Monday, September 17, 2007

Smog Of Oblivion

August 1, 2007

James Taranto, the very clever Wall Street Journal writer and editor of, has a thesis regarding our political culture. He believes that the liberals are victims of their own cultural hegemony. They say things that are quite inaccurate.

Their inaccuracies are repeated by their intellectual look-alikes throughout the culture. They reread their inaccuracies and are roundly confirmed in their ignorance. Conservatives think the liberal opposition is composed of liars or suave deceivers. Actually our liberals are sincere in their ignorant beliefs. Grant them at least this much.

If our liberals were not so ubiquitously dominant in our political culture they might be confronted occasionally by disagreement. It would smarten them up. It might even cheer them up, for they have a very gloomy view of the world. Today they are profoundly convinced, as one of their very brightest has put it, that the war in Iraq is "lost."

The very bright fellow is that rumpled, loveable old curmudgeon from Nevada, Senator Reid. He is not the only one. So far as I can tell almost all the Democratic presidential candidates think the war is lost. Congress abounds with solons who are calling for retreat. Just the other day I watched Rep. John Conyers intoning this defeatist line to Wolf Blitzer, and Mr. Blitzer too seemed to agree this war is lost.

Rather heroically, the editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, submitted a Washington Post piece two weeks back arguing that victory was still attainable in Iraq and that history would view President Bush benignly. The hoots and the ha-has from the liberals are still to be heard. Of course, he had a point.

The new strategy of General Petraeus seems to be working. Casualties among civilians in Iraq are perceptibly lower. Sheiks in once hostile provinces such as Anbar and Diyala are joining forces with us against the savages of Al Qaeda, the Iraqi military is gaining strength, and wider areas of the country are assuming a semblance of law and order.

Now two critics of the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq have returned from an eight-day visit there and published a piece in the New York Times that sounds very much like the writers have come to Mr. Kristol's point of view. What will happen to our liberal friends if they read it? Perhaps Mr. Conyers will perceive it as satire. It is hard to imagine anything shaking his conviction that Iraq is a lost cause.

The critics writing in the Times are analysts from the liberal Brookings Institution, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. They chide the defeatist critics of the administration who they say "seem unaware of the significant changes taking place" in Iraq. "As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush Administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory' but sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with." They conclude by saying, " … there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."

That would take us into an election year with the Democrats saying the war is lost. What will they say if we are, as these analysts seem to think, winning? My guess is that they will continue to say we are losing. Return to Mr. Taranto's insight. The political culture is almost totally befogged by liberal misconceptions and bugaboos. It is, as we say at the American Spectator, a Kultursmog. It pollutes the liberals' minds and renders them oblivious of any evidence contrary to their gloomy views.

Thus they will continue to say we are losing. They may pipe down somewhat, but they are not likely to admit to being wrong. How would they know?

If their calls for retreat gain no support from the electorate, perhaps they will change the subject to another of their favorite misconceptions, to wit, the economy is going to hell.

Actually the economy is chugging along in a healthy and protracted period of growth. For the past five years per capita gross domestic product has grown at 11%. We are living through a vast global economic boom, and the Democrats seem completely unaware.

In 2008 their presidential candidate will be moaning that we have lost a war and are economically in a hell of a mess. The Republican will only have to point to a healthy economy and the success of Mr. Petraeus's splendid army to win. Then the Democrats will whine that the Republicans stole the election from them. That is my prediction, and I base it on the evidence.

Mr. Tyrrell is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to The New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His book "The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President's Life After the White House" has just been published by Thomas Nelson.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Thank You Liberal Media

I was catching up on some reading today and came across this very interesting article by James Taranto. With just a few points difference in the votes, John Kerry could be president today. Taranto argues that we have the liberal media, incredibly, to thank for helping defeat Kerry!

Kerry's Quagmire

How the liberal media helped re-elect George W. Bush.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

What were the Democrats thinking? Didn't John Kerry have "loser" written all over him? After all, he was not only a Massachusetts Democrat but Michael Dukakis's former lieutenant governor. He was as liberal as Dukakis but lacked the inspiring immigrant background: a man who married another man's fortune, from a state where a man can marry another man. He had a haughty air, and he looked French, or so some anonymous Republicans told the New York Times in 2003. Mr. Kerry replied, "The White House has started the politics of personal destruction"--proving that he was thin-skinned as well. Yet exit polls showed that Democratic primary voters backed him because he was "electable."

