Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

He who pays the piper calls the tune

Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker article this month is about the effect Roberts' confirmation (which he sees as a given) will have on the Solomon Amendment. As you may remember, that's the law Congress enacted when certain law schools starting barring military recruiters from campus. (I didn't realize it, but the law school's stand didn't have to do with the war in Iraq but, instead, was a gay rights issue. The school's were/are protesting the military's don't ask/don't tell policy, and demanding that gays have full admission into the military.) The Solomon Amendment says that, if schools -- any schools, not just law schools -- bar military recruiters, they'll lose federal funding. Anyway, the Solomon Amendment, after being struck down by an Appellate Judge, is wending its way to the Supreme Court, where Roberts will (probably) have a chance to rule on it. As is often the case, one thing in the article struck me particularly:

For some of the plaintiffs, the government is acting as a malevolent censor. “Government can’t give you a little bit of money and then tell the whole university how to run,” Kathleen M. Sullivan, a professor and former dean at Stanford Law School, who is preparing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, says. “Government can’t have that much leverage. If we lose this case, there is nothing to stop the government from saying it will take away all federal funds if a university engages in stem-cell research, or gives birth control to its students, or performs abortions in its hospital.”
Keep in mind that Stanford is one of the richest universities in America, if not the world. It's the country club school of the Northern California peninsula. But that's not really the point. The point is why can't government have that much leverage? If schools want government money, they should play by government rules. If they don't want to play by the rules, they should say no to the money. As I titled this post, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." One of the things that most characterizes the Left, and one of the things that started disgusting me with the Left long before 9/11, is the Left's sense that the causes it cherishes are entitled to money from the government, but that they get to do whatever they want with that money once they get it. Ages ago, New Jersey tried to impose some very logical restrictions on the uses to which welfare money could be put. NOW went ballistic, because the restrictions prevented teenage mothers from having repeat pregnancies. I too went ballistic -- I wrote nasty letters to NOW, and moved one step (nay, 20 steps) further on my road to conservatism. Message to Professor Sullivan at Stanford: Of course the government can have this kind of power. You can't accept its money, and then refuse to give it speech on your campus. If you want to shut the government down, close your greedy, grasping little hands, and put your own money where your mouth is.

Why the Demos hate Bush so much

Don Quixote and I were talking about the fact that the Democratics aren't just opposed to Bush, they hate him with a bone deep passion. DQ asked, "Why such strong feelings?" I said it was because they feel that Bush stole the 2000 election -- but that doesn't explain what's going on after another 2004 election. Hendrick Hertzberg, in the New Yorker provides the answer: not only did Bush steal the 2000 election, he sneakily took advantage of 9/11. Thus, in the context of a story about the fact that, to Hertzberg's mind, Roberts' nomination is inevitable, he has this to say:

Roberts’s confirmation will be a bitter pill for Democrats, but it is a pill they have known since last November that they would have to swallow. Their bitterness is deepened by the conviction that Bush won the 2004 election in spite of his domestic policies, including his likely judicial choices; he won it because he was the post-9/11 incumbent, and he was the post-9/11 incumbent because, in 2000, the Court whose members he now appoints appointed him.
BTW, Hertzberg's op-ed is generally interesting, elegantly spelling out as it does the hopes and fears the Demos experience in connection with the Supreme Court nomination.

Emerging truths about the decision to drop the bomb

It's a long article, and doesn't yield to easy summary or bullet-point quotations, but this Richard B. Frank article goes to great lengths to explain that there was truth to the traditional belief that Truman dropped the bomb because it was clear that the Japanese were not going to end the war any time soon. This contradicts the current view, which began to appear in the 1960s, that Japan was desperate to surrender, and that Truman dropped the bomb to threaten the Soviet Union. Previous posts: Thank God for the Atom Bomb

A boy is a boy is a boy

You can raise a boy in a liberal bastion, but a boy is still a boy. My little guy this morning: "I love army men. [pause.] I want to be an army man when I grow up. [pause.] But never die."

Two stories side by side in an on-line Israeli newspaper

Story number 1:

The IDF said Sunday it is changing riot control methods, replacing its sometimes lethal rubber-coated steel pellets with compressed sand bullets. Rubber bullets have killed dozens of Palestinians in the past two decades. The new sand bullets were originally developed for close-quarter hostage rescue situations. An Israeli human rights groups praised the decision, but said it was surprising that the army had taken so long to find non-lethal means of dispersing Palestinian demonstrators. The new round, in which the head of the bullet is made from compressed sand and can be fired from a regular rifle, has already been used in the West Bank against Palestinians protesting against the separation barrier Israel is building, the army said. The sand bullet, said to be extremely painful but less dangerous because it does not penetrate the skin, was developed and first used by Israel's Prisons Authority, the army said. The rubber bullets will be phased out. Human rights groups praised the move.
Story number two:
Palestinians terrorists have already installed the necessary infrastructure to transfer the Qassam rockets to the West Bank from Gaza, according to Abu Abir, spokesman for the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees terror group. In an interview with Ynet, Abu Abir said that Gaza’s new border would turn into an additional “blue line,” modeled on the border separating Israel and Lebanon. “It will be like the Hizbullah: Every Israeli transgression of this line or movement of forces towards it will give us the right to respond against the act of aggression,” threatened Abu Abir. *** [Interviewer] Hold on, rockets in the West Bank is a very dangerous thing. Would an (IDF) operation in Qalqilia cause rockets to fall on the Sharon area (central Israel) or on Tel Aviv? “In principle, yes. But I am not saying that we will fire these rockets left, right and center. These rockets will be activated in proportion to Israeli activity. A small Israeli operation here and there will not tempt us to use the rockets, but a major assassination, or big infiltration into a city like Jenin, would force us to act. But as always, we won’t initiate, we will only respond to Israeli activities.”
It's as if two different wars are being fought in the same battlefield.

al Reuters -- intensely frustrated

Bush is only 8 months into his second term, but al Reuters had already hung the "lame duck" sign around his neck. Some sharp intellect at al Reuters, however, noticed that, despite their cheerfully gloomy prognostications about the President's standing, the administration was actually doing pretty damn well:

Two months ago, President Bush faced accusations that he was out of touch with Americans, had lost his touch with Congress and was looking at a cold, lonely second term. But after Bush won key battles in Congress over energy and trade legislation, political analysts were not ready to write him off yet as he prepared to spend August back home in Texas. And the White House, battered for weeks over questions about a CIA leak probe and frustrated that Bush's signature issue, changing Social Security, had failed to gain traction, was ready to do a little bragging to reporters who had questioned whether Bush had become a lame duck far earlier than normal in his second term.
Fear not, fair liberals, though, since al Reuters rushes to point out that there are still clouds on the President's horizon:
Potential trouble looms ahead, however. Iraq, Iran and North Korea represent major foreign policy challenges, the leak probe has yet to be completed, and Bush has to get his Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, confirmed by the Senate.
I particularly love this sentence, though, in which you can see the al Reuters' writer clinging to the lame duck light at the end of the rainbow:
But the legislative victories of July could give Bush some momentum as he tries to hold at bay the time when he truly does become a lame duck.
MSM -- gotta love it.

Money doesn't just corrupt, it destroys

In case you haven't already seen this report, here's something most (thinking) people have begun to realize already, but it takes an African economist to grab the press' attention:

In Niger, a desert country twice the size of Texas, most of the 11 million people live on a dollar a day. Forty percent of children are underfed, and one out of four dies before turning 5. And that's when things are normal. Throw in a plague of locusts, and a familiar spectacle emerges: skeletal babies, distended bellies, people too famished to brush the flies from their faces. To the aid workers charged with saving the dying, the immediate challenge is to raise relief money and get supplies to the stricken areas. They leave it to the economists and politicians to come up with a lasting remedy. One such economist is James Shikwati. He blames foreign aid. "When aid money keeps coming, all our policy-makers do is strategize on how to get more," said the Kenya-based director of the Inter Region Economic Network, an African think tank. "They forget about getting their own people working to solve these very basic problems. In Africa, we look to outsiders to solve our problems, making the victim not take responsibility to change."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's time for a new Constitutional Amendment

Reading about Jimmy Carter's mindless criticisms of current American policy, I realized with no little shame and horror that, in 1980, which was the first election that took place after I turned 18, I actually voted for the guy. With that in mind, I'd like to propose a Constitutional Amendment raising the minimum voting age to 40. Maybe with that system in place, we can prevent some of the worst election outcomes.

Huge changes in Pakistan

The MSM hasn't really understood the import of this story, and has pretty much buried it, but Laer, at Cheat Seeking Missiles realized that Pakistan is cracking down on the country's main terrorist breeding grounds: the madrassas. You can read the WaPo story here (the madrassas point is buried in the last paragraphs), but it's here that you can read Laer's concise wrap-up:

To fight terror, Islam must force the closure of madrassas run by crazed jihadists, so they cannot spread their vile disease to impressionable young men. Musharraf needs to go further than simply expelling the foreign students, but this public recognition of the danger of the schools is good, particularly because Pakistan has become such a fertile breeding ground for terrorists.

