January 31, 2005

The Memory of an Afternoon With You

The separation you feel
I’m here to stop it.
Just as rain fades,
so does that fleeting moment of sorrow.

The world that we see,
is full of conflicting feelings.
Sorrow as well as hope.
But these things are hard to see, due to a wave of responsibilities.
That when underneath it, even hope can fade.

I’m here to uplift you,
to brighten those rainy days, sodden with a thick isolation.
I’m here to uplift your lonesome heart,
all alone,
for years to come.

All that I can show you,
will be shown, till it’s all gone.
The whole time, you
the people I love, will be on my mind.

We are too loving, and we are scared,
our true feelings are unexpressed beneath the surface.
And we say evasive words,
and yet, our words are real.

We will care for one another,
in that rainstorm that’s to come.
We will care for one another.
Even far apart, we will be by each other’s side,

I’m here to uplift you,
to brighten those rainy days, sodden with thick isolation.
I’m here to uplift your lonesome heart,
all alone.

I won't forget the children’s toys,
the times when I played with you.
I won’t forget the trips to the zoo.
The time, so many times, I spent with you

I’m here to uplift you,
to brighten those rainy days, sodden with thick isolation.
I’m here to uplift your lonesome heart,
all alone.

I won't forget the soft, cool breeze,
the shining sun,
the memory of an afternoon with you.

I’ll never forget it,
not the way you were with me,
the sunny day, swept away by rain.
I just know that memory will bring the sun back.

--Zoë (age 13)

(This poem was written today, 1/31/05, by my daughter, and dedicated to her mother and me. I am, of course, jelly.)

January 30, 2005

Worth a Thousand Words

More Iraq election photos:

Thanks to Hammorabi.<

I Bite My Thumb At Thee

It's a long road still.

But check out these pictures from Powerline, all you "the insurgents are the minutemen" people.

Aye, I bite my thumb at thee.

And check out this slideshow. All American puppets, of course.

Sen. Nuance Is Still At It

From Balloon-Juice:
John Kerry, btw, was on Meet The Press this morning, and did everything he could to piss all over the administration and the election. According to him, we need to have a massive outreach to the international community in order to make sure the election is viewed as legitimate. And the Democrats wonder why they are the minority party. "This is the last chance for the President to get it right." Go fuck yourself.

Do they teach that at Yale?

Wolcott Blames the Bloggers

I sometimes listen to Ian Masters, one of the few programs on Pacifica that I can stomach. Today he had James Wolcott on, pitching his new book in which he condemns "media poodles."

Aside from the usual Bush-bashing, one of Wolcott's explanations for what he thinks is reporters' pusillanimity toward W. is that if a reporter asks a tough question, bloggers will instantly cry for the scalp, claiming unfairness, disrespect, or treason on the part of the reporter.

Like most such accusations, this shows more than anything else how wounded poor Jimmy must be as a result of previous fiskings and blogmockeries.

Like this, this, this, this or this.

Why are the most unabashedly consumerist and "sophisticated" rags, such as the New Yorker and Vanity Fair home to the most obnoxious Ivy League Bolsheviks?

And why does a man who peddles a book calling reporters poodles quail at the thought of being questioned by a bunch of pajamahadeen? So many idiotarians. So many questions. So little time.

Women Voters In Iraq

Voters in Iraq
Originally uploaded by octopod.

This photo from the WaPo illustrates the success of the elections in most of Iraq.

Powerline quotes this from Reuters:

Samir Hassan, 32, who lost his leg in a car bomb blast in October, was determined to vote. "I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace," he said, leaning on his metal crutches, determination in his reddened eyes.

There's a long road ahead, but these are brave people who understand freedom. A pox on all the scoffers, not least the repulsive Robert Fisk!

Election Success

According to Fox News, voter turnout in Iraq was higher than in the last U.S. presidential election, and the bravery of the common people was evident:

When an unexplained boom sounded near one Baghdad voting station, some women put their hands to their mouths and whispered prayers. Others continued walking calmly to the voting stations. Several shouted in unison: "We have no fear."

"Am I scared? Of course I'm not scared. This is my country," said 50-year-old Fathiya Mohammed, wearing a head-to-toe abaya.

At one polling place in Baghdad, soldiers and voters joined hands in a dance, and in Baqouba, voters jumped and clapped to celebrate the historic day. At another, an Iraqi policeman in a black ski mask tucked his assault rifle under one arm and took the hand of an elderly blind woman, guiding her to the polls.

January 29, 2005

On the Elections: From "Iraq the Model"

Here's what Mohammed has to say:
The results of some recent polls that have shown how determined Iraqis are to hold the elections might have surprised you, but they weren't a surprise for us; we're not the kind of people that kneel to terror and the sights of blood and beheadings.

Saddam had tried all tools of oppression, killing and torture he could find against our people (including WMD's) but he failed to make the people believe in his hateful regime. And that's why the people abandoned him and now, he and his regime are just a bad old tale from the past.

On Sunday, the sun will rise on the land of Mesopotamia. I can't wait, the dream is becoming true and I will stand in front of the box to put my heart in it.

HT: Roger L. Simon.

Iraqi Father, Voting, Weeps For Lost Son

Sorry, Powerline guys. A link was not enough. I had to post the photo. So sue me.

Iraqi Voters In the Rain in El Toro, Orange County, USA

This polling place is a little safer than some in Iraq.

These guys aren't shills for anyone, though.

Thanks to Radioblogger.

This May Sum It Up

An Iraqi voting for the first time weeps because his son, whom Saddam murdered in the 1991 uprising, is not alive to see it.

Won't be in Michael Moore's next movie, or Teddy Kennedy's next speech.

May his son rest in peace.

Update: I had to post the photo myself, here.

January 27, 2005

Huey P. Long -- Dexter, Sinister, Scoundrel, Statesman?

Huey P. Long
Originally uploaded by octopod.
The Corner at National Review Online is wracked (well, faintly ruffled) by a debate as to whether the late Louisiana Governor and Senator Huey P. Long was a righty or a lefty.

Aside from the poor fit of a French revolutionary metaphor to the flowery variety of American policos, Long was unquestionably a lefty of a peculiar sort, a Louisanan Hugo Chavez. He excoriated the rich, and gave the rural folks paved roads, free textbooks, and a sense they mattered in Baton Rouge because Huey was one of them and would fight the good fight for them. He even managed to help the blacks, by giving them something approaching their fair share of state largesse.

Long threatened to oppose the patrician Franklin D. Roosevelt, and would have done so but for an assassin's bullet. So he became tarred with an imaginary fascist brush, a tarring that seemed to be confirmed when brilliant disciple Gerald L. K. Smith descended into political irrelevance and eventually loony anti-Semitism.

Long was a genius, an egotist, an authoritarian, a statesman and a villain, all at once. He has been too long forgotten, for he was a true American original.

And then there was his bro, Earl, another successful politician whose very madness was problematical and immortalized by A.J. Liebling in The Earl of Louisiana. A fine book, but not quite as great as Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men, a roman à clef based on Huey's life and death, later a fine film.

Russell, Huey's boy, was a model of probity in the U.S. Senate, perhaps to live down comparison with his more flamboyant relatives.

More interesting than the Kennedys and the Bushes combined, this political family has been too long forgotten.

Updae: More on the Senate filibuster, including Huey's legendary performance, here.

January 26, 2005

Whitewash in Coptic Slayings?

The American Coptic Union protested the retreat of New Jersey prosecutors from the investigation of a religious hatred angle in the murder of a Jersey City Coptic Christian family of four:

• We call upon Hudson County Prosecutor Office not to rushing, and exclude religion hatred, or terrorism. This time the massacre is rehearsal targeted a Christian family, member of a small community, next time would be against any other community.

• This massacre should be seen as a wake up call for all American. Terror is knocking the door, thus we seek the support of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic organizations, as well as Human Rights organizations requesting Hudson County Prosecutor Office an independent investigation.

• We request the Newspapers, TV stations, and all news media, keep asking questions, and follow up with the investigations.

• We request more involvement from the Federal Government in the case.

Reprinted by Jihad Watch.

This should be a federal case. There are four dead. There are potential interstate and international implications. New Jersey is a notoriously corrupt state. Can they be trusted to investigate this?

