Hope For The Warriors

I am remiss – here’s something I should have blogged about some time ago.

Captain Jason Lynn is running a marathon to raise funds for soldiers and their families. Captain Lynn is an Apache helicopter pilot currently on his second tour in Iraq. He is planning to run a marathon in Florida in December to raise funds for an organization called Hope For The Warriors. H4TW raises money to help wounded soldiers and the families of those killed in action.

I just sent over $20 and hope you’ll do the same. Donate here.

Everybody’s Got To Serve Someone…

…I used this title before for an Examiner column, but it’s appropriate here as well.

Conservative heads are spinning (including Jonah Goldberg in the LAT, who calls it “slavery”) over Obama’s national service proposal. Personally, I don’t think it goes far enough. No, I’m serious.

OK, I’ll wait a moment for my conservative readers to get to their smelling salts.

Recall that one of my great concerns (one shared by several of the Founders) is the stratification of American society. Our social compact only works when we all accept that we’re all in this together, with the push and pull that comes when we realize that we really do sometimes have to “Join or Die” as the flag in the credits for ‘John Adams’ suggests.

You’ll notice that social mobility in the US is declining, as families like ours (and richer families) manage to hand off the social capital of good upbringings and good education – as well as real capital – to our kids.

In today’s society, there are really two arenas where there is significant mixing between the classes – public education and the military. One reason why I am so unwilling to give up on public education (even if some liberal friends don’t like my hypothetical solutions) is that I think it vital that the children of the well-off get raised alongside the children of the rich and the children of the poor to then extent we can do so. Our sons benefited hugely from being raised in a public school system (an excellent one) that nonetheless contains a mixture of wealthy kids, upper-middle-class kids, plain middle-class kids and some blue-collar kids. By comparison, the kids of my friends who are getting ‘better’ education in private schools are – I believe – coming out worse for the experience.

My son who is in the Army is profiting, as well, from meeting and mingling with a bunch of different kinds of people.

The question is how, in a country as large as ours, we maintain some public space and maintain enough social equality to ensure that all have at least some measure of access to that space. In my mind, that’s a legitimate concern for the state – because it is central to the state’s self-preservation as a Republic.

I believe that preserving the Republic ought to be a project dear to conservatives as well as liberals, and that to do so liberals must sacrifice some of the equality that is their ideal, and conservatives some of the freedom from coercion.

I don’t believe that by pushing people toward public school (without Draconian mandates), we’re somehow ‘enslaving’ children. Note that this doesn’t mean I’m completely happy with the quality of education, or that we don’t need to fight to make the schools better. But I have no ideological barrier to public schools, and I share the value of enshrining them close to the heart of our communities.

I’d like to see this principle extended, and based on raising my own sons, think that taking a year or two between high school and college to do some kind of public service would be a good thing for most kids. Some might choose to join the military. Others would perform other kinds of community service. Those who needed it might attend two years of an academic boot camp, designed to make sure they could read and calculate effectively when they got out. We’d have a surplus of undertrained 18 year olds afoot, and we’d have to figure out things to do with them. Parks need supervision, community organizations need workers, much of it – like the WPA – will be make-work. But to a big extent, that might be a better thing than paying universities to babysit them.

Some kind of ‘basic GI bill’ provides educational benefits for those who have completed it, and some kind of extension of the VA provides some basic level of lifetime health care.

Should it be mandatory? Don’t know there it gets tough. Would I give preferences to encourage people to do it? Clear preference at state junior and four-year colleges to those who’d done it? Absolutely. OK, discuss away. Me, I’m cooking tri-tip.

Yet Mo’ Patriotism

Over at the Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru asks:

Are you maintaining that to be an American patriot you have to believe that the U.S. is superior to all other countries? I loved my mother not because I truly believed that she was in some objective sense “the greatest mother in the world”…although I think I may have gotten her a coffee mug to that effect…but because she was mine. Can’t we love our country the same way?

Well, no, not really. here we step into the question of American Exceptionalism, in which people like me suggest that American patriotism is fundamentally of a different class than all other patriotisms, because (I repeat tiresomely) it is not founded on a place, nor on a heritage, but on a set of ideas, to which any may freely subscribe.

I’ll suggest that there are two components to American patriotism – one much like any other, which involves ‘purple mountains majesty’ and great Americans who contributed to making the place what it is today – and other, wholly unique, which goes to the undeletable, permanent notion that we are none of us subjects, and instead all citizens. Other nations have reached for this, and contributed to our understanding of it. In the future, I trust that others will carry it forward from us.

But today, it is fundamentally ours and it ought to be that set of ideas that we all celebrate on the 4th and that we are all learning from every day.

Political Economy of Networks

John Quiggen has an interesting post up on network effects, the new economy, and social equality.

