The Right Coast

May 31, 2004
Steve Hinkle and the First Amendment
By Gail Heriot

Now and then justice really does triumph. Some of you might remember Steve Hinkle, the Cal Poly student who was ordered by university officials to write an apology to his fellow students or face stiffer penalties. What had he done to cause offense? He posted a flier advertising a College Republican event. Yes, that's it, he posted a flier--and a pretty inoffensive one at that. Fortunately, through the efforts of the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Hinkle's First Amendment rights have been vindicated in federal court.

Hinkle was attempting to publicize a talk by Mason Weaver, a Southern California radio personality and author of the book, "It's OK to Leave the Plantation." Weaver, with whom I've shared a podium in the past, is one of those most-reviled creatures on college campuses today--a Black conservative. He states on his web site that he believes in "independence, not co-dependence" and "equal rights, not special rights." You can agree with him or not, but these views are pretty much in line with the average American's (and, yes, they are pretty much in line with mine). The flier posted by Hinkle simply contained Weaver's name and photo, the title of his book, and the time and place of the talk.

When students at the campus multi-cultural center saw Hinkle distributing the flier, however, they called campus police to report "a suspicious white male passing out literature of an offensive racial nature." Hinkle was put through a seven-hour hearing after which he was found guilty of disruption and ordered to write letters of apology to the offended students. He was told he risked stiffer penalties up to expulsion if he refused. This is pretty scary stuff.

When CIR and FIRE came to Hinkle's rescue, Cal Poly made it clear that it would not back down easily. A lawsuit was therefore brought, which, after six months of litigation was finally settled. Cal Poly agreed to expunge the offense from Hinkle's record and pay $40,000 in attorneys' fees.

I'm happy with the result (although having the Cal Poly officials write Hinkle a letter of apology would have been a nice touch). Obviously, cases like this shouldn't happen, but they do, so at least it's comforting to know that there are organizations like CIR and FIRE out there to jump in. Fortunately for Hinkle, he knew enough to call them.

There is one thing, however, that troubles me. Beverly Eakman writes about the Hinkle settlement and makes a comparison between Hinkle (with whom she is rightly sympathetic) and John Rocker. She writes, "Think of the numerous phony hate-speech accusations that have been hurled at individuals over the past decade for spouting only controversial opinions - some of them, like baseball star John Rocker's, admittedly less tactful than others." It's worth noting that for many reasons the Rocker case was quite different from the Hinkle case. Rocker made a few boorish statements--statements that surely were protected by the First Amendment--but which were in fact likely to offend a significant number of people. And, unlike Hinkle, he was not punished by any governmental authority for his statements. Instead, two things happened. First, a number of people--rightly or wrongly, but in the full exercise of their own First Amendment rights--responded that John Rocker is a jerk. That's not an abridgement of the First Amendment. That's the First Amendment in all its glory; everybody gets their say, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Second, the Atlanta Braves--Rocker's employer--required him to undergo psychiatric treatment. Such an action may again be wise or foolish, but it is not a violation of Rocker's First Amendment rights. The Atlanta Braves are in the entertainment business. Their profits depend upon their ability to stay in the good graces of the their fans. They are thus perfectly within their rights to demand that their players refrain from making statements that will be regarded as boorish in public by any significant number of people, even if those statements are protected by the First Amendment and hence would be protected againt government interference. One could argue about whether the Braves over-reacted, but the law does not forbid an employer to over-react.

Saudi Arabia
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting piece on Saudi Arabia and its history by Daniel Pipes. (Hat tip: Southern Appeal.) I suppose it makes the best case for the Bush Administration policy concerning that troubled and troubling nation.

May 30, 2004
Philosophers take heart
By Tom Smith

This should make philosophers feel better about how they spend their time.

Was the classical age classical?
By Mike Rappaport

According to Tyler Cowan: "In the time of Beethoven people ate and drank during classical concerts. They played cards and sometimes brought their animals. A contemporary non-profit, dependent on donations and government grants, is unlikely to take such steps."

More on Martial Virtues
By Mike Rappaport

Stephen Bainbridge (here and here) and Larry Solum's discussion of martial virtues raises at least two important questions. The first question is whether we need more martial virtues in our society. The second question is how should we answer the first question. Presumably, how we answer the second question turns on our moral theory.

As a consequentalist, I know how I would attempt to answer it. I would look at the effects of different virtues and try to determine whether martial virtues (or more precisely more emphasis on martial virtues) would have good consequences. This is surely a hard question, but to my mind it is the right question -- that is, it focuses on the considerations that seem relevant to answering the question.

How would a follower of virtue ethics or deontological theories answer this question? I am not so sure. Here is my guess as to part of the answer for (some types of) virtue ethics. One would ask a virtuous person whether martial virtues are genuine or important virtues. This seems in part circular -- when selecting the virtuous person, do we select one who displays martial virtues or not? -- but only partly so. Perhaps, Larry Solum or some other follower of this approach can help me with this issue.

It is also not clear that deontological theories have a clear answer (or a single answer). Presumably, if one's deontological theory had a place for virtues, perhaps as a means of promoting the following of moral principles, then one would have to ask whether martial virtues promoted that function. But if one's deontogolical theory did not have a place for virtues, then whether we should promote martial virtues might not be a moral question at all.

Low Carb Diets have arrived
By Tom Smith

This month's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine is as good an indicator as any that low carb diets have arrived, have become, that is, medically respectable. It's not clear that they work via all the metabolic hocus-pocus Dr. Atkins spoke about, or whether they just work by reducing caloric intake because people using them are less hungry. But who cares?

Another one bites the dust
By Mike Rappaport

The decimation of Hamas continues. Who says you can't win a war against terrorists?

May 29, 2004
Good bleat
By Tom Smith

This is good. Are blogs unique in the way they can gracefully combine public and private?

The Martial Virtues
By Mike Rappaport

Some extremely interesting posts on the Martial Virtues by Bainbridge, Solum and then Bainbridge again. I am genuinely uncertain about what I think the right answer is.

May 28, 2004
An outrageous example of ethnic profiling
By Tom Smith

The latest FBI/DOJ call to be on the lookout for suspected terrorists is an outrage. Not only, as the press has recently revealed with their characteristic courage, is the government issuing warnings without being certain that there will be an attack, but, as this website clearly demonstrates, they are engaged in egregious ethnic profiling. Among the suspected terrorists, there is not a single elderly Asian person. Pacific Islanders are conspicuously absent. Not a single African-American. And only one woman, and she depicted in a traditonal headscarf that just screams stereotype, not to mention the men's headwear. Is this some kind of conspiracy? Are we to believe that the suspected terrorists are really all of similiar ethnic and/or religious persuasion. This is the stuff of right wing fantasy, not real life.

Just an unrelated idea. I think Aafia needs a new look. Now she has too much of that, Nurse Sought in 27 Suspicious Deaths thing going. My picture is, cut the hair, do something with more body, and maybe a turtleneck, hip glasses. Just a thought.

All the news that fits, we'll print
By Tom Smith

Were the prisoners recently released from Abu Ghraib attacked, or was that just celebratory gunfire? The possibility that their fellow countrymen might value the prisoners' lives even less than the evil US Army is a possibility The Times spares us thought of by not including the incident in their account at all.

Perhaps this is what Paul Krugman means when he celebrates today the liberation of the press he thinks he is witnessing from "the tyranny of even-handedness." A nice turn of phrase. Krugman may have a talent, not only for mathematical models of international trade, but also for Orwellian slogans. Where does one get, I wonder, having escaped this tyranny? To the republic of bias? The rule of prejudice? The commonwealth of fanatics? He and Al Gore should talk it over.

As I understand Krugman's economics, which isn't well, I gather he's not a big one for optimal equilibria. Being in something of an eccentric orbit himself, perhaps they don't appeal to him. But I think, or hope anyway, that an equilibriating process may be at work in the press, by which as they liberate themselves from "the tyranny of even-handedness" they also separate themselves from all but their most rabid readers. Most people are not geniuses, but they can figure out most stories have two sides.

Spammer to go to Jail
By Mike Rappaport

The good news is that a spammer has been sentenced to jail. The bad news is that it is only for 3 1/2 years. (Hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy).

May 27, 2004
Tit for Tet
By Mike Rappaport

That's the name of Ann Coulter's new column, which is excellent. The column has the usual mix of a great point, some slashing jokes at the expense of liberals, and I am sure some exaggerations (although I am not certain I can find them). Here are two excerpts. First:

We have liberated the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator who gassed his own people, had weapons of mass destruction, invaded his neighbors, harbored terrorists, funded terrorists and had reached out to Osama bin Laden. Liberals may see Saddam's mass graves in Iraq as half-full, but I prefer to see them as half-empty.

