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November 2002 Archives

November 3, 2002

There's a word for it... it starts with "hyp..."

After Trent Lott was booed at the Wellstone memorial, blame was cast upon the organizers of the event and their motives.

When Hillary Clinton was booed at a 9/11 function, blame was cast upon the Senator, herself. The heckers did nothing wrong. For verification, look here, here, here, or here.

Which is it going to be? You can't pretend to be on a moral high-road -- stake a claim for class and decorum and values -- only when it's personally beneficial. Either both booings were wrong or neither of them were (I say both). There's a word for that. But, I suppose that talking down the Wellstone memorial will get votes for Coleman, and that's all that matters.

(Thanks again to media whores and Jay Mazumdar.)

It's still the Golden Door

Concerning the Haitian refugees who recently came ashore in Flordia, Kathleen Park writes that "America cannot house, feed, clothe and educate every unhappy human being from every crummy country or America will sink."

I don't know if this is true, and, for that matter, I don't think that every poor person in the world is planning to come to the United States. But, if we take Park's statement as being true, let's end the hypocrisy.

To be true and consistent, all those who advocate sending the Haitians back to Haiti should also be advocating the following be removed from the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

You can't have it both ways. Either we're the United States -- the country of immigrants, the country of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the land of the tempest-tost -- or we're not.

Did I miss something?

Mickey Kaus brings us this gem in his lastest blog entry: "If [Gary Hart had] just been a blatant, leering cheater, like Clinton -- well, that's a type we know and can deal with. But he wasn't -- which is why the fact that he's still married to his wife Lee, rather than cleansing him of the taint of the Donna Rice scandal, somehow makes him seem creepier. Why couldn't he get divorced like a normal politician?"

Mickey... I gotta tell you... you may call him a "blatant, leering cheater" (whatever), but your comparison by difference just doesn't work. President Clinton is still married.

And, I should add, for all I know, and for all you know Mickey, and for all the people reading this know, President and Senator Clinton are very happily married.

November 4, 2002


Google.com has a new fun element... "googlisms." Basically, you search someone's name, the google spider looks for it and the computer tells you what, from the web-pages out there, what that person is like. To see what blogger Brad Delong's googism is, check out here. To test it, I checked under my old friend/boss/guru Robert Hemenway, the current Chancellor of the University of Kansas; googlism finds the following:

robert hemenway is the sixteenth chancellor of the university of kansas
robert hemenway is quoted in the october 23
robert hemenway is back at work while recuperating from surgery to have his prostate removed
robert hemenway is sponsoring the wheat state whirlwind faculty tour of kansas
robert hemenway is the host of the reception
robert hemenway is a perfect example
robert hemenway is part of the council
robert hemenway is expected to make a decision in the next month about whether or not to continue allowing alcohol at tailgate parties at memorial
robert hemenway is wrong when he says "tea cake accepts janie as an equal"
robert hemenway is taking steps to ensure that ku's new athletics director will have a comprehensive study of
robert hemenway is on the side of tradition

Okay, so far, so good, it all makes sense. That's what I'd expect to find for Bob Hemenway. I don't know what "tea cake accepts janie as an equal," but, whatever.

If we check out the host of this page and my blog partner, David Nieporent, we get:

david nieporent is one of the most prolific posters to the rec
david nieporent is an extremely dedicated fan
david nieporent is the nom de plume of syd thrift
david nieporent is right that almost all baseball players have a solid work ethic and good "intangibles" in general

Okay, still good. Daivd may disagree, but from what I know, there's no problem; he's a baseball fan and googlism reflects that. I think the Syd Thrift one refers to a tongue-in-cheek comment David must have written sometime back about the baseball executive (although, the truth be known, I'm kinda a fan of Thrift... I think he did a great job when he was the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1980s... yet another thing David and I disagree on, I suppose.)

The problem comes when you googlism me. Googlism produces just one line:

partha mazumdar is said to have also suffered a bullet injury on his leg.

Huh? Bullet injury? Leg? What's it talking about?

November 5, 2002

You don't suppose

Just wondering... if President Clinton would have ordered a missile strike the day before a mid-term election, do you suppose that he would have been accused of wagging the dog?

I'm not saying that President Bush did what he did solely to influence today's election. Just that, if President Clinton would have done the exact same thing, Bill McCollum, Ed Bryant, James E. Rogan, Steve Buyer, Steve Chabot, Bob Barr, Charles T. Canady, Lindsey O. Graham, Chris Cannon, George W. Gekas, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Henry J. Hyde, and Asa Hutchinson would have been all over the airwaves accusing him of everything, including stealing the kitchen sink.

At least there is one positive thing we can take from the list is that the 10 impeachment managers quickly disappearing from the American political scene. Hopefully some more will disappear today.

November 6, 2002

girls club

I'd like to point you to Kathy Newman's excellent column about David Kelley's recent (and recently cancelled) television show, "girls club" (I don't know why, but lower-case is how you're supposed to write it). Newman sees what other critics were unable or unwilling to -- that "Kelley does not really care about the law, nor is he a 'feminist.' He doesn’t have to be. But he is still one of the only TV writers out there who is writing ABOUT sex, and not merely using legs and sexy haircuts to get ratings.... girls club should not be seen as Kelley’s latest misstep. Rather, David Kelley is finally playing with the grown-ups, and it’s a huge relief."

Newman does get one thing wrong, though, when she wrote: "[Kelly's] law shows are not really about law at all. They never were. They are about relationships -- sexual ones -- and the ways in which these relationships can be made to play out in the context of a system with rules and regulations."

