The Right Coast

August 31, 2005
 
Clintonian Foreign Policy: Eight Years of Sleep-Walking
By Mike Rappaport

Charles Krauthammer has a wonderful essay in Commentary on Neoconservatism. It begins:

The post-cold-war era has seen a remarkable ideological experiment: over the last fifteen years, each of the three major American schools of foreign policy—realism, liberal internationalism, and neoconservatism—has taken its turn at running things. (A fourth school, isolationism, has a long pedigree, but has yet to recover from Pearl Harbor and probably never will; it remains a minor source of dissidence with no chance of becoming a governing ideology.) There is much to be learned from this unusual and unplanned experiment.
Krauthammer devestatingly describes the Clintonian experience in liberal internationalism:

It is hard to be charitable in assessing the record. Liberal internationalism’s one major achievement in those years—saving the Muslims in the Balkans and creating conditions for their possible peaceful integration into Europe—was achieved, ironically, in defiance of its own major principle. It lacked what liberal internationalists incessantly claim is the sine qua non of legitimacy: the approval of the UN Security Council.

Otherwise, the period between 1993 and 2001 was a waste, eight years of sleepwalking, of the absurd pursuit of one treaty more useless than the last, while the rising threat—Islamic terrorism—was treated as a problem of law enforcement. Perhaps the most symbolic moment occurred at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to France in October 2000, after Yasir Arafat had rejected Israel’s peace offer at Camp David and instead launched his bloody second intifada. In Paris for another round of talks, Arafat abruptly broke off negotiations and was leaving the residence when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ran after him, chasing him in her heels on the cobblestone courtyard to induce him, to cajole him, into signing yet another worthless piece of paper.

Leon Trotsky is said to have remarked of the New York intellectual Dwight Macdonald, “Everyone has a right to be stupid, but Comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege.” During its seven-and-a-half year Oslo folly, the Clinton administration abused the privilege consistently.
Its funny. Clinton was so worried about his legacy that he tried over and over again to get Yasser Arafat to sign a peace deal. What Clinton did not realize is that symbolized and was his legacy.


 
More from Murray on IQ
By Mike Rappaport

Two other provacative claims by Charles Murray. First, not only is g (general intelligence) heritable, it has a physiological basis:

By the 1980’s, the robustness and value of g as an explanatory construct were broadly accepted among pyschometricians, but little was known about its physiological basis. As of 2005, we know much more. It is now established that g is by far the most heritable component of IQ.67 A variety of studies have found correlations between g and physiological phenomena such as brain-evoked potentials, brain pH levels, brain glucose metabolism, nerve-conduction velocity, and reaction time. Most recently, it has been determined that a highly significant relationship exists between g and the volume of gray matter in specific areas of the frontal cortex, and that the magnitude of the volume is under tight genetic control. In short, we now know that g captures something in the biology of the brain.
Second, the black white difference in IQ is greatest in areas without cultural content:

When you compare black and white mean scores on a battery of subtests, you do not find a uniform set of differences; nor do you find a random assortment. The size of the difference varies systematically by type of subtest. Asked to predict which subtests show the largest difference, most people will think first of ones that have the most cultural content and are the most sensitive to good schooling. But this natural expectation is wrong. Some of the largest differences are found on subtests that have little or no cultural content, such as ones based on abstract designs.


 
Murray on IQ
By Mike Rappaport

Eleven years after the publication of the Bell Curve, Charles Murray is defending and updating his claims about the relative IQs of women and blacks. I am part of the way through the 40 page article, which is quite interesting.

One provacative claim that Murray makes disputes the common assertion that race is a social construct, not genetic reality:

Turning to race, we must begin with the fraught question of whether it even exists, or whether it is instead a social construct. The Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin originated the idea of race as a social construct in 1972, arguing that the genetic differences across races were so trivial that no scientist working exclusively with genetic data would sort people into blacks, whites, or Asians. In his words, “racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance.”

Lewontin’s position, which quickly became a tenet of political correctness, carried with it a potential means of being falsified. If he was correct, then a statistical analysis of genetic markers would not produce clusters corresponding to common racial labels.

In the last few years, that test has become feasible, and now we know that Lewontin was wrong. Several analyses have confirmed the genetic reality of group identities going under the label of race or ethnicity. In the most recent, published this year, all but five of the 3,636 subjects fell into the cluster of genetic markers corresponding to their self-identified ethnic group. When a statistical procedure, blind to physical characteristics and working exclusively with genetic information, classifies 99.9 percent of the individuals in a large sample in the same way they classify themselves, it is hard to argue that race is imaginary.


 
Airline Unions
By Mike Rappaport

Hedge Fund Guy at Mahalanobis says:

"Air travel has never been greater, but US airline companies continue to hemmorage. Not all, mainly the legacy airlines that have significant unions (United, US Airways, American, Delta, Northwest). The new ones, unencumbered by unions, pay their workers less, and more importantly are more efficient with their workers because they don't have unions micromanaging work rules. For example JetBlue and Southwest pilots average about 50% more flying time than for United, Delta and Northwest. The nonunion airlines are booming, grabbing market share and hiring new workers. The union airlines are all near bankruptcy."


August 30, 2005
 
Freezing the Assets of the PA
By Mike Rappaport

At least someone in the US appears to be willing to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for terrorism:
"The Palestinian Authority's assets in the United States have been frozen after it failed to pay a $116 million judgment in a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of a couple killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

The order has made it difficult for the authority to keep its office in Washington going, according to Hasan Abdel Rahman, head of the office, who has appealed to the US government for help. Rahman said the administration had indicated it wanted to help, but a US State Department spokesman said Tuesday that he could not comment on its plans.

The US District Court in Rhode Island last year ordered the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization to pay the money to several relatives of Yaron and Efrat Ungar. The Ungars were killed in June 1996 by gunmen with the Palestinian group Hamas.

The suit, filed in Rhode Island in 2000, alleged that the Palestinian Authority and PLO provided a safe haven and operational base for Hamas. Yaron Ungar was an American citizen, and his relatives live in Israel."


