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Chao’s Labors

Are they worth it? How deep the conservative bench? Also: Hell, Columbia. Arts and letters. The great pumpkin. Plus more.

9.25.07

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CONSERVATIVE PERFORMANCE
Re: W. James Antle III's Rewarding Labor:

Some short observations on this article, which you may or may not agree with.

The profile of the Labor Dept. under Elaine Chao was very interesting and informative, but also encouraging in a larger sense. Many observers have been highly critical of Donald Rumsfeld. Colin Powell was to some extent a disappointment, and Condoleezza Rice has been criticized for naivete or "going native" at the State Department with regard to the "Middle East Peace Process," "consultation" with North Korea and Iran, and other matters. The issue might more accurately be stated: has anybody better been available for their slots, from 2001 until now?

The personal opinion of one of your readers (of no particular wisdom or distinction) is that in historical terms, the team of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Ashcroft, and (as it turns out) Chao has been as good as any assembled by any President since Lincoln. Moreover, it's hard to think of anyone else in public life who could have equaled the work of any of these people under the conditions in which we now live. But who can the next president draw on, of equal experience or stature or gravitas? Rice is still young, and might yet have some "star quality" at the beginning of 2009. The rest are history.

Mr. Antle referred to the Weekly Standard reference to Chao, and about a year ago the National Review had a full-page article on her. The Republican "bench" of statesmen is apparently a bit deeper than it might seem.
-- Thomas Paulick

Do we really need a gushy article about the head bureaucrat of a massive agency that directs local and state labor issues, pension plans, health and welfare funds, etc One need only review the agency website to get a quick realization of how out of control, overarching and incomprehensibly Kafka-esque federal agencies have become. The Department of Labor oversees employer-based health insurance, and yet patients caught in the outright defiance of insurance companies that fail to adhere to Department of Labor regulations have no recourse. Regulations issued by the Department of Labor regarding insurance response to and payment of claims is routinely ignored, and there are no penalties. This agency is yet another example of an overgrown bureaucracy that Republicans have no desire to address or reduce. Rather than self-congratulatory adulation, the heads of these bureaucracies should be talking to the American people victimized by the government agencies that, by their nature, have little interest in the individual. It appears the writer of this article did not address any of the major issues Republicans formerly would have raised: federalizing issues and laws that should be in the purview of local government, depriving individuals of their rights to sue in state courts and to instead be forced into cumbersome federal remedies and courts, and the outright defiance of health and welfare entities to obey the rules, even as their executives get hundreds of millions of dollars in stock options.
-- Caroline Miranda, Attorney at Law
North Hollywood, California

W. James Antle III replies:
So which way does Ms. Miranda want to argue this -- is the Department of Labor a massive, imperious bureaucracy or does it regulate too little? I make perfectly clear that the Labor Department is even now too big. If I had my way, it would not exist at all. But if the Labor Department isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, it would be better to have it well run, with restraint in its annual budget growth while still effectively addressing many of the concerns it is supposed to deal with. Under the current labor secretary it has, and at a time when swing voters question conservatives' ability to govern this fact is well worth pointing out.

WRONG NUMBER
Re: The Washington Prowler's "Marginal Call" item under Up to His Ankles:

I think the "unexpected" phone calls are childish. Come on, does Giuliani really think voters are going to vote for someone that does not have the sense to turn off his phone during a speech? Funny and kind of cute it is not.
-- Elaine Kyle

FOOD VALUE
Re: Ben Stein's A Taste of Summer:

How much is Ben willing to wager on the results of a poll of Americans on which meal they prefer, a McDonald's cheeseburger or their preferred choice of a meal costing up to $100? Inquiring minds want to know.
-- Jim Drake
Papillion, Nebraska

HONORARY DEGREES
Re: Clinton W. Taylor's Yale, Columbia:

I whole-heartedly agree with your editorial.

You put in words exactly what I wanted to express. Thanks.
-- Ann Carmichael
Sterling, Virginia

Let me see if I understand this.

Columbia University won't allow U.S. military recruiters or the ROTC on their campus because they consider the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military to be a violation of civil rights.

Yet they invite Ahmadinejad in, in spite of the fact that he and his country violate the civil rights of gays by killing them,

...of women by denying them even basic human rights,

... and of Jews by advocating the violation of their rights to life and national existence.

