Thursday, July 31, 2003
Patriot Act: I think there's been a lot of overhyped concern about civil liberties and the Patriot Act. The Weekly Standard's David Tell, explores some of the poor reporting regarding the Patriot act from (surprise) The New York Times.
Biased British Corporation?: Is that what the BBC has become? Well, this account of their BBC World Service radio broadcast is evidence of.
The author, journalist Denis Boyles, also makes a larger point about journalism as a whole that's worth remembering.
"I was wrong."
Of all the words in all the paragraphs in all the stories ever written by journalists anywhere, the simple inability to utter those three syllables is what distinguishes, say, a Howell Raines from, say, a Michael Kelly.
More on Pryor: National Review's Byron York has more on the William Pryor nomination that I discussed earlier.
York comes to many of th same conclusions I did, namely that Democratic senators are not anti-Catholic per se, but their use of the abortion litmus test has a de facto effect of barring orthodox Catholics, evangelical Christians, orthodox Jews and Muslims from the bench. In theory, it would also affect atheists and agnostics who believe that abortion is morally wrong -- these people do exist, but they are an incredibly small minority of the population. Most opposed to abortion do so because of their beliefs that come out of a religious faith.
York also makes a persuasive point which, if Democrats were being intellectually honest, would seem to break the judicial logjam and rid them of the "anti-Catholic" smears.
The real issue has always been whether Pryor would allow his personal beliefs to affect his judicial decision-making. He has said that he would not, and points to his record as Alabama attorney general to show that he has in the past separated his personal beliefs from his professional obligations. In fact, Pryor would never have been able to be so candid with the committee about his personal beliefs had he not also been able to cite his record as solid evidence that he would follow the law. It was, perhaps, Pryor's most powerful argument for himself, one that Democrats were never able to counter.
It would be one thing if Democrats could demonstrate that Pryor's beliefs affected his enforcement of laws that he opposes. The problem is, they can't. That is why this appears to be a "crusade" against pro-life nominees.
There's a right way...: And a wrong way -- to teach. I guess I was fortunate (and smart) to attend a university where the purpose is to teach. Some of the more "upper-tier" universities, it appears, are more interested in name recognition then whether or not the students are learning.
Don Luskin publishes a letter from a former student of a certain well-known professor. It's disappointing, really, that an Ivy League university is willing to tolerate this kind of behavior from a member of its faculty.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Missing Hope: I'm too young to have collected voluminous memories of the late, great Bob Hope. But I certainly enjoyed watching and reading many of the tributes to the man who probably had more influence on American comedy than any other. I particularly liked this article by Doug Gamble, one of Hope's writers.
Hope's own wit was as sharp, if not sharper, than that of his writers. When a writer with a stuttering affliction explained he missed a meeting because he was at the hospital while his wife had twins, Hope said, "Twins, huh. Apparently you don't just stutter when you talk."
That nearly had me fall out of my chair laughing.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Phantom corrections don't fly in Mobile: Mobile Register editor Michael Marshall has banned New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from the pages of his newspaper over the Times' refusal to acknowledge the "Dowdified" quote from President Bush:
An opinion column by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, published in the May 15 Mobile Register, should have quoted President Bush as saying, "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al-Qaida operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore." Dowd's column changed the president's meaning by omitting the quote's second sentence and the opening words of the third sentence: "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated ... They're not a problem anymore."
Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins' responses?
And I got two responses from Ms. Collins Tuesday morning.
Hi Mr. Marshall,
Maureen feels very strongly that she clarified the Bush quote. I appreciate your taking the trouble to write, and I'll ask Maureen if there's anything else she wants to say about the matter.
Best wishes, Gail Collins
Here's Response No. 2, sent a couple of hours later, I suppose after she consulted with Maureen Dowd:
Dear Mr. Marshall,
Thanks for writing to ask. After Maureen received complaints about the editing of the quote she decided to reprint it in full in a later column, which ran on May 28. We're confident it was never her intention to distort the meaning.
Best wishes, Gail Collins
Set aside the fact of Dowd's (to paraphrase Ben Bradlee) "non-correction correction" -- does Collins really expect us to believe she's "confident it was never her intention to distort the meaning."?
Of course it was her intention to distort the meaning. The doctored quote allows the high-and-mighty Dowd to cluck her tongue as if to say: "See what a dimwit we're dealing with? He actually believes al Qaeda isn't a problem any more. Anyone with half a brain knows better."
The full paragraph containing the Dowdified quote:
Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. ‘Al Qaeda is on the run,’ President Bush said last week. ‘That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated…They're not a problem anymore.’”
Replace the Dowdified version with the full and correct quote and Dowd's intro doesn't make sense. There is no textual support for her "spent" argument in that quote.
There still may be hope, Register editor Marshall cc'd his concerns to new executive editor Bill Keller. This will be another (easy) test to see if Keller can restore some credibility at the Times.
Punk politics: I was sitting in the Vista In-N-Out burger last night hanging out with some friends when a group of punk teens came in. You know, the mohawk haircut kind. One fo them had his hair dyed all sorts of multicolored hues and in footlong spikes at every angle.
The conversation turned to what sorts of job opportunities are available for someone attired like these kids. One of my friends, a realtor, queried another, a Marine just back from Iraq, on how he would trust someone like that kid.
"Would you give him your money if he was behind the counter at a bank?"
"Sure. If they trust him to be back there."
"Would you vote for him for governor of California?"
"He couldn't do worse than Gray Davis."
That says more about Davis' popularity here than any poll you'll read.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Mark Steyn is a genius: Check out his latest: "BBC World News -- now with all content guaranteed sexed down."
Good evening. Reports that the former Italian leader Benito Mussolini is "dead" and "hanging" "upside down" at a petrol station were received with scepticism in Rome today. Our "reporter" - whoops, scrub the inverted commas round "reporter", the scare-quotes key on the typewriter's jammed again. Anyway our reporter Andrew "Gilligan" is "on" the scene "in" Milan. Andrew...
Andrew Gilligan: I'm leaning on a lamp post at the corner of the street in case a certain little duce swings by, and I don't see any dead dictators, John. But then the Allies have a history of making these premature announcements...
He's just above your head, Andrew. I know you don't like to do wide shots, but, if the camera pulls back, I think you'll find that's definitely a finger tickling the back of your ear...
AG: Well, there you are. He's not hanging from a petrol station, is he? He's hanging from a rope attached to a girder on the forecourt of a petrol station. We've become all too familiar with the Allies playing fast and loose with the facts.
And it just gets better from there.
There's a right way, and a wrong way...: to handle the issue of free speech on campus. The wrong way is how Cal Poly has done it with regard to Steve Hinkle who is getting the book thrown at him for posting a non-offensive flier.
The right way is illustrated by UC San Diego, which determined that a far more offensive publication was protected by the First Amendment.
A UC San Diego investigation into the distribution and publication of a magazine ridiculing Islam has concluded that the students involved will not be disciplined because the content is protected speech.
While images and articles in the magazine portraying Muslim women as sexual objects were highly offensive, university officials said, they were satirical and therefore not defamatory.
"The campus understands that there are going to be publications that contain very offensive and objectionable content," said Nick Aguilar, UCSD's director of student policies and judicial affairs. "But the First Amendment is of higher order of importance for us in making sure we do not discourage or interfere with the rights of our students."
Thanks for the small dose of sanity.
Friday, July 25, 2003
Religious beliefs and the judiciary: There's been a lot of hubbub on Capitol Hill in recent weeks over the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Pryor, a devout Catholic, has outraged the Senate Judiciary Committee's minority democrats with his professed belief that Roe v. Wade was a horrible court decision:
I believe that not only is the case unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it has led to a morally wrong result. It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children. That's my personal belief.
Of course, this is the view held by a large minority of Americans, Catholics and Protestants alike. But this same view -- a deeply held, religious one -- is also a disqualifying one under the Schumer Doctrine. It used to be that a judge's credentials, temperment and ability to follow the law were what mattered when it came to being confirmed. Back then, a "well-qualified" rating from the liberal American Bar Association was the "gold standard" when it came to measuring fitness for the bench. But New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and his like-minded Democrat colleagues, has determined that a nominee's personal beliefs trump all -- the Schumer Doctrine.