Please God, let this not prove to be some movie Chinatown, where it doesn't really matter what happens, because the truth might be incovenient.

Sure, it's possible it wasn't a religious crime, or was made to look like one for some ulterior motive. But it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. Someone needs to prove to me that it wasn't a religious assassination.

The blood of these martyrs, especially the youngest, Monica, cries to heaven.

And if you are a Copt, buy a gun and learn to use it.

Hands Off Those 80-Year-Old Adventists?

Gary Becker does a riff on ethnic profiling. Assuming limited resources, do we overselect, say, young Muslim men, in airport security lines? It would seem that because there have been incidents around the world involving young Muslim men seizing and destroying planes, as compared to say, aged Adventist females, one would want to oversample young Muslim men.

To this there are a few objections:

  • It will just lead to a handoff of terrorist tasks to, say, Muslim women, or apparently non-Muslim decoys.

  • There are already non-Muslims who would commit terrorism, Timothy McVeigh, for example.

  • This kind of profiling is so inconsistent with our values and message that it's beyond the pale. Moreover, oversampling a target group might recruit more terrorists than it catches, and anyway, it doesn't pass the all-important smell test that tells sensitive civil libertarians that we are on the slippery slope to Kolyma or Dachau.

None of these objections holds water.

Oversampling one group does not mean failing to sample others, and the sampling protocol can be unpredictably varied, or varied to reflect experience. A "pregnant" woman terrorist in a burka shouldn't be able to escape scrutiny a second time.

Moreover, if more than one group is suspect, then more than one group must be oversampled. If we have to, we can oversample rootless military dropouts and young Muslim men.

The third objection, that oversampling any group (especially a group traditionally subject to discrimination, such as young black men) offends our basic values or threatens to mobilize more terrorists than it catches, also does not hold water.

Although oversampling a defined group does not involve "probable cause" in the legal sense, it approaches "probably cause," if properly based on the data. There seems no reason other than political correctness to give our 80-year old Adventist woman an equal chance of being chosen for extra scrutiny than Abdul from Egypt, who's a "student" in Florida, traveling on a one-way ticket from Orlando to Minneapolis. Of course, all these activities should be conducted professionally and politely, even if we know they sometimes won't be.

But if in the wake of 9/11, 3/11, the Cole, the Khobar towers and all the rest, it seems to me only suicidal nutcases would give Abdul a free pass, while groping our Adventist's undergarments searching for Semtec.

Certainly when it comes to non-citizens, I feel no compunction other than concern for the tourist Euro, for closely questioning certain types. And even citizens will recognize that if a bank is reported robbed by a 5 foot 10 inch, 60-is man with blue eyes and a limp, silverbacks of that description are fairly in for some scrutiny.

"Tough titty," said the kitty, when the milk had run dry.

I hope Becker and Posner will forgive my irreverence, and recognize my comments as seriously intended notwithstanding my 60-ish, limping attempts at humor. These guys are serious thinkers, and I salute them the best way I know how -- by commenting on their ideas.

She Comes From a Suburb of Where?

Geraghty creeps me out:
Obviously, Barbara Boxer has suddenly become a favorite of Democrats to be on the 2008 ticket. The blog has started, the “Boxer for President” signs are starting to crop up.

It's perfectly clear who she really is.

Latest Vox Blogoli Response

Vox Blogoli 2005, No. 1

Hugh Hewitt, who has done great things to encourage bloggers and to encourage debate among them, periodically sets topics for discussion in the blogosphere and then links to them.

These exercises not only encourage debate, but also attract readers to blogs such as this one, lower on the food chain than the Instapundits and Powerlines of the world.

Hugh's latest challenge has to do with a piece by Jonathan Rauch.

Rauch makes two points:

  • It's a good thing that the Christian right on the one hand and the left represented by Michael Moore on the other have been brought into the two major political parties.

  • Were this not so, we would have more violence such as clinic bombings by anti-abortionists, and street battles such as those that broke out in the Vietnam era.

Hugh's assignment: True or false? Discuss.

We do have a political system, based upon winner-take-all constituency voting, that tends to make all but the major political parties irrelevant. The extreme counter-example is perhaps Israel, where the parties are proportionally represented in Parliament (the Knesset), proliferate like weeds, and engage in the most shameless bargaining for subsidies and other things the vast majority would reject.

If the US had something more like the Israeli system, we would have parties representing everything from Naderites and Trotskyites on the left hand to the Posse Comitatus and David Duke on the right.

Where our system has recently fallen short is that techniques of demographic analysis and gerrymandering have taken the competition out of most elections, protecting incumbents from challenge and reducing the prospects for voter-induced change in the system. Gov. Arnold in California is challenging this system and we wish him success.

We have always had radicals in America, whose bonnets have contained bees devoted to everything from anarcho-syndicalism to organic food to teetotaling. They make our political life more interesting than it would be otherwise, and they say things otherwise unsayable that sometimes become reality. Consider the abolition of slavery and woman suffrage.

Rauch's piece raises two questions: what are the merits and consequences of having radicals inside the major party tent or outside, and is Rauch's parallelism between the anti-abortion Christian "right" on the one hand and the Michael-Moore-socialist left on the other, fair and accurate?

On the first point, provided they are open about their politics, in a democracy it is preferable to have most constituencies participate in the system, including the major parties. They are either going to have to both persuade and compromise, or become irrelevant, like the LaRouche faction who have claimed for years to be Democrats and gotten exactly nowhere in that party. Radicals must also suspend, in the major parties, their tendencies to violence and silliness, because these are counterproductive in the electoral system.

And with rare exceptions, outside the major parties, radicals have come a cropper, because of the winner-take-all system. If on the other hand, radicals become not competitors of election, but advocates and single-interest civic organizations, they can also have an impact, in a different way. As questionable as their views were, the 9/11 widows are a significant recent example.

So far, it's hard to quarrel with Rauch, but in equating Moore and the far left with the anti-abortion right, Rauch makes a fundamental error. Because these groups are neither political nor moral equivalents, it is neither accurate nor fair to equate them.

The great majority of traditional Christians have long been opposed to abortion. Although a more permissive approach to abortion was making some political headway, that process was cut short by the Roe v. Wade decision. Opposition to abortion, along with opposition to judge-made law on the subject, although perhaps not a majority position in its absolutist form, is not an extreme position, and has led to violence only on a radical fringe that almost all pro-lifers have denounced vigorously. As the potential viability of the fetus at earlier stages of pregnancy has been established, and the demographic boogeyman of uncontrolled population growth has been replaced by the prospect of population stagnation or decline, the case for a constitutional right to abortion enforced by judicial fiat has weakened. The upshot is that, agree or disagree, opposition to abortion, even to all abortion, is not a radical position.

On the other hand, Michael Moore and the anti-American left are fundamentally different. There are at least three views on which opposition to the war in Iraq ae based:

  • One is the isolationist (Buchanan, Gore Vidal) view that communism no longer being a threat, we should return to the historic pattern of protecting our own shores and immediate interests, and leave the rest or the world to its anarchy. Intervention only brings death, misery, and centralized and overweening government in its wake.

  • Another is the internationalist, pragmatist view (Howard Dean's, for example) that we should fight the perpetrators of 9/11, but Iraq as a tactically and strategically unwise diversion from the main task, that sows dragon's teeth of new enemies in its wake.

  • The third view (Michael Moore's, many pacifists and Leninists) is that America as the hegemonic power is the universal aggressor, those who fight it are "minutemen," our defeats are to be applauded and our victories deplored.

The isolationist and pragmatist antiwar positions, right or wrong, are consistent with a love of our country and a will to protect its interests. They thus have a place in mainstream discourse. The third view is different, because it is not merely an alternative vision of what a country we all love should be doing, but a rejection of love of country itself. It thus has no place in a major party that pretends to leadership of a great nation. There is a risk that the far left may dabble in violence like the Weathermen, but when it has taken that road, it is quickly brought about its own near-destruction.

Rauch, then, is no fool, but he unduly demonizes the Christian right, even as he misunderstands the radical left.

January 25, 2005

Ma Si Muove!

