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Not So Fast


Here’s a good example of liberal bias creeping into a newspaper’s coverage of something other than politics: An interesting story in today’s Washington Post on a scientific study suggesting that genes play a greater role in determining IQ differences among upper-income children than they do among lower-income children, whose IQ differences depend more on environment. This may very well be true, and if so, it’s an important insight. Yet the author the Post story gets a real bee in his bonnet over Head Start, suggesting no less than three times that Head Start is therefore essential: “The results suggest that early childhood assistance programs such as Head Start can help the poor and are worthy of public support.” Etc. Not once does he mention what I’m sure is an even greater influence on poor kids: Whether or not they come from two-parent families. I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that this is the most important “environmental” factor for their IQ. And not a single word on it.

But What About Tadpoles?


Frogs? In a terrarium? But the little critters will constantly be trying to jump out-and your kids will constantly find themselves tempted to become accessories, removing the lid when you aren’t looking.

If I might make a modest countersuggestion, find yourself a swamp and scoop up some frog’s eggs-or, since they’re usually a lot easier to spot, tadpoles. Plop them into a fishbowl, toss in a rock or two that protrude above the surface of the water, stretch an old nylon over the top, and sprinkle in a little fish food every so often. Your kids will enjoy watching the tadpoles develop, and then, just as soon as the tadpoles have become froggy enough to haul themselves out of the water and onto the rocks, you and the kids can stage a parade back to the swamp to let the critters go.

The drawback? You’d have to wait until next spring. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere on the Internet you could find a little company willing to ship a few frog’s eggs straight to your door. Just go to Google and enter “frogs, not French.”


The Bishop and The “Living Wage”


K-Lo, I was especially struck by one quotation in your piece on churches and unions:

“Among church hierarchy, there is precious little understanding of the economics of sound policy,” says Lawrence Reed, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy ( in Midland, Michigan….”Christ’s admonition against weath redistribution in Luke 12:13-15 doesn’t keep…[most mainline denominations] from frequently endorsing the most harmful proposals in organized labor’s agenda–from living wage laws to nationalized health care.”

Has Mr. Reed ever got that right.

A couple of years ago I shot an episode of Uncommon Knowledge with Bishop John Wester, an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of San Francisco, and Tom MacCurdy, an economist at the Hoover Institution. At issue: Bishop Wester’s endorsement of a “living wage” proposal then facing San Francisco voters. Under questioning from Tom–and you can read the transcript for yourself right here–it became obvious that Bishop Wester had never subjected the “living wage” proposal to even elementary economic analysis. The Bishop was shocked–truly shocked–to learn hear Tom argue that the proposal would only have shored up wages for those already established in the workforce, excluding those, including the most recent immigrants, who had yet to develop marketable skills. The Bishop, in other words, had placed the moral authority of the Church of Rome behind the “living wage” proposal without having the slightest idea what he was talking about.

The Bishop’s concern for the poor was transparent. But he wasn’t thinking. And since he was merely lending his support to a measure championed by organized labor, it seemed pretty clear, it had never occurred to him that he should.

Web Briefing: August 31, 2014

More Eliot


I must disagree with both Johns.

The poem John D. posted is a fine one. The images it shares with only parts of the Wasteland appear in other earlier poems–e.g., Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (Browning). Apart from this they are not at all alike. All sorts of matter sticks in poets’ minds. Great ones make pearls.

Russell Kirk, quoted by John M., believed that Eliot was himself, writing in modernist verse. Eliot famously turned right in mid-career–too far right politically, though he behaved well during World War II, unlike Ezra Pound. But his pre-conversion vision of chaos and distress was written from the inside, and lingers like an echo in his later work. To tie a big bow labeled The Permanent Things around Eliot is too pat. As someone said, if you want to restrict yourself to poets who are purely virtuous, you’ll be spending a lot of time with George Herbert. (No bad thing, but still.)


Comforting News


According to a recent Nielsen Media survey, more Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Of course, there could be some confusion among those sensible viewers who can’t tell the difference between CNN and the Cartoon Network. This may require a focus group.

Mark Steyn


Labor Day: Union Altars


All bets are off when it comes to churches and unions these days, especially if you’re still working from a labor-priest-era handbook. Here’s a look at the state of religion and unions today. Warnings: It’s long. It’s pdf. It’s by me. That said, I think it’s worthwhile and would love to get feedback. It’s a topic I wouldn’t mind revisiting.

I’m Back


Good to be home. See everybody around the water cooler.

Dutch Backlash?


There are strong signs that the (in)famously tolerant Dutch have had enough of the permissive culture.

Darien--and I Don’t Mean The Town Next Door to Greenwich


Now that Rick is offering a learned and deeply-felt defense of Eliot, may I offer an off-handed defense of Keats?