I've never seen any of Kelley's shows other than Ally McBeal (of which I was a dedicated viewer), and I don't think the show was about relationships at all. Quite the opposite, it was a show about being alone. Episode after episode closed with a shot of Ally sitting at her office desk or in her apartment by herself and cut to a wide cityscape of Boston and all the buildings within which lived millions of people, none of whom Ally was with. It was a show about how a single professional woman negotiated her loneliness.

Ally jumped the shark (as it were) when David Kelley began believing the press about the show being about relationships, the characters's querkiness, and the post-feminist idelogical position the show supposedly a trail-blazer of. Subsequently, Kelley made those the show's focus. No longer was the viewer treated (and it was a genuine treat) which we saw at the close of an early episode -- a shot of Ally kissing an an imaginary unicorn -- a unicorn that she dreamed about during her childhood and currently was dreaming about (and believing in) again. No, we got that annoying John Cage singing in some Mexican barbershop quartet. The generation x fans who flocked to Ally because her loneliness was real because it resonated with their own lives ran away from these later episodes like they were at a Perry Cumo concert. The show, which was once the jewel of generation x appointment television viewing, couldn't have been cancelled quickly enough.

We were left with with the vacuousness of that unbelievable utopian Friends world where not only everybody knows our names but there's no smoke and our favorite sofa is always empty.

For What It's Worth

For what it's worth, everybody I voted for today won -- including Mayor Ed Rendell and Congressman Robert Brady.

Is it too early to propose Rendell for the 2004 Democratic ticket? Straight-talking, intelligent, proven, and an unapologetic Democrat. He's exactly what the party needs.

And, he's a Penn alum to boot. With him, how can the party go wrong? (I'm just hoping, for his own piece of mind, that his new gubenatorial responsibilities won't keep from attending the Palestra. It's going to be a great year.)

Sullivan on Kansas

Andrew Sullivan writes today that: "RIORDAN WOULD HAVE WON: Can anyone doubt that now? Bush would have a friendly governor in California in 2004 if the California Republican party hadn't allowed itself to become captive to the hard right. The Dems are not the only people to learn lessons from last night. The Republicans need to internalize the fact that religious right conservatism, especially in places like California, is poison."

I don't know what he meant by "especially in California." The Republicans lost the Kansas governorship, too. Kansas forpetessake. Kathleen Sebelius becomes the first Democrat to win an open gubenatorial race in the Sunflower state in 65 years (eight years ago, she became the first Democratic Insurance Commissioner in over 100 years). Kansans, even in rural areas, voted for Sebelius over the hard right Tim Shallenburger. If a Republican can't win a state-wide race in Kansas, there must be something wrong with that Republican and there was with Shallenburger. Moving to the far right is bad no matter where you are -- California or Kansas (or Oklahoma where Steve Largent also lost his bid for governor). For their sakes, I hope the Republicans don't repeat what they did after their victory in 1994 and take the midterm election as an excuse to press a far right agenda.

Free Wynona

A good topic for an American Studies master's thesis would be to compare and contrast the press coverage of the Winona Ryder trial and the Fatty Arbuckle trials. What Arbuckle was accused of was much much more serious (rape and manslaughter); Hollywood was bigger back in Arbuckle's day; however, I'd bet that Ryder's case received more media attention (and Arbuckle's received a lot).

A lot of people made a lot of money and made their careers destroying Arbuckle. I wonder why so much was made out of Ryder's case, both by the Los Angeles District Attorney and by the Hollywood media? She's a famous actress, I understand, but she's not that famous. She's hardly a Julia Roberts or a even a Drew Barrymore. (If you disagree with me, name a big hit that she's been in. Or a great movie which she was the star of.)

The bottom line is the great national nightmare is now over. And if Ms. Ryder (or, Ms. Horowitz, if she does not go by her stage name in real life) needs someone to cheer her up, she's welcome to give me a call.

November 12, 2002

ESPN College Gameday

One thing history students constantly complain about is dates -- why do they have to memorize so many dates. (Answer: because it's important to know when things happened.)

I'm going to give you two dates:

1939: The last time an Ivy League college won a football national championship. (It was Cornell's brilliant 8-0 team).

1993: The year ESPN's College Football Gameday program began broadcasting their show from outside of the stadium of the biggest college football game being played that week. As of last year (I couldn't find the most recent numbers), they've made over 120 trips to 33 cities. They've gone to all the places you'd expect: Gainesville seven times, Ann Arbor and South Bend six times, Miami and Lincoln five times, and Knoxville four times.

This Saturday, the ESPN Gameday crew is going to broadcast from outside of Philadelphia's Franklin Field and feature the Harvard - Pennsylvania game; a first for the Ivy league, a first for Division I-AA, a first for many categories. I don't think that ESPN is caught in some kind of a timewarp and believe that Hamilton Fish is going to be lining up against John Heisman and John Outland, but they still chose this game to broadcast. I don't think this piece of information has any sort of grand international significance, but it's just facinating. And, it'll be fun to watch (but I can't decide what will be more fun: going to the game or watching it on tv.)

Where are they registered?

In the discussion of Ari Fleischer's recent wedding, few seemed thoughtful enough to ask: where is the couple registered? The answer is, at Target (Mark Dayton, heir to the Target fortune and Democratic Senator from Minnesota must be happy about this) and at Macy's. You can buy the happy couple a gift at either place and it'll be shipped to them. Congratulations to both.

November 13, 2002

Is he serious?

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit has lost his marbles. Today he wrote that Creedence Clearwater Revival was "the greatest -- and most thoroughly American -- American rock and roll band." "Fortunate Son" is a great song and all, but let's be serious. Is there anybody out there who would rather have CCR's new boxed set over a copy of the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds"? Or would rather have seen CCR in concert than, say, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? Or the Jimi Hendrix Experience? Or Nirvana? The Jackson Five? The Ramones? R.E.M? All these bands are American, and they're all just great.

