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Setting The Record Straight



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Got this e-mail from a Naval officer friend, commenting on the Commander-in-Chief’s controversial (among Democrats and the media) visit to the aircraft carrier:

The Dems are claiming that Bush could have taken a helo out, and arrived in a helo; but instead arrived in an S-3. Here’s the real story.

This all happened at my base, and I meet regularly with the Skipper and the PAO.

When this was first floated, the Lincoln was going to be outside helo range, and the only way to get out where was in the S-3 Viking. What no one counted on was the skipper of the Lincoln racing to shore at 35 knots, thus making a helo approach possible.

By then, the plan was already too far advanced to change, and I’m not sure W. would have wanted to. He wore a flight suit? He’d be stupid not to. It would be against regulations. Besides, Navy folk like it when you look like them. It doesn’t matter whether you are a chaplain or the Commander-in-Chief. You wear their uniform, you give them respect by what you wear. That’s why even chaplains wear uniforms. Dems, particularly Senator Byrd, don’t have a clue about this.

Then there was the NYT hysteria about the pilot catching the 4th arresting cable. The 4th???!!! Why, the pilot almost missed and they would have plunged into the sea. What the NYT didn’t realise is that there are 4 arresting cables, and they are numbered in reverse order. The 4th cable is actually the first one. I hate it when journalists don’t know what they’re talking about.

Engaging Crtics



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Jonathan, Randy Barnett did not really disavow the charge of hypocrisy against William Bennett. He simultaneously floated the charge of hypocrisy, and then said he didn’t much like it. That left the charge in the air, despite the quasi-disavowal, and it had to be answered. I don’t know about Bennett’s arguments when he was drug czar, but I do know that in the past few years, Bennett has indeed engaged the arguments of those who want to legalize drugs. Bennett, for example, responded to the film Traffic in a fair amount of detail. Among Bennett’s points was the danger of the slippery slope to harder drugs, and this, it seems to me, was central to Bennett’s moral differentiation between drugs and gambling. Now it’s fair to disagree with Bennett, but it’s just not true that he has never spoken seriously to the arguments of his critics.

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Quick Response



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John – You’re right about the WSJ editorial page. In fact I don’t think the Times even comes in second or even third on that score. I find the Washington Post’s — even without Michael Kelly — far superior to the Times. But as a total operation, it’s still hard to beat the Times.

Web Briefing: January 29, 2015

The Times



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Jonah: While you’re AWOL, I’m going to take issue with your characterization of the Times as the best paper in the country. I do agree that its pages consistently include some of the best journalism in the country, but the paper as a whole has slipped in recent years. Not long ago I made the Times the first paper I read each day. Now I turn first to the Washington Post, because its coverage of Washington is much better. For editorials and op-eds, the Wall Street Journal is tops–and I’m not just saying this for ideological reasons. A few years ago, the Times was just as good if not better, with an eclectic mix of interesting opinion. It has lost this (though it’s been improving in 2003). Also, its op-ed page columnists aren’t very good, with the exception of Tom Friedman. I still rely upon and enjoy the Times for its coverage of international relations, science, and the American media. Its movie reviews are often pretty smart and the book reviews can be good, too. I don’t read the Sunday Magazine as much as I should, but when I do there’s often something good in it. The sports section has impressed me as well, but I don’t read it much either because I can’t think of a single NY-based team that I actually like. To sum up: the NYT remains a very good paper, and surely one of the best in the country, but it’s foundering right now.

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Cheaper Than a Travel Agent



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To everyone who wrote yesterday with St. Louis info. For the record, if you ever need to locate a Mormon chapel in the U.S., go here. A Catholic church, go here.