Of course "electable" at that point chiefly meant "not Howard Dean," whose campaign in retrospect seems more performance art than politics. But once Mr. Kerry won the nomination, he had--or seemed to have--something else going for him: the support of the liberal media, which loathed President Bush and yearned for his defeat. "The media, I think, wants Kerry to win," Evan Thomas of Newsweek said last July. "I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards--I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox--but they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all. There's going to be this glow about them . . . that's going to be worth maybe 15 points." Mr. Thomas later revised his estimate downward, to five points.

If Mr. Thomas was right, then, Mr. Bush would have won re-election with a popular-vote margin of between 7.5% and 17.5% of the total vote--rather than the 2.5% he actually got--but for the liberal media. Yet there's a case to be made on the other side: that the liberal media actually helped President Bush, rendering the Kerry campaign ineffective by telling Democrats what they wanted to hear rather than what was true.

By the way, did you know that John Kerry served in Vietnam? This brief entry on his résumé--a four-month tour of duty for a (then) nearly 20-year Senate veteran--turned out to be central to the myth that the Democrats, with help from sympathetic media, tried but failed to build around Mr. Kerry.

To hear them tell it, Mr. Kerry's Vietnam stint was one of the best-kept secrets in American politics. "The U.S. senator from Massachusetts said few voters in neighboring New Hampshire even know he's a military veteran," the Eagle-Tribune of Andover, Mass., reported in October 2003, three months before the Granite State primary. "It is stunning," Mr. Kerry told the paper's editors. "That's the one thing you'd think the voters would know about me. Especially in New Hampshire. You can't take anything for granted. You have to tell people about yourself again and again."

Perhaps Mr. Kerry was traumatized in 'Nam and finds his experience there difficult to talk about. If so, it was a difficulty he managed to overcome. In July, he arrived at Boston's FleetCenter to accept his party's nomination for president of the United States. Before reading his prepared speech, he saluted and declared that he was "reporting for duty."

The media helped the Mr. Kerry campaign get out its "war hero" message. "If the Republicans had any hope of casting Kerry as some Michael Dukakis-style effete Eastern liberal, that's over," declared CNN's Bruce Morton on January 30, three days after Mr. Kerry's New Hampshire victory made him the all-but-certain nominee. "The band of brothers stands in its way."

The tone hadn't changed six months later, when CBS's Byron Pitts filed the following report in advance of Mr. Kerry's convention appearance: "The day before his speech, Kerry crossed Boston Harbor with some of his crewmates from Vietnam. His band of brothers. They have one battle left. But tonight the loner will stand alone here in his hometown one more time and look to do what John F. Kerry has nearly always done--find a way to win."

The Kerry campaign's narrative contrasted its man with Mr. Bush, whom it portrayed as a slacker who avoided Vietnam by using political connections to secure a spot in the Texas Air National Guard. Again, the media played along. In a July 22 interview on the "CBS Evening News," Dan Rather asked Mr. Kerry: "Speaking of angry, have you ever had any anger about President Bush--who spent his time during the Vietnam War in the National Guard--running, in effect, a campaign that does its best to diminish your service in Vietnam? You have to be at least irritated by that, or have you been?"

"Yup, I have been," replied Mr. Kerry. Mr. Rather, it seemed, had stumbled on a way to get a straight answer out of the notoriously nuanced nominee. (A tip of the hat to the Media Research Center for the quotes from Messrs. Morton, Pitts and Rather.)

Of course, the president's National Guard service proved to be Mr. Rather's undoing rather than Mr. Bush's. But long before Rathergate and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, there were reasons to doubt that Mr. Kerry's Vietnam narrative would be a winning strategy.

For one, the supposition that a military record is a key to electoral success finds little support in history. Presidents have been elected on the strength of their military service--Washington, Grant, Eisenhower--but these men were generals who led America to victory in its three greatest wars, not junior officers in an unpopular and losing conflict. Mr. Bush himself beat two Vietnam veterans in 2000: POW John McCain and Army journalist Al Gore. Bill Clinton, who evaded military service altogether, defeated World War II heroes in both 1992 and 1996. Was 2004 different by virtue of being a wartime election? But Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon both won re-election against dovish veterans, and wartime presidents Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR all had little or no military experience.

By constantly reminding Americans of the one war we lost, Mr. Kerry fed suspicions that his attitude toward the war on terror was a defeatist one. "The Democrats' problem isn't that Americans think they're wimps who lack personal courage," Peter Beinart, editor of the liberal New Republic, noted in December 2002. "Their problem is that Americans think, rightly, that they lack an agenda for protecting the country. Bush understands that in this terrifying new era, what Americans want from their leaders isn't heroism; it's clarity and direction." But few other liberal journalists shared Mr. Beinart's insight.