Lots of readers sent me emails making the point that John Derbyshire makes below, namely that in “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer” Keats makes a schoolboy’s mistake, identifying “stout Cortez” as the first to set eyes on the Pacific, when it was actually Balboa who did so. But our boy Keats doesn’t actually say any such thing. Not exactly, anyway. All he does is give us an image of Cortez and his men struck dumb at the sight of the Pacific—a response they might well have had even if they’d had the ocean charted out at their maps. And since Keats is describing his sense of wonder at discovering the world of Homer–a world that was new to him—the parallel with Cortez strikes me as entirely valid. (The adjective “stout” even strikes me as valid, indicating, not a fatty, but a man of courage and strength.)

Mario Cuomo, Ex-Progressive


Did everyone catch the short interview with Mario Cuomo in the Sunday New York Times magazine? When asked about the California recall, Cuomo said: “It’s too much democracy.” I love it. Two or three more recalls ought to be sufficient to ruin Progressive-era populist ideas for good.

Why The Left Hate Cars


In response to an aside in an earlier post that mentioned this topic, a reader kindly sent in a link to this excellent article by James Q. Wilson. I wouldn’t agree with all of it (pedestrianization, for example, generally rips the heart out of cities), but it’s well worth a read, especially this closing section:

“But even if we do all the things that can be done to limit the social costs of cars, the campaign against them will not stop. It will not stop because so many of the critics dislike everything the car stands for and everything that society constructs to serve the needs of its occupants.

Cars are about privacy; critics say privacy is bad and prefer group effort. (Of course, one rarely meets these critics in groups. They seem to be too busy rushing about being critics.) Cars are about autonomy; critics say that the pursuit of autonomy destroys community. (Actually, cars allow people to select the kind of community in which they want to live.) Cars are about speed; critics abhor the fatalities they think speed causes. (In fact, auto fatalities have been declining for decades, including after the 55-mile-per-hour national speed limit was repealed. Charles Lave suggests that this is because higher speed limits reduce the variance among cars in their rates of travel, thereby producing less passing and overtaking, two dangerous highway maneuvers.) Cars are about the joyous sensation of driving on beautiful country roads; critics take their joy from politics. (A great failing of the intellectual life of this country is that so much of it is centered in Manhattan, where one finds the highest concentration of nondrivers in the country.) Cars make possible Wal-Mart, Home Depot, the Price Club, and other ways of allowing people to shop for rock-bottom prices; critics want people to spend their time gathering food at downtown shops (and paying the much higher prices that small stores occupying expensive land must charge). Cars make California possible; critics loathe California. (But they loathe it for the wrong reason. The state is not the car capital of the nation; 36 states have more cars per capita, and their residents drive more miles.)

Life in California would be very difficult without cars. This is not because the commute to work is so long; in Los Angeles, according to Charles Lave, the average trip to work in 1994 was 26 minutes, five minutes shorter than in New York City. Rather, a carless state could not be enjoyed. You could not see the vast areas of farm land, the huge tracts of empty mountains and deserts, the miles of deserted beaches and forests.

No one who visits Los Angeles or San Francisco can imagine how much of California is, in effect, empty, unsettled. It is an empire of lightly used roads, splendid vistas, and small towns, intersected by a highway system that, should you be busy or foolish enough to use it, will speed you from San Francisco to Los Angeles or San Diego. Off the interstate, it is a kaleidoscope of charming places to be alone.

Getting there in order to be alone is best done in one of the remarkably engineered, breathtakingly fast, modern cars that give to the driver the deepest sense of what the road can offer: the beauty of its views, the excitement of command, the passion of engagement.

I know the way. If you are a friend, you need only ask.”



My daughter has taken an interest in frogs and toads in recent weeks. Seems like we spot a couple on our lawn every day, so we chase them, hold them, let them go. This morning I started looking for websites describing how to raise one or two of the critters inside a terrarium or aquarium. Not sure we’re really going to do this–haven’t even started to broach this delicate subject with my wife, who is not a great admirer of amphibians–but thought I’d look into what’s involved. One of the first things I came upon was this federal government website, which offers this helpful advice, right at the start: “As with any wild animal it is best to leave it in its natural conditions and enjoy it in its natural settings by attracting it to your house/garden. If you are interested in keeping a frog/toad, you must first check to see if it is protected by local or national laws. In the U.S.A. you should check first if the animal is listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. If not, it may still be protected in your state by local laws. Check with your state department of environmental conservation/natural resources/fish and game etc.” Thanks Uncle Sam, you sure do know how to spark a kid’s interest in animals.



Sweden is about to hold a referendum on whether to sign up for the suicide pact better known as the Euro. Current indications are, thankfully, that the ‘no’ side is going to prevail (although, interestingly – in a contrast with the British political scene – most opposition to the currency is found on the left), despite the fact that the campaign in favor of the EU’s single currency has been far, far better funded than that of their opponents. The occasional British euroskeptic has, however, been flying over to help the ‘no’ side, perfectly reasonable in the context of an open debate and perfectly logical in the context of a ‘union’ moving (however regrettably) towards permitting voting on the grounds of EU rather than national citizenship.

