Family Viewing

by Harry on November 2, 2007

I’m teaching a course for freshmen this semester called “Childhood and the Family” covering topics such as children’s rights, parents rights, equality of opportunity, and the justifications of marriage. I’m planning to show movies a couple of evenings for them to watch as a kind of community building activity (the administration clearly wants us to use these small courses for this purpose, and I have a budget to provide food). But what movies to show? You can help. Here are the constraints: the suggestions should be about family life in some interesting way, not too slow-moving (I ruled Etre et Avoir on that ground, even though it is otherwise fantastic), readily available on DVD, and should have quite limited amounts of sex and violence (none, ideally; this is partly because I would like to bring my kids, and partly because I don’t want the students to be embarrassed watching the film with me, or vice versa).

Rip it up and start again?

by Henry Farrell on November 2, 2007

“Brad DeLong”: on What to Do With the Republican Party.

I find myself much less optimistic about the future of the Republican Party than Mark Schmitt. … There are, in general, three ways to compete for the majority of the vote … 3. To convince a majority that they are threatened by vicious and deadly enemies–and that the other party is, at some level, in league with those enemies … Starting early in the twentieth century, however the Republican Party has been increasingly pursuing the third: excoriating immigrants, Catholics,” that communist Roosevelt,” Russian spies in the State Department, appeasers and other advocates of “better red than dead,” rootless cosmopolitans, advocates of “peaceful coexistence” and other graduates of Dean Acheson’s Cowardly College of Containment, uppity Negroes, Hollywood, liberal socialists who want to control your life, the nattering nabobs of negativism in the press, Mexicans, muslims, homosexuals, China, atheists. … Four generations of Republican political activists have now been trained in the art of busying giddy minds with foreign (and domestic) enemies. … It’s time to do to the Republican Party what the Republicans did to the whigs: raze the structure and start over.

There are two questions here. First, the pragmatic – might the US be ready in the near future (by which I mean the next 10-15 years or so) for another major realignment in its party system, that might replace a Republican party that is increasingly dominated by torture-porn-loving all-war-all-the-time lunatics with a new (and hopefully sane) right-of-center political party? Second, the speculative – if there were such a realignment, what would the new party look like? A party dominated by moderate north-easterners (perhaps drawing in some conservative Democrats)? Some American variant of Christian Democracy, mixing social conservatism with a commitment to some kind of welfare state (“Michael Gerson”: has been touting internal reforms of the Republican coalition along these lines, but _contra_ “Ross Douthat”: there are “stark differences”: between European Christian Democracy and the Republican notion of faith based politics)? A party based on some kind of soft libertarianism? Or some (to me hard to imagine) synthesis between some of these strains? The floor is open (I’ll ask our lefty commenters in particular to try to refrain as much as they can from rude criticisms of the current crew, which we can take as stipulated, and to try to stick to the above questions as much as possible).

Yes, Even Heroin

by Belle Waring on November 2, 2007

I was going to respond at length to commenter sg in the thread to John Quiggin’s post, but decided I would just bump it up to a post. I think I may fairly summarize sg as saying that some drugs are so intrinsically harmful that they must be illegal. Further, that the US wouldn’t be awash in guns and drugs “if the US would actually try and police the drug trade.” This last is just madness, on my view, and anyone who thinks different should just go peruse Radley Balko’s archives. [In fairness, it seems sg is referring to more competent policing rather than more overwhelming force and aggressive raids, but I’m unclear on how this is meant to work.]

I wanted to talk about something that would-be legalizers often hear, namely, “you’re not willing to admit that under your system there would be lots more drug addicts, and being addicted to drugs is, in itself, a bad thing.” In my experience this isn’t right at all, and everyone who advocates decriminalization will admit that more people will use drugs if they are more widely available and there are no legal penalties. This means more people would become addicted to drugs. How could it be otherwise? This doesn’t mean that I think it’s good thing for people to abuse IV drugs–it’s obviously a bad thing. But the costs our own nation incurs in the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs are crushing: citizens jailed for drug possession and minor sales; the wholesale violation of civil rights that attends aggressive enforcement of anti-drug laws; the fundamental unfairness of denying sick people access to drugs give them relief. With decriminalization we would need fewer police officers, and those we had could focus on violent crimes. We could reverse pernicious trends in which more and more African-American men are shoveled into the maw of the prison system. That’s not even considering the violence and misery spawned around the world by our insatiable appetite for drugs. You’ll pretty much have to convince me that decriminalization will mean free samples of heroin-enriched enfamil before I even bother to reconsider my cost-benefit analysis. [click to continue…]

I find your lack of faith disturbing

by John Holbo on November 2, 2007

Commentary hosts a symposium on Podhoretz’ World War IV. Their question: “What Kind of War Are We Fighting, And Can We Win It?” I like this bit from Max Boot:

By publishing World War IV, Norman Podhoretz has performed yet another important public service, showing once again why he was such a worthy recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At a time when our political leaders are split over whether we are actually at war with terrorists, when opposition to the war effort in Iraq is growing, and when apathy and complacency appear to be settling in among the public, he lucidly and compellingly explains why we are fighting, how we can prevail, and why we must do so.

My major disagreement with him is pretty minor. It concerns what to call this conflict. Labeling it World War IV assumes that the cold war was World War III, but almost nobody calls it that. Maybe they should, but they don’t. As a matter of purely historical accuracy, moreover, the cold war should be called World War V, since the first world war was really the Seven Years’ War, known in North America as the French and Indian War, while the second was the Napoleonic War. If we follow this logic, we would relabel the 1914-18 conflict World War III and the 1939-45 conflict World War IV, in the same way that George Lucas relabeled his first Star Wars film “Episode IV” after producing three “prequels.”

But merely to advance this argument is to reveal its impracticality.

I think the way to deal with this is to renumber W.W. I as 10 and W.W. II as 20. This will allow for the retroactive insertion of new World Wars, before and between the old ones, if necessary.

Please feel free to discuss the various contributions by the participants.