The Right Coast

August 31, 2004
 
Johnny Kerry
By Tom Smith


A Right Coast reader and 101st Airborne veteran who served in Vietnam sends in this version of the famous Kipling poem:



Johnny
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling and the British Army)

Johnny went public with ‘is boasts, an’ ‘ero without fear,
“Til sudden like the Swifties say, “We got a turncoat ‘ere.”
The Libs they just ignored ‘em, sayin’ “Ah, it’s all a lie!”
Then Johnny’s outted by their ads an’ to myself says I:

Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day.
But it’s wait now, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys as our band begins to play,
An’ it’s goodbye, Mr. Kerry, as they blow your arse away.

Johnny goes to Cincinnati sober as a man can be,
An’ they give ol’ George a “Bravo Lad!” but John no sympathy.
They give ‘im plain their message, sittin’ silent in the ‘alls,
That when it comes to fightin’ men, they know oo’s got the balls.

For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, but wait, he might ‘a lied
From the platform of his campaign train an’ on the Boston tide.
His ship is on the tide, my boys, his ship is on the tide,
An’ it’s plain as day she’s sinkin’ boys, because the turncoat lied.

Yes Johnny mocked our uniforms that guard you while you sleep.
He cheapened all our medals throwing his upon that heap;
An’ rustlin’ up his phony troops, he led them for a bit,
Until his aspirations and theirs no longer fit.

Now it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ Johnny how’s yer soul,
In that brave front rank of ‘eroes as our drums begin their roll?
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
An’ they’ll keep right on a rollin’ boys, ‘til we chuck ‘im in the hole.

We make no claim as ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But ‘onorable men an’ warriors fightin’ once agin for you.
An’ if your ‘ero’s record, our charges soundly taint,
That’s what we’re tryin’ to tell you blokes, your ‘ero ain’t no saint.

For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ “Check him out, the Loot!”
Was ‘e the “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot?
Now it’s Johnny’s turn to prove us wrong, an’ make us all out liars,
By signin’ that one eighty form an’ puttin out the fires.

Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day,
But it’s hold on, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys, as our band begins to play,
“Cheerio, Old Man,” to Johnny and blows his arse away.


* * *

We get quite a few veterans as readers of the Right Coast, which pleases me immensely. The poem above, in addition to its political content, does a pretty good job, IMHO, of capturing the sound and feel of Kipling's underrated verse.


 
Arnold!
By Mike Rappaport

A great speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a strange way, by focusing on freedom and big ideas, it reminded me of that other California Governor, who was an actor. Undoubtedly, if Arnold had been born in the United States, given his fame, his personality and his performance as governor of California, he would be the front-runner to be the Republican nominee in 2008. Sadly, the Constitution forbids his serving as president.


 
Israel Again and the British Intellectuals
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The two leading book review / literary journals in Britain are the Times Literary Supplement ("TLS") and the London Review of Books ("LRB"). TLS is notably the less anti-American and anti-semitic of the two.

The London Review, by contrast, is notorious for its post-9/11 symposium, which included dozens of the Review's regular contributors, and whose themes were essentially that the Americans "had it coming", and that the key lesson of 9/11 is that the State of Israel is loathsome. (The LRB symposium is not online, but here is a pro-LRB account of the affair from the left-wing Guardian, and here is a less pro-LRB mention from Andrew Stuttaford) That horrifying symposium was not an aberration: it typifies the tone of the London Review of Books article after article, week after week.

The Times Literary Supplement, as I say, is the less anti-American and anti-semitic of the two journals.

The cover article that leads TLS on August 6th, just arrived in the mail, is a piece on Islam by one Malise Ruthven. (Also not online, unfortunately.) The article is in the form of a review of various books about politics and Islam, and its theme is "optimism" that there should be common ground between Islam and the western Left -- especially "at a time when American neo-conservatives are attempting to impose their own questionable version of 'democracy' in the Middle East by the use of military force". (Islam, so we are told, is really against free markets. You see, there is hope!) So far, so routine.

But the piece opens by acknowledging that there is a terrorism problem.
    Numerous atrocities have been attributed to and claimed by extremists, both before and since September 11, causing mayhem and carnage in many of the world's cities and tourist destinations: Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca, Bali, Moscow, Tunisia, Jakarta, Mumbai, Istanbul, Madrid: the list grows longer, the casualties mount.
Let's see. Has Mr Ruthven got them all? Surely he has. There isn't any other perennial target of Arab terrorism is there?

For shame.


August 30, 2004
 
Another Political Survey
By Mike Rappaport

Stephen Bainbridge recommended another of these political surveys, so I took it. This one seems a bit better designed than the previous ones, but still has the usual problems.

This survey has two axises: left versus right, and pragmatic versus idealistic. I cannot really complain with the overall result: I am a little to the right and a little to the pragmatic side. That seems about right.

The last time, Bainbridge and I had very similar results under the political compass test. Again this time our results are similar, although more different than they were the last time. Bainbridge is far more right than I am, and he is considerably less pragmatic.

My results: Left / Right +1.47; Pragmatism +3.49

Update: Some readers as well as the Atlantic Blog have complained about this survey. The principal complaint is the placement of Stalin and Hitler: Stalin on the right, and Hitler so near Thatcher. This is a good complaint. While I could speculate, I don't really know why the results turned out that way. And certainly Hitler and Thatcher should be quite far away from one another. Nonetheless, the right way to approach these surveys is as a fun exercise. They have their limits, and some are worse than others, but one shouldn't take them too seriously.


 
I want a purple heart
By Tom Smith

I seem to have done something to my rotator cuffs (that's in your shoulders to you aliens to the weight room) attempting to do more than my usual pathetic number of pull ups. It hurts, and I want a purple heart. Yes, I did it to myself and no, I was not in any real danger, but I still want a purple heart. But I am not in the military, you say. True, but on my side there is the fact the shoulder is a much less embarassing place to get wounded than the butt, and also, I promise to request only one such medal and to be duly modest about it, should one be given to me. Think it over.

In the alternative, I request to marry a billionairess. I don't want to give up my current spousal unit, so the best way to work this out is for you simply to give her a billion dollars. If this seems too much, a hundred million plus a Gulfstream V will do. In exchange, I will give really boring speeches, and ride around on my expensive toys clad in lycra, showing off my middle aged body.

Just some random observations: no one has mentioned that maybe the reason Kerry threw his medals, ribbons or whatever away is that (1) they just evoked embarrassing memories of butt wounds and/or (2) he knew they were a big fraud anyway, so what the heck? If you were the Richard Burton character from Where Eagles Dare and you got a Victoria Cross, would you toss it away? Not bloody likely. But if you knew it was just for, well, you get the picture. Moreover, nobody seems to have pointed out how rude it was for Kerry to throw away medals which he requested in the first place. If I ask somebody for tickets to the game, and somebody gives them to me, and then I throw them away, that's rude. He could at least have kept them and bartered them latter for a fancy haircut or something, assuming you could find a stylist who wanted a purple heart.


 
In case you missed this little treasure . . .
By Tom Smith

John Kerry's classic book. What else do you need?


August 29, 2004
 
The Times
By Mike Rappaport

The New York Times is at it again, with a big headline saying "Vast Anti-Bush Rally Greets Republicans in New York" and another headline that reads "Upstaging Before the Show." (The link is to the Times home page, since there is no other way to show the headline. I don't know how long it will last.) The test for New York Times media bias is whether one can distinguish the Times headlines from those that the Democratic Party would have written for the Times if they could do so. These headlines read as if they come from Democratic Party talking points.

Update: The Times website has been changed, but the newspaper's front page sends the same message that the web site did.


 
Surf Science
By Tom Smith

Shocking to me is that this seems to be almost the only, and apparently the leading, research paper on the hydrodynamics of surfing, at least as far as I can tell from Google. It's 30 years old! Have there really been no advances in the theory of surfing in all that time?

I tend to think many improvements could be made in surfboards to make it easier to learn how to surf. I'll let you guess why I would think so. In the last ten years, there have been enormous improvements in snow ski design, making skiing much easier and more fun. Ski design, it seems to me, stagnated for a long time before it really took off in the '90's. Is surfing due for a similar technological revolution?

I'm not really sure. I don't yet understand what's going on with surfing well enough to tell. It may be that surfing is just planing on water, and there's only so much that can be done with a plane. On the other hand, I wonder if more sophisticated designs, of the sort one sees in speedboats, kayaks, and sailboats, for instance, might be applicable to surfboards.