 
More on Hawaii: Who Are Today's "Native Hawaiians"?
By Gail Heriot

In my last post, I argued against the Akaka bill (which is scheduled for September 6th cloture vote in the U.S. Senate). If passed, the bill would put in motion a process under which ethnic Hawaiians would form their own self-governing Indian tribe, and thus (it is hoped) preserve from constitutional attack the extensive set of special benefits that are currently made available to them by the State of Hawaii. The Akaka bill is in essence an end-run around the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

Here's some more information that you may find interesting: Hawaii is a one of the best examples of a racial melting pot in the world, and it has been for many generations. Even during the short-lived Kingdom of Hawaii, intermarriage was common. The Hawaiian royal family itself intermarried with people of other races. As a result, the overwhelmng majority of "Native Hawaiians" who qualify for special benefits today (and who would qualify to participate in the creation of the tribe) are of mixed race. This should be kept in mind whenever you hear argument that "we" owe "them" or "they" owe "us." We are they, and they are we.

According to the statistics posted on the web site of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (the agency that administer the special benefits programs in Hawaii), only about 3.95% of Native Hawaiians have what the OHA not-so-delicately calls a "blood quantum" that is "100% Hawaiian." Only 34.88% have a "50% to 99% Hawaiian" "blood quantum." And 61.17% have a "blood quantum" of less than 50%." These figure were obtained back in 1984. We've had another generation since then, and you can bet that intermarriage has continued and probably even accelerated. That's the wonderful thing about love. It can transcend even the silliest of politics.

And here's a further thought to ponder: My suspicion is that the descendents of 19th white settlers on Hawaii are much more likely to be of mixed race than the descendents of whites who came to Hawaii relatively recently, simply because they've had more opportunities over the years. That makes for an interesting situation. If those 19th century white settlers are the ones who wronged the 19th century Native Hawaiians, isn't it funny that we in the 21st century would think that we're making things right again by conferring special benefits on their descendents?

This racial stuff will tie you in knots in the end. That's why it's best to stay away from it.


August 29, 2005
 
We the People
By Mike Rappaport

Two paragraphs from the preamble to the proposed Iraqi Constitution:

We the sons of Mesopotamia, land of the prophets, resting place of the holy imams, the leaders of civilization and the creators of the alphabet, the cradle of arithmetic: on our land, the first law put in place by mankind was written; in our nation, the most noble era of justice in the politics of nations was laid down; on our soil, the followers of the prophet and the saints prayed, the philosophers and the scientists theorised and the writers and poets created.

We the people of Iraq, newly arisen from our disasters and looking with confidence to the future through a democratic, federal, republican system, are determined - men and women, old and young - to respect the rule of law, reject the policy of aggression, pay attention to women and their rights, the elderly and their cares, the children and their affairs, spread the culture of diversity and defuse terrorism.
We the sons of Mesopotamia. Kind of has a nice ring to it.


 
Trouble from Paradise: Hawaii's Divisive Racial Politics Hits the National Agenda
By Gail Heriot

Here is my op-ed from Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune paper edition:

America's 50th State has always been known for its friendly and welcoming "Spirit of Aloha." But for the last decade or so, Hawaii has begun to earn a reputation for something else entirely: the nation's most divisive racial politics. And with the proposed "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act" (known as the Akaka bill) currently pending before the U.S. Senate, it may only get worse. A prelimnary vote is scheduled for September 6.

Put simply, the Akaka bill will allow the nation’s approximately 400,000 ethnic Hawaiians to organize themselves into one vast Indian tribe--the largest in the nation. A commission appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and consisting of nine "Native Hawaiian" commissioners with "expertise in the determination of Native Hawaiian ancestry" will sit as judges to ensure that only those who can prove their Native Hawaiian bloodline are permitted to join.

Why would 400,000 American citizens want to retroactively declare themselves an Indian tribe? There's a good chance they don't. The only full-scale poll indicates that ethnic Hawaiians reject the notion of a tribe–48% to 43%–when they are informed that under a tribal government they would not be subject to the same laws, regulations and taxes as the rest of the state. And Hawaiians generally oppose the so-called "reorganization" by an astonishing 2 to 1 ratio. But vocal leaders in the ethnic Hawaiian community, many of whom no doubt fancy that they will be the tribal leaders themselves, consider tribal status a top priority. And politicians are falling in line behind them. Senator Daniel Akaka, for whom the bill is named, claims to have the votes he needs to pass the bill.

To understand why ethnic Hawaiian leaders want tribal status, one must know a bit about Hawaiian racial politics. In an age in which racial entitlements are an unfortunate feature of the political landscape in so many parts of the country, Hawaii is in a league by itself. The State’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs administers a huge public trust–worth billions–which in theory benefits all Hawaiians, but for reasons that are both historical and political, actually provides a bonanza of benefits exclusively for ethnic Hawaiians. Among other things, ethnic Hawaiians are eligible for special home loans, business loans, housing and educational programs. On the OHA web site, the caption proudly proclaims its racial goal, "Office of Hawaiian Affairs: For the Betterment of Native Hawaiians."

The problem for supporters of special benefits came in 2000, with the Supreme Court case of Rice v. Cayetano. Unsurprisingly, the Court ruled that the Constitution's Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibits States from discriminating on the basis of race in voting rights, applied to Hawaii just as it does to every other state in the union. Hawaii could not prohibit non-ethnic Hawaiians from voting in state elections for OHA trustees.

That ruling caused an uproar in Hawaii that has not yet subsided. If the Fifteenth Amendment prohibits Hawaii from limiting voting rights to ethnic Hawaiians, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and other civil rights laws might prohibit all or part of the OHA’s massive system of exclusive benefits. Cases like the Ninth Circuit’s decision last month prohibiting the Kamehameha Schools from operating for the exclusive benefit of ethnic Hawaiians only added to this controversy. The whole racially-exclusive system is in legal jeopardy.

That’s where the Indian tribe idea comes in. States cannot discriminate on the basis of race except in extraordinary cases. But Indian tribes can. They are essentially exclusive racial groups and are not directly (or in many respects even indirectly) bound by the U.S. Constitution (or by most civil rights laws). If ethnic Hawaiians can be morphed into an Indian tribe, and the State of Hawaii can then transfer the OHA’s functions (and the vast acres of real estate and other property it administers) to the tribe, the racial spoils system can be preserved–or so its advocates hope.

