The Candidates and Their Reading Lists

Forget Jeb’s and Hillary’s tax returns. We get it: they both make a lot of money from speeches and such.

More interesting is what they read, or claim to read. Last year The Atlantic put together a list of Jeb’s and Hillary’s current book list. In one sense it doesn’t much matter whether they actually read the books they list; more revealing is what they chose to disclose.

Here’s Hillary’s list:

  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  • Mom & Me & Mom, Maya Angelou
  • Missing You, Harlan Coben
  • The Hare With Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal
  • The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Citizens of London, Lynne Olson
  • A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
  • Decision Points, George W. Bush
  • Faith of My Fathers, John McCain

We’ve commented before on the calculated pretentiousness of Hillary’s reading lists, especially when compared to her sub-pedestrian review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book, whose jejunosity is beyond the satiric imagination of Woody Allen. I find it doubtful that Hillary actually read President Bush’s memoir, or McCain’s. These appear to be attempts to give her the veneer of bipartisanship.

Here’s Jeb’s list:

  • Polk, Walter R. Borneman
  • The World America Made, Robert Kagan
  • Knowledge and Power, George Gilder
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Abraham Lincoln, Lord Charnwood
  • The Rule of Nobody, Philip K. Howard
  • The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel
  • The Tragedy of American Compassion, Marvin Olasky
  • A Message to Garcia, Elbert Hubbard
  • The Smartest Kids in the World, Amanda Ripley
  • The Magnificent Masters, Gil Capps
  • Killing Jesus, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

This is an interesting list that speaks well of Bush, for several reasons. I still argue that Charnwood’s Lincoln is the best Lincoln biography ever written. Some time I must do a whole separate post on why. Some of these books are a little dated, though still worth reading, especially if Bush missed them when they came out, such as Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, and Olasky’s Tragedy of American Compassion. A Message to Garcia? Well I have to have a soft spot for that old classic, since I have Elbert Hubbard’s portrait personally inscribed to my grandfather hanging on the wall in my library. The current Kagan and Howard books speak boldly to current public policy problems towards which Hillary is either oblivious or part of the problem. The only clear clunker on Bush’s list is Bill O’Reilly’s latest potboiler. Probably this is just Fox viewer bait.

I’d like to see similar book lists from all the candidates. If not, I may suggest a parody list for each, starting with Trump.

Green Weenie of the Month: The CBD

Finally got a shipment of fresh, fully-glutenated, animal-tested Green Weenie Awards from our Chinese manufacturer, and we’re behind on our award roster. But thanks to a tip from WattsUpWithThat, we have a clear winner already: The Center for Biological Diversity. They’re the folks who essentially run our endangered species policy. More on all that some other time. For now, they win our coveted Green Weenie Award for this press release issued yesterday:

Legal Petition Urges EPA to Save Sea Life, Regulate CO2 as Toxic Substance

WASHINGTON— With the world’s oceans and sea life facing an unprecedented crisis from ocean acidification, the Center for Biological Diversity and former Environmental Protection Agency scientist Dr. Donn Viviani today formally petitioned the Obama administration to regulate carbon dioxide under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. The first-of-its-kind petition under the toxics act seeks widespread reduction of CO2 because it contributes to ocean acidification, driving the destruction of coral reefs and threatening nearly every form of sea life, from tiny plankton to fish, whales and sea otters. . .

The petition seeks to regulate CO2 as a chemical substance under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which has been used in the past to regulate harmful chemicals such as PCBs and asbestos. The law requires the EPA to regulate chemicals that present an unreasonable risk to the environment and conduct testing for harmful effects of chemicals that are produced in large quantities. The novel approach of using the Act to regulate CO2 could complement other efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions that are contributing to ocean acidification.

So let’s see: we’re going to classify something each of us exhales (to the tune of about 800 lbs a year) as a “toxic substance” akin to PCBs and asbestos? Got it.

Look CBD kids, if you’re going to try satire, you might as well go with something more plausible like this:

Scientists Trace Heat Wave To Massive Star At Center Of Solar System

PASADENA, CA—Groundbreaking new findings announced Monday suggest the record-setting heat wave plaguing much of the United States may be due to radiation emitted from an enormous star located in the center of the solar system.

Scientists believe the star, which they have named G2V65, may in fact be the same bright yellow orb seen arcing over the sky day after day, and given its extreme heat and proximity to Earth, it is likely not only to have caused the heat wave, but to be responsible for every warm day in human history.

“Our measurements indicate the massive amount of energy this thing gives off is able to travel 93 million miles and reach our planet in as little as eight and a half minutes,” said Professor Mitch Kivens, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology. “While we can’t see them, we’re fairly certain these infrared rays strike Earth’s surface, become trapped by the atmosphere, and just heat everything up like a great big oven.”