Dennis Prager weighs in on the Summers of our discontent:
Imagine the good that could have been achieved had Lawrence Summers said this:

Under my tenure as president of this university, never will a capable woman be turned away from teaching at Harvard. And we will scour the earth for women who will teach math and science at Harvard. But under this same tenure, no serious idea will ever be censured and its author forced to apologize. The motto of this university is 'Veritas,' 'Truth,' and I will not allow it to be changed.

Ain't gonna happen. Send your kid to trucking school.

HT: Mangan's Miscellany.

January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson, American, RIP

We all mourn Johnny Carson. Anyone who could be consistently entertaining for so long had to have been an amazing person. And he always wore good suits.

Carson represented the end of an era. Like Ed Sullivan earlier, Carson was watched by everybody. Even when I was a kid, my parents would sometimes let me sit on their bed and watch.

There's no common media culture anymore. The market is segmented and varied. The multiple consumer choices (500 channels and nothing to watch), plus the internet, represent a new birth of freedom. Although I believe that's true, I salute and remember Johnny as the iconic, great entertainer of an era that has passed.

How About Them Pats?

Recent football news from New England reminds me of a story a Boston friend told me years ago, about another friend, an avid Marxist who drove a cab.

Our Bolshevik cabbie picked up a fare who happened to be a judge, who asked for a ride along the Charles to Newton.

To break the ice, His Honor ventured, "How about them Pats?"

Without missing a beat, young Trotsky responded, "Professional sports are a ploy of the bourgeoisie, designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the working class."

They finished the ride in silence.

And no, the cabbie wasn't Andy Kaufman.

Cheap Shot, But Funny

Tim Blair demolishes a hyper-idiotarian article from the WaPo.

I can hear the rumble of the jackbooted feet going up the stairs, and the "swish swish" of the slippered feet going down.

The soldiers went to search his bedroom. He heard laughing, and then they called for him, he said. Imaad went to his room and saw that the soldiers had found several magazines he kept hidden from his mother. They had pictures of girls in swimsuits and erotic poses. Imaad said the soldiers spread the magazines on his bed and put his Koran in the middle.

Bet you weren't expecting that, thriller fans! Stephen King, eat your goddamn heart out!

"It was a nightmare," he said. "I will never forget those bad soldiers when they put the Koran among the magazines."

Sure they did. And then Iyad Allawi shot everybody.

Within 20 minutes, the soldiers left without arresting him or his mother.

Why would they? They aren't the Taliban. Now we reach a section of the tale that, to be frank, does not reflect well on "mild-mannered" Imaad:

While the soldiers went next door to search his neighbor's house, Imaad began to slap his mother, he said. "The American people are devils," Um Imaad recalled her son repeating.

So kids, remember. If Mama finds your porn stash, kick her good and hard to the solar plexus. She'll learn to hate the American devils!

And if your dog throws up, remember why the Lord made the Washington Post.

A Weasel Is a Weasel Is a Weasel

Some French magistrate with time on his hands and his nose out of joint decided to open a doping investigation of Lance Armstrong.

"I invite [the court] to consult the results of my anti-doping tests," Armstrong said in reaction Thursday.

"I was tested 22 times in 2004 alone... I do not use -- and I have never used -- doping products," the American added, saying he was "sure to be vindicated" in the affair.

I've stopped drinking their overpriced wines. I've stopped eating their runny cheeses. I spit on the grave of Jacques Derrida. I fart in their general direction.

HT: American Digest.

Yes, Nancy Hopkins Is a Scientist -- and She Was Still Wrong

In an earlier post on the Larry Summers controversy, I wrote:

To this, the academic feminists reacted as if it were the worst of heresies. In particular, MIT professor Nancy Hopkins, who has made a good part of her career as an academic feminist, walked out and later told the press that she was nauseated by Summers's remark.

Now Blogs for Industry claims I (along with others) was being unfair:

I should also note that much of the right-wing reaction echos Jonah Goldberg's characterization of Nancy Hopkins
Hopkins made a name for herself a few years ago by whining incessantly about gender discrimination at MIT.
Sorry folks, but whether or not you liked the MIT report, this is like saying Richard Feynman made a name for himself in 1986 by whining incessantly about safety at NASA. Nancy Hopkins' work is not about gender or feminism; she studies zebrafish development, and before that she studied tumor viruses.

For the record, I didn't mean to say Prof. Hopkins wasn't a scientist, and indeed, pointed to her MIT website, which presents her zebrafish research right up front. Not being a geneticist and not having read her work, I have no opinion about its merits. For all I know, it's brilliant.

I have no objection to her disputing everything that Larry Summers said. It's the walkout and the hue and cry for an apology (as opposed to a critique or a discussion) that offended me.

One should be able to challenge academic feminist orthodoxy without walkouts and blather about nausea.

Nor have I reviewed the literature on male-female cognitive differences, which would have to be statistical and thus irrelevant, from a decision-making perspective, to the abilities or achievements of any particular student or scientist. I suspect that in the current climate there's a tendency to soft-pedal the genetic component. Evidence of inherited differences in intellectual capacity makes the politically correct extremely nervous. That research results evoke nervousness, however, does not falsify them.

Next time I need to breed zebrafish, maybe I'll give Prof. Hopkins a call.

Look Who's Wielding the Ax Handle Now

Lester Maddox owned a fried chicken restaurant in Georgia, the Pickrick. When in 1964, desegregation, enacted in the Civil Rights Act, was on the way, Maddox stood in the doorway of his restaurant and tried to stop the tide. Many of his supporters carried ax-handles. The ax handle became Maddox’s symbol.

Through a series of electoral flukes, Lester Maddox was elected Governor of Georgia. Although Maddox surprised many while he was in office, rather like the latter-day Strom Thurmond, the image of folks with ax-handles trying to prevent the advancement of black people has become a symbol.

Among today’s ax-handle wielders are the teacher’s unions. Having once belonged to one and tried to organize the exploited masses of the University of California faculty, I come with some reluctance to this conclusion .

Two recent examples from California are illustrative.

Reed Hastings, a philanthropist and Democrat fundraiser, was a member of the California State Board of Education. He came up for reappointment, and three Mexican-American members of the state legislature torpedoed his appointment:
On a 2-2 vote - with the two Democrats on the five-member Senate Rules Committee voting in opposition and the third abstaining - the panel declined to confirm Hastings to a new four-year term.

Hastings, a Democrat, was appointed to the Board of Education by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2000, and renominated last year by Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

But as board president in 2002, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur angered advocates of bilingual education when the 11-member panel imposed restrictions that advocates charged undermined bilingual education.

Hastings maintained that a requirement that students receive at least 2 1/2 hours of daily instruction in English for schools to get new money from the federal No Child Left Behind Act was intended to help students become proficient in English by third grade.

But bilingual education advocates said they were not aware of the new regulations until they were posted on the board's Web site, and accused the board of stifling dissent. Advocates said time restrictions and textbook costs would have impeded bilingual education.

The wheel within this apparently self-defeating Latino caucus wheel, however, is probably the California Teachers’ Association, according to the well-connected and prescient Mickey Kaus:

Are those secret reasons he was defeated--with the Democrats carrying the teachers' unions water, but letting Latinos take the lead? The unions might not want to be seen publicly opposing someone like Hastings who had been effective at getting more money for schools. ... ["Suslovs" was the best you could do?--ed Yes. California Dems are still in their Brezhnev era! If you have a better "S"-word, though, I'd be interested in hearing it.]

It seems that in addition to angering the doctrinaire and English-speaking professional Latinos in the Legislature by insisting the kids learn English, Hastings also advocated charter schools, which are mightily unpopular with the union.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, Alan Bersin, the Superintendent, wants to make certain chronically underperforming schools into charter schools, to give them a fighting chance to reform and do what they are supposed to do and aren’t – make their students literate and numerate.

As Eduwonk reports:

Yet the school board member who represents these schools has apparently decided to oppose this and in the process force a vote on buying out the remainder of Bersin's contract because he won't play ball. Possible reasons for her move? (A) It's a great way for her to make a lifelong friend of the Bersin-loathing teachers' union there. Or (B) concerns that if several schools in her district become semi-autonomous it will hurt her political clout and power on the board. There is no (C) because it's generally agreed that changes are in the interest of the kids....600 parents showed up at a recent school board meeting to push for these changes.
So the pressure is on Bersin to ignore the chronic problems for children at these schools and go against the wishes of a majority of parents and in two cases teachers or see one more (possibly decisive) board vote slip into the union's column.