Here are some wild ideas. Surfbboards are flat, giving them high initial stability, but very low secondary stability (or whatever you call it), so that one tipped, they tend to keep tipping. A U shaped hull is much more stable. Less likely to plane, though and harder to turn. Maybe big fins would make it easier to turn. This would look like a kayak you stood on to surf.

Or, what about a big channel down the middle of the board, like a tunnel boat? (I know some boards now are concave on the bottom) Would the decreased drag increase the speed of the board? Would there be a lift effect? What would the effect on turning be?

How about a catamaran surfboard? Think long, slender sponsons with fins. Could such a barge be made to turn? What if the sponsons had significant rocker (that bannana shape) and even some side cut to their shape, like slalom skis? That would increase drag, but would it make them easier to turn? Could sponsons be designed so that they planed readily?

But this is all wrong. Maybe it's all just planing, so all you can do it make subtle variations to an essentially flat surface.


 
Differences
By Tom Smith

Women like to compete, just not against men.


 
Bush's tax cuts
By Tom Smith

Nice graphic on Bush's tax cuts. Via instapundit. The middle classes only had to pay more if you count the top 20 percent as the middle classes -- that's in terms of tax burden, not marginal rate.

I'm in favor of tax cuts because the federal government wastes the most astonishing amounts of money.


 
But this doesn't mean we don't need world socialism because of global warming
By Tom Smith

In my first law school teaching job, I had lunch with some colleagues and the dean, a notoriously unpleasant woman. She expressed admiration for the Chinese, who forcibly aborted the fetuses of women who had deviated from official population policy. I allowed that if that ever happened in this country, I would head for the mountains with my gun and join the Resistance. She seemed to think I was kidding, but I wasn't, of course.

But it turns out all the fuss about the population bomb was rubbish and nonsense. How very shocking. I remember reading stories in Time magazine about women who, hearing the tick tick of the population bomb, got themselves sterilized in order to make the world a better place (which they may have inadvertently done, genes being what they are), while at most just making themselves victims of the tragedy of the commons.

I still want my SUV. It will burn lots of gas and be full of kids.


August 28, 2004
 
Should consrvatives hope W loses?
By Tom Smith

Fergeson thinks so.


 
White Mischief
By Tom Smith

African tragi-comedy.


 
New Corporate Law Blog
By Gail Heriot

Our colleague at USD, Professor Lynne Dallas, and several corporate law professors from other law schools have started a new corporate law blog called "Biz Fems Speak!" Check it out.


 
Right wing grousing
By Tom Smith

Readers with access to the San Diego Union Tribune might want to check out the front page of tomorrow's Sunday paper Insight section. It should have a piece by me about the upcoming Republican convention. I share with Herr Professor Rappaport some disaffection with W, from the right. In my case, I think he has been pretty lame on social issues, throwing sops to social conservatives and expecting a lot in return. But support your local paper to see the rest. Or if you don't sully your hands with newsprint, look here later for a link. A
AND here it is.


 
Hiram Fong
By Gail Heriot

I love success stories. And Hiram Fong, the first senior Senator from Hawaii, had a great one. His parents were illiterate Chinese immigrants. As a young boy, he did did all manner of odd job, picking beans for 10 cents per 100 lb. bag and shining shoes. Yet he grew up to be one of Hawaii's most successful businessmen and politicians. (He was lucky too; his "seniority" over the junior Senator was won on a coin toss.)

The Republican Fong, who served in the Senate from 1959 to 1977, died last week at the age of 97; his passing was duly noted in several papers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. But Post's obit contains a stray sentence that I am afraid may mislead some readers. It says, "His support for civil rights legislation put him at odds with many in his party in the 1960s." I'm sure it put him at odds with some Republicans, just as it put him at odds with some Democrats. But, for the record, Republican support for 1960s civil rights legislation tended to be significantly greater than Democratic support. For example, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a final vote of 73 to 27. Of the "no" votes, 21 were Democrats and 6 were Republicans. On the House side, Republicans voted in favor 138 to 34 while Democrats voted for the measure 152 to 96, with most of the "no" votes coming from Southerners.


 
Cool news from Keck
By Tom Smith

New planet hunting news from the gigantic Keck Observatory in Hawaii.


August 27, 2004
 
How is this possible, if it's not Abu Ghraib?
By Tom Smith

Don't hold your breath for the trial on this one.


August 26, 2004
 
Republican Convention Bloggers
By Mike Rappaport

Descriptions and pictures of bloggers who will be blogging from the Republican Convention. (Hat tip: Instapundit)


 
Bush
By Mike Rappaport

According to the New York Times:

President Bush, responding to criticism that he should act against groups attacking John Kerry's war record, will pursue legal action against all "shadowy" outside groups on both sides of the campaign's fence that use unregulated funds to finance political advertising, the White House announced today.

"The president said he wanted to work together to pursue court action to shut down all the ads and activity by these shadowy 527 groups," the chief White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters aboard Air Force One. "If the court action doesn't work, then he would be willing to pursue legislative action and work with Senator McCain on that."
I am sorry, but Bush is not making it easy to support him. I don't trust Kerry to fight terror, so I will vote for Bush. But Bush is making me have to hold my nose tighter and tighter in order to cast the ballot for him.

Compare Bush to Ronald Reagan, whose veto of the Fairness Doctrine did so much to promote the new media and media diversity. Bush signed McCain Feingold and now he is attempting to try to stop speech by unorganized interests. It is just outrageous.


August 25, 2004
 
Krauthammer
By Mike Rappaport

A great column by Charles Krauthammer on President Bush's decision to redeploy troops from their positions in Europe and Korea that were set during the Cold War. Here is a taste:

Democrats accuse the administration of politicizing the redeployment by bringing it up as a campaign issue. This truly is precious. The Democrats turned their convention into a four-day teach-in celebrating the Swift boats of the Mekong River circa 1968 -- and then question the legitimacy of raising as a campaign issue for the consideration of the nation the most significant redeployment of U.S. troops abroad since the Korean War.

The New York Times editorial page offered this reason for maintaining the status quo: Otherwise, "the military will also lose the advantage that comes with giving large numbers of its men and women the experience of living in other cultures." Seventy-thousand GIs parked in Stuttgart, practicing their German and listening to Wagner. Finally, a military deployment the New York Times can support.


 
The Perfect as the Enemy of the Good
By Mike Rappaport

An illustration of that error in an argument for why sports that require judges should not be part of the Olympics.


 
Resolving the Paul Hamm Controversy
By Mike Rappaport

Allen Barra on Opinion Journal argues that there should be a "do over": a one on one competition between Hamm and South Korea's Yang Tae Young. While Barra is right that this would be great for the public and ratings, I think it would be unfair to the athletes to have to compete again at this stage. Instead, I think Young should also be awarded a gold medal.


August 24, 2004
 
How Roe Survived
By Mike Rappaport

Two interesting posts by Jack Balkin on how Roe avoided being overruled first in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in 1989 and then in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992.


 
In Defense of Price Gouging
By Mike Rappaport

The argument: Its a way to speed up the provision of goods and services in times of great demand or emergency.


 
Marxism
By Mike Rappaport

Some months ago, Tom and I both had posts about what Marxism might have contributed to our knowledge (but I can't seem to find them now). Now, Tyler Cowan has some interesting thoughts on the matter.


 
"'Shut Up,' They Explained", or, Free Speech and the Kerry Administration
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The Swiftvets have given Senator Kerry a bad week, but the reaction from the Kerry campaign and its media alter egos raises the question what attitude a possible Kerry administration (and its media admirers) would have more generally, after the election, toward critics and criticism. No doubt you can't judge conclusively from what happens in the heat of a campaign, but the indications about Kerry & Co aren't good, and bring to mind Damon Runyon's famous line "'Shut up', he explained".

The New Republic (legitimately a magazine of opinion, so no false colours about "just reporting the news") last week ran a piece by Kenneth Baer -- identified as "a senior former speechwriter to Al Gore" -- calling for aggressive libel lawsuits against the vets. Lawsuits wouldn't come to trial before the election, Baer concedes, but they would "send a message that there will be serious repercussions for anyone who wants to fund or appear" in such ads. Beyond the Don Corleone talk about "serious repercussions", Baer isn't shy about using the phrase "chilling effect" as the goal for the lawsuits he wants: "chilling effect" being precisely what the courts have long said the First Amendment forbids where free speech is concerned.

