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Classical Class

Re: Christopher Orlet’s Racial Discord:

As a scholar specializing in classical music and U.S. race relations, I feel compelled to comment on Christopher Orlet’s “Racial Discord.” While I certainly agree with Mr. Orlet — as I am sure all classical musicians and music lovers would as well — that the first and foremost goal of professional orchestras should be artistic excellence rather than political correctness, his discussion is fraught with some inaccurate assumptions.

Mr. Orlet compares the absence of African Americans and Latinos in the classical music profession with the widely recognized success of Asian Americans in the field. He characterizes the idea that “blacks and Latinos cannot afford musical instruments and lessons” as “the mummified excuse,” and criticizes those who make the point for “conveniently ignoring the fact that the children of poor Korean and Chinese immigrants somehow manage these things, as did the children of Jewish immigrants a hundred years ago.” The fact of the matter is, the Asian and Asian American musicians who have entered the top-level conservatories and professional orchestras in the past few decades are NOT children of poor Korean and Chinese immigrants. Of course there are a few exceptional musicians who come from less privileged backgrounds, but the vast majority of Asians in classical music today — Asian Americans who were born and raised in the United States as well as Asian-born musicians who came to the United States either specifically to study music or for other reasons — come from professional, middle-class families with a significant amount of educational, cultural, and economic capital and abundant exposure to classical music and other forms of culture and the arts since childhood. Precisely because the classical music field demands extremely high artistic and technical standards, unless one has received formal, rigorous training continuously since early childhood, it is impossible to acquire the specialized skills required to enter the profession. If you or your parents cannot afford the professional-standard instrument, many years of private lessons, and most importantly, the living situation that allows you to devote as many as eight or ten hours every day to practicing, you cannot even consider auditioning for a conservatory, let alone a professional orchestra. It is not surprising that those who come from professional, middle-class backgrounds dominate the field.

In addition to economics, there are also historical reasons for the large presence of Asians in classical music today. When Western music was introduced to East Asian nations — Japan, Korea, China — in the late nineteenth century, their governments took deliberate, programmatic steps to introduce this music to the masses through the educational system. Such government-led efforts — combined with the middle-class aspiration for Western learning, the growth of the manufacturing of musical instruments, and the development of effective pedagogical methods for musical instruction — resulted in classical music becoming a widespread middle-class, rather than elite, pursuit in many parts of East Asia in the postwar decades. The more Asian students gain exposure to classical music and receive serious training in it, the more of them enter the profession.

It is understandable that relatively few African American and Latino children aspire to a career in classical music. Most people agree that the fact that there are few women in the sciences and engineering is less due to their “innate” abilities than to the years of gendered socialization and the absence of female role models in the field. It is difficult for children to imagine themselves in a field in which they do not see a version of themselves represented. If, in a few classical music performances that African American and Latino children are exposed to, few of the faces they see look like themselves, they are less likely to feel that the music they hear is THEIR music, and they are less likely to feel they belong in that world.

I share the hope with both Mr. Dworkin and Mr. Orlet that classical music be enjoyed by a larger and more racially, economically, and culturally diverse audience. And yes, making classical music accessible to “poor and middle class white kids in rural schools” is a very good idea, and some musicians and educators have been working hard on such projects. I also hope that all children and adults in the United States learn to appreciate cultures and the arts other than the ones they grew up with. After all, the power of art lies in its ability to communicate. Because of the many years of specialized training classical music requires, many classical musicians tend to have limited knowledge of non-classical musical genres, and I believe that classical musicians acquiring familiarity with other genres of music would indeed enrich and expand the musicality of professional orchestras. But greater diversity in classical — as well as other genres of — music cannot be achieved by a quick fix such as changing the audition format or adopting a racially based quota system for orchestras at the expense of artistic integrity. It can be achieved only if American society attains greater socioeconomic equality so that children across the nation — regardless of region, race, class, or gender — gain access to quality education, including the arts. It can be achieved only if the government, the private sector, and individual members of society make the decades-long commitment to education, culture, and the arts. Yes, it will take at least twenty, perhaps fifty or a hundred, years to accomplish. But that is at least how long it took Asians to come to have a presence in the field.

Finally, it is curious to me that Mr. Orlet cites the military as an institution that has excelled without what he calls “social engineering” for achieving diversity. For, the U.S. military does an excellent job of a targeted recruitment of less-than-affluent minority youths in economically depressed regions of the country. If the U.S. Marines indeed runs so brilliantly as Mr. Orlet suggests, it sure owes its success to those youths who dedicate themselves to serving the nation which has long failed to deliver the dreams promised to them, one that does not even give them access to fine music.
Mari Yoshihara
Associate Professor and Graduate Chair
Department of American Studies
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
(Her book, Musicians From a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music, is forthcoming from Temple University Press in October 2007.)