Just in case you were planning on some body art

Over at Both Worlds someone smart is thinking about how foolish the current tattoo trend is:

[G]etting a permanent tattoo is one of the dumbest things a person can do. Tattoos make absolutely no sense. Tattooing is a fad, which means it is temporary. But tattoos themselves are permanent. So they are by definition oxymorons. One day they are going to be out of style. But everyone with tattoos will be stuck with them. Imagine having a surgically implanted mullet hairstyle and you get the idea.
I really love the oxymoron concept!

The blind men and the elephant

The day before yesterday, we are told, the Church of the Disciples of Christ demanded that Israel tear down its security fence, which has saved countless of Jewish women and children from being blown to smithereens. Twisting the words of Ronald Reagan, Minister William McDermet III of Panama, N.Y., shouted into the microphone to the assembled delegates, 'Say to Ariel Sharon, 'Tear down this wall!'' Well, the Rev. McDermet is either a fool or a demagogue, but I suspect the latter, since even a fool can distinguish between a defensive wall and a prison wall. It is difficult to imagine the towering heights of spiritual arrogance required for an American minister, living fat, dumb and happy 6,000 miles away from any danger, to demand that the people of Israel expose the lives of their children to endless terrorist assaults.
So begins an intelligent and moving article from The American Thinker about Anti-Zionist Christians. It's a worthwhile read. In regard to certain people's inability to understand the difference between a wall to imprison people and a wall to protect people from murderers, I'm reminded of the old poem about the blind men and the elephant.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Modern-day fellow travelers

Martin Peretz, of The New Republic wrote just a fantastic editorial castigating the Episcopalians for joining the other liberal Protestant denominations in divesting from companies that do business with Israel. What particularly struck me about the article was his discussion of fellow-travelers then and now. By then, I mean those in the West who used to support fascism or communism, even when it became apparent that those were corrupt and cruel regimes. Peretz starts by looking that these foolish (and often quite dangerous) fellow travelers of the past, and then fast-forwards to the present Left's infatuation with the PLO :

They were silly, but they were at least prisoners of ideals. Fascist sympathizers feared the dread evil of communism, and communist sympathizers feared the dread evil of fascism. And communism purported to build a just society, a new relationship of man and man, though it turned out in many ways to be worse than fascism, more murderous, more delusional, more long-lasting. In any event, both of these armed doctrines tried hard to delude their followers with the lure of high ideals, some rooted in one or another version of the Christian ethic. But what vision of a good society do the ideologists of Palestine proffer to their boosters all over the world? Really nothing, except another miserable state like the others in the Arab Middle East. The new fellow travelers lack even the feeble extenuations of the old ones. Indeed, anyone who envisions a future Palestinian polity must wrestle with the grim and ongoing realities of a stagnant class structure, unproductive economic habits, an uncurious and increasingly reactionary culture, deeply cruel relationships between the sexes and toward gays, no notion of an independent judiciary, and a primitive religious mentality that gains prestige in society even as it emphasizes the promise of sexual rewards in paradise for martyrs -- a crude myth that has served successfully as an incentive for suicide bombings not only in Israel but also in Iraq and throughout the Arab world. And no real challenge to any of these backward actualities has arisen in all of the turmoil the movement has sown.
Hat tip: Neo-Neocon With regard to the moral derailment of the liberal arm of the Protestant Church, you may also want to see this post I did earlier.

The benefits of profiling to prevent mass murder

Here's David Gelernter explaining why there's really nothing wrong with targeted profiling (he wrote this in connection with searches on and around the NY subway):

Are we eager enough to prevent the crime in question to stop people (like bulky-backpack wearers or travelers who appear Middle Eastern) who we know might be guilty but almost certainly aren't? Are we willing to impose this inconvenience on many innocent people who fit the profile just to find a few guilty ones? If the goal is to preempt 'ordinary' crimes (say theft or robbery) that hurt only a few individuals, the coldblooded answer is probably no. If the goal is to preempt a terrorist attack that might hurt the whole nation, the answer ought to be yes. Once we've decided to use profiles, we should make them complete. A complete profile is as likely to promote fairness as damage it. If I'm carrying a bulky backpack and you look Middle Eastern, and both items belong in the profile -- why should I be stopped and not you? Equality doesn't mean you get a pass or special privileges just because your skin is dark or you appear Middle Eastern. You might argue that dark-skinned people are a special case, given the way the United States has treated them. I agree -- we have treated them so solicitously, and worked so hard to suppress racial prejudice, that dark-skinned people owe their country the benefit of the doubt. The U.S. doesn't deserve gratitude for not doing wrong. But no nation in history has ever worked harder to correct a fault than the U.S. has to end racial prejudice. We've earned the right to expect everyone who fits a security profile to grin and bear it.
I'll only add -- and I couldn't find authority to support this, just my memory -- that in the wake of 9/11, African-Americans, when surveyed, showed huge levels of support for profiling aimed at young Middle Eastern males boarding airplanes. UPDATE: See this intelligent Neo-Neocon post on the same subject.

Funny, funny, funny

Deadline work, so no time to post at length. Just wanted to say, though, that if you're in the mood for a laugh, go here.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This is the way to get traffic to your blog

I love this saga. Bill at Bloviating Inanities makes a straightout plea for links:

Please, everybody has to link me. Everybody!!! I'm getting like 5 hits a day which is down from like 100,000 a day I was getting before I temporarily quit blogging. It's very disheartening when no one is reading my brilliance. Don't make me do anything rash. I swear to God I'll do something rash even if that means getting a rash. I have poison ivy in my backyard and I swear I'll roll in it. Don't push me people!
I never thought of doing anything quite so direct. It's very refreshing. But will it work? Well, it works if you've got someone at Blackfive who posts this:
Whatever you do, never, ever, never visit this guy... His name is Bill Chip and he is mostly unstable, often makes ridiculous threats (can't believe he threatened her...of all the sweetest, most beautiful girls to be mean to?), and definitely is not funny. So whatever you do, don't visit his site (although, apparently, his brother is very cool). And don't link to him either. I heard he likes links.
With a negative sell like this, who can resist? I couldn't, and here I am -- linking, even though it's not the type of blog I'd usually visit. I go for politics. Bill, in his slightly wacky mission statement, explains himself as follows:
The goal of this blog is to bring nonsense, poor logic, potty humor, lackluster and poorly thought-out political commentary and whiny psuedo-intellectual musings to as many people as possible. I'm not sure why I want to do this since for the most part I hate people. Taking that last statement to it's logical conclusion - I hate you. But thanks for stopping by.
Primarily because of the potty humor, it's not quite my style, but I still like the post I liked to. All things considered, it's a good thing I don't watch TV commercials. Who knows what I'd buy?

Is Israel really the problem?

Larry Elder has written an extraordinarily lucid, information-packed columns exposing the lie behind the Arab world's claims that all their hostility and terrorism will be over, if Israel would just revert to the Arabs, and the Jews would quietly remove themselves from the face of the earth. He includes some information that I didn't know, and I pay fairly close attention to these things:

The former Syrian prime minister, in his 1972 memoirs, candidly wrote, "Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees . . . while it is we who made them leave. . . . We brought disaster upon . . . Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave. . . . We have rendered them dispossessed. . . . We have accustomed them to begging. . . . Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon men, women and children -- all this in the service of political purposes. . . . " In 1960, King Hussein of Jordan admitted: "Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner. . . . They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal." *** Many Palestinian terrorists speak openly and bluntly about their intentions. "Moderate" Yasser Arafat aide Faisal Husseini said in 2001, "Our ultimate goal is the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations." The New York Times interviewed several Hamas leaders in Gaza three years ago. Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a surgeon, told the Times the Jews could remain, but living "in an Islamic state with Islamic law. From our ideological point of view, it is not allowed to recognize that Israel controls one square meter of historic Palestine." Abu Shanab, an engineer, said, "There are lots of open areas in the United States that could absorb the Jews." Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a medical doctor (later assassinated by Israel), said, "[W]e in Hamas believe peace talks will do no good. We do not believe we can live with the enemy." Do these remarks reflect the sentiments of "the Palestinian streets"? Unfortunately, yes. According to the latest polls by the Jerusalem Media & Communication Center, 49.7 percent of Palestinians support "suicide" bombing against Israel, and 45.5 percent believe the Intifada's purpose is to liberate all of historic Palestine.
The problem isn't Israel; the problem is that the Left has blithely accepted what the Arabs say in English ("yes, we want peace; yes, we'll share the land") and stubbornly refused to listening to the information the Arabs are broadcasting amongst themselves.