The New Republic piece, slightly unhinged as it may have been, wasn't an isolated phenomenon. The press and broadcast networks ignored the Swiftvets as long as they could, then came out swinging -- or sneering -- at them, ignoring the points that even the Kerry campaign has had to concede (Kerry's Christmas-eve adventures in Cambodia: "seared, seared" in his memory...) and the points that are matters of public record (Kerry's "war criminals" testimony, and his not-so-brief involvement with the far-left sectarians at "Vietnam Veterans Against the War"). The New York Times editorial denouncing the Swiftvets, as Mickey Kaus rightly says, amounted to saying that the Swiftvets' ad "should be stopped because you just shouldn't be able to make such 'outlandish' independent charges in a campaign".

Senator Kerry has indeed gone to court to try to silence the Swiftvets, though with a Federal Election Commission "campaign reform" complaint, not a libel suit. (In a libel suit, truth is a defence: if the ads are shown to be true, they are not libel under the law.) (How could someone with the political sophistication of a "senior" Al Gore aide have missed such an elementary point? Oh. Right. Never mind.)

The New York Times, for its part, had a busy week commanding "silence": it wasn't just critics of Senator Kerry whom the Times wants shut up. Another object of the Times' admiration, Venezuelan bravo Hugo Chavez, may have fraudulently declared himself the victor in his country's referendum last week, but the Times will brook no discussion of that either:
    It is time for President Hugo Chavez's opponents to stop pretending that they speak for most Venezuelans. They do not. The opposition... needs to stop shouting foul.
As Best Of The Web points out, the Venezuelan vote -- and possible stealing of the election -- was last week; the New York Times is still shouting foul about the election of President Bush three years ago...

So what does all this portend for how a possible Kerry Administration will brook -- or refuse to brook -- criticsm?

It's no secret that George Bush has been the object of relentless and scurrilous attack for a year and more, but Bush has never suggested that his denouncers should be silenced, much less has he taken steps to silence them. Senator Kerry and his supporters, to put it gently, are more uninhibited.

The problem, perhaps, is not just that John Kerry, personally, has a thin skin, though he evidently has. It is not even that Kerry and many of his enthusiasts are people of the post-1960s Left, and that both on campus and off, the culture of the post-1960s Left is so often overtly contemptuous of free speech (for anyone but leftists, of course).

There may be a deeper, "structural" problem for a possible Kerry Administration where criticism and free speech is concerned. Senator Kerry himself evidently thinks that in order to be elected, he has to mislead at least part of the electorate. The root of it is Kerry's decades-long political record, and his evident sympathies, on the far left of the American political spectrum. Such a record and such sympathies, if plainly set forth, would be unlikely to command a majority in an American presidential election. Hence the mendacious "militarism" of the Democratic Convention. Hence Kerry's public statements on all possible sides of the Iraq question.

When a politician is elected -- even with a narrow majority -- on a reasonably forthright platform, or even with a general political stance that is pretty clear, that politician will have something of a mandate, and need not be unduly fearful of critics and criticism. But a politician who is elected by deliberately misleading voters has far more to fear from critics who might point out the discrepancies, contradictions, and lies.

Perhaps, after the election, the press (and networks, etc) would give fair coverage to critics of President Kerry, and to any possible efforts by a Kerry Administration to squelch criticism. (Remember Richard Nixon's wild oval office talk, and occasional actual efforts, to use the IRS, FBI, etc, against his "enemies".) The media didn't just squelch the Clinton scandals, after all.

Then again, the level of media partisanship is far higher now than it was in the Clinton years, and whereas Clinton really was a "New Democrat" on many issues -- and hence out of synch with many journalists -- the Kerry-media symbiosis might remain much stronger even after the election, and journalists might be much more prone to share a siege mentality with Kerry against critics and criticism.

So from a civil liberties and free speech point of view, as well as in other ways, John Kerry's "character", and that of his leading supporters, surely bears watching.

Meantime, all honour to veteran civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, for raising the right questions about Kerry, the media, freedom of debate, and the Swiftvets.

UPDATE: "'Shut up', he explained" wasn't Damon Runyon, it was Ring Lardner of course, in a short story called "The Young Immigrants". (Hat tip to Peter Connolly in Washington D.C.)

FURTHER UPDATE: In a libel case, it's not that "truth is a defence" but rather that the plaintiff has to prove that the contested statement is false. This is important from a free speech point of view, because it makes it harder for a plaintiff to win a judgment and to squelch the "libel". (Hat tip to Walter Diercks, Washington D.C.)


 
Posner's First Day
By Mike Rappaport

He did 6 substantive posts, for a total of nearly 3000 words, on his first day of blogging. Just amazing.


August 23, 2004
 
527 or Fight!
By Mike Rappaport

The swiftboat controversy continues. The New York Times reports that George Bush has asked that all of the 527 ads (that is, independent ads) should stop. Of course, the great majority of these ads have been run by Democrats, such as Moveon.org.

While Bush's position makes sense politically -- it allows him to stand above the fray -- I don't like it substantively. Sorry, there is such a thing as free speech and people are entitled to run ads voicing their views, even if they hurt the liberal media's only hope for the election and even if, more doubtfully, they complicate the Republican's election plan.

It is worth while thinking through the logical implication of these criticisms of 527 groups: it would end up in a world where the only two entities who could talk freely during elections would be the media and political parties/candidates. Sorry, but privileging of such organized groups does have some resemblance to what used to be understood as fascism.

I understand the New York Times wants to shut everybody up but themselves, but, for a little while at least, it is a free country.


 
Two at Marginal Revolution
By Mike Rappaport

James Surowiecki, the author of the recent book the Wisdom of Crowds, is guest blogging over at Marginal Revolution.

Also, guest blogger Eric Helland tries to justify the military's existing practice of providing subsidized breast enhancements and other plastic surgery to military personnel and their family. His argument is plausible, but not really something that would fly as a political justification.


 
Posner!
By Mike Rappaport

Richard Posner is blogging this week over at Larry Lessig's blog. What a treat!


August 22, 2004
 
Was 9/11 intended for 9/18?
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting and sinister theory about 9/11. (Hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy).


 
The Content of Blogs
By Mike Rappaport

Stephen Bainbridge toyed with the idea of splitting his blog into two blogs (one for legal analysis, the other for an eclectic mix of subjects), held a poll, and received an overwhelming response to keep it one blog.

The result does not surprise me, both as to Bainbridge's blog and I would guess for most blogs. The mix of topics, combining serious and light matters as well as a range of subjects, is part of the charm of blogs. Another blog that comes to mind as having an interesting mix is Brian Leiter's, where one can find discussions of serious philosophy, analysis of the academy generally, and left wing politics. Both Bainbridge and Leiter would be less interesting to me without the mix.

I would also hope that group blogs are able to provide a mix of topics. At the Right Coast, we hope that readers enjoy reports from the Smith dinner table, the latest news from or about Europe, stories from the affirmative action wars, and discussions about constitutional law.


 
Does Size Matter?
By Gail Heriot

Nothing would give me greater joy than to allow Texas to divide itself into five states, thus enabling it to send 10 (mostly conservative) senators to Washington instead of two. I love Texas. I love Texas so much I want to spread the love around.

Such is the tongue-in-cheek (well ... maybe not so tongue-in-cheek) recommendation of Vasan Kesavan and Michael Paulsen in today's OpinionJournal. They point out that Congress already gave its permission for such a move back in 1845 in the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas passed by Congress and signed into law by President John Tyler. All that remains is for the Texas legislature and governor to follow through. The citizens of Texas have been under-represented in the Senate long enough; it's time to correct the problem.

Alas, the Texans I know are unlikely to go for it. They like the Big Texas symbolism, and nothing is likely to change their minds. Maybe it's all for the best. The process of naming the five new states would be a difficult one. Most Texans are proud to call themselves Texans, so things might get a little ugly in deciding which state had the right to retain the name. They can't imitate the Antilles with Greater Texas, Lesser Texas, etc., since that's just not in the Texas spirit. My guess is they would end up with the bland N. Texas, E.Texas. W.Texas, S. Texas and Austin (that being the only part of Texas where you would find many people who don't want to be called Texan). But I'm sure that better names can be devised.