Re: The Washington Prowler’s Schumer’s Mole:

Evangelicals for Romney. What a non-sequitur! What an oxymoron! How absurd can they get? Of course the “Evangelicals for Romney” site is filled with lies about Thompson and Huckabee. The site itself is a lie, bought and paid for; no believing evangelical with any understanding is going to help build up the Mormon church by working for Romney. How stupid do they think we are that we can be duped by a website like that? There is a simple fact to be understood here. The evangelicals are the biggest voting bloc the Republicans have…and many of us won’t vote for a Mormon, including the writer of this letter. Romney can’t win.
Greg F.
Delray Beach, Florida

It’s no surprise that Fred Thompson is beating out Romney in polls; the conservatives have been thirsty for a real Republican and they hay have found it in Thompson. It’s exciting to see his name in more articles every week and I hope that Fred or someone just like him receives the nomination.
Adam Jones
Arlington, Texas

Re: Mark Tooley’s Prepare for Biblical Floods and Droughts:

It wasn’t 6 hours after the IPCC published its report to policy makers that the Catholic USCCB issued a communique that essentially endorsed everything the IPCC underwrote. For an organization that cannot even agree to change two words of the Scared Liturgy as mandated by the Vatican without “undertaking years of study,” this was quite surprising. The Evangelical Left appears to be no different; maybe they’ve just grown tired of “fishing for men”; it is so much more exciting playing the role of a prophet.

In both of the above cases we’ve seen an attempt by so called people of science to use persuasion that is anything but scientific. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, once dubbed the “Democratic Party at Prayer,” appears to endorse any program that will enlarge the state. They even equate their endorsement as advocacy for the poor. The Evangelical Left goes a step farther it seems, and it appears that they’ve readjusted their eschatology a bit. We are going to Hell, and it has nothing to do with the Forbidden Fruit and everything to do with our use of fossil fuels. One would think the advanced minds of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) crowd would be terribly embarrassed by this new association with Men of the Cloth.

Since the release of the IPCC TAR last February, the people of the world have witnessed an almost desperate public relations offensive by the AGW proponents. Almost daily there are news articles published by the esteemed advocates of science whose “studies” predict everything from the disappearance of winters, 20 foot rise in our sea levels, massive hurricane and typhoon outbreaks, droughts, floods, famines, the loss of entire eco-systems, the extinction of the artic polar bears, the complete melting of both polar ice caps…well you get the picture. Hollywood has got into the act as well (they promise world wide concerts to raise awareness), as has Team KEdwards of 2004 fame, most of the Democratic Party, and the piece de resistance of the AGW PR Offensive-an Oscar for ALGORE. Now, even the enemies of science — religious leaders — have been drafted. Never before in the history of science has there been such an effort to persuade the average Joe to accept what last year was declared “Settled Science.” The Advocates of AGW even created a set of code words which are supposed to put the AGW Skeptics on the permanent defensive. Skeptics of the AGW are now branded deniers as in Holocaust Deniers. The Settled Science Crowd must also borrow from religion the term Heretic in order to convey the seriousness of their arguments.

Despite the biblical imagery, the religious fervor, and the very modern PR campaign, this has not been a very good spring or winter for the AGW advocates. A two-woman team from Europe trekked to the Arctic Circle last February to raise awareness for the melting ice caps. To their astonishment, the Arctic Circle was…well downright frigid — like minus 55 degrees F frigid. After suffering near debilitating frostbite they abandoned their quest. To the eternal embarrassment of the AGW Alarmists, ALGORE, has been caught in flagrante burning fossil fuels like there is no tomorrow. As far as the expected political rout is concerned, there appears to be no storming of the gates by the proletariat demanding Congress Do Something. As a matter of fact, if anything there has been on giant yawn across the Heartland. Underscoring the PR failure, a poll of 6th Graders last week indicated that not even children are buying into the Prophets of Doom. If one considers the large sums of money spent on the PR Offensive, at least the most impressionable would be convinced. I mean, they are a captive audience.