Justifying deadly force

This came from the NY Times of all places:

A terrible thing happened in London last Friday. On his way to work, Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician, was chased down by suspicious police officers. When he tripped and fell, the officers asked no questions and gave him no warning. One of them fired eight bullets point-blank into his head and shoulder and that was that. At first sight, it was an act much more severe than Eldad's, because Eldad had been under attack and shot a man he had good reason to think was armed. Mr. Menezes had hurt no one. On the other hand, it was an easier call. The police saw a man wearing a long coat out of place on a hot summer day jumping over a turnstile and running for a crowded subway train. He did not stop when he had been ordered to do so. Just two weeks before the killing, four suicide bombers had blown themselves up on subway trains and buses in London. Just days before, there were all the signs of another coordinated attack - and the police had reason to believe that bombers were still at large. The long coat on a summer day was just the sort of telltale clue that the police had been told to look out for. A number of suicide bombers in recent years have used such coats to conceal the belt of explosives strapped around their waists. What's more, the police acted under express orders to shoot in the head someone they thought was about to commit a suicide bombing. Suicide charges are usually built to be set off with the flick of the bomber's finger. The terrorist can be disabled, flat on the ground, and surrounded by heavily armed men and still blow up everything around him. So the officer who killed Mr. Menezes did a horrible thing. But he also did the right thing. One of the tragedies of this age of suicide bombers - indeed of any war - is that the right thing to do is sometimes a horrible thing. Remember: there's an essential distinction between us and the suicide bombers. The suicide bombers perpetrate gratuitous horrors. We do terrible things only when it is necessary to prevent something even worse from happening.
A few comments, in no particular order: 1. It now appears that Mr. Menezes was in London illegally, which explains his running from the police. (I can't find a link for this one, although I'm positive I read it somewhere this morning.) 2. On the other hand, as Mark Steyn pointed out, it was a bad neighborhood, the temperature was 61 degrees (not summer), and the police were in plain clothes, which may also explain Mr. Menezes' flight -- although not why he attempted actually to board the subway train. That last ties in more neatly with his fearing deportation. 3. The author of the op-ed quoted above is a former member of the Israeli Defense Force who begins his piece by describing his disgust, as a liberal, when a fellow soldier described shooting a Palestinian fighter who was down in front of him. Despite his intellectual revulsion, you have to agree with his ultimate point -- when push comes to shove, while you may be loath to kill, the terrorist is anxious to kill, and your only defense is to annihilate him completely. It's a horrible travesty that the terrorist imposes on us, the "good guys," the obligation to shoot to kill.

Women who really matter

Charmaine, at Reasoned Audacity was shocked that the show's creator, decrying the absence of "iconic" women, was able to name only Oprah as a potential iconic figure. (I'm always amazed that we still have the capacity to be shocked at the silliness radiating outwards from Hollywood.) She seeks contributions to a hall of fame she wants to prepare identifying maybe just a few more of those women who have helped shape the feminine side of America's identity. Click on over if you want to add to this list. The names I posted, after only a few minutes of thought, and despite being too old to have experienced a full multi-culti education, are Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nellie Bly, Julia Ward Howe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rosa Parks, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Sally Ride, and Golda Meir, Americans all. Hat tip: Suitable for Mixed Company

Sickening stuff

Animals take better care of their children than this:

A mother was under arrest Wednesday on child endangerment and other charges after authorities said she abandoned her 4-year-old son on the Capital Beltway, then struck him with her car when he tried to get back in. The boy was treated at a hospital for cuts and bruises, police said. He later was placed in the custody of a child protective services agency. Police picked him up after receiving a call late Tuesday night from motorist who said she had found a child wandering along Interstate 495. "I said, 'Why are you out here?' And he said, 'My mommy left me. She was angry and she pushed me out of the car,'" the driver, who asked not to be identified, told WJLA-TV. Virginia State Police said an investigation determined that Channoah Alece Green, 22, of Newport News, Va., abandoned the boy along the busy highway after she became upset with him. "As she attempted to drive off, the child was trying to get back in the vehicle and was knocked down," said Sgt. J.L. Doss. That led to a hit and run charge.
The women was finally apprehended when she got involved in a car accident.

And it's another example of the Left refusing to enter the 21st Century

This Thernstrom article points to the fact that civil rights groups are attacking Justice Rogers' nomination by arguing that he'll roll back race-based civil rights initiatives. The Thernstroms point out that these initiatives have not, in fact, benefitted the African-American community, and that the Left's argument is rooted in the past and not in the present. This article, unsurprisingly, is entirely in synch with my point that the past is the touchstone for so many of the arguments emanating from the Left: Yet another example of the Left being mired in the past Democrats -- still living in the past Bringing the abortion debate into the 21st Century Once again, our school systems work to ghettoize African-Americans

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The NY Times and its friends

Here's Power Line commenting on both a serious blunder the NY Times made in reporting a story about Abu Ghraib, and on the somewhat elliptical correction the Times subsequently issued about a story that was a non-story, and ought not to have been published in the first place. It's a good post, but I especially enjoyed it in light of the fact that the Times' good friends at NPR are working to make sure Americans know how upright and honest the Times is about any mistakes it makes. I'm still waiting, however, for the Times to acknowledge its mistake in forgetting, during WWII, to report on news of the Holocaust.

What makes a compassionate society

Take two minutes to listen to this audio story about a hospital's fight to keep a senile patient under its care, rather than to allow him to act on his wish to leave. Then, close your eyes and take another couple of minutes to think about those homeless people suffering from severe mental illness who make it on their own on American streets. Keep in mind that many of them are so disabled by their illnesses that they're incapable of recognizing that institutional care would be an infinitely better option than sleeping outdoors and rooting through garbage for food. Interestingly, it was the plight of the mentally disabled homeless, more than anything else, that started my disaffection with the ACLU. Rightly or wrongly, I've always been under the impression that it was the ACLU, beginning in the 1960s, that were behind the movement to disinstitutionalize the mentally ill, if the latter rejected treatment -- it was a civil rights thing. In California the end result is that the mentally ill who reject care can be forced into treatment only if their condition is such that they're an imminent threat to themselves or to others -- and must bed released from treatment immediately upon the cessation of that urgent need scenario. The average paranoid schizophrenic, who can't hold a job, can't maintain a home, can't feed himself, talks to invisible beings, never bathes, is lice ridden, and walks down the streets in garments so filthy you can smell them blocks away, doesn't actually fall into this category. We wouldn't treat a 2 year old this way, although a two year old has exactly the same mental and physical capabilities as some of these more damaged individuals. Our legally mandated conduct with respect to the mentally ill is shocking, disgusting, and completely at odds with a humane society's obligations to those who truly are incapable of caring for themselves.

In tne NY Times' world, the trial lawyers are always right.

Here's the NY Times on whether Teflon is safe for cookware. Here's Michael Fumento on the same subject.. You'll have to draw your own conclusions, but Fumento's strikes me as more fact-based, less credulous, and less subjective. Believe it or not, those plaintiffs' trial attorneys aren't always right. (That last sentence should be read with a sarcastic smirk.)

And while we're on the subject of labor. . . .

