Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three good posts

Flipping through the blogosphere, and came across three posts today I thought were exceptionally good. Here's Curt, at Flopping Aces, reminding us that we can't keep second guessing ourselves. Instead, we have to get a belief system in place, focus on the important information, and ignore extraneous material. I think I especially liked this post because it reminded me of someone, years ago, struggling to explain Jimmy Carter's endless (and ultimately dangerous) flipflops. Carter, he said, was trained as an engineer. He'd look at the data and reach a result. And then someone else would hand him new data, and he'd recalculate, reaching a different result. He had no fixed compass points; just endless streams of data. Callimachus, at Done With Mirrors, weighs in here, with a great, albeit depressing, post about the International Red Cross's resolute refusal in WWII to acknowledge the Nazi evil. The ICRC seems bound and determined now to make the same mistake in reverse, by convincing itself that the U.S. is irreparably evil. Either way, the ICRC always gets it wrong. Lastly, Mike, at the Deep Freeze, uses the Spokane mayor's outing and demonization as a jumping off point for a discussion about the Left's exceptional cruelty towards individuals who ought to belong to the Left's demographics (gay, black, Hispanic), but refuse to follow the Democratic party line.

I'm ready to write the Great American Novel

"A-ha," I thought, when I read this in the NY Times:

WE are at that time of year when millions of American college and high school students will stride across the stage, take diploma in hand and set out to the wider world, most of them utterly unable to write a clear and coherent English sentence. How is this possible? The answer is simple and even obvious: Students can't write clean English sentences because they are not being taught what sentences are. Most composition courses that American students take today emphasize content rather than form, on the theory that if you chew over big ideas long enough, the ability to write about them will (mysteriously) follow. The theory is wrong. Content is a lure and a delusion, and it should be banished from the classroom. Form is the way.
Some one has finally gotten it; someone is hollering that we're doing our children a grave disservice by pretending that they don't have to learn the rules of good writing. (I can tell you that, as a lawyer, at least 50% of my contract cases arise because the contract is so badly drafted neither party can decipher its obligations.) I rushed off to show my friend. "Not so fast," he said. "Even content is going by the wayside." As proof, he showed me this:
Next fall, as part of a district change in English curriculum [in El Cerrito, California, teachers] likely will use an anthology that offers poems, short stories and excerpts of classic novels -- but no complete works. *** English teachers will have discretion to select two novels each year from a group of suggested works, Johnston said. And some of the time devoted to those stuffy old novels will be replaced with instruction -- don't fall over -- in how to read technical manuals.
I see an opportunity here. I've always wanted to write the Great American Novel, but have been hampered by the fact that I have no imagination and no narrative skills. Clearly, though, there's an opening for me here. I'll write the Great American Snippet's Novel, with bits and pieces from the works of dead white males (and females). Here goes:
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And with a beginning like this, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Indeed, many there were who said "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York." Many others, however, were still mired in discontent. Alice, for example, was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, "and what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations? The consolation for Alice as she sat there was that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. This want will mean that he take a woman as his wife without caring whether or not she get get out that damned spot. And there'll always be blood, for if you prick me do I not bleed? Fortunately for Alice, as she sat there, there came to her a man with a modest proposal -- he proposed that, from every "shires ende," from England to Canterbury, they should wend.
Okay, my admittedly heavy-handed point is made -- and you undoubtedly appreciate now why I can't write a novel. The quotable quote and the charming chapter are completely useless when it comes to mastering the meaning of a great literary work. Without context, you have nothing. And so our children will be raised in a vacuum, learning nothing, incapable of saying anything, and unfamiliar with the great minds from centuries past. How sad.

The NY Times is squished

I grew up watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, and always enjoyed the moment in the opening credits when the big foot came down with that squishing sound. I saw that big foot and I heard the squish when I read this Donald Luskin column lambasting both the dishonest Paul Krugman and the craven Daniel Okrent. Luskin opens by pointing out that Okrent, in his last act at the NY Times, in a minor act of courage, finally acknowledged that Krugman lies:

According to the New York Times itself, what we’ve been carefully documenting for more than two years is true:
Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. ... some of Krugman’s enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn’t mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn’t hold his columnists to higher standards.
Thus wrote New York Times “pubic editor” Daniel Okrent in his column last week, his final one before resigning his post. There it is, right in the newspaper of record.
While congratulating Okrent on finally doing the right thing, and calling Krugman the liar he is, Luskin then points out, at length, the moral cowardice that has characterized Okrent during his 18 month stint as "the public editor."
Okrent wasn’t always afraid of pressure. When I first met him in early 2004 he was full of the burning zeal of the reformer, and eager for intellectual allies. His first words to me were, “You’re much better looking than Paul Krugman.” He told me that the Times didn’t deserve to be called the “newspaper of record” and vowed, “When I’m done with this assignment, I want everyone to know that.” (Okrent later wrote on this theme.) We had a long discussion on accuracy and fairness on the op-ed page, which led a month later to the Times’s new policy on columnist corrections. This was all very hopeful, as well as flattering. But I knew it wouldn’t last. Okrent ended our meeting by announcing that a limo was picking him up to take him to a dinner party with Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., and executive editor Bill Keller. I wondered how long Okrent could maintain his independence as a reformer if he was getting sucked into the glittery social world of Times management. The pressure had begun. And the pressure built as Times staff fought Okrent in his role as “readers’ representative.” For example, financial reporter David Cay Johnston went so far as to organize other reporters into what Okrent called a “lynch mob” — and accused Okrent of conflict of interest because of a board position, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. And as for the Times’s columnist-correction policy, the paper’s columnists and their boss, editorial-page editor Gail Collins, stonewalled it from the beginning. When corrections to Krugman’s columns were made, they were snuck into the text of subsequent columns, hidden in the form of what Okrent has called a “rowback.” Or they were appended to subsequent columns without the designation “correction,” with the original erroneous columns remaining uncorrected in the Times’s web archive. And that’s only when corrections were made at all. For the most part, corrections were not made. Why? It appears that as Okrent went to Gail Collins for corrections, she quickly learned she could get away with stonewalling him. I faired no better. When I couldn’t get Collins to even acknowledge my e-mails, I sent corrections to her under a false name, but she didn’t respond to those either. I learned that at one point Okrent went directly to Krugman himself for corrections, but the whole exercise soon proved worthless. Okrent apparently gave up on Collins and Krugman, and I gave up sending them corrections as well. In an odd turn of events, Okrent wrote in a December 2004 column that “judging by the shrinking volume of complaints I receive from readers, columnists’ errors have become much less frequent.” Was that statement the product of self-delusion or sheer gall?
Will this have any fallout for Krugman? I doubt it. The NY Times audience eats him up, as evidence by the fact that every one of his dishonest anti-Bush tirades rockets up the chart of NY Times most-emailed articles. Nevertheless, it is something, and that's not nothing.

Mark Steyn on the big French "non"

Here's Mark Steyn on the arrogant EU leadership:

On balance, Jean-Claude Juncker, the "president" of "Europe", seems closer to the mark in his now famous dismissal of the will of the people: "If it's a Yes, we will say 'on we go', and if it's a No we will say 'we continue'." And if it's a Neither of the Above, he will say "we move forward". You get the idea. Confronted by the voice of the people, "President" Juncker covers his ears and says: "Nya, nya, nya, can't hear you!" There are several lessons worth learning from the French vote. The first is that the Junckers are a big part of the problem. Only in totalitarian dictatorships does the ballot come with a pre-ordained correct answer. Yet President Juncker distilled the great flaw at the heart of the EU constitution into one straightforward sentence that cut through all the thickets of Giscard's unreadable verbiage. The American constitution begins with the words "We the people". The starting point for the EU constitution is: "We know better than the people.
And here he is about the European populations' understanding of what's going on:
Incidentally, that 'lunatic fringe' in France now accounts for about 60 per cent of the electorate. That's another lesson for the decayed Euro-elite. One of the most unattractive features of European politics is the way it insists certain subjects are out of bounds, and beyond politics. That's the most obvious flaw in Giscard's flaccid treaty: it's not a constitution, it's a perfectly fine party platform for a rather stodgy semi-obsolescent social democratic party. Its constitutional 'rights' - the right to housing assistance, the right to preventive action on the environment - are not constitutional at all, but the sort of things parties ought to be arguing about at election time. Instead, Europe's 'consensus' politics has ruled more and more topics unfit for discussion, leaving voters with a choice between Eurodee and Eurodum, a left-of-right-of-left-of-centre party and a right-of-left-of-right-of-left-of-centre party. None of these plodding technocratic parties seems eager to talk about any of the faintly unrespectable subjects on the minds of voters - Muslim immigration, increasing crime, Turkey, EU labour mobility. So voters, naturally, are turning elsewhere, and in five years' time the entire Continent could end up with the same flight from the centre as we've seen in Ulster.

Why I'm glad the French voted no

I've been thinking about why I feel this sense of relief that the French voted no and that the Dutch almost certainly will too. The answer comes in something a French person -- yes, a French person -- said when the Berlin Wall fell. It was something along the lines of "We love the Germans. We love them so much that we are much happier when there are two Germanies, not just one." In other words, one prefers those who might march against one to be fragmented and not united. I feel the same way about the hostile-to-America Europeans. I prefer their disarray to their potential unity.