Since Roe is the Democrats' Holy Grail, no one is fit for the bench who doesn't agree with that decision.
Some Catholic groups have run ads, and some Republicans have charged, that Democrats on the committee are anti-Catholic because of the position they've taken on Pryor. This is not altogether accurate, nor is it totally inaccurate.
Religious belief is OK with Democrats: A) as long as it is in line with the liberal political orthodoxy; or, B) is not sincerely or deeply held.
In other words, you can be a Catholic and be confirmed to the federal appellate bench as long as you're not one of "those" Catholics who believes abortion is wrong. (This is where one of TAPPED's arguments falls flat.
Just because you're "Catholic" -- doesn't mean that you can't be anti-"those" Catholics -- the ones who follow the doctrine of the church.)
While this is not outwardly "designed" to keep believers off the bench, it has the practical effect of doing just that. Just like the Literacy Tests in the Jim Crow South outwardly were just that -- literacy tests -- they had the effect of keeping blacks from voting. (Helpful proctors would "assist" whites having a difficult time with the exams, but not blacks.)
The first signs this hostility to religious belief was on the rise in the Democratic Party was during the confirmation hearings for Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft revealed, and Democrats claimed to be "shocked," that some Senators had asked Ashcroft about his religious beliefs and if they would prevent him from carrying out the law. At the time it sounded very like some were pushing a religious test for public office -- having no strongly held religious beliefs -- in violation of the Constitution.
Republicans should avoid using the anti-Catholic tag on Judiciary Committee Democrats. It muddles the issue. Instead, they should loudly proclaim the fact that Democrats have created a litmus test many religious people will fail. The Democrats aren't asking nominees if they will follow the law. They are asking what is your religious belief on abortion. That is an unconstitutional test that goes beyond being anti-Catholic.
"Punch Drunk Love": Earlier today I watched the recent Adam Sandler flick "Punch Drunk Love." By way of a review, let me say: "I'll never get those 90 minutes back. Wasted."
Genius in France, Genius in France, Genius in France: Kay S. Hymowitz has a delightful story in City Journal about nutjob author and filmmaker Michael Moore. It's long, but worth a read.
The irrelevant truth?: The San Diego Union-Tribune's liberal columnist, James Goldsborough, had a piece in Thursday's paper on the controversy surrounding the BBC, Tony Blair and the allegation that the British politicos "sexed up" the intelligence on Iraq.
Earlier this month, the apparent source for the BBC piece, David Kelly committed suicide. Who does Goldsborough blame this on? Tony Blair.
The most interesting part of Goldsborough's piece, however, is the following statement:
The dispute over what Kelly told Gilligan is the least interesting part of this treacherous story.
Goldsborough's alone on this one -- because just about every report in the British media -- except the aforementioned BBC -- zeroes in on just that fact as being the probable trigger leading to Kelly's suicide.
From the London Times:
The first hint that Dr Kelly was about to get caught up in the row over whether the Government had deliberately “sexed up” the intelligence dossier was when he returned to his office in Whitehall from a week’s trip to Iraq.
He was shown a transcript of the evidence Mr Gilligan had given to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and recognised certain technical references to be ones he had divulged during his lunch with the reporter.
He wrote a memo to his line manager explaining his fears that he might have been the informant for Mr Gilligan’s story on the BBC Today programme. Later, however, when Dr Kelly appeared before the committee, he said he could not have been the main source because of allegations that bore no resemblance to the conversation he had with the journalist on May 22.
Throughout his piece, Goldsborough praises the BBC for being "one of the world's great news organizations," and slams Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News Channel. But much of the reporting now suggests that it wasn't the British government that "sexed up" intelligence reports, but the BBC that "sexed up" it's own reporting.
Goldsborough ignores the fact that just a few months ago another of the world's "great news organizations," the New York Times had a little problem with Jayson Blair's "reporting." CNN likewise had a little problem with that Vietnam nerve gas story. Just because a "great news organization" airs or publishes something, does not mean that it's reporting should automatically be off-limits to tough questions.
But, taken Goldsborough's way, Blair looks like he's engaging in some Nixon-style cover-up -- and that was the real goal of the column. To Goldsborough, the search for the truth is uninteresting.
Inept immigrations officers: The San Diego Union-Tribune has an excellent piece of reporting in today's paper on the bungling Border Patrol that led to the death of Oceanside Police officer Tony Zeppetella.
For almost seven years, U.S. immigration officers struggled to keep Adrian Camacho out of the country.
Four times they ordered him deported to Mexico because of his lengthy rap sheet. He always managed to come back.
The last time U.S. authorities caught him – on Jan. 28, 2002 – they decided to charge him with re-entering the United States after deportation, a felony.
But instead of appearing in court, Camacho somehow disappeared.
He avoided U.S. law enforcement until June 13. On that day, he was arrested and accused of pistol-whipping and then killing Tony Zeppetella, a 27-year-old Oceanside police officer who had pulled him over on a traffic stop.
Border Patrol officials, who had custody of Camacho before his disappearance, refused to discuss the case in detail, citing a continuing investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General. But federal law enforcement officials familiar with the case believe Border Patrol detention officers mistakenly released him into Mexico, giving him yet another opportunity to return to the United States.
Officer Zeppetella left behind a wife and 6-month-old son.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
The end of the world?: The New York Times has announced that David Brooks, a real live conservative, will join its ranks as an op-ed columnist beginning in early September.
New executive editor Bill Keller's regime looks to be making an effort to making the Times appear more balanced.
Sic semper tyrannis:
Uday (left) and Qusay Hussein
The United States military killed two of the most depraved, brutal and disgusting human beings on the face of the Earth. After asking them to give themselves up, the brothers Hussein decided instead that they would rather be pushing up weeds. (Daisies wouldn't grow over their graves.)
However, that doesn't stop some of the liberally stupid in this country for decrying what has been done.
Perhaps the most idiotic, from someone who should know better, is from Associated Press foreign affairs writer George Gedda, who says that the firefight was actually an assassination -- in violation of an executive order.
In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a long-standing policy banning political assassination. It was the misfortune of Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, that the Bush administration has not bothered to enforce the prohibition.
The brothers were killed during a six-hour raid Tuesday at a palatial villa in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by U.S. forces acting on a tip from an informant. They ranked just below their father in the deposed regime. Odai, in particular, had a reputation for brutality.
Officials said people inside the villa opened fire first but left little doubt what the U.S. troops hoped to accomplish.
"We remain focused on finding, fixing, killing or capturing all members of the high-value target list," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition troops in Iraq, announcing the deaths of Odai and Qusai. [emphasis added]
According to Gedda's curious thought process, it's OK to kill any Iraqi soldiers, fedayeen or irregulars who shoot at you -- unless they're named Hussein? In fact, Sanchez expressly says capture is one of the options for "high-value" targets. Of the 55 on the infamous deck of cards, 34 have been captured, three (Oday, Qusay and Chemical Ali) have been killed. That is plenty of evidence of what we are trying to accomplish.
Gedda piles up more "evidence" that the Bush administration is ignoring the ban on assassinations with this:
Earlier this week, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, stated in unusually candid terms the administration's disregard for the assassination ban. Appearing on NBC TV's "Meet the Press," Bremer said U.S. officials presumed that Saddam was still alive and that American forces were trying to kill him.
"The sooner we can either kill him or capture him, the better," Bremer said. Often in the past, officials resorted to winks and nods or other circumlocutions when asked about U.S. actions that gave the appearance of homicidal intent. [emphasis added]
Does Gedda even read the stuff he's quoting?
The ban on assassinations, spelled out in an executive order signed by President Ford in 1976 and reinforced by Presidents Carter and Reagan, made no distinction between wartime and peacetime. There are no loop holes [sic]; no matter how awful the leader, he could not be a U.S. target either directly or by a hired hand.
According to this logic, every single cop who has killed a suspect has "assassinated" him. It's one thing to kill an unarmed man, it's another to kill someone who's shooting at you -- that is not an assassination -- however people like Gedda would like to distort the language.
There were also a number of letters to the New York Times which shows that Gedda's kind of stupidity is going around.
From Andy Cox of (you guessed it) San Francisco:
To my knowledge, Saddam Hussein's sons had not been found guilty of any offense by an international court of law. Their killing by United States troops (front page, July 23) is therefore extrajudicial.
