Monthly Archives: February 2012

Joe Klein on Rick Santorum’s family

They have spent the past three years caring for their daughter Isabella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence. "Almost 100% of trisomy 18 children are encouraged to be aborted," Santorum told Schieffer.

I am haunted by the smiling photos I’ve seen of Isabella with her father and mother, brothers and sisters. No doubt she struggles through many of her days–she nearly died a few weeks ago–but she has also been granted three years of unconditional love and the ability to smile and bring joy. Her tenuous survival has given her family a deeper sense of how precious even the frailest of lives are.

All right, I can hear you saying, the Santorum family’s course may be admirable, but shouldn’t we have the right to make our own choices? Yes, I suppose. But I also worry that we’ve become too averse to personal inconvenience as a society–that we’re less rigorous parents than we should be, that we’ve farmed out our responsibilities, especially for the disabled, to the state–and I’m grateful to Santorum for forcing on me the discomfort of having to think about the moral implications of his daughter’s smile.

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The Rant That Started it All

Three years ago today, February 19, 2009, CNBC’s Rick Santelli called for a Tea Party on floor of Chicago Board of Trade.

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The least helpful nugget of tax advice. Ever.

Don’t forget tax-free interest: Remember, to figure the taxable-equivalent yield of a tax-free bond, divide the tax-free yield by 1 minus your marginal tax rate. Because Gingrich’s marginal rate is 35 percent, a 3.5 percent tax-free yield is worth the same as a 5.38 percent taxable yield (3.5/0.65). Romney was hit by the alternative minimum tax in 2010, so his marginal rate was 28 percent. Avoiding a 28 percent tax makes a 3.5 percent tax-free rate equal to a 4.86 percent taxable yield (3.5/0.72).

Any questions?

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Afghan history books to omit the last 40 years.

The Wapo reports:

KABUL — In a country where the recent past has unfolded like a war epic, officials think they have found a way to teach Afghan history without widening the fractures between long-quarreling ethnic and political groups: leave out the past four decades.

A series of government-issued textbooks funded by the United States and several foreign aid organizations do just that, pausing history in 1973. There is no mention of the Soviet war, the mujaheddin, the Taliban or the U.S. military presence. In their efforts to promote a single national identity, Afghan leaders have deemed their own history too controversial.

“Our recent history tears us apart. We’ve created a curriculum based on the older history that brings us together, with figures universally recognized as being great,” said Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan’s education minister. “These are the first books in decades that are depoliticized and de-ethnicized.”

This is a fair attempt at educating students away from violence. After all, it doesn’t teach them that one side was motivated by equality and the other by conquest, or that life is amoral. Rather, it just omits the topic altogether. Two problems remain. One, it hasn’t necessarily been an amoral struggle for the last 40 years: the Soviets, mujaheddin, Taliban, and the US all had/have different motivations, goals and ethics. (It is the intellectual equivalent of positing no moral difference between the Persians, Thebans, Spartans and Athenians, among other Greeks, during the Persian Wars.) Understanding those differences is fundamental to understanding war. Which they will because, second, Afghanistan remains a tribal society in which much history is passed on orally through the generations. I would not be surprised to learn that in 1973 – when these history books end – students learned more history from their grandfathers than from their history teachers.

That being said, this is a fair attempt, and one against which I don’t have another and better solution. Omitting certain periods of Afghan history is better than reading Afghan history written by a foreign power. Attaullah Wahidyar, director of publication and information for the Education Ministry, said, “We aren’t mature enough to come up with a way to teach such a sensitive history." Until then, just omit it.

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I believe I can fly.

“The feeling of freedom is something you can’t describe.”

http://player.vimeo.com/video/31241154?autoplay=1

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David Brooks on the importance of a rigorous alternative vision.

For generations people have been told: Think for yourself; come up with your own independent worldview. Unless your name is Nietzsche, that’s probably a bad idea. Very few people have the genius or time to come up with a comprehensive and rigorous worldview.
If you go out there armed only with your own observations and sentiments, you will surely find yourself on very weak ground. You’ll lack the arguments, convictions and the coherent view of reality that you’ll need when challenged by a self-confident opposition. This is more or less what happened to Jefferson Bethke.

The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.

The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day.
These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.

Most professors would like their students to be more rebellious and argumentative. But rebellion without a rigorous alternative vision is just a feeble spasm.

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