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October 2002 Archives

October 1, 2002

And your point is?

The new issue of U.S. News and World Report has a puzzling article about the take-over of some of the schools within the Philadelphia public school system by Edison because of chronic underperformance. To be sure, the article is quite impressive, mostly because the author dropped the word "sclerotic" and used it correctly (this, however, does not to top the time I witnessed George Will correctly use "equipoise" in a conversation). It's puzzling, though, because the article really doesn't say anything. The author notes "it's far too early to gauge results," making me wonder why the article was written and, after being completed, why it was run.

One definite bright note for the Philadelphia public schools, though: according to the new Philadelphia Magazine, if you want your kid to get into the University of Pennsylvania (now the #4 school in the country according the U.S. News) it may be best to keep them in the Philadelphia schools. There is a joke there somewhere, but I don't know what it is or who the butt of it is, the Philadelphia schools or the University of Pennsylvania.

Will wonders never cease?

Look! It's a Paul Krugman column that doesn't mention Enron!

Oh, wait. I mean, until the ninth paragraph.

(Then Krugman makes up for the oversight by accusing President Bush of promoting war just to distract the public from the economy. Does he even write these pieces, or does he just cut-and-paste from last week's column?)

Deja vu all over again

In 2000, there was a battle over election rules. Boiling down the positions of the two parties to their essences, Republicans argued that voters should have to follow instructions in order to have their votes counted, while Democrats argued that the rules were less important than making sure all voices were heard.

Now what do we have in New Jersey? Republicans arguing that the law should be followed, and Democrats arguing that the law doesn't really matter if another principle -- electing Democrats -- is involved. Of course, the New York Times comes down on the side of law-breaking:

In his emotional announcement, Mr. Torricelli said he would file a court petition to remove his name from the ballot and clear the way for another candidate, to be named in coming days from a short list being considered by Governor McGreevey. The Republicans are likely to argue that under New Jersey election law, it is too late to put another name on the ballot. But legal wrangling over ballot access cannot be allowed to obscure the central issue, which is one of democracy. The guiding principle should be the voters' basic right to a genuine election. With a month to go before Election Day, there is still time for a spirited campaign.
I wonder what Liz Macron would think of the claim that Torricelli's departure from the race means that it's not a "genuine election." Obviously nobody expects the New York Times to support a policy which might help a Republican get elected, but doesn't this go a little far? To claim that an election is not truly democratic if a Democrat isn't on the ballot?

But get past that partisanship, and think about the practical issues here. The New York Times wants a judge to rewrite the laws, after the fact, so that a Democrat can get elected. Sure; I don't see any potential controversy there. Certainly there won't be an appeal. And then another appeal, perhaps to federal court. Definitely we won't end up with federal judges deciding on which party controls the Senate. And it won't all be happening when we're under time pressure to determine the election winner. Didn't we do this before?

Contrast the New York Times' view with that of the Washington Post, which pointed out that voters did have a choice:

Still, it's reassuring that in one sense, at least, the process worked well. The ethics committee acted unequivocally and in time for its findings to be absorbed by New Jersey voters, and they -- to the evident and cynical surprise of Mr. Torricelli and the Democratic Party -- in turn registered their displeasure without even having to cast their votes.
Darn right. Just because we made our choice about the Democratic candidate before the election doesn't mean we were denied our right to an election.

Election strategery

A couple of people have asked me about New Jersey's election law, so I thought I'd look at it more specifically. First, the current situation. 19:13-20 of New Jersey's election law -- entitled "Vacancy Procedure" -- says this, in relevant part, with some emphasis added:

19:13-20. In the event of a vacancy, howsoever caused, among candidates nominated at primaries, which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election, or in the event of inability to select a candidate because of a tie vote at such primary, a candidate shall be selected in the following manner:

a. (1) In the case of an office to be filled by the voters of the entire State, the candidate shall be selected by the State committee of the political
party wherein such vacancy has occurred.

The Democratic argument will be this: the statute specifies what happens if a vacancy occurs more than 51 days before the election. The statute is silent, however, about what happens if the vacancy occurs within the 51 day time limit. Therefore, they should be allowed to do what's in the interests of the electorate (as defined by the Democratic party, of course).

The problem is that this is a creative, but tortured reading of the statute. A standard rule of interpretation is Expressio unius est exclusio alterius. That is, the inclusion of one implies the exclusion of others. If the statute says that you can fill a vacancy with more than 51 days, that implies that you can't do it in other circumstances. Indeed, the Democratic approach would render the deadline explicitly mentioned in the statute to be meaningless. That's generally a no-no. 

Moreover, a related statute, 19:13-20.1, contemplates the possibility that a party will not have a nominee in the general election:

If there is no candidate on the primary election ballot of a political party for nomination for election to a public office in the general election and no write-in candidate for nomination for that office receives the minimum number of write-in votes necessary for nomination at a primary election pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1981, c.264 (C.19:14-2.1) and R.S.19:23-8, a vacancy shall not be deemed to exist and the provisions of R.S.19:13-20 shall not be applicable.
In short, if after a primary election, the party does not have a candidate,the party is not allowed to add someone to the ballot. This does not directly apply to this situation, but it does suggest that "the voters deserve a choice under all circumstances" was not a compelling argument to the legislature. It would be strange to argue that their failure to nominate a candidate is fatal, but their decision to nominate a lousy candidate can be reversed at any time. Still, I don't discount the possibility that the New Jersey courts will simply ignore the text of the statute in the supposed interest of democracy. This is, after all, what we saw in Florida, where the court decided that having ballots counted was more important than obeying the time limits specified in the law.

There is, however, another possibility being raised, which would involve Torricelli's resignation from the Senate. 19:3-26 provides:

If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this state in the United  States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the  happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within thirty days next  preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the  second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this state shall  deem it advisable to call a special election therefor, which he is authorized  hereby to do.

    The governor of this state may make a temporary appointment of a senator of  the United States from this state whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of  any cause other than the expiration of the term;  and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the board of state canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election.

In other words, if Torricelli resigns, that creates a vacancy. If the vacancy occurs more than 30 days before the general election -- which it is, currently -- then the governor can appoint a replacement, but the seat will be contested in the general election. If Torricelli waits until the 30 day window, however, then the statute provides that the governor can appoint someone, and the vacancy not be filled until the next general election, which isn't until 2004, unless the governor chooses to call a special election before then.

There are two problems with this approach. First, it's sleazy, even by the standards of New Jersey politics. Second, it goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. It would allow the governor to effectively extend a senator's term by two years. Moreover, the statute specifically excludes vacancies caused by the "expiration of the term." As Torricelli's term expires this year, it's not clear that this gubernatorial power even exists. This provision of the statute is intended for off-year vacancies, not for Senators quitting just before their terms are up.

The final Democratic option would be the Missouri model: let Torricelli remain on the ballot as a placeholder, with the understanding of all concerned that if he wins, he'll resign his seat and be replaced by a gubernatorial appointment who would be specified in advance. This appointed senator would serve until 2004, when there would be a special election. This would certainly be legal, but it seems rather untoward. Elections are supposed to involve the candidates on the ballot, not other people who didn't bother to get nominated. Moreover, nothing could compel Torricelli to resign in such a situation; he would be a legally elected Senator. This wrinkle didn't apply in Missouri, since Mel Carnahan had the personal disadvantage of being dead. (Speaking of which, this hints at another approach the Democratic party could take. Torricelli could find himself as Jimmy Hoffa's roommate. Which would be a real shame.)

The truth is unhelpful

The New York Times reports that some Jewish groups are going to run pro-Israel television advertising campaigns to improve Israel's public image in the United States.

The two commercials they created, which differ only slightly, include images of everyday life in Israel, while a voiceover says that Israel gives all its citizens American-style freedoms, including freedom of religion and expression, and the right to vote. One spot begins by saying, "Israel is America's only real ally in the Middle East."
Sounds reasonable to me. How could anybody object to that? Well, guess who does:
One critic, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, said the spots did not address the real problems facing Israel and the Middle East.

"The issue people have is not on that level," Mr. Zogby said. "Even though Americans never identified with Palestinians, they are not happy with Israeli policy."

Moreover, he said, the ads set back peace efforts by emphasizing the differences between Israel and its neighbors. By arguing that Israel and the United States share a love of freedom and respect for individuals, the commercials imply that those values are exclusive to the United States and Israel, he said. "That is a set of assumptions that play into a kind of ethnocentrism and a not so subtle form of racism."

There you have it, straight from the horse's mouth: by telling the truth about Arab countries, the ads "set back peace efforts." I think that says it all about those "peace efforts."

October 2, 2002

Classes cancelled

In Lawrence, Kansas, where I used to live, the University of Kansas Law School was right next to KU's basketball arena. The first year law students used to get annoyed on game nights because of the difficulty of getting to the library -- the basketball fans took all the parking spaces. They'd complain, but by their second year, they would be resigned to their fate and plan ahead; they'd either get to the library early or do their work at home.

Not wishing for its students simply to cope, Florida State University has come up with a novel solution on how to deal with the competing demands of academics and athletics. This upcoming Thursday, FSU is playing Clemson with the game starting at 7:45 p.m. What is FSU doing? It's cancelling all of its Thursday classes. Not just the evening classes, but all of them. The ones that begin at 9:30 a.m, the ones that begin at 3:30 p.m as well as the ones that begin at 8:00 pm. But, that's not it. It's cancelling all of its Friday classes, too. FSU President Talbot D'Alemberte says that "The game will involve more than 80,000 fans coming to campus during the day. A fall break seemed to be the answer for both the long-term and short-term challenges."