And yet the constant drumbeat of failure, quagmire, Abu Ghraib, Bush-lied-kids-died has been so successful that merely to say the war in Iraq is going well provokes laughter. The distortions have become so pervasive that Michael Moore teeters on the brink of being considered a reliable source.

Melvin Lasky
By Mike Rappaport

Nate Oman has a good post on Melvin Lasky.

By Tom Smith

I must say, there's a lot to be said for having a baby in your forties. I was looking at 7 month old Mark the other day and said to my lovely wife Jeanne: "He's beautiful. Just perfect."
"I know."
"And to think you made him!"
"I know."
"That was the wrong answer."
"I know."

He is an extremely agreeable infant. He smiles, laughs and rarely cries. He is spectacularly fat, but in a cute, appealing way. He has magnificent thighs. He has learned how to scooch, backwards. A genius, clearly. He's a great gazer. World class staring contest material. You just want to eat his ears.

The dogs like him. How could they not?

With your first baby, you're too anxious, at least if you're me, to enjoy the process very much. It's all rather scary. Where did that giant staple go? Could Luke have swallowed it? You freak out the first time your child eats a large bug. Later, you just see the little grasshopper legs sticking out and think, isn't that darling?

I still remember my first diaper. In the hospital, Jeanne and I stood staring at the pink object until the nurse barked, "Well, change him!" She'd probably had enough hapless yuppies for one day. It was gross. Now, I sort of look forward to a big messy poop. Pipes are working! Good baby!

Last night, Mark slept on my chest while I watched part of The Transporter on HBO. Terrible movie, but a great baby. He woke up a few times, and we looked at each other, he as if to say, "Oh, it's the large, stratchy one without nipples. Time to sleep more" and rolled off again into slumber. Great little sleeper. A friend of ours calls her forth child (also a boy) her desert baby, and that's apt. You don't really need it, but why not.

Mark is about to enter that stage immediately before rug rat technically known as danger squid. This is where they can squirm at a high rate of speed just about anywhere in search of objects to put in their mouths. The calm before the storm. I'll keep you posted.

Good News on Spending
By Mike Rappaport

I'll believe in real spending cuts when I see them, but this is at least a good sign:

The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security and others that the president backed in this campaign year.

Justice O’Connor and Federalism
By Mike Rappaport

Recently, the Supreme Court decided another important federalism case, Tennessee v. Lane. In Lane, the Supreme Court held that Title II of the ADA (that is, the Americans with Disabilities Act) was authorized by section 5 of the 14th Amendment. By contrast, in a 2001 case, Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, the Supreme Court had held that Title I of the ADA was not authorized by the 14th Amendment. So the 14th Amendment authorizes Title II but not Title I. Why? Because Justice O’Connor says so.

But why does Justice O’Connor say so? Always a good question, but this time, at least, I think there is answer. In my view, Justice O’Connor is employing the following federalism principle: The Constitution should not be interpreted to completely eviscerate federalism limitations, but short of that Congress can do pretty much what it wants.

In Garrett, the justification for the legislation was that it enforced the 14th Amendment rights of the disabled, but the disabled are not specially protected by that Amendment in the way that racial minorities and women are (that is, laws affecting the disabled are subject to the lenient rational basis scrutiny applicable to all ordinary legislation). If Congress could legislate in those circumstances, then a great range of federal laws could be justified under the 14th Amendment and federalism would mean nothing. This same analysis serves to explain why federalism principles prevailed in certain 14th Amendment cases (such as Kimel involving the aged), but not others (such as Higgs involving women, who are entitled to more protection under the Amendment). One exception is United States v. Morrison, where the Court struck down a law even though it was protecting women. But there is a reason for this exception: the legislation in Morrison was much broader in another way – it applied not merely to the state but also to private actors – and allowing it would have left federalism pretty limited.

The Supreme Court’s new decision, Lane, also fits this pattern. In Lane, the Court found legislative authority under the 14th Amendment but only in one circumstance – when it was necessary to protect the right of access to the courts. This constitutional right of access serves to distinguish the legislation in Lane from ordinary legislation not implicating constitutional rights. Thus, Justice O’Connor could feel that her vote was not eviscerating federalism, since she was only approving laws that protect constitutional rights, not all ordinary legislation.

In the end, then, Justice O’Connor’s decisions in this area may not be entirely arbitrary, but they are extremely narrow. While one can bemoan the narrowness of her view of federalism, critics of the Rehnquist Court’s federalism decisions cry bloody murder every time she and the Court strike down a statute. To this day, many of these critics have never met a federal statute that they believe violates federalism principles. To read their writings, one would never know that federalism was originally one of the basic structural features of the Constitution.

By Mike Rappaport

Despite the meme that there were no WMDs in Iraq, many questions remain. A good discussion by Bill Kristol.

May 26, 2004
Judith Miller, non-person
By Tom Smith

The Times is so disgusting. Now that it has become an article of faith that there never were any WMDs in Iraq, Judith Miller's stories must somehow be disavowed. Miller is one of the few reporters at the Times who actually knows what she is talking about. She has an in depth knowledge of both the Middle East and biological warfare. I wonder if she would be willing to say, off the record, that she still thinks the WMDs are out there. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall at the little show trial they probably had for her.

There's still plenty of reason to think there are as yet undiscovered chemical weapons mixed in among the millions of artillery shells waiting to be inspected or buried somewhere. And biological weapons are easy to hide, and the germ stocks have probably been smuggled out of the country now anyway. No media outlet I have seen has seen fit to investigate where the many gallons of chemical weapons to have been used in the aborted chemical truck bomb attack in Jordan came from. You might think an attack that might have killed 80,000 would be big news. But nahhh. Too many non-fact facts. Not newsworthy, in the spin sense of newsworthy.

Anyone who has bothered to read Judith Miller's excellent book Germs would know what a wilderness of mirrors the underground world of bio-warfare is in that part of the world. It's more like making moonshine with portable stills than it is like manufacturing ball bearings. It's not the least surprising that by the time our troops show up, all that is left are some recently cleaned tanks and labs. But a clean still that would work for making bio-weapons proves nothing! Unless it's a dead village straight out The Andromeda Strain, no germ weapons round here.

The irony in this is that Bush is supposed to have lied to everyone about WMDs, forcing a few facts into a legend. What is really happening, instead, is that the supposed truth-seekers in the media have decided it must be the case, for political reasons, that there never were any such weapons, strange as that fact may be, because that makes such a damaging charge against Bush. Then you ignore any leads that point the wrong way, and purge the people who know better. And then, just to make the irony complete, congratulate themselves for saying their earlier stories were not rigorous enough. Maybe the Times should establish the Courageous Truth Seeker of the Century Award and then give it to themselves, after they have purged everyone who might report something inconsistent with the company line. I wonder how long James Burns will last. I swear, one of the many reasons to be glad the Nazis lost, way down the list, I admit, is that we don't have to read stories in the Times about how there were never that many Jews in Europe anyway. Really, can you prove there used to be a lot of Jews here? I don't see any Jews. Hearsay doesn't count.

To be even handed, the Bush people don't exactly have an interest in explaining where the WMDs are either, and they are not. They probably slipped through our fingers into Syria, Jordan and Iran. I bet the Mossad has few illusions about how those WMDs were just imaginary all along. I guess at this point we should hope those Iraqi weapons scientists who haven't been assassinated (another non-story) fall into Israeli hands, since they haven't officially decided there's no such thing as an Iraqi sarin bomb (except for that old one they probably didn't even know they had). Mossad is probably searching like hell for them, so they don't show up in Tel Aviv. Sure, it doesn't make a very good story for the White House to say, they really were there, but now they seem to be in the hands of Al Quaeda. O well, we tried. The media could beat Bush over the head with that, but I guess that wouldn't be as damning as the stupid conspiracy theory that there never were any WMDs. Along with that other article of faith, that Saddam and the islamofascist terrorists never had anything to do with each other.

I am so over wishing for a media that got at the truth. But is it too much to hope for one, a la Florence Nightingale and hospitals, that at least doesn't deliberately bury the facts?

Good News for Rumsfeld
By Mike Rappaport

Al Gore has called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld (and Condoleezza Rice). Given Gore's track record, including the almost immediate implosion of Howard Dean after Gore endorsed him, this may be the best news for Rumsfeld in many days.