What's the greatest and the most thoroughly American rock and roll band? If I had to name one, I'd take any from the list I just gave over CCR, but I probably would have to go with The Funk Brothers. Who are they, you ask? They're the "best kept secret in the history of pop music." Hopefully, though, not for long.

November 15, 2002

I'm back?

I've been away for a little while, first because of a trip and more recently because of DSL annoynances, not to mention being a little busy. Hopefully I'll be back regularly now.

Good news and bad news

I'm a sucker for those TV movies about innocent men wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit -- a promotional slogan I love, by the way. Are there innocent men rightly convicted?

Anyway, because of that, and because of my general libertarian distrust of government, I love the stories of DNA evidence being used to free innocent people from prison. The New York Times carried a story of this happening in Minnesota recently. A convicted rapist was exonerated after DNA evidence proved another had committed the crime. Reading further, though, tempered my excitement just a bit:

The man convicted of the rape, David Brian Sutherlin, is serving a life sentence for a double murder committed while he was out on bail on the rape charge. Prosecutors expect the lifting of the rape conviction to ease his path to parole, for which he became eligible this year.
Okay. So he didn't rape anybody; he just killed two people. While out on bail for the rape. Is this really the best use of government resources? To find out that a double murderer-rapist might "only" be guilty of double murder?

November 17, 2002

Do as I say, not as I say

Al Gore came come out of hiding the other day to begin laying the framework for a 2004 presidential campaign. He had to start, of course, by whining about the last election.

In his first interviews since conceding the presidency to George W. Bush almost two years ago, former vice president Al Gore calls the outcome of the 2000 election "a crushing disappointment" and criticizes the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that put Bush in the White House as "completely inconsistent" with the court's conservative philosophy.
Yes, but doesn't Gore strongly dislike the court's "conservative philosophy"? Doesn't he want the Court to act inconsistently with that?

Of course he does. So if his assessment of the decision was valid, where does that leave his argument, exactly? "The Supreme Court should make activist/liberal decisions, except if these decisions keep me out of office, in which case they should be consistently conservative." Or something like that. Is there any wonder that he lost an election he should have won by ten million votes?

November 18, 2002

You'd have done the same thing?

If you twisted my arm when you asked me, I'd agree with Glenn Reynolds' point about double standards for the right and left. He argues that the left can get away with a form of political statement that the right would be crucified for; if they do get called on it, labelling it "satire" seems to be sufficient to exonerate them.

And yet, his argument troubles me greatly. (Which doesn't mean I've never engaged in a similar one, of course.) Why? Because these sorts of hypotheticals can be twisted as far as one wants to take them. Republicans shouldn't criticize Gore over his Florida recount antics, because Bush would have done the same if he had lost. The left shouldn't insult the right, because the right "would" be criticized if it insulted the right. The GOP shouldn't investigate the president, because Democrats would be criticized if they did the same. Etc. Etc. Or the most extreme case I ever saw: you shouldn't condemn the South for their defense of slavery, because if Northerners had owned slaves, they would have acted the same way. Huh?

These sorts of arguments aren't falsifiable; anybody can claim anything about what "would" happen, without fear of contradiction. Nobody can prove how Bush would have handled Florida had the situations been reversed. Not only are these arguments unprovable, but they don't really advance the debate. We should stick to arguments about whether behavior is right or wrong, not on whether one side could get away with it. Gore was wrong about Florida because he tried to get the law changed, not because Bush would have been savaged by the media (though he would have been) had the situations been reversed. Generally, we should be less interested in discussing hypothetical hypocrisy than in discussing who's right.

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water

Well, that took a long time. Less than two weeks after the interminable 2002 election season ended, the media has started polling for 2004 elections. They have so little news to cover that they have time to cover the horse race aspects of an election for which the horses are still unknown?

BTW, what did they find out?

A CNN/Time poll conducted November 13-14 shows that two-thirds of the public thinks Gore will be the likely Democratic nominee in 2004, but half surveyed said the former vice president won't win the White House. Only 41 percent said they would vote for him if the election were held today.
Really? No kidding? Hey, I'll give CNN a hint, to save them some polling money: he won't win in 2008, 2012, or 2016 either.

But then CNN adds the caveat, buried at the bottom of the article:

Despite the numbers, Gore is not out for the count. Polls taken this far from an election aren't always a good indicator of what may happen in the future.
Again, no kidding. So why the hell did they bother to do the poll, then? Could the media be any less useful if they tried?

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...

I live right smack dab in the middle of a really big city, so this information doesn't really help me. But, to all of you who don't -- wake up early tomorrow morning (or, if you're on the West Coast, stay up late), go outside, and look up. You'll be glad you did. (Anywhere up should be good, but if you know where the constellation Leo is, look there.)

November 19, 2002

Bush = evil

Paul Krugman could just write that every week. Then he wouldn't have to bother phoning it in like this, and it would be slightly less embarrassing.

Rule No. 1: Always have a cover story. The ostensible purpose of the Bush administration's plan to open up 850,000 federal jobs to private competition is to promote efficiency. Competitive vigor, we're told, will end bureaucratic sloth; costs will go down, and everyone — except for a handful of overpaid union members — will be better off.

And who knows? Here and there the reform may actually save a few dollars. But I doubt that there's a single politician or journalist in Washington who believes that privatizing much of the federal government — a step that the administration says it can take without any new legislation — is really motivated by a desire to reduce costs.

