Taking the pledge, &c.


As you may know, a group in Iowa called The Family Leader has crafted a pledge. They’re asking presidential candidates to sign it. So far, only Michele Bachmann has.

The pledge has to do with marriage and family. The group wants candidates to swear commitment to these joint institutions; to protect them from their many foes.

Bachmann has taken some grief over signing the pledge. The claim is, pledgers are advocating a ban on pornography. This is false. But the grief is taken, and given, all the same.

In my view, The Family Leader very definitely has its heart in the right place. But pledges are always a little problematic, aren’t they? A person’s word ought to be good enough. Must she sign her name?

Those who sign The Family Leader’s pledge commit to 14 bullet points. The first reads, “Personality fidelity to my spouse.” Presumably, a married person has already taken such a pledge. And if he is not inclined to keep it, an additional pledge on the campaign trail will make no difference.

You know?

Dame Stella Rimington is the former head of MI5. She recently commented on the security services of other countries. (Article here.) I loved what she said:

“The Italians were all ex-admirals and terribly courteous — lots of hand-kissing and bowing. The French were extremely good and seemed able to do anything. We worried about laws; they seemed able to do exactly what they liked, so we rather envied them.”

Vive la France (for the most part).

Michael Gove is just about my favorite member of any government. He’s the British education secretary — the Bill Bennett of Britain, I have called him many times. He is doing holy, necessary, and brave work.

The other day, he mixed up something about science — had Newton discovering the laws of thermodynamics. Tom Chivers wrote about it, a little sniffily, here. He said that Gove would never, ever mix up Shakespeare and Dickens. “But for some reason ignorance of science seems to be less shameful in certain circles than ignorance of the arts and humanities.”

On that, he is perfectly right. I’ve written about this matter before. Years ago, when Lawrence Summers was president of Harvard, he said that people would be ashamed not to know about, say, Hamlet. But they seem rather blasé about not being able to define “exponential growth,” or not knowing the difference between a gene and a chromosome.

I immediately looked up “exponential growth,” to be sure I had a handle on it. And I looked up the definitions of “gene” and “chromosome.”

You had me there, Larry (if I may be so boldly casual).

You know I like to report on Ted Cruz’s campaign from time to time. Especially when there’s good news. Ted is the sterling conservative — the golden conservative — who’s running for the U.S. Senate in Texas. He is a friend of mine. But that doesn’t prevent me from yelling about him as loudly as I can. In fact, it motivates me.

Ted is picking up endorsement after endorsement, and I particularly smiled at seeing this one: George P. Bush. That’s one of Jeb’s sons. And he is an unabashed politico. He himself will hold office one day, it seems certain.

“Jorge P.” said, “Ted is the future of the Republican party. He is a proven conservative, and his personal story embodies the American Dream.” He then compared Ted to Marco Rubio in Florida. And said, “[Ted] will inspire a new generation of leaders to stand up and defend American exceptionalism.”

I agree (for what it’s worth).

I smiled on reading something in a Steve Hayward piece, published in the July 18 National Review. That piece is called “An Environmental Reformation.” And the author mentions “the cliché about the ‘fragility’ of nature.”

So, why did I smile? I remembered a conversation I had with Thomas Sowell earlier this year. Readers may remember too.

He said, “What gets me is how people can get away with undefined terms. What do they mean by ‘fragile environment’?” I broke in, “They mean they don’t want you to go there.” Sowell laughed and continued, “‘The fragile environment’! I should be so fragile! I’ll be out somewhere, looking around me, thinking, ‘This environment has survived thousands of years of earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, and so forth’” — and yet it persists.

Just the greatest, Sowell. A conversationalist of immense persuasiveness.

Daniel Johnson, the editor of Standpoint (and the son of Paul), had a piece in remembrance of Elena Bonner. Of her husband, he wrote, “After Sakharov supported the U.S. Congress’s Jackson Amendment, which linked trade to unrestricted emigration for Soviets, including Jews, the Kremlin even floated rumors that Sakharov himself was a Jew who had changed his name from Zuckerman (zucker and sakhar both mean sugar).”

Yes, that was a specialty of the Kremlin. They said that Solzhenitsyn had changed his name from “Solzhenitsker.” And his patronymic, Isayevich — sounds a little Hebrew, doesn’t it?

Such beauties, those Soviet Communists.


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