“We originally thought that if this star was producing temperatures of 100-plus in the South and Midwest, it must be at least 100 degrees itself,” Kivens added. “But it turns out it’s far, far hotter than that, with a surface temperature of nearly 10,900 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Kivens and his CalTech colleagues said this intense radiation, which results from constant nuclear reactions converting hydrogen to helium in the star’s core, could also account for why the orb in the sky is extremely bright and difficult to stare at directly.

Of course this is from The Onion. The real question is why the CBD petition doesn’t appear there too.

The Road Ahead for Believers: Not So Gay

I’ll have a lot more to say in here and in several other venues about the status of religious liberty and religious faith in post-modern and post-Obergefell America.  But for now it is worth recalling the observations of Richard John Neuhaus, from his important 1984 book The Naked Public Square:

When the democratically affirmed institutions that generate and transmit values are excluded, the vacuum will be filled by the agent left in control of the public square, the state. In this manner, a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church…

Our problems, then, stem in large part from the philosophical and legal effort to isolate and exclude the religious dimension of culture…only the state can…”lay claim to compulsive authority.”…of all the institutions in societies, only religion can invoke against the state a transcendent authority and have its invocation seconded by “the people” to whom a democratic state is presumably accountable. For the state to be secured from such challenge, religion must be redefined as a private, emphatically not public, phenomenon. In addition, because truly value-less existence is impossible for persons or societies, the state must displace religion as the generator and bearer of values…

[T]he notion of the secular state can become the prelude to totalitarianism. That is, once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it – the state and the individual. Religion as a mediating structure…is no longer available as a countervailing force to the ambitions of the state…

If law and polity are divorced from moral judgment…all things are permitted and…all things will be done…When in our public life no legal prohibition can be articulated with the force of transcendent authority, then there are no rules rooted in ultimacies that can protect the poor, the powerless and the marginal…

Politics is an inescapably moral enterprise. Those who participate in it are…moral actors. The word “moral” here…means only that the questions engaged [in politics] are questions that have to do with what is right or wrong, good or evil. Whatever moral dignity politics may possess depends upon its being a process of contention and compromise among moral actors, not simply a process of accommodation among individuals in pursuit of their interests. The conflict in American public life today, then, is not a conflict between morality and secularism. It is a conflict of moralities in which one moral system calls itself secular and insists that the other do likewise as the price of admission to the public arena. That insistence is in fact a demand that the other side capitulate…

The founding fathers of the American experiment declared certain truths to be self-evident and moved on from that premise. It is a measure of our decline into what may be the new dark ages that today we are compelled to produce evidence for the self-evident…”

Unabomber or Unapapa?

Anyone remember the good old days when you couldn’t tell the difference between the Unabomber’s manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future” and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance? There was even an online quiz you could flunk. (Though to remind everyone once again, both owed more to Heidegger.)

Well, it’s time to rerun that drill with Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. Which is exactly what Colby Cosh does in Canada’s National Post:

Non-Catholics responded positively to the Pope’s tweetstorm because he seemed to be taking a firm position on climate change, and the letter certainly does that. But the head of the Catholic religion turns out to be no more capable of expressing himself compactly on one important issue than is the typical adherent of the Environmentalist religion.

The climate is a “common good,” says the Pope, and there is “a very solid scientific consensus” that it is changing in “disturbing” ways. Hooray for Science Pope! But before you know it he is weighing in on drinking water. “…in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.” It turns out this is bad, even though almost any economist alive would instantly apply a red pencil and several question marks to that “despite.” . . .

“The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.”

Pure Kaczynski, yeah? The next sentence could easily be “So that’s why I moved to a cabin in the woods and started mailing bombs to scientists.” Let me give you another: Unabomber or Unapapa?

“The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behaviour that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being.”

That one’s Ted — or have I switched them? No, despite the stylistic similarities, the parallel quotes, which could be multiplied greatly, does reveal a weakness in my insolent comparison. The Pope is an optimist, and thinks technology can be tamed if human hearts turn to Christ in time. Kaczynski thinks the problems involved in technological progress are inherent. He specifically argues that they cannot be solved by religion, real or contrived.

“The haters are still here”

The Clarion Project has just posted “The world stayed silent” (video below, here on YouTube). Clarion asks that we share the link and help the video go viral.

I don’t necessarily like argument by juxtaposition, but I think this film briefly makes a compelling case — a better case than Vera Brittain’s in the big-budget film version of Testament of Youth.

Today’s Greek Chorus

In no particular order:

• Remember the famous Fox Butterfield headline in the New York Times: “Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling”?  Well yesterday the Times outdid itself with an early edition headline on the Greek crisis:

“Trillions Spent, But Crises Like Greece’s Persist.”