I'm not from Texas; I'm from California, so I won't get myself involved. But as long as we're on the subject of carving up states, I feel duty bound as a former Virginian to point out the controversy over the legality of West Virginia. As Kesavan and Paulsen show, the Constitution does not allow a state to be made out of an already-existing state without the permission of both the already-existing state and Congress.

West Virginia got the latter, but did it get the former? Here's the story: In 1862, Virginia was in rebellion. But pro-union sentiment in the mountainous western part of the state was strong. A rump session of the Virginia legislature consisting only of westerners met in the west and claimed to be the "true" Virginia legislature, loyal to the union. This group authorized the creation of West Virginia. The same group, calling themselves the West Virginia legislature, then turned around and petitioned for admission to the Union. It was all highly irregular, but, times being what they were, their petition was accepted.

As far as I know, Virginia never challenged this. Maybe Virginians thought they were better off. But it's interesting to think about which politicians might never have been ....


 
Moments from family life
By Tom Smith

DAD: Patrick, don't pick through the bacon!
PATRICK: I'm looking for the good pieces!
* * *
DAD: Where do you want to go to lunch?
LUKE: Let's go to McDonald's. You can have five Big Macs wrapped in lettuce and really lose some weight!
* * *
WILLIAM: Rrrrrrrrrrr! Arrrrghhhhhhhh!
DAD: Luke, stop sitting on William's head!
LUKE: He said I could!
* * *
DAD walks into TGIF's with three boys, and one male infant, aged 10 months.
WAITRESS: Would you like a menu for the baby?
DAD: No, I'll just order for him.
* * *
LADY at TGIF's: Your boys are very well behaved. You should be proud of them.
DAD: Thank you.
[LADY leaves]
PATRICK: She obviously doesn't know about the Taser.


 
Mysterious changing headlines
By Tom Smith

I could have sworn the headline on this story in the WaPo was different when it originally appeared on Friday, I think. Now the headline implies the stories on both sides, Kerry and Swiftvets, are incomplete. But the original headline, I think, implied that the Swiftvets story was 'flawed and incomplete', without saying the same of the Kerry version. Now the headline seems to have been fixed. Apparently retroactively, as well, since the print version online (so to speak) has the new, improved headline as well. Am I just behind on my Ginko-Baloba (where did I leave my damn bottle of the stuff?!) or is the Post rewriting headlines they get flack for? Can they do that (ethically I mean)? Isn't there kind of a blogospheric norm that you don't go back and change your posts, except to correct typos, and do minor tweaks? If the Post did rewrite a headline to correct an obvious bias, they would be doing something considered a no-no by the norm masters of bloggery. Tsk. Tsk. If so, not very professional of that great journalistic organ, eh?

Please note: I could be wrong! Memory is a mysterious thing! However, I expect full credit if I am right.

(Note to younger readers: Ginko-Baloba is an herbal supplement we middle aged people sometimes take to improve memory. I doesn't work.)


 
Russian Medals
By Mike Rappaport

So far in the Olympics, the US is leading with 48 total medals, China is second with 41, and Russia is third with 34. Yet, if one adds up the total medals of all the countries in the former Soviet Union, that would make 63. Apparently, it is not the fall of communism, but the end of empire that has led the Russian/Soviets to decline.


August 20, 2004
 
Tax Reparations
By Mike Rappaport

Paul Caron discusses Alan Keyes's proposal for exempting Afrian Americans from taxation as a means of providing them with reparations from slavery. I don't favor reparations, but Keyes's proposal does show that reparations need not be unduly statist. Reparations in the form of exemptions from taxes would be a lot better than reparations in the form of a government welfare program.


 
Let's get to the bottom of this
By Tom Smith

Call me idiosyncratic, but to me the most troubling accusation that John O'Neill has made is, well, to quote his interview on the Lehrer News Hour:

JOHN O'NEILL: No. What we've said is his first and third Purple Hearts, which he used to leave Vietnam very early after about four months, we've said that there is almost conclusive evidence that those were fraudulent, that is that they resulted from self-inflicted wounds.
JIM LEHRER: Self-inflicted? He intentionally wounded himself?
JOHN O'NEILL: Oh, no, he didn't intentionally wound himself. He threw grenades, in one case fired and in another case threw a grenade.
They were very close to him and he wounded himself with his own grenade. He didn't mean to.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's stop here --

Let's stop, indeed, before this gets out of hand. From earlier in the interview, we learn said grenade accident caused Kerry to be wounded in his nether regions. Now, this is my point. In politics, love and life, there is such a thing as luck. It is a cruel fact, but there are people who throw grenades not far enough, and get shrapnel in their butts, and those who don't. I am not trying to be funny here. I avoid grenades partly for this very reason. I look at them, and just intuitively think, there's something that could harm my bottom. Hence, I don't even own a grenade. But I don't want to be president. To be President, you need to be the sort of person who is mysteriously blessed, whom God loves for peculiar reasons of his own. Now marrying a billionaireness might count in Kerry's favor on his score, but that is cancelled out by her personality. We are back to those offending fragments. They are evidence, damning evidence in my view, that Kerry's karma is way out of whack. If half the stories of his cutting to the front of the line, abusing subordinates, calling Secret Service agents names, etc., etc, are true, the guy is a walking karma black hole, with shrapnel wounds in his butt to prove it. We knew beyond doubt this was the case with Carter when he was attacked by the crazed rabbit. Can you imagine Reagan being attacked by a rabbit? You cannot. I don't care about Cambodia. I want to know, did Kerry, or did he not, blow up his butt with his own grenade? If the answer is yes, then, I'm sorry, but he cannot be our Chief. Irrational prejudice still counts for something in this country.

ON THE OTHER HAND, this is not so funny.


August 19, 2004
 
The Empire Strikes Back
By Mike Rappaport

The Kerry Campaign, er, the New York Times, attacks the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." I guess this is what Oliphant meant by objective journalism.


 
More on Swiftboats
By Mike Rappaport

I also saw the Leher interview with Tom Oliphant and John O'Neill over the swiftboats controversy that Tom recounts immediately below. I have not really been following the controversy, but based on that interview, I am led to take the story seriously. Not only was Oliphant's rhetoric overblown and his evidence underwhelming, but O'Neil came across substantive, calm, and in command of the facts. I would not be surprised if the Kerry campaign is worried.


 
That was annoying
By Tom Smith

Glen Reynolds was right on in predicting how the mainstream media would spin the Swiftboat story, as least as far as Jim Lehrer goes. You can read his interview with John O'Neill here. Thomas Oliphant (whom I can never look at without imagining him in one of those propeller beanies) was there to uphold the honor of the daily press. I thought he was pathetic, but my lovely wife Jeanne thought he did OK.

Most annoying was Oliphant's repeating, over and over, that O'Neill's allegations simply did not live up to the standards of evidence required by the legitimate press. Oh please. It's rather late in the day to stand on the daily papers' claim to journalistic objectivity. O'Neill says he has sworn statements from eight officers and four sailors to the effect that Kerry left the scene of the incident of the action for which Kerry got his bronze star, and only came back later. The testimony of 12 eyewitnesses is evidence, and a lot more than the one or two anonymous sources behind many stories in the regular press.

Then there's this instructive exchange:

JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. [Green Beret rescued by Kerry] Rassmann says there was [hostile] fire.
JOHN O'NEILL: He does.
JIM LEHRER: He says there was fire from both... is that not right?
TOM OLIPHANT: He says, as does the citation and the Bronze Stars awarded both to Kerry and to this fellow who has a memory now of the facts that is contradicted by the facts as cited in his own medal --
JIM LEHRER: Go ahead --
JOHN O'NEILL: His own medal citation was produced 100 miles north based on Kerry's own report. He got it after he left Vietnam.
The next major problem I have is you need to understand this is a 75-yard-wide canal. These boats were sitting there, the four boats, stable, totally there for an hour-and-a-half trying to save the three boat.
Nobody was wounded. There is no bullet hole in any boat. There is no damage of any kind. So the problems they have are massive and multiple.
JIM LEHRER: We cannot resolve that here. . . .

In other words, unless the VC/NVA were shooting blanks or blindfolded, it's hard to believe there was fire, as Kerry claimed. And the physics of the story seem consistent with no hostile fire. As between eyewitness testimony and the account of a guy who was in effect applying for a citation, the former seems at least as credible. So, time to change the subject!

Also, check this out:

JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at swiftvets.com, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --
TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.