Just another quiet day in Jamul
By Tom Smith

All this happened within the last hour. I'm upstairs, trying to take a nap, because I'm feewing kind of siwck. Whether I'm coming down with something, or just sick of reading exams, I'm not sure. My 10 year old Patrick is home sick, watching cartoons. Suddenly, I am aroused from a near blissful drowse by Patrick saying, "Dad, there's a helicopter outside saying something on a loudspeaker!" I go downstairs, thinking, what does a guy have to do to get a nap around here? Sure enough, there is a helicopter circling our neighborhood, saying "Arrrr rrrr arrrgharrrrr! RRRrrrrr! We rrrrr ar ar rrrrr!" Good information to have. Is there a fire? Is this an evacuation? Some sort of terrorist thing? What I suspect it is is the border patrol, tracking down illegals trying to make their way through the mountains behind our house. I get out my binoculars and glass out the chopper. Hmmmm. It is not a border patrol chopper (green and white) but a San Diego Sheriff's Department chopper, circling in a very business-like manner. So I decide it's time to call 911.

What a confidence inspiring experience. "Hello. You have reached the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's Emergency Communications Center. All Operators are busy. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received." Just what you would want to hear in the middle of the night after you heard the crash of glass and drunken redneck laughter coming from downstairs. Be that as it may, in just a bit a bored voice came on the line. I explained they had one of their helicopters circling above my house, but I couldn't make out what they are saying. "Let me check," and then the dispatcher said "Do you live anywhere near Secluded Cactus Lane?" (A fictional street name, for privacy purposes.) "That's my street," I said. "Well, let's see, we're looking for four subjects [she said 'subjects' not 'suspects' for some reason], one of them armed, one of them white shirt, one with a red baseball cap, not a very good description . . . " she concluded, as if in disgust at all the lame descriptions she got from civilians, day after day. "Maybe I should stay inside," I said. "You should stay inside and lock your doors," she said. "I certainly shall," I said. No reason to let grammar slip at these moments.

My thought then was, "G*^&%$#it, this is why I wish I had a gun, so I wouldn't have to sit here with my 10 year old and baby and nanny, hoping four losers don't come strolling up my driveway . . . " Then I thought, wait a minute. I do have a gun. Well, I guess now is the time to get it out. So I unlocked the desk drawer it is in, unlocked the plastic case the pistol was in, and got it out. Then I pushed 10 .40 caliber cartridges into a magazine (from the 500 I keep in case of civil disorder) and looked at it. It looked funny. I had put the cartridges in backwards. I took them out. Put them in the right way. Heidi, our nanny, a country girl, laughed. "I did that the other night. I went out after a coyote with a shotgun, and had the wrong size shells with me!" I was glad the nanny wasn't freaking out over the sight of a gun. I didn't put the magazine in the pistol because it is a Springfield XD, a very slick handgun which loads very quickly and easily, assuming you haven't loaded the magazine backwards. I just put the magazine in my pocket, knowing I could load it in a flash if necessary. I tucked the pistol in my belt and felt sort of cool for a while. Nothing happened. Mark continued to suck on his bottle. The helicopter buzzed overhead. This was boring. So I went outside to see if I could see any bad guys. There was Dr. B across the street, fussing with his lemon tree. I thought of telling him there might be four armed men in the neighborhood, but he already thinks I'm half nutty.

Just another quiet day in the suburbs. Quiet. Boring. Don't get me wrong. I like boring, in a way. The helicopter flew away. They probably got bored too. I went back inside. Locked the gun and the magazine in the case. Locked the case in the drawer. Time to read more exams. When God intends you to read exams instead of take a nap, there's no point fighting it.
UPDATE: I should have known some would object to my having a gun and being capable of sliding ammo into the magazine the wrong way. Hadn't I studied this? Can't I field strip the piece blindfolded? In my defense I will say I caught the mistake right away, it is a new gun and so I've only loaded it a few times; the design of the XD's magazine is a little different from a Glock, which might be why I made the mistake, which I quickly corrected anyway. Further, I was walking around at the top of my 2 acre property, not on the street; there weren't any deputies around to mistake me for a bad guy, or bad guys either, apparently. And finally, I personally think I'm safer having a doubly locked, unloaded gun in the house rather than a loaded gun in a safe. I suppose it's possible some bad guy might think, hmmm, two large barking dogs, fully equipped martial arts area, let's pick this house. But I think they'll probably go elsewhere. On balance, I think I'll keep the gun well locked up against four mischevious boys. But yes, I should get to know my XD better, and I look forward to doing so. At the range.

We love you just the way you are
By Tom Smith

Vermonters are so cute. They drive those old pickups. They wear those funky L.L. Bean caps. Don't ever change, Vermont. You're beautiful. I know, it can be hard having to buy things from quaint little shops, but we like it that way, it makes you so much more scenic, so rustic. You don't want a Walmart, really, think about it. Maybe just a few suggestions. Some of you are a little, well, too authentic looking, well, ugly. Maybe you wouldn't mind wearing a bag over your head, just during tourist season? You can get some really attractive bags at Starbucks. And some of you are, well, a little too hefty to be strictly scenic. Maybe you could spend more time at your Pilates? Really, we would so appreciate it. You just buy your simple country things at those darling simple country shops, and we'll try to remember to leave bigger tips. How does that sound? Oh, sorry, dear, must go, got a call on the other line.

NY Times flogs dead horse (isn't that torture?)
By Tom Smith

The Army is investigating a number of deaths in custody and cases of beatings. I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes captives get beaten and killed in wars. Rather than let that go on, I think we should just surrender now. We should have done so with the Japanese and the Nazis, but missed our chance. We can correct that now. When I supported this war, I did not realize that we were from an irretrievably corrupt culture that deserved to be destroyed by a bunch of cave-dwelling religious fanatics. But now I know, and I owe that to the New York Times and other organs of enlightenment. To read more about how awful we are, go here. Isn't that a sweet picture of the Iraqi Major General and his grandson? Top general of one of the cruelest regimes in recent history and devoted family man. But where's the puppy? Probably out chewing on the leg of some dissident chained up in the back yard.

It will be an interesting summer. "Before we ask you where in New York the dirty bomb is, we have one question. Do you take cream or sugar?"

IISS report
By Tom Smith

The International Institute of Strategic Studies is a prestigious think tank on strategic affairs in London. Here's a link to their site and latest report. Not particularly cheering news.

May 25, 2004
Those darn peacekeepers
By Tom Smith

If we could just get the UN into Iraq, that would solve everything.

It's the new game sensation!
By Tom Smith

Can you find the cross the ACLU wants removed from the LA County shield? It's there! Really! OK, start in the center of the seal, and go to your right. See it, floating over the little mountain there? Yep, that's it! I don't know about you, but I feel the constitutional temple shaking even as I look.

I am not a constitutional lawyer, and cases like this are one of the reasons why, but isn't it kind of STUPID to fuss about a tiny, tiny cross on the seal of a city named "The Angels", which is short, isn't it, for "Our Lady of the Holy Angels" or something like that? The whole coast of California is just one saint after another.

Much to his credit, County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich wrote to ACLU executive director Ramona Ripston that her letter was "right out of a George Orwell novel. Your failure to understand the history and to rewrite it from the so-called political correctness follows the hate of past book burners."

Yep, that gets it exactly. Orwellian it is.

Yoo counter-petition
By Tom Smith

Oh that's right! If there's free speech, you can reply!

Here is the Yoo counter-petition, calling for more academic freedom at Boalt Hall and defending Professor Yoo's right to have been a government lawyer who told his client what the law was, under conditions where he might reasonably have inferred that was his job.

As I noted below, a number of Boalt Hall law students are protesting Yoo's memo, which he wrote while in the Justice Department, regarding the law applying to prisoners taken in Iraq.

Susan Sontag in an intellectually lazy bore
By Tom Smith

When I was in my twenties, I thought wildly imaginative, i.e. implausible, leaps of logic from one cultural thing to another were cool. Now I think they're mostly stupid. Strip malls and cluster bombs. Freeways and imperialism. Nixon's beard and Chile. No, they don't have anything to do with each other. It's just an illustration.

So is Sontag's approach to Abu Ghraib. Hers and all the other left wing hyper-ventilation about Abu Ghraib is beyond tedious. The deep meaning of the prison scandal is, you don't want to be a prisoner in a military prison while your compatriots are busy killing American soldiers, while being guarded by not exactly the cream of American society. It would probably be a long night in the drunk tank in El Paso too. Or trapped in the 92nd Street Y having to listen to Susan Sontag explain how we had 9/11 coming and it's all about American imperialism. All torture is relative. OK, what do you want to know? I'll give you my Ebay password if you'll just shut up!