Like attracts like

My mother always told me (with regret) that money attracts money. Since we didn't have any, I didn't find any when I got married. What she didn't tell me, though, is that the really rich only marry people who share both their money and their name. How else to explain the fact that the boring and tawdry, but very, very, very rich Paris Hilton is about to marry a man named Paris? Yup, she's going to marry the even richer Paris Latsis, heir to a Greek shipping fortune. They weren't kidding when they said the rich are different -- or did they mean the same, at least as to each other?

The MSM -- the newest enemy in the fight against terrorism

Gosh, I wish I could write like that. Like what, you ask? Like Cinnamon Stillwell in this article about the fact that the American army has to contend, not only with the Islamic enemy, but with the relentlessly hostile American press -- a press that is bound and determined to give aid and comfort to the enemy. And in this regard, let me point out that Stillwell's article was written before the most recent MSM attack on America, in the form of a NY Times article outing an airport as a CIA workplace.

What jihad really is

Daniel Pipes' most recent column looks to Understanding Jihad, a book by David Cook, to explain that, contrary to MSM efforts at whitewashing, jihad is not a gentle spiritual journey. Instead, it is an effort to impose the Islamic faith through violence. Having walked his readers through a quick survey of jihad's history, Pipes offers this conclusion:

Cook’s erudite and timely study has many implications, including these: * The current understanding of jihad is more extreme than at any prior time in Islamic history. * This extremism suggests that the Muslim world is going through a phase, one that must be endured and overcome, comparable to analogously horrid periods in Germany, Russia, and China. * Jihad having evolved steadily until now, doubtless will continue to do so in the future. * The excessive form of jihad currently practiced by al-Qaeda and others could, Cook semi-predicts, lead to its “decisive rejection” by a majority of Muslims. Jihad then could turn into a non-violent concept.
As to the last, we can only hope.

Monday, May 30, 2005

John McCain for President?

If you click on this link to the Right Wing News, you'll see a very funny "campaign poster" for John McCain, the current darling of the MSM. The New Yorker recently ran a positively hagiographic article about the man, praising his many wonderful qualities -- all of which involve his repeatedly claiming to be a Republican, but actually voting with the Demos on practically everything. (I will concede and I do appreciate, though, that he is strong on defense.) Clearly, the MSM has annointed the next Republican candidate. But I have to ask, how smart would we be if we selected as our candidate the one cherry-picked by our opponents? In a way, this is the real-world version of what happened last season in The West Wing. There, as you may remember, the show's creators got to craft their ideal Republican candidate, who came across precisely the same as -- yes, their Democratic candidate! Question: How dumb does the MSM think Republican voters are? And warning: Please don't let us be as dumb as they think we are. By the way, if you'd like to see a conservative writer analyzing a potential conservative candidate, you might want to check out Terry Eastland's article about Mitt Romney. I haven't yet decided what I think, but I certainly trust the source more.


Over at Little Green Footballs, you can learn about some infighting amongst Islamic religious groups, with one group being scolded for erecting a giant teapot in honor of its belief in the purity of water. Far be it for me to comment on the details of Islamic religious worship, but I could not help put be struck by the fact that the teapot and its surroundings look exactly like a Disneyland fantasy: Islamaland

Rats turn on each other

Thanks to Flopping Aces, I know that the Marines' enemies are now turning on each other, and are looking to the Marines' for help in their battles -- or at lleast trying desperately not to get the Marines involved against them. Maybe this is indeed the beginning of the end (or at least the end of the beginning).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

An unexpected time capsule

Sometimes the past is just waiting there to be discovered:

Crews demolishing old military barracks on this sprawling base near Paso Robles stumbled on a surprising find: wallets. Tumbling out of heating ducts suspended from the ceilings, the wallets were stuffed with remarkably well-preserved personal belongings dating from World War II and the Korean War. Love letters. Religious medals. Base passes. High school identification cards. Driver's licenses. Dog tags. Snapshots. Tips for surviving an atomic blast. The only thing missing was money. The discovery posed unusual challenges for officials at the former Army base, now used by the California Army National Guard: How did the wallets get there? And could these leather-bound time capsules be returned to their owners? An intensive search for clues among the wallets' contents, and for addresses and phone numbers of owners now in their golden years — or deceased — has reunited all but three of 25 wallets with their owners or relatives. And the work has yielded at least one theory about how they got there in the first place: 'The fact that there is no money in any of these wallets leads us to believe they were stolen,' said California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. 'The thefts usually involved a trusting guy from a small town who set his wallet down, then got distracted. 'Someone else, in one fluid motion, nabbed the wallet, snatched the cash and chucked the rest into the heating duct overhead.' Over the decades, the heat turned the leather into something resembling beef jerky, but left everything inside intact.
Who would have thought that someone's meanspirited and dishonest action so long ago would have yielded such interesting results?

Corby sentenced to 20 years in prison

Almost missed this one. Chapelle Corby, the Australian woman on trial in Indonesia for allegedly smuggling in marijuana, was convicted and given a 20 year prison sentence. She's planning on appealing, but it's a little unclear how to proceed for that. At least it's not the death penalty.

French reject the proposed EU constitution

This just in:

French voters rejected the European Union's first constitution Sunday, a stinging repudiation of President Jacques Chirac's leadership and the ambitious, decades-long effort to further unite the continent.
Can't say I'm either surprised or sad.


When I was a kid, I was a very good kid. I knew that my parents loved me dearly; I lived in a very structured home where rules were spelled out clearly; and I knew that, if I broke the rules, I would immediately get a spanking. The latter was sure and certain. It gave me a tremendous incentive to follow rules. I look back on my childhood fondly, not as a series of unending spankings, but as a peaceful, sheltered time. I now live in a community and a time where spanking is verbotten. If teachers learn from conversations with a child that the parents use spanking as part of the discipline process, they are likely to report the parent to Child Protective Services. Older children use that threat to blackmail their parents. The problem, of course, is that parents have no real means to control their children. Time outs are a joke. My kids view them as a pleasant break from the sturm und drang of the day. They also stressful for me, the parent, since they involve policing the bedroom, or wherever the child is. Thus, a timeout punishes and frustrates me too. In addition to those useless timeout exercises, what's in nowadays is creative punishment. These tend to be rather Gilbertian -- a la "My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time, to let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime." Some things, of course, are easy: if the child refuses to pick up his or her toys, you pick them up and put them in a closet. Except that this doesn't work (a) if the child is not particularly committed to any given toy; (b) if the child has other toys; and (c) if you don't want to find yourself ending up packing away every toy the child owns. And so it goes.... In a way, there's an additional level of sadism to the current regime, with its "creative," unstable punishments, and its frustrated parents, who must always dance one step ahead of their mischievious, intelligent, wilful children. I really miss the days of a quick spanking. As a child, I always knew I deserved those spankings, I never felt brutalized (no belts, no beatings), and they served as a safety valve on my parents' temper too (that is, instead of them getting increasingly angry, the whole thing blew over). Ultimately, I'm not sure that the way we do things now is any more humane than the way our parents raised us, and I know that it leaves a family with a much more chaotic, frustrating household.

If you ever wondered what happened when the chicken crossed the road....

We all know why the chicken crossed the road. Finally, though, we have the answer to what happened when the chicken crossed the road. It got a ticket for jaywalking. No kidding.

Phibian on the Fall of Constantinople

In honor of the EU election today in France, Phibian, at CDR Salamander, has a long, really interesting post about the Fall of Constantinople on this day in 1453. It's a devastating story of a city state caught in Islam's headlong expansionist rush. Also, if memory serves me correctly, the reason it happened, ultimately, was that other Christian European nations, engaged in their endless power plays, refused to send help when help was needed.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

As fair and balanced as it gets

Roger Simon, suffering late night anxiety about the Pajamas Media project, asks What Is "Fair and Balanced"? Here is the comment I left on his blog regarding that point:

Last year, while riffling through Time or Newsweek, I came upon a book review. Sadly, I cannot remember the book being reviewed, but I do remember the anecdote, taken from the book, that opened the review. The book told of a county fair at the turn of the last century. A very fine bull was the prize for a contest in which people guessed the bull's weight. The one closest to the correct weight would, of course, win. Several hundred people submitted their guesses. None was even close to right, although someone was certainly close enough to walk off with the bull as a prize. What was interesting was what happened afterwards. A mathematician got hold of all of the hundreds of slips of paper submitted, each with a guess as to the bull's weight. He added them up, divided them by the number of guesses, and arrived at an average that was within a mere 2 pounds of the bull's actual weight. The story, of course, illustrates the innate wisdom of crowds (something we bow to every time we convene a jury). In the wild and woolly world that is the blogosphere, I don't think we can set a single standard for fair and balanced. Indeed, I don't think we want to. Once you start setting standards, you also incrementally start imposing viewpoints and begin to stifle ideas. It is the variety of views made available in the blogosphere, amongst the many and varied pajama pundits, that leads to an average that is probably correct. This pure marketplace of ideas is probably the best crucible we can off to burn off the dross and reveal some semblance of truth.

A man works from sun to sun....

A woman's work is never done. Today, I rose at 6 (unwillingly, I might add), tidied the house, took the kids to a fundraiser pancake breakfast, took the kids to the library, prepared lunch for everyone, took my daughter to her dance class, prepared snacks for everyone, read to three small children, opened the pool, went shopping, began dinner preparations, did two loads of laundry, tidied the house (again), got the pool cleaner system ready (my husband actually cleaned the pool), cooked dinner, washed and vacuumed all the floors, cleaned all the bathrooms, did another load of laundry . . . and I'm not done yet. I'm tired, but the nice thing about housework is that, while it keeps coming back, at least you have moments of completion, where you can look around, and see fed, happy, clean kids, a clean pool, and a clean and tidy house.