There are many reasons that the Akaka bill is a bad idea–including a strong likelihood that both the bill and the overall plan to transfer the OHA’s functions and property to the "tribe" are simply unconstitutional. If the State of Hawaii cannot confer preferential benefits on its citizens based on race, it cannot give away land and property to a newly-minted tribe created for the purpose of conferring benefits based on race. The Constitution’s requirements cannot be by-passed that easily.

But perhaps the most important reason to oppose the Akaka bill is the disturbing precedent it sets. The United States has long recognized the sovereign status of Indian tribes. But until now, it has done so only with groups that have a long, continuous history of self-governance. Tribes were treated as semi-autonomous entities, because they were; they had never been brought under the full control of both federal and state authority. Our policy towards them was simply a bow to reality.

By retroactively creating an Indian tribe out of individuals who are already full citizens of both the United States and the State of Hawaii, and who do not have a long and continuous history of separate self-governance, the Akaka bill will be breaking new ground. If ethnic Hawaiians can be an Indian tribe, why not Chicanos in the Southwest? Cajuns in Louisiana? Religious groups–like Orthodox Jews in New York or the Amish in Pennsylvania–may be particularly interested in gaining tribal status, since doing so will arguably allow them to take on governmental authority without being subject to Constitutional prohibitions on the establishment of religion. Who will say no to these (and other) groups?

Earlier this month, Senator Akaka was asked in a National Public Radio interview whether the sovereign status granted in the bill "could eventually go further, perhaps even leading to outright independence." The question might have seemed extraordinary for anyone unfamiliar with how strong the push for Hawaiian independence has become. Back in the 1970s, its supporters were considered kooks and lunatics. But today, although by no means a majority, they are a political force to be reckoned with. It’s hard to drive down a Hawaiian road without seeing an upside down Hawaiian flag, the symbol of the movement, flying over someone’s home. Even more extraordinary was Akaka’s answer: "That could be. That could be. As far as what’s going to happen at the other end, I’m leaving it up to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Akaka’s fellow Senators should think long and hard about the whether the Akaka bill will, in the long run, lead to greater harmony among Hawaiians and among Americans–or less. Is our "One Nation" indivisible or not?


 
Say it with cash
By Tom Smith

Here is the link to the American Red Cross. I suppose it is still the best way to help out the victims of Katrina. The Southern Baptists are said to be poised to offer a lot of help. If anyone has any good links for them, I could post them. Presumably in a state like Louisiana, which is heavily Catholic, the Church will be actively involved. Ditto for them.

I am trying to give more to charity. My accountant, for one, says I should. It's pretty bad when your accountant tells you that people in your tax bracket usually give more to charity than you do. I figure I am already paying about half my income to various charitable organizations, albeit extremely inefficient ones, to support old people, poor people, well connected corporations, and so on. But, with something like this storm, I think everyone needs to pitch in.


 
Bad News
By Mike Rappaport

If these two links are any indication -- and they come from two very credible sources -- the judgment against Vioxx is very bad news. In many respects, the tort system is disgusting. We are less healthy and poorer for it.


August 28, 2005
 
Rich people get pussy cat fever
By Tom Smith

I think the overall message is, we will live forever because of nanotechnology, but only if the lions don't eat us first. Instapundit seems to be encouraging this notion that if you live in the country, watch out for them thar mountain cats; thar comin' to gatchya! The New York Times, reporting from a city with many more predators than the mountain West, tells the story of Matt Thomas, a 54 year old retiree in silicon-rich Atherton, California, who now spends his time prowling for cats amongst his neighbors' palatial estates. Check out his photo. For those of you who don't get all the best manly gear catalogs in the mail as I do, that is top of the line safari gear he is wearing. This guy desperately needs to go on a real hunting trip so he can relax in old Atherton. What a joke.

I live in lion country. I would be thrilled to see a lion on my local McGinty mountain, where there surely are some, at least once in a while, much more thrilled than the far more probable sight of a teenaged motorcyclist illegally tearing up the rare botanicals. The sight of a mountain lion actually chowing down on a dirt biker? I should not comment, so will only say it's too bad lions are afraid of noise.

A lion was spotted recently by the Singing Hills golf course, about five minutes from my house. My only concern would be that a lion might be hit by a ball. Cars are, often enough.

Maybe a year ago I was out walking the dogs in a patch of scrub that was a lot prettier before the dirt bikers tore it apart. A woman out for a walk addressed me:
"At cher trackmekkers?"
I did not feel able to comment, so said only "I beg your pardon?"
"At cher trackmekkers? Yer dawgs?"
Ah yes. My dogs. Indeed they were. She had apparently seen their tracks. I was then treated to a description of a mountain lion that had been spotted less than a mile away, only a week before, by this hardy lady's mother in law, or perhaps cousin, or perhaps both. No doubt it frightened Molly the Pit Bill half to death. And I'm supposed to be worried about the lions.

I'm sorry, but the notion that Mr. & Mrs. Software feel prisoners in their own palatial estate -- and can't even let Johnny and Chippy go to the tennis court on their own! -- because of the lion, is just too comical for words. How much do you want to bet Mr. and Mrs. Software are Democrats and know all about how we should handle Iraq. All this, because somebody saw a lion. Oh eek! Somebody call 911, somebody call the lawyers!

If you are really that worried, and you are a zillionaire, for heaven's sake, there are lots of things you can do, besides cowering in your mansion and whining to the Times. Like, buy a couple of big dogs. Like say, a German Shepherd and a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Of course, they will poop all over your three hole golf course, but there's no such thing as a free dog. Of course, having a dog is probably much more statistically risky than lions, because Johnny might step in it, slip, crack his head on the tennis court, and never be the same. Tradeoffs. But lions aren't stupid, unlike some rich suburbanites. They see a couple of big dogs, or more likely smell them, they'll take a detour. Or give your gardener a .45 and tell him to keep his eyes open. Probably not a bad idea anyway.

I have seen a Mexican bobcat (forget the precise name) on my property, many, many snakes, with and without venom, coyotes, tarantulas, and all manner of wasps, bees and ants. Dude, that's why they call it nature. If you tie a bunch of filets around your neck and take lots of solitary walks in the mountains around here (or Atherton), you might, eventually, run into a lion with dinner in mind. Otherwise, you are very lucky if the most you have to worry about is your two darlings getting eaten on their way to your private tennis court. And why are you letting them play tennis anyway? That's a good way to put an eye out.