There was also something deeply weird about the way Mr. Kerry talked about his Vietnam experience. Not for him the quiet dignity of the true war hero; rather, he spoke of his combat experience with an odd combination of braggadocio and obsessiveness. In a December 2002 "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Kerry mentioned Vietnam nine times by Mr. Beinart's count, including in answer to a question about why he favored capital punishment for terrorists: "Just as I, in a war, was prepared to kill in defense of my nation, I also believe that you eliminate the enemy."

And Mr. Kerry's own Vietnam story was, to say the least, complicated. He first rose to public prominence not for his exploits in combat but for his leadership of the radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In a 1971 protest, Mr. Kerry threw what were ostensibly his own medals over a fence surrounding the U.S. Capitol; it later emerged that he had kept his medals and tossed someone else's. Earlier that year, Mr. Kerry had testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that American servicemen had committed "war crimes," including rape, murder and torture, "on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

These calumnies left many veterans angry and resentful, and they made it likely that Vietnam would prove to be the candidate's Achilles' heel rather than his silver bullet. One veteran quoted in "Unfit for Command" summed things up pointedly: "In 1971-72, for almost 18 months, [Mr. Kerry] stood before the television audiences and claimed that the 500,000 men and women in Vietnam, and in combat, were all villains--there were no heroes. In 2004, one hero from the Vietnam War has appeared, running for president of the United States and commander in chief. It just galls one to think about it."

The Kerry camp evidently hoped the media would gloss over the candidate's antiwar activities, and for the most part, for many months, they did. One exception was ABC's Charlie Gibson, who in April 2004 confronted Mr. Kerry about the 1971 medal incident. Mr. Kerry answered evasively, then muttered into a live microphone that Mr. Gibson was "doing the work of the Republican National Committee." This was a telling comment. Mr. Gibson was, in truth, doing the work of a journalist: asking a politician tough questions. But Democrats expect the mainstream media to treat them sympathetically--an expectation that has ample basis in experience.

Yet it's far from clear that such sympathy serves the Democrats' interests. Suppose that, once Mr. Kerry secured the nomination, the media had aggressively investigated and reported on his antiwar activities. The candidate would have been forced to respond. If he had been smart, he would have delivered a major speech in which, without renouncing his opposition to the Vietnam War, he repudiated and apologized for his decades-old slanders against fellow veterans. He might have concluded by saying of the Vietnam conflict, "I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country"--the words with which he ended a February 1992 Senate speech criticizing fellow Vietnam vet Bob Kerrey for trying to make Bill Clinton's draft avoidance an issue in that year's Democratic primaries.

This surely would have gone a long way to defusing the issue. Instead, Mr. Kerry bet that the media's silence would carry him through to the election--and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling Swift Boat Veterans. A month after the Democratic Convention, they launched their first round of anti-Kerry ads, coinciding with the publication of "Unfit for Command." The claims that Mr. Kerry had falsified his heroics in order to win medals and an early end to his tour of duty were mostly unverifiable, and fair-minded Americans probably would have been inclined to give Mr. Kerry the benefit of the doubt. But the ads goaded Mr. Kerry into responding, which in turn forced the media to pay attention. Whereupon the Swift Boat Veterans turned their attention to Mr. Kerry's antiwar activities, on which they had him dead to rights.

Then, in early September, CBS News aired its disastrous story on Bush's National Guard service. So eager were Mr. Kerry's supporters in the media to believe the worst of the president that Mr. Rather and producer Mary Mapes went to air with a report based on obviously fabricated documents, then stood by their story for an agonizing two weeks. Yet even if it had been true--or had gone undebunked--it's unlikely it would have made a difference. As the Washington Post's liberal TV critic, Tom Shales, acknowledged with hindsight in an Inauguration Day column, "It's common knowledge that Bush was a spoiled little rich boy who did not serve with any great distinction, so this story wasn't exactly a blockbuster."

The CBS debacle marked the end of Vietnam as a campaign issue. In the remaining weeks before the election, Mr. Kerry talked a lot less about Vietnam and more about matters of contemporary concern. He performed adequately in the debates, and with the help of a massive get-out-the-vote effort he avoided a landslide defeat.

After the Swift Boat Veterans and Rathergate, it must have been clear even to Mr. Kerry that campaigning on Vietnam had led him into a quagmire. If the media had treated his war-hero narrative with more skepticism in the first place, he might have reached this realization--and developed a better campaign strategy--much earlier. Conservatives love to complain about liberal media bias, and for the most part they're right. But they should count their blessings, too. Were it not for the media reinforcing the Democrats' spin, John Kerry might be president today.