I'm taking bets

Indonesian officials instantly disavowed any Muslim involvement, but I'm willing to lay odds that the "religion of peace" has struck again:

Two bombs exploded in a crowded market in a Christian-dominated town in central Indonesia on Saturday, killing at least 22 people and wounding 40, police said. The blasts came two days after unspecified security threats prompted the United States to close its diplomatic offices. The explosions within 15 minutes of each other flattened food stands in the Sulawesi island town of Tentena. Witnesses said many of the victims had come to help those injured in the first blast, only to be killed by a second, larger explosion that left a 3-foot-deep crater. The blasts also damaged a bank, a church and a police station. 'The latest report says 22 people were killed,' Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a news conference in Makassar, provincial capital of South Sulawesi. A Christian clergyman and a 3-year-old boy were among the dead, police said.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Another good defense of Fallaci

If you've been following the latest Italian travesty -- that is, the attack on Oriano Fallaci -- you'll enjoy this Kathleen Parker column defending America's tradition of freedom of speech, as contrasted to the Muslim attack on truth. For example:

Criticize Islam and face jail or justice at the hands of a true believer. Is it possible that radical Islam really does hate freedom? Now, to Durham, N.C., where Wednesday night three crosses were burned in different places around town - in front of an Episcopal church, at a downtown intersection and on a dirt pile near a construction site. Americans know what burning crosses represent beyond desecration of a religious symbol, and most are disgusted by the act. Most also figure the perps are the sort of folks who, if they bathed, would need a toilet brush and a silo of Lysol. We might wish the world were rid of these creeps, but alas, life is imperfect and God apparently is still shuffling the deck of human DNA. I say "cut and deal," but then I'm a mere mortal. Meanwhile, let's be abundantly clear: You can still burn a cross in this country (qualifiers to follow), or flush a Bible down the toilet, or insult Isaiah's writing, or burn a burqa in your front yard and live to see the morrow. So far.
Related posts: Facts versus insults

This does not sound unfair to me

Don't ask me why (Really. Don't ask.) but I get San Francisco Focus Magazine, one of the more hip, liberal publications in this great Bay Area of ours. The June edition focuses on weddings and so, inevitably, it sweeps in gay unions. One of the articles is entitled "An All-Too-Fragile Union : Thousands of Bay Area gay and lesbian couples are learning that domestic partnership isn't in their best interest -- and may never be." This article basically focuses on the fact that all the various benefits and rights California law extends to gay and lesbian partnerships may give them some tax problems. In this regard, yuppy gays may find that it is in their financial interests not to register as partners. So it goes. It was this paragraph, however, that took me aback:

And the impact of AB205 [the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act] is not limited to families of means. Although legally helpful to some poor families with children, the law socks it financially to many who can least afford it. Generally, in California, same sex couples raising kids have significantly lower incomes than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a 2004 study by the Williams Project on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law, a think tank on gay and lesbian issues. That means they're more likely to qualify for some kind of welfare of public health benefit. However, if they register under AB205, their total household income is used to calculate their benefits instead of the individual income of each partner. According to the Williams Project, this means that thousands of couples could be forced out of state-run public assistance programs, collectively losing as much as $127 million per year. [Emphasis mine.]
Let me step back here. Poor married people are considered as one financial unit for purposes of government aid. That's one of the things that happens when you marry -- the government views you as one for financial purposes. Even in the ultimate nanny state, spouses are supposed to help each other out for the greater good of the family. As I read the above paragraph, though, the gays and lesbians who are demanding that they get treated the same as married people are complaining that their semi-married status means that they're -- gasp -- actually being treated like married people. And this means that the government is viewing them as a financial unit, and they are expected to pool together for the good of the unit. Hello marriage, bye-bye financial aid. I find it shocking that the article implies that people who decide to share their lives, to have children together, to register to get all the benefits society bestows on married couples (pensions, visitation rights, joint property rights, etc), complain because it means a lessening of their government benefits. It appears that they want to be treated the same as married people, only better. I think it was Orwell who said, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Now I know what he meant.

Things come full circle

Not to make a joke about a terrible tragedy afflicting some people, but when I read this piece of news, I was irresistably reminded that Victorians would warn their children, "don't play with yourself or you'll go blind":

Federal health officials are examining rare reports of blindness among some men using the impotence drugs Viagra and Cialis, a disclosure that comes at a time when the drug industry can ill afford negative publicity about another class of blockbuster medicines.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Above and beyond

Kathryn Roth-Douquet's husband is a Marine who left for Iraq, leaving her behind, as well as their children. Here's what Roth-Douquet has to say about their family's choice:

Military families make the conscious decision to be engaged in 'extreme citizenship.' When we are called, we will stand. We choose this life understanding that there is a constitutional role for the military. That role is not to make policy, but to respond with ability and honor when called to action by our nation's elected leaders. No one — war critic or advocate — could want the military to behave otherwise. It's called civilian control of the military, and it's a bulwark of our democracy.
Hat tip: Gee Dubya (great find, GW)

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning"

My husband complained the other day that I never take pictures of him; indeed, that I almost never take any pictures. He's right. I'm not a very visually oriented person, and tend not to look at pictures. That being the case, why bother taking them? It occurred to me that the sense on which I rely is the olfactory one. Smells -- good smells -- matter to me. If they could invent a camera that could capture odors, I'd be off and running. And if that was the case, what odors would I capture? Here's my list: 1. Baby's breath -- not the little flowers, but that lovely warm, sweet smell that flows out of the mouth of a laughing five month old. 2. The smell on my daughter's neck and my son's temple after they've been sleeping for a couple of hours. 3. My kitchen, about a half hour before the Thanksgiving dinner is ready to be served. (And there's nothing so crazy about this one. I've heard that realtors often put apple pies in the oven on open house days because that smell makes people think "home.") 4. Sweet peas. 5. A puppy's muzzle, right at the part before its eyes. 6. Fresh cut grass. 8. The first drops of rain falling on a hot, hot pavement on a summer's day. 9. Tuberoses from across the room (up close, the smell is too strong). 10. Jasmine, which grows all over our local shopping mall. I don't like shopping, but I do like walking down the mall in the late spring to smell the jasmine. 11. Chocolate. 12. Earl Grey Tea on a cold day. 13. The chlorine smell of a swimming pool. 14. My mother's house, which is immaculate and sweet smelling. Is this the start of a meme? I don't know. I suspect a lot of people would drop into vulgarity, and that's not how I view pleasurable or evocative smells. Maybe it's the start of some inventing genius coming up with a fragrance capturing camera.

Remind me not to get on Robert Spencer's bad side

It's the fisking of death! The Christian Science Monitor wrote an idiotic article that attempts to challenge the notion that it's only Muslims that kill people to avenge perceived insults to their religion. Here, Robert Spencer, of Jihad Watch, methodically destroys every inane assertion in that CSM article. It's a joy to watch a job well done, and a good reminder that you don't want to be stupid enough, and ignorant enough, to mess with Spencer.

Those mad British rethink the insanity

From the Jerusalem Post:

British Lecturers overturned their decision to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities in a vote on Thursday. Britain's 40,000-member Association of University Teachers voted last month to boycott the academic institutions for actions that it said undermined Palestinian rights and academic freedom.
Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Well, duh!

Here's the report:

The scenario is increasingly common — eager parents adopt children born in hardship an ocean away, hoping to create a cohesive family against seemingly daunting odds. And yet, children adopted from abroad seem to adjust remarkably well, according to a new study that challenges the widely held notion that these youngsters are badly damaged emotionally and prone to disruptive behavior.
As my title said, "Well, duh!" It's the nature of children to adapt. That's why the species survives. I'll never forget talking to my mother and mother-in-law, both WWII survivors, both in their teens at the time. I commented to them that it was amazing that, young as they were, they were able to survive and adapt. They replied, in one voice, "We had to."

Preventing a city from becoming a giant old age home

James Taranto, in the OpinionJournal, points out that a recent report shows that San Francisco is losing its children, and that one of its initiatives is to try to beef up the public school system. To Taranto, this is entirely illogical:

So the lack of children is a reason to spend more taxpayer money on schools and other programs for kids. If there were more kids, would that be a reason to spend less?
It's actually a little less illogical than it appears. Aside from obscenely high housing costs, which simply forces committed urbanites to live in smaller homes than the suburbs would offer, the main reason people I know are leaving SF is that the schools are dreadful. Better schools actually would keep families within the City. So, if the City genuinely wants to look like a real community, and not like a retirement community, it's not so silly to spend money on schools. My complaint would be that the spending all sounds entirely cosmetic. Nothing will change the kind of NEA driven, dull, PC pap being fed through force of repetition into these poor children -- but, of course, that complaint can be applied to all public schooling, no matter how fancy the facility in which it's placed.

The wolf in sheep's clothing

Hillary is courting the Jews -- rather a silly exercise I think, considering Jewish-Americans' blind, stupid devotion to the Left, despite its increasingly rabid anti-Semitism. This NRO article highlights the good things Hillary's saying, and the bad things she's done.