Blogger Mike Needham makes the following observation:
This is technically correct: We acted extrajudicially because we are not involved in a judicial procedure, we are involved in a war. The storming of the beaches of Normandy, for example, was also extrajudicial because we didn't have a search warrrant. So what?
Check the link for a more on the Times' letters.
My friend and colleague Steve Breen drew the following cartoon for Wednesday's paper which also seems apropriate to this discussion:
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
A little late: But I predicted this.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said Thursday he plans to ask the California Supreme Court to ease the state's budget gridlock and free up money for schools by ruling that a simple majority of lawmakers can pass a spending plan.
The petition, expected to be filed early next week on behalf of the state's 6 million school children, was applauded by education groups who are urging a quick resolution over how to close the state's $38.2 billion shortfall. Critics of the suit decried the bid as a grandstanding maneuver to prod legislative leaders -- who will be defendants in the case -- to strike a budget deal soon.
``I cannot in good conscience stand by and watch political conflict disrupt the education of the children of California,'' said O'Connell, noting that the State Education Department is unable to dispense $628 million in school aid this month to fund everything from special education to transportation services. "It's important that we act quickly and decisively.''
O'Connell said he was emboldened to act by a recent Nevada high court decision that found Nevada's constitutional requirement that lawmakers pass a budget with a two-thirds vote should be set aside in favor of another mandate to adequately fund public education. California's constitution has similar requirements.
I interviewed O'Connell nearly a decade ago when he was running for yet another term in the state senate. He is the consummate politician -- I felt like I needed a shower after interviewing him. This is the sort of thing I would expect from him. He gets his name in the papers and he looks like a big-time mover in Sacramento.
Hopefully we'll find that the California Supreme Court has more respect for the law than their counterpart in Nevada.
California Recall Petition gets go-ahead: California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, this evening, announced that counties had verified about 1.3 million signatures, far more than the approximately 900,000 needed to qualify for a special election to recall Gov. Gray Davis..
I think this is a mistake -- but it's a mistake that Gray Davis and the Republicans, by putting up an inept Bill Simon in the 2002 election, brought upon themselves.
It's highly unlikely that Davis will survive this, his job approval rating is in the low 20s, and he's just so out of touch with Californians. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier today, Davis remained mostly defiant, painting the effort as an vendetta by right-wing ideologues.
"I'll own up to my mistakes – I haven't done everything perfect," Davis said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But I do believe we have to stay in the direction voters want."
State spending increased about 30 percent during the Davis administration. Did the energy crisis contribute to the budget mess? Yes, but at most that represents one-third of the $38 billion hole the state finds itself in. The Democrats in Sacramento, caught earlier this week plotting to put the state through more suffering and financial ruin for political gain, are responsible for the free-spending ways of the past five years.
If the people of California want to solve this problem, they need to recall (or replace in 2004) all of them -- there can be no "recall the bums...but my assemblyman/senator is OK."
The best possible outcome for the long-term fiscal and economic growth of California is for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to assume the governorship when Davis is recalled. The people of California, unfortunately, have to see the bottom of the cavern before they'll ever turn to the fiscally conservative Republicans to get them out.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Politicians putting poltical gain above actually solving problems?: No, I'm sure that never occurs anywhere in America. Except California. Except for today.
SACRAMENTO – Unaware that a live microphone was broadcasting their words around the Capitol, Assembly Democrats meeting behind closed doors debated prolonging California's budget crisis for political gain.
Members of the coalition of liberal Democrats talked about slowing progress on the budget as a means of increasing pressure on Republicans.
A microphone had been left on during the closed meeting, and the conversation was transmitted to about 500 "squawk boxes" that enable staff members, lobbyists and reporters to listen in on legislative meetings.
Some members of the group, including Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, said if the budget crisis were extended, it could improve chances for a ballot initiative that would make it easier for the Democrats to raise taxes by lowering the threshold for passage from two-thirds to 55 percent.
This is another reason why recalling Gov. Gray Davis is a bad idea -- because Democrats still have nearly overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state legislature. With a GOP governor, instead of the wishy-washy Davis, this kind of plotting would really make the GOP look bad (and California's GOP generally doesn't need any help on that front). Leave an ineffectual Davis in and create a more advantageous atmosphere for all Republicans as they run against Democrats in the legislature next year.
Having a Republican in the Governor's mansion without a better base of support in the legislature is useless.
Phantom correction alert: Following in the footsteps of his colleague Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, in today's New York Times column corrects an error he made one week ago in his column.
As I noted at the time, Krugman opened his column with the statement:"More than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq..."
I noted a Christian Science Monitor report that two months earlier had put the number at "more than one-third." Subsequent contributions by readers to my comments also unearthed a this New York Times article that states that 16 of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are currently in Iraq. Which would be "less than half." (Perhaps a journalist can be expected -- though not excused -- for believing that 16/33 or 48 percent is "more than half," but Krugman was at one time a respected economist.)
So, what does Krugman say in today's column?
Issues of principle aside, the invasion of a country that hadn't attacked us and didn't pose an imminent threat has seriously weakened our military position. Of the Army's 33 combat brigades, 16 are in Iraq; this leaves us ill prepared to cope with genuine threats. [emphasis added]
Corrections to columnists at the Times no longer appear as such. It's outrageous and disappointing. Maureen Dowd's phantom correction drew a lot of attention because it was an anomaly -- newspapers just don't operate that way. If one is an anomaly, two is a trend.
Dingell vs. Connerly: If you haven't seen it, it's worth a read. Michigan Democrat Rep. John Dingell posted a letter on his House Web site to UC Regent Ward Connerly attacking him for pushing for the abolition of racial preferences in Michigan. The letter itself is surprisingly juvenile and inane. Connerly's response, however, is priceless.
Saturday, July 19, 2003
OK, I'll make a trade: CNN highlights this AP story about Americans who are leaving for Canada because America "is growing too conservative and believe Canada offers a more inclusive, less selfish society."
This is news because the AP found less than a dozen people who want to leave and there are millions who'd like to come.
Anyway, it sounds like a fair trade. Canada gets our malcontents.
I want my friend Ray Kwok back.
(Ray is a Canadian who was denied a green card to work here as a golf instructor/marketing professional.)
E-mailing the President: The New York Times had a front page story earlier this week on a change at the White House.
No longer can you simply send a message to: email@example.com -- now you've got to go through as many as 9 different screens to send your message through.
Pain in the butt? Yeah.
Evidence that the president is no longer reading your mail? Hardly.
What is surprising is that this is a front-page story. Seriously. (The San Diego Union-Tribune also ran the story on its front page. For those of you who think that the Times doesn't have much of an impact on your news locally, this is your wake-up call.)
Some, including Times letter-writers, see the new system as a way of stifling dissent -- ignoring those who oppose the White House viewpoint.
Sorry, but I've got news for you: The president wasn't reading your e-mails before. Nothing's changed.
What this story is really about is classifying e-mails and streamlining responses.
It's a manpower issue.
No longer do interns or paid-staffers have to read every single screed or fan mail. Now they immediately know that the e-mail is about "Issue A" and the writer "Opposes/Supports" the president's view and they can send out "Canned Response #38."
Part of a vast, right wing conspiracy to ignore you? No.
Michael Moore Theme Song: My sister and brother-in-law gave me one of those plastic gift cards to Borders for my birthday. I used the funds to purchase "Weird Al" Yankovic's latest album "Poodle Hat." The album has some great parodies, including new versions of Eminem and Avril Lavigne songs.
But, the album also contains an original (not a parody) "Weird Al" song, the unofficial Michael Moore Theme Song: "Genius in France." You can find the complete lyrics here, but here are some of the selected ones that convinced me that Weird Al was thinking of Michael Moore as he wrote the song.
I'm not the brightest crayon in the box
Everyone says I'm dumber than a bag of rocks
I barely even know how to put on my own pants
But I'm a genius in France (yeah), genius in France, genius in France
People in France have lots of attitude
They're snotty and rude, they like disgusting food
But when they see me, they just come unglued
They think that I am one happening dude
I'm the biggest dork there is alive
My mom picked out my clothes for me 'till I was 35
And I forgot to mention
I'm not even welcome at the Star Trek convention
But the Frenchies think
That my poop don't stink
I'm a genius in France
So, buy Weird Al's album -- as opposed to downloading it over the Internet -- the CD has some bonus features, including some of Al's home movies. The movies aren't funny, but Al's narration is.