A commonly reported sin of the teachers’ unions, one example of which is reported here, is fight-to-the-death opposition to school vouchers in any form.

Now, where are schools failing? On some ethereal cultural level, perhaps most of them are failing in one way or another, even in prosperous exurbs and harmonious small towns. But on the most basic level—keeping kids safe, keeping the schools orderly, and imparting basic skills—where the schools are failing worst of all is in black and Mexican immigrant districts. It is there that the need for school choice is most critical.

Yes, there are all kinds of explanations for these failures, not all of which are the fault of the school system or of teachers. It’s equally true that these big-city school systems are often union-dominated, costly, hidebound, and ineffective.

In opposing even experiments with vouchers, the unions are protecting their chicken restaurant at the expense of people who are hungry for basic learning. They are betraying their students and their profession, for the sake of tax-supported sinecures in a failed system.

This conflict poses a dilemma for the Democratic Party. Among other things, this party has become the party of government, or rather of the public employee unions that supply much of its money, and many of its foot-soldiers and voters.

However, black and Mexican-American voters are the voting cattle for the party. Can the party count on support from both of these elements of its coalition, when its policies, supposedly so pro-black, have contributed so mightily to the perpetuation of a black underclass?

This could be a major problem for the party in the near future.

It should be.

Mr. Insufferable on Abu Ghraib and the Networks

My Sundays are the worst of times and the best of times. Worst, because I have taken upon myself the task of reading the Tiffer (The Insufferable Frank Rich) in the New York Times; best because I get to comment for my immense growing audience. Today was bad also because I wrote this piece once and Blogger ate it much as Charlie, my terrier, would do if he got the chance.

Two themes usually dominate Rich’s columns:

  • Admiration for all things gay, and interpreting any dissent from this view as persecution.

  • Hostility to any whiff of Christianity, inevitably interpreted as an Inquisition or worse.

Today, however, the Tiffer’s theme is Abu Ghraib and torture, and their supposed neglect by television news. He concedes that the print media continue to cover these issues, but finds that insufficient, because “if a story isn't on TV in America, it doesn't exist in our culture.” He’s particularly exercised because Prince Harry’s twitty choice of an Afrika Korps uniform for a party costume got more recent coverage than the trial of Specialist Graner for abuses at the Iraqi prison.

After a ritual swipe at Fox and Bill O’Reilly, a knock on John Kerry for not making Abu Ghraib a campaign issue, and at Sen. Warner presumably for not making his investigation of Abu Ghraib perpetual, the Tiffer gets down to cases.

Aside from a half-hearted suggestion that ideological bias might be at work, Rich observes that pictures are the lifeblood of TV, and the story as he sees it has become one of documents. No surprise here, but the Tiffer doesn’t mention CBS’s blithe use of faked documents to discredit Pres. Bush during the campaign. Indeed, Rich suggests that re-playing the original Abu Ghraib photos would be misleading, because it would support the “just a few bad apples” interpretation of the events that Rich, with no evidence, suggests amounts to a whitewash. It would seem that on this issue, TV news just can’t please the Tiffer.

Not making a serious effort to suggest that ideology explains the networks’ coverage choices, Rich instead mounts one of his favorite hobby horses, suggesting that the FCC’s punitive reaction to Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple and Nicollette Sheridan’s dropped towel somehow deterred network news from covering the details of some of the Abu Ghraib abuses. He cites a few stations’ nervousness about airing Saving Private Ryan to support this thesis, to illustrate the undoubted timidity of TV management.

Considering that Amber Frey’s adulterous relationship with Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson’s weird behavior have filled the airwaves, FCC pecksniffery is a mighty weak explanation for network news’s coverage choices.

After a brief excursus through the conclusions of Sy Hersh and Mark Danner, who see Abu Ghraib as the consequence of a policy, Rich makes two suggestions:

  • Unconventionally and oddly, Rich suggests that the war’s unpopularity leads to disinterest in the prisoner abuse question. But why shouldn’t opposition to the war heighten interest in American abuses?

  • Conventionally but implausibly, the Tiffer also suggests that Abu Ghraib provokes the rise of violent opposition. Given that Ba’athist terrorism was planned and the weapons pre-positioned before the war, the Salafists regard beheadings as a religiously mandated act, and the criminal element remain criminals, to blame Abu Ghraib for terrorism in Iraq makes no sense.

The Tiffer closes by quoting Danner’s speculation that a retrospective investigation of torture will take place in five years or so.

It is probably true that TV news has not covered in great detail the ruminations and reports within government on how to handle terrorist arrestees and suspects . It’s also true that the general pattern of our handling of these people remains unclear. Unclarity is not the stuff of TV news coverage, and indeed, the eyes glaze over at most of this stuff.

But should these issues have more coverage? Where is the coverage of Saddam’s mass graves and the interviews with those who suffered in his prisons? Where is the coverage of the good news from Iraq, which Arthur Chrenkoff has turned into a niche industry? A serious examination of media coverage would likely establish an emphasis on bad news with an anti-American spin. Rich won’t look at the coverage in general terms, of course, because he likes the current bias, which he shares.

Does this mean that I am indifferent to prisoner abuse, let alone real torture? Of course not. The Abu Ghraib events were not only wrong, but they were also stupid, because the victims were not even terrorist suspects, but petty crooks and people caught up in wartime dragnets. Whether forceful interrogation is justified (or effective) in the classic “ticking bomb” case is an issue for another time, but at most it should remain rare.

In any event, however, neither the government nor the media should take their guidance from the likes of the insufferable Frank Rich.

Mark Steyn, Mother of All Fiskers

Mark Steyn fisks the Village Voice, Sen. Robert Byrd, and an entire Greek chorus of idiots.

The man makes the late Don Rickles seem like Oprah. And always with a smile on his face.

HT: Powerline.

January 22, 2005

The Gilmore Girls -- Good TV

My girls have introduced me to (and hooked me on) a TV show called The Gilmore Girls. Unlike much of the "vast wasteland" of TV, the show has wit, humor, conflict over real issues, a sense of place, and is not exploitative. It's healthy for twelve and 13-year-olds. We like it for these reasons, and especially because the banter, showing a mixture of challenge and affection, between Lorelai (the mother) and Rori (the daughter) is similar to our house, where no turn of phrase goes without critique or challenge.

The relationships between the girls are also interesting and funny. The super-anxious, super-competitive, but goofy Paris is a particularly interesting character.

Here's an interview (free subscription required) with Amy Sherman-Palladino, producer of the show. It's an interesting, candid look at the world of TV, through the eyes of a woman who has done some really good work.

Up-tight Parents' Update: Just when you thought it was safe to let your kids watch, I should warn that there's some hanky-panky going on that might not meet with approval from the more strait-laced among us. Not depicted, but there.

Media Analysis

My beloved aunt, who is computer-literate in her eighties, God love her, sent me this media analysis, which apparently is pinballing around the Internet:

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the
country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country - if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while inoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy provided, of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

I especially like No. 6.

A Student Film Worth Watching

Academic Bias is a site which covers the gaucheries of the left in academe.

They've made a documentary that puts "60 Minutes" to shame. A lot of talking heads, but nicely paced, and coverage of stuff that happens at colleges. I can't decide whether the stuff is more stupid, or more shocking.

Yet another reason to send your kids to trucking school.

More of my thoughts on the university as oligopoly, and so on, here.

A Good Rhetorical Question for Summers Critic Nancy Hopkins

Powerline got around to commenting on the Larry Summers flap. Noting that feminist Nancy Hopkins said she had to leave because Summers's raising of a genetic hypothesis made her nauseous, Powerline asks:

But why should she project her own fragility onto other women?

An incisive question. I suppose I'd induce heart-failure if I suggested that if she can't stand the heat, she should get out of the kitchen. So I won't make that suggestion.

My take on the whole controversy here, "The Summers of Our Discontent."

Update: Jacuqeline Passey thinks iron-deficiency anemia may play a role. If this suggestion gives you hives, call an allergist.