August 27, 2005
 
Fake But Accurate
By Gail Heriot

This is an incredible story (that I at least didn't hear about until today). For two years, readers of the University of Southern Illinois' Daily Egyptian have been riveted by a continuing series of letters from a little girl named Kodee to her father, Sgt. Dan Kennings, in Iraq. For example: "Don't die, OK dad? ... You should find Saddam and run him over with your tank ... I love you and don't die. Love, Kodee."

Readers were told that Kodee already lost her mother when she was just five years old. Her father was all she had left. So when the news came a little while ago that her father had been killed too, Carbondale residents were devastated.

Except there is no Kodee Kennings. And there is no Sgt. Dan Kennings. The whole story was a very, very elaborate hoax. Read the articles for a flavor of it.

It is not yet clear whether anyone from the Daily Egyptian was in on the ruse. The woman who actually wrote the letters (and brought in a little blonde-haired girl to the newspaper office whom she identified to the paper as Kodee) says one of the student editors (who has since graduated) was originally an accomplice in the fraud. He denies it. The rest of the folks at the paper were dupes.

Evidently, the Chicago Tribune can take credit for unravelling the story. The aspiring journalists who worked at the Daily Egyptian had best send their resumes elsewhere. (Hat tip to Chicago Boyz.)


 
Donna Frye and Maxine Waters Together at Anti-War Rally
By Gail Heriot


Not everyone can picture my fellow Right Coaster Maimon Schwarzschild and me listening to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) at an anti-war rally down at the Union Hall (IAMAW). But while it's hard to classify such gatherings as a part of our natural habitat, those who cannot picture it are suffering from a lack of imagination. Right Coasters make it a practice to turn up in improbable places....

Curiosity inspired us to see whether San Diego mayoral candidate (and self-described surfer chick) Donna Frye would appear before this crowd of 250-300 Friday afternoon as a handbill advertising the event had promised. We figured her political handlers would surely persuade her that such an appearance was too risky. Waters is a charter member of the Angry Left and introducing her at a rally while a candidate for mayor of San Diego is not the wisest of moves. San Diego has plenty of Democrats, more than it has Republicans, but in general they are not fans of Waters. Frye did appear, however, and gave Waters a cordial introduction (though she was careful enough to avoid specifically endorsing Waters' views).

Waters, of course, first burst onto the national scene during the L.A. riots that took place in her district in the early 1990s--she called them a "rebellion" and "a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice." Rather than express concern for the Korean grocers and other small businessman who had their livelihood destroyed by looters and arsonists, she made it clear that her sympathies lay with the rioters:

"One lady said her children didn't have any shoes. She just saw those shoes there, a chance for all her children to have new shoes. Goddam it. It was such a tear-jerker. I might have gone in and taken them for her myself."

And whose home do you suppose she visited--that of Reginald Denny, the innocent bystander who was dragged from his truck by rioters for the "crime" of being white or that of Damian Williams, the rioter who hurled the chunk of concrete at Denny, coming just a hair short of killing him, and then performed a hideous victory dance over his body? Williams', of course.

Since then, Waters has continued to earn her reputation as a favorite of the Angry Left. In 2004, not a single member of the House of Representatives had staked out a voting record on foreign policy or on social policy to her left, according to the National Journal. She was the fringe. And as for her anger, she put it best herself: "I have a right to my anger, and I don't want anybody telling me that I shouldn't be, that it's not nice to be, and that's something's wrong with me because I get angry."

On this outing, however, Waters was almost subdued. Perhaps that's because the Frye campaign asked her to be. Or perhaps it's just that she's getting along in years. It's hard to be angry all the time, year after year. But it seemed to me that the crowd was longing to be whipped into a frenzy. And she (deliberately I think) didn't do it.

It's not that she was reasonable. She repeated the "Bush lied" canard and the audience seemed more than happy to believe her accusaion. And she claimed to be concerned that the Pentagon is deliberately concealing the true death toll among Americans in Iraq and vowed to go to Germany to ...uh... well she apparently intends to count hospital beds, I guess. During the question period, she called for Bush's impeachment arguing that "[t]his is what impeachment is all about;" it's not "who you slept with but who you killed." She also appeared to endorse a statement by the audience that the 2004 election had been rigged by the manufacturers of election machines and added that "we're being ripped off at the ballot box."

But on the whole Waters' tone was more even than what is normally associated with her public statements. It's a good thing for Frye, I suppose. But the whole incident lends credibility to something I was told by an activist in local politics I spoke to a few evenings ago. He obviously liked Donna Frye on a personal level. But he complained that she accepts as fact anything she is told by those on the far left and rejects anything she is told by those to the right of that group. That's not a great instinct. If the polls are correct, however, it won't matter. They show her opponent, Jerry Sanders, ahead by a substantial margin.


August 26, 2005
 
The Leaders And Their Base
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Representative Maxine Waters, and left-wing San Diego mayoral candidate Donna Frye who introduced Waters at a rally here this afternoon, almost dutifully expressed all the standard leftist anti-Bush anti-Iraq talking points: no WMDs, Bush lied, Downing Street Memos, Valerie Plame, cowboy, blood for oil. Waters' sharpest veer into certifiability was a fairly brief excursion into "Republican Diebold voting machines ripped us off at the ballot box -- Kerry actually won by 5 million votes..."

But it was the crowd of 250 to 300 -- white San Diegans of all ages; left wing Democrats, or sectarians, one and all -- who were plainly, almost yearningly, eager for rhetorical red (as it were) meat. To cheer for the Iraqi "resistance"? To cheer, not just for impeaching Bush, but perhaps for more "direct" action against him? And against Amerikkka's many other demons? Who knows? Waters and Frye told the crowd what they wanted to hear, up to a considerable point. But the speakers deliberately shied off from stoking or even quite acknowledging the crowd's appetite for extremist rhetoric: an appetite perfectly tangible to anyone in the room.