In case it comes up.

Note to self: don't go into business with Rosie O'Donnell.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Chuck Todd suggests a new strategy for New Jersey Republicans: instead of fighting the Democrats' attempt to rewrite election law and appoint a new Senate candidate just because they feel like it, the Republicans should go to plan B:

Which brings us to the Republicans' next option -- if Democrats can dump their nominee for a more electable candidate, then why can't the GOP?

The ambassadorship to New Zealand has a recent history of accidental senators (Carol Moseley-Braun) holding the post. Why couldn't the White House ask Forrester to follow in those footsteps? Granted, current ambassador Charles J. Swindells might not be ready to leave just yet, but there are lots of countries out there.

So if Forrester can politely be bought off or convinced to take one for the team, the best thing would be for him to vacate his nomination in favor of one of the two Republicans who could win in this Democratic-leaning state: former Govs. Christie Whitman or Tom Kean.

This all may sound ludicrous, but if the Democrats can call "do over" with their election chances in the state, why can't the GOP?

The GOP could argue that the circumstances of the race have changed -- that had the seat been open, other more prominent and electable Republicans would have signed up.

Todd's proposal is amusing, but of course it shows why the Democratic request is so problematic. If the Democrats can do it now, why can't the Republicans next week? Why can't the Democrats do it a week later, if it turns out Lautenberg isn't as popular as they thought? Once you throw out the actual law, there's no principle that says you can't keep doing so.

"That's silly," you say. "There has to be a stopping point." Well, there is: the 51-day deadline established in the law. The legislature decided -- as is their prerogative -- that 51 days provided the optimum balance between voter choice and electoral efficiency. Ballots need to be printed. Ballots need to be mailed. That takes time, and that means that there needs to be some finality to the candidate nomination process.

And these, despite the Democratic claims, are not unusual circumstances. This is simply a candidate trailing in the polls. Torricelli didn't die. He didn't become medically incapacitated. He just realized nobody liked him. (For Torricelli, that's not an unusual circumstance at all.) A survey of nationwide elections right now would show hundreds of candidates in that situation.

Maybe he'll drive by and hand me a dime

In 1914, the workers at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation went on strike. They were evicted from their company-owned houses in Ludlow, Colorado, moved into a tent-city. On Easter 1914, the National Guard and company-hired gunman burned the tents, shot into the city with machine guns, and killed 13, including some of the worker's wives and children.

Colorado Fuel & Iron was owned by John D. Rockefeller. His image, was, to put it mildly, tarnished by the incident. So, what did he do to show is contrition? Instead of (somehow) making it up to his workers (or any other workers), he hired a P.R. man who advised him to give dimes to random poor children. For the next two decades, Rockefeller devotedly gave dimes away.

Yesterday, Global Crossing Chairman Gary Winnick, who made (read: stole) $734 million from the company's stock before the shares became worthless, will donate $25 million into the retirement funds of his thousands of employees, many of whom lost virtually everything. Winnick's crime may not be as reprehensable as Rockefeller's but his penitence is.

Florida Redux

As I suspected, the New Jersey Supreme Court has just taken upon itself to rewrite the law. In a 7-0 decision, the court held that the Democrats could replace Bob Torricelli with Frank Lautenberg on November's ballot.

And the Court having concluded that the central question before it is whether the dual interests of full voter choice and the orderly administration of an election can be effectuated if the relief requested by plaintiffs were to be granted;

And the Court being of the view that

[it] is in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system and to submit to the electorate a ballot bearing the names of candidates of both major political parties as well as of all other qualifying parties and groups.
Kilmurray v. Gilfert, 10 N.J. 435, 441 (1952);

And the Court remaining of the view that the election statutes should be liberally construed

to allow the greatest scope for public participation in the electoral process, to allow candidates to get on the ballot, to allow parties to put their candidates on the ballot, and most importantly, to allow the voters a choice on Election Day.
Catania v. Haberle, 123 N.J. 438, 448;

And the Court having determined that N.J.S.A. 19:13-20 does not preclude the possibility of a vacancy occurring within fifty-one days of the general election;

And the Court having concluded that the equitable relief sought herein is not inconsistent with the precedent of this Court and the terms of the statute and that the Court should invoke its equitable powers in favor of a full and fair ballot choice for the voters of New Jersey;

In other words, laws don't matter. What's even more astonishing is that the court admits that their ruling is designed to "preserve the two-party system," as if that were within the scope of their powers. They're supposed to be neutral, not to favor any particular outcome of the political process.

October 3, 2002

Patience is a virtue

Andrew Fastow, erstwhile Enron CFO, was charged with fraud for his financial shenanigans at Enron, designed to conceal the company's huge losses.

The spectacular cascade of corporate collapses over the last year began with Enron, and Mr. Fastow became the most senior former Enron official to join executives of Tyco International, Adelphia Communications, WorldCom and ImClone Systems in facing criminal charges.
I wonder when we'll hear an apology from the critics who complained that corporate crooks weren't being pursued by the Bush administration. (Not to mention any names, Pat.)

Democracy means voting for Democrats

It's difficult to find someone who isn't an extreme Democratic partisan who believes that Wednesday's New Jersey Supreme Court ruling was correct. So it's hardly a shock to read that the New York Times editors think that the decision was fine and dandy. In fact, they title their editorial, arrogantly, "New Jersey Gets a Senate Race" -- as if a race isn't a race without a Democratic candidate. Or, rather, a likeable Democratic candidate, since the ballots in question had a Democratic candidate on them.

Meanwhile, the Republicans seem ready to continue their legal efforts to provide their own candidate, Douglas Forrester, with what would amount to a free pass. But it's hard to see how they can build the basis for a successful federal court challenge to the state court's decision. Their obstructionism could also alienate voters.
Obstructionism? It was the Democrats suing to abort the election process so that they could change their candidate. It's true that a federal case would be difficult to make; there's no Constitutional issue here. On the other hand, the New Jersey Supreme Court ignored the law, so why couldn't a federal court?
The court gave these arguments a respectful hearing. But in the end it ruled, rightly, that the greater need was to ensure "full and fair ballot choice for the voters of New Jersey." The decision came not a moment too soon. There are only 33 days left until Election Day. But this is time enough to make the necessary arrangements — printing new ballots, for example — and for the two major party candidates to engage in a vigorous debate on the issues.
The "respectful hearing" was a couple of hours; the court didn't even pretend to deliberate before issuing its decision.

But the best part of this is the Times' juxtaposition of the claim that voters deserve "full and fair ballot choice" with the assertion that only "the two major party candidates" need debate the issues.

Birds of a feather

Bob Torricelli needs a new job. Maybe he should call fellow corrupt Democrat Carl McCall, who tried his use his influence as New York comptroller to get jobs for friends and relatives. McCall wrote letters on official state stationary to various corporate executives, passing along resumes to them.

And like Torricelli, he arrogantly refuses to admit he did anything wrong, while at the same time "apologizing" for it.

Speaking at a news conference at his headquarters on Park Avenue South, Mr. McCall defended his conduct as normal for politicians and hinted that he considered the whole affair overblown. "There was never any pressure or influence, nor is there anyone who says there was," he said.

"While I never sought to leverage my public position nor mix my government role with my personal and professional relationships, in these or any letter, my use of government stationery has unfortunately given this impression, and I sincerely apologize for this," he continued.

Mr. McCall has repeatedly said that there was nothing wrong with having written the letters and that he would do so again.

But yesterday, he said that if he became governor he would not write such letters on official stationery.

McCall is not a junior clerk who was just hired. He damn well knows that official stationery is not supposed to be for private use. Had he done it once, it could have been an oversight. But 61 times? And then to pretend that "everyone else is doing it" is a defense? Unlike Torricelli, though, McCall was losing the election already, so this is unlikely to have a big impact on his campaign.

The punchline:

To some, the incident did nothing more than point to a lack of political savvy. One Democratic strategist put it this way: "He's either got to be a lot more ethical or a lot smarter."
Hmm. Maybe the Democratic party ought to adopt that as their new motto.

Locking the barn door after the horse is stolen

Chutzpah is often illustrated by the anecdote of the defendant who kills his parents and then argues for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. Another possibility would be to display a picture of our past president. One of the points that the Bush administration (and everyone else) has been making is that the current U.N. inspections resolutions are far too weak. These resolutions, written in 1998, were an attempt by Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton to restart the inspections process. But by making so many concessions to Saddam Hussein, they vitiated the entire process. This was a serious failing of the Clinton Administration. Guess who suddenly realizes this?

Addressing the British Labor Party annual conference, which gave him a rapturous welcome, Mr. Clinton said: "We need a strong resolution calling for unrestricted inspections. The restrictions imposed in 1998 are unacceptable and won't do the job." Any new one, he said, should have a strict deadline and "no lack of clarity about what Iraq must do."
Well, yeah, Bill. You just figured this out? What's next, Bob Torricelli arguing that government corruption needs to be punished more severely?

October 4, 2002

Woohoo! II

Readers of this blog may recall David's post on August 21, 2001 celebrating Represenative Cynthia McKinney primary defeat in her re-election bid. In the post, David cited McKinney's father, Billy McKinney, who spelled out the reason he thought his daughter lost: "J-E-W-S."