Mark Steyn again

Here, from National Review magazine, is a wonderfully funny, on-the-mark point from Mark Steyn regarding Newsweek's approach to journalism:

“It’s important to remember,” Isikoff told the Washington Post, “there was absolutely no lapse in journalistic standards here.” And that’s true. The fake Koran-flushing lives up entirely to the CBS bogus National Guard memos: an honest mistake that, like all the mainstream media’s honest mistakes, is a mistake that will, if true, damage the Bush administration. By contrast, when the Swiftvets come along, whoa, hold your horses, let’s get the slo-mo fact-checkers in for three or four months, at least until, say, mid-November. The only difference this time around is that there seems to be some serious damage to America’s reputation in parts of the Muslim world otherwise well disposed to the Great Satan — Afghanistan notably — and the little matter of 15 corpses, which makes Michael Isikoff considerably more lethal than, say, Lynndie England. *** When Christians get hot and bothered about a horny Jesus (The Last Temptation of Christ), a gay Jesus (Terrence McNally’s Broadway play Corpus Christi), or a Jesus floating in the artist’s urine (Piss Christ), columnists take to the barricades to champion the cause of free speech. When Muslim groups closed down a play in Cleveland because its revolting apologia for a Palestinian suicide bomber was insufficiently pro-Muslim, the silence of the media lambs was deafening. But somehow, when it’s the merest hint of a rumor of a canard about Bush stooges flushing the Koran down the toilet, Newsweek doesn’t bother thinking through the consequences. That’s the real problem here: not the reflex leftism but the pathetic hicky parochialism of a U.S. media unable to see things except through the tunnel vision of domestic partisan advantage. Who’s really the “culturally insensitive” ones here?

Aargh! I've been hit (with a film meme, that is)

Gail tagged me with a film meme. This is actually a bit of a struggle for me. We're members of Netflix, so a gazillion or so DVDs go through my home every year -- and I walk out on about 99% of them within the first ten minutes. The DVDs I buy tend to be for the children, although I love watching them too. Anyway, here goes: Total number of films I own on DVD/Video: About 60, most of them on video, and most of those old musicals, which I loved to watch before I began to live in a DVD world. Now, I have many old musicals, but no video player! The last film I bought: Hmmm. That would probably be Shrek. I bought it several years ago to play in the car for the long road trips to visit family. The good thing about Shrek is that it "listens" well. That is, since I'm in the front seat, I haven't actually "seen" it in years, but I definitely enjoy the dialogue and the soundtrack. Other DVDs I've bought, even though they're not actually films, are the complete Warner Brothers cartoon collection, and the complete third season of "I Love Lucy." Again, these are for the long drives. The cartoons are a huge success. My children, raised on a PC diet of PBS and Learning Channel cartoons (I strongly recommend Magic School Bus) had never seen good old-fashioned Looney Toons. They adore them. It's actually fun to drive with gales of laughter welling out from the cars' back seat. I also enjoy the sheer musicality of the Looney Toons. I hadn't remembered from my childhood just how musical they are. The last film I watched: Watched a weird one last night called the Zero Effect. It wasn't very good, but it wasn't so bad that I walked out on it. The most enjoyable movie I've watched recently is Les Choristes, a musical that came out of France last year. It's a fairly predictable story about a good teacher who uses music to bring hope to a bunch of orphaned or abandoned boys in a sadistically run French boarding school in 1949. The film is well done and the boys' choral music lovely. My five year old watched the film three times (it's in French, and his reading is too slow for subtitles) just for the music. We finally got him the CD, and neither of my kids can stop listening to it. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order): 1) Groundhog Day -- An incredibly funny movie, that's cleverly made, and that gives us hope that we can get it right. 2) Pride & Prejudice -- I know it's a miniseries, not really a movie, but it's one of the best things around. It's true to the book, except where it actually improves on the book; it's lovely to look at; the music is beautiful; and it's got Colin Firth. 3) Anything Fred & Ginger did -- I know that's more than one movie, but they do tend to be a set in my mind, and I can watch them endlessly. 4) Singin' in the Rain -- What can I say? It's the best. 5) Gone With the Wind -- I haven't watched this in years, and the blatant racism in it makes me very uncomfortable now, but it still ranks as one of the greatest melodramatic movies ever made, so I just can't leave it off my list (especially since I saw it about 10 times when I was younger). And now which lucky five shall I tag? I know. Anne, Patrick, Steve, the guys at Brain Droppings, and Phibian.

More on to EU or not EU.

I've been watching with interest the European leaders' effort to impose, from the top, an EU Constitution on the various populations. I just read a Stratford Intelligence Report that indicates that length alone of the proposed EU Constitution is part of what's making this such a hard sell:

The chief obstacle to an EU constitution in France and elsewhere is political and social -- it is the unwillingness to abandon sovereignty. This sensibility is always there, but it is activated when the political ambitions of the new regime interact with hard times. This is doubly the case when people believe that their own problems and votes might have no bearing on the actions or policies of the new political system. This dilemma is symbolized by the nature of the new constitution -- it is 300 pages long. A constitution must define the regime. It must define institutions and the limits on those institutions. It must define individual rights and, in a federal system, the rights of nonfederal governments. Above all, it must be terse. The more complex it is, the less the ordinary citizen can trust it. A 300-page constitution, by dint of its very size, sums up the first problem facing Europe: The EU is governed by a bureaucracy whose ways cannot be understood by ordinary citizens, and which does not intend itself to be understood. It is therefore not trusted. A second problem is that the constitution is made up of a series of staggeringly complex compromises that defy clear understanding. If American constitutional law is complex, European constitutional law, as written, is beyond comprehension, let alone debate. The voters simply don't know what they are voting for. Even if they did favor the principle of European unification, no one really knows, under this constitution, precisely what they would be committing to. This is not a solvable problem. The complexity is inevitable. It derives from an understanding of Europe that relies on specialists rather than citizen-politicians, and an uneasiness among nations that has resulted in a compromise of bewildering complexity. The Europeans either have an incomprehensible constitution, or they have no chance of agreeing on one at all.
I still haven't decided whether the fact that the Europeans are suddenly backing out of what seem, in the 90s, to be a fait accompli. As we've learned from the situation in the Middle East, the status quo is not always the best thing, and change can be good. Nevertheless, my instinct is to keep Europe a bit fragmented, and not to have to deal with a monolithic, anti-American, anti-Semitic, increasing Islamized European nation-state. Previous posts: To EU, or not to EU

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Facts versus insults

A tenet of good legal writing is to stick to the facts. That is, you'll alienate the judge, and make yourself look stupid, if you opine that "the defendant is a genuinely evil person who should be locked up for decades." This is especially true if the subsequent facts reveal that the defendant's worst sin was to pass by a Salvation Army Santa without throwing a nickel into the pot. Infinitely more effective is to detail with credible evidence that "the defendant is a devout follower of a religion that espouses beheading nonbelievers; that defendant has repeatedly written well-publicized documents in which he repeats his belief, derived from his faith, that all non-believers should be decapitated; and that defendant was found in the same room as a headless body, holding a bloodstained sword in his hand." That's compelling. Which gets me to this story from Moonbat Central:

'Controversial Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is to face trial for allegedly insulting the Muslim faith in her latest book, a court in Italy says....' Italian preliminary investigative judge Armando Grasso ordered the formulation of charges against the author, saying the book had expressions which were 'unequivocally offensive to Islam'. [Emphasis mine.]
Clearly, European law has utterly lost sight of the power of true information, versus the weakness of baseless insults. To the extent Fallaci wrote a book about Muslims, the Court is entirely unconcerned with whether what she said was true and corroborated. It cares only about the Muslim's hurt feelings. Well, what kind of a standard is that? Is that going to protect me if I ever show up in Court, and the Highway Patrol Officer swears under oath that I was going 100 mph on the freeway? "Your honor, he hurt my feelings!" "You're right. Case dismissed." What's even scarier, or maybe just as scary, is the fact that the American press is going the same way, although kind of from a different angle. Newsweek, Dan Rather, the New York Times, etc -- they're all infinitely more interested in hurting than in the facts. Facts seem irrelevant in the modern world; feelings and perceptions are everything.

Will the real Hillary Clinton please stand up?

If you want a nasty, snarky take on Hillary Clinton, read this article.

The standards thing

This is the beginning of a Pat Sajak column:

When a few members of the United States military are caught breaking the rules (Abu Ghraib) or even accused falsely (Koran flushing), we are subjected to lectures about how America needs to be held to a 'higher standard'. Baloney. A high standard? Absolutely. The highest standard? Okay. But higher? Higher than what? Higher than whom? The implication is, because we are a free and strong and wealthy and generally decent power, our misdeeds are somehow worse than the misdeeds of chronic louts. It's as if a serial killer should be treated more gently than a first-time embezzler who had tried to be honest most of his life.
Aside from being correct, Sajak is pointing out the flip side of something I've always said; namely, that we tend to infantilize certain groups of people by expecting less from them. That's long been the bone I've had to pick with Liberals (even before my conservative reincarnation) -- so many liberal policies ostensibly aimed at ending poverty treat poor people, women and minorities like children, denying them power and accountability. It would be nice if we would start expecting from people situationally-appropriate, responsible, adult behavior -- no more and no less -- regardless of race, color or creed.