Too, too funny. Oliphant says that what the Swiftvets are for Bush, the daily papers are for Kerry. Meaning what? Surrogates? That's correct, but Oliphant probably didn't mean to say it quite that way.


 
Sjostrom on Krugman
By Tom Smith

This seem right to me. Krugman has lost it a bit.


 
Claremont McKenna College Professor Guilty
By Gail Heriot

For those of you who are following the story of the psychology professor who sent Claremont McKenna College into a tizzy when she falsely reported that she was the victim of a hate crime, the Los Angeles Times reports that she was found guilty of attempted insurance fraud and filing a false police report.


 
The Media Meltdown
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Very thoughtful and reflective piece by Frederick Turner at Tech Central Station on the intellectual and social trends that at least partly explain the systematic press and broadcast-media campaign against Bush.
    [T]he huge majority of journalists and professors are left liberals: no cause for alarm in itself, but troubling when the brakes of traditional critical analysis have been disabled, as they were by the deconstructionist ideology of the schools. And the general reader is beginning to realize that there is indeed a systematic bias in the traditional news media.

    [M]any young journalists in the great organs of record, rejecting the fact/opinion distinction, turned to the idea of using their new command over the means of information production to [push the country to the left]. Remembering their professors' nostalgic stories of Vietnam protest, and indulgently encouraged by their Boomer editors, they took the war in Iraq as the ideal occasion. They had a villain from Texas with an accent and an apparent ignorance of university manners, the smoldering resentments of the Florida recount, a wealth of horrifc footage supplied by Al-Jazeera, and an expertise in spin provided both by their rhetoric professors and by the advertising profession (laundered through political campaign strategising). How could they fail?

    But what could they gain? Perhaps the next election, if the American people realize too late that their informational wells have been spiked. But if afterward at least 40% of the public no longer believes the mainstream press and is, from the moment the election is over, furious about being lied to and vigilant to avenge itself on the perpetrators, the new president will be incapable of pressing home any of the programs desired by the aspiring Boomer professional elites that the press represents. So the gain might indeed be only a trifle.
If Senator Kerry should be elected with crucial cover from the campaigning media -- aided to whatever extent by the mendacious "militarism" of the Democratic convention -- I think Turner may overestimate how quickly the broad public will realize it has been lied to, and how coherently that public will coalesce against any Kerry agenda that turns out to be in the spirit of today's academic left.

But then again, it could happen very fast, especially if the Islamist international is emboldened, which it seems to me it almost certainly will be. John Kerry himself is unlikely, to put it as kindly as possible, to be a Reagan of the left: a figure that Americans warm to almost regardless of politics. A really nasty person (we at TheRightCoast don't know any such people) might almost hope for a Kerry victory in November, reckoning that what ensues would probably discredit the American left for a very long time.

Read Frederick Turner's post.


 
Recommendations from Professors
By Tom Smith

With all respect to Eugene, I think recommendations from the professors of applicants for law professor jobs are a waste of time. Rarely, the recommendation will say something impressive, like "this is the best student I have had in 20 years of teaching," and be from somebody not given to exaggeration. Usually, however, all the letter does is prove that the student took the time to suck up to the professor recommending him. Indeed, while such a study would make one unpopular, I would bet a survey of the most overrated, tedious and puffed-up law professors in the academy would reveal that they were, by objective measures, such as grades, less qualified than others, but that they got their job because some worthy intoned that "he (or very frequently she) is the best student I have blah blah blah."

At Yale, the upsucking was a veritable industry. It got to the point that I suggested that professors announce at the end of class that those students who wanted merely to suck up please wait for those who had genuine questions. Of course, this was naive, because it overlooks the fact that one of the most effective upsucking techniques is to ask a question that reveals that you have thought long and deeply about your professor's profoundly dumb idea. I suppose that this is, in fact, a valuable skill in the academy.

In my limited experience, having recommendations from large gorillas matters a lot more if you are trying to get a job at a top ten law school, and you have not yet written any of the brilliant articles you have convinced someone you someday will.

Most of the recommendations stuff is just old boy and girl networking. What you really want is some sort of objective measure of a person's talent. This is why gold medals at the Olympics are not awarded on the basis of who has the best letters. "Without a doubt, Sally Salmon is the fastest swimmer I have ever had the privilege to coach in my blah blah blah." I would like to see professorships awarded by examination, as for example fellowships at All Souls at Oxford are, though I imagine that process is probably more corrupt than it looks, fetching female scholars doing well in a way that rather defies the laws of statistics. Awarding jobs on the basis of a track record of published articles is sensible, of course.

Ah, but I am leaving out that inestimable quality, colleagiality. This is the quality that junior, untenured faculty members display in sucking up to more senior faculty members, no matter how unworthy of admiration they may be. And true enough, the knack for it can be demonstrated by one's upsucking skills as a student. I remember a particularly gagging meeting I had with professor-maker Bruce Ackerman at Yale, in which I had gone to ask him how one went about becoming a law professor. (That's how dumb I was.) He replied "It's simple. You have to make us like you." I managed to stop myself from saying "But what if I think you're a dick? Could you still like me?" Nevertheless, it was a truly yucky moment. I ended up hitting it off with Bob Bork, which probably explains a lot about me. In spite of his demonic reputation and admitted appearance (he is proof that not everyone should be allowed to make their own decisions about facial hair), Bork was as nice a man as you could hope to meet, in a rather shy way, and very smart.

Come to think of it, Eugene is right. In this fallen world, students who want to be law professors when they grow up should find some professors, preferably those with vast influence, and attach to them like a lovable leech. Disgusting, but true.


August 18, 2004
 
Girlie Men in Germany?
By Gail Heriot

This really ... uh ... pissed me off, if you'll pardon the expression, though I suppose that being a woman I have no ... uh ... standing to complain. In any event, the Telegraph reports that German men are now being "shamed into urinating while sitting down" by a goofy gadget that tells them, "'Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble you'd best sit down.'" (Hat tip: Best of the Web).

According to the article, this will save "millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them." But it seems unlikely to me that this is being driven by anything of the kind. The article further reports that the phrase for someone who sits and urinates is "sitzpinkler," another word for "wimp." What better symbolic target for those who oppose the very concept of masculinity or of masculine virtue?

Of course, there's nothing in the article that states that any German governmental unit actually imposes such fines. And, no, I don't think that's next, not even in Germany. It only says that the gadgets are available for purchase (and 1.8 million have sold). Call it an assault on masculinity conducted in the private sector.


 
The Truth
By Mike Rappaport

Brian Leiter is back from vacation and up to his old politics. He says of Tom Harkin's criticism of Dick Cheney for failing to serve in Vietnam: "This is beautiful and long overdue." Leiter continues: "This needs to be said as often as possible. And loudly. Rudely. Offend someone with it. 'The truth is terrible' said my favorite German philosopher."

Glenn Reynolds, however, has the goods on Harkin. Leiter is right: Harkin apparently does believe that the "truth is terrible" so he lied repeatedly about his own war record.

Of course, pointing out the possibility that John Kerry lied about his war record -- when unlike Cheney, Kerry has made his war record the centerpiece of his campaign -- is regarded by many as beyond the pale.


 
Economics and Sociology
By Mike Rappaport

Paul Krugman speaks at the American Sociological Association plenary session on the Future of Neoliberalism. Darn. How could I have missed this one?


 
Send us your police
By Tom Smith

This is absolutely correct. We need more police, especially in ludicrously underpoliced Southern California. It would make it more like Italy, which is a good thing. I like those caribineri strolling along with their sub-machine guns. But a few thousand of them in East LA and give the Bloods and Crips something to think about. The greatest beneficiaries would be poor, minority families liberated from rule by thugs.

I once had as a pro-bono client a housing project sponsored by a Catholic parish in Northeast DC. It was one of the few places not infested by drug dealers in the area. Some dealer got kicked out of the project and demanded to be able to come back to visit his mother or something. What he really wanted to do is sell drugs. He hired a lawyer, who called to say he and his client were going to march back into the project and that to stop him would violate his civil rights. We hired a bunch of off-duty cops as extra security and were waiting for him. They came, they saw, they left. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a bunch of guys with guns. Among them are peace, order and security, which you need to do anything else.


August 17, 2004
 
Gifted kids
By Tom Smith


Gifted kids face a lot of problems in school, and so do their parents. The Davidson Institute was established by the couple that made a fortune with games like MathBlaster, and are now full time philanthropists in education. I hear good things about them.