Gary Collard alerts me to a recent speech Cynthia McKinney made on the House floor; it seems she believes that Indians are also to blame for her loss. Among other things, she says: "I am inserting in the Record along with this statement shows that they admitted that they invested heavily in the effort to defeat me. To my colleagues of both parties who have also been involved in the effort to expose India's brutal record, I say: Watch out; they are coming after you, too," and "Now I have become the latest political officeholder in India's cross hairs. I won't be the last unless their activities are exposed. Mr. Speaker, whether I am in office or not, I don't intend to let a foreign power determine the results of American elections if I can help it."

The link includes what she inserted into the record. After reading it, I'm quite convinced that some Indian-Americans most surely did organize to defeat McKinney and elect her opponent. What McKinney amazingly fails to grasp is, just because some people of Indian decent did something, that does not mean the Indian government did it. She confuses Americans politically organizing around shared ethnicity or race (which she undoubtably condones) with "a foreign power" being out to get her.

Whatever. She accused President Bush of being behind the 9/11 attacks, is an anti-semite, and believes the Indian government is came after her because Indian-Americans in America must not be Americans, they must be Indian and under the thumb of the government (which, for what it's worth, is the world's largest democracy, but who's keeping track?). David said it best: "She's out, and that's what's important."

"I belong to no organized political party; I'm a Democrat."

Here's breaking news: the Democrats have no coherent stance on Iraq. Aren't you glad the New York Times cleared that up for you? They cover the travails of poor Tom Daschle, who can't quite seem to figure out how to come up with a policy, let alone what that policy should be.

Didn't Mark Steyn explain this the other day?

War is hell for left-of-centre parties. The British Labor Party is bitterly divided between those in favour of war with Iraq and those opposed to it. In the U.S. Democratic Party, meanwhile, it's even more complicated:

Faction A (the David Bonior option) is openly anti-war despite the party's best efforts to turn off their microphones. (Congressman Bonior appeared on TV live from Baghdad yesterday.)

Faction B (the Paul Wellstone option) is also anti-war but trying hard not to have to say so between now and election day in November.

Faction C (the Al Gore option) was pro-war when it was Bill Clinton in charge but anti-war now there's a Republican rallying the troops.

Faction D (the Hillary Rodham option) can go either way but remains huffily insistent that to ask them to express an opinion would be to "politicize" the war.

Faction E (the John Kerry option) can't quite figure which position alienates least of their supporters and so articulates a whole all-you-can-eat salad bar of conflicting positions and then, in a weird post-modern touch, ostentatiously agonizes over the "inherent risks" in each of them.

Faction F (the Jay Rockefeller option) thinks the priority right now should be to sit around holding inquiries into why the government ignored what it knew about al-Qaeda until they killed thousands of Americans. To Senator Rockefeller, it's vital that we now ignore what we know about Saddam so that we can get on with the important work of investigating the stuff we ignored last time round.

I may have missed a couple of dozen other factions.

Of course, Mark Steyn, not being the New York Times, doesn't feel the need to quote strategists and put this into the context of Democratic foreign policy positions of the past.

Chomsky speaks

Noam Chomsky spoke yesterday at his alma mater. Sadly or happily, depending on how one views Chomsky in these parts, he is an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Daily Pennsylvanian article about the talk labelled him a "dissident" which, I suppose, is true; however, "dissident" is tradionally used to describe those who critique a totalitarian state. As in one of the Oxford English Dictionary definitions: "In political contexts, one who openly opposes the policies of the government or ruling party, esp. in a totalitarian system." I don't think Chomsky qualifies as a "dissident."

After the talk, two Penn students were allowed to speak to the crowd and encourage its members to sign a petition advocating that Penn disinvest from its endowment all holding it has in Israel. Chomsky became the first Penn alum to sign on. I realize that Penn disinvesting from Israel is about as likely as it making me a full professor tomorrow, but I'm still speechless.

"Probably the most respected flag officer [general] in the Army"

It's fashionable among the left to talk about the racism of the U.S., how our approach to Iraq is fueled by our hate for Arabs. So it's interesting to read this profile of John P. Abizaid.

At a time when all eyes in the U.S. military are focused on Iraq, Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid is the right man in the right place at the right time.

As director of the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the veteran infantryman coordinates the daily activities of the top level of the U.S. military, making sure that the regional commanders (or "CinCs"), the military services, senior Defense Department civilians and the Joint Staff are all working toward the same goals.

He also is probably the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military who is an expert in Arab affairs. Of Lebanese descent himself, Abizaid speaks Arabic, has a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard and lived in the region while studying at the University of Jordan. He traveled in Iraq back then and was there again in 1991, when he commanded an infantry battalion in Operation Provide Comfort, the post-Gulf War relief operation in northern Iraq.

Already, other generals talk about Abizaid as a likely future head of the U.S. Central Command, or as an Army chief, or perhaps as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the top slot in the U.S. military. "If the defense secretary doesn't make him a CinC and then chief of staff of the Army or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, then we will have missed the boat," said retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, himself a former chairman.

Hmm. A Lebanese-American in the upper echelons of the military? Does Chomsky know about this?

Mostly beating a dead horse

Law professors Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar break down some of the Torricelli legal issues. Not much new here, but they do note a contradiction in the court's thinking:

Here's another way to put our point. New ballots will cost around 800 thousand dollars. The court ordered the Democratic Party to pay this expense. But suppose a party didn't have the money–would it then not be entitled to new ballots in a similar circumstance?

Ordinarily, government pays for ballots, not private parties. (This was one of the major reforms introduced into America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.) In a plane crash, or other death situation, would the court impose the costs on one political party? If there is genuinely a public interest in new ballots, why shouldn't the public pay?

Conversely, if this request for a new ballot is really the "fault" of the Democrats–enough so that they and only they should in fairness pay for the new ballots–then isn't this payment order itself an implicit admission that this is, to some extent at least, a partisan request for partisan advantage?

As if that were in doubt.

October 5, 2002

The "very epitome" of idiocy

A letter to the editor from Ted Sorensen (fourth one down):

To the Editor:

President Bush has not yet openly reprimanded his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, for suggesting that "a bullet" is the cheapest way of accomplishing his goal of regime change in Iraq. Is it possible that the United States now endorses for other countries a policy of presidential assassination, the very epitome of terrorism, after our own tragic experience with that despicable act?

Multiple choice quiz: Ted Sorensen thinks:

(A) Saddam Hussein is the democratically elected leader of a free country
(B) JFK was a genocidal military dictator
(C) Overthrowing a tyrant is similar to hijacking a plane and crashing it into an office building
(D) Trick question. He doesn't think.

October 6, 2002

Probably just a coincidence

Terrorist attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. Initially they were reluctant to call it terrorism, but now they're comparing it to the attack on the USS Cole. Apparently opposing the United States doesn't create goodwill among Islamofascists. Maybe the French might want to rethink the idea that they can win middle eastern friends just by being obstructionist.

At the same time, police have definitively linked the Fredericksburg shooting to the Maryland and D.C. shootings, making a total of seven apparently random shootings so far, with the shooter possibly moving south. I certainly don't want to jump to any unwarranted conclusions here, but isn't one of the hallmarks of Al Qaeda simultaneous attacks in well-separated locations? We don't have nearly enough information here, but it's something to keep in mind.

October 7, 2002

So sue me.

You know that insane $28 billion verdict against Phillip Morris? Well, Max Power explains what's wrong with the logic behind such a huge punitive award -- besides the fact that it was based on the fiction that a smoker didn't know of the risks of smoking, I mean. It's punishing bigness, not wrongdoing. Max adds:

I don't smoke, I get annoyed at people who smoke in front of me on a moving escalator, but I still recognize this as a dangerous dangerous case. If the government has the power to randomly swoop in and take a third of your revenues for the year, well, that's a huge disincentive to doing business or investing in a business that can face such confiscatory policies. The same is true when the government's power is backed by a random assortment of twelve underemployed people and a judge who hates corporations. This isn't just cigarettes, it's hospitals, auto manufacturers, food sellers, retail stores, banks, etc. Jury verdicts like this do more damage to the economy than a hundred Ken Lays.
Max omitted one point in his argument: the "huge disincentive to doing business" is not a foreseen or unforeseen side effect of such suits. The disincentive is the goal of such suits. (Along with money for plaintiff's attorneys, of course.)

Along those lines, the New York times reported on the progress of a lawsuit against the gun industry. After laughably describing Americans for Gun Safety as a gun rights group, it describes the NAACP's (current) attempt to sue gun manufacturers for crimes committed with guns.

Anthony J. Sebok, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who has written about the gun cases, said the new information could build a devastating case against the gun industry. But he also said that if the plaintiffs fail in the Brooklyn case, that could be a setback for all the lawsuits across the country. "It could end the campaign to use litigation as a method of achieving gun control," he said.

Elisa Barnes, the chief lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. in the Brooklyn case, said the 11 years of gun-sales data she obtained from the federal government is being analyzed by experts on marketing, the gun industry and statistics who are working with her on the case. In filing the suit in 1999, the N.A.A.C.P. said its goal was "to protect the well-being and security of its membership, which has been disproportionately injured" by illegal handguns.


Ms. Barnes made several strategic decisions that make the current case different from her 1999 case. Instead of seeking damages for the families of gun victims, for example, the current case seeks an injunction that would establish new restrictions on the marketing and distribution of handguns.