Sid & Me



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Sidney Blumenthal’s new book on the Clinton years is about to come out, reports the New York Times. He and I were once colleagues of a sort. My first job out of college was at The New Republic. Back then, TNR would hire a handful of recent grads and let them work in journalism for a year–it was an internship, basically, though many people who had it wound up staying on longer–and they always took one conservative to work with Fred Barnes. In 1992, that was me. It was a great experience, and one of the things that impressed me most about it was how people like Barnes, Mickey Kaus, Michael Kinsley, Michael Lewis, Andrew Sullivan, Jacob Weisberg kept their doors open and didn’t mind chatting with lackeys like me. Sid, though, was different. He was out of the office a lot. When he was around, he shut his door. I never had a chance to interact much with him . What I remember most was Election Day 1992, with Sid walking around the office passing out copies of the latest exit polls, apparently sent directly to him from Stanley Greenberg. He had a huge smile on his face all day long.

The Times



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I’ll be awol for a little while this AM, but I wanted to get a plac-holder in on this Jayson Blair story. Andrew Sullivan has lots of great stuff on this story as he is fast becoming the I.F. Stone of anti-Times muckraking. My only objection with Andrew’s approach is that he concentrates almost all of his ire on Howell Raines, his white whale. One gets the sense that if Raines quit, Sullivan would be content. That’s cool, it’s nice to set reasonable goals. But the trouble with the Times is bigger than just one man. Let me also say that the Times is the best paper in the country and it’s silly to deny that. But, as can happen with all successful institutions, it is a maddening hothouse of biases, obsessions and, most of all, arrogance. Howell Raines may be steering the ship but, from my perspective, the course is set. The Blair swell could knock Raines overboard, but I would be shocked if a new skipper changed the direction dramatically. The idea, for example, that the Times will come out of this with anything but a “renewed committment to diversity” is unfathomable to me (indeed, I predict right now that if not those exact words then something extremely close will be the result of their “lessons learned” commission.). Anyway, I have more to say, but I’ve got to finish this other thing. Here’s what I had to say on CNN yesterday about the whole thing:

Look, well, first of all, this 7,000-word phone book of an apology is a pinata. You can bash it from any angle and bear some reward. But I’ll pick one.

They say that this is the low point in their 154-year history. Some guy making up quotes, you know, is a bad story, but this is the newspaper that put the Holocaust on the jump pages. This is the newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for a guy who said that Stalin didn’t do anything wrong in the 1930s and ’40s.

This is a newspaper that — this apology is so self-serving, it is like a serial killer getting caught stealing a loaf of bread and saying it’s the worst thing they’ve ever done.

And they’re trying to put all the blame on this one guy and exempt all the executives for the culture that they’ve bred over there. It is an outrage.

Seen in Nyc



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This is a little late in the day, but still worth recording. There is a firehouse in my neighborhood which I pass rarely, but often enough to know they took a fearful loss on 9/11. I was riding by it in a cab this evening, and saw a homemade banner: “ENGINE 14 SUPPORTS OUR TROOPS. BLESS THEM AND NEVER FORGET.”

One group of heroes salutes another.

Re: Kurtz On Bennett



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I think Stanley and I agree on many particulars — but still disagree about Bennett. In short, I think that Stanley’s points are either nonresponsive to Randy Barnett’s and my criticisms, not applicable to Bennett, or both. First, Barnett, unlike Bennett’s other critics, did not charge him with hypocrisy. To the contrary, Barnett disavowed that charge. Second, while we agree that “believing there is a legitimate debate is not incompatible with a zero tolerance view,” this has never been Bennett’s position. As Barnett pointed out, Bennett consistently scoffed at pro-legalization arguments and refused to engage them in debate. Finally, the primary moral defense of Bennett’s gambling (in my view) was that he never acted irresponsibly (e.g. gambling the “milk money”). Yet Bennett has consistently maintained that there is no equivalent moral defense of recreational drug use. This is, in my view, a glaring inconsistency (though not, I would reiterate, basis for a charge of hypocrisy).

A Job For Stuttaford



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I Had The Same Dream



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Clever Monkeys



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Those Sulawesi crested macaques have a supporter in Ohio, who writes:

“You will note that despite the small sample size (only 6 simians), and despite the short length of time (only 30 days), the monkeys in question made remarkable progress toward typing out the complete works of the Bard by focusing on the first letter of his name: “S”.”