Public schools often practice a kind of thick headed egalitarianism, where the only way to get special attention is to bring a weapon to school or be the right type of victim. The public schools in our area explictly profess a "the gifted can take care of themselves" philosophy. La Jolla and other top districts have a GATE or "gifted and talented" program, but I am told to get into it, you have to perform very well on a spatial intuition test, which wouldn't do my oldest boy any good, who is lucky if he can tell a square from a triangle. Shapes apparently "discriminate" less against non-white persons. Since my oldest boy's giftedness runs straight down the middle of verbal intelligence, that doesn't do him much good.

One of the problems with gifted kids is that, perhaps by definition, their gifts tend to be unique or at least unusual. One kid might be a mathematical prodigy, but not particularly good at language or creative writing. Another might be the next J.K. Rowling, but unable to grasp square roots. They tend to demand individual attention, which most schools don't want to give, and may not be able to. Gifted kids often get easily bored, which can make them less than a joy to be around. Some teachers think gifted means able to do twice the quantity of stupid homework they give to the rest of the kids. Kid despairs, ditches homework, gets a "C" and voila, problem of giftedness solved, since kid obviously isn't as smart as teacher (no rocket scientist) was told. Then there is the stigma in the culture against being smart, which makes you a geek or a nerd. You can try home schooling, but maybe you don't want to live in a trailer, so require two incomes, and fear your child will become socially isolated outside of school, which can very well happen.

We have our kids in a pretty good Catholic school, which does a fair job of accommodating special needs. It speaks volumes that having an IQ far outside the norm on the high side makes you "disabled" in a normal classroom, and yet it does. My poor sixth grader simply put his head on his desk and slept while one of his teachers, a remarkably dense human, would blather on about whatever coursed briefly through her uncluttered mind. It was very difficult to deal with. It was disrespectful, and yet she really was a boring idiot. Try explaining to a sixth grader with a very high IQ that in the long run it is in his interest to suffer fools gladly. I got into a lot of trouble in high school for treating certain nuns as if they were as stupid as they were. What would really be best would be private tutors, a la the English aristocracy.

There are good non-religious (for example, Episcopalian) private schools in San Diego, that weigh in at about $15K per kid per year, which for us would be $45K per year in after tax money, or $90K in income. So sad, but we don't have $90K in annual income to spend on grade school at the moment, what with nannies and vacations to pay for. Even if we did, it's not entirely clear these schools are a boon to gifted kids either. The law of large numbers and regression to the mean being as ruthless as they are, the children of the wealthy tend to be somewhat but not dramatically smarter than most kids, and these schools seem geared to their constituencies, rather than to unusually bright, and unusual in other ways as well, kids. I'm not convinced it would be worth the money, in our case.

While I'm at it, I suggest you read a chapter in almost any of the science or history textbooks used in elementary or middle school, public or private. Written by committees, apparently, of total hacks, these texts manage to take inherently interesting topics and absolutely butcher them. I mean, how do you make volcanoes boring? Believe me, it can be done. Earthquakes and tidal waves? Yawn. It is truly an outrage. Any educated person, and I mean it, could write a better science text than the ones we force our kids to use. I mean for heaven's sake, just start by descibing the carnage done by a big volcanic eruption, and go from there. Jane is swallowed by lava. Why does she burst spontaneously into flame? Because lava is X degrees and the human body burns at Y degrees. What's lava? Explain briefly, then move on. John is crushed by a volcanic bomb. What is a volcanic bomb? Explain. How hard could that be? Maybe it would work better for boys than girls, but that's half the population. I would have the kids so terrified they would want to know all about the intricacies of volcanoes just so they'd hope to have a chance of survival. The political correctness of the history texts is also stifling and ridiculous. The standard California state history pablum on the missions depicts them as concentration camps. Yet the Mexicans are also victims, even though they are the ones that enslaved the Indians (assuming that's what handing out food and religion amounts to), which is quite a trick. The only absolute moral value in these materials, apparently, is recycling. For a while, my kids were coming home preaching about how we were not to throw away newspapers and the like. I put a stop to that nonsense in a hurry, I can tell you.


 
Hair Issues
Tom Smith

Kerry gets a haircut. But it doesn't do that much good. Here's my personal stylist.


 
Honourable Despair from the Left
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Read Nick Cohen's very unusual piece in last week's New Statesman, Britain's left-wing weekly. Cohen despairs -- rightly, I think -- of today's left, just as that very left seems to have largely captured the Democratic Party. "Those who used to burn with anger against oppression and were united in fraternity with the vulnerable are today all too happy to whitewash Saddam's regime and applaud Michael Moore's films."
    One expects the totalitarian left to be stuffed with creeps. But the collapse of the democratic left strikes me as catastrophic.

    There no longer is a left with a coherent message of hope for the human race. The audiences at Michael Moore films don't look at his propaganda images of kite-flying kiddies and pull themselves up short by thinking of what happened to their comrades in Iraq. They have no comrades. They don't support Saddam. They don't support his foes. They have no policy to offer. The noise of their self-righteous anger is merely cover for an indifference bred of failure.

    Marxism-Leninism is as dead as any idea can be -- it made the fatal blunder of putting its ideas into practice and died of shame. Fifty years ago there were revolutionary socialist movements in dozens of countries ready to take power. Today there isn't one, and the world is a better place for that.

    The pity of the aftermath is that while the honourable traditions of the left are forgotten, the worst flourish and mutate into aberrations that would have made our predecessors choke.
Read the whole thing.


August 16, 2004
 
Harry Potter
By Mike Rappaport

I am in the middle of the fifth Harry Potter, which is great fun and also a bit funnier than the other books, I think. For those, like my son, who are always trying to figure out what is going to happen in the next book, J. K. Rowlings has provided a few hints:

There are two questions I don't think I've ever been asked and that I should have been asked, if you know what I mean," she said.

First, she indicated that the crowd should consider "not 'why did Harry live' but 'why didn't Voldemort die?'" Next, she posed the question: "Why didn't [Hogwarts School headmaster] Dumbledore kill, or try to kill, Voldemort?"


 
Naked Woman appears on instapundit
By Tom Smith

I am sorry to have to be the one to report this, but there is a picture of a naked woman on instapundit. Yes, I am referring to the tasteful ad for romantic art in the right hand column, which shows the shapely bum of a naked person of the female sex and quite probably female gender as well. What, Glen Reynolds does not get enough hits without resorting to such questionable tactics? Let me assure all readers of the Right Coast that we will never resort to this, at least not while we are still using Blogger, which makes posting photos anything but intuitive.


 
Reciprocity and Civilization
By Mike Rappaport

I see that Tom (immediately below) also found this post from the Belmont Club of interest. Here is a long excerpt (italics mine):

The principal damage inflicted by the War on Terror has not been to material objects or to human lives, although there have been enough of those. Compared to the tens of millions killed during World War 2 or the millions killed during the Cold War (more than 100,000 Americans in Korea and Vietnam; over a million NVA alone), the current losses have barely nudged the Satanic scale. But the damage inflicted against the fabric of civilization has been immense.

Civilization does not principally consist of bricks and mortar, but in a set of commonly accepted values and restraints. If the inhabitants of the sub-Saharan Africa and the United States could be exchanged instanteously; the one materializing in suburban homes and the other in wattle huts, the material imbalance would be reversed again within ten years, because the technology and civilization of Americans is carried in their heads and not in their possessions. There would be nothing Americans could not rebuild in Africa; and there would be nothing Africans could repair or replace in America.

So the most terrifying effect of the War so far has been in the slow destruction of taboos and imperatives which collectively allowed civilization to function. One writer observed that although Britain has possessed nuclear weapons for nearly 60 years no one worried about a UK attack on New York city. He might have added that no one in London lost any sleep over the prospect of an American nuclear strike on Picadilly Circus. The electronics, physics and rocketry check out fine; it was civilization that held them back. The concept of assymetric warfare was supposed to exploit the "fact" that transnational terrorist organizations operating in areas of chaos could strike at a civilization hamstrung by constraints. They could attack orphanages and then seek shelter in the Church of the Nativity; they could fly wide bodied aircraft into Manhattan, then seek shelter in "sovereign" Afghanistan; they could call for the death of millions from the pulpits of Qom; they could fire mortars from the Imam Ali Shrine and never expect the favor to be returned. But the logical flaw in this conception was that civilization could put aside these constraints in a moment. Hiroshima and Dresden are reminders that it could.


