- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

‘Idol’ attitude

“Fox TV’s ‘American Idol’ recently kicked off its sixth season, and despite its longevity, it’s more popular than ever. … The awarding of this year’s Oscar for best supporting actress to Jennifer Hudson (booted out in … Idol’s third season) and the Grammy nominations for Carrie Underwood (2005’s American Idol) have brought even more attention to this star-making machine.

“But the show spends weeks auditioning untalented performers. Only after that do the final stages pit the appealing amateurs who rise to the top against one another. The scenes of homely kids wailing off pitch before sneering judges borrow from the disturbing reality-show penchant for humiliation as entertainment. …

“Time and time again, contestants in the early episodes of this year’s season whine obviously off key and then insist they are highly talented — in spite of the judges’ protestations. Most of those kids have not learned how to sing, but they have mastered the self-esteem and ‘attitude’ so valued in our culture. The persistent dynamic of these episodes is expertise putting down untalented braggadocio.”

Christopher Ames, writing on “Schooled by ‘American Idol,’ ” in the March issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

‘First society’

“For me, marriage is fundamentally about the needs of children. And in thinking and writing about it for nearly two decades, I have come to believe one thing with more certainty than anything else: What children need most are mothers and fathers. No caregivers. Not parent-like adults. Not even ‘parents.’ What a child wants and needs more than anything else are the mother and the father who together made the child, who love the child, and who love each other. As G.K. Chesterton once said in a similar context, ‘That I know is a good thing. … If other things are against it, other things must go down.’ …

“Marriage is the first and most important of society’s institutions. … For this reason, the 17th-century English political philosopher John Locke, whose writings deeply influenced the men and women who founded the United States, properly calls marriage the ‘first society.’ ”

David Blankehorn, from his new book, “The Future of Marriage”

Safe for democracy?

“In the aftermath of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make the world safe for democracy. Since then, U.S. presidents have marched to the drumbeat of Wilsonian idealism. Indeed, most U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the pretext — and in some cases perhaps the genuine belief — that America is delivering democracy to the rest of the world. …

“Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany tyranny — in that case, the tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to insure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic. …

“The Constitution laid down clear, unequivocal and enforceable rules to protect individuals’ rights. In consequence, the government’s scope and scale were strictly limited. Economic liberty, which is a precondition for growth and prosperity, was enshrined in the Constitution, and that’s how things remained for America’s first century of extraordinary development and growth.”

Steve H. Hanke, writing on “On Democracy,” in the March issue of Globe Asia

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