My gut tells me that he’s wrong, but I can’t immediately construct an argument to convince even myself of that. I am quite convinced that it’s an interesting topic – meaning that the arguments pro and con will be enlightening and possibly important. Take a look and let me know what you see.

Ride, Eat, Sleep – Repeat

So in response to being overwhelmed We took a road trip over the last day or so – riding to Paso Robles, having a brilliant dinner there and riding home.

We stayed a great B & B (nameless at the owner’s request – but email me and I’ll tell you all about it), had a great dinner at Justin Winery, and had one hard leg up – riding the freeways to get to Paso after work on Thursday – and then a brilliant ride back on back roads.

View Larger Map

The B & B was where TG and I stayed on our abbreviated honeymoon, and the owners remembered us – we’d ridden our motorcycles up and walked to all the wineries within three or four miles of there. When TG and I rode up, they remembered us – as well as the story of one of the other couples staying there who had coincidentally been heading to a concert at Disney Hall the afternoon we were married in the garden there, and had seen the end of our wedding.

What are the odds? It’s a 3-room B & B…

We discovered Justin by driving randomly around the roads a few years ago on a trip we were taking in the car. Wine tasting is difficult on a bike, since we have an “eight hours bottle to throttle” rule we’ve borrowed from some of our pilot friends.

Justin makes great blended reds, and all of their wines are far more than well worth drinking…we wound up joining their club (we love wine clubs…great wine just shows up!). They have one of the most beautiful wineries on the Central Coast…here’s the view from our table.


So dinner was beautiful and great food…hospitality warm and comfortable…and it feels like the angst of the last two weeks has been pretty well washed away.

Yglesias Picks Up Shovel, Digs

In a more thoughtful followup (not hard!) to his earlier paean to Mother England, Yglesias goes on to say one sensible thing about patriotism:

American liberals and American conservatives are both Americans so our American patriotism is very similar. We just have different ideas about politics.

He then drives directly off the rails.

Specifically, I would say that liberals do a better job of recognizing that much as we may love America there’s something arbitrary about it — we’re just so happen to be Americans whereas other people are Canadians or Mexicans or French or Russian or what have you. The conservative view is more like those Bill Simmons columns where not only is he extolling the virtues of this or that Boston sports team or moment, but he seems to genuinely not understand why other people don’t see it that way. But of course Simmons is from Boston and others of us aren’t.

All of which is to say the liberal doesn’t, as a political matter, confuse the emotions of patriotism with a description of objective reality or anticipate that the citizens of Iraq or Russia or China or wherever will drop their own patriotisms and come to see things our way. Patriotism is a sentiment about your particular country but it’s also a sentiment that’s much more widespread than any particular country, and if you can’t understand the full implications of that then you’re going to go badly wrong.

No Matthew, you marvelous Harvard-trained Atlantic columnist you, you’re describing something far closer to nationalism, not any kind of patriotism I would recognize – or that Schaar, Wolin, or a host of others I could name would recognize. They actually are different things, you know.

And here’s a clue, which you spent several hundred thousand dollars to miss but which was available to you for two-fifty in library late charges.

There actually is something unique and well worth celebrating in American patriotism. First because we were among the first to throw off the yoke of hereditary privilege and substitute the rule of the governed. Second – and most important – because we are not a patrimony defined by land or by blood – not an accident of geography or a nation bound by a common heritage but instead a people animated by a set of ideas. That Yglesias thinks those ideas are worth as much as the ideas motivating – say, China’s polity, or Iraq’s – speaks volumes about what he sees when he looks around him.

And volumes about what I see when I look at him. I see someone who thinks love of country is not dissimilar to love of the Celtics. Why would anyone die for the Celtics? Why would anyone owe anything to the Celtics?

The Gift That Keeps On Giving – Yglesias Regretting The American Revolution

The last time I called him on it, he explained that he was simply arguing a counterfactual…but he keeps coming back to it and picks July 4th for this marvelous sentiment:

Ultimately, I think the United States is a pretty awesome country but it very plausibly would have been even awesomer had English and American political leaders in the late 18th century been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together.

Way to be patriotic, Matthew!!

Free Ice Cream News

The world is kicking my butt this week, so abject apologies for not participating in a bunch of interesting discussions here and out in the blogs in general.

A few things I’d be blogging about if I can get some time:

Should you invest in the long tail? – very interesting, and read Anderson’s reply.

The far-right’s patriotism problem – not so much, but it’s a nice trigger to talk again about ’68ers and patriotism

Moving to the middle is for losers – again, not so much but a good hook to use to discuss real centrism and whether Obama qualifies as such

Blogs, Participation and Polarization – a fascinating study

Lipscomb on Swiftboating