What am I missing here?
-- A. C. Santore
Pennsylvania

Surprise, surprise a hate filled liberal Northeastern academic institution that despises President Bush and all conservatives invited a blood-soaked tyrant (who sounds like a typical Democrat) to speak to its automatons (students, faculty and supporters). Big deal! The only difference between Herr Ahmadinejad and a Democrat politician or one of their media hacks is Ahmadinejad wears a cheap looking suit, needs a shave and is honest about his genocidal hatred for America, Jews, Christians and Western civilization. If only he'd been born in Chicago with his homicidal rage and megalomania he'd be a shoo-in for the 2008 Democrat Presidential nomination.

As for that leftist bastion of useless academia and defender of oppression and despots to paraphrase an old song, "To hell with Columbia!"
-- Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, NC

Clinton Taylor castigates Yale and Columbia for inviting Hashemi and Ahmadinejad to speak. According to Mr. Taylor, " It's about a mystical belief in the power of the academy to bring peace upon the earth."

Silly liberals! When will they ever learn? If you are going to "play footsies" with a bad guy, do it for money -- just like Dick Cheney, when he headed Halliburton, did with Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.
-- Mike Roush
North Carolina

I'm not inclined to think that Columbia University would have extended a speaking invitation to Adolf Hitler, either right now or in the late thirties. However, I have no doubt they would invite Joseph Stalin or Vladimir Lenin to speak...
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

FAT OF THE LAND
Re: G. Tracy Mehan, III's Harvest Time in Washington:

Even a vegetable must feel Tracy Mehan's pain at the "subsidies, supports, and Rube Goldberg programs which will be layered on top of other tariffs, preferences, and perks to assist the agricultural sector in the face of what some health officials call an obesity epidemic."

Yet despite the cornucopia of Federal pork, vegetable inflation at its finest remains the private sector's metier. No Federal program of pumpkin subsidy exists, yet by any measure -- weight, girth , or distance flown through the air in harvest time celebration -- postmodern pumpkins grossly outperform publicly subsidized crops.

In Lord Protector Cromwell's day, a pumpkin weighing as much as a child was cause for sermons of thanksgiving throughout New England, and a generation ago, though handy microfilm repositories, they were still too small to conceal Alger Hiss's typewriter. Today, a pumpkin of a thousand pounds is deemed scarcely worthy of honorable mention at a county fair, for the aggressive vegetable's mutation from a staple into a suburban art form puts its husbandry on the same plane as ostrich wrangling or llama dressage. This is doubly unfortunate, as were county authorities to promote the manufacture of pumpkin eau de vie from the prize worthy strains of each neighborhood, converting a dozen of the vegetables into gasohol could free a fertile Iowa acre for the production of maize that might be exported to Mexico, or used by Archer Daniels Midland to further the private subsidy of Public Television.

Much as I enjoy Mr. Mehan's writing , you really ought to devote more space to herbicide ads.
-- Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ending subsidies won't change the amount of pollution that runs into the Gulf one iota.
-- Bob Teter

DAILY ARTS AND LETTERS
Re: Roger Scruton's Art, Beauty, and Judgment:

Much thanks to Roger Scruton for his essay, "Art, Beauty, and Judgment." After many years of thinking on this topic, unraveling the aesthetics of cubism from the outcome of relativism, it is encouraging to read a voice that has made such clear sense of aesthetic judgment and artistic value. Modern art often affects the viewer, true -- but in what manner and to what end? Scruton tells us, "without the humility that comes from love," which ultimately, I think, alienates us all. Hopefully this will open new doors into the re-evaluation of art, and enrich our personal, social, and cultural experience of it.
-- Neil Stotts

I'd rather deal with Duchamp than with orderly, humorless, churchy Scruton.

Duchamp while pulling a prank forced people to never again look at any object in quite the same way, making that discovery itself became so vital to XX century art, enriching our lives despite an occasional failing or two.

Scruton's no philosopher, he doesn't have the courage to question what he should, but picks on a urinal while completely pissing the point, only believing in make-believe that soothes but dictates, unable to abandon and play, then step away.
-- Anthony Steyning

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