This post tells the story of a case on which I worked. It's a true story. Picture this: It’s 2001. You live in California and you own a small business that consists of you and three to five at-will employees. Your profits are decent. One morning, Jane, one of your employees, announces that she’s quitting, effective immediately, and stalks out. You know -- or think you know -- your California law, which requires that, when an employee quits, you have her payment ready within three days of her departure. (That would be Calif. Lab. Code § 202.) You therefore immediately prepare Jane’s final paycheck, covering the two hours she worked before she quit. One day goes by, no Jane. Two days, no Jane. On the third day, you actually drive over to her place to drop off the check, only to discover it’s a vacant apartment. You head back to the office, check still in hand. Jane didn’t ask that you mail the check to her, nor do you have a current address, so for the time being, you just hold on to it. On the fifth day after quitting, Jane shows up, grabs the paycheck, and again disappears. You breath a sigh of relief, thinking you’re finally done with Jane. If only you knew, the story is just beginning.... A month goes by, and you suddenly get a notice from the California Labor Commissioner telling you that Jane is claiming that you violated California law. Your crime? You did not get Jane’s final paycheck to her within three days of her quitting. Since you had the paycheck ready immediately, and her failure to receive it was solely the result of her own unavailability, you laugh at this charge, thinking you’ve got a slam dunk case. You show up on the assigned day to argue your case before the Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner announces that the three day rule means the employee must have the money in hand by the end of the third day -- regardless of your efforts to pay her, and her lack of effort to receive the money. To punish you, the Labor Commissioner imposes statutory sanctions (or “waiting time penalties”) against you, and insists that you pay Jane an amount 27 times greater than the wages she was actually owed. Shocked by the unfairness of it all, you hire an attorney, who tells you that you’re right -- you complied with your statutory duty, and the Labor Commissioner erred. The attorney tells you that this is indeed a slam dunk case, and that you should appeal it -- which in this case means filing an original action in Superior Court. Sounds good to you.... The case goes to trial. Jane is represented by the Labor Commissioner, so this is a freebie for her -- the people of the State of California, through their tax dollars, are paying Jane’s attorneys fees. The judge appears confused by the issues and eventually announces what he believes is a Solomonic ruling. He holds that, despite the statute’s clear language -- Calif. Labor Code § 202 explicitly imposes on the employer only the burden of having payment ready, not the burden of ensuring that the employee receives payment -- you should have gotten the payment directly to Jane. However (and this is where the Solomon part comes in) the judge will halve the sanctions award against you. While miffed at the fact that you couldn’t get the judge to agree with you entirely, you still leave the Court with a light heart -- after all, you got the original award against you cut by 50%, which must be viewed as a clear victory. Au contraire, my innocent California employer. In 2001 -- when these events take place -- the attorneys fee statute governing appeals from Labor Commissioner awards imposes attorney fees and costs against a party who appears before the Court and “is unsuccessful in the appeal.” (That’s at Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c), repealed.) However, by 2001, it turns out that two California decisions have held this facially-neutral language doesn’t really mean what it says. What it really means, say these decisions, is that, if an employee appeals a Labor Commissioner award and betters his position by even a penny, he has been successful on the appeal and the employer gets to pay the employee’s attorneys fees. The contrary is not true. If an employer appeals a Labor Commissioner award, and betters his position by 99.9999%, but not by 100%, he is unsuccessful, and he gets to pay the employee’s attorney fees. What this means for you, the employer, is that, even though you managed to better your position on appeal by 50% -- you still lost! And you’ve got to pay the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees at fair market value. So this is the situation in 2001: No rational employer can take the risk of an appeal from a Labor Commissioner award, since there is a huge chance that the employer, whether entirely or even partially correct, will still end up with a judgment requiring him to pay something, even a nominal something, to the employee. (Judges hate giving employees nothing.) And then the employer will be responsible for the oh-so-costly attorneys fees. Your case is the perfect example, since you were right as a matter of law, and you reduced the Labor Commissioner award against you, but you still ended up being obligated to pay something to your ex-employee. Therefore, you -- the victor -- had to shell out the big bucks to the Labor Commissioner. And when you stop and think about it, this perverted reading of a facially neutral statute is a green light to the Labor Commissioner to do some nasty stuff. Any Labor Commissioner employees who are generally unsympathetic to employers have an incentive to rachet up sanctions to ridiculous amounts, knowing that the employer cannot afford an appeal. Even if the employer prevails on the appeal by lowering the sanction to a more reasonable amount, the employer will still be impossibly burdened by the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees. Keep in mind, too, that these attorneys fees are a complete windfall for the Labor Commissioner, since the Commission attorneys are automatically paid by the State of California for their efforts. And last I heard, when they receive attorneys fees from some hapless employer, the Labor Commissioners offices are not refunding the taxpaying citizens in that amount. There was a brief, shining moment in 2002/2003 when the California Supreme Court, in a burst of profound rationality, said that courts couldn’t take a facially neutral attorneys fee statute, and read it to impose disproportionate burdens on employers. (That moment of common sense was brought to you by Smith v. Rae-Venter Law Group (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 345.) That was too good to last, of course. In 2003, the California legislature announced its explicit intention to overturn Smith v. Rae-Venter. The current version of the fee shifting statute now gouges the employer in no uncertain terms: “If the party seeking review by filing an appeal to the superior court is unsuccessful in the appeal, the court shall determine the costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the other parties to the appeal, and assess that amount as a cost upon the party filing the appeal. An employee is successful if the court awards an amount greater than zero.” (See Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c).) In other words, the employer can avoid paying the employee’s attorneys fees (read, “the Labor Commissioner’s fees”) only if the employer walks out of Court owing the employee nothing -- and obtaining that outcome, especially in liberal courts in the Bay Area or L.A., is a pretty big risk for any small employer to take. This means that employers simply have to swallow the cost when a greedy employee manages to get the ear of a Labor Commissioner who believes it’s fine to impose disproportionate sanctions against a hapless employer, so as as that sanction will benefit a “downtrodden” employee. Why does this sad story matter? It matters because this little bit of social engineering -- unknown to most people -- is driving business out of California. I personally know of at least two businesses that have just packed up and moved to other states precisely to avoid these kind of hidden costs. Those oh-so-clever judges misinterpreting the law before 2002, and the “compassionate” Legislature enacting unfair laws in 2003, all think their good intentions say it all. They truly believe they’re insulating poor, downtrodden employees from the risk of attorneys fees. What they’re not thinking about, though, is the fact that these employees will be even more downtrodden when businesses keep pulling out of California, leaving the State without enough jobs -- and the government without enough taxpayers to run itself. UPDATE: If you're visiting here from Point of Law, welcome. Needless to say, I'd be delighted if you took a few minutes and checked out the rest of this blog. UPDATE II: If you're visiting here from Positive Liberty, welcome. Please feel free to take a few minutes to look around and see if anything else on this blog interests you. UPDATE III: If you're visiting from the Motley Fool, welcome. By now it's redundant for me to say I'd love it if you'd take a minute to look around, isn't it?

Yet another example of the Left being mired in the past

The WSJ, in an article about the split in the labor movement points out, in yet another context, how the Left can't seem to accept the 21st Century:

What's missing on both sides [of labor's internal struggle], however, is a vision of economic opportunity that might actually make workers want to join a union in the first place. Tactics aside, both factions continue to believe in the idea of unions that arose in the Industrial Age: Greedy management versus the exploited working man, seniority over flexibility, fixed benefits and strike threats over working with management to keep a U.S.-based company profitable and innovative in a world of growing competition. On the political front, both factions favor trade protection, higher taxes and government help to enforce restrictive work rules. This is the agenda of Old Europe, where jobless rates are above 10%, and it merely offers more economic insecurity in the U.S. as well. What the labor movement really needs is a new generation of leaders who understand the emerging competition to U.S. workers from the likes of India and China. Rather than oppose imports to protect textile jobs that can't be saved, such leaders would work to reform education so future Americans can compete in the knowledge industries that will grow the fastest. They'd also work to make pensions and health insurance transportable from company to company, so a worker wouldn't be trapped by benefits in a job or industry he didn't like. They'd be partners with management, not antagonists.
Related posts on the Left's refusal to embrace the present: Democrats -- still living in the past Bringing the abortion debate into the 21st Century Once again, our school systems work to ghettoize African-Americans

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

David Limbaugh is absolutely right

David Limbaugh urges a spirit of open inquiry regarding Justice Robert's political philosophy, and I think he's right. The fact is, Roberts is not a raging lunatic, a Nazi, a former KKK'er, or anything heinous. He's a highly respected jurist who holds a view about how the law ought to be applied that is consistent both with traditional jurisprudence and with a vast body of current judicial thinking. There's nothing here that's embarrassing or that should be hidden, and I think we're making a mistake pretending that there is. Americans voted for Pres. Bush knowing that he promised to seek a strict constructionist for the Court, and they should see that he's keeping that promise. Certainly open and free hearings that will satisfy the American people's need to see the process in action won't change the vote. It will be pretty much along straight party lines regardless. There's always the possibility that an Arlen Specter or some other liberal in conservative's clothing will jump over the line, but that possibility exists whether the vote is based on Judge Robert's having the chance to talk about himself or whether it's based on the usual MoveOn calumny.

Are you now or have you ever been a member of....

Yup -- that's the question emanating from the Left: "Justice Roberts, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Federalist Society?" How else to explain this NY Times Op Ed? Although to give the NY Timers credit for their views, the Federalist Society is a scary organization, standing as it does in opposition to the ultra-liberal (and slowly dying) American Bar Association (which I pulled out from over a decade ago). Certainly, the liberals would want to crawl all over Roberts, not just for having views consistent with the Federalist Society's views, but for actually having dared to be affiliated with that organization. UPDATE: Inspired by my own post, I just joined the Federalist Society, although I must admit that I was also motiviated by the low fee and the fact that they offer discount programs that satisfy my Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirements.

One of my all time favorite books, and perfidious Albion

I have done a couple of memes about books (see here and here) and I did a post about how much I miss the era of the beloved Jew. Funnily enough, from all of those posts, I managed to exclude one of my all time favorite books, which I am now rereading -- Leon Uris' Exodus (which I've linked to in the sidebar). In an incredibly lucid, energetic manner, Uris introduces the reader to the death camp refugees trying to get to Palestine, the Warsaw Ghetto, the destruction of European Jewry, early (pre-WWII) Zionism, the founding of the State of Israel, and so much more. It's an exhausting, exhilarating, depressing, uplifting book, and really deserves not to be forgotten, even though it was first published almost 50 years ago. (If you've seen the horrible movie, don't let that distract you from how good the book is.) One of the fascinating things about the book is how Europe and other countries have changed in their attitude towards Israel. France, believe it or not, was apparently a stalwart friend to the nascent state. Now it's a stalwart friend to the PLO. India (in large part because of Ghandi) was incredibly hostile to Israel. Now, because of India's own problems with Islamists, it's become much warmer to Israel. And on and on. The only thing that hasn't changed is England's attitude. Even though the Jewish State was first envisioned by Balfour, as part of a burst of English Judophilia (see Barbara Tuchman's wonderful book Bible & Sword), the English were completely aligned with the Arabs and loath to aid the Jews for fear of alienating the Arabs. And this despite the fact that, during WWII, the Arab countries, without exception, embraced and gave aid to the Nazis. The reason, of course, was oil. Now, the BBC is an unofficial arm of the PLO, and Tony Blair today gave a speech about terrorism being terrorism everywhere, whether in Russia, or Bali, or England, or Palestine.... No mention of Israel. This either means he's not acknowledging that the Palestinians are visiting terror on Israel (but apparently Israelis are guilty of terrorist acts against Palestinians), or he is ignoring Israel's existence entirely, much in line with the Palestinian belief that it doesn't exist. Balfour is rolling in his grave. UPDATE: Thanks to Curt, at Flopping Aces, I can forgive Blair (although I may never forgive the BBC). Here's what Blair really said (in relevant part):

And one other thing I want to say while I'm on this subject, neither have they got any justification for killing people in Israel either. There is no justification for suicide bombing whether in Palestine, Iraq, London, Egypt, Turkey, in the United States of America. There is no justification for it, period. And we will start to beat this when we stand up and confront the ideology of this evil. No just the methods but the ideas.

