Of Victims And Virtues

That's the headline on my U.S. News column this week. In it I tie together the vindication of the former Duke lacrosse players, the conduct of the 15 British sailor/marine hostages, the cancellation of documentaries by PBS and the BBC, controversy over a statue of a Navy SEAL in Littleton, Colo., and the speech given by Sen. John McCain at Virginia Military Institute last week. In a sense this column was the product of my blogging. I had made quick reference to several of these things in my blogging last week, and by the time it came to write the column I thought I had found a common thread.

Here are a couple of other items I picked up on the blogosphere with similar themes. One is an opinion article in the Guardian, of all places, assailing moral relativism. Sample quote:

"However, it turns out that Rorty and his ilk seriously misjudged what happens if intellectuals deny truth stridently and frequently enough. Far from making liberal openness more attractive, such denials actually make it appear empty, repugnant, and weak compared to the crystalline clarity and certainty of dogma...."

Science may not be God-like in its objectivity, but it is not just another myth. Moral values must be questioned, but if discrimination against women, homosexuals, or ethnic minorities is wrong here, then it is wrong anywhere else in the world. Truth may not be the simple phenomenon we assume it to be, but falsehoods must be challenged.

Unless we can make a convincing case that the choice is not between relativism or dogmatism, more and more people will reject the former and embrace the latter. When they do, those who helped create the impression that modern, secular rationality leaves everything up for grabs in the marketplace of belief will have to take their share of the blame.

Or, as William Butler Yeats put it, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." A similar idea comes through in this report from Paris by Nidra Poller in Pajamas Media:

"All of the candidates on the French Left, beginning with Royal, including Bayrou, and all the way to the radical's radical, Schivardi, promise to redistribute income and pacify society. After the battle at Gare du Nord, they accused the Right of dragging the law & order issue into the campaign, where it does not belong. Citizens, they claim, want to hear about wage increases, subsidized housing, job security, and retirement pay. The atrocious death of a young patrolman disturbs these advocates of soft government. We will soon know how voters judge their game. The first round of voting will take place on Sunday, 22 April 2007. The wheel turns ... Les jeux sont faits. Place your bets.

Society is in the wrong; when criminals lift their hands against the social order, the representatives of that order are guilty and should take their punishment without a fuss. When an illegal immigrant Chinese grandfather was arrested near the school where he goes to pick up his grandchildren, the do-gooders interfered with the police, the story was in the news for days. When the police were photographed by an amateur cameraman looking out his window as they arrested two drunk-driving students, it was a cause cC)lC(bre. The video was played and replayed, pinpointed and highlighted for hand-wringing. One of the students showed his bruised face to the TV audience and complained of police brutality. But it is alleged that the students were also dealing drugs and had been arrested frequently for criminal activity."

More on the Alternative Minimum Tax

The editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal on the AMT, about which I have blogged frequently. The Journal's conclusion:

"The easiest exit from this box canyon would be for Democrats to cut the AMT rate back to its pre-Clinton levels, and then cut some spending if they wnt to stick with their crazy "pay-go" rules. Better yet, they could start thinking about larger tax reform that would eliminate the AMT, lower rates for everyone, and close loopholes and needless deductions. We can dream, can't we?"

Please, Please Buckle Up

Oh, how I wish Gov. Jon Corzine had obeyed New Jersey's seat belt law, which requires every front seat passenger to use his seat belt. As state resident Tigerhawk points out, New Jersey was one of the first states with a mandatory seat belt law and then passed a law authorizing police to pull over and ticket people for not wearing them. Here is a collection of thoughts from Instapundit, including a description of what can happen to you in a collision if you're not wearing your seat belt, a description gruesome enough that I quit reading halfway through. I took a hard fall on the sidewalk two months ago, had contusions on my hands and knees, and was stunned for a few minutes. I didn't break anything, but I still have a little bit of pain in my right hand that I can feel when someone (e.g. George W. Bush) shakes my hand really hard.

Jon Corzine is a very rich man and, as governor of New Jersey, exercises more power than the governor of any other state (among other things, the governor appoints the state attorney general and the prosecutors in all 21 counties). Princess Diana, who did not wear a seat belt and died, was a royal and had essentially unlimited amounts of money to spend. The rich are immune to all kinds of considerations that bind the rest of us. But why do they assume they are immune to the laws of physics?

By Michael Barone