1. My jaw hit the floor when I read this paragraph from Ayn Rand Institute's email press release (link will come when they post the piece on their web site), "The Un-American Call For National Service":
But the idea behind national service is that service to the state is a moral duty. The government, its advocates claim, should teach us that service is an integral part of American citizenship. Robin Gerber, a professor of leadership at the University of Maryland, writes: “Young Americans should be told they have an obligation to serve, a duty to actively support their democracy.” Conservative writer David Brooks endorses national service because it “takes kids out of the normal self-obsessed world of career and consumption and orients them toward service and citizenship.” Brooks favors military-related national service, because under it, “Today's children . . . would suddenly face drill sergeants reminding them they are nothing without the group.”
David Brooks longs to have drill sergeants screaming into a young person's face. "You are nothing without the group!" And we can't have a nation of citizens who are obsessed with career -- how horrible that would be. (What does Brooks think people like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller were obsessed with? Wasting time in soup kitchens? In the 19th century, when America was free, the nation was filled with people obsessed with career.) As usual, the worst stuff comes from conservatives.
2. I see that Bill Clinton has published a new book called Giving. I think they left off the second word of the title, "Head." Must be a mistake.
Another book from a politician exhorting citizens to sacrifice for the collective? I would say it deserves a place right between Mein Kampf and Quotations From Chairman Mao, but that would be giving Giving too much stature. As Clinton is a hillbilly con artist from Arkansas, his book should be on the bottom shelf next to Lil Abner reprints and books on the dangers of inbreeding.
3. Bob Herbert writes about an interesting ballot initiative that Californians might vote on in the next primary election. In California the "winner takes all" -- the winning Presidential candidate gets all 55 electoral votes, even if he only won 50.1% of the vote. This initiative would award electoral votes depending on Congressional districts. Check out this map of the 2004 election, and you see what a disaster this ballot initiative could mean for the Democrats. Herbert says the Republican would get 20 votes, as much as the state of Ohio. The Democrats depend on all 55 votes to win the Presidency, so this change would make it just about impossible, the way things are now, for a Democrat to be elected President.
Make no mistake, the Republicans are not doing this out of any high-minded political principles. If the winner take all method favored the Republicans, they would scream that this ballot initiative heralded the end of the world as we know it. This is a "Just win, baby" move.
Would the change be good? Well, it would make me feel like my vote counted a little more. The way things are now, California Republicans are discouraged to bother voting. Republican candidates ignore the state. Everyone assumes the 55 votes will go Democrat. This change would not only give 20 votes to the GOP, but it would motivate more Republicans to vote, a double disaster for the Dems. (This is not to say I will necessarily vote Republican in 2008. Conservatives like David Brooks and Alan Keyes might drive me to join the loonies at Democratic Underground.)
4. James Caan talks about what he's learned. These quotes sound like what he would say.
5. Dodgers have lost six in a row. Is it basketball season yet?
6. Naomi Wolf argues that President Bush is taking us to Fascist America, in 10 easy steps. Before we dismiss this as leftist hysteria, we should remember that if Hillary Clinton were President, right-wingers would be writing pieces just like this. If the Patriot Act passed during a Clinton presidency, giving the government broad powers to listen to individuals, don't you think World Net Daily, Newsmax and Human Events would be screaming?
Most of her points are overwrought, such as point three, "Develop a thug caste." Please, the only thug caste today is the leftist demonstrators who disturb the peace at G8 meetings and throw trash cans through store windows.
The more interesting question to me is: what happens when the government is turned over to a Democrat President? What does that President do with the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security? Does that President use articles such as Ms. Wolf's as justification for his own crackdowns on civil liberties?
If President Bush has initiated policies that depend on the goodness and honesty of those in power for them not to be abused, then aren't those policies bad?