There are many problems with these sorts of lawsuits, but the biggest one is that they represent an end-run around the democratic process. Anti-smoking groups, anti-gun groups, and anti-fast food groups in the future, know they can't win in the legislatures. They can't convince a majority of the public to ban these supposed evils. But with the magic of punitive damages, they don't have to. They can destroy these industries by convincing twelve people to feel sorry for one suffering guy.

October 8, 2002

Back to the races

As I suspected would happen, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved in the New Jersey Senate race ballot dispute, as did a federal district court. The Republicans had a couple of reasonable arguments, but I think the Democrats had the stronger position on this one point, from their Supreme Court brief:

The Applicant has failed to meet his burden of proving irreparable harm in every way. He alleges no harm of his own, and he shows no real potential of harm to others – except Senator Lautenberg and the Democrats of New Jersey. Given that there is currently no voter from the State of New Jersey whose ballot condition will not or cannot be fixed over the next month, there is no need for this Court to intervene.
While Doug Forrester's election chances were seriously harmed by this decision, that's not the kind of harm the court is going to rectify. That doesn't mean I agree with the Democratic position, though. The real harm was not to Forrester, but to the rule of law. It sounds reasonable to say that statutes should be interpreted "liberally" in order to preserve voter choice. Why let some minor technical administrative details get in the way of a full electoral process? Why? Because that's the law. It's true that rules can sometimes operate in ways that seem rigid. But there's an advantage to "rigid" rules that doesn't apply when one construes the rules "liberally." There's no possibility of bias. Exceptions aren't made by formula; human beings have to decide to grant exceptions. And those people aren't deciding in a vacuum; they know the effects of their decisions when they make them.

When the legislature wrote the law in question, they didn't know whether a Democrat or Republican would benefit. They didn't know whether the Senate would be closely divided. Their choice of a deadline, while arbitrary, was unbiased. When the New Jersey Supreme Court rewrote the law in question, they knew they were benefiting the Democratic Party. There's just too much temptation for abuse. There's the appearance of impropriety, even if the judges are trying to be fair. All we have to do is look at Bush v. Gore to see this problem. Republicans were convinced the Florida Supreme Court was biased. Democrats were convinced that the U.S. Supreme Court was biased. And it was all because people were ignoring the law in favor of ad hoc decisionmaking.

Aside from that, when exceptions are made, its inevitable that they'll be made to benefit the powerful, not the weak. Does anybody believe that the court would have extended the deadline for the Socialist Party, or the Libertarian Party, or the Greens? (In this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court even admitted it: this decision was made in part as part of a policy "to preserve the two party system.")

Pre-established rules, no matter how arbitrary, treat everyone equally. Exceptions don't. Exceptions can't.

October 9, 2002

Insult to injury

I didn't hear this reported elsewhere, but the Washington Post reports that the Maryland sniper left a taunting note at the site of his last shooting.

The sniper linked to nine area shootings left what appeared to be a taunting message for authorities outside the Bowie school where a 13-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, police sources confirmed last night.

"Dear policeman, I am God," the message said. Police said it was found on a Tarot card known as the Death card, part of a deck used in fortunetelling. Sources close to the investigation said it was spotted in a wooded area about 150 yards from the school entrance, where police also found a spent shell casing and a matted area of grass that suggested that the gunman had lain in wait.

The message, first reported last night on WUSA-TV (Channel 9), was the first known communication from the sniper, police sources said last night.

If this story is accurate, it seems to me -- though I'm no expert -- that it almost certainly points to a lone nutcase, rather than any organized group of domestic or foreign terrorists. It's a sign of the times that I'm not sure whether that's something to be relieved about or not.

Winning the battle, but losing the...

It's not really news anymore, but the Dow is down another 200 points today.

The Iraqi situation has effectively kept the stock market and the economy off the network news agenda, but President Bush is going to have to deal with the economy at some time. The question becomes: why has he not put it on a frontburner this summer and fall, when the worst that could happen is that the Republicans lose the midterm elections? (Note the use of "a frontburner" not "the frontburner" -- it's possible for the White House to do more than one thing at a time). Why is he waiting? So it'll simmer and be a boiling issue for the next two years? So he'll get beaten in 2004?

Jumping to Conclusions for a second... is this his corporate experience coming into action? Putting short-term goals ahead of long-term ones?

October 10, 2002

One bit of good news

There's an old maxim which ties fashion with the economy: "hemlines rise when the market goes up, they fall when the stocks plunge."

Today, stocks are plunging, but if the recent fashion shows in Milan and Paris are an indicator of future trends, hemlines are rising.

I think that one of these is good news.

Did he really just say that?

Sometimes I have to read things twice because I don't believe it the first time.

One instance of this just happened. It seems, and I couldn't believe it at first, that Henry Bellefonte publicly said the following the other day: "There's an old saying, in the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and [there] were those slaves that lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master ... exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. Colin Powell's committed to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture."

After being appalled at Bellefonte's suggestion and noting how Bellefonte is quoting Malcolm X almost verbatim, I was puzzled to whom Bellefonte believes President Bush would listen to after he turned Secretary Powell "back out to pasture?" Some hawk when it comes to Iraq obviously. Who could it be? The National Security Advisor, perhaps. Condoleezza Rice.

Selective reporting

The CIA wrote an open letter to Congress disclosing portions of its assessments of Iraq. So what does the news media choose to focus on? The New York Times headline is typical: "C.I.A. Warns That a U.S. Attack May Ignite Terror":

The letter said "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks" with conventional or chemical or biological weapons against the United States.

"Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action," it continued. It noted that Mr. Hussein could use either conventional terrorism or a weapon of mass destruction as "his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

The letter dated Oct. 7 also declassified an exchange from a closed Congressional hearing on Oct. 2 in which a senior intelligence official judged the likelihood of Mr. Hussein's initiating an attack in the foreseeable future as "low."

So, the Times feels that the letter downgrades the threat from Iraq. The Times does present the other side, but in a way sure to convey the Times' disbelief of this position:
Mr. Tenet said tonight that "there is no inconsistency" between the C.I.A. views in the letter and those of the president. He emphasized the Iraqi leader's use of such weapons against his own citizens.

Senior administration officials insisted that the letter did not contradict President Bush's assertions on the imminent threat posed by Mr. Hussein. They pointed to another section of the letter that noted that the likelihood of Mr. Hussein's using weapons of mass destruction "for blackmail, deterrence, or otherwise, grows as his arsenal builds."

The key word is "insisted," Timespeak for "This guy's lying."

So after leading with a headline de-emphasizing the threat from Iraq, and quoting from the portion of the letter that supported this view, and denigrating the opposing view, what does the Times slip by in a single sentence? The argument that the Times has been sneering at since it was raised by the Bush administration: that Iraq and Al Qaeda are connected.

The letter also cited credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq has provided members of the terrorist group with training in the areas of poisons, gases and bomb making.
In fact, it said far more than that. From the letter:
¶Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

¶We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

¶Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

¶Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

¶We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

¶Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda. suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

Well, that sounds pretty serious to me. I wonder if the Times will write a story about it.

Hope they're grading on the curve

Amusing New York Times correction:

A picture caption on Sept. 23 with an article about Afghan women who were learning to read and write referred incorrectly to the lesson written on a blackboard in a class in northern Afghanistan. The chalked characters were numbers, not letters.
Close enough.

October 11, 2002

Why don't they just award the prize to Saddam Hussein?

As James Taranto continually points out, Yasser Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. So it's hard to work up too much outrage about any prize, even one given to professional candidate Jimmy Carter, even if he has spent the last couple of decades sucking up to dictatorships like North Korea.

Still, the Nobel Committee managed to top even that outrage, by coming out and saying that Carter was given the award as a rebuke to President Bush:

At a news conference, Nobel Committee Chairman Gunnar Berge said that, in addition to honoring Carter, the 2002 prize "should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current [U.S.] administration has taken." 

"It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States," he added.

Can we add Norway to the Axis of Evil?

Credit where credit is due?

Funny, but when the stock market jumps 300 points in one day, we don't hear the people who criticized President Bush for the declines giving him praise for the rise. So that's 564 points in two days.

October 12, 2002

Taking a lesson from the Palestinians

Abba Eban famously said of Yasser Arafat that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Apparently Saddam Hussein studied at the same school as Arafat; a day after Congress voted overwhelmingly to give President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, Hussein decided to make a special effort to emphasize how uncooperative he would be.

The Iraqi government erected new hurdles today to unrestricted U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, saying it could not provide security guarantees to U.N. aircraft in northern and southern Iraq and warning that new inspections could be impeded if the United Nations fails to pay for services that had previously been free.

A senior Iraqi official, Gen. Amir H. al-Saadi, told Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, in a letter that "the aggressive military acts by the U.S. and British air forces" enforcing "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq would "hamper" Iraq's capacity to guarantee the safety of weapons inspectors. U.N. officials maintain that the inability to fly their aircraft to U.N. offices scheduled to be set up in the regional capitals of Mosul and Basra in northern and southern Iraq could add several hours to the time it would take them to conduct inspections, eliminating the element of surprise.

So Iraq explicitly promises to hinder the inspections, while making implicit threats to the safety of the inspectors. In addition, Iraq rebuffed Hans Blix, who has been desperately trying to pretend he can reach an agreement with Iraq to conduct inspections:
Blix had appealed to Saadi in an Oct. 8 letter to confirm Iraq's commitment to abide by a series of U.N. terms for inspections of national security sites, interviews of scientists, surveillance operations and travel to suspected weapons facilities.