Mr. Taranto is editor of This article appears in the July/August issue of The American Spectator.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti
Requiescat in Pace

Italian Tenor Pavarotti Dies at 71
Sep 6, 9:05 AM (ET)

ROME (AP) - Luciano Pavarotti, opera's biggest superstar of the late 20th century, died Thursday. He was 71. He was the son of a singing baker and became the king of the high C's.

Pavarotti, who had been diagnosed last year with pancreatic cancer and underwent treatment last month, died at his home in his native Modena at 5 a.m., his manager told The Associated Press in an e-mailed statement.

His wife, Nicoletta, four daughters and sister were among family and friends at his side, manager Terri Robson said.

"The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer," Robson said. "In fitting with the approach that characterised his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness."

Pavarotti's charismatic personna and ebullient showmanship - but most of all his creamy and powerful voice - made him the most beloved and celebrated tenor since the great Caruso and one of the few opera singers to win crossover fame as a popular superstar.

"He has been, of course, one of the greatest tenors ever, one of the most important singers in the history of opera," colleague Jose Carreras told reporters in Germany. "We all hoped for a miracle ... but unfortunately that was not possible, and now we have to regret that we lost a wonderful singer and a great man."

For serious fans, the unforced beauty and thrilling urgency of Pavarotti's voice made him the ideal interpreter of the Italian lyric repertory, especially in the 1960s and '70s when he first achieved stardom. For millions more, his thrilling performances of standards like "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" came to represent what opera is all about.

"Nessun Dorma" turned out to be Pavarotti's last aria, sung at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006. His last full-scale concert was at Taipei in December 2005, and his farewell to opera was in Puccini's "Tosca" at New York's Metropolitan in March 2004.

Instantly recognizable from his charcoal black beard and tuxedo-busting girth, Pavarotti radiated an intangible magic that helped him win hearts in a way Placido Domingo and Carreras - his partners in the "Three Tenors" concerts - never quite could.

"I always admired the God-given glory of his voice - that unmistakable special timbre from the bottom up to the very top of the tenor range," Domingo said in a statement from Los Angeles.

Pavarotti, who seemed equally at ease singing with soprano Joan Sutherland as with the Spice Girls, scoffed at accusations that he was sacrificing his art in favor of commercialism.

"The word 'commercial' is exactly what we want," he said after appearing in the "Three Tenors" concerts. "We've reached 1.5 billion people with opera. If you want to use the word 'commercial,' or something more derogatory, we don't care. Use whatever you want."

In the annals of that rare and coddled breed, the operatic tenor, it may well be said the 20th century began with Enrico Caruso and ended with Pavarotti. Other tenors - Domingo included - may have drawn more praise from critics for their artistic range and insights, but none could equal the combination of natural talent and personal charm that so endeared Pavarotti to audiences.

"Pavarotti is the biggest superstar of all," the late New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg once said. "He's correspondingly more spoiled than anybody else. They think they can get away with anything. Thanks to the glory of his voice, he probably can."

In his heyday, he was known as the "King of the High C's" for the ease with which he tossed off difficult top notes. In fact it was his ability to hit nine glorious high C's in quick succession that turned him into an international superstar singing Tonio's aria "Ah! Mes amis," in Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment" at the Met in 1972.

From Beijing to Buenos Aires, people immediately recognized his incandescent smile and lumbering bulk, clutching a white handkerchief as he sang arias and Neapolitan folk songs, pop numbers and Christmas carols for hundreds of thousands in outdoor concerts.

His name seemed to show up as much in gossip columns as serious music reviews, particularly after he split with Adua Veroni, his wife of 35 years and mother of their three daughters, and then took up with his 26-year-old secretary in 1996.

In late 2003, he married Nicoletta Mantovani in a lavish, star-studded ceremony. Pavarotti said their daughter, Alice, nearly a year old at the time of the wedding, was the main reason they finally wed after years together.

In the latter part of his career, he came under fire for canceling performances or pandering to the lowest common denominator in his choice of programs, or for the Three Tenors tours and their millions of dollars in fees.

He was criticized for lip-synching at a concert in Modena. An artist accused him of copying her works from a how-to-draw book and selling the paintings.

The son of a baker who was an amateur singer, Pavarotti was born Oct. 12, 1935. He had a meager upbringing, though he said it was rich with happiness.

"Our family had very little, but I couldn't imagine one could have any more," Pavarotti said.