Mark Steyn watch

Here's Mark Steyn, putting into perspective the current British war on terrorism, fleshing out details about Mr. de Meneze's death, and making it clear that the British constabulary needs to figure out its goals and get its act together. BTW, the new information from Steyn regarding de Meneze's death tells me that the first insubstantial stories gave the police too much credit for acting appropriately, albeit wrongly. Basically, they f'd up:

With that in mind, we turn to Jean Charles de Menezes, the supposed "suicide bomber" who turned out to be a Brazilian electrician on his way to work. Unfortunately, by the time the Metropolitan Police figured that out, they'd put five bullets in his head. We're told we shouldn't second-guess split-second decisions that have to be made under great stress by those on the scene, which would be a more persuasive argument if the British constabulary didn't spend so much time doing exactly that to homeowners who make the mistake of defending themselves against violent criminals. And, if summary extrajudicial execution was so urgent, why did the surveillance team let him take a bus ride before eventually cornering him in the Tube? *** [A]lthough I've had a ton of e-mails pointing out various sinister aspects of his behaviour - he was wearing a heavy coat! he refused to stop! - it seems to me there are an awful lot of people on the Tube who might easily find themselves in Mr de Menezes's position. I happened to be passing through London on Friday. It didn't feel terribly warm, but I spend half a year up to my neck in snow so when it climbs to a balmy 48 I start wearing T-shirts. But I can understand why a Brazilian might find 61 and overcast no reason to eschew a heavy jacket. So a man in a suspiciously warm coat refuses to stop for the police. Well, they were a plain-clothes unit - ie, a gang - and confronted by unidentified men brandishing weapons in south London I'd scram, too. *** If the defence of what happened to Mr de Menezes is that it was the right treatment but the wrong patient and we'd better get used to it, perhaps the British Tourist Board could post signs at Terminal Four: "BIENVENUE A LONDRES! WE SHOOT TO KILL!"
Still, I'm not going to go haywire blaming the British police. They're new to this game, and they need to figure out how to handle it. One hopes, though, that the British will use this opportunity to stop haranguing the Israelis for "slaughtering" Palestinian terrorists, and begin to copy their exceptionally humane, and carefully targeted, approach to terrorists.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The seductive power to do good

Bookworm asks why conservative Supreme Court appointees drift to the left but liberal appointees do not drift to the right. Perhaps it's because power doesn't always corrupt, sometimes it seduces. Chief Justice Warren (an Eisenhower appointee) believed that segregation was wrong (as, I suspect, did most moderate Republicans in 1954). With one stroke of the pen he and his fellow justices could make it illegal. They simply could not resist the temptation to do good, resulting in Brown v. Board of Education. Justice Douglas (a Roosevelt appointee) couldn't fine a right to privacy in the Constitution, but he knew the world would be a better place if birth control was legal. So he fashioned a right to privacy out of whole cloth, using the now famous penumbras and emanations, and authored Griswold v. Connecticut. Justice Blackmun (a Nixon appointee) concluded legalizing abortion was a good and proper step for our society to take and used his position on the Court to accomplish the feat. Roe v. Wade was born, and millions of fetuses were not. For liberal Democrat Justice Douglas, legislating from the bench was nothing new. Most liberals believe that doing good is better than waiting for the legislature to remove what they see as an evil in the law. But for Chief Justice Warren and Justice Blackmun, moderate Republicans, legislating for a good cause was something new, definitely a drift to the left. Yet they couldn't stop themselves. In John Roberts' widely reported case of the 12-year-old girl handcuffed for eating a french fry he demonstrated he understood the difference between foolishness and unconstitutionality. It remains to be seen whether he will remember this distinction when he has lifetime tenure and a blank check to "do good" on the highest court in the land. If not, he'll just be the latest Republican appointee to drift leftward as he is seduced by the power to do good.

The end of unions as we know them

This from Captain's Quarters:

One of the key political pillars of the Democratic Party has crumbled. Labor has split, perhaps permanently, over the role of politics in the union movement, and the largest unions have voted to leave the AFL-CIO:
The four unions, representing nearly one-third of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members, announced Sunday they would boycott the federation's convention that begins Monday. They are part of the Coalition to Win, a group of seven unions vowing to reform the labor movement — outside the AFL-CIO if necessary. The Service Employees International Union, with 1.8 million members, plans to announce Monday that it is leaving the AFL-CIO, said several labor officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the developments. The Teamsters union also was on the verge of disaffiliating, and would likely to be the first to follow SEIU's lead, the officials said. Two other boycotting unions were likely to leave the federation: United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, a group of textile and hotel workers.
If you're interested, the Captain has more.

The terrorists among us

As Daniel Pipes points out, a substantial percentage of British Muslims are not disgusted or horrified by the recent bombing attacks; they seem to see them as a necessary step on the road to the caliphate:

*Muslims who see the 7/7 bombing attacks in London as justified on balance: 6 percent. *Who feel sympathy for the 'feelings and motives' of those who carried out the 7/7 attacks: 24 percent. *Understand 'why some people behave in that way': 56 percent. *Disagree with Tony Blair's description of the ideology of the London bombers as 'perverted and poisonous': 26 percent. *Feel not loyal towards Britain: 16 percent. *Agree that 'Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end': 32 percent willing to use non-violent means and (as noted above) 1 percent willing to use violence 'if necessary.' Just 56 percent of Muslims agree with the statement that 'Western society may not be perfect but Muslims should live with it and not seek to bring it to an end.' *Agree that 'British political leaders don't mean it when they talk about equality. They regard the lives of white British people as more valuable than the lives of British Muslims': 52 percent. *Dismiss political party leaders as insincere when saying 'they respect Islam and want to co-operate with Britain's Muslim communities': 50 percent. *Doubt that anyone charged with and tried for the 7/7 attacks would receive a fair trial: 44 percent. *Would not inform on a Muslim religious leader 'trying to 'radicalise' young Muslims by preaching hatred against the West': 10 percent. *Do not think people have a duty to go to the police if they 'see something in the community that makes them feel suspicious': 14 percent. *Believe other Muslims would be reluctant to go to the police 'about anything they see that makes them suspicious': 41 percent. *Would inform the police if they believed they knew about the possible planning of a terrorist attack: 73 percent. (In this case, the Daily Telegraph did not make available the negative percentage.)
So much for the multi-culti success story.

Israel: damned if she does, damned if she doesn't

Here's an interesting take on the difference between world reaction to the fact that British security (not necessarily acting wrongly) accidently killed an innocent man, versus the insane scrutiny leveled at Israel's every effort to protect its citizens:

Israel has taken enormous care in its 'targeted killings' of 'ticking bombs,' almost never killing anyone in a case of mistaken identity. Contrary to the absolute lies told in the British media in recent days, the Israel Defense Forces have not instituted a shoot-to-kill policy, or trained the British to carry out one. For example, on Friday, at the very time British police were shooting the man in the Tube, the IDF caught and disarmed a terrorist from Fatah already inside Israel en route to carrying out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Israeli forces didn't injure the terrorist at all in apprehending him, and disarming him of the five-kilogram explosives belt, packed with nails and metal shards, that he was wearing. And yet for taking the bare minimum steps necessary to save the lives of its citizens in recent years, Israel has been mercilessly berated by virtually the entire world. Had Israeli police shot dead an innocent foreigner on one of its buses or trains, confirming the kill with a barrage of bullets at close range, in a mistaken effort to thwart a bombing, the UN would probably have been sitting in emergency session by late afternoon to unanimously denounce the Jewish state. By evening, 12 hours had passed since the shooting, but the BBC still hadn't interviewed a grieving family, no one had called for British universities be boycotted, Chelsea and Arsenal soccer clubs hadn't been ordered to play their matches in Cyprus, and the Guardian hadn't yet called British policy against its Pakistani population "genocide." As for London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is in overall control of transport in the city, including the train where the man was shot, and who strongly defended the shoot-to-kill policy as a legitimate way to prevent suicide bombings, he was not yet facing war crimes charges — as Livingstone himself has demanded Israeli political leaders should be.
There's more in the article, and it's worth reading, but this is the heart of it, and I have nothing to add.