But Saadi ignored Blix's request, proposing instead a resumption of negotiations to resolve "any difficulties which may confront our work." He also dismissed Blix's insistence that Iraq, which operates daily flights from Baghdad to Basra, has the ability to ensure the safety of U.N. aircraft along the same route.

So, now the unrestricted inspections are so unrestricted that the inspection teams need to negotiate even more than they already did two weeks ago.

Doesn't this argue against the theory that Saddam Hussein isn't really a threat even if he gets weapons of mass destruction because he can be deterred? The strategy of deterrence is based on the hope that Hussein will act rationally. But we see that even as the threat from the U.S. becomes more imminent, he's stonewalling inspections even more. Either his weapons programs are much farther along than we think, and he's desperate to hide the progress that Iraq has made, or he's irrational. Either way, it doesn't make one sanguine about avoiding war.

Et Tu Brute?

I've argued that the Democratic opposition to Bush is incoherent, and has no real answers of its own. You'd expect me to argue that. But when ardent and loyal Democrats like Frank Rich are saying the same thing, then Democrats should really note their electoral peril.

As soon as President Bush rolled out his new war on Iraq, the Democrats in Washington demanded a debate, and debates they got, all right. There was the debate between Matt Drudge and Barbra Streisand about the provenance of an antiwar quote she recited at a party fund-raiser. There was the debate about whether Jim McDermott, Democratic Congressman from Washington, should have come home from Baghdad before announcing on TV that we can take Saddam Hussein's promises at "face value." There were the debates about why Al Gore took off his wedding ring, why Robert Torricelli took a Rolex, and why Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson took noisy offense at so benign and popular a Hollywood comedy as "Barbershop."

But as for the promised debate about Iraq, it became heated only after Congressional approval of the president's mission was a foregone conclusion. Though the party's leaders finally stepped up, starting with Mr. Gore, most of them seemed less concerned with the direction of the nation in 2002 than with positioning themselves for the White House in 2004 (or '08). They challenged the administration's arrogant and factually disingenuous way of pursuing its goal, then beat a hasty retreat to sign on to whatever fig-leaf language they could get into the final resolution. (Mr. Gore, after his Sept. 23 Iraq speech, dropped the subject altogether.)

Of course, Frank Rich is convinced that the Democrats can win by presenting a different agenda; the Democrats in office clearly are not. It would certainly make the debate more interesting if the Democrats were willing to actually engage in it -- but it wouldn't change the outcome. Perhaps Rich is confused because Jimmy Carter was just honored, but he should think back and remember this: telling Americans what we can't accomplish was not a winning strategy for the peanut farmer, and it isn't a winning formula now. Maybe it will turn out that the so-called hawks are wrong about Iraq -- but at least they offer hope. Rich wants Democrats to tell us that we can't fight Afghanistan and Iraq, that we can't beat Iraq, that we can't make the world a safer place for America. Is it any wonder that they're scared to tell us that?

Religion of peace?

This is scary. The death toll in Indonesia is now up to 118, with a hundred or more injured. I guess I shouldn't be so hasty as to automatically assume that the attacks in Indonesia are Islamic terrorism, but it certainly seems like a plausible explanation.

Combined with a mall explosion in Finland, and the sniper murders in Maryland -- neither of which are necessarily related to Islamic terrorists at all -- and the attack on the French tanker in Yemen, and I really start to get worried about the state of the world now. I wonder if this will convince anybody in the UN, or the Norwegian Nobel committee, that you can't solve every problem by talking about it. Nah.

[Update: the death toll is now up to 182, and given the nature of this attack, I expect it will climb higher; there are hundreds more wounded. Not to be macabre, but with the exception of 9/11, has there been a single terrorist attack of this magnitude before? Oh -- I guess the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. And the Pan Am 103 bombing.]

October 13, 2002

Putting two and two together

After two days of suspense, and announcements of a mysterious "visual aid" to help in the Maryland sniper investigation, the police have now confirmed that a white truck looks pretty much like a white truck.


I don't mean to criticize the investigation itself; I'm sure it must be unbelievably difficult and stressful, given the nature of these attacks. And since I have family in the area, I'm rooting for them to catch this scum as quickly as possible. But how desperate must the investigators be to make a big deal of the fact that they put effort into drawing pictures of trucks? What's next, putting up wanted posters of people with ski masks over their faces after bank robberies?

What's worse is that we also have heard rumors of a white Chevy Astro van with ladders on it, and police haven't ruled out the possibility that it is related to the killings in some way. This doesn't give me much confidence that they know what they're looking for.

Where is John Ashcroft when you need him?

Would it not be a good time to have a serious discussion on a national ballistic fingerprinting program -- "the keeping of an electronic record of the markings that the weapons leave on the bullets or shell casings" -- right now?

It can be well argued that "If we had that fingerprinting [for rifles], that guy wouldn't be free right now."

Ballistic fingerprinting would be able to prevent some future attacks of this nature. The events in Maryland and Virginia have made arguments against it shallow.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Marcia Angell, the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine thinks that we're in a health care crisis. (Of course, Marcia Angell, the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, has been singing this song for a while, which begs the question of what a "crisis" is.) She thinks private competition is wasteful, that wealth should not determine treatment, that government should pay for everyone's health care. But this, to Angell, "is not socialized medicine."

Out of curiosity, I wonder what Angell plans to do with the millions of people currently employed in the insurance industry.

Tell us what you really think

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that Tim Blair doesn't like Robert Fisk, the man who makes moral equivalence his middle name.

October 14, 2002

Hey, Hey, CVS! How much floss did you sell today?

The New York Times has a revealing little anecdote about some professional protesters in New York:

WE shouldn't picket until 6 o'clock," Toby Heilbrunn said Thursday afternoon, cutting short the daily demonstration at the locally loathed CVS drugstore. "We should conserve our energy for tonight."

That night would bring a rally in nearby Kingston against an invasion of Iraq. The threat of war is creating cause congestion for the truly committed. "You don't know which way you're going," Ms. Heilbrunn said. "You run from picketing CVS to the antiwar rally."

Yes, it's such a difficult life. And you risk the ultimate protester faux pas: forgetting which rally you're at. I mean, what if you accidentally show up at the anti-war rally with your "No Justice, No Peace" sign?
Local activists' recent success at stopping a proposed town garage on park property pales against the antiwar task. And who has time to fight the proposed expansion of the local Tibetan monastery? "It's the bigness," one activist explained. Certainly not the Buddhismness.
Maybe they can ask the Taliban for some assistance; I hear they have experience dealing with big Buddhist shrines.
Opposition to CVS grew here, as elsewhere in the region, because the drugstore chain bought the lease of a Grand Union that closed when the chain went bankrupt. It was the only supermarket in a town that already had a chain drugstore. There have been daily protests since CVS opened its store two weeks ago.

OTHERS see a larger issue. A Bard College social studies professor, Joel Kovel, said the building looked much better than it did when Grand Union was there, but he called the CVS a local metastasis of the cancer of "relentless expansion of capitalism."

You mean he's not an economics professor? I'm shocked.
Looking at the CVS on Thursday, he said, derisively, "All this plastic." He hit on a connection between the Iraq invasion (driven by the thirst for oil, he said) and CVS. "If you did a survey of all the products in CVS," he said, "I bet 98 percent of them are petroleum derivatives." Yuck. Even the toothpaste?
And he's not a chemistry professor either? (Actually, in case you were wondering, he's the Alger Hiss Professor of Social Studies at Bard. I'm not making it up. Really.)
John Wonderling, a music producer, headed home in frustration. The CVS was open, the war looking ever more certain. Not a winning season for activists. "The powers that be are the ones pulling all the strings," he said. "You've got to keep going, and eventually us gentler people maybe will be heard."
Hey, John -- we've heard you. We just think you're annoying and stupid. And as an official representative of The Powers That Be, let me tell you that your name is now on The List.

It's the Life Cereal school of modern politics: like Mikey, they hate everything. Hey -- maybe if we told these 60s era-wannabes that Wal-Mart was based in Baghdad, they'd eagerly embrace a bombing campaign.

But it's For The Children

Next time you read a proposal from the Socialist PartyMarcia Angell whining about the "crisis" of the uninsured and the efficiency of the government in solving these problems, be sure to remember this story.

Nothing new

Newsweek magazine reports that the FBI is looking into failed applicants to the Fort Bragg sniper school for possible leads to the identity of the Washington area sniper.

Not to make light of the situation, but to make a point, this forces one to remember a scene from the movie "Full Metal Jacket" (a scene which Roger Ebert has called a "masterpiece"):

Do any of you people know who Charles Whitman was?
None of you dumbasses knows?

Private Cowboy?

Sir, he was that guy who shot all those people
from that tower in Austin, Texas, sir!

That's affirmative. Charles Whitman killed twenty
people from a twenty-eight-storey
observation tower at the
University of Texas
from distances up to four hundred yards.

Anybody know who Lee Harvey Oswald was?

Private Snowball?

Sir, he shot Kennedy, sir!

That's right, and do you know how
far away he was?

Sir, it was pretty far! From that book
suppository building, sir!

All right, knock it off! Two hundred and fifty
feet! He was two hundred and fifty feet away
and shooting at a moving target. Oswald got
off three rounds with an old Italian bolt action
rifle in only six seconds and scored two
hits, including a head shot! Do any of you people
know where these individuals learned to

Private Joker?

Sir, in the Marines, sir!

In the Marines! Outstanding! Those
individuals showed what one motivated
marine and his rifle can do! And before you
ladies leave my island, you will be able to
do the same thing!