But my point is, it's not even thinking to do what Sontag does. Anybody can throw together associations between things they don't like. Maybe it comes from watching too many art films. Cut to football game. Cut to torture pic. Fade to Bush at religious service. Cut to testing of missile defense system. See? Anybody can do it. Don't you see?! It's like all, connected!! No, it's not all connected. It's just what's left of the left wing imagination after all the theory has been embarrassed into little academic havens and a few parts of a few big cities. Which reminds me, Susan, do you have your evacuation plans in order? Water? Gas mask? Arabic for dummies? Maybe she should identify herself so the NYFD can go to the next apartment and save some nice orthodontist.

And what if American culture is corrupt, uses too much oil, oppresses all and sundry and doesn't appreciate intellectuals enough, as Sontag suggests? So we should blow up our skyscrapers and put our women-folk in parachutes? As I've said before, America in the 1940's had a lot of problems. That doesn't mean should have gone all gooey on the Nazis. Seriously, if al Quaeda had German physics instead of the Koran, we'd all be digging bomb shelters and Sontag would be telling us we deserved to die (while making arrangements for the south of France). Unless of course intellectual fashion changed and it became cool to be pro-American, the new intellectual black, as it were. That would be the way to change Sontag's "mind". Arguments are a waste of breath when it's fashion you're really talking about. Hypothetical: Sontag realizes her bloviations, which on the margin increase the likelihood that lots of innocent Americans will die and that lots of innocent Arabs will go back to living or continue living under corrupt dictatorships, might also negatively impact her status as giant girl intellectual; Result: time to reconsider views! Then after doing so, exchange praise with other intellectuals for being so courageous. But I'm a little cynical about intellectuals. IMHO, Sontag is not worthy to dish out hash to the lowliest Marine, whose head is less stuffed with falsehoods and whose courage is not a self-promoting pose.

Andrew Sullivan does yeoman work fisking Sontag, who is approaching self-fisking anyway.

JCLI Direct Democracy Symposium
By Gail Heriot

California did not invent direct democracy. For that honor, one must look beyond the New England town meeting, beyond the Swiss canton, and perhaps even beyond the ancient Athenian city-state. But California is surely at the center of direct democracy today. Its population of about thirty five million makes it easily the largest political entity ever to experiment with the notion of direct legislation--more than a hundred times the size of Athens in the fourth century B.C. With approximately twenty million citizens over the age of eighteen, it has more than six hundred times the number of Athens’ citizens.

That's why it was fitting for USD and the Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues to hold a symposium here last June on the subject of direct democracy. The JCLI is a faculty-run journal of the University of San Diego School of Law. I was the general faculty editor, and if everything goes according to plan, my student editors and I will be sending Volume 13 off to the printer in the next day or so.

The articles include:

Preferences, Priorities, and Plebiscites by Lynn A. Baker

The Character of Direct Democracy by Sherman J. Clark

Direct Democracy and Debt by Clayton P. Gillette

Direct Democracy at the Time of the Framing: Its Failure and the Protestant Ethic That Led to Republicanism by Marci A. Hamilton

Rousseau and Direct Democracy (with a Note on the Supreme Court's Term Limits Decision) by Nelson Lund

Subversion of the Many by the Few: Some Scientific Evidence on the Initiative Process by John G. Matsusaka

Popular Initiatives and American Federalism, or, Putting Direct Democracy in its Place by Maimon Schwarzschild

Comments on Baker, Clark, and Direct Democracy by Richard L. Hasen

Comments of the Initiative Industry: The New Kid on the Block or an Old Friend? By M. Dane Waters

All of the articles are first-rate; I couldn't be more pleased with them.

Noonan on Doctorow
By Mike Rappaport

Peggy Noonan gets it right on the booing of E.L. Doctorow at Hofstra. Here is a fun little excerpt:

I am a conservative. I have spoken at three college commencements. Each time I spoke I talked about the students, and the life ahead of them, and the nature of their achievement. I spoke to them about them. I didn't tell them Jimmy Carter is a retard or Bill Clinton is a pig. It would have been wrong to do that. It would have been boorish. It would have deserved boos.

Media Bias
By Mike Rappaport

I was reading this story on Yahoo discussing the Iraqi reaction to the President's speech. Usually, Yahoo republishes AP stories and I thought it was their story. But it seemed much more biased than normal. Then I realized it was not AP but Reuters. Ah ha! Its good to know that Reuters is continuing to earn its reputation as the most biased news service.

Weird San Diego martial arts legends, part 1
By Tom Smith

Last night at my jujitsu class, I asked one of those questions that sent our Soke off on a tangent, albeit an interesting one. I do that in my classes too, notoriously, so it was interesting to be on the other side for a change.

I recently watched the Jet Li movie "Kiss of the Dragon" (highly recommended for nearly non-stop, mindless martial arts action! And the villains are French!), in which Jet Li, our hero, uses a technique in which he deploys acupuncture needles in various points, thereby paralyzing or even killing his opponents. I asked Soke if there were anything to this, or was it just martial arts movie hokum.

Soke told us about Dim Mak, a Chinese martial art that involves attacking particular pressure points in order to cause paralysis or death. (Presumably this is the idea behind Mr. Spock's 'Vulcan nerve pinch'.) These attacks can supposedly cause death nearly instantly or as much as two weeks later, and were said to be used by assassins, such as ninja. The San Diego connection is that one of the most accomplished masters of this art is said to live in East County San Diego. I heard his name, but for obvious reasons, not least of all not wanting to annoy a rumored professional assassin, I don't want to repeat it here. Anyway, he is a former San Diego cop who was educated in a monastery in Hawaii and learned the art from a monk there, a 15th degree black belt who would practice it on pigs who were about to be slaughtered anyway. The cop disappeared for some years before returning to San Diego. He would never say where he was, but our teacher (a friend of his) says his friends' best guess is that he was off killing people for the government.

Urban legend? Probably. But given that acupuncture can do pretty amazing things, I don't find it that hard to believe that attacks to similar points could disable or kill. In the meantime, be very polite to elderly Asian people, as you should be anyway.

Sticky Prices
By Mike Rappaport

Why do retail gasoline prices seem to fall so slowly, after a wholesale price decrease, but rise so quickly after a wholesale price increase? The ordinary explanation is that oil companies can get away with it because they have a degree of monopoly power.

According to this thesis (as discussed in this post, see also The Idea Shop), the explanation lies not with monopolistic oil companies, but with consumer behavior. Consumers are more likely to comparison shop when prices are rising than when they are falling. When gasoline prices are falling, consumers shop around less and therefore sellers can get away with lowering prices more slowly. By contrast, when gasoline prices are rising, consumers do comparison shop but it does not slow the price increase, because the higher price is actually the real value of the gas and therefore there is no incentive for the oil companies to raise prices more slowly.

The interesting thing about this explanation is how it is cross cutting against the normal political viewpoints. I have listened to free market defenders deny that retail prices fall slowly, while I have often heard market critics assert the oil companies have monopoly power. This explanation allows one to see the issue from a new perspective – one where the policy implications are different and not entirely clear.

More even-handed analysis from the Washington Post
By Tom Smith

We need a new word along the lines of "docu-drama" for news media "analysis" that is really just partisan spinning, with a dash of analysis thrown in. "Spinalysis" maybe? Suggestions welcome.

Anyway, here's the view of two journalists on Bush's speech. Needless to say, it's clear, objective, and dazzlingly insightful. They may need to tweak the computer program that wrote it a little, but it's pretty good when you consider that, strictly speaking, no mind was involved in its production.

Michael Moore is a big, fat liar
By Tom Smith

The recent awarding of a Palm d'or (sp? and I don't care) to Michael Moore has really shaken my faith in the international film elite. We rely on them for measured judgments of the art cinematique (ditto). But how can we do this if the giving of prestigious artistic prizes is based so obviously on politics? Are we to believe that something has gone amiss in the process of international aesthetic peer review? Is it possible that the judges and audience in the south of France of full of merde? Eh! Bien! who-can-say? Pffffffffttt! [Gallic shrug] Peut-etre that-is-your-ohpiniohn!

If you really wanted a conspiracy theory, you could tell the story of French support for Saddam and I would guess ongoing support for our enemies in the region. My father-in-law is in Paris now with his lady friend and he says it's swell. OK, they can keep Paris. Maybe Disney could buy it and turn it into one big amusement park.

Here's the link that got this all started. I called Moore on the phone and he said it is all true.

