HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

July 21, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


I try to be mindful of the advice that in politics we shouldn't listen only to those who agree with us. So, yesterday, when I saw on Book TV that there was going to be a presentation by the young authors of Why You're Wrong About the Right, I decided to sit and watch the whole thing, regardless of how it affected me.

The authors in question were S.E. Cupp and Brett Joshpe, young New Yorkers who professed to have become frustrated by the unthinking liberalism they grew up amongst. As Mr. Joshpe said, it's trite and boring if you live in New York and are liberal. He and his co-author decided they didn't want to be trite and boring, so they opted for what they call conservatism. And, as far as I could tell, that was their only reason. It had nothing to do with their understanding of politics, which doesn't exist. They couldn't even answer the question of what conservatism is other than it's limited government, though they admitted that some government processes need to be limited more than others. They couldn't say what those were.

They talked for an hour. They made what they thought were cute quips, and they said not a word about what's desirable politically in America.

They were perfect examples of what I generally find when I turn to right-wing commentary -- people who have been irritated by the obnoxious manners of liberals, and for that reason alone, have decided to become conservatives. Someone needs to explain to them that being an advocate for good manners doesn't require supporting bombing raids all over the world or policies to make the rich ever richer.

In the New York Times I read about Marshal Klaven, a rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, who is writing his thesis on tattooing in the Jewish tradition. He's trying to refute the belief, which evidently is quite widespread, that you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo.  It was the first I had heard of the belief, so I can't say whether it has any force behind it or not. But since the subject is tattooing, I will say that I don't much like it.  But my sentiments are aesthetic, not religious. And, I'll also add that if a Jewish person with tattoos wants to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, I think he or she should have that privilege.

The Netroots Nation meeting took place in Austin last week. I didn't read much about what happened, except that Al Gore made a surprise appearance. He seems to be enjoying himself a great deal by staying out of elective politics, and I'm glad he is -- that is, glad he's enjoying himself, and glad he's staying out.

I've been reading a bit about our million name terrorist list, and whether or not it's effective in thwarting terrorists. Leonard Boyle, director of the Terrorist Screening Center , says it is, and, besides, when you consider that there are about six billion people in the world, one million is a very small percentage of them.  By contrast, Paul Craig Roberts, former Reagan administration Treasury official, says the list is ridiculous. I read both arguments as attentively as I could and found Mr. Roberts's to be more effective. But, then, I don't guess my response would be surprising to anyone who knows me.

I went to see The Dark Knight on its opening day, and found it to be enjoyable but not as stupendous as some have been saying.  I will warn you that it's quite long. So don't drink gallons of coffee before you go to see it. Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is fetching. I liked best the scene where he walked away from a hospital wearing a nurse's dress while he blew up all the buildings of the medical center around him. That was funny, in a Joker sort of way.

As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to Newfoundland, where I will stay in a cottage in a remote village for two weeks. But, I'm told, there is an internet cafe nearby, so I'll try to stay in touch while I'm there. Next week I'll let you how it is to be that far north and that far east.


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