One wonders why the FBI is looking for just *failed* applicants.

Also, the scene reminds us that sniper incidents are not new to the United States. In addition to simply catching the sniper (which we all pray will be done soon), affirmative efforts should be taken to make sure this never happens again.

Columbus Day

I'm all for an Italian American holiday. It could be October 4, not far away from the current Columbus Day. Name it for Francis Bernardone, Saint Francis of Assissi who preached purity and peace, served the sick, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. A wonderful, wonderful man, and a patron saint of Italy.

Currently, instead, we have Columbus Day. Columbus's men, under his direction, used Native Americans as dog food. "They would even take Indians from place to place with them -- as dog food -- as a kind of mobile dog food. When they got to where they were going for the night, [they would] allow the dogs to tear one of them apart and eat them." This according to Bartolemy de Las Casas, an acquantiance of Columbus and a European (this history was written by the "winners"). By 1555, sixty years after Columbus first arrived in Haiti, there were no Indians left. From a population of three million to zero. Columbus enslaved Indians, committed genocide against them (neither of these is in dispute), and now we have a holiday named after him.

A holiday named after Saint Francis, like the unofficial one we have for Saint Patrick, would be a good thing. And a much better thing.

October 15, 2002

If only we could trick Al Qaeda into unionizing

Phillip Howard explains why the civil service system is incompatible with homeland security.

For personnel decisions, the civil service rules operate as a kind of legal air bag, allowing a disgruntled worker to force the supervisor to prove the wisdom of an adverse decision, even a negative comment on an evaluation form. The process of dismissing a worker who is incompetent or worse can take years. (The minimum generally is 18 months.) Getting rid of someone who has bad judgment is basically impossible: How would a supervisor prove bad judgment? Last year, according to the Office of Personnel Management, out of an estimated 64,000 federal employees who were designated "poor performers," only 434 were dismissed through these legal hearings: That's seven out of 1,000.

Assigning the best person to a new job is impossible unless you're prepared to prove in a hearing that more-senior personnel aren't up to the task. After Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Customs Service immediately reassigned its best inspectors to better secure our northern border. The union filed a legal proceeding claiming that the reassignments required a nationwide survey of interested civil servants, from which choices should be made on the basis of seniority.

No decision, no matter how important or how trivial, is immune from a legal proceeding alleging that it violates the rights of federal workers. In August, following a directive outlining standard protective measures under each of the homeland security threat levels, the union filed a proceeding to overturn it because it was issued "without first notifying and affording [the union] the opportunity to negotiate." Several years ago a decision that U.S. Border Patrol officers should carry a side-handled club was rejected as not being within their job description.

Imagine being a supervisor in this environment. Do you go through the day thinking about how to stop terrorists, or are you preoccupied with how to negotiate the legal minefield of civil service?

The theory behind the civil service system was to eliminate the spoils system, where people got federal jobs based on political patronage. But that's a red herring; there's no need to eliminate the system for hiring purposes; we can still have (so-called) merit based hiring without having union-controlled day-to-day operations. President Bush may have been impolitic when he accused the Senate of caring more about special interests than about national security, but that doesn't make him wrong. Merely shuffling organizational flowcharts, as Senate Democrats propose, is not going to be sufficient to make a Homeland Security Department effective. The factor most missing from government -- accountability -- is needed.

Three's a crowd

The New York Times editorial board is annoyed because candidates George Pataki and Frank Lautenberg are insisting that debates for the upcoming election include all the candidates on the ballot.

Mr. Pataki and Mr. Lautenberg should get real, and do the voters the courtesy of allowing at least one meaningful face-off between the two major party candidates.
Now, there's some validity to the argument that a debate with six or seven candidates is unwieldy. In a one or two hour period, having that many people speak means that each one is allotted only a short amount of time.

But given the Times' holier-than-thou attitude towards "voter choice" and "democracy," for them to take the stance that the voters should be denied the opportunity to hear from the majority of the candidates on the ballot raises hypocrisy to unprecedented levels. Obviously it is unlikely that any of these candidates will win anything -- but such an upset victory becomes a lot more likely if the Times doesn't treat all the extra candidates like jokes who shouldn't be wasting everyone's time by running. Certainly at least one of the third party candidates in these races, Tom Golisano, has the resources needed to run a competitive election, so there's no excuse for keeping him out of the debate.

Besides, let's get real: these "debates," whether with two or six candidates, are not sacred rites. They're not even debates at all. They're joint press conferences. (And yes, I know they said this on The West Wing last week. But I've been saying it for years.) Each participant gets a minuscule amount of time to respond to a vague question from a media member, and gives a canned reply which doesn't actually address the issues raised. Then the other candidate gives an even shorter pre-crafted "rebuttal" which doesn't address the first candidate's statements. Rinse, lather, repeat. With scripted "spontaneous" jokes thrown in for good measure.

If the Times wants to be constructive, it ought to promote more debates, in a format which demands long, thoughtful answers, in a format in which the moderators can force the participants to actually answer the questions posed. Otherwise, what's the point?

October 16, 2002

If you say so

Can anybody explain to me why Maureen Dowd has a job? Has anybody ever used more words to say so little? If a picture is worth a thousand words, can't the Times just publish a picture of Dowd sneering? They can recycle it weekly.

Planning the day after

"If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Husein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundementalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?"

- Dick Cheney, quoted in the New York Times, April 13, 1991

October 17, 2002

Blackmail payments just don't go that far these days

Here's a shocker: authoritarian states can't be trusted. North Korea has acknowledged that it still has a nuclear program, in violation of a 1994 agreement it had reached with the United States.

North Korea's surprise revelation came 12 days ago in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, after a senior American diplomat confronted his North Korean counterparts with American intelligence data suggesting a secret project was under way. At first, the North Korean officials denied the allegation, according to an American official who was present.

The next day they acknowledged the nuclear program and according to one American official, said ``they have more powerful things as well.'' American officials have interpreted that cryptic comment as an acknowledgment that North Korea possesses other weapons of mass destruction.

Damn, what was Bush thinking, calling such an honest, peaceloving country part of an Axis of Evil?
American officials used the past dozen days to formulate a common response. At a press conference in South Korea on Thursday morning, local time, Lee Tae Sik, deputy minister for foreign affairs, urged North Korea to abide by a series of agreements it now clearly violates: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the 1994 agreement, and a ``joint declaration'' signed with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free.
Whoda thunk that a country -- other than the evil United States -- might violate a treaty or three? I bet we don't hear many accusations of North Korean "unilateralism" from our "sophisticated" European allies. And I doubt many multilateralists will get a clue that words on paper don't prevent criminals from committing crimes.

The United States confronted North Korea in the early 1990s, and some thought that we were close to war over the issue. Guess which recent Nobel Prize winner got credit for "solving" this problem? Hint: he grew peanuts. I wonder whether his bio will be revised to reflect these new developments.

Greatly exaggerated rumors

It's amazing what you can find on the web. If, during your surfing, you too come across this page, like I did today, be rest assured that I'm alive and well.

Here we go again

I often go to sleep listening to the BBC in Bengali. I like it because it kills two birds with one stone: it's the world news and it helps me keep up with my Bengali.

Tonight, I was listening, and I heard something that made me jump up. I'll link it here, but unless you know the language, you'll have to find someone who speaks it to translate it for you (which might not be that hard as you think; Bengali is the 4th most spoken language in the world, outpacing French and German, combined).

In the piece, the BBC interviews a person who quite seriously claims that the American government planned and planted the Bali bomb, and this can be proven by how few Americans died in the blast. From what I've read, this sentiment has not made it out of Asia yet, however, I'm sure this belief will resonate in some parts of the world (and, to a lesser degree, in this country -- witness Amiri Baraka). Let's hope this one dies a quick death and those who actually did it are found and brought to justice, or have justice brought to them, soon.

Returning to California

Commenting on the recent admission by an Enron official of price-manipulation in California, Brad Delong remarks that "people who said that the California energy crisis was due not to market manipulation but just to excessive pro-Green government policies seem to be very quiet these days."

Who are these people, anyway?

George W. Bush? Who said: "The problems in California shows [sic] that you cannot conserve your way to energy independence," quoted in the New York Times, May 29, 2001.

Dick Cheney?, who in attempting to blame Gray Davis for the entire mess said on Meet the Press on May 20, 2001; "They've bankrupted the biggest utility in the state, destroyed the state's credit rating and squandered a significant portion of the state's financial surplus in a harebrained scheme to try to use the state to purchase power.... They knew over a year ago they had a problem, and Gray Davis refused to address that problem. [They] kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, with the notion that somehow price caps could be maintained. Now, today, where are they in California? Well, rates are having to go up. The PUC just had to increase the rates themselves in California. They've got rolling blackouts, they've had some already. They'll have them across the state this summer."

Dick Cheney?, who called accusations that price-gouging was being allowed, "goofy," quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, June 5, 2001.

Perhaps it's time for an apology.

October 18, 2002

Never again. Maybe.

Glenn Reynolds discusses the issue of genocide in the post World War Two world, noting that Cambodia, the Congo, and Rwanda have all experienced the phenomenon we supposedly abolished after the Holocaust, despite their signatures on international agreements. The so-called "international community" failed to intervene when the crimes were happening, and was ineffective in punishing those responsible after the fact.

Glenn suggests an alternate theory for preventing genocide: arm the public.

The result, conclude law professor Daniel Polsby and criminologist Don Kates, is that "a connection exists between the restrictiveness of a country's civilian weapons policy and its liability to commit genocide."