The problem of course with the entire AGW point of view is that it cannot be defended in public using reasonable debates. Even as early as 1988, the articles written for public consumption had a bit of “Repent Ye from Fossil Fuels!” ring to it. Despite having 85-90% of the science world on their side, the AGW alarmists resort to almost desperate measures to see to it that their opponents are not only defeated in the public sphere, but annihilated. Skeptics of AGW have been threatened with violence, unemployment, and professional decertification. Never before has there been such a assembly of eggheads who are so insecure about their collective science. The drafting of the Christian Left by the AGW alarmists only illustrates this. It is the equivalent of Karl Marx inviting Adam Smith to write the introduction to Das Kapital. If you cannot convince the Rubes in the Heartland with scientific certainty, terrify them with Doom!

It is obvious the Left overplayed its hand. Even the New York Times is coming to the realization that the Alarmists may have piled in on a bit thick. The degree of elitism that represents the Left, especially the Far Left, mandates that they should never explain themselves. They’ve never been very skilled at rational debate. The AGW alarm has been ringing now for 20 years. It has always been a pet issue for Limousine Liberals (today they are being dubbed “Gulfstream Liberals”). Since the fall of World-wide Communism, more and more leftists have jumped on the AGW bandwagon. The Science of AGW has always been problematic — that is, it is anything but settled. Yet, the window of opportunity for “action” for most political movements is small. AGW has always been a political movement. Hence, the almost religious fervor of the AGW alarmists. The IPCC is the secular equivalent of the Southern Baptist Convention or the Roman Magesterium. Its clerics toil night and day to give their imprimatur to the multitude of studies declaring we are all going to Hell. It turns out that there is Original Sin, after all.

As far as things Christian are concerned, moderation appears to be forgotten. Lost in the now daily reports of the coming Apocalypse is the moderate concerns of pollution, the changing landscape of our globe by deforestation, and the need for clean water. These moderate concerns demand moderate solutions such as nuclear power, better waste water management, as well as more efficient and cleaner ways to burn fossil fuels, and the discovery of alternative energy sources. Moderation is a most difficult virtue. It demands discipline, self-control, and reason — things almost entirely forgotten in our Brave New World.

A few reactions to Mark Tooley’s article:

1. One doesn’t have to be “a global warming true believer” to be concerned about the issue of our environment. The preponderance of solid scientific thinking is that a century of industrial emissions have had an effect on our atmosphere. True, the details are not yet completely known to scientists, but if there is a possibility that we are negatively altering our atmosphere shouldn’t that possibility dictate a prudent response?

2. Stewardship of God’s creation is a Christian concern — not just a “mainline Christian” or just an “evangelical Christian” concern, but a Christian concern. So are a host of other issues besides human sexuality and reproduction.

3. It is true that evangelicals have no curia or centralized church polity, so why should anyone act as if James Dobson, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell somehow have a right to define narrowly the issues that concern Christians?
Mike Roush
North Carolina

Bad theology and poor science are leading some of God’s people astray. Rather than focusing on the myth of global warming it would behoove liberal evangelicals to take their own resources and work to end drug abuse and gang violence in America’s Democrat-run urban killing fields. If there is global warming, time and nature will take care of it as they always do.
Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Re: William Tucker’s In the Line of Fire:

Two lines in William Tucker’s “In the Line of Fire” offer examples of the reasons conservatives like me are ready to “cut and run”: “The IA didn’t give chase.” And “The machine gunner does not return fire.”

Let’s imagine that these incidents happening in the U.S. Do you think no one would do anything? Absolutely not! We understand that in order to keep the lid on criminal activity, we must ruthlessly pursue every infraction of the law. But in both Iraqi cases, two groups of people committed crimes, the terrorists and the civilians who knew about the planned crimes and refused to inform the police about them, and no one did anything. Obviously, civilians don’t report such criminal activity because they’re more afraid of the terrorists than they are of the police or military and I don’t blame them. But until we adopt a policy of pursuing every single incident of a crime and punishing all parties involved, even the civilians who knew of the crime, criminal activity will continue to flourish. Instead, the leadership prefers to bribe the population to obey the law through building schools and improving infrastructure. But civilians know they can have both the American gifts and immunity from the terrorists by keeping quiet about the terrorists, because they know they can do nothing that would cause the Americans to quit giving the gifts.

Since the leadership, whether military or civilian, has no intention of changing policies, then I say let’s bring our boys home and stop letting 50 a month die from IED’s.
Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Re: James Srodes’ Terms of Enrichment:

Yah, yah. I knew all of that. It doesn’t change the fact that when I graph income by occupation or industry, and then look at the figures on CEO compensation, I see the compensation of even the most blatantly incompetent CEOs soaring year after year, decade after decade, while I see many very bright, industrious, creative and knowledgeable science and tech workers who are suffering from long-term unemployment stretching into many years.