EU enthusiasts are never comfortable with awkward democratic phenomena such as dissent and, as this story from the Observer reveals, their Swedish rank and file is no exception. The wild comments about foreign ‘loonies’ from former Prime Minister Carl Bildt (he’s a once promising politician who managed to blow Sweden’s best chance at sustainable center-right government, and has long since retreated from electoral combat to a more ‘respectable’ role in Europe’s international establishment) are typical of a side that knows it has lost the intellectual argument.

David Kelly


The sad story of David Kelly (the British scientist whose suicide triggered the Hutton inquiry) is, by now, well known – or so one would have thought. Now, the Observer is publishing an analysis that Kelly wrote, which makes interesting reading, to say the least. Here’s an extract of what the paper has to say:

“Kelly’s article reveals a hawkish stance on Iraq which will come as some comfort to Number 10. ‘Iraq has spent the past 30 years building up an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction [WMD],’ he wrote. ‘Although the current threat presented by Iraq militarily is modest, both in terms of conventional and unconventional weapons, it has never given up its intent to develop and stockpile such weapons for both military and terrorist use.’

Kelly argues that any co-operation with UN weapons inspectors was superficial and that rockets specifically for chemical and biological use had been found.

’Amer al-Saadi – formerly responsible for conserving Iraq’s WMD, now its principal spokesman on its weapons – continues to mislead the international community,’ Kelly said before the war. ‘It is difficult to imagine co-operation being properly established unless credible Iraqi officials are put into place by a changed Saddam.

’Yet some argue that inspections are working and more time is required; that increasing the numbers of inspectors would enhance their effectiveness. Others argue that the process is inherently flawed and disarmament by regime change is the only realistic way forward.’ Kelly said the UN had been trying to disarm Iraq since 1991, but had had no success in what he described as an ‘abject failure of diplomacy’. He argued that diplomatic splits had only served to exacerbate the problem.

’The threat of credible military force has forced Saddam Hussein to admit, but not co-operate with, the UN inspectorate,’ he wrote. ‘So-called concessions – U2 overflights, the right to interview – were all routine between 1991 and 1998. After 12 unsuccessful years of UN supervision of disarmament, military force regrettably appears to be the only way of finally and conclusively disarming Iraq.’

’War may now be inevitable,’ he wrote. ‘The proportionality and intensity of the conflict will depend on whether regime change or disarmament is the true objective. The US, and whoever willingly assists it, should ensure that the force, strength and strategy used is appropriate to the modest threat that Iraq now poses.’

’The long-term threat, however, remains Iraq’s development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction – something that only regime change will avert.’ “

There are two things to remember about this: (1) It was an unpublished analysis [the full text is available here], so it cannot be considered to be Kelly’s final word on this topic (and indeed it wasn’t) and (2) it could, perhaps, be claimed that it does not directly relate to the immediate public justification for the war that is, of course, the subject of the current controversy in the UK. Nevertheless all this gives further support to those who argue that Tony Blair was acting in good faith.

Self On Tube


Just learned (a little late, I’ll admit) that Sunday evening at 5 pm Eastern time C-SPAN’s “Book TV” broadcast talk I gave recently on How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. For people who are both bookworms and early birds (not an easy trick) the talk will be rebroadcast thismorning at 7 am Eastern. (Also once again next weekend, although I don’t yet have the hour.)

Corner readers who happen to tune in should feel free to let me know what they thought (I’ve been trying to relax in front of the camera, just as so many of you have kindly advised). Please put “Book TV” in uour subject line.

Worse Than Dr Pepper


Thanks to the generosity of a Corner reader, I have now tried Moxie. It’s sort of like Campari, without the redeeming alcohol or, ahem, the reflection of a “world of passion, prestige and transgression.”

Chicken Licken


With Derbs and Brookhisers colliding it’s clearly too dangerous to enter the great poetry debate, though I don’t much like Eliot. Of far greater literary importance, however, is the mystery of Chicken Licken. My reference to this timid (and, apparently, delicious) fowl in a recent piece produced a number of comments that Licken was really called Little. Says who? Face it: ‘Chicken Little’ is an imposter or, at best a henny-come-lately. Here’s the proof from 1909 and again in 1919. No mention of Little who was, clearly, a sunsequent invention by someone opposed to rhyme.

Kirk On Eliot


Russell Kirk: “T.S. Eliot was the principal champion of the moral imagination in the twentieth century. Now what is the moral imagination? The phrase is Edmund Burke’s. By it, Burke meant that power of ethical perception which strides beyond the barriers of private experience and events of the moment–’especially,’ as the dictionary has it, ‘the higher form of this power exercised in poetry and art.’ The moral imagination aspires to the apprehending of right order in the soul and right order in the commonwealth. It was the gift and obsession of Plato and Virgil and Dante. … Eliot and some of his contemporaries agreed, tacitly or explicitly (again in Burke’s phrases), ‘that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality…’ Their achievement was to reinvigorate in the twentieth century those perennial moral insights which are the sources of human normality, and which make possible order and justice and freedom.”

Re: Who’s Afraid of T.S. Eliot



I prefer the original.

(To which, so far as I can discover, Eliot never referred.)


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