It seemed to me just what you would have expected from a pair of very right wing, but not politically suicidal Republican politicians, addressing what amounted to a crowd of John Birch Society members -- thirty years ago, or whenever the John Birch Society had such heyday as it may have had.

The John Birch Society was always a lunatic fringe, of course. Even in its time, most Republicans had probably barely heard of it, and would have boggled at its nutty opinions -- and its nutty anger. ("Is Dwight Eisenhower a Communist agent...?") Even so, enough taint of the Birch Society, and its kind of looniness, undoubtedly helped send Barry Goldwater not just to defeat, but to electoral ignominy, in 1964.

Is a left wing version of the John Birch Society ethos increasingly impinging on the mentality of today's centre-left "base"? If so, it is bad news for the country. And for the Democratic Party. It may help candidacies like Donna Frye's -- but presumably she still is not going to be the Mayor of San Diego.


 
Channelling FDR
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Michael Barone -- oracle of practical American politics -- posts on FDR's "fireside chats", and whether Bush ought to be doing something similar:
Roosevelt was not afraid to take some pretty rough shots at his domestic political enemies. It is generally assumed today that there was some kind of unanimity about World War II. Not really. Roosevelt was criticized for putting a priority on the European Theater over the Pacific; after all, some said, hadn't it been the Japanese who attacked us? Not everyone forgot that many of his opponents charged before Pearl Harbor that he was provoking the Germans and the Japanese to attack us (indeed a strong case can be made that he was). The media of the day was mostly controlled and run by Republicans—some of them like Henry Luce of Time were supporters of Roosevelt's war policies, but others like Col. Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune (then the biggest-circulation broadsheet in the country) bitter critics.

Roosevelt clearly kept an eye on his enemies [in the Fireside Chats]. In May 1940, as resistance to Hitler was collapsing in Western Europe, he noted that "there are a few among us who have deliberately and consciously closed their eyes [to foreign threats] because they were determined to be opposed to their government, its foreign policy, and every other policy, to be partisan, and to believe that anything that the government did was wholly wrong." Later in that chat he warned of a "fifth column that betrays a nation unprepared for treachery."
Barone questions whether Fireside Chats are possible today. For one thing, with a hundred cable channels to choose from, it is not clear that people would sit still and listen. But Bush plainly needs to find a way to make his points to the public, notwithstanding the newsrooms, networks, and news magazines almost all vehemently and relentlessly campaigning against him.


 
Ideological nondiversity
By Tom Smith

Interesting link from JL at VC, regarding dominance by the left of universities.

I have no trouble believing that self-selection accounts for a huge part of the paucity of conservatives in the academy. That it does, is not really of defense of anything. Self-selection combined with even slight prejudice can be an extremely powerful force of social ordering.


 
Calling Things By Their True Names
By Gail Heriot


Roger Clegg does a splendid job responding to one of Ralph Neas' sillier allegations. Neas (of People for the American Way) alleges that John Roberts' opposition to "comparable worth" policy shows a callous disregard for women's rights. But John Roberts (who wrote the offending memo in the early 1980s, before the comparable worth issue had been as thoroughly discredited as it is today) didn't oppose women's rights. He opposed government wage setting. And everybody in the country had better hope he still does. I cannot imagine a more pernicious policy. A government that control wage structure controls the economy. A government that controls the economy ... well I shouldn't have to say this...if you're readng the Right Coast, I assume that I don't have to say this....


 
Too Much Sunshine
By Mike Rappaport

What is wrong with Hawaii? They are preparing to impose a price ceiling on gasoline. Gee, what do you think will happen? Actions like this convince me that the political process is often about the immediate reactions of the ignorant -- helped, of course, by cynical rent seeking interest groups:

Actually, because the price ceiling is to be imposed on wholesalers, its effects are more complicated than a normal ceiling. Jane Galt considers the possibilities. But note: neither of them benefits consumers with more gas at lower prices:

In traditional economic theory, when prices are capped, consumer demand keeps going strong but suppliers curtail supply, leading to the shortages that those who were sentient in the seventies will remember--long lines for gas, alternate day gas purchases, and so forth. More recently, this is basically what happened in the California blackouts, although there were added wrinkles there due to defects in the regulatory setup of the electricity market. I'm not sure what happens if you cap wholesale prices. There are two plausible scenarios. Wholesalers will undoubtedly curb supply in response to the price caps. The resulting mismatch between supply and demand could simply result in higher prices as consumers get into a bidding war for the available gasoline; in that case, the market will clear, and a handsome windfall profit will be transferred to gasoline station owners from the pockets of consumers and wholesalers. Or, the gasoline station owners may be afraid to raise prices for fear of attracting regulatory attention, in which case the result will be shortages and rationing. I'd bet on the former, and would also bet that there is a powerful gasoline station owner's lobby which has been agitating fiercely for wholesale price caps.


 
Hayekian coffee
By Tom Smith

This reminds me of that sentiment Hayek expressed that you could spend your whole life studying how bread got produced and to the market.


 
Justice Stevens' Responsibility: A Response to Ethan Leib
By Mike Rappaport

Ethan Leib has an interesting response to my post on Justice Stevens. In my post, I had criticized Justice Stevens’ claim that he was required by the law to decide the Kelo case. While he may have wished to decide that particular case differently, Stevens still follows a constitutional interpretive approach that allows him to interpret constitutional provisions in a way that he regards as desirable. Justice Stevens believes that the Constitution should allow the government to have its way as to economic matters, which led him to the result in Kelo. While Stevens may have wished the result to be different in Kelo, he still bears significant responsibility for the decision: it follows from his choices as to what content to give to the Constitution. By contrast, an originalist judge cannot decide what he wants the content of the constitutional provision to be. He simply must accept the content enacted by the Framers.

Ethan believes that I have overstated the constraint on originalist judges as compared to that on Justice Stevens. Both the originalist and Justice Stevens choose their interpretive approaches and they must live with the results.

I am not sure that it is correct to say that the originalist chooses his interpretive approach in the same way that a judge who reads his policies into the Constitution does. But lets assume it is true for purposes of argument. Still, Ethan ignores an important difference. The originalist makes a single choice – be an originalist – and then is bound by that choice for all decisions. Besides the one choice, the decisions are made by the Framers. By contrast, a policy oriented Justice like Stevens gets to decide the content of the constitutional provisions. He is making numerous decisions for each constitutional clause and for the constitution overall.