Gee: I wonder if there’s a connection? Maybe someone can ask Fox Butterfield. One wonders what the Times headline will be when it finally runs out of money and Carlos Slim buys the remaining husk from the Sulzbergers for a dollar. (The headline was changed in later editions and I can’t find a hot link to the original.)

• Did Greece blink this morning? There is talk crossing the news wires that Greece may cancel or postpone its scheduled referendum on the proposed bailout terms, probably because the leftist government has figured out that it may lose the referendum and thereby lose what little bargaining leverage it has left.  Reuters reports just now:

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has told international creditors Athens could accept their bailout offer if some conditions were changed, but Germany said it could not negotiate while Greece was headed for a referendum on the aid-for-reforms deal.

In exchange for the conditional acceptance, the leftist leader, who has so far urged Greeks to reject the bailout terms in a referendum planned for Sunday, asked for a 29 billion euro loan to cover all its debt service payments due in the next two years.

With queues forming at many cash machines a day after Greece became the first advanced economy to default on the IMF, and signs that supplies of bank notes were running low, Tsipras has been under growing political pressure to reach a deal.

Global financial markets reacted remarkably calmly to the widely anticipated Greek default, strengthening the hand of hardline euro zone partners who say Athens cannot use the threat of contagion to weaker European sovereigns as a bargaining chip.

• Greek citizens might be figuring out something simple: A guaranteed government pension check isn’t worth very much if you can only get 60 Euros out of the bank. Maybe people in Illinois will figure this out . . . some day.

• Speaking of Illinois, last night Chicago managed to scrape together $634 million due to the teachers’ pension fund, but Mayor Rahmbo suggested that thousands of layoffs in the Chicago school system may be required:

In the same email containing the Ruiz statement, CPS officials said 1,400 positions “will be impacted beginning Wednesday.” They declined to answer questions about what that meant. . .”School will start, but our ability to hold the impact of finances away from the classroom, that’s going to change,” Emanuel said. But the mayor declined to say whether such a breaking point would lead to teacher layoffs or increased class sizes.

Like Greek pensioners, I’m sure Chicago citizens will be just delighted that their retired teachers have it easy while their kids are packed 40 to a classroom.

Where did the money come from to make the payment?  The Chicago Tribune notes ominously:

Both Emanuel’s administration and CPS did not respond to questions on what funds, what borrowing or what combination of the two the district tapped to fulfill the payment. In a brief statement, interim schools CEO Jesse Ruiz would only say that borrowing was involved.

Maybe they got the money from the European Union—yet another public union sucking the productive economy dry.

Testamentary incapacity

Vera Brittain was the English writer whose memoir Testament of Youth (the first of three such memoirs by her) became an immediate best-seller upon its publication in Great Britain in 1933. Brittain wrote of her experience working as a nurse tending to the wounded in World War I and the tragic deaths of of her brother as well as her fiancee and friends in the conflict. The book has remained in print ever since its original publication. In 1936 Brittain publicly avowed her pacifism.

The publication of Brittain’s memoir in 1933 perfectly coincided with the temper of the times. In January the Oxford Union voted 275-153 to approve the motion: “That this House refuses in any circumstances to fight for King and Country.” The motion became known as the Oxford oath.

Winston Churchill was not amused. While others counseled that it be dismissed as youthful folly, he declined to ignore the proceedings at Oxford. Rather, he presciently declared it “a very disquieting and disgusting symptom” and proceeded to explain why it troubled him (as Martin Gilbert puts it in The Prophet of Truth):

My mind turns across the narrow waters of [the] Channel and the North Sea, where great nations stand determined to defend their national glories or national existence with their lives. I think of Germany, with its splendid clear-eyed youths marching forward on all the roads of the Reich singing their ancient songs, demanding to be conscripted into an army; eagerly seeking the most terrible weapons of war; burning to suffer and die for their fatherland. I think of Italy, with her ardent Fascisti, her renowned Chief, and stern sense of national duty. I think of France, anxious, peace-loving, pacifist to the core, but armed to the teeth and determined to survive as a great nation in the world.

One can almost feel the curl of contempt upon the lips of the manhood of these peoples when they read this message sent out by Oxford University in the name of young England.

In the (beautifully) filmed and moving (if slow) version of her memoir released last week (trailer below), Brittain’s announcement of her pacifism is presented as the glorious culmination of her experience. Nothing that has happened between then and now deters BBC Films and its partners from peddling Brittain’s pacifism straight. The film ends with her declaration opposing war, followed by text attesting to the success of her book before the credits roll.

I can’t even find a review that takes up the rest of the story, or that supplies any context that might detract from Brittain’s “testament.” The necessary changes being made, Churchill’s comments still apply, but we have to return to Churchill on our own.