You can tell how hard a pig is stuck by how loud it squeals
By Tom Smith

Country wisdom describes this screed in Slate. Hysterical denunciation of Bush's fortitude should be welcomed. Bush may not be Reagan, but he has some Reagan in him. We just have to accept that if he (and we) win in Iraq, it will be the Cold War writ small (Cold war? What Cold War?). Not a big deal, no one ever said it was, blah, blah, blah. Still, it's rather bracing to see Bush be Reagan.

May 24, 2004
The President's Speech
By Mike Rappaport

Good speech by the President. Read it here from the transcript, because the media reports will fill it with attacks on Bush.

Here is a brief excerpt:

Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they don't build any. The can incite men to murder and suicide but they cannot inspire men to live and hope and add to the progress of their country.

Get the job done
By Tom Smith

New poll numbers suggest the American people get it. They disapprove of the job Bush is doing on Iraq, but are determined to tough it out. That sounds about right to me.

Germ update
By Tom Smith

Yet another reason to go to a female doctor.

Senate Staffer's Blog
By Mike Rappaport

Tom refers to the Senate staffer / blogger who has been fired. Take a look at her Sitemeter statistics here and here (i.e. number of viewers). This is the internet picture of her 15 minutes of fame.

John Gray on Iraq
By Tom Smith

Interesting essay from John Gray, a professor in London now, via Brian Leiter, my favorite enemy of the state. Gray was at Oxford when I was there, but I only heard him speak once or twice and came away thinking here was a guy who really wanted to fit in. It's a very British thing. I may be cynical, but I think these sorts of essays tell you a lot more about the social and political pressures within the English academic classes than they do about reality on the sandy ground. But it is interesting, for all that.

I agree that neo-Wilsonianism is something to be watched out for among the neo-cons. Wilson, arrogant Princetonian prig that he was, did think he knew better than everyone else, and that led him astray. I worry about that among some of the neo-cons, who seem intellectually arrogant to me. On the other hand, those who don't see how Iraq fits into the war against terror, which means the war against the Islamo-fascist fantacists, are being deliberately dense. Iraq isn't Vietnam, or Algeria, or Chechnya. "It's a whole new world . . ." as Princess whats-her-name says in Alladin.

John Yoo denounced at Berkeley
By Tom Smith

John Yoo, professor at Boalt Hall, who has been depicted on this blog as saying reasonable things on TV, apparently wrote a memo saying Taliban and Al Queada terrorists don't get the same benefits under international law as would prisoners of war. According to the story, about a quarter of Berkeley's law graduates wore red armbands (why red?) to protest the memo and Professor Yoo's presence on the Berkeley faculty. (via VC) Some students made themselves available to say stupid things to reporters.

What I think is especially cute about the protest is that the question did not even arise, apparently, whether Professor Yoo was correct, as a matter of law, in his opinion. Did it even cross the brilliant legal minds of the young protestors to wonder that? I doubt it very much. Nope, not if you think law is just the outfit you dress your opinion in. If the law were clear that illegal combatants, say, are out of luck when it comes to conditions of confinement, for example, then isn't it the job of Yoo to advise his client of that?

We don't get much protestation here at USD, which is fine with me. I hear that a lot of conservative students are afraid to speak out in class, since they feel they are in the minority, but that they read the Right Coast (some secretly). Conservative anxiety is probably exagerated. But nothing could please me more than to give solace to law students around the country who don't want to feel so . . . alone! In the meantime, Professor Yoo has another badge of honor in the book of me and many others. What a stud.

Moral tone on the Hill
By Tom Smith

I guess I really am a prude. I admit I find this Senate staffers blog shocking, and am relieved to discover that she can be fired without violating her rights. It would be an exaggeration to say I found DC or the White House a moral cesspool when I was there, but let's say you wouldn't want to drink the water either. The best I can do (with one exception I don't feel like relating now) was a long meeting I had to sit through on the design of some stupid prize for American Industry the Reagan administration came up with. It eventually was legislated and became another few million of taxpayers' money wasted -- a rounding error. Anyway, my boss had to 'coordinate' with some other semi-big shot from OMB or somewhere. He literally looked like a revived corpse. He had the last stages of cancer or something. His assistant was this drop dead gorgeous blonde woman stupider than anyone I have met since high school. Once you go to college, you just don't meet people that stupid, let alone try to craft federal programs with them. When I pointed out things like, important innovations in the pharmaceuticals industry were not likely to come from lone inventors in garages, she would pout, and look at daddy like, "stop this man from being mean to me." It was very, very weird. Then her boss Dracula tried to get me in trouble with my boss for treating her like the idiot she was. Call me naive, but I thought it was wrong to piss away the public's money, even if it was only a few million, just so Nosferatu could get lucky with little Miss Anna Nicole Wonk-Smith. Yet, a few blocks away there were folks in the Justice Department worrying about what James Madison really thought about the foreign affairs power. Washington is a really weird place.

John McIntyre at gets it right
By Tom Smith

McIntyre is probably right about recent poll numbers and Bush's reelection prospects.

By Mike Rappaport

I caught the movie Troy over the weekend. While it departed significantly from the Iliad and the usual story of the Trojan War, it nonetheless was enjoyable and kept to the essence of the story in most respects. The special effects, including the city of Troy, were really quite spectacular.

Some of the departures from the usual story were quite annoying, but I suppose they were done mainly for dramatic purposes. For a summary of the Iliad, see here.

One significant change in the movie is that Hector slays Menelaus after a fight between Menelaus and Paris. Of course, in Homer Menelaus returns to Sparta with Helen, and is sitting on the throne ten years later when Odysseus's son Telemachus visits them. Here is a summary of how Homer handled the fight between Menelaus and Paris:

Paris and Menelaus arm themselves and begin their duel. Neither is able to fell the other with his spear. Menelaus breaks his sword over Paris’s helmet. He then grabs Paris by the helmet and begins dragging him through the dirt, but Aphrodite, an ally of the Trojans, snaps the strap of the helmet so that it breaks off in Menelaus’s hands. Frustrated, Menelaus retrieves his spear and is about to drive it home into Paris when Aphrodite whisks Paris away to his room in Priam’s palace. She summons Helen there too. Helen, after upbraiding Paris for his cowardice, lies down in bed with him. Back on the battlefield, both the Trojans and the Greeks search for Paris, who seems to have magically disappeared. Agamemnon insists that Menelaus has won the duel, and he demands Helen back.
The gods don't make it into the movie, so clearly this scene needed to be changed. But there is something unforgettable about Aphrodite whisking Paris away, and then having the most beautiful women in the world sleep with him, after criticizing him for his cowardice.

In the end, the movie experience is most rewarding if, after watching it, you go back to the Iliad (or the summary) to consult the real stuff.

May 23, 2004
I feel special
By Tom Smith

Not only do I have a gmail account (tacsmith at gmail dot com) but I have an invite to spare! (I sent one to my wife. She did not seem particularly impressed.) Apparently some people are desparate to get one, but I don't really see why. Maybe if you are emailing huge files around. Anyway, I feel cool. Just thought I should let you know. I am hopeful its spam filters might work a little better than most. If I get one more pen1s enlargement offer, I think I may go insane. After I received about a thousand of them, one day I clicked through. Fortunately it was not a virus, as some of them are I learned later, and it took me to a site selling powder from Canadian elk antlers. I find it hard to believe than anything from Canada would give me a bigger male organ. Nationalist thinking, but there you are. The ad also quoted a Canadian physician as saying the powder had turned his male patients into "volcanos" of virile energy. I doubt the quotation was authentic. A doctor would never say "a volcano of virile energy." Not exactly scientific. On the other hand, I understand Canadian doctors will do a lot for greenbacks. For some reason this got me thinking about the names they give drugs such as Viagra. Get it? It's Virile plus Niagra, it of the thundering, throbbing power. Subtle. Even better is Cialis, pronounced "See Alice," as in "I wonder if I have time to go see Alice." It's not supposed to work that well. Maybe they should call it Ciamber. There's probably a list of rejected names in a file in EliLilly somewhere. Mancano didn't make the cut, Suenami is out. Spam is such a waste of time.
UPDATE: I don't feel so special anymore. Gmail won't let me on.

WashPost snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
By Tom Smith

US forces kick Sadr's hoods out of Karbala, but is it victory, or something ever so much more ambiguous? The Post beats out the Times for most biased coverage this week. I admit I'm a little disappointed, but you have to be objective abouth these things.

More Bias
By Mike Rappaport

This time from AP and Reuters.

The Euro-Palestinian Connection
By Mike Rappaport

The bias and corrupt nature of European support for the Palestinians is once again revealed. I know, this is like saying "the sky is blue," but when many people are saying the sky is yellow, it is helpful to remind oneself of these banal truths. Consider the following report: (Hat tip: SFA)

ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire - another damning human rights report. But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.