The Hubble Telescope Threatened Again

In the Agora reports that the budgetary knives are out, yet again, for the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble has been one of the scientifically most productive of our space efforts. It would be a shame to ditch it for long-term manned space efforts, especially since what's needed to extend the life of the Hubble would be just a drop in the manned-space bucket.

All may not be lost. Write your Congressman, as they say.

OK, The Inaugural Speech

As inaugural speeches go, it was technically well done. Reasonably brief, ringing phrases, patriotism, idealism, even a touch of humility. And well-delivered. The main ain't a rube, even if he and many of his enemies paint him in that role.

Sure, anyone with a few minutes and a blue pencil could edit one thing or another, but you can't say it wasn't eloquent, and you can't say it didn't reflect the man as he's evolved post 9/ll and post-Iraq.

Some whom you might not expect were critical:

  • Peggy Noonan:
    Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might as well be a big one. But this declaration, which is not wrong by any means, seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing. Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon. Again, this is not heaven, it's earth.

    There were moments of eloquence: "America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies." "We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery." And, to the young people of our country, "You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs." They have, since 9/11, seen exactly that.

    * * * *

    One wonders if they shouldn't ease up, calm down, breathe deep, get more securely grounded. The most moving speeches summon us to the cause of what is actually possible. Perfection in the life of man on earth is not.
  • Bill Buckley:
    The age-old aphorism says that hard cases make bad law. The meaning of this is that complexities piled on top of complexities can cause the governing law to gaggle in confusion. There is -- let's demonstrate -- a law against murder. But how do you deal with the man who fired the bullet at the cuckolder in mid-stroke, egged on to do so by his daughter, who is suffering from a fatal illness? But even granted the difficulties in applying the Bush code everywhere, the American realist inevitably asked himself questions, upon hearing the soaring, Biblical rhetoric of the president. How to apply the presidential criteria?

    Okay. Never mind the tyrannies in spotty little states in Africa. Those cases are so hard as to make very bad law. A foreign policy that insists on the hygiene of the Central African Republic may be asking too much.

    But what about China? Is it U.S. policy to importune Chinese dissidents to start on this journey of progress and justice? How will we manifest our readiness to "walk at [their] side"?

    China, so massive, is maybe too massive a challenge for our liberationist policy, even as the Central African Republic is too exiguous. Then what about Saudi Arabia? Here is a country embedded in oppression. Does President Bush really intend to make a point of this? Where? At the U.N.? At the Organization of African Unity? Will we refuse to buy Saudi oil?

    The sentiments of President Bush are admirable, and his sincerity was evident. But in speaking about bringing liberty to the rest of the world, he could have gone at it more platonically: but this would have required him to corral his enthusiasm for liberty everywhere with appropriately moderate rhetoric.

Noonan and Buckley catch what is problematic in the speech. As a reflection of an ideal, no quarrel. The God-talk was true to Bush's beliefs, and that's fine.

The idealistic references to freedom were well-done and unexceptionable, if occasionally overblown or infelicitous.

The issue before the house, however, is how means and ends are to connect. At times we spread freedom by going to war, an uncomfortable idea to some, but a reality. But we cannot go to war against, or economically sanction, or even cut ties with every government that has tyrannical features, such as two that Buckley mentions, Saudi Arabia and China.

So how does the administration connect its aspirations to reality? A few come to mind:

  • The military option, which both Clinton and Bush have employed in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. These operations will be difficult and rare. Rome learned the lessons of prudence and defensible borders; so should we.

  • Example and exhortation. These are a theme of our history. How many "United States of this or that" are there in Latin America and elsewhere? Our imitators may not always make us proud, but our example has been powerful.

  • Economic and moral assistance well short of military intervention. Such was the case of Ukraine. We would not have sent troops, but dribs and drabs of money, diplomatic d&eacute:marches and the like played an important part in the Orange Revolution.

  • Covert operations and real diplomatic and economic pressure.

There is a prudential question as to when and how we invoke these. Moreover, as Buckley points out, sometimes our other interests conflict with this idealism, whether oil as in Saudi Arabia, or trade and the risks of confronting an emerging great power as in China.

In short, on the international front, Bush's idealism will be tested against our resources, our courage, and our prudence.

I have never been an admirer of Woodrow Wilson. He should never have entered World War I, and in its aftermath he helped create a series of non-viable and soon-fascist states out of an interfering and impractical idealism.

So I'm troubled by the messianic strain in Bush's speech. If the policy is implemented with real prudence and due deference to our more mundane national interests, the speech, like Reagan's "evil empire" and "tear down this wall" speeches, will take its place as an expression of hopes and dreams. If recklessly implemented, without respect for the culture and wishes of others, it could punctuate an era of overextension and great difficulty. Those of us who live that long will see. If we don't, our children and grndchildren will see.

I must add a word about the very brief allusions to domestic policy. If we are to remain a great power, let along a "shining city on a hill," we must attend to our fiscal and other issues. Bush, God bless him, proposes to do more than any President since Roosevelt to change things. He, and we, will have to deal with those issues soon, but in another forum, starting with the State of the Union.

To summarize: a hopeful, upbeat, eloquent speech, treating lofty ideals. Time and the means taken to implement the policies will be the true test.

January 21, 2005

Public Employee Unions and Their Clout

Good comment here:
The growing, or at least persistent, power of municipal governments has the effect of turning naturally Blue cities even more azure. Most private-sector employees in New York City backed Mike Bloomberg; most public employees voted for Democrat Mark Green. Bloomberg's anti-tax, anti-spending campaign was a direct threat to the jobs of many city workers, who feared having to find new ways of earning their living. Because their jobs are on the line in every election, government workers are especially mobilized in politics: Although they account for only a third of the workforce in New York, Malanga notes, public sector employees represented 37 percent of the electorate in 2001.

If you think that's just a New York City problem, consider the power of the prison guards' union in California.

HT: Instapundit.

Listening to Dr. Dobson: What a Concept!

The press, and to a lesser extent the Blogosphere, is going bonkers over the claim that Dr. James Dobson of "Focus on the Family," is attacking SpongeBob and other cartoon characters.

I've listened to Dr. Dobson over the years, and although I'm no follower, I've always thought him to be a human and thoughtful person, whose worldview happens to rest upon a deep religious faith. Dr. Dobson is not given, in my experience, to taking nutty positions.

So it was with a pound of salt that I looked at news items like this:
US conservative groups are up in arms over a music video featuring children's TV heroes such as the cheerful cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

Focus on the Family and other groups say the video - a remake of the Sister Sledge hit, We Are Family - is a vehicle for pro-gay propaganda.

The video's makers plan to mail it to US schools in the spring to promote tolerance and diversity.

They say the attack is based on a misunderstanding.

The video also features children's favourites like Bob the Builder, along with characters from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.

But James Dobson, founder of right-wing Christian group Focus on the Family, singled out SpongeBob at a black-tie dinner in Washington in the run-up to President Bush's inauguration, the New York Times said.

SpongeBob - who appears on the children's cable channel Nickelodeon - is seen as an icon for adult gay men in the US, apparently because he regularly holds hands with his sidekick Patrick.

His creators deny that he is gay, but he is not the first such character to cause controversy.

In 1999 conservatives claimed handbag-carrying Teletubby Tinky Winky, an import from the UK, was a bad role-model.

This coverage has also led to mockery and outrage on various blogs such as this one:

I love it when religious nutjobs reveal themselves to be ... religious nutjobs.

Today's lesson from the gospel according to the looney is that SpongeBob is trying to seduce young people into the evils of homosexuality.
There are also newspaper editorials such as this one in the LA Times, bordering on hysteria:
So SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. You think your small children, who may be glued to the TV set this morning, were just enthralled by a talking yellow sponge in suit pants. You'd be wrong. Actually, they are being brainwashed by a vast network of gay cartoon characters bent on destroying civilization as we know it.

We ought to listen and read before we condemn so glibly and with such hostility. Focus on the family sees it this way:

From the outset, let's be clear that this issue is not about objections to any specific cartoon characters. Instead, Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth.

We applaud the ideal of championing to children the value and dignity of every human life as well as respect for our differences. What we vehemently object to is using these beloved characters to help advance an agenda that's beyond the comprehension of 6 and 7 year-old children, not to mention morally offensive to millions of moms and dads.