As a boy, Pavarotti showed more interest in soccer than his studies, but he also was fond of listening to his father's recordings of tenor greats like Beniamino Gigli, Tito Schipa, Jussi Bjoerling and Giuseppe Di Stefano, his favorite.

Among his close childhood friends was Mirella Freni, who would eventually become a soprano and an opera great herself. The two studied singing together and years later ended up making records and concerts together.

In his teens, Pavarotti joined his father, also a tenor, in the church choir and local opera chorus. He was influenced by the American movie actor-singer Mario Lanza.

"In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror," Pavarotti said.

Singing was still nothing more than a passion while Pavarotti trained to become a teacher and began working in a school.

But at 20, he traveled with his chorus to an international music competition in Wales. The Modena group won first place, and Pavarotti began to dedicate himself to singing.

With the encouragement of his then-fiancee, Adua, he started lessons, selling insurance to pay for them. He studied with Arrigo Pola and later Ettore Campogalliani.

In 1961, Pavarotti won a local competition and with it a debut as Rodolfo in Puccini's "La Boheme."

He followed with a series of successes in small opera houses throughout Europe before his 1963 debut at Covent Garden in London, where he stood in for Di Stefano as Rodolfo.

Having impressed conductor Richard Bonynge, Pavarotti was given a role opposite Bonynge's wife, Sutherland, in a Miami production of "Lucia di Lamermoor." They subsequently signed him for a 14-week tour of Australia.

It was the recognition Pavarotti needed to launch his career. He also credited Sutherland with teaching him how to breathe correctly.

Pavarotti's major debuts followed - at La Scala in Milan in 1965, San Francisco in 1967 and New York's Metropolitan Opera House in 1968.

Throughout his career, Pavarotti struggled with a much-publicized weight problem. His love of food caused him to balloon to a reported 396 pounds in 1978.

"Maybe this time I'll really do it and keep it up," he said during one of his constant attempts at dieting.

Pavarotti, who had been trained as a lyric tenor, began taking on heavier dramatic roles, such as Manrico in Verdi's "Trovatore" and the title role in "Otello."

In the mid-1970s, Pavarotti became a true media star. He appeared in television commercials and began singing in hugely lucrative mega-concerts outdoors and in stadiums around the world. Soon came joint concerts with pop stars. A concert in New York's Central Park in 1993 drew 500,000 fans.

Pavarotti's recording of "Volare" went platinum in 1988.

In 1990, he appeared with Domingo and Carreras in a concert at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome for the end of soccer's World Cup. The concert was a huge success, and the record known as "The Three Tenors" was a best-seller and was nominated for two Grammy awards. The video sold over 750,000 copies.

The three-tenor extravaganza became a mini-industry and widely imitated. With a follow-up album recorded at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1994, the three have outsold every other performer of classical music. A 1996 tour earned each tenor an estimated $10 million.

Pavarotti liked to mingle with pop stars in his series of charity concerts, "Pavarotti & Friends," held annually in Modena. He performed with artists as varied as Ricky Martin, James Brown and the Spice Girls.

The performances raised some eyebrows but he always shrugged off the criticism.

Some say the "word 'pop' is a derogatory word to say 'not important' - I do not accept that," Pavarotti said in a 2004 interview with the AP. "If the word 'classic' is the word to say 'boring,' I do not accept. There is good and bad music."

It was not just his annual extravaganza that saw Pavarotti involved in humanitarian work.

During the 1992-95 Bosnia war, he collected humanitarian aid along with U2 lead singer Bono, and after the war he financed and established the Pavarotti Music Center in the southern city of Mostar to offer Bosnia's artists the opportunity to develop their skills.

He performed at benefit concerts to raise money for victims of tragedies such as an earthquake in December 1988 that killed 25,000 people in northern Armenia.

Pavarotti was also dogged by accusations of tax evasion, and in 2000 he agreed to pay nearly roughly $12 million to the Italian state after he had unsuccessfully claimed that the tax haven of Monte Carlo rather than Italy was his official residence.

He had been accused in 1996 of filing false tax returns for 1989-91.

Pavarotti always denied wrongdoing, saying he paid taxes wherever he performed. But, upon agreeing to the settlement, he said: "I cannot live being thought not a good person."

Pavarotti was preparing to leave New York in July 2006 to resume a farewell tour when doctors discovered a malignant pancreatic mass. He underwent surgery in a New York hospital, and all his remaining 2006 concerts were canceled.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of the disease, though doctors said the surgery offered improved hopes for survival.

"I was a fortunate and happy man," Pavarotti told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published about a month after the surgery. "After that, this blow arrived."

"And now I am paying the penalty for this fortune and happiness," he told the newspaper.