What Mr. Smith really found when he went to Washington

Leave it to The American Spectator to point out the glaring idiocy behind the Left's constant use of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to support their filibuster. The article is at some lengths to point out that the film is about government corruption arising from the New Deal:

There in a nutshell is the corruption that Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is focused on: the belief that there is something good, even noble, about robbing Peter (i.e. the taxpayer) to pay Paul. Bear in mind, the film came out in 1939 when FDR's New Deal was still in full swing. The movie argues that the deal's public spending projects corrupted lawmakers by giving them millions to dole out. Inevitably, favoritism, back-scratching and worse set in and once-noble legislators like Paine are corrupted. Worse yet, everybody in the film except Smith accepts this as normal. No wonder D.C. lawmakers denounced the film when it first came out. Paine warns Smith not to oppose the dam project, telling him that 'powerful forces' (i.e. Taylor and his newspapers) want it. 'They'll destroy you' if he stands in their way, Paine says. Smith is unmoved and makes clear that he'll challenge it on the Senate floor and expose how it will benefit Taylor. Paine responds by coldly betraying Smith, framing him for an ethics violation and trying to get him ejected from the Senate. In the film's climax, Smith refuses to relinquish the Senate floor, preventing the other Senators from voting to oust him. This is the film's famous filibuster and it has nothing to do with keeping a judicial nominee off the bench. It is all about Smith fighting for his own survival against the entrenched interests in Washington. It's also worth noting that this is the old-fashioned kind of filibuster, where Smith must speak constantly or yield the floor. The rule has been changed since then. These days Democrats merely need to say they're filibustering a judge and they can still be home for dinner.
The last point especially has struck home with me, because the movie does make an important point about the filibuster -- it's not just a strategic maneuver, it's a sacrifice. Hat tip: The Paragraph Farmer

End filibusters altogether, says the LA Times

I must be missing something, because I find myself agreeing with this LA Times editorial, which I print here in its entirety:

Even more so than usual, the halls of the Capitol were filled with self-congratulation Monday. With their compromise preserving the filibuster, Republicans and Democrats alike were able to stand before the microphones and declare victory for the republic, the Constitution, the Senate and, indeed, democracy itself. Not necessarily in that order. Above all else, what the agreement preserves is the power of the Senate. Amid the press conferences and floor speeches, perhaps the most telling comment was that, with the deal, "the Senate is back in business." The quote was from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), but the sentiment was near universal. In the Senate, business as usual too often amounts to delay and obstruction, and the chief enabler in this process is the filibuster. Under the terms of the deal announced Monday, Senate Democrats essentially agreed not to filibuster some of the president's judicial nominees if Senate Republicans agreed not to abolish the filibuster. We'll let you have this gun, Republicans told their colleagues, as long as you promise not to use it. The immediate effect of this agreement is that an up-or-down floor vote will proceed on three of President Bush's most controversial nominees: Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. More long-term, the deal — which lacks the imprimatur of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) — will allow filibusters to be used on future nominees and on other issues. (The filibuster allows 41 senators to block a vote by extending debate on it indefinitely.) It hardly qualifies as commentary to note that politics trump principle in Washington. But it is worth pointing out that many of the same conservative Republicans who insisted that every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote are threatening to filibuster a bill encouraging stem cell research. Many Democrats, meanwhile, came to realize that the filibuster is one of the shining jewels of American democracy only when they were in the minority. As this page has argued, the filibuster is essentially a reactionary tool that unduly empowers obstructionist minorities. Due to its disproportional representation — California (population 36 million) and Delaware (population 830,000) each get two senators — minority rights are already well protected in the Senate. The filibuster, as an additional brake on democracy that goes beyond the constitutional framework to give individual senators even more power, should have been nuked for all purposes, not just in the context of judicial nominees. It was always going to be a long shot given the clubby institution's instincts for self-preservation, but this debate at least held out the possibility of making the system more fair. Now that the Senate is back in business, to borrow a phrase, its privileges preserved, its members are understandably pleased. Forgive us if we decline to join them.

To EU, or not to EU

As usual, Mark Steyn has things sewn up. His latest article takes on, among other things, the fact that European leaders, watching the voters start backing off from the EU constitution, have a new campaign tactic: Vote for the Constitution, because it's the only thing standing between Europe and a new Holocaust. As Steyn says:

Golly. So the choice for voters on the Euro-ballot is apparently: yes to the European Constitution, or yes to a new Holocaust. If there's a neither-of-the-above box, the EU's rulers are keeping quiet about it. The notion that the Continent's peoples are basically a bunch of genocidal whackoes champing at the bit for a new bloodbath is one I'm not unsympathetic to. But it's a curious rationale to pitch to one's electorate: vote for us; we're the straitjacket on your own worst instincts.
This insulting and peculiar campaign rhetoric, leads Steyn to his next question:
Why does so much of the continental governing class carry on like the sinister Mitteleuropean shrink from a 1940s melodrama, insisting that you're far too unstable to be allowed to leave the sanatorium? Well, either they're the loopy ones or they're desperate, and they'd rather talk about a new Holocaust than any of the more pressing questions - Turkey, the unsustainable euro, unemployment, over-regulation, deathbed demographics. Or maybe they talk about the Second World War because that's the only genuine pan-European topic. Whatever the answer, the concentration-camps-around-the-corner argument is at least a useful glimpse into how the Eurocrats regard the citizenry. However the French and Dutch votes go, it seems unlikely that the EU's rulers will allow anything as footling as the will of the people to derail the project at this late stage. In Euro-referendums, there's only one correct answer; it's just that sometimes you have to have two votes before the people figure out which one it is. My sense is that the French will vote narrowly for the constitution and the Dutch will narrowly reject it, but either way the EU will figure out a way to inflict it on the Continent. A stitch-up in time saves, nein?
There's a lot more in this article, including a reminder -- as if Americans need it or the Europeans care -- that the real block to additional Holocausts since WWII has been NATO, which the Europeans would be happy to see sick into the Atlantic. Anyway, as always, Steyn has written a good read, so read on.

We have met the enemy and it is us

Wretchard, at the Belmont Club, has posted an almost lyrical attack on the weirdly lopsided coverage the press gives the ongoing war against Islamic terrorists:

[A] court in The Hague turned down a demand by a dozen plaintiffs who wanted to force the Dutch government to arrest US President George W Bush when he visits the Netherlands. Donald Rumsfeld has been repeatedly asked to resign over 'widespread prison' abuse in Abu Ghraib. The point of these calls for lopsided retribution is to drive home just how dangerous it is to trifle with sacred person and belief system of the enemy. It aims to paralyze anyone who even contemplates such an act of lese majeste. The modern 'grave of a hundred dead' isn't a pyramid of skulls over the tomb of British Subaltern: it's an American Secretary of Defense's head on a stake over a photograph of a jihadi wearing a pair of panties as a hat. It is front-page calls for an abject American apology for flushing a Koran down a toilet even if it was never flushed down a toilet at all, except on the pages of Newsweek. It is calls for an admission of guilt if only the mere possibility of guilt existed. And if that were not psychological domination at par with the worst the British Empire could offer in its heyday then nothing is. There are Empires today of a different sort, but they maintain the power by much the same means.
There's more, and it's just as good. Perhaps it's understandable that the American press doesn't want to turn into a government handmaiden, blindly touting the virtues of war, a la the press during the Spanish American War. (Which I'll just mention took place over a hundred years ago, so it's not as if anyone in living memory can feel guilty about that hagiographic war coverage.) The Press's current conduct, however, does not indicate that it is merely trying to maintain the objectivity one expects from a vapidly self-lauding institution. Instead, the American press gives every indication that it is willing to praise dictatorships, turn a blind eye to the death of innocents, and, if necessary, help America lose a war, if that will help it in its blind, unthinking determination to unseat a President that the institution dislikes. That's mean-spirited, selfish and stupid behavior. If I could be sure that its only effect would be to bite the Press in butt, I'd say, so be it. However, since the Press's power means I must travel in its wake, I have to say that I bitterly resent this approach to America's interests abroad. Hat tip: Brain Droppings

Monday, May 23, 2005

Is gay marriage infringing on the separation of church and state?

I was struck by the quality of Jeff Jacoby’s article on the one year anniversary of the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision mandating gay marriage in that state. While Jacoby is personally opposed to gay marriage, he is able to recognize the humanity of those who seek its legalization, and to acknowledge the need many have to feel that they can participate in rituals common to most Americans:

None of this is meant to downplay the emotional importance that same-sex marriage has taken on for many gays and lesbians. It holds out the promise of "normalcy," of the kind of ordinariness that heterosexuals take for granted.
However, Jacoby points out that, in today's America, marriage is no longer a necessary adjunct to being "normal":
In America today no one needs a marriage license to form a lifelong union with a partner of the same sex. Gays and lesbians already have that right. What they don't have is the official stamp of approval that would establish, in Shelby Steele's words, ''the fundamental innocuousness of homosexuality itself."
He also challenges the fact that people loudly favoring gay marriage tend to paint all opponents as homophobes, with all the mean-spiritedness and hatred that term carries with it nowadays:
[S]o many supporters of same-sex marriage think that anyone who disagrees with them must be an ignorant bigot. Time and again, I have been told that my views on marriage are morally equivalent to the views of a segregationist on race, or a Nazi on Jews. It is remarkable: Express the conviction that marriage should mean what it has always meant -- the union of male and female -- and you are likely to be told that you are peddling hate. Of all the motifs that get played and replayed in the marriage debate, this one is the worst. For two reasons: First, because it is untrue. Marriage was not created to hurt homosexuals or enshrine bigotry in law. It did not become a universal human institution as an expression of animus. The core of marriage has always and everywhere been the pairing of a man and a woman because no other arrangement can do what marriage does: produce the next generation, bind men to the women who bear their children, and give boys and girls the mothers and fathers they need.
I happen to agree with Jacoby. I'm definitely not a homophobe, but I'm made very uncomfortable by this rush to gay marriage. Indeed, Jacoby's article led me to dig out, dust off, and improve one of my very early posts on the subject (written when I had no readers). My article focuses on what I think is a fundamental question: what is marriage?* Historically, marriage has always had two strands. One had to do with power and money. Women were chattel, and they brought with them to a marriage their father's/family's money and power. Royal marriages in Europe through the 19th century amply demonstrate this fact. Of course, while those were the most visible examples, all cultures have tied finance and marriage. In some cultures, the groom pays for the bride and in some the bride's family pays for the groom, but there is a commercial element. And to my mind, commerce is a function that can reside with the State. A subset of the commercial aspects of marriage, of course, is that marriage has to do with children. Once you (or your family) have bought a spouse, you want that money to go to your blood descendents. That need dovetails nicely with the fact that it takes a man and a woman to create a child that bears those bloodlines. The other strand of marriage in all cultures is, of course, religion. Wiggle out of it as much as you want, but the fact is that the Judeo-Christian tradition has God's imprimatur on the man/woman marital relationship. Even other traditions, including polygamist traditions (such as Islam or, say, historical Mormonism), are predicated on male/female relationships (it's just that they polygamist traditions increased the number of available females for every male). And just as biological children flow from the commercial imperative behind some marriages, so too are biological children an integral part of religious marriages. After all, "God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Genesis, 9:1. The above facts and traditions are the boundaries of my discussion. They are certainly entirely separate concepts behind marriage -- commerce on the one hand, religion on the other -- yet in the United States they are blurred. American marriages are both blessed before God, and given benefits from the State. Why is this? There is a simple answer in the Western tradition: up until recent times, God & State were intertwined. The King was a Christian monarch, the State a Christian entity. And just as God and State were one, so two was the civil side of marriage (power and money) inextricably intertwined with the religious side. America, at its founding, while ostensibly separating Church and State (mainly to protect religion from the coercive power of the State, and not the other way around), did not separate the mixed civil/religious implications of marriage. Thus, it has never been questioned in America that the State has the power to regulate marriage -- hence, its attack on Mormom polygamy in the 19th century, and the fact that it grants multiple legal benefits to the married (recognition of children, access to the ill, etc.). Indeed, in America, a marriage is not "legal" with a civil imprimatur. However, despite the historical merger between religion and commerce in American marriages, Americans have never lost sight of the two separate strands -- marriage still has a religious element, as evidenced by the fact that people routinely marry in houses of worship; and a secular element, in that a marriage does not obtain civil benefits absent a secular marriage license. In other words, while America has always labeled the intertwined elements under the single heading of "marriage," Americans have always been aware of the separate civil and religious aspects to marriage. That's why the majority of Americans favor civil unions. They recognize that it is unfair to deny purely civil benefits -- such as the right to visit a sick loved one, the right to inherit jointly earned property, and the right to work-based benefits -- to people who have made a life-long commitment to each other. Equally, though, religious Americans continue to recognize that, to the extent marriage has a purely religious element, marriage can apply only to the union of a man and a woman. It is the latter understanding that causes revulsion in even non-homophobic people when they are told that marriage cannot be limited to opposite sexes. Because Americans subliminally draw a big bright line between civil ceremonies that bestow civil benefits, and religious ceremonies that create religious covenants, I believe gays are making a big PR mistake pressing for "Gay Marriages." Civil unions are a civic idea, and gays ought to be accorded full civil rights. However, because marriage has inherent in it deeply-held religious beliefs, gays, by pushing for "gay marriage" through civil media (such as courts and legislatures) are improperly attempting to influence religion. If individual religious organizations want to recognize gay marriage, that is their prerogative. However, to use the power of the state to force the various religions in this country to recognize gay marriage may well violate the First Amendment's separation of church and state. ______________________ *My discussion is based on my internal, brain-driven knowledge base. If you want more details, you can find a nice summary of the history marriage here.

Bumper stickers of the clueless

I drove behind a car today with this bumper sticker: "The last time people listened to a * bush * folks wandered in the desert for forty years." I thought this was both a clueless and funny bumpersticker, since it showed such vast cultural ignorance. Yes, the Jews did wander in the desert for 40 years -- but they weren't slaves anymore. Clearly, the proud possessor of this bumpersticker was so ignorant he (or she) didn't realize that the sojourn in the desert was actually a step up from what came before, and was a necessary by-way on the road to the Promised Land.

Letting the AUT know how you feel

As you may recall, the ruling clique of Britain's Association of University Teachers ("AUT") recently voted to boycott some of Israel's universities, in the hope that this would be a leading wedge in the Leftist battle to destroy Israel entirely. On May 26, the matter will be debated and put up for a vote before all AUT members. If you'd like to let the AUT know how you feel about the reprehensible, anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, pro-Marxist, pro-Terrorist conduct, go to this Bar-Ilan University website for AUT email addresses.

Americans and free enterprise

Do you think these bank employees, who sold customer data to marketing companies, are related to the soldiers who sold pictures to the tabloids of Saddam in his undies?

George Lucas's big, silly movie

My goodness! This is the second time (here's the first) in two days that I'm citing to an article in the ultra-Lib San Francisco Chronicle. This time, their sole conservative columnist, Debra Saunders, takes on the silliness that is George Lucas's latest movie -- as well as the silliness Lucas showed when he professed to see a relationship between Vietnam and Iraq. (I've blogged here about what it will take to end this kind of foolish, common point of comparison.) With choice points such as the following, how can you resist reading the whole article:

Let me credit Lucas with this much. "The Phantom Menace" produced complaints that he engaged in facile racial stereotypes that demeaned Asians, Arabs and Africans. Since then, it is clear, Lucas learned that there is only one facile stereotype that is safe in Hollywood: Republican equals evil. Bush bad.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Differing levels of competence

My husband is one of the smartest people I know, and also one of the most competent -- in some ways. He's a high level professional whose job involves a lot of hands-on, specialized work. He drives a car wonderfully. He's built computers and, although not a computer guy, enjoys setting them up. He prides himself on his ability to get things done. Except for the things he just doesn't seem capable of mastering, such as: * Making the kids their lunches. * Getting the kids ready for school in the morning. * Cleaning up spills. * Running a vacuum cleaner. * Running a washing machine. * Figuring out how to get clothes into the laundry basket * Folding socks. * Ah, heck! Folding anything. * Opening the swimming pool cover. * Closing the swimming pool cover. * Shopping for groceries. As to each of these things, when faced with the need to get them done, he unabashedly pleads ignorance or inability. I find this very strange, since I actually enjoy mastering tasks (except money management, anything but that). I'm proud when I can put together a piece of furniture; I think it's cool when I master the workings of some piece of equipment. I'm smug about my ability to rewire lamps, and I'm also smug about the fact that I recently fixed a broken sewing machine. So what's going on with my husband? Is it just him or is it a guy thing? Opinions, please.

On moral relativism

Keith Thompson, another refugee from the Left, wrote an interesting article about his transformation. As someone who has made the same journey Thompson did, I appreciate and empathize with much of what he says. I was particularly struck by his attack on the moral relativism that characterizes the modern Left, especially with respect to the current wars. He was first struck by it when Stalin's sins were forgiven, on the Left, while Reagan committed the ultimate faux pas when he had the temerity to term that conduct "evil" (in his "Evil Empire" speech). Here's Thompson:

Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations. Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics. Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the "courage" of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to "automobile statistics." The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.
I haven't, couldn't, and didn't say it better myself. Thompson also has a clear-eyed view of the hypocrisy that characterizes the liberals when they view the changes the Bush Doctrine is bringing about in the medieval Middle East:
All of this came back to me as I watched the left's anemic, smirking response to Iraq's election in January. Didn't many of these same people stand up in the sixties for self-rule for oppressed people and against fascism in any guise? Yes, and to their lasting credit. But many had since made clear that they had also changed their minds about the virtues of King's call for equal of opportunity.
The Left is a party of the past, blinded by 19th Century industrial horrors that no longer exist, antiquated Marxist economic notions that have long since proven to be wrong, and romantic fallacies about those in the world who are not white American males. It's heartening to see that at least some on the Left are able to reorient themselves to the present -- to its benefits and burdens -- and to move forward with information about the world as it is, not as it was in some 20th Century Marxist demagogue's worldview. Incidentally, there's much more that's good in Thompson's article, since he also attacks the thought-police approach to education that was an inevitable result of the Left's obsession with controlling equality of outcome. (If you'd like to see the reductio ad absurdum of this approach, get a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House," and read the story "Harrison Bergeron".)

Friday, May 20, 2005

What makes normal lives?