"Thank God for the Atom Bomb"

No, the title to this post didn't originate with me. It comes from an essay written by Paul Fussell, the historian, and included in a book entitled "Thank God for the Atom Bomb." In that essay, Fussell pointed out that Truman's decision in August 1945 to drop the bomb was entirely rational. The war was grinding its way through its fifth bloody year, Germany was down, the Soviets were pressing in on Europe, and the Japanese refused to surrender. It's this last point most people forget nowadays. Yes, it was a foregone conclusion that America would win, but the best analysts said that Japan gave every indication that it would fight to the death of its last man, woman and child. This would also have meant the deaths of at least 40,000 more American troops (not even counting all the wounded). Under those circumstances, Truman's responsibility was to think about his American soldiers, whom he was not willing to sacrifice, as opposed to Japanese civilians, which Japan gave every indication of viewing as cannon fodder. As I may have mentioned before, I too thank God for the atom bomb. My Mom had spent the war interned in a Japanese Concentration Camp in Java. She had just reached the point of refusing food -- which is the final phase in death through starvation -- when the bomb dropped. That gave her the will to live, and also gave the Japanese the incentive to feed their prisoners something more than pig swill. I'm here, blogging, because Truman dropped the bomb. There's actually a reason for my going down this road. At The American Thinker, Ed Lasky posts about a current poll showing that at least half of Americans today wouldn't make the same decision Truman made. After reciting the poll numbers, Lasky has this to say:

After all, the Japanese stage a surprise attack against us while engaging in sham negotiations; brutalized the people of the countries they occupied; engaged in Nazi-like experimenting with weapons of mass destruction (germ warfare); raped and pillaged throughout Asia; fought with fanatical devotion and would have done so to protect their home islands and Emperor. The use of the atomic bomb probably saved more Japanese lives and Americans than were lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was no need to invade Japan, which could easily have killed millions. Yet, moral relativism seems to be gaining traction. Recall the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian, where the exhibit, as originally designed, would have been critical of the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. The forces of appeasement and capitulation live on.
I'm willing to accept that the Americans polled have no idea of the historical realities and the decision making process facing Truman before the bomb dropped. All they know are the horrific pictures of Hiroshima and Nakasaki after the bomb dropped, and all they remember are the cold war years, which treated the bomb with both fear and ridicule. Still, it is shocking to think that Americans might, if push came to shove, decide to save their enemies before saving themselves. I'm not sure I want to be a part of that collective sacrifice.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Time for a long-overdue roundup

It's been way, way too long since I've noted in one place what some of my favorite blogs are doing. Better late than never, though. So, in fairly random order: Skippy-san, the resident Far East Cynic is blogging about O-Bon festivals in July, British toughness (I hope he's right), gauche Japanese advertisements for Anne Frank's diary, and generally just an interesting melange of things about Far Eastern culture, his travels, his life experience, etc. An interesting man, our friend Skippy-san, and it's a pleasure to get to know him through his blog. What did Hamlet say? "Get thee to a nunnery," right? I know it was an insult there, but it's no insult here to say get thee to the Anchoress' cell. A visit there will have you reading about Harry Potter (don't read that if you haven't read the new book yet); the disgrace of American flags being burnt on the lawn of a fallen soldier; the idiocies of Pennsylvania's Lt. Gov.; who attended a military funeral and announced there her opposition to the war; Hugh Hewitt's newly designed site (I guess I'd better check it out), and so much more. I'd say "a lot of bang for the buck," but it's even better than that, because it's absolutely free. Kathryn, in her delightfully eclectic blog, Suitable for Mixed Company, hooks the French with a pointed article about a huge fine imposed against them for overfishing under EU regulations, and then goes on to discuss the bizarre allocation of resources at a Scottish hospital; link to a good site for novel writers; ruminations on real and faux heroes in WWII France; review children's books; and comment on the death of a Lawrence Welk musician; and on and on. How can you resist a blog that has such rich and varied offerings? Ah, Patrick, my dear Patrick, farming wonderful paragraphs, delights me today with beautiful animal pictures (that is, beautiful pictures of beautiful animals), and just a marvelous quotation from the speech King Leonidas of Sparta made to his coalition of the willing (comprised of Phokians and Lokrians of Opus, Thebans and Corinthians and Teageates, Orchomenians and Archedians, Philians, Thespaians, Mantineans and the men of Mycenae) all readying to fight against tremendous odds in 480 B.C., to defend Greece against the Persians. Imagine being inspired by a general's words written over 2000 years ago? Gail, gracing the blogosphere at Crossing the Rubicon, entices us with salmon recipes so savory you can practically smell them on your computer; talks about changes the Encyclopedia Britannica is making to stay competitive in the internet age; includes fun links for creating cyber replicas of yourself or for calculating your level of normalcy; gives us a scathing attack from the Wall Street Journal on the mainline churches currently attacking Israel; has two good quotations, one saying the terrorism is not about Iraq and the other saying that it doesn't matter even if the terrorism is about Iraq; and has just much, much more from a manifestly curious and intelligent mind. Curt, at Flopping Aces, is a policeman and I just don't know how he finds the time to blog as prodigiously as he does -- and it's always interesting. If you click on over today, you'll find long, content-rich posts about the bombings in Egypt (including a good reminder that it really isn't all about Iraq); the Left's bizarre new critique that Bush is doing too little to combat terrorism (a critique some in the military have aggressively rebutted); publicly sponsored anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic art (if you're not mad after reading that, your emotions must be on novacaine); and regular insights about police-shootings (both when police are shooting, or being shot at). I always come away from this blog knowing much more than I did going in. Laer, at Cheat Seeking Missiles, has an extraordinarily prodigious output, which is distinguished by its constant high quality. Nothing banal sneaks in here. A quick toodle through his blog gives us honest critiques about Muslim clerics; the continued stupidies issuing from the BBC (anyone remember when it was still a respected broadcasting entity?); reasons not to panic about the heatwaves sweeping the country right now (it's probably not because of global warming); and continued MSM bias regarding the Supreme Court nominations. You're missing something good if you're not checking here regularly. Phibian, bless his heart, is One Year Old! Okay, he's not really, but his blog -- CDR Salamander -- is. Phibian has been giving advice to his younger self (I think his older self wishes his younger self had figured out how to get rich); has an incredibly funny post that you don't realize is funny until you've clicked over to the two photographs he's hyperlinked; gives a thank you to Germans who tried to assassinate Hitler (and who died miserably, incidentally, for their efforts); points to the fact that modern terrorism is inextricably linked with a particular violent form of Islam; and just generally amuses and educates, often simultaneously. I'm constantly amazed by the broad range of news Gina, at Gee Dubya, finds. It's as if she's clued into a whole different, and much better, news universe than many of us. If you go to her blog today, you'll be greeted by a photograph of some of the London bombers have the quintessential middle-class, mainstream adventure: white water rafting. Gina has also caught what I've been ignoring (I'm in avoidance mode) -- more bad news about avian flu -- it's coming, and it will be bad, and it's still not clear whether we can do anything about it. You'll also find a photoessay about some of our military in Iraq, and another in her series of posts about Esteban Carpio, an especially vile and violent killer. If you want a place that has the pleasure of a fragant tropical breeze, you can't miss Anne's blog, Palm Tree Pundit. With invariable warmth, intelligence and humor, Anne blogs about the military's chance to vent at the Demos; the lunacies of affirmative action; the nexus between religion and freedom; advice to her younger self (although it's good advice for anyone of any age); aging baby boomers (yes, Cheryl Ladd is hawking menopause stuff); and just lots of other insights on religion, families and politics. Whoa! I think Scott's Conservative News and Commentary had a facelift, or I've just been unobservant, because there is a very fierce looking eagle on the masthead now. It's an appropriate symbol for a blog that's all-American in its outlook. I'll keep this short, because I linked just today to Turkeyhead's (that's his blog name, not an insult from me) good work digging up some pretty reprehensible Islamist stuff out there in the blogosphere. Steve, who regularly emerges from the Binjo Ditch to offer pearls of wisdom has been blogging a bit lightly this summer, but he hasn't missed his regular Wednesday haiku, and he's been around often enough to post some funny stuff about depositions (or maybe funny only to lawyers? I don't know); to attack (rightly) bad movie sequels and remakes; to comment on some of the more terrible examples of drunken people who crawl behind the wheels of their cars; and to tell some great stories about his kids (definitely read the one about his son's shark bite and his daughter's swim lesson). My friends at Brain Droppings are looking to the future, with a plan for purchasing adjoining vacation lots and building a common pool. It sounds wonderful. My recommendations are: a high fence around the pool; a good pool service; and solar heating. Other interesting stuff includes a really warm welcome to my friend Don Quixote; observations about changes to Scarborough Country; and efforts nationwide to stop gerrymandering. It's a revolving cast of bloggers, but the quality is high and consistent. Jack's News Snipet 'Blog takes apart the Plame Blame Game, with a detailed time line that helps put everything in perspective; and has a good post taking apart the ridiculous claim that the new War of the World's movie should be taken as some sort of template for retreat in the current war against terrorism. He also attacks the faux Gitmo scandal, and takes some time for the Supreme Court nominations. Aside from being a generally enjoyable blog, I have to say that one of the reasons I always like to check it out is because of the blog's logo: "NEVER TRY TO TEACH A PIG TO READ. FIRST, IT CAN'T BE DONE, AND SECOND, IT ANNOYS THE PIG." You know, that just about says everything that needs to be said, doesn't it? Heather, at From the Word Go, is another one of the ex-liberal bloggers, and I always like her take on things -- perhaps because I truly know, as an ex-liberal myself, how she got to her conclusions. She talks about Iraq's celebrity commando (a great story I would otherwise have missed); alternative fuel cars to relieve America of the tremendous burden of being dependent on foreign oil; movies she's seen because of a new Netflix subscription (we have one too and it is, as Martha would say, a "good thing"); and the to-bomb or not-to-bomb Mecca debate, something I touched up with my Bush the madman theory (I think she's on board with my "it's not such a bad thing if the Islamists think we might do it, whether or not we actually would" theory). You can tell Callimachus, at Done With Mirrors, is a professional writer, because his postings are just soooo polished. Every Thursday, he examines Carnival of Etymologies, and I'm constantly stunned by how erudite he is. That's one fine body of knowledge about word origins. In addition to that effort, Callimachus also finds time to write about the fact that we are in WW IV (with the Cold War having been WW II); German songs from the Renaissance (where does he find this stuff?); America as a long-standing symbol of freedom -- against Arab dictators, yet; and the newly emerging "chickenhawk meme," where anti-war people insist that all war supporters should haul themselves over to Iraq and put their moneies where their mouths are. Like Gina, Callimachus seems to be plugged into an other, better news universe. Thanks, my friends, for all the information and insights you bring to me.