Rule No. 1: Always focus on motives. That way, it doesn't matter whether it's a good decision. After all, if you make the right decisions for the wrong reasons, you're still a bad person, worthy of condemnation. We saw this with the spectacularly successful welfare reform law of the mid-1990s; Republicans who supported it were denounced as "mean-spirited," thus relieving critics of any obligation of actually analyzing the law or its effects. Kind of like how Krugman dismissed the possibility of the idea working with a throwaway line -- it "may actually save a few dollars" -- and went right into attack mode.

Note also the Krugman tactic of the "virtual poll." Don't bother to find out what people think; just announce that everyone agrees with you, or at least probably so.

Rule No. 2: Always assume the worst case scenario for the proposal:

After all, there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels — state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly — and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that.
So if sometimes there are significant cost reductions, how can officials "know" that their projections of significant cost reductions are silly?

Rule No. 3: Get past the innuendo and explain the real truth behind the proposal:

First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration — determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses — must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.

Privatizing federal jobs is a perfect answer to this dilemma. It's not a real answer — the pay of those threatened employees is only about 2 percent of the federal budget, so efficiency gains from privatization, even if they happen, will make almost no dent in overall spending. For a few years, however, talk of privatization will give the impression that the administration is doing something about the deficit.

But distracting the public from the reality of deficits is, we can be sure, just an incidental payoff. So, too, is the fact that privatization is a way to break one of the last remaining strongholds of union power. Karl Rove is after much bigger game.

Ah. Karl Rove. The antichrist. So this is all an evil Republican plot. (Isn't that redundant, in Krugman's world?) But doesn't Krugman even read his own newspaper? Because just last week, the Times explained that this wasn't a sinister Karl Rove idea:
Paul C. Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy at New York University and the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research group, called the administration's policy "an aggressive and a dramatic extension" of the effort by both parties at all levels of government to save money and improve the quality of public services.

Mr. Light said the Clinton administration had shifted many federal government jobs to private contractors in an effort to show it was reducing the size of government.


Not bothered by these facts, though, Krugman goes on to assert that this is all a plot to get campaign contributions for the Republican Party. (The possibility that the status quo is an attempt to buy votes for the Democratic Party doesn't even enter his one-track Bush-hating mind.)

To paraphrase a famous American, "Paul Krugman, have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Subtext, schmubtext

Joshua Micah Marshall questions some Republican rhetoric:

More on Pelosi. For all the conservative chattering and outrage about alleged Democratic gay-baiting in Montana and South Carolina this Fall, don't we all know the subtext of Republican efforts to tag Pelosi as a "San Francisco Democrat"? Is this something we're not allowed to discuss? And why not?
Go ahead and discuss it, Joshua, but I don't believe that this is the "subtext" of the phrase at all. It's not as if Pelosi from Massachusetts, after all; she literally is a San Francisco Democrat.

(And what's with the claim of "alleged" Democratic gay-baiting? It was explicit, at least in the South Carolina situation.)

Still, if that perfectly descriptive phrase has become off-limits thanks to the Sensitivity Police, how about if we just go with "Berkeley Democrat?" It's not quite as geographically precise, but it captures the political image quite nicely.

Pot. Kettle. Well, you know.

Isn't there something a little unseemly about the New York Times gloating about media bias? It's one thing to write a story about Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News Channel, providing advice to the president, and pointing out that this creates the appearance of impropriety. (Of course, the Times did that also.) But to add a second piece saying "Gotcha"?

The revelation that Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, the self-proclaimed fair and balanced news channel, secretly gave advice to the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks was less shocking than it was liberating — a little like the moment in 1985 when an ailing Rock Hudson finally explained that he had AIDS.

Ever since Mr. Ailes changed jobs from Republican strategist to news executive, he has demanded to be treated as an unbiased journalist, not a conservative spokesman. But the cable channel he controls has an undisguised ideological agenda, which has made his protestations a bit puzzling.

For the record, I agree with these comments -- but they apply equally to Howell Raines' New York Times, as bloggers from Ira Stoll to Andrew Sullivan to Susanna Cornett have documented extensively. They spin polls, ignore inconvenient facts, and slant their reporting.

Case in point:

Even the most doctrinaire Democrats would concede that there is room in the United States news media for a conservative cable news network. What galled even some right wingers was Mr. Ailes's refusal to accept the label.
Of course. Which "right wingers" were "galled"? The simple way to prove you're not biased, as every Washington insider knows: claim that people on the other side of the aisle agree with you. The problem is that the Times keeps getting caught falsely attributing opinions to people -- remember the Henry Kissinger fiasco? So now they just cite anonymous people.

And, the icing on the ironic cake is that the editorial was (as usual for the new New York Times) stuck into the news section. (This time, with the odd label "An Appraisal," instead of the more typical "News Analysis.") If Howell Raines wants to express an opinion, can't he do it on the Op/Ed page?

November 20, 2002


Getting a bunch of attention on the news recently has been the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life's upcoming advertizing campaign: What Would Jesus Drive? Basically, these groups are saying that Jesus would not be driving a SUV... if He were around today, He'd be behind the wheel of an environmentally friendly auto, so you too should not purchase an SUV; you should be buying a earth-friendly car. (I'm not joking about this.)

With humility, I disagree with the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. I remember Luke 18:25 "For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (similar lines are also at Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25), and Mark 10:21 "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me," and 2 Corinthians 8:9 "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."

Personally, I don't think He'd own a car. If He had, He would have given it away. So, What Would Jesus Drive? He wouldn't -- He'd do what poor people do: He'd take the bus.

That's what the National Council of Churches and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life should be advertizing.