The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.

The organisation behind the latest report, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), has won few friends for its work documenting human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Although it has been strongly critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, its criticism of the PA has seen its funding by European governments slashed.

Yigal Carmon said that as soon as Basem Eid decided to investigate Palestinian abuses as well as Israeli abuses, his support dried up.

May 22, 2004
Justice O'Connor As National Conciliator
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Excellent piece in "First Things" by our San Diego colleague Steven Smith. He says the Supreme Court's liberals and "centrists" may see themselves as trying to create national compromise and conciliation in cases like Lawrence v Texas (striking down the Texas sodomy laws), Romer v Evans (striking down the Colorado ban on affirmative action for gays); even in Roe v Wade. (That is the charitable view. The uncharitable view is that the Justices are abusing their positions to take sides in the culture wars.) The trouble is that the quasi-"legal" criterion the Justices often claim to be using is that laws motivated by "animus" or "hatred" are unconstitutional. And when Supreme Court decisions blithely accuse the people of Texas of being "haters" for enacting a ban on homosexual sex, or the people of a county in Colorado for forbidding preferential treatment for gays (or for that matter when the Justices intimate that opponents of abortion are "haters" too), of course it doesn't promote anything like "national reconciliation". On the contrary, it promotes demonizing your political opponents and people who disagree with you. There's already no shortage of that in today's politics, without the Justices adding fuel to it -- all the while claiming sanctimoniously to be angels of reconciliation.

Read the whole thing, as we say.

Bad day at Abu Ghraib
By Tom Smith

This report doesn't fit the story line very well. Via LGF.

May 21, 2004
Cute kids alert
By Tom Smith

Some of my students have expressed an interest in my kid photos. Here's a link to a few new photos, some of which are pretty darn cute.

FYI all the boys are Jeanne's and mine, Luke, Patrick, William and Mark, oldest to youngest. All the girls are my sister Trish and her husband Paul's.

Hot Lanes
By Mike Rappaport

My commute involves a cutting-edge program to address transportation congestion: Hot Lanes. Basically such lanes are carpool lanes that allow noncarpoolers to use them for a price. I use the lanes about once or twice a week, and they work pretty well. I have often avoided significant traffic.

Regulation Magazine had a piece on Hot Lanes a couple of years ago. The article suggests that there are very few Hot Lanes throughout the country (although the article is a bit out of date). Another reason I am fortunate to live in San Diego.

In addition to Hot Lanes, San Diego also has a web site that gives you extremely useful information on highway traffic. The web site tells you the average speed of cars at each exit on the major highways in town. By checking the web site before I leave work, I can tell what the traffic is like and whether to pay the price for the Hot Lanes that day.

I have been to the future and it works!

You can try this at home
By Tom Smith

It's a lot like fishing. At first you don't know what the hell you're doing. But you'll figure it out.

Truly horrible picture
By Tom Smith

I publish this picture only because I think it is important to know who our enemy is, what he looks like up close, and the horror of it up close. (Warning: due its graphic nature, this photo should not be seen by children, pregnant women, or people with heart conditions). Via instapundit.

NPR outdoes itself
By Tom Smith

NPR was in rare form this morning. It featured "An American's Anger at Abu Ghraib," in which somebody-or-other, a former television producer and children's bookseller, explained that she was as angry over the prison abuses as she had been at 9/11. (Scroll down to story on this page.) But, if I understood her point correctly, she's going to channel that anger into being nice to people, or at least some people. But she's really angry.

It really makes me wonder if Osama isn't right -- that America is too soft, too tender hearted, too incapable of resolve, to stand up against a truly ruthless terrorist movement. It reminds me of the scene in Apocalypse Now in which Kurtz tells the story of how the Viet Cong went into a village in which the Green Berets had innoculated the children and cut off all the innoculated arms. Quoting roughly, Kurtz said, "there was this pile of little arms, and it hit me, right here [pointing to the middle of his forehead]" how determined, how pure was the ruthless determination of his enemies.

It's also a very depressing commentary on public life. Heaven knows there is plenty to criticize in Bush's conduct of the war, confusion and cruel behavior in Abu Ghraib not least, but not greatest either, among them. Yet the motives of the war critics seem to be divided between those who genuinely wish for America's defeat, even if that means victory for the religious Nazis for fit their paranoid fantasies about the American right most closely, and opportunists who see defeat in Iraq as the fastest way to get back in the White House.

Just to be clear, I do question the patriotism of the lot of them. Just to be clear, the torture of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib is insignificant compared to 9/11. It does not deserve to be mentioned on the same page. It is not even a footnote. Nobody burned to death. Nobody had to say goodbye to wives and children on a cellphone. Nobody had to reassure his secretary that it was OK, that God would understand if they jumped to their deaths instead of roasted alive in burning jet fuel. Nobody had to choose between their oaths as fire fighters or police officers and seeing their families again. Nobody had to carry their comrades to their graves to the wail of bagpipes. Nobody had to wonder if maybe, somehow, Dad or Mom has escaped and wake up in the middle of the night to wonder still. Nobody died, let alone thousands. That national radio, that you and I pay for, should give voice to such unpatriotic rubbish as comparing Abu Ghraib and 9/11, and that is all it is, is a complete disgrace.

Mort is dead right
By Tom Smith

Mort is dead on in this column.

And so is Victor in this one.

May 20, 2004
GM v Microsoft
By Mike Rappaport

I would imagine that many people have seen this joke somewhere on the internet, but if not take a look. I thought it was pretty funny. I think number 10 was my favorite.

Post to 9-11 Commission: Drop Dead
By Mike Rappaport

Here is the New York Post headline that finally appears to have shamed the 9-11 Commission a bit. (Click on the picture of the newspaper.) There is something marvelous about Post headlines that cuts through the BS.

May 19, 2004
Milton Friedman on the Euro
By Mike Rappaport

In an interview, Milton Friedman argues "that there is a strong possibility that the euro zone could collapse in the next few years because differences are accumulating between countries ... I'm not saying it is a certainty, just that it is a strong possibility". (Hat tip: Mahalanobis).

The article reporting the interview also states that

[Friedman's] main concern with the workings of the euro zone is that it is difficult to have an economic union between countries that have substantially different economies, cultures and languages.
He believes that these problems are set to mount with the entry of the ten new member states.
As for improving the economies of the EU countries, Friedman's recommendations are no surprise:

There is no doubt what the EU should do. Abolish your rules and regulations. Abolish your [high level of] spending. The European economy is too burdened with rules and regulations. There is nothing wrong with the basic strength of the individual countries. But they have burdened themselves with a range of rules that strangle their economies.

Solum on the Compromise
By Mike Rappaport

Larry Solum has an interesting post on the compromise arrangement between the Administration and Senate Democrats. The Administration promises not to use the recess appointment power again during the remainder of his presidential term, whereas the Senate Democrats agree not to filibuster a list of 25 noncontroversial nominees.

Randy Johnson
By Mike Rappaport

As a member of the 40 something club, I really enjoyed the news that Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game at age 40. Lots of aches and pains after that game, I am sure. Of course, I can now really appreciate the genuine achievement of Satchel Paige, who pitched into his late 40s. In fact, Paige came back in 1965, 59 years after his estimated birthday, to throw three shutout innings.

May 18, 2004
Space Privatization
By Mike Rappaport

The first steps toward private firms putting people in space. Cool.

Interesting debate on Patriot Act
By Tom Smith

Debate over Patriot Act, also via LGF

Decapitators captured?
By Tom Smith

Four reported held for Berg murder, via LGF.

Those darn chemical weapons
By Tom Smith

It really was sarin. (via instapundit).Apparently there was roughly a gallon of the stuff, but it didn't mix effectively when the bomb disposal guys detonated it.(There's a job for you. Maybe Frank Rich would like to give it a try. He could use some of his movie analogies.) So, my question is, suppose the bad guys had triggered the shell. Would it have spewed a gallon of the evil stuff around? A drop of it can kill you. Sounds scary. So just keep repeating to yourself: "Bush lied. There are no chemical weapons."

Second grade anatomy
By Tom Smith

Our second grader, William, brought home the following extremely cute song, about brains:

(To the tune of My Darling Clementine)

The Dendrite Song

Use your dendrites,
Use your dendrites,
To connect throughout your brain!
Take in info, analyze it!
Grow some new ones

Axons send out
To the dendrites all around.
Across the synapse
Jumps the impulse;
New ideas can now aboud!

Is what the brain needs
To make dendrites stretch and grow!
New connections
Make us smarter
In what we think and what we know!