Mark Steyn on Rogers

It's a choppier column than usual, with a lot of punning riffs about 2000's hanging chads, but by the end, Mark Steyn, writing about Rogers' nomination, puts it all together:

Barely had the president finished announcing the nomination when the Dems rushed Sen. Chuck Schumer on air, hunched and five-o'clock-shadowed and looking like a bus-&-truck one-man Nixon revue. Schumer's line was that, as a judge, Roberts had too thin a paper trail. His message seemed to be: Look, we Dems have the finest oppo-research boys in the business and, if we can't get any dirt on this guy, that must mean it's buried real deep and is real bad; the very fact that we can't get anything on him is in itself suspicious. Etc., etc. Give it up, guys. Here's the John Roberts case that matters: As the Los Angeles Times put it, Roberts 'said police did not violate the constitutional rights of a 12-year-old girl who was arrested, handcuffed and detained for eating a French fry inside a train station.' We know what the flailing Times is clutching at here: Look, folks, this right-wing nut favors handcuffing schoolgirls for eating French fries. No, he doesn't. As he wrote in his opinion, 'The question before us, however, is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution' -- i.e., it may be bad legislation poorly implemented, but it's not his job to make the law. If you don't like public-transit policy on French fries, elect new councilors who'll change it. That's how free societies function. The Democrats drew exactly the wrong lesson from their chad fever. If the case teaches anything, it's the importance of winning at the ballot box, which you do by promoting clear ideas confidently stated. The Dems prefer to leave it to the Divine Right of Judges. You might too if you believed in gay marriage and partial-birth abortion, but, simply as a matter of practical politics, it's disastrous for the party. Poor sad Richard Cohen, unabletomoveon.org after five years, is a fine emblem for the Democrats: Ask not for whom the chad hangs, it hangs for thee.

News from the RoP

If you have the stomach for it, our friends at Scott's Conservative News & Commentary have taken the time to cull some of the more extreme examples of religion of peace marketing, pointing to websites that sell games where kids can kill "zionists" and visiting with fellow-traveler anti-war protestors. It's a sad, but in its own way impressive, window into the lives of the bottom feeders.

Why the Supreme's leftward drift?

Fred Barnes has an interesting article about Pres. Bush's efforts to make sure that Roberts would not, like Souter, turn out to be an extreme liberal. The article describes the interview process and the White House's concerns. What struck me, however, was this sentence:

He [Pres. Bush] decided Roberts would not lurch to the left as Souter had or even drift in that direction as other Supreme Court appointees of Republican presidents have.
A phrase such as the one I highlighted has to leave you asking why Republican nominees drift left. I can't remember hearing about a Democratic nominee who drifted right. I mean, think about it -- Earl Warren was an Eisenhower appointee, and Warren Burger was a Nixon appointee, yet both presided over the most activist Supreme Courts in American history. What is it about the air or culture of the Supreme Court that encourages this drift? Is it collegiality? In the rarified world of the Supreme Court, separated from the Sturm-und-Drang of politics and ordinary life, are they really have insights that are denied the rest of us? Certainly, it's something that we ought to think about, because I don't think it's a coincidence, and there may be useful answers hiding in those questions.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A humble hello

Thank you to Bookworm, who is one of my all-time favorite people. She's even more fascinating in person than in print. I'm honored she's allowed me to share a small corner of her limelight. First, about the name. I adopted it years ago on a political Prodigy bulletin board where I made it my mission in cyber-life to tilt at everyone's windmills, trying to get the writers to be more civil with each other and engage in actual, meaningful dialogue. Alas, they went merrily on their way flaming each other with gusto and abandon (and flaming me in the bargain). If anything, the dialogue has deterioriated even further over the years. Take, for example, the California Teachers Association, the most powerful and vicious lobby in Sacramento. The CTA has been using their teachers' dues to run a series of attack ads against California Governor Schwarzenegger. In the interests of fairness I invite you to compare the ads, as posted on the official CTA web site to the facts, as presented on the Governor's "Join Arnold" site. Far from rising up against the incivility and dishonesty of the ads, the public has bought them hook, line and sinker and the Governor's popularity has nosedived. Rather than an honest discussion about school funding, Californians have justified a hatchet job by reacting just as the hatchet wielders hoped they would. Sadly, we get the political debate we deserve. I'm heartened, however, by the positive reaction Bookworm has received to her always civil blog, and I hope to contribute positively to this blog and the discussion in general. May I add more light than heat. May I contribute to the discourse, not to the discord. May the readers call me on it (as I know Bookworm will!) whenever I cross the line.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Let's get the facts straight

I posted here about the man whom the British police killed today, after he refused to stop for them, leapt over a turnstile and launched himself onto a subway train. British Muslims are now up in arms about what they're characterizing as a "shoot to kill" policy. They make it sound as if police are planning on mass executions for all visible Muslims. While it certainly would be helpful to get more facts, it does sound as if this man was doing everything he could to incite distrust and, more importantly, to lead police to believe that, with his desperate effort to board a subway train, he was trying to blow the train up, even if his suicide took place at the police's hands before his bomb even went off. It's entirely possible that jittery police overreacted in shooting him but the fact is that, with suicide bombers, it's often impossible to tell until it's too late what action will cause the bomb to blow up. Considering the 8 bombs realized in Britain in 2 weeks, considering the man's unbelievable suspicious and aggressive conduct (aggressive, not towards the police, from whom he was escaping, but toward the subway itself), it doesn't currently seem unreasonable -- or like a shoot to kill policy -- for the police to take the most aggressive measures possible against him. Still, having said all that, it would have been much better had they captured him and gotten information, rather than turning him into both a cipher and a public-relations problem. UPDATE: And speaking of getting the facts straight, it turns out that the subway shooting claimed an innocent man:

Scotland Yard admitted Saturday that a man police officers gunned down at point-blank range in front of horrified subway passengers on Friday had nothing to do with the investigation into the bombing attacks here. The man was identified by police as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian, described by officers as an electrician on his way to work. "He was not connected to incidents in central London on 21st July, 2005, in which four explosive devices were partly detonated," a police statement said.
What I'm still unclear on is why Mr. de Menezes, who apparently understood English well, ran from the officers, and headed for the subway. That was a deathly mistake, since it would seem to me you couldn't wave more of a red flag before the police bull (pardon the horrific metaphor) than to leap over subway turnstiles and jump on a subway train in the wake of all the bombings.