Armed citizens, they argue, are far less likely to be massacred than defenseless ones, and armed resistance to genocide is more likely to receive outside aid. It is probably no accident that the better-armed resistance to genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo drew international intervention, while the hapless Rwandans and Cambodians did not. When victims resist, what is merely cause for horror becomes cause for alarm, and those who are afraid of the conflict’s spread will support (as Europe did) intervention out of self-interest when they could not be bothered to intervene out of compassion.

It is no wonder that genocide is so often preceded by efforts to disarm the people.

But while Glenn cites Bosnia as a counterexample, what he fails to mention, which makes the argument even more horribly ironic, is that the international community's response to the Serbian assault on Bosnia was to impose an international arms embargo on the area. Not only did the United Nations fail to defend Bosnians against Serbian attacks; the UN tried to prevent Bosnians from defending themselves. The Serbs, of course, had no trouble getting weapons, since they were backed by the already-armed Yugoslavia.

This approach is nothing new; as Britain pulled out of Palestine and Israel prepared to declare independence, as Arab countries prepared to attack Israel, the United States and Britain responded by imposing an arms embargo on the region. The Arabs were backed by armed Arab states, while Jews had only what they could smuggle.

It should come as no surprise to anyone; the "international community" is made up of governments, not people. And governments protect other governments; they don't protect individuals. Individuals who defend themselves are just so... inconvenient.

October 21, 2002

Three people can keep a secret... if two are dead

The New York Times is really desperate to squelch the story of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta's meeting with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. (So much so that they provide two stories about the topic, including one discussing the oh-so-fascinating world of bureaucratic infighting in the Czech government, along with stories of gay British spies.) Still, in neither article does the Times say anything substantive about the actual issue, of the meeting involving Atta.

The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington, according to Czech officials.
Despite the Times' attempt to sell this as a refutation of the story, all it actually says is that they can't confirm the story, because it is "based on the statements of a single informant." Well, I can tell the difference between "can't prove" and "didn't happen."

I wonder what Times columnist William Safire is going to say about this article, given his insistence that the story of the meeting is true. (He has an unrelated column in today's paper, so I guess we'll have to wait until Thursday to find out.) The article itself quietly avoids naming Safire, saying only that "the Prague meeting has remained a live issue with other proponents of military action against Iraq, both in and out of the government."

Sticks and stones...

As we all know by now, beating Robert Fisk over the head is perfectly acceptable to him, as long as the attackers are Muslim. (Well, that's his prerogative -- but he also endorses the beating of "any other Westerner" by Muslims, which seems slightly presumptuous.) From that, you'd think he had a thick skin to go along with his thick skull. But apparently not, because criticizing Fisk and his ilk is completely intolerable:

The all-purpose slander of "anti-Semitism" is now used with ever-increasing promiscuity against anyone – people who condemn the wickedness of Palestinian suicide bombings every bit as much as they do the cruelty of Israel's repeated killing of children – in an attempt to shut them up.

Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer of the Middle East Forum now run a website in the United States to denounce academics who are deemed to have shown "hatred of Israel". One of the eight professors already on this contemptible McCarthyite list – it is grotesquely called "Campus Watch" – committed the unpardonable sin of signing a petition in support of the Palestinian scholar Edward Said. Pipes wants students to inform on professors who are guilty of "campus anti-Semitism".

And he quotes Said, approvingly:
Mr Said himself has already described all this as a campaign "to ask students and faculty to inform against pro-Palestinian colleagues, intimidating the right of free speech and seriously curtailing academic freedom".
In other words, letting people know what a professor is saying "intimidates" him and "curtails" his freedom.

On the other hand, hitting them with rocks is fine.


2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things. (In F. ironie du sort.)


The Newsweek cover story promoting and containing excerpts from Kurt Cobain's diary.

One diary entry included in the Newsweek piece reads: "The most violating thing ive felt this year is not the media exxagerations or the catty gossip, but the rape of my personal thoughts. Ripped out of pages from my stay in hospitals and aeroplane rides hotel stays etc. I feel compelled to say f—k you F—k you to those of you who have absolutely no regard for me as a person." Ironic it no doubt is. Shameful, it isn't; I fear for the people involved, there is no shame to be felt when there is money to be made.

October 22, 2002

Movie reviewed by Enron

One has to wonder whether David Demby was being serious in his New Yorker review of Michael Moore's new movie, "Bowling for Columbine." The review was outstandingly poor. It's easy to disagree with Michael Moore, but I can't imagine it's easy to write such a sloppy review.

While discussing Moore's first movie, "Roger & Me," Demby writes: "Moore refused to see GM's big picture; he was outraged by the little picture—by the ruined city, with its desolate streets and impoverished workers scrounging around to make a living." One has to believe that, if he actually saw the movie (and I assume that he did), that he would have realized that this was the point of the "Roger & Me" -- the devil is in the details. Corporations may make decisions which are justified by their "big picture," but sometimes they have horrible effects -- effects which, in a humane and democratic country, should have been taken into account by the company.

Demby accuses Moore of the following: "he thinks powerful people should take responsibility for the troubles that their decisions lead to," which forces one to ask: does Demby not believe this? That powerful people should not take responsibility for their decisions?

Demby says the movie becomes "an absurdist portrait... of America as a paranoid nation." Yet, Demby does not reveal why it's absurd. In a responsible debate, you can't just disagree with your opponent, or just call his position names (like absurd), but you are required to state why. Moore did his part to further the debate. His movie isn't and shouldn't be the final word on its subjects. Demby refuses to engage the debate. He just wants to call the movie names.

Demby contributes the following analysis: "Moore traces our anxiety to guilt over slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans." I've seen the movie, too, and remember the part that covered slavery and Native Americans. Yet, Moore hardly "traces our anxiety" to it; his point was simply that Americans have owned and employed guns for a long time. Putting words in someone's mouth is easy but crass.

Near the close of the review, we read the following statement: "Moore's satirical scattershot method offers no way of distinguishing between real and pathological terrors." Again, this was Moore's point. American are terrified -- terrified by the local news, terrified by the shootings at Columbine, terrified by the government telling them that terror strikes are likely this upcoming weekend and when none comes that it will likely come next weekend. It's the fear that Moore was exploring, not whether the fear was justified or not (or, in Demby's words, real or pathological). This message wasn't subtle; it was obvious throughout the work. It's surprizing that Demby did not realize this. Actually, it's not surprizing.

October 24, 2002


A bunch of bloggers are disappointed that, while reporting today's events in the Washington sniper story, MSNBC originally couldn't find Alabama on an unmarked US map. It'd be easy to condemn MSNBC, or the US educational system, or the East Coast/West Coast elitism of American education and American media. Easy and unfair.

This is the same news organization, who, in 1998 after Tara Lipinski won the women's figure skating gold medal at the Olympics defeating Michelle Kwan, led with the headline: "American beats out Kwan." (Hint: the problem with this headline is that Michelle was born, raised, lives in the USA and is as American as apple pie and Mu Shu Pork).

I say, let's not be too hard on MSNBC. If they can't figure out that Americans are American, it's probably too much to expect that they know the rudiments of American geography.

October 26, 2002

One man's terrorist is another man's arsonist

Maybe I shouldn't be so paranoid about Reuters' refusal to properly label Islamic homicide bombers as terrorists. Maybe it really isn't personal:

A dozen animal rights activists have been indicted for stalking an insurance company executive, calling him a "puppy killer" and threatening to burn down his house, prosecutors said today.
You know, a little chanting, some letters to the editor, and a few little threats to burn down a house. The basic tools of "activism."

October 27, 2002

Bipartisanship, liberal media style

Not intending this to be a shot at Paul Wellstone, I note this example of the mindset of the media, from a Washington Post editorial eulogizing the senator:

Held up as the very model of a liberal Democrat, he nonetheless worked across the aisle on issues he believed in. He formed a lasting alliance with Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico to battle for expanded insurance coverage for mental illnesses. With Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) he championed an important piece of human rights legislation, trying to curb international trafficking of women.
So Wellstone and Domenici fought for intrusive federal regulation of the insurance industry, but this represents Wellstone "work[ing] across the aisle."

I'm reminded of the aftermath of the 2000 election, when various editorial boards urged newly-elected President Bush to "prove" his rhetoric about being a "uniter, not a divider" by not fighting for any of his campaign proposals. For some reason, the media defines "bipartisan compromise" as "Everybody agreeing to settle on the Democratic position."

October 28, 2002

Don't worry; there are more where he came from

How well do you think it would go over if a Republican candidate publicly told his supporters that the death of Senator Wellstone opened up new opportunities for the Republican party? I think there'd be a huge uproar, no?

So how come senate candidate Frank Lautenberg can get away with this:

A day after United States Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash, Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey's Democratic candidate, said that the best way for Mr. Wellstone's political admirers to honor his memory was to ensure that the Democrats retain control of the Senate.


But with the Democrats holding a single-seat margin in the Senate, and Mr. Wellstone's seat now in serious jeopardy, Mr. Lautenberg said the tragedy made it even more important for Democrats across the country to support candidates like himself, who share Mr. Wellstone's political beliefs.

"This certainly poses a burden on us," said Mr. Lautenberg, who is leading Douglas R. Forrester, the Republican, in most public opinion polls. "All of the seats under contest have to go Democratic to protect the interests he had. I hope to be part of that group."