Fans were still waiting for a public appearance a year after his surgery. In the summer, Pavarotti taught a group of selected students and worked on a recording of sacred songs, a work expected to be released in early 2008, according to his manager. He mostly divided his time between Modena and his villa in the Adriatic seaside resort of Pesaro.

Just this week, the Italian government honored him with an award for "excellence in Italian culture," and La Scala and Modena's theater announced a joint Luciano Pavarotti award.

In his final statement, Pavarotti said the awards gave him "the opportunity to continue to celebrate the magic of a life dedicated to the arts and it fills me with pride and joy to have been able to promote my magnificent country abroad."

He will be remembered in Italy as "the last great Italian voice able to move the world," said Bruno Cagli, president of the Santa Cecilia National Academy in Rome.

The funeral will be held Saturday inside Modena's cathedral, Mayor Giorgio Pighi told SkyTG24.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithful departed
through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Whew, That's A Relief

I can never get over the stupidity behind the mindless application of governmental rules and regulations. Even in the most extreme situations, some bureaucrat could insist on the imposition of a law. Check this out:

Rabid bear killed trying to enter Garrett Co. home

A rabid black bear trying to rip out a window air conditioner lost its tug-of-war with a terrified housewife when her husband blasted the beast with a shotgun, the woman and a state wildlife official said today.

The bear rushed the house after Charlotte Stanton yelled out her screen door to try to scare it away from a goat pen. Stanton, 39, of rural Grantsville in Garrett County, said she was losing her tussle with the 134-pound sow when Michael Stanton pulled the trigger.

"I finally yelled at my husband, because I couldn't hold on to that air conditioner much longer," she said. "It seemed like forever, but I'm sure it was just seconds."

The load of buckshot didn't kill the bear, which lay bleeding and moaning in the yard of the Western Maryland home for about 30 minutes Aug. 29 before a state Natural Resources Police officer arrived to remove it.

All four family members -- including daughter Caitlin, 10, and son James Winebrenner, 15 -- will receive a series of rabies shots because of their exposure to the animal's blood and saliva, Mrs. Stanton said.

"We cleaned up the blood and stuff from the house," she said today in a telephone interview. "All of us had pretty much blood on us."

Michael Stanton, 49, won't be charged with a wildlife violation because the state allows killing bears out of season to defend people and livestock, The Cumberland Times-News reported.

The bear was the first known case of a rabid black bear in Maryland, said Harry Spiker, who heads the state's bear management program. Rabid bears have been confirmed in Pennsylvania and Canada, he said.

Spiker said the agency tested the bear for rabies because she was so aggressive.

"That behavior was just completely out of the ordinary," Spiker said.

Stanton said bears often come into her yard and most are easily chased away. But now, "when I see a bear in the yard, I'm not going to think twice about running for the house or even getting a gun out," she said.

Look at this situation from Michael Stanton's perspective: A bear is trying to tear its way into his house to get at his wife. His young kids are there as well. I'm sure he didn't know at the time that the bear was rabid, but its behavior was pretty clear -- it was trying to attack his wife, and he and the kids were likely targets as well. So, he did what any normal person would do, he got his shotgun and put that bear down.

Look at this situation from the governmental bureaucrat's perspective: The law is the law and we may need to prosecute this man for illegally shooting this bear. It may not matter that the bear was rabid. It may not matter that if this fellow didn't shoot the bear, his wife almost certainly, and probably his kids, were going to be killed or mauled by the bear.

It boggles the mind that a rational human being would even have to spend any time evaluating this situation.
Passing of a Legend

Saw this item on Drudge that Pavarotti was nearing the end.

Pavarotti unconscious, family gathers: report

Wed Sep 5, 3:35 PM ET

Luciano Pavarotti's health has deteriorated sharply and the 71-year-old tenor is at home, unconscious and suffering from kidney failure, a television station reported on Wednesday.

Family and friends went to Pavarotti's home to be near the singer, considered one of the greatest tenors of his generation, E' TV Antenna Uno television station in Modena, the tenor's home town, reported.

In July 2006 Pavarotti underwent surgery in New York for pancreatic cancer and retreated to his villa in Modena. He had to cancel his first planned public reappearance a few months later.

Taken to hospital with a fever last month, Pavarotti was released from hospital in Modena on August 25 after undergoing more than two weeks of tests and treatment. Italy's AGI news agency said cancer specialists were treating Pavarotti at home, and described his condition as "very serious."

One of Pavarotti's friends contacted by Reuters said she had also heard the singer was in "serious" condition.