The video in question is slated to be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools throughout the United States. Where it is shown, schoolchildren will be left with the impression that their teachers are offering their endorsement of the values and agenda associated with the video's sponsor. While some of the goals associated with this organization are noble in nature, their inclusion of the reference to "sexual identity" within their "tolerance pledge" is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line.

We believe that it is the privilege of parents to decide how, when and where it is appropriate to introduce their children to these types of sensitive issues. The distribution of this video trumps the authority of mothers and fathers and leaves it in the hands of strangers whose standards may very well be different than the children they teach.

By calling it to light this video and its affiliation with this larger organization, we are attempting to do for parents what their busy lives often prevent them from doing themselves--connecting the dots.

Whether one agrees or not with what Focus believes to be the correct Biblical view of homosexual conduct, there is no reason why a compulsory public school should be indoctrinating young children on such matters and encouraging them to reject their parents' views.

In any case, concern with such indoctrination, even when conducted by cartoon characters, is not the province only of "nutjobs," "crackpots," or extremists. It's a legitimate public issue. Dr. Dobson's position is rational and worthy of discussion, certainly more so than those of Barbara Boxer, Dennis Kucinich, or Janeane Garofalo.

It's easy to jump to conclusions, especially when they are based on stereotypes, such as that of the fundamentalist know-nothing.

Dr. Dobson's views on homosexuality are actually similar to those of most traditional Christians, as set forth here in response to a question from a gay person:

In response, I want to begin by telling you how strongly I feel about the mandate we have as Christians to love and care for people from all walks of life. Even those with whom we disagree. Even those involved in lifestyles we believe to be immoral. My first reaction to your honest sharing of yourself is a sense of acceptance for you as an individual. I mean that sincerely.

Regardless of what the media may say, Focus on the Family has no interest in promoting hatred toward homosexuals or any other group of our fellow human beings. We have not supported, and will never support, legislation aimed at depriving them of their basic constitutional rights -- rights they share with every citizen.

On the contrary, we want to reach out to gay and lesbian people whenever and wherever we can. If I had the time, I could describe for you many situations in which we've done exactly that. It's a commandment we've received from the Lord Jesus.

Beyond that, I have to acknowledge that you and I have a very different understanding of Scripture. It is my firm conviction that sex outside of marriage (whether homosexual or heterosexual) is not permitted by those who call themselves "believers."

Yes, I'm aware that some biblical scholars have conducted elaborate studies to show that Scripture takes no decisive position on the issue. This is neither new nor surprising. Biblical studies have been done to support a wide variety of unbiblical ideas!

But from our perspective, the truth remains clear. You've obviously been over that ground, and I will not use this reply to belabor the point.

Let me simply say that the same Scriptures that condemn homosexuality and premarital heterosexuality also tell us to accept those who are in violation of these ordinances. Jesus was more compassionate toward the woman caught in the very act of intercourse -- a capital offense in those days -- than He was toward the hypocrites in the church. This is our model and our mandate.

Whether one agrees or disagrees, this is hardly a crackpot view, but rather a traditional one.

Let's have more tolerance and effort to understand views from this important quarter in American public life.

Another Hypothesis on the Coptic Murders

Powerline points to a post on Jihad Watch, that in turn suggests that Muslims feigning an interest in conversion to Christianity, used that disguise to gain the confidence of the Armanious family and entry to their home.

There's a Muslim, though mostly Shi'a, concept of taqiyya, lawful deception, that could be at work here.

At this point it's all speculation, of course. I hope the Feds step in so the death penalty might be applied.

The Summers of Our Discontent

I'd have more respect for Harvard President Lawrence Summers if he'd say things that are anathema in the academy and then stick to them. Instead, he appears to utter a thought that seems perfectly normal here in the real world, and then when the storm of outraged politically correct protest hits, he backs off.

A case in point was his confrontation with lefty black professor Cornel West. Summers suggested publicly that maybe West, who is also known for teaming up with the self=righteous "rabbi" Michael Lerner of Tikkun.

You would have thought this rather mild suggestion was a whip-crack from Simon Legree.

Summers's groveling notwithstanding, West went on to a sinecure at Princeton and Summers kept his mouth shut for a season.

Now, however, at a research conference, in the course of a long discussion of the whys of the underrepresentation of women in math and the sciences, Summers suggested as a hypothesis the notion that hereditary component might exist, at least as a matter of statistics, as described here.

Summers spoke during a working lunch. He declined to provide a tape or transcript of his remarks, but the description he gave in an interview was generally in keeping with what 10 participants recalled. He said he was synthesizing the scholarship that the organizers had asked him to discuss, and that in his talk he repeated several times: ''I'm going to provoke you."

He offered three possible explanations, in declining order of importance, for the small number of women in high-level positions in science and engineering. The first was the reluctance or inability of women who have children to work 80-hour weeks.

The second point was that fewer girls than boys have top scores on science and math tests in late high school years. ''I said no one really understands why this is, and it's an area of ferment in social science," Summers said in an interview Saturday. ''Research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialization weren't" due to socialization after all.

This was the point that most angered some of the listeners, several of whom said Summers said that women do not have the same ''innate ability" or ''natural ability" as men in some fields.

Asked about this, Summers said, ''It's possible I made some reference to innate differences. . . I did say that you have to be careful in attributing things to socialization. . . That's what we would prefer to believe, but these are things that need to be studied."

Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.

In his talk, according to several participants, Summers also used as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral parenting. Yet she treated them almost like dolls, naming one of them ''daddy truck," and one ''baby truck."

To this, the academic feminists reacted as if it were the worst of heresies. In particular, MIT professor Nancy Hopkins, who has made a good part of her career as an academic feminist, walked out and later told the press that she was nauseated by Summers's remark.

Mind you, at a "research conference," all Summers did was propose a hypothesis as one of several possible explanations for an observed phenomenon. Although there may have been political overtones, presumably that's what one does at a research conference.

Never mind. The feminist hounds were in full cry. After a couple of days, Summers retreated, publishing a groveling letter in bureacratese, of which an excerpt follows:

I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women. As a university president, I consider nothing more important than helping to create an environment, at Harvard and beyond, in which every one of us can pursue our intellectual passions and realize our aspirations to the fullest possible extent. We will fulfill our promise as an academic community only if we draw as broadly and deeply as we can on the talents of outstanding women as well as men, among both our students and our faculty.

By now Summers should have figured out what the sensitivities were on this issue, and either avoided scratching them, or have been prepared to stand his ground. Rather than following Emerson's maxim, "If you shoot at a king, you must kill him," Summers has twice marched up the hill, and then marched down again. By now he should know the habits of academic wolfpacks, and yet he foolishly provoked them and then surrendered like the proverbial Frenchman.

Hugh Hewitt seems to regard Summers's remarks as a gaffe.

Bottom line: It isn't playing well with the feminist left, and probably won't play well with every parent in America who had hoped that their daughter would have every opportunity that their son did.

In the era of instant commentary via the blogs, you can't make such statements and then go to ground as Summers has. Too bad he doesn't have a blog, as I recommended in my book. He'd have the ability to "revise and extend his remarks" before the MSM gets them into circulation tomorrow.

If the president of a Christian university made the statement that Summers made, or a Bush Cabinet secretary, how long would they last in their job? How long will Summers last?

As the parent of three very bright girls, two with college ahead of them, one very good at science and math, I would bristle at any suggestion that a university would deny opportunities to girls or women because of their sex.

But of course, every parent of girls knows they are different. Some of it's cultural, and some of it's not. If we understood the differences better, including the statistically significant genetic ones, we might have a better idea how to train up great woman scientists. But as with race, even mooting the possibility of genetic differences evokes the baying of intellectual hounds. Intellectual hounds have the sharpest teeth of all. It's a shame.

January 19, 2005

There IS Something Fishy About the Scarebus

Apparently the Europeans are holding Thai fishing tariffs hostage to induce purchases of the Scarebus:

While millions of Europeans are sending aid to Thailand to help its recovery, trade authorities in Brussels are demanding that Thai Airlines, its national carrier, pays £1.3 billion to buy its double-decker aircraft.