Still, the average pay per hour, after adjustment for inflation, for tech workers shows an increase above that for other kinds of work. How can that be? If you dump a lot of people in a particular field, and most of those dumped are not in the upper quintile or decile, for instance, the average pay will rise, even though the net economic condition has dropped precipitously for many.

These statistical games are amusing diversions, but prove nothing.
P.S. I was avidly reading Reynolds in Reason several decades ago, and Krugman gives me the creeps.

Re: D.M. Duggan’s letter (under “Undeserved Reputations”) in Reader Mail’s Midnight Runs and Eric Peters’s We Can Work It Out:

D.M. Duggan writes that foreign car manufacturers get a free ride from the American press regarding their “dangerous and badly designed cars.” He cites, among others, the original Volkswagen Beetle and the Honda Civic CVCC. Let’s say that comparing a 1930s vintage vehicle to a 1960s-era economy car like the Corvair is hardly apples and oranges. Moreover, I remember reading scads of articles, in the automotive and general press, speaking about the Beetle’s high CG, rollover problems, lack of lateral stability and poor driver visibility. These problems were all inherent in Dr. Porsche’s original design, and I suspect that working in the same environment as the Chevrolet engineers who designed the Corvair (a very nice car, not at all dangerous, despite Nader’s hatchet job on it), the car would have been very different.

With regards to the CVCC, I actually owned one, the first car I ever owned. I never had any problems with it. It had the idiosyncratic “Hondamatic” semi-automatic transmission (start in first, move to drive, and leave it there), and got about 35 mpg while meeting all emissions requirements without using a catalytic converter. It sold me on Hondas, and since then I have owned a Civic Si hatchback, a Civic wagon, A Civic DX automatic, and a relatively new Odyssey. I’ve loved every last one of them. They not only handle and perform well, but the interiors are comfortable and the controls laid out in a logical and ergonomically sound manner.

The only American car I’ve ever owned was a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan, which I still have. Since I bought it, it proved to be a major pain in the butt. It’s on its third transmission — and every 1996-2001 Caravan owner I know has replaced his transmission at least once. The brake cylinders leaked like sieves and had to be replaced. Front axles and CV joints break with amazing regularity (and I am not driving on unpaved country roads). The air conditioner likewise eats R-34a like it’s going out of style, the heater fans whine and moan like a spoiled puppy, and there is a persistent problem in the electrical system that causes the windshield wipers to turn themselves on and off in an entirely random, arbitrary fashion (another endemic problem in the design). On the road, it wallows like a pig and lacks pickup.

When my family needed a new van (two kids with luggage-intensive pastimes), I never even considered another Caravan, but immediately looked to the Odyssey, which in comparison to the American minivan has a feeling of solidity and stability on the road, drives just like a Civic, and works like a charm. It will indeed be another ten years or more before I buy an American car again. And Detroit has nobody to blame but itself.
Stuart Koehl
Falls Church, Virginia

One glaring omission from your article regarding the improved quality of American cars is where the customer meets the manufacturer…in the showroom. Ask many women, a growing segment of the car buying market how they have been treated by their local domestic auto service dept. and many tell a tale of being talked down to, being given the “blonde” treatment, or downright derision. This kind of treatment sent my wife into the cuddling arms of the nearest Honda dealer where she and I have had ZERO complaints, even if there was a manufacturer defect or recall. Why? Because, they DEALT WITH THE PROBLEM and took care of their customer.

I have no doubt that the Big 3 is building better cars, but the manufacturer is not the one dealing them to the public. It may matter to the suits in Detroit that the product is better, but if the customer service continues to suck, they lose again.
P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Re: Tim Peterman’s letter (under “Reporting Iraq”) in Reader Mail’s Midnight Runs:

Thank you Capt. Peterman for setting the record straight. Like you I am furious when brave Iraqis working with us, at the real risk of their lives, are demeaned by news readers and journalists. Too many of the victims of jihadists are these brave men and women. This is just one more example of why so many in the active duty military distrust and despise the American media.
Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Re: Lawrence Henry’s The Color of Golf:

Mr. Henry, Please keep writing about golf; I enjoy it. If you are ever in Columbus Ohio, bring your clubs and I’ll take you to OSU Scarlet. It’s one of the five courses Alistair Mackenzie designed in the U.S. (I’m told) and newly renovated by Nicklaus last year.
Steve Boggs

Larry Henry replies: Mr. Boggs: Yer on!

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