Correcting course: The inestimable Victor Davis Hanson, over at National Review Online, lays out the case that Bush's foreign policy is not a radical new imperialism, but a return to equilibrium resulting from more than two decades of disuse.
Rather than enacting a sudden and dangerous departure from American moderation, instead we are in effect correcting the prior dangerous veer away from commonsense reciprocity and mutual respect. And this reappraisal has naturally induced hysteria among those who have enjoyed or profited from the recent abnormal character of the foreign policy of the United States. Strong, but lifesaving medicine is not always welcomed by ill patients.
Hansen also makes the observation that, though the economy of a united Europe surpasses our own, we still station tens of thousands of troops in Germany, Belgium and Italy.
It is not a normal situation, after all, for a United Europe — with a vast population and economy larger than our own — to have tens of thousands of American troops on European soil to protect them from Soviet divisions that no longer exist. Or is it that we are still there to help keep internal peace (the old NATO line of "keeping Germany down") within a continent that nevertheless professes to have evolved to a higher plane — a continent where utopians grandly announce that they have, by fiat, disavowed war?
It really makes no sense to dot the Mediterranean with bases, keep old-fashioned heavy brigades in northern Europe, and run it all out of an ankle-biting Brussels — not when those who are being protected caricature Americans as Neanderthal troublemakers useful only for helot work, such as intervening in Serbia to stop a genocide on Europe's doorstop, or eradicating fascists in Afghanistan. Calling attention to these glaring anomalies was, I think, a moderate and much-needed act of restoring sanity — hardly the work of a firebrand.
The other interesting aspect of Hanson's observation is that it is our presence there that has enabled the Europeans to create their socialist paradises. Without the United States military there to keep the peace and deter the Soviet threat, these countries would have had to spend a much higher percentage of their GDP on their military then they otherwise had to -- and the trend continues.
Anti-war/anti-military types are quick to point out that the United States spends more on its military than "all of Europe combined" or some other such construction. But the reality is that we have to spend that much because we are effectively subsidizing practically every other country in the world.
Lacrosse: Just got finished watching the Major League Lacrosse All-Star game. It was pretty one-sided, but I was impressed by the players' skills. The most impressive was David Evans who one the speed shot compeition held at halftime with a mark of 109 mph. Ow! A lacrosse ball isn't like a tennis ball -- getting hit by one traveling that fast can be very painful.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Now, this is kinda disappointing: Okay, so I finally get a mention in The Washington Post's media column written by Howard Kurtz (scroll down about 4/5 of the way) with regard to my New York Times is one-sided comment. But while Kurtz quotes Tapped's entire post, he makes no mention of my rebuttal.
Kurtz also lets stand Tapped's claim that The Washington Times is a major U.S. newspaper. Probably doesn't want to offend the local competition, as small as it is.
Also, judging from my referrers, Kurtz doesn't have nearly as much pull as I thought he would have. Instapundit has much more traffic-generating uberness.
Blair's speech: You can find the text of his remarks here.
A few choice quotes:
There never has been a time when the power of America was so necessary or so misunderstood, or when, except in the most general sense, a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day.
The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack.
And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify around an idea. And that idea is liberty.
We must find the strength to fight for this idea and the compassion to make it universal. Abraham Lincoln said, "Those that deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together? Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least, is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership.
That is something history will not forgive.
Europe has one potential for weakness. For reasons that are obvious--we spent roughly a thousand years killing each other in large numbers--the political culture of Europe is, inevitably, rightly based on compromise. Compromise is a fine thing, except when based on an illusion, and I don't believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism.
Members of Congress, if this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being one. So America must listen as well as lead. But, members of Congress, don't ever apologize for your values. Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when "The Star-Spangled Banner" starts, Americans get to their feet--Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers, and those whose English is the same as some New York cab drivers I've dealt with--but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress. Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud.
We're not fighting for domination. We're not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We're not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds. And this is not a war of civilizations, because each civilization has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage. We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind--black or white; Christian or not; left, right or merely indifferent--to be free--free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you, so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.
That's what we're fighting for, and it's a battle worth fighting. And I know it's hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to but always wanted to go--I know out there, there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me, and why us, and why America?" And the only answer is because destiny put you in this place in history in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do
It was an excellent speech. While it showed in prime time in Britain, it was a little early for most here in the United States, but I hope that Blair's message gets wide play.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Pete Rose and the Baseball Hall of Fame: I didn't watch the entire program, but ESPN showed "Pete Rose on Trial," a mock court to determine whether or not baseball's all-time hit leader, who gambled on baseball, should be eligible to be inducted into the Hall.
The final jury vote was 8-4 for making him eligible. (Of course, if he's eligible, he's in. He's the all-time hit leader for cryin' out loud.)
I concur to a certain extent, Rose should be eligible -- posthumously. It's only right that the man who holds the record for career hits be in the hall, if only for historical purposes. However, he shouldn't be around to enjoy it.
More on Kristof's unbiased sources: As was noted by James Taranto on yesterday's "Best of the Web," Willam Sjostrom has some information about Kristof's Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
VIPS does not seem to have a website, but its email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and their open letter appears to have been published at CounterPunch (run by Alexander Cockburn, the Nation columnist), an outfit whose staple is stuff comparing Bush to Hitler. VIPS also published an open letter in opposition to the war at Common Dreams back in February. The spokesman for VIPS is Raymond McGovern, a retired CIA analyst. McGovern's email is also at CounterPunch. He is giving a briefing today with Rep. Dennis Kucinich. McGovern has compared the Iraq war to Vietnam, even saying that it could lead to nuclear war. He has charged that if WMDs are found in Iraq, they may well have been planted. He believes Tenet's job is safe because if Tenet were fired, he would reveal that the White House ignored intelligence warnings pre-9/11. McGovern has urged CIA analysts to illegally release classified documents to show what he believes to be true, specifically citing Daniel Ellsberg.
Another member of the VIPS steering committee is William Christison, who among other things believes that the Bush administration is attempting to colonize the Middle East, jointly with Israel. He believes that the war on terror is being used to turn the US into a military dictatorship. He is also a backer of the left-wing UrgentCall, along with people such as Noam Chomsky, Barbara Kingsolver, Julian Bond, and Jonathan Schell.
None of this proves that VIPS is evil, or even wrong. It does say that Kristof is trying to pass off a fairly left-wing group as a group of non-partisan "professionals". Remember Katie Couric's description of MoveOn.com, a very left anti-war group as simply an outfit “started by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by the political process”? This is the same kind of scam.
It's the old "people who share my biases are mainstream" syndrome. No need to point out who they associate with or what their real views are.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Trolling for liberals: There was this trucker who stopped at a diner somewhere in the Midwest. As he walked in the diner, some of the other truckers and a few locals sniffed the air and looked at him oddly. After he sat down and ordered, a couple of men came up to him and asked:
"Are you a nerd?"
"No," replied the trucker. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you smell like a nerd," the local replied.
"Oh, that's probably because of the load I'm hauling -- computers," the trucker said.
"Good. Because we shoot nerds around here."
"You shoot nerds?"
"Yes, there are so many of them around, we have a hunting season -- they're currently in season and there's no limit."
After consuming his meal, the trucker got back on the highway. A few miles down the road his rig jack-knifed and the computers he was carrying flew across the road.
All of the sudden nerds appeared everywhere, grabbing computers and running off with them.
The trucker jumped back into his rig, pulled out his shotgun and started shooting them.
A few minutes later, a highway patrol officer came by and told him to stop shooting.
"But, those are nerds and they're in season," the trucker said.
"Yes," the officer acknowledged, "but you can't bait them."
You know, I knew before I even posted the Krugman/Kristof item below that the statement about the New York Times editorial page was debatable. Several have pointed out that The Wall Street Journal is as partisan on the other side. However, if you put them up, side-by-side, the Times is still the more partisan.
