservatives but remain big-tent conservatives.

The likely buzz: mainstream media will either ignore conservative victories or see them as problematic for the GOP, constraining the party from moving left where it ought to be. Such is demonstrable nonsense.

Our meta-punditry: the United States remains an inherently conservative nation that occasionally flirts with the Left. Why? The Left appealingly addresses objectives sought by all people while providing means that semmingly bypass the hard stuff. But after the flirtation, cold reality takes hold and restores the notion that virtuous means are needed to achieve virtuous ends. We have our flirtations, but in the end we come back home.

Electoral Guide Update

ITEM: We urgently update our previous endorsements to note that CPS school board candidate Chris McDowell does indeed have a web site, located here. Mr. McDowell phoned us to leave the message.

We commend him as a reader of this highly influential blog, even if such reading is prompted only by Google Blog Alerts.

We also urge the League of Women Voters to get its thing together and list all candidates' web sites on their avowedly nonpartisan voters' guide web site.

ITEM: Where does Mayor Mark Mallory dine on Election Day? For breakfast, he dines at the Queensgate Frisch's. Enjoying a meal there with a visiting missionary of significant impact, we spied the mayor making his entrance, later sharing some pleasant, neighborly conversation as we exited. Those who infer from his assignment of a police body guard that the Mayor travels with an entourage are simply goofy. Entering with two associates, he walked through a restaurant where he was clearly accepted as ordinary by the serving staff, altogether unheralded, un guarded and unconcerned.