Whatever one thinks of the desirability of these two approaches, I think it is clear that there is an enormous difference in the degree to which one finds the originalist judge responsible for his decisions as compared to the degree to which one finds the policy oriented judge. The policy oriented judge simply has more choices. Justice Stevens can’t have it both ways. Or as my mother loves to put it, you can’t have the name without the game.


August 25, 2005
 
Justice Breyer's New Book
By Mike Rappaport

Here is a review of the book, which attempts to justify a nonoriginalist approach to constitutional interpretation. I am looking forward to reading it, although I must admit Breyer is one of my least favorite justices.


 
We are very concerned
By Tom Smith

It always nice to hear on the radio that the local Indian tribe is planning to build a 30 story casino complex on the 6 acres they own in your rural paradise. I don't see why I should care, except for the effect it would have on property values, turning the local highway into even more of a death trap, and having to look at a 30 story highrise against what has been a scenic horizon.

After shock, I suppose I am thinking a little tribe such as they are can't possibly carry this sort of absurd project off, given the intense outrage it is sure to provoke among residents (including me), not to mention the politicos who oppose it, from Arnie to County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs, who has been very good on this issue (and who actually is a pretty impressive lady). I mean, can a few dozen Indians really put up a skyscraper up in the middle of a residential area, and to hell with everything from fire protection, to water worries, to all the little critters, to caring about ruining the neighborhood for everybody else? Can that really be legal? I'm a law professor, and it beats the heck outta me.

I suspect this is a negotiating ploy by the Jamul band to get opponents of a less horrific plan (I guess less horrific) to back off. I don't know enough to judge whether it is clever or not. It certainly is provocative. If it looks like the Jamul Indians really plan to go through with it, the level of opposition will be extreme. I would call many people who live in Jamul a trifle eccentric to begin with, and a giant gambling tower could make them go frankly insane. You could get something like a war. But I don't think most people believe the Indians really mean it, yet.


 
Are lawyers unhappy?
By Tom Smith

I just had a conversation with a student who casually remarked, "being a lawyer is the worst job in the world. They're all so bitter and unhappy." I hardly knew what to say, but indicated I had heard of the surveys that suggested job satisfaction among lawyers was low. I wonder if it is really is, compared to other professions, and if so why. I have never actually seen these surveys, and don't know if they are any good, assuming they exist. It certainly seems to have become an official factoid, however, that lawyers are miserable. It would trouble me, if it were true, since I hate to think I am preparing people to be miserable.

I worked two years in the "real world" in government, assuming that is not a contradiction, and both of those were extremely illuminating if not always exactly fun, though they certainly were sometimes. I worked a little less than four years in practice. The first year was kinda fun, but admittedly it went down from there, as the work seemed to become more routine, and I became surer I wanted to get out of practice and into teaching. I will say my impression of the lifestyles of lawyers in big city big firms was not very positive, but there seemed to be a number of people either enjoying or at least doing what they were doing with a lot of energy, even if I knew I was not going to be one of them. Deep, widespread misery, that is, was not particularly evident. On the other hand, the atmosphere was not conducive to a lot of psychological self-revelation.


 
What not to put on your law school teaching application
By Tom Smith

I agree with Brian that putting on your FAR that you are only interested in teaching in blue states is stupid. However, the idea that it is stupid because there is a good chance that there will be one or more Republicans on the faculty hiring committee is, well, improbable. There may be a number of conservative law professors, but most of them are conservative Democrats. Republican law professors, such as perhaps a few of us at the RC, are a pretty rare lot. Displaying an inability to live next to Republicans is tacky, and suggests that one would perhaps be a doctrinaire teacher, but the odds of offending actual Republican law professors is pretty small.

When I first applied to law schools back in the dark ages, I expressed a geographical preference for the mountain west. This was at a stage in my life when I cared about skiing more than scholarship. Now, of course, I realize that producing erudite papers that have a low probability of being read by more than a few dozen people is more important than fun in the outdoors. In any event, I think this actually helped me get my first job at Colorado, or at least one person who interviewed me seemed to like that about my application. So I think if you really do have a strong geographical preference, and that coincides with the market where you have the best shot anyway, it makes sense to express it. Otherwise, be prepared to swear that you always wanted to live in a really humid, remote, and rural location and that you coincidentally have a passion for whatever pasttime the locals use to stave off boredom.


 
The Libertarian View of the World
By Mike Rappaport

Arnold Kling gets at the essence of things:

"Consider the following classification system for government regulations and programs.

(a) interventions that work so much better than private alternatives that we feel grateful for them
(b) interventions that are better than private alternatives in some ways and worse in others
(c) interventions that are mostly worse than private alternatives
(d) interventions that are evil

Libertarians look at government and see interventions that are mostly in categories (b), (c), and (d). I would put municipal fire departments in category (a), government water treatment in category (b), public education and Social Security in category (c), and protectionist trade measures such as the Byrd Amendment in category (d). Where the United States is really lucky compared with countries like Zimbabwe is that those other countries' government interventions are predominantly in category (d).

My sense is that non-libertarians view interventions as fitting mostly into categories (a) and (b), and they believe that the programs that they favor are all category (a). I believe that their attachment to government interventions owes more to wishful thinking than to a realistic assessment of results. My reading of history is that progressives tend to exaggerate both the need for government interventions and the likely results of such interventions."


 
Justice Stevens, Judicial Restraint, and Spin
By Mike Rappaport

An interesting piece in the New York Times covering a recent speech by Justice Stevens. Stevens claims that in two cases, his own majority opinion upheld unwise results, but "in each I was convinced that the law compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator." The two cases are Kelo, which allowed eminent domain to be used to transfer property to a private entity and Raich, which upheld the federal government's power to regulate medical marijuana. I wonder whether Stevens' criticism of the result in Kelo in part reflects his desire to respond to and mitigate the public outcry against Kelo. Stevens is saying, sorry, its not my decision, the law compelled the result.

Justice Stevens? Give me a break. The Justice who wrote separately in the partial birth abortion case to say that a reason to oppose this prohibition was that it was intended to undermine support for abortion?