Some mind-brain identity going on here apparently, and some neuroanatomy too. Who says you can't get science in Catholic schools?

Oops! The song is copyrighted by Bruce Campbell. Good on ya, Bruce.

Prager on Women's Dress
By Mike Rappaport

Dennis Prager, the radio talk show host and writer, is one of the most intelligent social conservatives around these days. Prager has recently written two columns (here and here) on the provocative nature of how women dress. Here is how he starts the first column:

You may have noticed that many young women wear less, and more sexually provocative, clothing in public than they did a generation, or even 10 years, ago. It is easier to notice, however, than to explain.

But explaining it is crucial to understanding what has happened to men and women in the last 40 years and where male-female relations are headed. Women exposing their bodies in public is a big deal. Playing with the sex drive, the most powerful force in nature, is far more dangerous than playing with fire. Even if one welcomes this development -- and for the record, as a male I am turned on, while as a man I am turned off -- it begs for explanation.

I will offer at least five reasons that may be less obvious but more important than the valid ones usually given -- peer pressure, women buy what stores sell and the sexual revolution.
The five reasons are: 1. The movement towards equality, or rather sameness, of the sexes; 2. the death of femininity; 3. powerlessness due to the lack of a feminine role; 4. sexual harassment laws; and 5. a desire to attract men.

I don't necessarily want to endorse Prager's analysis, but he certainly has something important to contribute. Consider his analysis of the fourth reason, sexual harassment laws:

Women feel freer than ever to dress provocatively in part because men can say nothing about it. Omnipresent sexual harassment laws and "consciousness raising" seminars in businesses and schools have frightened men into not making any sexual comments to a woman.

As a result, the normal check on a woman flaunting her body is gone. A woman can reveal her breasts or cross her short-skirted legs near a man, but he is forbidden to say so much as, "You have great legs." In fact, he can be fired or sued for saying nothing and merely "staring." One reason women dressed more modestly in the past was fear of men's verbal reactions. No more. There are vast checks on his sexuality, none on hers.

We should either drop all sexual harassment laws (except those prohibiting threats -- "Sleep with me or you're fired") or apply them equally to women. If men create a sexually charged work environment when they talk sex, women do the same when they show sex. "Hostile work environment" -- a trial lawyer enrichment program created by feminist anger at men -- should be either dropped as a legal concept or applied equally to women's dress.
Interestingly, Prager seems to be implicitly making the claim that women who dress provocatively "assume the risk of" or at least "induce" certain kinds of harassment. Clearly, this is a view that is at odds with both the prevailing and the elite view. I suppose that one can always argue that men must restrain their speech and behavior even when exposed to provocatively dressed women. While this may make sense, it places strong social and legal sanctions in the service of allowing provocative dress, and the question is whether the benefits of such dress exceed the costs. While liberal feminists and much of American culture would appear to argue that the benefits are worth it, there are others -- social conservatives, more radical feminists -- who would argue that permitting provocative dress is a dubious value.

In the end, I am not sure what to think. I do not favor most sexual harassment laws, preferring such inappropriate behavior to be addressed by firms and schools. But whether or not such laws are in place, private and public institutions must still determine the appropriate norms of conduct. Prager’s argument is important, but so are the considerations on the other side. Living here in San Diego, where provocative dress sometimes seems to reign supreme, I am conflicted.

By Tom Smith

Roundup of good news from Eyeraq. Fight the left by staying informed. Via instapundit.

May 17, 2004
Is this true?
By Tom Smith

It will be up to us in the blogosphere to figure out just what the heck is going on. If it's true that the torture at Abu Ghraib was approved at the top as part of some super-secret program, well, there will be hell to pay. Major disaster for US national security certainly seems a possibility, but at least we will have the consolation of knowing we are doing what the New Yorker thinks is right.

Update: Hmmmmm. Seymour seems to have some credibility problems.

Belmont Club on the home front, and it really is a front. What does the Left think they're doing? Let's say you believe 'government should own the railroads, not railroads the government'. How does giving Iraq back to a bunch of crazed medievalists advance that cause? If you think the government should own the railroads, what good does it do to help the people who want to blow us up, railroads and all? I'm beginning to think the Left isn't really the Left anymore. They're some kind of weird, post-modern pyromaniacs, who just want to set things afire for the pleasure of watching them burn. I'm telling you, evil is weird, and so is history. It's less like Das Kapital than Lord of the Rings. The anti-fascist left should have no part of this, but anti-fascism is a relic on the Left, anyway. Now it's just hatred of the West and nihilistic hatred of wealth and power. Spooky.

And there's the ever studly Mark Helprin.

Fighting Back Against Campus Indoctrination
By Gail Heriot

San Diegan Luann Wright was so fed up with the political indoctrination that her son was receiving at UCSD that she decided to fight back. She started a web which students can expose college and university instructors who use the classroom as an opportunity for political harangues. For example, a recent posting from a UC Berkeley resident assistant complains of an over-the-top diversity trainer. Check it out.

Things That Slither
By Gail Heriot

Here is a picture of the kind of snakes I found in the kitchen of a friend of mine's seemingly ordinary suburban home last week. They were Black Racers--completely harmless--and they had evidently been hibernating behind the dishwasher. The first one was of indeterminate length, but the second was kind enough to stretch himself out in a straight line along the cabinetry, so I am quite certain that he was six feet. I am not afraid of snakes (beyond the ordinary rational level of fear), but I can't say I'm keen on them either, particularly when they show up while I'm trying to read the paper in my bath robe.

The loathsome Frank Rich
By Tom Smith

These are salad days for the detestable Frank Rich. He disgorges the following:

Maybe that's true — we are just starting to hear Private England speak for herself — but there's a more revealing story in these women than the cheap ironies of their good witch/wicked witch twinship might suggest. Our 13-month journey from Jessica Lynch's profile in courage to Lynndie England's profile in sadism is less the tale of two women at the bottom of the chain of command than a gauge of the hubris by which those at the top have lost the war in both the international and American courts of public opinion. And the supposedly uplifting Lynch half of the double bill is as revealing of what's gone wrong for us in Iraq — and gone wrong from the start — as is her doppelgänger's denouement at Abu Ghraib.

Is that offensive enough for you? How about this?

But this movie [that's Rich's conceit, the war as movie] has just started, and it's beyond anyone's power to spin it any longer. Yet when the president traveled to the Pentagon on Monday to look at previews of the coming attractions, he seemed as out of touch with reality as Mr. Limbaugh. It was nothing if not an odd moment to congratulate the secretary of defense, who has literally thrown the reputation of our honorable military and our country to the dogs, for doing a "superb job."

What a hypocrite. As if Rich cared a fig for the reputation of our military. As if nothing thrilled him more than the release of the torture pictures. As if he would not dance a lumbering jig to news that a score or a hundred Marines or soldiers were wiped out by a roadside bomb or ambush? So much the better to defeat Bush, and West Virginia and everybody outside his tiny little world.

Amongst other troubling features, for all his sneering superiority, Rich reveals himself to be an utter sexist and city snob. All you have to be is a woman from West Virginia and you're just the same white trash to Frank Rich. Fair game. I missed the part where he explains just what Private Lynch did to deserve being twinned with Private England. I guess Lynch's crime was behaving in a way that did not clearly cast discredit upon the United States. But not everyone can live up to Rich's high standards. Read Rich's whole thing if you don't believe the Times crowd is just overflowing with hatred for the very idea that this country has anything to offer the world. It really makes me wonder why people from West Virginia and a lot of other fine states in this union should be dying for the likes of him.

Oh, that's just great
By Tom Smith

Just another happy moment for Catholics in San Diego. As part of an international investigation, covering many countries, of child pornography, the FBI has seized the computer of a priest who used to work (until of couple of years ago)at the parish where my kids go to school. That's just dandy. I don't want to name the priest. It's in the article; you can read it if you want to. I didn't know the guy, and it's innocent until proven guilty, but frankly, if the FBI comes and takes your computer and the Church puts you on a leave of absence, things don't look so good for you. The pornography involved sounds particularly vile. Apparently it emerges from the former Soviet Union and depicts acts committed against children who are effectively slaves. Some of the children are reportedly very young, even infants.

I could go on about this subject at some length. Like a lot of Catholic men my age, a gay priest once approached me for sex when I was underage, (yes, I declined, ha ha) and one priest I knew fairly well got into a lot of trouble for molestation, though I've heard conflicting reports about whether he actually went to jail. I also know some priests who are fine priests and men, and who are, I assume, celibate and gay. I know, I know, I'm going from child pornography to gay very quickly, but the fact is, the molestation involved is almost entirely against underage boys. The problem is not pedophilia per se, but homosexual pedophilia.