The demand will come as a deep embarrassment to Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, whose officials started the negotiation before the disaster struck Thailand - killing tens of thousands of people and damaging its economy.

While aid workers from across Europe are helping to rebuild Thai livelihoods, trade officials in Brussels are concluding a jets-for-prawns deal, which they had hoped to announce next month.

This is nothing but a modern-day version of mercantilism. Weasels learn nothing and forget nothing, and they are capable of anything.

HT: Andrew Stuttaford.

And it Must Be . . .

And it Must Be . . .
Originally uploaded by octopod.
YOU KNOW WHO! (And so does the Church Lady).


Gerard wallows in bile.

Delightfully so, but -- You're in Southern California. It was 17° in bleepingAtlanta last week. Here, the sun is out. Enjoy a little, already!

Stalking Wild Protestants in Their Natural Habitat

Here. An excerpt:
"And you're a bad liar, Epstein. You want to see what's going on inside of that VFW hall as much as I do."

A silence.

"All right Dionne," he said angrily. "But if anything starts going down, you're on your own."

I took a deep breath and tried to conceal my jagged nerves as we entered the Hall. They say the Nebraskaners can smell fear a mile away, and I would be damned if my life was going to end over a red plastic basket of deep-fried cod and a can of Falstaff.

I could feel the eyes of the lodge penetrating my coat as we walked across the linoleum and took a seat in a booth near the skee-ball machine. A zaftig waitress approached.

"Tell her I'd like the pan-seared mahi-mahi, and a glass of the house chardonnay," I instructed Epstein.

Before he could respond I was startled by two hulking, bearded men in snowmobile suits who began prodding my coat with their fingers. They traded gibberish with Epstein.

"They want to know what kind of coat that is," said Epstein, warily.

"Tell them it's from Burberry's," I said, trying to avoid eye contact.

"Buh-bay," said the men, curiously. "Buhhh-behh."

It reminds me of "A New Yorker's View of the United States," which I still have.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

As Strange as Fiction

Amy Ridenour points out that her parody became reality, as we reported.

What must keep the 419 scam going is low overhead. Spam is cheap; the rewards of looting a bank account are high. Any bunco squad cop will tell you that there are just a few scams, decades or more old, that account for the vast majority of con jobs. Like most cons, this one works in part by involving the patsy in something illegal and immortal, to deter her from approaching the authorities.

As H.L.Mencken put it, "No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." In the case of the 419 scam, maybe not the great masses, but there's one born every minute.

The Palestinian variant shows both chutzpah and a bit of imagination.

January 18, 2005

Weasels Bring You the New Scarebus

Drudge has pictures of some luxury configurations.

These are the cattle cars of the future, created by French engineering. Give me a Seven-Six or a Seven-Seven any old time.

A bit of advice: before you climb in the Scarebus, make an act of contrition, even if you aren't Catholic.

A Prosecutor's Nightmare Jury

This story from CNN would be called a phony, but apparently it happened. Here's an excerpt:
Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."

When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."

Well, the prosecution has to lose sometime.

Coptic Victims' Funeral Erupts in Anger

Story here (free subscription):

JERSEY CITY, Jan. 17 - The funeral for an Egyptian immigrant family found slain in their home here erupted into a scene of chaos and roiling emotion on Monday, with some mourners jumping on top of cars, shoving each other and threatening to beat a Muslim cleric who was escorted to safety by the police.

The source of the disruption at the Coptic Christian service appeared to be the presence of Muslims, who said they had come to pay their respects.

The understanding shown by the Sheik and Bishop David is noteworthy:

Around the same time, Sheik Saleh said he heard threats of a beating: "Bring a stick to his head," he said he recalled people yelling. "Beat him, take him away."

"I don't blame any one of them," he added. "Emotionally they are not happy right now."

After the bodies were entombed in crypts at Rosedale Cemetery and Crematory in Linden, the funeral party returned to Bergen Avenue to share a meal of chicken and mashed potatoes. Bishop David, when asked what he thought of one of the men who yelled at him after the funeral, said, "People are angry. He's still our child."

If the crime was motivated by religious hatred, this kind of hostility may be just what the killers intended to evoke, just as Al-Zarqawi wants to provoke Sunni-Shi'i conflict in Iraq.

January 17, 2005

They Destroyed a World

Originally uploaded by octopod.
This is a picture of Monica Armanious, whose throat was cut, along with those of her family, in Jersey City, NJ.

Monica's family were Coptic Christians. It is believed they were killed because of their religion, or because a relative is interpreting for the prosecution at the trial of Lynne Stewart, a radical lawyer, in New York City.

He who takes a life destroys a whole world.

More here. An earlier, longer post on this event here.

Coptic Murder Update

ABC TV News in New York reports:

But ABC News has learned that a cousin of the slain family has been a translator working for the prosecution in the trial of Lynne Stewart. She is the radical lawyer accused of smuggling messages from imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, to terrorist cell members and associates.

My earlier post is here.

HT: Powerline.

Hugh Hewitt Snaps At Blue Wristbands

Hugh Hewitt is all exercised about the blue state bracelet:

The blue wrist band silliness will spread like wildfire, of course, as the next generation of Sore-Loserman Democrats show off to each other their contempt for the president as well as their continued cluelessness about the views of ordinary Americans on politics --especially the part about the "Its over now. Your guy lost. Grow up". Some smart blogger will get red wristbands ready "Red is for Re-Election," he will get a thousand links and orders, and then we will have a band-off at every junior high school in America. At least the bands have the benefit of letting people know what you think, unlike some of the noble lawyers of Washington, D.C.

I understand the "get over it" thing, but you've got to admire anyone who can sell a rubber band for two bucks a pop. Kind of like selling popcorn by the piece.

A Chilling Tale With an Overblown Moral

Theodore Dalrymple presents a case history of an 18-year-old murderess in England. It's a story of child neglect, sexual abuse, and subsidized premature "emancipation." Children growing up in a moral and emotional wilderness, all expenses paid by the state.

The moral of the story, according to Dalrymple:

This murder, exceptional in some characteristics as it undoubtedly was, took place in a social universe that liberals have wrought, and whose realities they are too guilty or cowardly to acknowledge. It is a universe that has no place for children or childhood in it. Believing that man is the product of his environment, they have nevertheless set about creating an environment from which it is truly difficult to escape, by closing off all the avenues and bolt-holes as far as possible. They have destroyed the family and any notion of progress or improvement. They have made a world in which the only freedom is self-indulgence, a world from which--most terrible of all--prison can sometimes be a liberation.

The author's thesis is that welfare benefits subsidize and modern secular values encourage sexual irresponsibility, idleness and the production of bastards who grow up with no structure and no morals. This may well be true, but it's not as if lower-class London before the welfare state was a place where loving and stable families flourished, children said "please" and "thank you," and did their lessons.

Mr. Dalrymple should read Defoe or Dickens if he thinks these patterns are all new and attributable to "liberals," i.e., socialists.

In a rush to discredit policies and an ethos (or anti-ethos) that do deserve criticism, we must not lose sight of the history and complexity of these issues, and the darkness of the human heart.

Misled by a Headline Writer

Later discussion makes it appear that we were misled by the headline on the Telegraph story about the Archbishop of Canterbury's reaction to the tsunami.

Our apologies.

HT: Bird of Paradise.

January 16, 2005

Moldavian Bubble-Gum Rock Goes Plastic


Hat tip: American Digest.

Bush Lukewarm on Gay Marriage Amendment?

Andrew Sullivan, who of course is a big tub-thumper for legalizing gay marriage, although tactically he wants to cool it, reprints and comments on part of an interview in which Bush says the Senate has spoken on the issue, and unless the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, won't go for the Amendment.

Glenn Reynolds suggests that Bush is "lukewarm" on the amendment.

Sullivan, on the other hand, thinks Bush is right, and the pro-gay-marriage camp should not push the issue until people get used to the idea as practiced in Massachusetts:

But this piece of sanity from the President deserves praise and reciprocation from those of us who support equality in marriage. We should refrain from any constitutional or legal challenge to DOMA for the foreseeable future (something I've urged for a long time now). We should also refrain from any attempt to force any state to recognize a gay marriage from another state (of course that's different from a state voluntarily recognizing such marriages). We should practise moderation, just as the Senate is practising moderation. We already have civil marriage rights in one state. Massachusetts. Very soon, it will be clear that Massachusetts' judicial decision will be endorsed by its own legislature, making this case a matter not simply of judicial activity but democratic legitimacy. And then we should bide our time and let the example of Massachusetts set in. I'm convinced that once the reality of this reform sinks in, fears will recede.