Or else

Last week, Al Qaeda sent a letter to Al Jazeera making more threats. The news got less attention because it happened at the same time that the alleged Osama Bin Laden tape surfaced. Or, at least, I paid it less attention for that reason. But perhaps it would have been useful to focus on Al Qaeda's specific demands:

[A statement attributed to Al Qaeda threatened more attacks in New York and Washington unless the United States stops supporting Israel and converts to Islam, according to a reporter for Al Jazeera television news who said he received the unsigned letter.

[The reporter, Yosri Fouda, told The Associated Press that he received the six-page letter on Wednesday, a day after Al Jazeera broadcast an audiotape purportedly made by Osama bin Laden. He said the statement called on Americans to stop supporting Israel and other governments that "oppress" Muslims or face more attacks. It also called on all Americans to convert to Islam, he said.

[The statement also demanded that American troops leave the Arabian Peninsula, and justified the killings of American civilians because they pay taxes that finance the military, Mr. Fouda said.]

Everyone in the Blame America First crowd is quick to point out the specific grievances that Al Qaeda claims -- support for Israel, support for other Middle East governments, troops in Saudi Arabia. But they conveniently ignore what some of us have been saying for a long time: Islamofascists doesn't want "peaceful coexistence" with the west. They don't believe Islam is a religion of peace. They want conversion by the sword. Or suicide bomb.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

A bunch of teenagers getting drunk is hardly something to make a federal case out of. But apparently New York Senator Charles Schumer wants to do so -- literally.

Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the Justice Department to look into the underage drinking problem in Westchester County, which has seen several startling episodes of teen drunkenness _ and one death at a party _ in the past year.

At a news conference with County Executive Andrew Spano, Schumer called on the department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to study why alcohol is so readily available to minors and why there is excessive drinking among minors in Westchester.

"When teenagers are literally dying for a drink, we need to do everything in our power to fix the situation," Schumer said. "Teenagers have always tried to drink and can access alcohol too easily. This is nothing new and it's certainly not just a local problem. But we still don't know exactly how to deal with it."

The problem has recently won wide attention in Westchester. From the Chappaqua football team's beer-and-a-stripper party to Scarsdale's chaotic homecoming dance, where as many as 200 students arrived drunk, inebriated teens have raised the concerns of parents, teachers and law enforcement.

Wow. Drinking in high school. Whoda thunk it?

I know that Democrats don't believe in federalism, but I still can't begin to fathom how Schumer thinks this is a reasonable idea. Oh, I know -- it's For The Children ™. But what really galls me is the ideologues like Paul Krugman who insist that tax cuts are such a dangerous idea. If the federal government has enough resources to look into high school parties, it's too damn big. That would seem obvious and indisputable to me. I don't know why the government at any level is worried about such a trivial matter -- but certainly there's no reason for the federal government to be.

Chuck Schumer wants to know why kids drink? People like drinking. There. I just saved millions of taxpayer dollars. The only remaining question? Oh: why didn't I ever get invited to the beer-and-stripper parties? Maybe we can do a federal study of that.

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.

Andrew Sullivan is puzzled at this entry in Kurt Cobain's journals ("I like to make incisions into the belly of infants then fuck the incisions until the child dies,") and why Newsweek did not publish it when it printed some of its excerpts.

Let's remember Mark Twain's line from his journal (the headline is also Twain, from Following the Equator): "there is a good side and a bad side to most people, and in accordance with your own character and disposition you will bring out one of them and the other will remain a sealed book to you."

It's too late, of course, but one wishes that those who are currently cashing in on Cobain's journals would have kept them sealed.

November 22, 2002

It must be the fault of the United States. Everything is.

Remember all that angst on the left over George Bush's arrogant unilateralism pertaining to the International Criminal Court? How come we don't hear similar complaints with regard to obstructionism by a country that actually needs such war crimes trials?

After nine months, the United Nations revived plans yesterday for an international trial for the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. They are charged with genocide and gross human rights violations in the deaths of more than one million Cambodians in the 1970's.

But the resolution that ultimately passed in a key committee had been watered down to meet Cambodia's approval.


The measure also notes with approval a new Cambodian law that insists that Cambodia's ill-trained and corrupt courts have the final say in the proceedings, rather than the United Nations.

Yeah, who could have seen that one coming? Who could foresee that Cambodia would stall and delay and then allow farcical trials only?

This is why President Bush is right to oppose American participation in the I.C.C. There will always be a double standard, with Americans being expected to go along with whatever international bureaucrats come up with. Meanwhile, countries with no real respect for human rights, the ones actually breaking the rules, will get a free pass, because after all, you can't demand too much of them.


Whether it be from portrayals by Michel Bouquet, Reginald Owen, John Carradine, William Peterson, George C. Scott, Jeremy Kerridge, Patrick Stewart, Bill Murray, even Bugs Bunny, or (gasp!) reading it ourselves, we are all familar with the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of the most memorable scenes is the horrifying conversation between Scrooge and a man asking him for a charitable contribution:

`At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,'
said the gentleman, taking up a pen, `it is more than
usually desirable that we should make some slight
provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer
greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in
want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands
are in want of common comforts, sir.'

`Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

`Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down
the pen again.
`And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge.
`Are they still in operation?'

`They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, `I wish
I could say they were not.'

`The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour,
then?' said Scrooge.

`Both very busy, sir.'

`Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first,
that something had occurred to stop them in their
useful course,' said Scrooge. `I'm very glad to
hear it.'

`Under the impression that they scarcely furnish
Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,'
returned the gentleman, `a few of us are endeavouring
to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink.
and means of warmth. We choose this time, because
it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt,
and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down

`Nothing!' Scrooge replied.

`You wish to be anonymous?'

`I wish to be left alone,' said Scrooge. `Since you
ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.
I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't
afford to make idle people merry. I help to support
the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost
enough; and those who are badly off must go there.'

`Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'

`If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, `they had
better do it, and decrease the surplus population.
Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that.'

If the House of Representatives does not act soon, 830,000 people will lose their unemployment benefits three days after Christmas. Let's put aside the economic stimulus 830,000 families spending at Christmas-time would add. Not acting now may be an act of conservatism, but it surely is not compassionate. It's an act worthy of Scrooge.

November 23, 2002

Well, no

Andrew Sullivan's blog has a quite workaday Paul-Krugman-is-bad piece. Krugman wrote about nepotism and, surpizingly(!), found that liberals like Krugman are bad. He writes about Krugman that "Every example of nepotism he gives is Republican or conservative, implying a seamless connnection between family favors and his increasingly unhinged idea that America is now in the grip of a brutal plutocracy," and he wonders where the Kennedy and Pelosi families were in Krugman's analysis. Well, geez Mr. Sullivan, I read Krugman's piece too, and, cripes, where was the Bush family? Krugman doesn't mention them, either.

Could it be that the Kennedys, the Pelosis, and the Bushes were *elected* (except, of course, the ones who lost election). That's why they were absent. Perhaps Krugman was focusing on the fact that the pork given to the families Krugman discussed was not democratically vented. Maybe that was his point?

All animals are equal. Some are more equal than others.

When is it okay to be rich? If you're willing to spend everyone else's money. That's the message of Paul Krugman's latest column. His argument is that a society where rich people can pass along money to their children is evil. Well, sort of. Because he can't resist turning it into a partisan argument, the column becomes completely incoherent. Conservatives are all incomptent boobs who benefit from nepotism, he suggests:

America, we all know, is the land of opportunity. Your success in life depends on your ability and drive, not on who your father was.

Just ask the Bush brothers. Talk to Elizabeth Cheney, who holds a specially created State Department job, or her husband, chief counsel of the Office of Management and Budget. Interview Eugene Scalia, the top lawyer at the Labor Department, and Janet Rehnquist, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. And don't forget to check in with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and the conservative commentator John Podhoretz.

What's interesting is how little comment, let alone criticism, this roll call has occasioned. It might be just another case of kid-gloves treatment by the media, but I think it's a symptom of a broader phenomenon: inherited status is making a comeback.

Careful readers would note that this really has little to do with the rest of his column, which is about economic mobility. Note, though, that Andrew Cuomo, or Hillary Clinton, or Al Gore, or Nancy Pelosi, or Linda Daschle, or any one of a million Kennedys aren't listed. Why not? 'Cause they ain't Republican.

Why exactly should there be criticism? Is Krugman implying that these people aren't qualified for the jobs they hold? If so, he should say that explicitly. If not, what's his argument? That someone who's qualified on the merits should be disqualified if he's related to someone else famous?

But here's where the argument goes from muddled to absurd:

It wasn't always thus. The influential dynasties of the 20th century, like the Kennedys, the Rockefellers and, yes, the Sulzbergers, faced a public suspicious of inherited position; they overcame that suspicion by demonstrating a strong sense of noblesse oblige, justifying their existence by standing for high principles. Indeed, the Kennedy legend has a whiff of Bonnie Prince Charlie about it; the rightful heirs were also perceived as defenders of the downtrodden against the powerful.
See? If you spend other people's money, you're a good person. Noblesse oblige used to involve giving away your own money. Now "high principles" = "government spending." And does having sex with lots of women really qualify as a "high principle"?
But today's heirs feel no need to demonstrate concern for those less fortunate. On the contrary, they are often avid defenders of the powerful against the downtrodden. Mr. Scalia's principal personal claim to fame is his crusade against regulations that protect workers from ergonomic hazards, while Ms. Rehnquist has attracted controversy because of her efforts to weaken the punishment of health-care companies found to have committed fraud.
Hmm. I thought Scalia was crusading against costly heavy-handed government rules that cost workers their jobs.

You'd think, after the last couple of elections, Democrats would give up on the idea that they could play More Compassionate Than Thou just because they support big government. Krugman hasn't quite gotten that message.

November 24, 2002

You think there's any connection?

Two stories seen this week. The dismal results of a National Geographic survey that was just released:

Young Americans may soon have to fight a war in Iraq, but most of them can't even find that country on a map, the National Geographic Society said Wednesday.

The society survey found that only about one in seven -- 13 percent -- of Americans between the age of 18 and 24, the prime age for military warriors, could find Iraq. The score was the same for Iran, an Iraqi neighbor.

and, from a New York Times story on new NCAA requirements:
He said that SUNY-Buffalo's president, William Greiner, had made increasing football attendance, and remaining in Division I-A, a university-wide priority.

"When you look at the peer universities that we measure ourselves against academically, you look to see what is missing here, and about 90 percent of our aspiring peers are strong in athletics," Vecchio said. "We are already there academically, but a lot of people don't find out about Michigan's science program or its tremendous fine arts program until they have learned about it through football or basketball."

No comment.

November 26, 2002

It's funny because it's true

In a typically hilarious Mark Steyn column about the lack of commitment among many to the war against Islamofascism, he has an important insight:

Daniel Pipes and others have argued that this is the Islamists' great innovation -- an essentially political project piggybacking on an ancient religion. In the last year, we've seen the advantages of such a strategy: You can't even identify your enemy without being accused of bigotry and intolerance.
Exactly. The United States has to spend more time explaining who its enemies aren't -- the Iraqi people, Islam, Muslims, the Palestinian people, the Afghan people -- than who they are -- all the people I named that we have to pretend I didn't name. I'm not saying the World War II approach of portraying our enemies as subhuman is the ideal approach, but can't we at least admit that we're at war? We've gotten to the point that if we actually manage to kill a terrorist, we have to apologize because we didn't read him his rights first.