In analying Stevens' comments, we can distinguish several ways in which a judge can behave:

-- First, the judge can decide a case as he would if he were a legislator.

-- Second, the judge can decide a case in accordance with the content of a constitutional provision (or of several interrelated constitutional provisions) that he believes would be desirable.

-- Third, the judge can decide based on the content of a constitutional provision that he believes the Framers gave to it.

While Stevens is portraying himself as restrained by the law, his claims about himself seem to fall under the first and the second approaches. It is only judges who follow the third approach that are significantly restrained by the law. Judges who follow the first and second approaches can still read their own policy into the constitutional provisions and therefore can claim to be deciding based on the law's values, rather than their own, only in a limited sense.

In the case of Raich involving medical marijuana, Stevens is saying he would vote to allow the use of such marijuana. That just means he is not following his desires in the first sense. In the case of Kelo, it is a little harder to interpret Stevens. Since Stevens claims to believe that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials," one might think he feels bound by the Framers' meaning. But I don't think so. Instead, I think he believes that what he regards as the most desirable reading of constitutional clauses generally is to allow the government to make economic decisions without constitutional restraint and therefore he is forced to construe the public use provision of the clause more leniently than he might otherwise desire. If I am right, then Stevens is restraining himself only in the second sense -- he is deciding the case differently than he would vote for as a legislator, but he is still choosing to give the constitutional provisions the meaning he believes are desirable. He cannot claim to be bound by directions that he would not choose.

While the Times is happy to portray Stevens as restraining himself, I think Stevens is vulnerable. My guess is that he understands that he is open to attack for Kelo and now wants to deflect responsibility.

Update: I have added a couple of sentences to the above post to make it clearer.


August 24, 2005
 
Maps of Israel and when will Israel complete that security fence?
By Mike Rappaport

For those interested, the Jerusalem Post has several good maps on Israel and the territories here. The map of the security fence is particularly informative. Is it me, or is Israel taking an awfully long time completing that fence?


 
Citations
By Mike Rappaport

Tom's studies of citations are extremely interesting, but let me just mention one caveat about all citation studies: they are a pretty imprecise way of studying influence. They may be the best we have, but they are very imperfect.

People often do not cite the articles they read and they often cite articles they don't read.

I often do not cite articles that I read. Indeed, if I read an article from beginning to end, it is because I am interested in the subject and not because I need the cite. So when the time comes to get a cite, I may simply forget to cite to that article.

While I would never do such a thing, I know that many legal scholars cite articles that they have not read. They need a cite for a specific proposition, so they go to Lexis and find something that says what they want. So they only read a small portion of the article.


August 23, 2005
 
The Supreme Court Justice diet
By Tom Smith

Which person lost the most weight prior to becoming a Justice? Now you know.


August 22, 2005
 
Catholic kerfuffle
By Tom Smith

Looks like a little doctrinal donneybrook in the halls of St. Pete's over evolution. See how much trouble those Protestants can cause? I'm with the Jesuits on this one.


 
A voice crying in the wilderness, but not as hard as I thought
By Tom Smith

I was lying on the couch in my office, trying to take a nap, when it popped into my head that I had made a miscalculation in my post on law review citation distributions. So if you revisit that post, you will see I have done the honorable thing, and corrected it. I am not about to have anything interfere with my naps. To sum up, the top .5% of articles gets 18% of the cites, the top 5% or so, about 50%, and the top 18% of articles, about 80% of cites, and 40% don't get cited at all. Much better than I thought, but not enough to stop crying. Also, rather close to the distribution in high energy physics, and closeish to the many, many examples of 80/20 distributions, curiously enough. These numbers are still very, very preliminary, so just remember that.


 
A Housing Bubble?
By Mike Rappaport

The real price of housing has been flat for the last 100 years, until it experienced a significant increase in the last six years.


 
East County update
By Tom Smith

I have heard that some people at least enjoy these occassional stories from the fringes of civilization, using that term broadly to apply to Southern California. So, I will go on.

Anyway, this from our estimable nanny, who is from an old Lakeside family. This last Saturday night, she, her husband and her son were enjoying a quiet evening at home when they heard the sound of a car crash. They reasoned it was an accident on the dangerous highway bend near their home, the site of several accidents, including one with very serious injuries, since somebody stole the solar panels which power the yellow warning light. Her husband jumped in their pickup and drove toward the probable crash scene, about a mile up the dirt road leading from the highway to their ranch property. Waiting back at the house, our nanny heard gunshots, and decided to send her son in their other pickup to see if her husband was alright, and to warn him that she had heard shots. She had already called 911, for all the good that that does. Her son jumped in their other pickup, turned on the highbeams, and began to turn around. His headlights swept across their land, and suddenly illuminated an extemely fat woman, posed in what one might suppose was supposed to be an alluring position, on the hood of her car, being photographed by her boyfriend/husband/spritual counsellor/artistic director/whatever. The son stopped the pickup, and ran back into the house, his eyes covered and shouting "I'm ruined for life!" In the meantime, her husband had reached the accident scene. A woman had driven off the road, left her car, and was now staggering down the road attempting to call someone on her cell phone. Or perhaps she was just continuing the same call she was making when she drove off the road. She appeared to be drunk, on drugs, or both. As the husband attempted to assist the accident "victim," two cars drove by full of young people with guns. Apparently, they were just shooting for fun. Nothing to do with accident or the fat lady. The fat lady and her assistant had driven off quickly upon being illuminated. This may somehow be related to the popular superstition that trouble comes in threes. Just remember, if you lived in La Jolla, something else would annoy ya.


August 21, 2005
 
NYT book review review
By Tom Smith

When I was young, I used to read the NYT book review every week and thought it full of wonderful stuff. Now I read it occassionally and am appalled of how full of cant and hackery it is. I don't know if I have gotten grumpy or if it really has gotten worse. But today, miraculously enough, there are not one but three items actually worth reading (and of course, many more that are not). First, Christopher Hitchens has a review of three books about pirates in the foundling (?) era of our Republic. I had no idea the Barbary pirates had kidnapped as many as a million Americans and Europeans into slavery, knew nothing of the Lafitte brothers or Jackson's deal with them, or where the words to Rule Britannia came from. Fascinating stuff.