The gay movement is not centralized or sensible enough to pursue this "salami" strategy (one slice at a time).

Bush's stance does make perfect political sense. The FMA is going nowhere unless some court, citing the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution, which requires each state to respect the judicial acts of its sister states, requires a "no gay marriage" state to recognize a Massachusetts gay marriage. Expending political capital on this issue until then would be a futile act.

Notwithstanding the Lawrence opinion, the Supreme Court may well find a rationale for not applying full faith and credit to gay marriage. Lawrence was about equal protection and sexual privacy, both of which have a long history in the Court. On the other hand, federal courts have mostly shied away from family law issues. (But not always. The Court has applied equal protection reasoning to illegitimacy.) The issue is bound to come up, and then we'll see.

HT: Instapundit.

Great Pictures From Afghanistan


HT: Instapundit.

Murder of Copts an Ominous Harbinger?

My former law firm represented a Coptic Orthodox Church on a construction defect claim. The Egyptian-born Copts were wonderful, educated people. Copts, who trace their religious lineage back to very early Christianity, make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, and as a group and as a faith are frequently repressed or attacked in the name of Islam.

My father grew up in and around Jersey City, NJ, where he graduated from Dickinson High School lo these many years ago.

So I feel a personal connection to this story: a family of four Coptic Christians were brutally murdered in Jersey City, which has become a point of concentration for Arab and Muslim immigrants. There's a suspicion that the motive was the father's outspoken defense of his religious beliefs in online discussions.

If so, the event represents the intrusion of foreign ethnic and religious conflicts into our country, and may be a warning sign of potential radical Islamic violence in this country.

Appoint the Fox to Guard the Henhouse

Andy Borowitz is a very funny guy. Here's his take on how to protect the Social Security Trust Fund.

Defrocking Condi?

The blogsophere is alive with discussion of the suggestion by a newly-minted Harvard Ph.D, Alexandra Samuel (followed up here), that Condoleeza Rice be defrocked as a political scientist, because she has done Bad Things:

This confluence of events had me thinking about what the hell it means to be a political scientist, anyhow. I don't think there is a tent big enough to hold me and one of the chief architects of the present war in Iraq. And I have to wonder about our collective pretensions to positive social science when someone can hold onto her political science credentials while acting as one of the most persistent defenders of that weapons of mass destruction trope.

So I've been thinking: shouldn't political science have its equivalent to disbarment or excommunication? After all, if we want the term "political scientist" to mean something, then a doctorate shouldn't be a one-way ticket. When political scientists promulgate ideas or institute policies that violate even the most generous interpretations of our collective wisdom, they are not only disregarding their own academic training, but devaluing the intellectual authority and standards of our field. So shouldn't there be some threshold -- it can be a generous one -- beyond which one loses the right to practice political science?

Volokh chimed in, citing this:

I'm probably taking the poster's arguments a bit too literally here. My guess is that this is just hyperbole and fulmination on her part. Presumably, the poster is just using exaggerated language simply to suggest that lots of political scientists should condemn Dr. Rice.

Still, isn't an exaggerated post that, on its face, runs against basic principles of academic freedom -- I assume those principles are similar in Canada, where the poster is from, as they are here -- and that operates through hyperbole rather than reasoned substantive argument, an inauspicious way to begin one's life as a Ph.D.? Let's hope it's not characteristic of this person's future commentary.

Finally, what one says in moments of rhetorical excess might not fully reflect what one thinks most of the time -- but then again it might. In Vino Veritas; perhaps In Hyperbole Veritas.

Jim Lindgren, on the same blog, contributed a story about the University of Virginia economics department driving out future Nobelists.

What's interesting is that the tenured censorious used subtle tactics to drive out their opponents. The less-experienced Ms. Samuel contemplates a public auto da fé. At UVa, the old boys achieved the same end with the subtlety of courtiers.

Jonah Goldberg commented, too:

Anyway, just to get people thinking on the subject, it's long been my opinion that for all of the left's glorification of Galileo as a victim of a religious inquisition, the real masters of the art are professional academics themselves. After all, while the Church may deserve its share of criticism for what happened to Galileo, his scientific colleagues have gotten-off scot-free.

Jonah cites to a 2003 column he wrote on the attacks on the Danish eco-critic, Björn Lomborg.

Having been involved in this sort of thing when I was a callow lefty academic, I find it amusing and ironic that for all the whining on the left (such as this) about political censorship, the worm has now turned, and it's among the left--now dominant in the groves of academe--where the impulse to excommunicate dissenters and heretics now resonates.

One could write off Dr. Samuel's brainstorm as an outlier (perhaps a miner's canary), the result of a confluence of frostback political correctness, Harvard arrogance, and youthful excess. Or, as I believe, it typifies the post-Stalinist impulses to suppression of dissent, of a goodly segment of academia. And if that's true, we do have a problem.

Demographic Mythology

There's evidence that the Palestinian population has been grossly exaggerated, as has its population growth:

The study, which has been accepted by prominent American demographers Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt and Murray Feshbach, shows that the Palestinian estimates overstate the Palestinian population west of the Jordan by about 50 percent. In addition, the Palestinian population growth projections are based on fertility rates that are inconsistent with data from the PA's own Ministry of Health. In short, the demographic bombshell appears to be a dud.

It is not surprising that the Palestinians would come up with false "we will bury you" type population estimates. The strange thing is that the Israelis accepted their enemies' data so readily. As Glick puts it, "like bats attracted to the darkness of a cave, we preferred the manipulative lies of the PA to the truth."

The shibboleth has been that given demographic trends, Israel cannot remain "democratic" and Jewish unless it sheds the occupied territories could be based upon bad data leading to erroneous conclusions.

What other demographic assumptions that lead to policy conclusion might also be wrong? Estimates of the number of illegal aliens in the U.S.? The Sunni-Shi'a-Kurdish balance in Iraq?

There's an awful lot of innumeracy and pseudoscience infecting public debate today. I need to post on Vioxx, for example.

One must emphasize that there may be other reasons to favor an end to the Israeli occupation, and supporting a two-state solution, that have nothing to do with demographics.

January 15, 2005

Guide for the Reconquista?

Originally uploaded by octopod.

The Mexican government has published a guide for migrants to the U.S., legal and illegal. An excerpt is posted.

Given that much of our Southwest was taken from Mexico in war, this guide, innocuous public service comic book though it seems, is in effect a guide for the reconquest of the Southwest by across-the-border infiltration.

It's hard to fault the individual migrant, who is seeking a better life and usually comes here to work and send money back home.

But the lack of security in the post 9/11 age, the rise of ethnic separatism, and the slowness of assimilation, all make immigration from Mexico and Central America, legal and illegal, a potentially serious problem.

Indeed, the website of MEChA, the Chicano student movement that Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante refused to repudiate during the recall campaign in California, still posts the "Spiritual Plan of Aztlán", that says, among other things:

In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal "gringo" invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlán from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.

We are free and sovereign to determine those tasks which are justly called for by our house, our land, the sweat of our brows, and by our hearts. Aztlán belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent.

In this context, for the Mexican government to publish a guide to "wading that river" is an unfriendly act. If immigration were slowed, the demand for a different régime in Mexico might be unstoppable. The true beneficiaries of better border security and curbs on immigration would be our lowest-paid native-born workers, black and white. Bush's lackadaisical, Wall St. Journal approach to immigration is a potential Achilles heel for the GOP if a smart Democrat smells an opportunity. Even many citizens of Mexican descent are concerned, now. It is also a threat to our security and continuity of national culture.

How far to go down the road of restricting immigration, deporting those already here, and sanctioning employers of illegals, are all important and not easy questions to answer.

But the present trend is too much, too fast, with too-unpredictable an outcome. Something beyond the current ostrich strategy needs to be done.

HT: Lonewacko.