A spokesman at the Modena hospital declined to comment.

What an incredible singer -- he was the most talented singer of this era. I had the chance to see him when the Three Tenors came to Chicago in 2000. My wife freaked when she heard how much the tickets cost. But I told her that seeing Pavarotti, Domingo and Carerras was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It was.

Harvard Grads May Want to Ask for a Refund

Great article from today's WSJ -- well worth posting in its entirety:

Our Compassless Colleges

September 5, 2007; Page A17

At universities and colleges throughout the land, undergraduates and their parents pay large sums of money for -- and federal and state governments contribute sizeable tax exemptions to support -- "liberal" education. This despite administrators and faculty lacking, or failing to honor, a coherent concept of what constitutes an educated human being.

To be sure, American higher education, or rather a part of it, is today the envy of the world, producing and maintaining research scientists of the highest caliber. But liberal education is another matter. Indeed, many professors in the humanities and social sciences proudly promulgate doctrines that mock the very idea of a standard or measure defining an educated person, and so legitimate the compassless curriculum over which they preside. In these circumstances, why should we not conclude that universities are betraying their mission?

Many American colleges do adopt general distribution requirements. Usually this means that students must take a course or two of their choosing in the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, decorated perhaps with a dollop of fine arts, rudimentary foreign-language exposure, and the acquisition of basic writing and quantitative skills. And all students must choose a major. But this veneer of structure provides students only superficial guidance. Or, rather, it reinforces the lesson that our universities have little of substance to say about the essential knowledge possessed by an educated person.

Certainly this was true of the core curriculum at Harvard, where I taught in the faculty of arts and sciences during the 1990s. And it remains true even after Harvard's recent reforms.

Harvard's aims and aspirations are in many ways admirable. According to this year's Report of the Task Force on General Education, Harvard understands liberal education as "an education conducted in a spirit of free inquiry undertaken without concern for topical relevance or vocational utility." It prepares for the rest of life by improving students' ability "to assess empirical claims, interpret cultural expression, and confront ethical dilemmas in their personal and professional lives." But instead of concentrating on teaching substantive knowledge, the general education at Harvard will focus on why what students learn is important. To accomplish this, Harvard would require students to take single-semester courses in eight categories: Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, Empirical Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, Societies of the World, and The United States in the World.

Unfortunately, the new requirements add up to little more than an attractively packaged evasion of the university's responsibility to provide a coherent core for undergraduate education. For starters, though apparently not part of the general education curriculum, Harvard requires only a year of foreign language study or the equivalent. Yet since it usually takes more than a year of college study to achieve competence in a foreign language -- the ability to hold a conversation and read a newspaper -- doesn't Harvard, by requiring only a single year, denigrate foreign-language study, and with it the serious study of other cultures and societies?

Furthermore, in the search for the immediate relevance it disavows, Harvard's curriculum repeatedly puts the cart before the horse. For example, instead of first requiring students to concentrate on the study of novels, poetry, and plays, Harvard will ask them to choose from a variety of courses on "literary or religious texts, paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, film, dance, decorative arts" that involve "exploring theoretical and philosophical issues concerning the production and reception of meanings and the formation of aesthetic judgment."

Instead of first requiring students to gain acquaintance with the history of opinions about law, justice, government, duty and virtue, Harvard will ask them to choose from a variety of courses on how to bring ethical theories to bear on contemporary moral and political dilemmas. Instead of first requiring students to survey U.S. history or European history or classical history, Harvard will ask them to choose from a variety of courses that examine the U.S and its relation to the rest of the world. Instead of first teaching students about the essential features of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Harvard will ask them to choose from a variety of courses on almost any aspect of foreign societies.

Harvard's general education reform will allow students to graduate without ever having read the same book or studied the same material. Students may take away much of interest, but it is the little in common they learn that will be of lasting significance. For they will absorb the implicit teaching of the new college curriculum -- same as the old one -- that there is nothing in particular that an educated person need know.

Of course, if parents, students, alumni donors, trustees, professors and administrators are happy, why worry? A college degree remains a hot commodity, a ticket of entry to valuable social networks, a signal to employers that graduates have achieved a certain proficiency in manipulating concepts, performing computations, and getting along with peers.

The reason to worry is that university education can cause lasting harm. The mental habits that students form and the ideas they absorb in college consolidate the framework through which as adults they interpret experience, and judge matters to be true or false, fair or inequitable, honorable or dishonorable. A university that fails to teach students sound mental habits and to acquaint them with enduring ideas handicaps its graduates for public and private life.