I'm Emmitt Smith

The FBI, finally doing something useful, arrested several people involved in a huge identity theft scheme.

An identity-theft ring that relied on a low-level employee of a Long Island software company stole the credit histories of more than 30,000 people and used them to empty bank accounts, take out false loans and run up charges on credit cards, among other crimes, federal authorities in Manhattan said yesterday.

This is believed to be the largest-ever identity-theft case in the nation, federal officials said yesterday, in terms of the number of victims, the type of detailed personal information about them that was stolen and the losses — at least $2.7 million and likely to climb much higher. The authorities were still trying to determine how many of the 30,000 victims suffered financial losses.

Note that with all the hype over internet security, with credit card companies devoting commercial after commercial to assuring us that we can shop online safely without having to worry about hackers, this was a simple old-fashioned approach. These criminals simply used an inside source to acquire credit histories, and then either opened new accounts or accessed existing ones. It's just another sign that worries about new technology are generally overstated. The worst case scenarios rarely happen; why bother hacking into Amazon.com to steal someone's credit card number when there are so many common, everyday, low-tech ways to get one? And yet people get hysterical over possible new dangers, while accepting existing ones matter-of-factly.

A study in contrasts

Some people wonder why the United States supports Israel? Maybe it has something to do with this: while the hottest historical work in the Arab world is the Protcols of the Elders of Zion -- or rather, a television show based on the century-old forgery, the Israelis are studying the Federalist Papers.

Silliness in black and white

The Weekly Standard summarizes the latest controversy involving the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It seems that, with the liberal chairwoman Mary Frances Berry no longer having a majority on the Commission (and thus being unable to run roughshod over conservative members), she has found a way to do an end-run around the Republican appointees: she has her staff write the report, and fails to even to show it to the Republicans.

This has raised questions about fairness and procedure and Berry's fitness for the job. But here's a better question: why exactly do we have a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? What purpose does it serve? If you're like me, you've probably never thought much about the organization or its origins. Well, according to its About Us page:

The United States Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) is an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding agency of the executive branch established under the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The Commission has the following mandate:

  • Investigate complaints alleging that citizens are being deprived of their right to vote by reason of their race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or by reason of fraudulent practices;
  • Study and collect information relating to discrimination or a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Constitution because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice;
  • Appraise Federal laws and policies with respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice;
  • Serve as a national clearinghouse for information in respect to discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws because of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin;
  • Submit reports, findings, and recommendations to the President and Congress;
  • Issue public service announcements to discourage discrimination or denial of equal protection of the laws.
In short, they write reports. They have a budget of $9 million to write reports. Reports which, of course, nobody reads.

Keep in mind that the Department of Education has an Office for Civil Rights. The Department of Health and Human Services has an Office for Civil Rights. The Department of Transportation has an Office for Civil Rights. The Department of Agriculture has an Office of Civil Rights. The State Department has an Office of Civil Rights. The Federal Aviation Administration (!) has an Office for Civil Rights. (I could go on, but you'd probably kill me. Do the Google search yourself if you're interested.) And, of course, the Gulliver among all these Lilliputians: the Department of Justice has a Civil Rights Division, which does everything the Commission on Civil Rights does, as well as having actual enforcement powers.

So why exactly does the Commission on Civil Rights exist? (Other than the obvious: for Democrats, it's a sop to the black community, and for Republicans, it would open them up to further charges of racism if they tried to kill it.) There's some sort of lesson here about the self-perpetuation of government, but I'm too disgusted to draw it.

9/11 Proves that Americans Don't Like Muslims

Last week, an American nurse/missionary was murdered by Islamists in Lebanon. Perhaps I'm reading something into this that wasn't intended, but it sure sounds to me like the New York Times is claiming that it was her fault, given this headline: Killing Underscores Enmity of Evangelists and Muslims. Say what? Enmity of evangelists and Muslims? Who killed who, here?

"She was in the habit of gathering the Muslim children of the quarter and preaching Christianity to them while dispensing food and toys and social assistance," he said, and her actions upset the city's Muslim hierarchy. "In these times, there are people in the Muslim community who don't even want to hear the word `conversion.' "

The Rev. Sami Dagher, regional leader of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which ran the clinic where Mrs. Witherall volunteered, denies that she did any proselytizing outside the clinic. He sidesteps the general issue of conversion, however, saying the group merely seeks to expose people to the idea that Jesus Christ is their savior and let them decide for themselves.

But a somewhat more direct goal emerges amid the Web site postings of the previous pastor and his wife, Darrell and Cheryl Phenicie, who were here when Muslim resentment of missionary activities broke into the open last year, but have since moved back to the United States.

"Dramatic conversions are being reported," it says. "And nearly 600 women have received prenatal care and heard the good news of our compassionate Healer, Jesus Christ."

Yeah, it really sounds as if those missionaries hate the Lebanese, doesn't it? Food, toys, social assistance, prenatal care.

Read on, though, and it gets even worse:

Sheik Hammoud said Muslim religious leaders grew wary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance because its members combined computer lessons, English instruction and gifts of toys and candy with Sunday school classes for hundreds of Muslim children. "It was upsetting to hear about this because they were trying to exploit their poverty to get them to change their religion," said the sheik, who began denouncing the missionary alliance last fall from the pulpit.

After the initial outcry last year, the church agreed to stop sending its vans out to collect children from poor neighborhoods and Palestinian refugee camps for Sunday school. It considered the matter settled.