Democrats -- still living in the past

The Captain points to Anita Hills' attack on Roberts because he is a white male, rather than a woman or a minority (and the Captain appropriately points out Hills' efforts to derail the appointment of one of those minority justices she now craves). What I found so interesting was that Hill claims that Rogers' credentials (Harvard College, Harvard Law, Supreme Court clerkship, etc.), set the bar too high for women and minorities. As Hill says:

Had these "extraordinary" credentials set the standard for judicial nominations in 1982, Sandra Day O'Connor would never have been appointed. She never clerked. She never worked for a president. She never served as a federal judge. Ideology notwithstanding, even Circuit Judge Edith Clement, whose name surfaced as the front-runner prior to Bush's official announcement, would not survive this standard, despite the fact that she has more judicial experience than Roberts. The first Latino U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, was also rumored to be a potential nominee. But like O'Connor's, his resume is missing a clerkship and his judicial experience was state, not federal.
Stop and think about this. First of all, O'Connor graduated at or near the top of her class at Stanford Law, so she wasn't chopped liver. Some, indeed, would say that Harvard is not as good as Stanford (I'd personally rank Yale Law at the top, which is gracious of me, since I didn't go there). More significantly, she didn't do all the fancy clerkships and jump into partnerships at major law firms because when O'Connor graduated in the 1950s, those opportunities were not open to women attorneys. It would, therefore, have been grossly unfair in the 1980s to expect those credentials from female (or minority) Supreme Court candidates of O'Connor's generation. However, that was then, this is now. Women and minorities can and do attend the top rated law schools. Women and minorities now can, and do, get Supreme Court and Appellate Court clerkships. Women and minorities can and do work at major law firms, and they can and do become partners at those law firms. It is an insult to assert in the year 2005 that the standards for women and minorities should be set lower, simply because the standard had to be set lower to enable the first generation of women and minorities to get onto the Court. This weird, time-warp argument shouldn't actually surprise me as much as it does. I've blogged before about the Demos peculiar obsession with basing their public policies on some foul smelling past they can't seem to shake. Their candidate lost the White House because he ran his campaign based on Vietnam. They're losing the abortion debate, because they're arguments are rooted in the sad, bad 1950s and before, when the stigma for out of wedlock pregnancies was enough to drive women to death. They're still fighting the bilingual battle, long after it was shown to rob children of a chance at an education. Until this party gets out of the past, it will have nothing to give to the future.

Advice to my younger self

Skippy-san, our resident Far East Cynic tagged me with a lovely meme:

List 3-5 things that you would put in a 'Back to the Future' type letter from you now, to your younger self at, say, 20-21 year old, on the verge of graduating. There are only two caveats here: 1) you cannot direct your younger self to do anything or violate the principle of free will in decision making and 2) you should not try to reveal specific events in the future since, in theory, if any of your advice is accepted it will already screw up the time line and the events won't happen at all. This should, however to allow you to give your younger self some advice, and in the process force some introspection into your own existence. It can be as shallow or as revealing as you like, and feel comfortable with.
Since there is so much I've had time to learn, this is both a tough and an easy one. (There's a scary corollary, too, in that there is so much I still have to learn, and so many mistakes left to be made.) Here goes: 1. Be nice. Being nasty does not mask insecurity or hide inadequacies, it magnifies them. Niceness is not a quality our culture has valued in the young, at least since the 1960s, but it is a wonderful quality. I'm talking genuine niceness, not some sort of saccharine artifice. Being witty might be amusing to some around you, but it is being nice and being kind that will make you a valued person and, perhaps more importantly, enable you to value others. 2. Don't worry too, too much about your career choices. As you'll discover, this is not the 19th Century anymore, with people working in one office from the end of school until the day of retirement. Dive into whatever you decide to do with discipline and enthusiasm, but don't be so worried about the future that you paralyze your decision-making abilities. Your 20s are the time to experiment with different professions and to learn what your day-to-day skills are outside of the academic arena. 3. Stop being so judgmental (I think this might be a subset of number 1 -- be nice). You can hold strongly to your own opinions without denigrating others. This does not, of course, extend to core matters. The skill is to distinguish what's really important -- the core, unchanging, unrelativistic values -- from the ephemera. That guy over there is not a less valuable person because he's wearing brown socks with black shoes. However, that women over there who is dressed perfectly but is defending honor killings is not someone you should be hanging out with. 4. Embrace new experiences. Don't let your fear that things might go wrong prevent you from enjoying life. You're smart enough not to take stupid risks (I know you'll never do drugs or drive drunk or something), but you've got to take some risks, even if that means saying yes to coffee with someone you wouldn't normally pick as a potential friend. 5. Tell your parents every day (or at least once a week) that you love them. In fact, if you can do it honestly, never be slow about praising people for things they do well, or letting them know that they add value to your life. (If you're becoming sycophantic or a vain flatterer, you're doing it wrong.) People need to know they're being valued and appreciated, and you'll feel good about yourself if you're the one doing it. 6. Don't feel sorry for yourself and don't buy into the Left's victim mentality. The whole world is not out to get women. In coming years, you'll figure out what you should have known instinctively -- men and women are different, and that's not part of some vast cultural conspiracy. 7. Don't panic. Once you figure the other stuff out, you will get married. Whew! I've exhausted myself, and haven't painted a very pretty much of my younger self either, have I? Sarcastic, judgmental, hypercautious, stingy with praise and emotions, and sorry for myself. I'm surprised I survived my youth without anyone committing a mercy killing against me for my own good! I hope I've learned something by now, and I hope that I learn more as time goes by. As I've done before with these memes, I'm going to tag all those who visit my blog. If you take me up on this tag, please be sure to send me a trackback or comment so that I can see what you would tell yourself with the benefit of hindsight.

The tide continues to pour in, but it can still be turned

This is one of Victor Davis Hanson's best ever -- and that's saying a lot. After first analyzing how the Muslims first came for the Jews, and we all looked the other way, with excuses in one hand and cash for them in the other, the article details how they then came for us, and are now starting on the Europeans. Rather than just compiling a list of horrors, though, VDH wraps up with an incredibly intelligent, "What can we learn from all this? discussion"

Jihadists hardly target particular countries for their “unfair” foreign policies, since nations on five continents suffer jihadist attacks and thus all apparently must embrace an unfair foreign policy of some sort. Typical after the London bombing is the ubiquitous Muslim spokesman who when asked to condemn terrorism, starts out by deploring such killing, assuring that it has nothing to do with Islam, yet then ending by inserting the infamous “but” — as he closes with references about the West Bank, Israel, and all sorts of mitigating factors. Almost no secular Middle Easterners or religious officials write or state flatly, “Islamic terrorism is murder, pure and simple evil. End of story, no ifs or buts about it.” Second, thinking that the jihadists will target only Israel eventually leads to emboldened attacks on the United States. Assuming America is the only target assures terrorism against Europe. Civilizations will either hang separately or triumph over barbarism together. It is that simple — and past time for Europe and the United States to rediscover their common heritage and shared aims in eradicating this plague of Islamic fascism. Third, Islamicists are selective in their attacks and hatred. So far global jihad avoids two billion Indians and Chinese, despite the fact that their countries are far tougher on Muslims than is the United States or Europe. In other words, the Islamicists target those whom they think they can intimidate and blackmail. Unfettered immigration, billions in cash grants to Arab autocracies, alliances of convenience with dictatorships, triangulation with Middle Eastern patrons of terror, blaming the Jews — civilization has tried all that. It is time to relearn the lessons from the Cold War, when we saw millions of noble Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, and Czechs as enslaved under autocracy and a hateful ideology, and in need of democracy before they could confront the Communist terror in their midst. But until the Wall fell, we did not send billions in aid to their Eastern European dictatorships nor travel freely to Prague or Warsaw nor admit millions of Communist-ruled Bulgarians and Albanians onto our shores.
Lots to learn, but certainly not impossible.

It's all about me!

One would think that Muslims would be issuing public statements about standing with Britain and doing everything they can to bring the malfeasors into their community to justice. But no. It turns out they're the victims, and Britain just owes them more TLC:

Muslims gathered uneasily for afternoon prayers Friday, murmuring about fears of a backlash. A bomb threat forced the evacuation of one of London's largest mosques, and someone dumped gasoline near a suicide bomber's home. A tremor of apprehension shook Britain's Muslim community of 1.6 million Friday after undercover officers on the London subway shot and killed a man described by witnesses as a South Asian. The shooting followed a series of small bombings Thursday in which four men placed backpacks of explosives on three trains and a bus. The attacks came two weeks after four suicide bombers killed 52 other people on three London subways and a bus. 'We are getting phone calls from quite a lot of Muslims who are distressed about what may be a shoot-to-kill policy,' said Inayat Bunglawala, Muslim Council of Britain spokesman.
To give credit where credit is due, the manager of one of London's largest mosques did publicly side with, well, the public:
Mosque manager Ali Khan said he felt no need to further increase the precautions, largely because words like Blair's reassured him. Khan condemned the attacks, and said if those responsible came to his mosque seeking refuge, they would be turned over to police. "There is no refuge for culprits," he said. "We are a British organization like any other."
Those who worship there, are not so helpful:
But many of the hundreds praying Friday at the London Central Mosque seemed apprehensive. Guner Bahadir, sitting in a prayer room for women, said she felt solidarity with Muslims involved in conflicts around the world, and that with Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, she wasn't surprised by the attacks. "This is the war, and now it is here," said the 40-year-old Bahadir, who immigrated from Turkey five years ago. "They (the West) say they're helping us, but they're not. They're killing us," she said. "We don't need their help." A man in his 50s who immigrated from Pakistan said, "I am certain one day I will be killed. Many of us feel this." He declined to be named because he didn't want to stand out in a community he said was already "being targeted as a scapegoat." "This was a peaceful place. Muslims from all over the world could come because they knew they would be safe. They love the way they are treated here," said Abdullah Alesayi, 40, who said he has been vacationing in London every summer since 1971 from Saudi Arabia. "I hope this country continues this way. It is my second home."
It doesn't seem to occur to these Muslims that, if they were to stand up with the British, the average British man on the streets would be less likely to view them all as equal threats.