I know that political reality has to intrude eventually, but Lautenberg waited all of one day before he decided to exploit the death for his own political ends. This is a man who refuses to debate his opponent, who then has the audacity to claim that Forrester isn't addressing issues. And then he uses as his own "issue" that people should vote for him because a dead guy needs to be replaced so that Democrats can retain control of a house of Congress.

The good news for Lautenberg is that, with Walter Mondale looking like the likely Democratic substitute candidate in Minnesota, Lautenberg will no longer be the most washed-up-hasn't-had-a-good-idea-in-two-decades Senate candidate in the country. (Though Lautenberg, believe it or not, is several years older than Mondale, who last was in office twenty-two years ago.)

October 29, 2002

Glenn Reynolds is a hoot!

The Instapundit has posted the following on his site. From reading what he has written, one has no choice but to believe the following: (1) if we were to qualitify their emotions, that President Clinton and Vice-President Mondale are feeling a lot less grief over Senator Wellstone's death than the Instapundit, and (2) in fact, President Clinton and Vice-President Mondale aren't feeling any grief at all... the picture, just one moment from a hours long ceremony and at the close of a week of coming to terms with the catastrophic news, illustrates their true feelings... they are immoral heartless Democrats who find this time a good one to yuck it up.

Even if Reynolds meant his post as a joke (and, for the life of me, I can't figure out what the joke would be), it seems to me, at least, that Reynolds was out of line.

Mazumdars in the house

Jay Mazumdar (yeah, we're related [my grandfather and his great-grandfather were brothers]) has an excellent post on his blog on Andrew Sullivan's call for all of us to "connect the dots" concerning John Allen Muhammad. Mazumdar points out, that, as of the data we have now, Sullivan seems to be reaching.

Speaking of Mazumdars, Jay's brother and fellow lawyer (I'm not a lawyer; the two of them are), Anandashankar Mazumdar has just started a blog (everybody is doing it.) I can't condone his liking Enterprise or Trading Spaces, but his post on Digital Rights Management is a must read for those interested in intellectual property rights and internet file sharing.

The three of us grew up hundreds of miles away from each other, like different baseball teams (me: the Pittsburgh Pirates, them: the Cincinnati Reds), with different parents (of course), and different lives (one of us is married with children -- and it's the youngest of the three!) yet we all grew up into unapologetic bleeding-heart-Wellstone-loving liberals. Isn't America great?

Why compound it by voting for this misguided relic

Concerning Walter Mondale, Andrew Sullivan asks us "Wellstone's death is indeed a tragedy. But why compound it by voting for this misguided relic?" Because, Mr. Sullivan, the people of Minnesota are not voting for the President, they're voting for a Senator. The Senate is a place where institutional memory counts for something, and, after all, they're not voting for Stom Thurmond., an actual misguided relic.

Misguided, Andrew Sullivan may believe his past was, but Mondale cut his teeth at the knee of Hubert Humphrey, the man who couragously spoke up at the on July 14, 1948 at the Democratic National Convention which led to Thurmond and his Dixiecrats breaking away. Even though his compromise pleased no one, Mondale, as a young man, was charged at the 1964 Democratic convention to find a compromise with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the leadership of the national party. With his mentor, Humphrey, Mondale was a champion of what the Democratic party once stood for and what Wellstone believed it could be again. Mondale won't be leading the party in 2004, but over the next six years he could remind the party that what is required for a victory in 2004 -- he can be a bridge between the party's glorious past and Wellstone's tragically abreviated potential -- and show that the party needs a grassroots coalition of working-class whites, African Americans, Latinos, and youth. Those people who galvanized the party in the 1960s and those who President Clinton resonated with so clearly in the 1990s.

Grassroots. Whites. African Americans. Latinos. Youth. (And, I'll add Asian Americans.) This is what Wellstone was. This is what Mondale still is. A grand coaltion which includes everybody. I think it's something worth voting for in 2002. I also think it'll be something worth voting for in 2004.

October 30, 2002

Where was President Bush?

Why didn't President Bush go to tonight's ceremony for the late Senator Paul Wellstone?

Media Whores Online has its take on it. I can imagine three posibilities: (1) Wellstone voted against some of President George W. Bush's initiatives and the President still holds it against him; (2) Wellstone voted against some of President George H.W. Bush's initiatives and the current President holds it against him; (3) a trip to Minnesota would mean curtailing the President's current campaigning for Republican candidates [there's no money to be raised at a tribute]. And, yeah, Media Whores is correct -- when Ari Fletcher said "If you take a look at the historical record of when a sitting senator dies in office, no the President will not go. This has not been the past pattern. We will send an appropriate official," he wasn't telling the truth.

Going to an event like this, even if its someone who voted against you or your father, is Presidential. And, on top of that, it's the right thing to do. It unites (remember the campaign slogan: I'm a uniter not a divider?). None of the three reasons I can imagine for Bush not going are Presidential. Are there any other possible reasons? Was he busy tonight? Is he trying to get his job approval ratings to go ever farther down? (Currently 60 percent, 66 percent two weeks ago, 69 percent in August.)

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

So now the hatemongers over at Media Whores Online are targetting President Bush for not attending Senator Wellstone's funeral? Isn't the fact that the Wellstones already snubbed Dick Cheney when he was going to attend just a little inconvenient for this argument?

A Democrat involved with planning the service at the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena here said the family did not want the event overwhelmed by the additional security, logistical challenges and potential protesters that would accompany the vice president.
Just a guess, but I don't think the logistics would be any easier if the president appeared.

Besides, somehow I don't think the Bush-haters really wanted the president at the funeral, anyway. If he appeared, they'd attack him for drawing attention to himself at a somber event.

You know more

Cnn.com reports that millions of American parents lack confidence concerning their ability to raise their children. Being childless (and wifeless, for that matter) myself, I'm probably in no position to give advice on the matter. But, I can't help remembering the first line from Dr. Benjamin Spock's great book, Baby and Child Care: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."

Bowling for Columbine II

If you haven't yet, go see Bowling for Columbine. Theaters and showtimes can be found here.

If my recomendation isn't enough, read my old friend's James Owens's review of the movie at his website, filmsnobs.com. It's a good website, it's an excellent review, and, even though it had a few things I didn't agree with, it's a great movie.

Kudos to Kahn

A lot of bloggers are complaining about Rick Kahn's eulogy's to Senator Paul Wellstone. Well, I listened to it (you can too). To be perfectly frank, it's pretty great. It's difficult to understand why Republicans are so up in arms about it. (A eulogy to a politician that talks about what that politician believed in and encouraging those in the audience not to let the politician to have died in vain but to keep on fighting for his cause? No, say it ain't so!).

No, I don't think that Andrew Sullivan and the Instapundit and the pissed-off Republicans and Jesse Ventura are angry at Kahn's speech. They're angry at the crowd and its response.

Media Whores Online is correct. Sullivan and Reynolds and the Republicans who are angry (not all of them are; Tommy Thompson, the President's representative was okay with it all) know very well that the crowds at their memorials will not react like the crowd at Wellstone's memorial. At their memorials, no one will be talking about how they worked to better everyone's life. Their memorials won't be held in basketball arenas. Their memorials won't turn thousands of people away because there just wasn't room. Their lives haven't affected that many people that they would cheer uproarously in their memory. No one will be cheering at their nobility. No one will wait in line just to get in. It's a shame, too. Powerful people have the opportunity to affect people's lives like Wellstone did. The shame is that more people who have the opportunity don't do it.

Maybe they're more than angry. Maybe they're also jealous. Perhaps they're also a bit scared.

(And, whatever, lots of people are quoting Kahn's speech... one part of it... when he turned to the Republicans in the audience and said "We can redeem the sacrifice of his life if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone." These people share Will Slaten line when he says that, "Somewhere, Wellstone must be turning on his cross." Go listen to Kahn yourself. The bit is about at the 15:00 minute mark. It's not as odious as it seems when taken in context. Kahn was talking about non-partisanship -- Wellstone's non-partisanship -- and that for the last week of the campaign, we all should win this election for Wellstone: win the election for non-partisanship. Listen for yourself. And, of course, listen to the crowd.)

October 31, 2002

The best remedy for speech is shutting people up

Speaking of Senator Wellstone, I happened to run across an article on Mickey Kaus' blog which discussed an ad campaign being planned in Minnesota. Of course, with the tragedy that took Senator Wellstone's life, the specifics are no longer relevant, but the Wellstone mindset is still important to understand.

Americans for Job Security, a Virginia-based interest group that opposes the reelection of Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, has made an unprecedented $1 million ad buy that will fill the airwaves in the last two weeks before the election, according to Wellstone campaign officials.

Campaign manager Jeff Blodgett said the buy is so large that it may equal what Wellstone and Republican rival Norm Coleman and the two state parties each are expected to spend on media in the closing weeks.
Blodgett said his biggest concern is that no one knows who funds the mysterious group, which has found a legal loophole that apparently allows it to keep its donors secret.

"In a state with a reputation for clean, transparent campaigns, this is an outrage, that a group can come in and spend this kind of money and no one knows who their donors are," Blodgett said at a Tuesday morning news conference. "We demand to know. We ask Norm Coleman to join us in this."

This was a particular obsession for Wellstone, who authored the "Wellstone Amendment" to McCain-Feingold, aimed at protecting incumbents by preventing groups from running ads against candidates.

With all the talk of the glorious liberal Paul Wellstone standing up for people's rights, his final legacy was censorship.

About October 2002

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in October 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2002 is the previous archive.

November 2002 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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