My father was born in 1919, in Berlin. His father had left the family before he was born. His mother already had two other children. The family lived in a horrible mid-19th century tenement area, with their apartment located above a brothel. Because of the horrific post-WWI inflation rate, my father had memories of people shlepping their grocery money in big bags and carts. When he was 5, his mother could no longer cope, and placed him in an orphanage. My father remained in the orphanage until 1935 when, at the age of 16, one of his teachers invited him to emigrate to Palestine with him (the teacher was shepherding a group of middle-class Jewish youngsters whose parents had been lucky enough to get them out). My father left, and spent the next 3.5 years helping to found a kibbutz in the middle of a swamp. Kibbutz life was not for him and, in 1939, he moved to the big city -- Tel Aviv. Things didn't go too well for him there and, he always claims, when England entered the war, he was actually starving to death. Daddy enlisted in the RAF the day after war began. He spent the next five years all over southern Europe and North Africa, where he saw some of the worst fighting the war had to offer, including hand-to-hand combat, with bayonets. Repatriated to Palestine at war's end, he had a breather of a couple of years, and then was commissioned as an officer in the Israeli War of Independence. My mother was born in the Dutch East Indies, but soon moved back to Europe. She lived a privileged life until 1935, when her father decided to move to Palestine (he was an early and ardent Zionist). The money vanished with the move, but it was nonetheless a happy time for my mother. Then, her parents divorced, which was especially traumatic in a time and place when that didn't happen much. Things really took a turn for the worse for my mother in 1941. Her father, who was chummy with the British command structure in Palestine, learned from his friends that they were dubious about their ability to hold out against Rommel. Of course, had Rommel made it to Palestine, the slaughter would have been unbelievable. Thinking himself clever, my grandfather sent my mother back to the Dutch East Indies. Bad mistake. What many Americans don't realize is that, shortly after Pearl Habor, the Japanese took over Malaya and Indonesia, both of which provided the Japanese with much-needed rubber. The civilian population was placed in concentration camps, where they remained until war's end. My mother has always given thanks for Fat Man and Little Boy, since she was beginning the dying process when they were dropped, and could not have lasted much longer. She was then repatriated to Palestine, and had a breather for a couple of years, before she too became a soldier in the Israeli War of Independence. I actually have a reason for reciting these histories, aside from how remarkable they are. When all these horrible travails ended, my parents embarked on an entirely normal life. They got married, and they immigrated to America, got jobs, and had children. They did not drop out, they did not do drugs, they did not drown their many sorrows in drink. They just got on with life -- as did their whole generation. Now admittedly, in America, not many people went through quite what my parents did, but it was a generation that bounced from WWI, through the wild 20s, into the great Depression, and finally into the Vale of Shadows that was WWII. And they got married, got jobs and had children. Not all were happy, but most did not drop out, they did not do drugs, they did not drown their many sorrows in drink (at least not to the point where they could no longer function). And I have to ask why they could do that, and why that seems to be so much to expect from us now. Why are we more vulnerable? Why do we believe it is acceptable, not to move on from tragedy, but to become dysfunctional from it? Of course, I'm not saying that everyone does. In fact, despite the media's hype, I believe that most people go on to create lives that are normal and functional. Nevertheless, while the paradigm in our parents' and grandparents' generation seemed to be to soldier on, the paradigm in ours seems to be to stop moving, get therapy, and become very fragile. Indeed, Wendy Kaminer, more than a decade ago, wrote quite a funny, ironic book called, "I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional," in which she discussed our current cultural pattern of wallowing. I vividly remember a chapter in which she compared some suburban women's support group (hangnails? bad hair? I don't recall) with the unwavering resilience of immigrant women from the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Only recently, I believe there was a book published about our therapeutic culture (although I can't think of the name right now). It seems that, since the 60s, we've become so busy looking inwards, contemplating those navels, that we've forgotten how to look forwards. Sometimes, just as we teach our kids when they have an injury, you just keep going. You acknowledge the pain and then abandon it. It's such a simple lesson and helps facilitate a normal life, and yet we can't seem to master it nowadays. Instead, coached by Oprah, and all the other maudlin self-help, self-actualization, and self-realization "teachers" out there, we're leaving normal very fast.

Busy, busy, busy

Business is picking up. I'm not complaining -- believe me, I'm not complaining -- but it is slowing my blogging down a bit. Blogging will resume later today, so be sure to check in this evening or tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Islam -- the toddler religion

In this article, Jeff Jacoby makes the same point that Andrew McCarthy made here; namely, that Islam is practiced as the two year old of religions, where unseemly and violent temper tantrums are normative behavior. However, in a healthy mental environment, the world would work to control that two year old's behavior. In the unhealthy environment of political correctness, we encourage that behavior by justifying and rewarding it. Here's Jacoby:

It was front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed. But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions. No one recalled, for example, that American Catholics lashed out in violent rampages in 1989, after photographer Andres Serrano's ''Piss Christ' -- a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine -- was included in an exhibition subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or that they rioted in 1992 when singer Sinead O'Connor, appearing on ''Saturday Night Live,' ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II. There was no reminder that Jewish communities erupted in lethal violence in 2000, after Arabs demolished Joseph's Tomb, torching the ancient shrine and murdering a young rabbi who tried to save a Torah. And nobody noted that Buddhists went on a killing spree in 2001 in response to the destruction of two priceless, 1,500-year-old statues of Buddha by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Of course, there was a good reason all these bloody protests went unremembered in the coverage of the Newsweek affair: They never occurred. Christians, Jews, and Buddhists don't lash out in homicidal rage when their religion is insulted. They don't call for holy war and riot in the streets. It would be unthinkable for a mainstream priest, rabbi, or lama to demand that a blasphemer be slain. *** The Muslim riots should have been met by outrage and condemnation. From every part of the civilized world should have come denunciations of those who would react to the supposed destruction of a book with brutal threats and the slaughter of 17 innocent people. But the chorus of condemnation was directed not at the killers and the fanatics who incited them, but at Newsweek. From the White House down, the magazine was slammed -- for running an item it should have known might prove incendiary, for relying on a shaky source, for its animus toward the military and the war. *** But what ''Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk. What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam. It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an ''insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to ''martyrdom." But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion. It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to ''converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" -- and having only 50 people show up.
Just for the record, though -- while I agree entirely with McCarthy and Jacoby that the real crime is a religion that embraces an utterly lack of control, and wallows in extreme violence, that does not mean Newsweek should get off the hook. It is a disgusting example of biased journalism under any circumstances to print a pathetically unresearched, unsourced story solely to embarrass the American president and diminish our Armed Forces.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why Newsweak runs some stories and kills others

Ann Coulter is practically on fire as she challenges the journalistic decisions that Newsweak has been making over the past decade or so:

When ace reporter Michael Isikoff had the scoop of the decade, a thoroughly sourced story about the president of the United States having an affair with an intern and then pressuring her to lie about it under oath, Newsweek decided not to run the story. Matt Drudge scooped Newsweek, followed by The Washington Post. When Isikoff had a detailed account of Kathleen Willey's nasty sexual encounter with the president in the Oval Office, backed up with eyewitness and documentary evidence, Newsweek decided not to run it. Again, Matt Drudge got the story. When Isikoff was the first with detailed reporting on Paula Jones' accusations against a sitting president, Isikoff's then-employer The Washington Post -- which owns Newsweek -- decided not to run it. The American Spectator got the story, followed by the Los Angeles Times. So apparently it's possible for Michael Isikoff to have a story that actually is true, but for his editors not to run it. *** Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas justified Newsweek's decision to run the incendiary anti-U.S. story about the Quran, saying that "similar reports from released detainees" had already run in the foreign press -- "and in the Arab news agency al-Jazeera." Is there an adult on the editorial board of Newsweek? Al-Jazeera also broadcast a TV miniseries last year based on the "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion." (I didn't see it, but I hear James Brolin was great!) Al-Jazeera has run programs on the intriguing question, "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" (Take a wild guess where the consensus was on this one.) It runs viewer comments about Jews being descended from pigs and apes. How about that for a Newsweek cover story, Evan? You're covered -- al-Jazeera has already run similar reports!
The whole thing is very funny. With this kind of evidence piling up, it gets more and more ridiculous when the MSM denies bias. Just admit it, guys. Then you can start living it up the way Rush Limbaugh does. It's not your bias that's revolting -- everyone is entitled to their own opinions, no matter how misguided -- it's your holier-than-thou refusal to recognize your own prejudices and animuses (animi?)

Having the last word

For those of you unfamiliar with the latest MSM rudeness, here's one of the questions asked of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan during a recent press conference regarding the problems created by Newsweak's flushgate problem:

[Joined in progess] Q With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it’s appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?
McClellan did not have a clever comeback. Fortunately, Patrick, at the Paragraph Farmer does -- indeed, he has dozens, some of which I quote below:
A. With respect, where do you come off thinking this is about me? *** A. Nobody made me the editor of Newsweek -- I've got a better gig than that, which is why I put up with you people-- but since you mention it, Newsweek does seem to need professional help. A. Curious, that you should preface open hostility using the phrase "with respect." Who do you think you're kidding? *** A. When I speak with the authority of the president, it's in part because he's busy trying to protect American lives by improving our national image. You can disagree with the policies of this administration, but it wasn't lies from this White House that sparked riots in Afghanistan. Quite frankly, I should be asking you questions. *** A. It's not often we quote Bugs Bunny in press conferences here, but as that great American once put it, "what a maroon!" I'll come back to you when you've taken a minute to rethink your question.
And Patrick goes on and on, each one funnier, or more pointed than the next.