The Times' lone "conservative" is William Safire. A "conservative" who voted for Bill Clinton over George H.W. Bush. Safire is really a moderate. He only looks conservative nowadays because everyone else on the page is so far to the left. Take Safire and put him on the staff of National Review or The Weekly Standard, two conservative magazines, and he becomes the most liberal member of the staff. Put Paul Krugman on the staff of The Nation and the paper's ideology doesn't shift a whisker.
The Journal has Al Hunt. The Journal rarely publishes Hunt's columns on its Web site, but they appear in the print version weekly. Hunt, who also appears on CNN's "The Capitol Gang" as one of the program's liberal voices, is pretty solidly on the left end of the political spectrum.
Of course, this is all a matter of opinion. It's debatable. I'm not going to convince Tapped's readers. And they aren't going to convince mine.
Of course, I found Tapped's post on this whole issue amusing, on two fronts.
First, for most people, pointing to the Journal's editorial page would have been enough to make the point. But, Tapped, in an effort to further bolster its case, points to The Washington Times as another major newspaper whose pagers are dominated by conservative bias. I don't disagree that they're conservative, I do disagree that they're a "major newspaper." The Washington Times circulation, according to the figures posted on the newsroom bulletin board is just over 100,000 daily. (For comparison, USA Today is #1 and The San Diego Union-Tribune, my employer, is 21st.) I used to work for the North County Times -- not a major newspaper -- it has (or did when I worked there) a daily circulation in the mid-90,000s.
I asked one of the editors at the Union-Tribune (not a conservative) if he thought The Washington Times was a "major" newspaper. He laughed and asked me: "Who said it was a major newspaper?" I replied, The American Prospect. He laughed again and said, "Well, I don't consider them a major magazine."
Second, Tapped asks this question:
Why should The New York Times be required to include a whole host of conservatives on its op-ed page? The op-ed page is where a paper nominally expresses its political opinions, and as you folks are always reminding us, the Times is indubitably a liberal paper. But if you think newspapers should, on principal, give equal time on their op-ed pages, you'd best include the Journal and The Washington Times in your litany of complaint.
Journalism 101 for Tapped: The editorial page is where a newspaper expresses its own political opinions. The op-ed (as in opposite editorial) page is typically where a variety of views are presented. At least, that's what I learned in J-School. That's how the Union-Tribune operates.
On an somewhat related note, only one person commented on most of the substance of the post which spurred this whole brouhaha.
Tristero, suggests that I owe Krugman a retraction because he found this quote from a June 6, Washington Post article:
"The Army now has 128,000 troops in Iraq, along with 15,000 British troops and a U.S. Marine contingent that is drawing down to about 7,000. An additional 45,000 Army troops are in Kuwait providing support. The Army contribution adds up to the equivalent of just over five divisions out of a total active-duty strength of 10 divisions."
Unfortunately Tristero, like many, needs to work on critical reading skills.
As far as counting the 45,000 Army troops in Kuwait providing "support," we can count them or not -- it really doesn't matter -- though Krugman says: "[M]ore than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq..." so we shouldn't really count them.
But, no matter. If you add up the Army, the British and the Marines you get -- "the equivalent of just over five divisions." That's right, you take out the British and the Marines and, all of the sudden, you're under 50 percent. Under 50 percent isn't more than half.
Tristero also wrote this, which nearly had me fall out of my chair:
And, no offense, given the shoddy quality of your research and your thoroughly hysterical tone, I really don't think you're qualified for the Times just yet.
Geez, after reading Krugman's and Kristof's stuff, I thought those qualities would make me a perfect fit over at the Times.
Thanks for the memories: Max Boot has an excellent column in today's Los Angeles Times pointing out that the "infamous 16" is all about politics. It has nothing to do with concerns about the quality of our intelligence, the president's honest or...Watergate.
The decision to go to war was not based on 16 words in the State of the Union. In fact, that address was delivered more than three months after both houses of Congress had already authorized Bush to take military action against Iraq. Lest we forget, that resolution was endorsed by Democratic Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards and Rep. Dick Gephardt, all of whom are now carping that they were deceived by the president. They must have been pretty clairvoyant to have been deceived by a claim that Bush had not yet made.
It's the silly season in Washington. There's nothing to see here -- except politics as usual.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Lies, lies, lies: Byron Scott takes on 20 of them.
Pattern of Stupidity: The New York Times' twin dimwits, Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman are back, and they're nuttier than ever.
Let's start first with Krugman, whom I mistakenly suggested last week may have been designated an unlawful combatant and shipped off to Gitmo -- I was apparently incorrect.
Krugman's vacation hasn't mellowed him, but after comparing his latest screed to that of Ted Rall, I'm getting very close to consciously ignoring Krugman too.
[M]ore than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq, which didn't have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn't supporting Al Qaeda. We have lost all credibility with allies who might have provided meaningful support; Tony Blair is still with us, but has lost the trust of his public. All this puts us in a very weak position for dealing with real threats. Did I mention that North Korea has been extracting fissionable material from its fuel rods?
Normally I wouldn't be skeptical about solid numbers (with the exception of some poll numbers), but with Krugman, experience has taught me to be wary. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on yesterday's "Meet the Press," the number of troops we currently have in Iraq is about 147,000. Now, not all of those are "combat" troops, though everyone over there, even the supply clerk, has a firearm. According to the Defense Department, the total number of Army personnel as of April 30 (the latest figure available) is 491,309. There is a stop-loss order in effect, so that number isn't going down. That leaves 344,309 Army personnel who aren't in Iraq.
In fact, a May 7 report by the Christian Science Monitor has the Army deploying "more than one-third" of its combat troops in Iraq. Journalists like easy fractions -- 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1/3, 2/3 -- you'll seldom see them use any others. And they always pick the nearest one to the ratio they need to report.
Is Krugman exaggerating for effect? Well, lessee "bogged down?" Yes, I'd say that Krugman is exaggerating. In fact, if I were Krugman and Krugman was (God forbid) the president, then I think I (Krugman) would accuse him (the President) of lying.
Krugman also says that there are no "significant" weapons of mass destruction. Note the qualifier. If we find ten 55-gallon drums of VX nerve gas, enough to kill tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people, Krugman will dismiss it as not "significant."
The rest of Krugman's piece is merely a recitation of moveon.org's talking points. Though I do want to draw attention to this laughable and frivolous line:
What about the risk that an invasion of Iraq would weaken America's security? Warnings from military experts that an extended postwar occupation might severely strain U.S. forces have proved precisely on the mark. But the hawks prevented any consideration of this possibility. Before the war, one official told Newsweek that the occupation might last no more than 30 to 60 days.
I love this, Bush and all other administration officials who actually go on the record, repeatedly say "This won't be easy" ... "It will take a long time" ... "We're in this for the long haul," but Krugman highlights an unnamed official as saying 30 to 60 days and "Hah! Bush lied!"
Nicholas Kristof's Africa: Kristof, a knowledgeable world traveler, takes on the "Infamous 16" completely accurate, but shouldn't have been in the State of the Union speech, words that are the cause of much angst amongst the anti-war elite. Kristof pats himself on the back for revealing to the world the "fact" that Iraq didn't try to buy uranium from Niger. Now, Kristof never actually quotes the "Infamous 16," so the casual reader would likely sumrise that his Niger "scoop" is definitive.
[A]fter I wrote a month ago about the Niger uranium hoax in the State of the Union address, a senior White House official chided me gently and explained that there was more to the story that I didn't know.
The president's actual statement: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Number of times "Niger" appears: Zero.
Fact: The British Government stands behind the statement.
Despite that fact, which Kristof is certainly aware of, he refers to it as a "hoax" and a "falsehood." The central claim of his column is that the Bush administration is creating intelligence to meet its war aims. The president, however, is more powerful than even Kristof knows, because he apparently controls the British intelligence too! Why else would they stand behind a "discredited" statement.
Actually, I have to agree with Ms. Rice that the focus on that single sentence in the State of the Union address is a bit obsessive. It was only 16 words, attributed in a weaselly way that made it almost accurate, and as any journalist knows well, mistakes do get into print.
So the problem is not those 16 words, by themselves, but the larger pattern of abuse of intelligence. The silver lining is that the spooks are so upset that they're speaking out.