Food For Thought



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Humanity’s fear of new technology is something that long anticipates Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Indeed, it’s the real sub-text of the Icarus myth. However, even in the dismal history of such terrors, the current European panic over genetically modified food stands out for its stupidity. What’s more, it’s a fear that’s costing lives in the Third World. Nick Cohen takes up the story in today’s Observer.

Re: Metrocons



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Just a couple more notes on the parsing of conservatism. I did not mean to
imply that this is an illegitimate or improper activity. Among consenting
adults, in the privacy of their homes, I think it is quite all right. I am
just not much disposed to it myself. It’s not that I have anything against
intellectual rigor, or am incapable of it. For Goodness’ sake, I have just
published a book about higher mathematics! Intellectual rigor is fine; it’s
just that outside math and the natural sciences (and even inside them, to a
slight degree), it ought always to be taken with a grain of salt–”Humility”
brand salt for preference. Political science is not, after all, a science.
The ruthless application of intellectual rigor to matters metaphysical is
what got David Hume to the point where he found he had disproved the
existence not only of the material world, but even of his own thoughts. At
which point he stopped, turned and looked at what he had accomplished,
laughed, and wrote this: “This sceptical doubt … is a malady, which can
never be radically cur’d, but must return upon us every moment, however we
may chace it away … Carelessness and inattention alone can afford us any
remedy. For this reason I rely entirely upon them; and take it for granted,
whatever may be the reader’s opinion at this present moment, that an hour
hence he will be persuaded there is both an external and an internal
world…” I am a big fan of “carelessness and inattention.” I think the
answer to the question: What kind of conservative am I? is: I am an
Anglican Tory, with a deep aversion to theologizing, ideologizing, and
philosophical hairsplitting of all kinds. I believe that decent common
sense, together with (in the words of the great Fats Domino) “clean livin’
and good home cookin’,” will see you through life pretty safely. This is
why my great intellectual hero is Samuel Johnson. You could never make
an -ism out of Johnson’s apothegms. They are riddled with contradictions
and non sequiturs, as Macaulay pointed out in a brillinat (and mostly
sympathetic) essay. The broad outlook of Johnson’s mind, though, accords
exactly with my own; and as a model for human courage, Christian compassion,
decency and good sense, he has no equal. Same Orwell, whom I also
adore–not for his political philosophy, which was mostly wrong-headed, but
for his broad outlook and scrupulous honesty. Those are the models I attain
to. Burke? Kirk? Strauss? Rand? They are for someone else to have
opinions about. I’ll listen respectfully, but won’t have much to say.

Giving The Times Their Due



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Another reader writes:


A quibble with a reader’s post from late last night — the NYT article does not say the Blair episode is “the” low point in Times history, it says it is “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.” I think too many conservatives are too quick to criticize the Times reflexively no matter what the paper does. Here they are fighting the good fight, making it clear that they take this episode very seriously, and devoting acres of text to correct the record.

Tory Torpor



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The EU’s proposed new constitution looms ever closer, and it seems that Tony Blair will seek to impose it on the UK without a referendum. The Tories, apparently, believe that there should be a referendum first. They are right, but who knew that was their policy? The Sunday Telegraph

A Missouri Bleg



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Since Rich isn’t doing it: This is for St. Louis, Mo. residents. Would you e-mail me if you happen to know what Catholic church is closest to the Greyhound bus station there (not the one at the airport–the one at 1450 N 13TH ST)? Thanks. A little practical-planning research.

Happy Mother’s Day



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If posting’s light today, you all understand!

Race Fans



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If Toyota builds a vehicle in the United States, should it be eligible for NASCAR? That’s the a question fans and officials are struggling with right now, according to this interesting story in today’s Washington Post. I’m indifferent as to the outcome, and wish race fans would direct just as much scrutiny to the matter of NASCAR giving thousands of dollars to Jesse Jackson, Inc.

Mullah Wannabe



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