Calling things by their true name

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jn 8:32) Credit Andrew McCarthy with avoiding the ruckus about Newsweek's irresponsible behavior, and pointing the finger of blame where it really belongs -- radical Islam. In one of the best articles I've read on the subject, McCarthy, among other things, has this to say:

The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more. Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do. *** What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say — based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib — that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response? Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American "war on terror" ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this? *** "Minor indignities? How can you say something so callous about a desecration of the Holy Koran?" I say it as a member of the real world, not the world of prissy affectation. I don't know about you, but I inhabit a place where crucifixes immersed in urine and Madonna replicas composed of feces are occasions for government funding, not murderous uprisings. If someone was moved to kill on their account, we'd be targeting the killer, not the exhibiting museum, not the "artists," and surely not Newsweek. I inhabit a world in which my government seeks accommodation with Saudi Arabia and China and Egypt, places where the practice of Christianity results in imprisonment...or worse; in which Jews have been driven from almost every country in the Middle East, and in which the goal of destroying their country, Israel, is viewed by much of the globe as legitimate foreign policy; and in which being a Christian, an animist, or the wrong kind of Muslim in Sudan is grounds for genocide — something the vaunted United Nations seems to regard as more of a spectator sport than a cause of action.
There's more, but if you only read this, you'd know enough to understand that McCarthy got it absolutely right.

Is it just me, or does this argument not make sense?

I was checking out the Stakeholder, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Weblog, and came across a post that offers an article by Norman Ornstein as the ultimate argument to destroy the Republicans' current attack on the filibuster. I have to confess here that I have no idea whether the Republicans' position is historically correct, but I'm pretty sure as a matter of logic that this Ornstein article has some problems. Here it is, with my questions and comments:

[Ornstein sets up his argument in the next few paragraphs, so you'll want to read them to get context.] Sorry, but I have to address judicial confirmations one more time. I wasn't planning on doing this, but the constant drumbeat of propaganda forced my hand. There is so much misinformation floating around that I thought it was important to clarify the historical record. Of course, by the time this column appears, enough institutionalists in the Senate might reach the edge of the abyss and think better of it. But even if there is a deal to head off the "nuclear option" to end judicial filibusters, some of these myths need to be confronted directly. The myths have been repeated ad nauseam by Republican Senators on television, in op-eds, at press conferences and on the floor. They have been faithfully repeated by bloggers and columnists. They were pulled together nicely and concisely in The Washington Post column by my friend Charles Krauthammer last Friday. Krauthammer - like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and their compadres - suggests that filibusters against judicial nominees are a fraud. He dismisses the filibuster against Abe Fortas as not a real filibuster, since he didn't have the votes anyhow. He says, "two hundred years of tradition have been radically and unilaterally changed by the minority" Democrats, because they have lost the last two elections and fear losing the only branch they control, the courts, on which their loyalists have legislated "by judicial fiat everything from abortion to gay marriage to religion in the public square." He says, further, that "one of the great traditions, customs and unwritten rules of the Senate is that you do not filibuster judicial nominees." He calls the Democrats' actions "historically unprecedented" and "radical," saying they have "unilaterally shattered one of the longest-running traditions in parliamentary history." This view was reinforced by Frist's op-ed in Monday's USA Today, in which he wrote about the 214-year-old tradition of having up-or-down votes in the Senate on judicial nominations. He adds that, since President Bill Clinton's judicial nominees only required 51 votes, "why should George W. Bush's be treated differently?" [Okay, here's the substantive argument.] Where to begin? Let's deal quickly with Fortas. First, apply Logic 101: If Fortas did not have the votes, why filibuster? If it was not a filibuster, as many Republican Senators have contended, explain the official Senate Web site, in its section on history, having as its headline "October 1, 1968: Filibuster Derails Supreme Court Appointee." [Is the official Senate website, which clearly didn't exist in 1968, actually quoting contemporary 1968 documents, or is this is some webmaster's modern gloss? It makes a huge difference because Ornstein is quoting this language as the main authority for his argument about Fortas' nomination.] Must be the phenomenon Ronald Reagan talked about with his White House, that sometimes the right hand doesn't know what the far-right hand is doing. Now let's turn to the twin notions that through 214 years of American history there has been a near-ironclad tradition of judicial nominees getting up-or-down votes on the Senate floor, undergirded by the great custom of the Senate that renders filibusters of judicial nominees taboo. [Before we get to the next argument, let me interject here that I understand a filibuster to be, not a debate, but a situation in which one side gets the floor and won't let go. Once they have the floor, they can discuss the topic at issue, or not. A filibuster is not, therefore, a way to enhance debate, but is, rather, a way to shut it down. After all, we've all seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.] On the latter point, I have searched through a whole lot of history of the Senate, from George Haynes' classic volumes to memoirs and other literature. I have yet to read anything about some long-standing tradition, custom or unwritten rule against filibustering judicial nominees. It is true that for more than 30 years after the Senate got its first cloture rule in 1917, there was no cloture provision on nominations. But remember that cloture is the way to end, not to extend, debate. Before 1917, for nominations or legislation, there was no way to end debate if one or more Senators held the floor. So the lack of a specific cloture provision for nominations did not mean there was no provision for a filibuster; quite the contrary. It meant there was no way for any supermajority of Senators, whether two-thirds of those present and voting or 60 Senators, to stop talking and start voting. [Here's where I got confused. He's saying that there was no easy way to end debate. But he's not saying that there was a long-standing tradition of obstructing debate, whereby a minority party took the floor and refused to yield it, preventing a vote from ever occurring.] Now let us take up the assertion that we have had a two-century-plus tradition of giving presidents up-or-down votes on their judicial nominations. What are these people smoking? For more than 200 years, hundreds of judicial nominees at all levels had their nominations deep-sixed, buried, killed or asphyxiated by the Senate, either by one individual, a committee or a small group of Senators, before the nominations ever got anywhere near the floor. [I accept this as true. But what's it got to do with the question of whether those candidates lucky enough to escape committee should then be denied a voting process because one party has taken the floor hostage? The fact that a lot of people never got to the floor in the first place is not support for a filibuster, which is a device that kicks in only after they make it to the floor.] To be sure, most were not filibustered in the "Mr. Smith" sense, or in the modern and direct version. These judicial nominees were stabbed in the back, not in the chest. [Fine, but it's still not historical evidence of a long-standing right to filibuster judicial nominees.] Consider the history of Supreme Court nominations - the most visible and prized, of course, and the ones you'd think would have clearly fit Krauthammer's notion. Of the 154 nominations to the Supreme Court between 1789 and 2002, 34 were not confirmed. Of these, 11 were rejected by a vote of the full Senate. The remaining 23 were postponed, referred to a committee from which they never emerged, reported from committee but not acted on, or, in a few cases, withdrawn by the president when the going got tough. At least seven nominations were killed because of objections by home-state Senators. Five others were reported to the Judiciary Committee (which was created in 1816) and never made it out. [All that this means is that the straight up-and-down vote system works. Senators will, for reasons of honor or political opportunism, sometimes turn down the presidential nominees. Ornstein also doesn't say whether the failed candidates were nominated by a president who had to send the nominations to a Senate run by the opposing party. It's simply meaningless to say that, because some candidates win and some lose, there most by extrapolation have been a filibuster process at work. This kind of "negative proof" is inane.] That is the Supreme Court. We don't have a precise account of nominees to federal appeals courts or district courts, but we do know that there is a longstanding tradition, custom and unwritten rule applying to district court nominees, giving one or two Senators from the home state a veto power that has been exercised countless times. (That unwritten rule, incidentally, was shattered by Hatch, then the Judiciary chairman, when Clinton was president.) [A long-standing collegial tradition is still not a long-standing filibuster rule whereby a minority party gets to block an up-and-down vote.] This "blue slip" power was applied less frequently to appeals court nominees, but many in the past were killed far short of a vote on the Senate floor. Why weren't more of them filibustered? Because it was easy enough to kill most of the controversial ones without resorting to a filibuster. [Again, proof that there was collegial cooperation and bargaining -- which is important for a functioning body -- rather than Senate hostage taking by means of the filibuster, something that destroys the Democratic process.] There is no record I can find of a historical period in which the Senate systematically killed such nominations. Rather, they tended to be done on a case-by-case basis. [And it was apparently done on a case-by-case negotiation/compromise basis without a filibuster.] But that did change in the second Clinton term, when dozens of judicial nominees, including many to appeals courts, were denied hearings, in some cases for four or five years, not on the basis of any charge that they were ideologically extreme or unqualified, but rather because they represented slots on important courts, worth keeping open in case the next president turned out to be a Republican. [True or not, what does this have to prove about a historical right to filibuster judicial nominations?] If we want to look for a breach in Senate traditions, that is where to start. And the failure to bring more than 60 to the floor for up-or-down votes makes one gape at Frist's astonishing comment that the standard in the Clinton years was 51 votes. For these 60 would-be judges, it was a one-vote standard - that of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. There are longstanding traditions in the Senate regarding judicial nominations. Those traditions call for a vigorous and independent Senate playing its role of advice and consent. They understand that judicial nominations, because they represent lifetime appointments which cannot and should not be easily rescinded, require higher hurdles than simple legislation which can always be amended or repealed. Charles Krauthammer called the nuclear option "restoration." It's not even close.
The clear message here is that, because, in the past, presidents have nominated judges whom the Senate did not then approve, there must have been a filibuster process. This is not argument; it's wishful thinking. I think the article unwittingly makes a powerful argument supporting the nuclear option. What it demonstrates is that, absent a filibuster, Senators have to work together to determine the outcome of an up-or-down vote. Backroom-bargaining may be unseemly, but it's a much more effective way for the minority party to make its voice heard and get business done. For example, I can envision a situation in which the minority party leader says his party opposes Judge X's nomination. If the majority party will back down on Judge X, the minority party will give an inch on something else, something different, occupying the Senate's attention. After all, politics is the art of compromise.