Actually, the "weaselly" way it's attributed is exactly the same way that Kristof, and every other journalist in America, attributes anything they report.
Let's use Kristof's column for example:
But Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of retired spooks, issued an open letter ...
One insider complains:...
Patrick Lang, a former senior D.I.A. official, says that many in the government believe...
The latest issue of the Naval War College Review describes...
Very weaselly. Why doesn't Kristof just say this stuff himself?
Bill Keller took over as the Times' executive editor yesterday. A good place to start regaining respectability might be to add a conservative or two to your stable of columnists. This kind of loony leftism may play well among the intellectual elite in Manhattan, but it doesn't play well in the rest of the country.
There is not a major newspaper in the country whose collection of columnists are so dominated by one ideology. Diversity doesn't just mean skin color.
Yes, Mr. Keller, I'll entertain any job offers.
*UPDATE* Thanks to the Instapundit for pointing out this story, published yesterday, that goes even further to making Kristof's claims of deception alarmist and misplaced.
British officials admitted that the country was Niger but insisted that the intelligence behind it was genuine and had nothing to do with the fake documents. It was convincing and they were sticking with it, the officials said.
They dismissed a report from a former US diplomat who was sent to Niger to investigate the claims and rejected them. "He seems to have asked a few people if it was true and when they said 'no' he accepted it all," one official said. "We see no reason at all to change our assessment."
The fake documents were not behind that assessment and were not seen by MI6 until after they were denounced by the IAEA. If MI6 had seen them earlier, it would have immediately advised the Americans that they were fakes.
The report also indicates that the perfidious French are the ones who got the original intelligence, but refused to share it with the United States.
Monday, July 14, 2003
More on Nevada: Timothy Sandefur has written another nice summary of the legislating from the bench going on in Nevada. Check it out.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
An ax to grind: Clifford D. May over at National Review Online offers some background on one person that the New York Times and other national media outlets are touting as a nonpartisan, career foreign diplomat whose criticisms against the Bush administration should be taken seriously.
Joseph C. Wilson, in a Times op-ed last week alleged that: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
After raising some questions about Wilson's detective work, something any properly skeptical editor should do, May outlines why Wilson may not be the unbiased, principled observer that he claims to be.
- He was an outspoken opponent of U.S. military intervention in Iraq.
- He's an "adjunct scholar" at the Middle East Institute — which advocates for Saudi interests. The March 1, 2002 issue of the Saudi government-weekly Ain-Al Yaqeen lists the MEI as an "Islamic research institutes supported by the Kingdom."
- He's a vehement opponent of the Bush administration which, he wrote in the March 3, 2003 edition of the left-wing Nation magazine, has "imperial ambitions." Under President Bush, he added, the world worries that "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness."
- He also wrote that "neoconservatives" have "a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party." He said that "the new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our world view are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme."
- He was recently the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions — and even the no-fly zones that protected hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
- And consider this: Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wilson did believe that Saddam had biological weapons of mass destruction. But he raised that possibility only to argue against toppling Saddam, warning ABC's Dave Marash that if American troops were sent into Iraq, Saddam might "use a biological weapon in a battle that we might have. For example, if we're taking Baghdad or we're trying to take, in ground-to-ground, hand-to-hand combat." He added that Saddam also might attempt to take revenge by unleashing "some sort of a biological assault on an American city, not unlike the anthrax, attacks that we had last year."
Early on in my journalism career, I had lunch with a source who had all sorts of juicy info about one of the city's civic leaders. The information made my eyes grow large with the prospect of an award-winning array of stories. When I ran the information past my editor and my publisher, they cautioned me: "What's your source's interest in the issue? Where's his ax to grind?"
After doing numerous interviews, tracking down leads and scouring public records, it turned out that many of the "tips" had little basis in fact. Those that did have a factual basis were colored to the point of being lies.
The New York Times, likewise, would have been well-advised to consider their source.
French moral superiority: Yes, I know. It's an oxymoron, but this report from London's Daily Telegraph chaps my hide.
President Jacques Chirac negotiated a secret deal to protect Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of Europe's worst atrocities since the Second World War, according to evidence submitted to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
M Chirac allegedly agreed to sabotage the extradition of Gen Mladic to face genocide charges for his role in the planned extermination of Bosnian Muslims, including the massacre of 7,000 men and boys in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995.
In exchange, Gen Mladic handed over two French pilots held hostage for 14 weeks by his forces after their Mirage fighter jet was shot down outside Sarajevo.
Just another reminder that the perfidious French are not the paragons of virtue that they put themselves out to be. The French don't stand for freedom. The French don't stand for tolerance. The French don't stand on principle.
And we're supposed to care what they think? We're supposed to be worried about offending them?
It's obvious now that the easiest way to get the French to do what we want is to shoot down one of their planes and capture the pilots.
Exactly!: I was scanning Cox & Forkum's latest comic offerings when I came across this comic post and thought: Exactly!
Friday, July 11, 2003
"You've got to stand for something...: or you'll fall for anything" is the title of a country music song by Aaron Tippin. I was reminded of that when I saw this article on The Wall Street Journal's Houses of Worship feature today. While the article is an interesting account of a mystery writer's quest for "spirituality," the following paragraph shocked me (though it probably shouldn't have):
Although she calls herself a Christian now, Ms. Barr acknowledges that she might not be so considered by other Christians, since she sees Jesus (like Buddha and others) as a prophet to be emulated rather than as the one true son of God. But she says her fellow Episcopalians in Mississippi are comfortable with her position. "They're very open-minded about people thinking about and questioning things. I talked to my priest, and he said, 'If you come to church and you pray, you're a Christian. Period.' " [emphasis added]
What the heck are they teaching in seminary nowadays? It really doesn't take a whole heck of a lot to be a Christian. Really, it doesn't. But now even that appears too much for some Episcopal priest in Mississippi.
Solving the California budget crisis: California's Prop. 13, along with having the effect of reducing property taxes, also required a 2/3 majority in order to pass a state budget. This requirement is one fo the primary causes of the state budget stalemate because, even in this Democrat-dominated state, there are enough Republicans in the legislature that a few of them are needed in the Assembly and Senate to reach the two-thirds threshold.
The crux of the budget battle is that Republicans don't want to raise taxes, but instead borrow and cut spending to bridge the shortfall. The Democrats don't want to cut spending, but instead raise taxes and fees to bridge the gap.
So, aside from compromise, how is it possible to resolve these competing views?
Well, the Democrats can go to court -- the State Supreme Court -- and see if they can get it to mimic Nevada's highest court. [Adobe Acrobat Reader required.]
The aforementioned decision, Guinn v. Legislature, was ably analyzed by UCLA law professor/blogger Eugene Volokh over at his Web site the Volokh Conspiracy. Volokh's damning summation:
Finally, if the court is willing to nullify "general procedural rules" so that it can order the legislature to fund education, why stop at the 2/3 supermajority? What if it turns out that the Legislature can't even get a simple majority for a tax increase? Under the court's reasoning, it should nullify the 50%+1 requirement, too -- after all, the simple majority requirement is also a mere "procedural requirement that is general in nature." Or, better yet, why not order the governor impose the taxes himself? The requirement that taxes be imposed by elected legislators is also just a "procedural requirement that is general in nature." But wait -- that would be inefficient. Why doesn't the court just impose the taxes itself, and order government officials to just seize the property from Nevadans' bank accounts? The only thing that stops it is also a "procedural requirement that is general in nature," and apparently those aren't really binding any more.
This really is shameful, and I do not use the term lightly. Yes, I know that there are lots of claims of judicial overreaching -- but there are at least various defenses based on tradition, precedent, ambiguous constitutional text, or whatever else. Here, I see no such defense: Just the court's willingness to completely ignore the very constitution that gives it power.
This is scary. I've often complained of various degrees of what I see as legislating from the judiciary, but I cannot remember anything as brazen as what the Nevada Supreme Court has done. Our courts have undergone a shift in recent decades where judges no longer see themselves as upholders of law, but as an elite, enlightened second legislature, ready to right the wrongs of elected politicians. The Nevada decision is the latest, and most outrageous example of this mindset.
It's also interesting to read the different takes on the decision by the two Las Vegas newspapers, the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. [Full disclosure, seven years ago I applied for a job at the Review-Journal and was turned down.]