But Muslims continued to protest. The missionary alliance remained the target of Friday sermons and last spring a small but influential Muslim monthly called "The Pulpit of the Calling" denounced the group as a Zionist organization.

"They destroy the fighting spirit of the children, especially of the Palestinian youth, by teaching them not to fight the Jews, for the Palestinians to forgive the Jews and leave them Jerusalem," the article said. It also said the group lured the children and young men with promises of an education in the United States, and then threatened to take it all away if they did not convert to Christianity.

For these Muslim fanatics, it always comes back to the Jews, doesn't it?

November 27, 2002


I'm a big admirer of Steven Den Beste's blog USS Clueless -- especially for the way he spends the time to think through issues and explain his thoughts, rather than posting the typical blogger's short link + snarky comment format. (And yes, I include myself in that latter category.) That having been said, the major problem with Steven's approach is that when he goes off track, he ends up many paragraph-miles beyond left field. And he's way off the deep end with his latest missive, in which he argues that blog boycotts are wrong.

(The background, for those of you not familiar: a lefty blogger, Jim Capozzola, has announced that his blog, Rittenhouse Review, is going to engage in a vast boycott of the wonderful Little Green Footballs, which concentrates on Middle East/War on Terror issues. Not only is Rittenhouse going to refuse to link to LGF, but it is going to refuse to link to any blog that links to LGF. This is generally known as a secondary boycott. Although, in a sense, this case is a tertiary boycott, because Rittenhouse objects primarily to what readers of LGF say, rather than to what LGF says.)

Steven argues against Rittenhouse's approach:

In essence, you have no obligation to associate with people like that. You have no obligation to in any way help them spread their opinions. But you should not attempt to actively suppress them, to actively work to try to prevent them from expressing their point of view. In part that means you should not attempt to use the power of government to persecute them, but it also means you should not attempt to coerce others to join you, except through the power of argument on the basis of the issues. Where you cross the line is when you do anything which works to prevent others from making up their own minds.

Translated into modern terms and choosing an example, it would go like this: if you hate the Nazis, you should not link to their web site. If you find others who do link to the Nazis, you can send them mail and try to convince them that the Nazis are despicable and that the link should be removed on that basis. But when you go beyond that, and try to use means not related to the issues (e.g. threatening a boycott of the person's business) then you've crossed the line. You've ceased to try to deal with the issues, and moved into attempts to suppress information to prevent others from even being exposed to the issues. That's where disapproval ends and censorship begins.

To quote physicist Wolfgang Pauli when confronted with a bizarre paper submitted to him by a colleague, "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong."

Now, do I agree with Rittenhouse Review's position? Not in the least, substantively or procedurally. Rittenhouse is wrong about LGF; it is not a hate site (although some of the posters do cross the line from time to time.) Rather, it is an extremely valuable site, the most comprehensive MidEast-related blog in existence. But even if LGF were a lousy, hate site, Rittenhouse's position would be silly. Site A linking to Site B does not mean that Site A agrees with Site B. Will Rittenhouse also refuse to link to newspapers that print Osama Bin Laden's alleged manifesto?

But a boycott, primary, secondary, or tertiary, is not censorship. It isn't even coercion. There's no force here. It's simply a refusal to associate. (I suspect that if Steven found his friends hanging around with white supremacists, or vocal supporters of Osama Bin Laden, he might well tell his buddies that he can't remain friends with them if they're going to run in these crowds.) That doesn't prevent other people from associating.

Steven seems to be worried about the slippery slope: what if a lot of people do what Rittenhouse is doing? Wouldn't that force everyone to stop linking to LGF? Well, first of all, of course it wouldn't. It would only convince those people who value Rittenhouse-related links more than LGF-related links to stop linking. Those would primarily be the people who didn't and wouldn't link to LGF in the first place; the people who think LGF has something worthwhile to say would hardly be worried about a threat from Rittenhouse. Second, what if it did cause most to stop linking? Steven wants to create a "freedom to listen," but (a) no such thing could exist, and (b) this wouldn't infringe on that right if it did. The wonderful thing about the internet is that there need be no centrally-planned distribution. LGF could go along happily whether or not anybody put it in his blogroll.

I don't argue that there are no dangers; if Google stopped indexing a site, that could pose a serious threat to that site's existence. But Rittenhouse Review is not Google. Even Instapundit is not Google. And search engines are unlikely to join a boycott, since that would discredit the search engine, doing far more harm to the engine than to the site. Rittenhouse Review has only the leverage people choose to give to it. It's no big deal.

November 28, 2002

C'est la vie

Public sector employees are striking in France. Why? Why not?

"We are saying no to privatization in public service," said Thierry Victoire-Feron, a postal worker who earns only $1,200 a month after 20 years on the job. "As civil servants we will no longer have jobs for life. We have to keep our tradition of strikes. It's a French thing to do."
That is, when they're not trashing McDonalds or appeasing dictators.

In our name

I meant to post this last week, but Thanksgiving might be an even more appropriate time. Vincent Ferrari has put together a little pledge to let people know that signing petitions doesn't have to be a wacky leftist thing. I know that not all of my friends agree that the U.S. should get involved around the world, but I think most can agree that we shouldn't be afraid to stand up for ourselves. At a time when death threats are issued against newspaper editors, someone needs to say that freedom isn't a western value; it's a human value. At a time when humanitarian workers are murdered, someone needs to say that defending liberty isn't insensitive. At a time when terrorist attacks happen almost every day, someone needs to say that self-defense isn't illegal or immoral, and that appeasement isn't the more "sophisticated" approach. Vincent has done that.

Happy ThanksgivingEnjoy the food, and

Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy the food, and your families.

About November 2002

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

October 2002 is the previous archive.

December 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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