THE PLANK MAY 28, 2009
1. Gail Collins has a fun, readable take on student loan reform, an issue near and dear to my heart:
The White House estimates that it could save about $94 billion over
10 years if it cut out all the middlemen. And it has the basis of a
system in place, since the Department of Education already makes a lot
of direct loans to students.
How many people out there think
that there’s going to be some reason that this turns out to be
extremely controversial? Can I see a show of hands?
Nelson is for the system as it is now,” said a spokesman for Ben
Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. If you are a big fan of Senate
stalemates, you will remember Nelson, the star of such past triumphs as
The Stimulus Is Too Big.
A great part of Nelson’s resistance has to do with the
fact that Nelnet, a big student loan provider, has its headquarters in
his state. Last year, after an investigation by the New York attorney
general, Andrew Cuomo, Nelnet was one of several student lenders that
agreed to a settlement in which it paid a fine and promised to abandon
alleged deceptive marketing practices and inducements such as offering
free iPods to students who signed on the dotted line.
Good point, Gail Collins!
2. Paul Campos invokes the perfect cultural reference to explain Mark Krikorian's bizarre aversion to correctly pronouncing Sonia Sotomayor's name:
There's a great little exchange at the beginning of the Godfather II,
when the corrupt senator is trying to shake down Michael Corleone. The
senator makes a point of pronouncing Corleone's name with exaggerated
correctness. This is a double insult, both because of the exaggeration,
but more so because an hour earlier the senator had (now obviously
intentionally) mangled the pronounciation of the family name when
acknowledging the acceptance of a large charitable contribution from
them, during his speech to the audience at Michael's son's first
communion.That seemingly trivial matters of etiquette can be
fraught with all sorts of social and political significance is evident
in things like Mark Krikorian's continuing insistence that there's something un-American about trying to pronounce "foreign" names as the bearers of those names pronounce them.While Krikorian's first post
on this was silly, his followup is grotesque. I happen to remember the
press conference at which Ronald Reagan introduced Antonin Scalia as
his SCOTUS nominee. The very first question was how to pronounce the
nominee's name correctly. Has Krikorian ever anglicized the
pronounciation of Scalia's or Alito's names? How about Sen. John
Breaux? Etc. I bet you this principle of mispronouncing (Hispanic)
names in order to hold back the dreaded tide of multi-culturalism
occured to him about fifteen minutes ago, after someone whose name
sounds a lot like his maid's* got nominated to the Court.
Good point, Paul Campos!
3. Commenting on my gay marriage TRB, Ed Kilgore astutely notes that my arguments only address the rational/liberal arguments against gay marriage, which leaves a great many of them unadressed;
[T]he growing shabbiness of the "rational" case against same-sex
marriage helps expose the extent to which gay marriage opponents
actually depend on non-rational but still powerful arguments from
Tradition and Revelation.
The case from Tradition, which you hear over and over from gay marriage opponents, is that marriage has always been defined as the "union of a man and a woman." Sometimes in their exasperation they stamp their feet and enumerate how very long always
is. The idea is that same-sex marriage is a dangerous act of (to use
the term employed by the Catholic Bishops of Iowa in the statement
linked to above) "social engineering" that challenges the settled
wisdom of the ages. From this quintessentially conservative point of
view, of course, the liberal presumption in favor of the rights of
"consenting adults" has always been rejected, on this and every
subject, in favor of what Chesterton called, approvingly, the "democracy of the dead."
Traditionalists typically try to deploy the rational arguments that
Chait demolishes to buttress their case, but their case is essentially
unrebuttable because it treats precedent as the only authority.
The main weakness of the Argument from Tradition, of course, is that
much of what we have come to recognize as the Western Tradition in
recent decades has reflected an Enlightenment-based revolt against much
older traditions--in other words, that the liberal habit of mind that
Chait cites has become, even though unevenly applied, the real
Tradition that demands respect. Even the most rabidly inflammatory
exaggerator of the impact of same-sex marriage would have to
acknowledge that the emancipation of women has been a vastly greater
change in the "traditional" way of life of the human species, and even
anti-feminists are loath to suggest we were better off when women
couldn't vote or own property. In the long, long sweep of history,
slavery has about as strong a pedigree as "traditional" marriage. So
the "democracy of the dead" can and must be overturned now and then in
the interests of the living.
Opposition to same-sex marriage based on religious "revelation" (either
infallible scripture or infallible Church teaching) isn't rational,
either, and will probably be a tougher nut to crack. Prior forms of
discrimination, of course, have appealed to the same "divine" sanction.
Perhaps tomorrow's conservative evangelical Christians will view the
attention paid to the Bible's scattered condemnations of homosexuality
much as today's scoff at their forebearers' use of Scripture to
sanction racial discrimination (e.g., via the Curse of Ham).
And perhaps the hierarchies of the Roman Catholic and Latter Day Saints
Churches will revise their teachings on same-sex marriage some day,
much as the former revised the doctrine of the Jews' collective
responsibility for the Crucifixion and the latter revised the "precious
doctrine" of plural marriage.
Good point, Ed Kilgore!