The Sun applauds the court's decision and said it was right to ignore the 1996 amendment to the state Constitution that set the 2/3 majority to raise taxes. Apparently the ends justify the means when the Sun agrees with the end.
The Review-Journal, on the other hand, takes a more realistic and sensible view.
On Thursday, six justices of the Nevada Supreme Court -- with a lone justice dissenting -- drooled all over the state Constitution, wadded it up and tossed it in the trash.
Justice Bill Maupin dissented. More power to him. But that only one member of the high court didn't treat the state's guiding document as a roll of Charmin should outrage every resident of this state. Even those who support huge tax hikes. Even the now-chortling Democratic lawmakers who brought us to this point by refusing to compromise.
Here in California, judges may be less likely to support such an extra-legal measure because of still-fresh memories of Chief Justice Rose Byrd's re-election defeat at the hands of Californians angry about her opposition to the death penalty.
It probably won't happen this year, but when politicians get desperate enough and courts get activist enough, we'll have a "democracy" like Iran's, where ultimate power comes not from the people, but from "mullahs" on the bench.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The case for better mental healthcare: Exhibit A: Cartoonist/Columnist Ted Rall. His latest "column" is entitled "Authoritarians Gone Wild." You can bet the video won't be nearly as entertaining as the other line of "Gone Wild" productions.
He has canceled elections in Iraq. He will probably cancel them in Afghanistan. Will George W. Bush put the kibosh on elections in the United States next year?
Elections in Iraq have been "cancelled" because we're fighting a guerrilla action there, there is no written constitution yet, and neither is there a census to determine how many people there are and where they are so you can have a proper, representative government.
Evidence that the U.S. will cancel elections in Afghanistan? None. Afghanistan has an elected government. (Even if its power may not spread far beyond the capital of Kabul.) While we could force them to cancel any elections, it's very unlikely that we would.
Canceling elections in the United States? We held an election in 1864 when America was in the midst of a horrendous Civil War. Aside from there being no United States (if the Russians launched all of their nukes at us), there's no way a national election wouldn't take place. Besides, (civics lesson for Rall) the running of elections is a state function. The federal government has no power (except for setting the date of the election -- which is part of federal law) over the running of the election. Cancel them? I'll take your bet. I'll even give you odds.
Frightened by Bush's rapidly accruing personal power and the Democrats' inability and/or unwillingness to stand up to him, panicked lefties worry that he might use the "war on terrorism" as an excuse to declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties and jail political opponents.
None of this happened in the wake of 9/11, yet Rall thinks it's going to happen now? As far as the "panicked lefties" go, I think the only two prominent ones that have suggested that they'll be jailed are:
1) Ted Rall
2) Paul Krugman
That's it. Rall isn't in jail, but Krugman has been "on vacation." Those Republicans are sneaky! I bet you Krugman's cooling his heels at Gitmo right now!
People who have spoken out against Bush are talking exit strategy--not Alec Baldwin style, just to make a statement, but fleeing the U.S. in order to save their skins. "Do you or your spouse have a European-born parent?" is a query making the rounds. (If you do, you can obtain dual nationality and a European Union passport that would allow you to work in any EU member nation.) Those whose lineage is 100 percent American are hoping that nations like Canada and France will admit American political refugees in the event of a Bushite clampdown.
This query is making the rounds where? At the Betty Ford Clinic? Would someone hit Rall with a Clue-by-Four?
To these people, whether or not the 2004 elections actually take place as scheduled is the ultimate test for American democracy. At Guant?namo Bay the United States is converting a concentration camp into a death camp where inmates will be executed without due process or legal representation. Never before in history has a U.S. president contemplated the denaturalization of native-born citizens-thus far even people executed for treason have died as Americans--but Bush has drafted legislation that would allow him to strip anyone he calls an "enemy combatant" of their citizenship and have them deported. By any objective standard he has already gone way too far, but for many it would take the cancellation or delay of the elections to confirm that we are trading in our wounded democracy for a fascist state.
Wow! What a low standard. All we have to do is have elections next year and we've passed "the ultimate test for American democracy."
Rall's likening the prison at Gitmo to a concentration camp is both offensive and shows his utter ignorance of history. Suspected enemy combatants who've been released from there have left healthier and weighing more. They're not forced into manual labor, instead they just sit around all day.
Turning it into a "death camp" where they won't have legal representation? If those Jews at Auschwitz had just had lawyers, everything would have been OK!
Bush has "gone way too far" by "any objective standard?" Coming from Rall? Well, Rall does know a thing or two about going too far. Also, someone should enlighten Rall as to what exactly a fascist state looks like, 'cause we ain't it.
Lincoln considered suspending the 1864 election because of the Civil War, but ultimately tabled the idea. To date nothing has ever prevented an American presidential election from being held on time.
It's easy to come up with a scenario in which canceling the 2004 election could be made to appear reasonable. Imagine that, a few weeks before Election Day, "dirty bombs" detonate simultaneously in New York and Washington. Government, media and political institutions and personnel lie ruined in smoking rubble and ash; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered. The economy, already teetering on the precipice, is shoved into depression. How could we conduct elections under such conditions?
"Dirty bombs" are conventional explosives that are surrounded by radioactive material. They can contaminate an area and cause cancer and other maladies in people that are within the fallout area. However, a "dirty bomb" (or even several) planted in New York and Washington, couldn't kill "hundreds of thousands" of people, at least not for decades. They don't work that way.
How could we conduct elections? Well, there might be difficulties in the areas where the bombs went off, but it's a big country Ted, things would proceed as normal (re-read the civics lesson above).
Republicans have already floated the don't-change-horses-in-midstream argument. After Democratic presidential Sen. John Kerry criticized Bush recently, GOP National Committee Chairman Mark Racicot took him to task not for his specific remarks, but rather for "daring to suggest the replacement of America's commander-in-chief at a time when America is at war." The White House website's "frequently asked questions" section indicates that the "war" is expected to continue well beyond 2004: "There is no silver bullet, no single event or action that is going to suddenly make the threat of terrorism disappear. This broad-based and sustained effort will continue until terrorism is rooted out. The situation is similar to the Cold War, when continuous pressure from many nations caused communism to collapse from within. We will press the fight as long as it takes."
The Cold War lasted 46 years; does Bush intend to remain in office that long?
Racicot's remark came in response to Kerry's call for a "regime change" in America -- phrasing which doesn't suggest winning the next election, but overthrowing the government by force. Context counts for something here, Ted.
It's interesting that Rall somehow suggests that any wars any president starts should somehow be wrapped up by the end of his term. Yes, the War on Terror is much like the Cold War -- fighting large evils takes a long time. Rall's assertion that Bush might intend to remain in power past the Constitutionally allowed two terms is laughable. Did Eisenhower stay beyond two? How about LBJ? Reagan?
Our boy president has plenty of reason to worry about his election chances. A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll says that only 50 percent of Americans would vote for Bush over a generic unnamed Democrat--the lowest number since 9/11.
Yeah, but the problem here Ted is that there is no one named "unnamed Democrat." Anytime they put someone's name up there Bush trounces them.
Two-thirds say that Bush lied about or exaggerated the threat from Iraq's WMDs, and a steady flow of body bags from Afghanistan and Iraq has made 53 percent aware that the occupations are going poorly. Pollsters report that most people trust Democrats to rescue the sinking economy--and few believe that Bush's tax cuts will help them.
The only poll that counts is the one in November 2004 (if it's held). But there are other numbers, including those highlighted by BusinessWeek's Douglas Harbrecht:
Even today, after two wars, three years of a bear market, an economy that continues to sputter, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction still AWOL, and U.S. troops being picked off one by one daily by Iraqi guerrillas, Bush still commands polling heights even his father had lost much sooner after Gulf War I.
The average approval rating in the third year of every President's first term since Dwight Eisenhower has been 55 percent -- Bush's remain in the mid-60s. Almost two out of three voters are still sold on the notion that he's trying to do a good job.
Small wonder Bush's advisers are so smug about 2004 and Democrats so glum: According to a July 2 Gallup poll, three out of four American have concluded that the President is a "strong and decisive leader," and 65 percent think he's "honest and trustworthy." Those are bankable numbers in political terms, encompassing many voters who don't agree with his policies.