 
Journalists out of Najaf
By Tom Smith

This is interesting at Belmont Club.


 
Canadian health care
By Tom Smith

Canadians appear to be dissatisfied with their health care system. The answer? More government spending, of course. Americans (as opposed to North Americans) already pay for a lot of Canadians' drug expenses, but that's not enough apparently. Actually, I suspect these numbers do not reveal how deep dissatisfaction with Canada's health care system is. Typically, polls give each respondent a vote, regardless of how much contact they have had with health care. Healthy people tend to like their doctors and assume they will get good care when they need it, far too optimistically in the case of our chilly neighbour to the north. A far better question to ask would be, how do sick people feel about the health care system? It would also be good if you could adjust for all the sick people who would express dissatisfaction if they had not died waiting to get surgery.


August 15, 2004
 
A Newspaper Piece on Blogging
By Mike Rappaport

See this Washington Times piece. The first line of the article reads, "You know blogging has gone mainstream when air-conditioning contractors are doing it."


 
Bush Wins with 57.5 Percent
By Mike Rappaport

So says a Yale Economists. Here is an excerpt:

Q: As a professor of economics at Yale, you are known for creating an econometric equation that has predicted presidential elections with relative accuracy.

A: My latest prediction shows that Bush will receive 57.5 percent of the two-party votes.

Q: The polls are suggesting a much closer race.

A: Polls are notoriously flaky this far ahead of the election, and there is a limit to how much you want to trust polls.

Q: Why should we trust your equation, which seems unusually reductive?

A: It has done well historically. The average mistake of the equation is about 2.5 percentage points.
I strongly recommend reading the entire little piece. The questioner almost seems like a parody of a New York Times journalist, but I think she is being genuine.


 
Art for Artists' Sake
By Gail Heriot

"What public art does best is impossible to measure," testified one artist bent on receiving legally-mandated subsidies for himself and his fellow artists. Precisely. And that is a large part of the reason the City of San Diego (and hundreds of other cities across the country) should have refrained from requiring private commercial and industrial projects to pay such subsidies. Since it's impossible to tell whether the buyer of public art is getting his money's worth, it makes a lot of sense to let him or her make the decision whether to make the investment. After all, it's their money; they are less likely to make foolish mistakes with it than others.

The San Diego City Council nevertheless voted a little while ago to require private companies building commercial and industrial projects worth $5 million or more to spend at least 1% of their budgets on public art (to else "donate" half that amount to the San Diego's Public Art Fund). Where I come from, that's a lot of money--much of which will likely eventually come out of consumers' pockets. And if the public art it produces is like most of the public art I have seen, it will be money down a rat hole. I for one would rather see the money spent on landscaping (or as Joyce Kilmer might have put it, "I think that I shall never see a legally-mandated public sculpture as lovely as a tree"). And I'm not usually regarded as a complete philistine in these matters.

Not surprisingly, those testifying in favor of the law tended to be artists themselves, who stood to benefit financially from its passage. I'm curious. When Congress conducts hearings on whether to purchase a new weapons system for the military, do members seek out the opinions of military contractors who stand to gain financially if the project is approved? If they ever do, I hope the media takes them to the woodshed for it. But when potential beneficiaries for San Diego's art tax testified in its favor, as far as I can tell, no one in the local media peeped. Maybe it's considered impolite to accuse artists of behaving like pigs at a pig trough. They're so cool. And they provide us with immeasurable benefits. Yeah, yeah.


August 14, 2004
 
News From The USSR
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Two fascinating recent books on the history of the Soviet Union: Anne Applebaum's "Gulag: A History", and Simon Sebag Montefiore's "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar". Applebaum tells the story of the gulag camp system, in which ten million or more died. As a slave labour system, the gulag was a major factor in the economy of the USSR through many decades. The gulag was also fundamental to the political system in the USSR. Everyone in the country knew about the camps, knew what awaited at the slightest sign of disobedience, discontent, or lack of enthusiasm. Yet everyone knew that it was also forbidden even to mention the gulag aloud. Applebaum confirms the fundamental truths told by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, drawing on archives and other evidence that is available now but was not available to him.

Applebaum tells the story of Communism's tens of millions of victims in the USSR. Simon Sebag Montefiore tells the story of Stalin's inner circle -- his politburo and his family -- during the decades that he ruled the USSR. It is an absolutely fascinating story. Stalin based his dictatorship on mass murder, deployed on a uniquely vast scale. Yet he was also in many ways a skilful, and even an oddly personal, politician. He was the boss of what was essentially an organised crime syndicate which had taken over the world's largest country. A murderous lunatic, yet he also needed to understand and to charm his confederates, which he was very good at doing. So Stalin would personally visit the apartment that a new underling would be offered in Moscow, and decide whether it was good enough. He would personally prepare tea and sandwiches for Marshall Zhukov at a tense moment during World War II. Montefiore's book is full of stories like this. One of the horrors of a Stalin is that, in some ways, he was an exceptionally sensitive man, an acute reader of people. Evil on this scale has a horrible fascination. Montefiore has done brilliant research and tells the tale very well.

Applebaum and Montefiore are not academic writers: these books are free of the academic blindness to the horrors of Communism, a blindness that still persists among many of the hack "specialists". Read these books.


 
Why Americans Are Fat
By Mike Rappaport

Two Blowhards have the explanation.


August 13, 2004
 
Julia Child is Dead at 91
By Gail Heriot

I will miss Julia Child, who died just a little shy of her 92nd birthday. It's not because I aspire to be a great cook (I am an excellent eater, but a laughable cook). But there was something deeply lovable about this woman. And the fact she was 50 years old when she started her career as America's greatest authority on cooking makes her especially endearing. The whole world loves a late bloomer; they show us that there's still time.

What you may not know about Julia Child is that she was a American agent with the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the CIA) during World War II. Sort of anyway. The New York Times seems to pooh-pooh this phase of her life by writing that she had "fantasies of becoming a spy," but was actually simply a "file clerk in Ceylon." But if you were an American spy, wouldn't you tell the New York Times that you were just a file clerk? And at 6' 2", she must have been some file clerk ....


 
To Russia with the Teaching Company
By Mike Rappaport

I recently finished a course from the Teaching Company entitled "The History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev." A few years ago, I also listened to another course "The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of the 20th Century Russia," which mainly involved Soviet History.

The History of Russia course was OK. I would give it a B-. The strength of the course from my perspective was its coverage of Russian history from Peter the Great until the 1917 revolutions. Athough Mark Steinberg, who taught the course, is not an inspiring lecturer, he is clear and he covered what appeared to be the main points. One striking fact is just how socialist and leftist the Russian intellectuals were throughout the 19th century.

The weakness of the course was its coverage of the Communists and Stalin – in particular, Steinberg's lack of moral condemnation of Stalin. First, Steinberg omits several important events, such as the Volga Famine of 1920-1921, which Richard Pipes has called "the greatest human disaster in European history until then, other than those caused by war, since the Black Death." Second, he seems to be both insensitive about and to have a tin ear as to the moral aspects of Soviet Communism. He says things like, while Stalin was conducting the terror, still there was optimism among some of the people for the future. What is it about intellectuals that they treat Stalin in this way. If someone said that, although Hitler was causing a World War and murdering millions, nonetheless there was great excitement among the SS, he would be severely attacked and discredited. Steinberg says pretty much the same about Stalin, and few intellectuals think twice about it.

Nonetheless, other parts of the lectures are interesting. I especially liked the treatment of Gorbachav, who is displayed as someone who pursued his reforms because he was a true believer in Soviet Communism.

It has been a few years since I listened to Gary Hamburg's Course on the Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism, but I don't remember having these problems with it. Overall, I remember it being pretty good.


August 12, 2004
 
The Olympics in Ancient Greece
By Mike Rappaport

With the Olympics starting this week in Athens, many people are interested in how the original Olympics functioned in Ancient Greece. The Teaching Company has two lectures on this subject by Jeremy McInerney of the University of Pennsylvania, available for free on their web site. While I haven't listened to them yet, I have listened to 48 lectures by McInerney on Ancient Greece, which were pretty good.


August 11, 2004
 
Catching Osama
By Mike Rappaport

James Miller proposes putting a billion dollar bounty on Osama Bin Laden. The folks at Crooked Timber laugh at this, but Alex Taborrok answers them.