Moreover, properly conceived, a liberal education provides invaluable benefits for students and the nation. For most students, it offers the last chance, perhaps until retirement, to read widely and deeply, to acquire knowledge of the opinions and events that formed them and the nation in which they live, and to study other peoples and cultures. A proper liberal education liberalizes in the old-fashioned and still most relevant sense: It forms individuals fit for freedom. [rfr: my emphasis (vigorously) added]

The nation benefits as well, because a liberal democracy presupposes an informed citizenry capable of distinguishing the public interest from private interest, evaluating consequences, and discerning the claims of justice and the opportunities for -- and limits to -- realizing it in politics. Indeed, a sprawling liberal democracy whose citizens practice different religions and no religion at all, in which individuals have family heritages that can be traced to every continent, and in which the nation's foreign affairs are increasingly bound up with local politics in countries around the world is particularly dependent on citizens acquiring a liberal education.

Crafting a core consistent with the imperatives of a liberal education will involve both a substantial break with today's university curriculum and a long overdue alignment of higher education with common sense. Such a core would, for example, require all students to take semester courses surveying Greek and Roman history, European history, and American history. It would require all students to take a semester course in classic works of European literature, and one in classic works of American literature. It would require all students to take a semester course in biology and one in physics. It would require all students to take a semester course in the principles of American government; one in economics; and one in the history of political philosophy. It would require all students to take a semester course comparing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It would require all students to take a semester course of their choice in the history, literature or religion of a non-Western civilization. And it would require all students to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language of their choice by carrying on a casual conversation and accurately reading a newspaper in the language, a level of proficiency usually obtainable after two years of college study, or four semester courses.

Such a core is at best an introduction to liberal education. Still, students who meet its requirements will acquire a common intellectual foundation that enables them to debate morals and politics responsibly, enhances their understanding of whatever specialization they choose, and enriches their appreciation of the multiple dimensions of the delightful and dangerous world in which we live.

It is a mark of the politicization and clutter of our current curriculum that these elementary requirements will strike many faculty and administrators as benighted and onerous. Yet the core I've outlined reflects what all successful individuals outside of academia know: Progress depends on mastering the basics.

Assuming four courses a semester and 32 to graduate, such a core could be completed in the first two years of undergraduate study. Students who met the foreign-language requirement through high school study would have the opportunity as freshman and sophomores to choose four elective courses. During their junior and senior year, students could devote 10 courses to their major while taking six additional elective courses. And students majoring in the natural sciences, where it is necessary to take a substantial sequence of courses, would enroll in introductory and lower-level courses in their major during freshman and sophomore years and complete the core during junior and senior years.

Admittedly, reform confronts formidable obstacles. The major one is professors. Many will fight such a common core, because it requires them to teach general interest classes outside their area of expertise; it reduces opportunities to teach small boutique classes on highly specialized topics; and it presupposes that knowledge is cumulative and that some books and ideas are more essential than others.

Meanwhile, students and parents are poorly positioned to affect change. Students come and go, and, in any event, the understanding they need to formulate the arguments for reform is acquired through the very liberal education of which universities are currently depriving them. Meanwhile, parents are too distant and dispersed, and often they have too much money on the line to rock the boat.

But there are opportunities. Change could be led by an intrepid president, provost or dean of a major university who knows the value of a liberal education, possesses the eloquence and courage to defend it to his or her faculty, and has the skill to refashion institutional incentives and hold faculty and administrators accountable.

Reform could also be led by trustees at private universities -- the election in recent years of T.J. Rodgers, Todd Zywicki, Peter Robinson and Stephen Smith to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees on platforms supporting freedom of speech and high academic standards is a start -- or by alumni determined to connect their donations, on which universities depend, to reliable promises that their gifts will be used in furtherance of liberal education, well understood.

And some enterprising smaller colleges or public universities, taking advantage of the nation's love of diversity and openness to innovation, might discover a market niche for parents and students eager for an education that serves students' best interests by introducing them in a systematic manner to their own civilization, to the moral and political principles on which their nation is based, and to languages and civilizations that differ from their own.

Citizens today are called on to analyze a formidable array of hard questions concerning war and peace, liberty and security, markets and morals, marriage and family, science and technology, poverty and public responsibility, and much more. No citizen can be expected to master all the issues. But liberal democracies count on more than a small minority acquiring the ability to reason responsibly about the many sides of these many-sided questions. For this reason, we must teach our universities to appreciate the aims of a liberal education. And we must impress upon our universities their obligation to pursue them responsibly.

Mr. Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, teaches at George Mason University School of Law. This commentary draws from an essay that previously appeared in Policy Review.


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