Two books I think shed a lot of light on the subject. The first is Good Bye, Good Men. The book is somewhat amateurish, and tends to blame everything on ubiquitous "liberals," but I think it's more or less correct in its diagnosis. The second is another odd, but insightful book, Dr. Scott Peck's People of the Lie. Yes, there's a lot in the book that is goofy, or wrong, or a little nuts, but it also contains some real insights into the nature of evil, one of which is, evil people are drawn to where the good is, the way thieves are drawn to banks. If you want to take advantage of children, where better to be than in a position of sacred trust regarding children? It's important to recognize crimes against children as being first and foremost, crimes, before we go all therapeutical. Another book which is supposed to be good, which I haven't read, is Pedophiles and Priests. The book makes the point that the problem is not particularly Catholic. What the Church has that other organizations that deal with children lack is a centralized structure that makes abuses easier to discover and track, and also makes it a more desirable target for plaintiff's attorneys.

One good thing about this topic is that it makes me eager to get back to grading exams.

Those darn Syrians and their darn WMDs!
By Tom Smith

This is, in fact, interesting. I wonder if some black ops team from the USA gave the cargo a little boost into oblivion? Any of you former SEALs hanging out in San Diego who know anything are welcome to let me know, on a no names, identify me and you'll wake up dead basis.

Interesting essay on Star Trek
By Tom Smith

One of the better things I've read on Star Trek, which may not be saying much.

Do you remember Vlad? Now that was torture!
By Tom Smith

This was over the top even for the Times:

Meanwhile, the Islamic world was seeing something new and yet somehow familiar. For the most historically imaginative, the pictures of mistreated prisoners of war from inside Abu Ghraib prison recalled the sight greeting Ottoman soldiers when they marched north in 1476 into Romania: hundreds of their captured comrades spiked on poles along the roadside by Vlad the Impaler, the Christian prince who gave rise to the Dracula legend.

Oh, puh leeese. Now we are vampires, Christian vampires, impaling those poor Iraqi victims. And I'm sorry, but I doubt very much if 15th century Romania lives, just like it was yesterday, for anybody in Baghdad. What a complete crock. Don't they have editors at the Times? And not to defend Dracooolah, but the Islamic hordes weren't exactly going north as tourists. That's why they took their scimitars with them. And is it really necessary to label Vlad the Impaler as a Christian prince? Oh I know! He was a born-again Christian, right? I think we're missing the historical ties between Vlad, Bush and Halliburton. I coom to suck your oil!

Maybe I shouldn't complain. If the Times weren't so ridiculous, more people would take them seriously. Ooops! Got to go! I see the sun peeking up over the horizon, and my skin is starting to boil!

Oh, that nerve gas
By Tom Smith

It's just a little. It's only one. It's probably the only one. Bush lied. It violates international law. We're just as bad as Saddam. Have I left anything out?

Then there's this:

Gazi George, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist under Saddam's regime, told Fox News that he believes many similar weapons stockpiled by the former regime were either buried underground or transported to Syria. He noted that the airport where the device was detonated is on the way to Baghdad from the Syrian border.

George said the finding likely will just be the first in a series of discoveries of such weapons.

"Saddam is the type who will not store those materials in a military warehouse. He's gonna store them either underground, or, as I said, lots of them have gone west to Syria and are being brought back with the insurgencies," George told Fox News. "It is difficult to look in areas that are not obvious to the military's eyes.

"I'm sure they're going to find more once time passes," he continued, saying one year is not enough for the survey group or the military to find the weapons.

Saddam, when he was in power, had declared that he did in fact possess mustard-gas filled artilleries but none that included sarin.

"I think what we found today, the sarin in some ways, although it's a nerve gas, it's a lucky situation sarin detonated in the way it did ... it's not as dangerous as the cocktails Saddam used to make, mixing blister" agents with other gases and substances," George said.

But don't worry. The chemical weapons have nothing to do with prison abuse and so are per se irrelevant, as we lawyers might say. Alternatively, just put your fingers in your ears and say, "I'm not listening, la, la, la, la, la . . . " It works for kids and it can work for you.

Must Church watch its step?
By Tom Smith

Interesting post at TaxProf blog, on whether recent pronouncements by the RC bishop in Colorado Springs, suggesting Catholics should not vote for pro-abortion candidates, might jeopardize the Church's tax exempt status.

May 16, 2004
Hollywood Junk Science
By Mike Rappaport

Climate Scientist Patrick Michaels argues in the Washington Post that "The Day After Tomorrow" is junk science. (Hat tip: Juan Non-Volokh) His real worry: That the movie may have a significant political effect, much as the 1979 China Syndrome movie did. That movie, combined with the Three Mile Island accident, effectively ended the construction of nuclear power plants in the US, ironically making it harder to restrict greenhouse gases. I doubt "The Day After Tomorrow" will have a similar effect (although I suppose it is conceivable that in a close presidential election it could have enough of an effect to change the result -- but, of course, any small effect would). A large problem that nuclear power plants faced was that people who lived near them were scared of nuclear power. I can understand that, I share that fear, whether rational or not. My guess is that the claims about global warming do not occasion anywhere near that amount of fear.

May 15, 2004
Economic Treason
By Mike Rappaport

An economist has been "accused" of treason for supporting another country's WTO case against American subsidies for farmers. The accusation is merely rhetorical -- no charges have or will be brought. For my money, I think his actions were fine; The New York Times commits worse acts of "treason" nearly every day.

Yahoo vs Google
By Mike Rappaport

While we continue to draw visitors who are searching for the Nicholas Berg video, interestingly they all come from the Yahoo search engine. Nothing from Google. I had thought that Yahoo was using an engine designed by Google, and similar to Google's. Apparently, not that similar.

Update: A reader writes to inform me that Yahoo recently dropped Google's search services, which explains why Yahoo gets different results. See here.

May 14, 2004
First Things first
By Tom Smith

Good post over at SUV-hater Prof. Bainbridge, whose judgment is otherwise sound. He needs to watch his driving, though.

Post is about the journal First Things, which really is a swell mag.

Come fly with Terry
By Tom Smith

Can I say Terry instead of TeRAYsa? (a mnemonic from James Taranto -- she wants TeRAYsa your taxes) . . . Anyway, I'm shopping for a personal jet aircraft and I think the kind Terry Kerry has would do me just fine. Still puzzling out where the 50 very, very large is going to come from (donations gladly accepted), but here's what she, I mean it, it being the jet, looks like. Lovely, isn't she/it? Somewhere in all this is the answer to the question, why should I pay more taxes? I drive a leased 2001 Volvo wagon with a dent (spouse) in it. Nice jet, though. If she becomes first lady could I like, sit in it? Check out the interiors. People spend millions, seriously, millions, to decorate the interiors of these things. Would it be possible to find out how much Terry spent to decorate the interior of her jet? For the cost of one of these flying puppies, you could have sent 5000 San Diego kids to the sort of private school John went to for one year. Or not. Nice jet though.

Pretty Funny
By Mike Rappaport

Why you should never put your picture on the internet. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Searching for the Berg Video
By Mike Rappaport

Now that the Berg Video is available on the Right Coast, I can see firsthand how much traffic there is looking for it. There are a large number of visitors to the site who got there simply searching for the video on Yahoo. For what it is worth, I had no desire to watch it and simply checked it out to see that the link works. It does, alas.

May 13, 2004
Nick Berg video
By Tom Smith

I finally found a download of the Nick Berg video here that worked and watched the video.

Here is a link to the Right Coast typepad site, where you should be able to download the video in zipped form. If you save it to a location on your drive, then click on it, it should play, assuming you have Windows media player on your system.

As I mention on the other site, the 'price' for downloading here is saying a prayer for Nick Berg and his family.

I'm linking this because I think this is a video that Al-Queda has changed its mind about Americans watching, and which the mainstream media seem not to want us to see. It clarifies things. Poor Nick reminds me of animals I have seen slaughtered on the ranch. Which is no doubt how they see us and our children.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the reason I am posting this is because I think, contrary to what Al Qaeda was hoping, this video is having the opposite effect. No doubt one of Al-Q's disadvantages in PR is that they find it hard to predict how people with normal consciences will react. With Al Jezeera now saying the video is fake, and denial of service attacks on websites publishing the video, it seems clear Al-Q wants this cat back in the bag. But one thing blogs can do is get out news, even when our enemies don't want it out, and even when the mainstream press would just as soon not carry the story. One can bloviate forever about the nature of terrorism and terrorists, and not make the point as vividly as the last 30 seconds of the the Nick Berg video.