Of course, no loony leftist column is complete without the Bush=Hitler construction:
Bush may be the kind of guy who sees 99 percent odds as 2 percent short of a sure thing, but I bet he'll look at his $200 million campaign war chest and decide to let the people decide. He'll surely want to win legitimately in 2004--albeit for the first time. Though they're capable of anything, Bush's people probably know that Americans wouldn't stand for two putsches in four years. Still, you have to hand it to him: The fact that Democrats are terrified of ending up imprisoned by an American Reich is the ultimate tribute to Bush's artful bullying--and sad confirmation of the impotence of his would-be, should-be opponents.
As a bonus, Rall also got the Bush=Stupid construction and the Bush "stole the election" canard in there too. Isn't he talented?
Congratulations Ted, you're certifiably wacko. Now I'll go back to ignoring you.
Speak of the devil: Yesterday one of my good friends sent me this link to a story about a man who got so frustrated by a telemarketer that he called up the company that the telemarketer was working for (Minnesota Auto Glass) -- more than 100 times over a two day period.
So, how am I awakened this morning? By a telemarketer from an auto glass company.
I'm looking forward to the implementation of the national do-not-call list.
The madness of academia: Princeton University professor Peter Singer, who is famous for suggesting that monkeys have more intrinsic value than humans with disabilities and children, has won an ethics award.
Only in academia can a man whose views on the value of human life parallel that of the Nazis be lauded and showered with awards.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Where I go, madness follows: First it was Cal Poly and the stifling of free speech, now it's my former employer the North County Times.
As reported by Poynter's Jim Romenesko, the Times last week altered a photo of a youth softball player with the Union-Tribune logo on the back of her jersey.
This is the second photo-related stupidity that the Times has done in the past few years. When I was still working at the paper (but not a night I was on duty), they decided to publish a photo of a man who backed up traffic on two freeways while threatening to jump off an overpass. Eventually the man jumped and killed himself. The paper ran a photo of the man in mid-fall. The public outcry, I'm sure, was much more vociferous for that photo than it will be for this latest stupidity.
Unfortunately for the Times, which does some good journalism, this will be another black eye for the paper. The violation is not nearly as serious as those of The New York Times' Jayson Blair or the Los Angeles Times' manipulated photo during the Iraq war, but it's definitely wrong.
The cause of the latest gaffe, however is readily apparent, I'm sure, to many former NCT staffers. There exists in the newsroom there, among some staffers, an almost visceral hatred of the Union-Tribune. It manifests itself in little ways, like the not-uncommon references to the U-T standing for Useless and Trivial. And it manifests itself in big ways, like photos being rejected because a Union-Tribune banner visible in the background.
There's nothing wrong with a desire to scoop the competition -- that quality is something to be admired in any journalist -- but at the NCT the animosity has reached an unhealthy level. It's good journalism that's suffered.
For Love or Money: I usually don't watch so-called reality shows, the reason being that no one acts "real" when they've got a camera crew following them around or some host asking them to do ridiculous things. But, since my work shift changed to Tues. through Sat. (not really good for the social life of a single man) I've watched the last few episodes of NBC's "For Love or Money." I saw the episodes starting when there were only 4 women left. If you missed last night's episode, there's a summary here.
To make a long story short, the guy, Rob, was a complete and total idiot -- in more ways than one. First he disses the girl that really loves him, Paige (and who's really cute too), to choose the girl who's not terribly interested in him, Erin. It was also no suprise that Erin, instead of choosing Rob, chooses the money. If Rob had chosen Paige instead, she undoubtedly would have chosen him and then they'd both gotten to split the million.
When I'm watching the show, I'm always thinking what I would do if I was put in the same situation Rob was, and I'm convinced the producers would never choose me for the show. I'm sorry, but I couldn't go around playing tonsil hockey with multiple women at the same time. By the time I'd narrowed them down to four, I'd have had a pretty good idea which one I would choose (Paige) and I honestly couldn't play the game anymore. The last three episodes would be so boring for the average viewer because there'd be no hanky-panky going on 3/4 of the time.
Oh well, that's my little rant. Rob is an idiot. Erin doesn't impress me. Paige is a cutie.
Give the New York Times credit: But not a whole lot. Today the Times published an op-ed piece by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Jim Leach which reveals to readers that both Republicans and Democrats play the gerrymandering game.
That's not quite the picture a reader would get if they'd only read Times editorials on the subject, specifically as it pertains to the Texas redistricting, which blame the Republicans for outrageous conduct that garnered nary a peep when Democrats did the same thing 10 years earlier.
Bon mots: Today's "Best of the Web" has an item on a school board member who had to apologize for his insensitivity after "telling people at a recent committee meeting 'to keep your comments like a woman's skirt: long enough to cover the subject, but brief enough to keep me interested."
Some people may take offense at such a comment. To them, I say: Get a life.
It was funny.
Monday, July 07, 2003
Conservative white male = racist? Talk about stereotypes. (I would argue that liberal white males are more likely to be racist in the way they treat minorities as barely competent children who somehow need a helping hand from the more privilged.) But the comment that prompts this post has to do with my alma mater, Cal Poly SLO.
It seems that earlier this year, a member of the Cal Poly College Republicans, Steve Hinkle, went to the school's multicultural center to post a flier advertising a talk by black conservative Mason Weaver. Some students gathered there, reportedly for a Bible study (the New York Times would likely describe them as "mainline" Christians, aka "liberal"), were offended by the flier and called the campus cops.
Because it's not yet against the law to post an innocuous flier at a public university, the administration and the students tried another tack -- they accused him of "disrupting" their meeting. Now Hinkle is facing possible expulsion from Cal Poly because, standing on principle, refuses to apologize to the "offended" students for legally posting a flier on a public bulletin board.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Vice President for Student Affairs Cornel Morton told Hinkle during a disciplinary hearing (at which he was not allowed to have a lawyer, only his faculty advisor): “You are a young white male member of CPCR. To students of color, this may be a collision of experience.… The chemistry has racial implications, and you are naïve not to acknowledge those.”
So, according to Morton, the mere existence of white conservatives is somehow enough to offend "students of color" at Cal Poly. In the future, apparently, the CPCR should find a black moderate maybe and they could post a flier in the sacred muliticultural center.
On April 15, 2003, Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy, wrote to Cal Poly President Warren J. Baker, urging him to defend Steve Hinkle’s fundamental constitutional rights. Lukianoff demonstrated the absurdity of a “disruption” charge against someone who was silently posting, on a public bulletin board, a flier for an approved campus event. Moreover, Lukianoff wrote, the “disrupted” students were “not a recognized student group and the ‘meeting’ was therefore not a ‘campus function.’ Ironically, Mr. Hinkle was actually posting fliers for an event that was sponsored by a recognized student group and by the student government, and it is he who has the far better claim to ‘campus function’ status.”
Lukianoff continued: “All accounts agree that Mr. Hinkle, who only wanted to post a flier, was then approached by the students—not the other way around.” Hinkle’s accusers, he noted, “themselves initiated what they later claimed was his ‘disruption’….If they had allowed Mr. Hinkle to go about his constitutionally protected activity, there would have been no ‘disruption’ at all. All of this leads FIRE to draw the obvious conclusion: Mr. Hinkle and the CPCR are being punished for the content of their expression.”
On May 9, 2003, Cal Poly’s legal counsel, Carlos Cordova, responded to FIRE’s letter. Cordova denied any wrongdoing and did not substantively address any of FIRE’s specific concerns. Today, Steve Hinkle remains punished for trying to post a factual, simple, and constitutionally protected flier.
It looks like there's going to be a lawsuit, and I'm hoping that the muckety-mucks have enough sense to cave before they have to pay extensive legal bills to Hinkle. The scorn that Cal Poly has already received (I became aware of the controversy from Fox News Sunday) for this politically correct stupidity will hurt the institution's prestige.
I'll be working up a letter to Morton in the coming days, needless to say, Cal Poly will not be receiving any donations from me while Hinkle faces punishment.
Hopefully the Mustang Daily will get on the ball and start publicizing this case, a search of their archives suggests that they thus far have not.
Oh, if you'd like to voice your opinion of his racist comment, Morton's email address is: email@example.com.