 
Democracy in the Arab World?
By Mike Rappaport

Danielle Pletka of AEI argues in the New York Times that the Iraq War and other efforts of the Bush Administration have put democracy on the agenda in Arab countries as never before. She also argues that Kerry's preference for stability over reform in the region may be misguided since the stability of the past may no longer be possible. In other words, a policy that promotes stability rather than democracy may produce neither.

It is quite interesting that George Bush appears to be the Wilsonian in foreign policy with Kerry taking on the role of a Kissingerian advocate of realism.

For my part, I am neither a Wilsonian nor a Kissingerian. I have supported the war in Iraq for multiple reasons, one of which is that this crusade for democracy is worth it, whereas our interventions in most other places are not. It is a selective Wilsonianism to support both American interests and democracy.


August 10, 2004
 
Southern Appeal Fraternity
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting post, showing the mutual respect of some of the co-bloggers over at Southern Appeal. I think my co-bloggers would be "players" as well.


 
McGinnis on Kramer
By Mike Rappaport

My sometime coauthor, John McGinnis, reviews Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer's new book on the Constitution:

The American Constitution also differs from the (unwritten) British one in its source of authority. In 1789 the Framers drafted a specific text that the people themselves ratified in every state. It is this consensus that gives the Constitution its power and justifies the disregard of even democratically made laws that conflict with it. But the meaning of that consensus can be discovered only by referring to the words themselves and to their historical context--not by relying on the "political-legal" interpretation that Mr. Kramer suggests. Constitutional interpretation based on politics places the people's own considered judgments at the mercy of rash and temporary majorities. Only a document fixed by law--and subject to strict rules of amendment--can protect, in the words of Justice David Brewer, "Peter Sober from Peter Drunk."
Coincidentally, I am now finishing a short paper that criticizes the law review article that Kramer's book is based upon. I plan to post that paper in the near future.


 
Ouch
By Tom Smith

So he throws like a girl. So what? All these personal attacks on Kerry are just wrong.


 
Iran
By Mike Rappaport

Did we invade the wrong country? Charles Krauthammer presents his views. (Hat tip: SFA)


 
A strange land
By Tom Smith

So if this is correct, and fashionable Brits refer to the people who live in Israel as "the Jews," shouldn't they also refer to Israel differently, just to be consistent? They could call it "Jewland" or perhaps "Jewlandia."

I wouldn't get invited to many dinner parties. I think the best thing we can do is win the war on terror, and then the fashionable Brits and the rest of them will go the way of the pre WWII British brownshirts, and cease ever to have existed. Indeed, they will take credit for having advocated a tough line on terrorism all along, isn't that right, darling? Making America fashionable again isn't the most pressing reason to defeat terrorism, but it is one of the collateral benefits. That is the logic of false friendship at the heart of the fashionable world.


August 09, 2004
 
The Moral Neutrality of Libertarianism
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting piece on libertarianism by Edward Feser. While I used to be natural rights libertarian, and am now more utilitarian and gradualist, I don't actually think the criticism made of the natural rights form of libertarianism in the article -- that it is not really neutral -- is correct. Nonetheless, the piece is interesting and well worth reading.


 
Guantanamo and Rasul
By Mike Rappaport

Here and here are two criticisms of the Bush Administration’s implementation of the Supreme Court’s Rasul decision, which held that the prisoners at Guantanamo had to be given access to the courts to file habeas petitions.

The criticisms imply that the Bush Administration is flouting the rule of law, but that is hardly the case. Rasul was a narrow decision. It did not indicate that the prisoners were entitled to the full panoply of constitutional rights that ordinary criminal defendants receive. In fact, it was decided on the narrow statutory ground that the prisoners have access to the court for habeas corpus review to determine the legality of their detention. The decision did not recognize any other rights for the detainees. For what it is worth, Rasul itself was questionable and appeared to depart from prior precedent.

While the critics can wish that the Bush Administration would treat the Guantanamo detainees as ordinary criminal defendants, there is nothing in the law, at least not yet, that requires it. And thus the Bush Administration would appear to be acting responsibly and legally.


August 08, 2004
 
Salma Hayek vs Friedrich Hayek
By Mike Rappaport

For Hayek fans, take a look at this comparison of the two Hayeks.


 
Michigan Decision Puts Public Use Requirement Back into Eminent Domain Law
By Gail Heriot

George Mason University's Ilya Somin writes for Sunday's Detroit News:

"The Michigan Supreme Court has overruled one of the worst judicial decisions of modern times. In County of Wayne v. Hathcock, the court reversed the infamous 1981 Poletown decision that allowed Detroit to use the power of eminent domain to take and bulldoze an entire neighborhood so General Motors could build a new factory. As a result of Poletown, more than 4,200 people lost their homes, 600 businesses and 16 churches were destroyed, and a historic community — known as Poletown after its large Polish-American population — was wiped out...."

Interesting reading.

Update: Michael DeBow pointed out to me that Thomas Bray also has a great column on the decision and that the Detroit Free Press wrote a favorable editorial.


 
SUVs
By Mike Rappaport

Should we ban SUVs? It turns out that they may already be prohibited throughout much of California.


August 07, 2004
 
Equation Update -- and Presidency of Israel
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed to explain E = mc2. It helped, although this is still through-a-glass-very-darkly where I am concerned. True story: Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader and future first President of Israel, was on an Atlantic ocean crossing with Einstein in 1921. "Einstein explained his theory to me every day", said Weizmann, "and soon I was fully convinced that he understood it."

Abba Eban tells another story, in his memoir "Personal Witness: Israel Through My Eyes". In 1952, Chaim Weizmann died, having been President of Israel since the Jewish state's founding in 1948. (The Israeli President is the ceremonial head of state; the Prime Minisiter is the head of the government.)

"One day after Weizmann's death I received a coded message from Prime Minister David Ben Gurion", writes Eban, "instructing me to talk to Professor Albert Einstein in Princeton, and to find out what his reaction would be if he were offered the presidency of Israel."

Einstein wrote to Eban:
    I am deeply moved by the offer from our state of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed because I cannot accept it. All my life I have dealt with objective matters. Hence, I lack both a natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions. For these reasons alone, I should be unsuited to fulfil the duties of that high office, even if advancing age was not making increasing inroads on my strength. I am the more distressed over these circumstances because my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.
"I have always cherished this letter", says Eban, "and have thought that it was worthwhile for me to elicit it from him. For Zionists, the most impressive word is 'our state of Israel' and 'our precarious situation': the greatest Jew of this century speaking of Israel and of the Jewish people in such intimate identification."


 
Abortion debate in UK
By Tom Smith

Sometimes it must be nice not to have a written constitution. In the UK, Parliament is reconsidering Britain's permissive abortion regime, in light of public reaction to evidence about the survivability of unborn fetus non-person persons after only 6 months of gestation, plus new ultra-sound videos that show the critters looking and acting remarkably like babies. (But for the love of Values, don't let that fool you! They're sneaky little devils! And this is just the beginning of the manipulation. Once they get out and become provisional non-person persons, they do all kinds of things to ingratiate themselves, make cute noises, gaze at you, smell good (if clean), gurgle, wave arm-like appendages, coo, chuckle, suckle if you let them, and otherwise violate your privacy right and left. Take my word for it, they are not to be trusted!) (Click on "video" in upper right to see what the ultra-sounds look like.)

Normally, I would be in favor of considering facts, including those revealed by new technology, in a debate over policy, but this is an exception. Looking at facts in this case may threaten a woman's right to choose. By looking at facts, we would be taking a step onto a slippery slope which could lead to the restriction of this all important right. Sometimes facts have to be ignored in the interests of more important ends. And besides, what is a fact, anyway? Who knows? It's all relative, personal, patriarchal, and all that other stuff you learned in college. Now shut up.


 
Swiftboat vet ads
By Tom Smith

Here's a link to the Swiftboat vet ad against Kerry.

I met a guy who spent a long time on one of those swiftboats in Vietnam. He was a security guard at this hospital I worked at as a groundskeeper. I must have picked up 100,000 cigarette butts over the course of two summers, which believe me, would be very good training for public office, as it consists largely in cleaning up messes made by Congress. In any event, the Navy vet said he spent a year getting shot at, being scared out of his mind, and smoking a lot of pot to adjust to the life of having hot lead streaming at him from the jungle day after day. He said he had joined the Navy to avoid getting drafted into the Army, where he was afraid he would get shot at. Perhaps he moved to Idaho because it was a long way from water.