One Charles Taylor (not the philosopher) has a mildly amusing essay about bad behavior in NYC mega book stores. He does not like the way people slouch and sit all over the place and get in the way of his browsing. At first I thought he was just being a weenie. It is hard to imagine someone would not get out of your way if asked them nicely, and if that didn't work, threatening to break their arms. There are some relevant martial arts principles here, but that would be a digression. But on reflection, I think Taylor may be correct. It's just not a problem in San Diego yet. NYC is more crowed, and while New Yorkers are not as rude as their reputation has it, they still can be fairly rude. Book store denizens are probably worse than the average New Yorker as well. Surely, though, there is something encouraging about so many people wanting to read.

Not counting as one of the things worth reading is Richard Cohen's weekly ethical musing (in the Magazine section). He has become something of a still point in my turning world; he can be counted on to get every ethical issue, no matter how trivial, wrong, and at length too. Two burning ethical issues this week. First, a would be yoga instructor writes in to whine that she is not being allowed to take her instructor's exam because the National Association of Yogi, or whatever, believes that the required postures could harm the fetus (by squashing it perhaps) and the mother, and so sorry, you'll have to wait until there's no bun in the oven. How very outrageous. How shocking. How downright unethical. Not to worry. Herr Prof. Cohen writes to a law professor at Hofstra, who assures him such would be illegal discrimination. I don't know if that is true, but it is certainly plausible. Between Congress, the Department of Labor and the Supreme Court, the very notion that an employer could lawfully both test for actual competence and protect fetuses at the same time, seems dubious indeed. But, Cohen is not a lawyer, he is an ethicist, dammit! The idea that it is unethical for Yoga Instructors to say, what are you crazy, you want to lie on your stomach, grab your ankles, and touch your head to your heels while you're pregnant? That's insane! -- seems anything but immoral. It seems downright prudent, common sensical and to be commended. Other trades pregnant ladies might want to consider avoiding are human cannonball, professional wrestler, and food tester for a mafia don. Richard Cohen's other missive is more routinely idiotic. An election observer writes in to say, my job is observing elections and trying to make them fair; I found out my driver was taking kickbacks for setting up others in employment with me; this is a common practice in the third-world hell hole where I currently work; should I worry about this, or should I just focus on free elections? The correct answer is, Just shut up! But out of politeness, one may say, ah, don't worry about it; you just work on the democracy thing. It is far from clear there is anything unethical about a driver taking a finder's fee to recommend a cook, or whatever. Maybe the driver has a duty of loyalty, maybe not. But surely to worry about the ethics of that in your typical third world hell displays well, an untoward over-scrupulousness. Still, I want Cohen to keep writing. He has refined self-parody to high art. Is it wrong to hope he keeps entertaining us with his peculiar brand of self-important, pseudo-moral fussy-pants-isms?

Finally, here is a pretty devasting review, which shows one function of the reviewer: to attempt to kill really bad books before they can corrupt public sensibilities. A well-crafted dart.


 
Let's do it!
By Tom Smith

A few years ago I had the idea of setting up an on-line betting market on weather, weather events, warming and cooling, storms, all that good stuff. I went so far as to get a former student now at a big firm to look into it, price out advertizing on the Weather Channel (a natural!), and to see how much it would cost to get the web page designed and set up in Bangalore. Everyone I explained the idea to reacted with enthusiasm. They enthusiastically said it was one of the stupidest ideas they had ever heard of. Moreover, it seemed pretty illegal too, given laws against online gambling. But, it would have been pretty cheap to set up in Bangalore. Now, there is still more talk of doing it, what with global warming uncertainty and all.

I still think it's a swell idea, and will continue to say so until some 22 year old becomes a billionaire and then writes a book about how to get brilliant, original business ideas, called "The Spirit of the New Warrior Entrepreneur" or some such.

I'm still not completely sure it is illegal. Betting on purely random events like dice is gambling, games of chance are gambling, sports is gambling, but weather is none of those. Maybe it would be insurance, or something. Then you could add lines on such things as the Singularity and whether it gets here by 2050. I know there are already futures markets of sorts on scientific propositons and various event lines at online casinos. But they sure haven't gone Ebay. Just another way in which regulation has made our lives more dull. Maybe American Indians could do it; they claim in all the ads promoting a casino in my neighborhood to have a nature thing going. It's a natural.


August 20, 2005
 
Overruling Kelo
By Mike Rappaport

The Kelo decision, allowing states to transfer property from one private person to another under the eminent domain power, appears to be quite unpopular. Now is the time to take advantage of the public disapproval of the decision, while at the same time disciplining the Supreme Court.

The states and the Congress should start a movement to overrule Kelo by constitutional amendment. Given its apparent unpopularity, it would seem a fair bet that the amendment could pass.

Not only would that amendment improve the Constitution, it would also be an effective way of criticizing the Supreme Court. The nation would be telling the Supreme Court, you are wrong and we don't like it.

In fact, there is much to be said for suggesting, as much as possible, that the amenders believe the Kelo decision was mistaken. One way to do that would be to say: "Notwithstanding the erroneous decision of the Supreme Court . . . .

Another question is how to phrase the requirement that eminent domain should only be exercised for the public. While I suppose one could spell it out, it would be less respectful towards the Supreme Court to refuse to do so. Instead, one could simply say: "public use is public use."

So here is my proposal for an amendment: "Notwithstanding the erroneous decision of the Supreme Court, public use is public use."


 
The BTK killer, psychopathology and punishment
By Tom Smith

Even as these cases go, this is a pretty bad one. Like I suppose many people, these sorts of cases make me think there is a place for capital punishment, even in a civilized society. There is, of course, the sheer horror and scale of the crimes Rader committed. For depravity, it is hard to exceed torturing to death children, not to mention men and women, for sexual gratification.

Interestingly and appropriately, the prosecutors have asked that Rader be deprived of anything (such as writing or drawing materials) that would help him relive his murders. Sexually sadistic psychopathic killers commonly want to relive the excitement of their crimes. They will revisit crime scenes, store bodies and have necrophilic sex with them (sorry, but it's true -- indeed, this has been used by police as a trap to capture sexual predators), collect trophies and of course obsessively relive them in their imaginations. It seems quite reasonable to me to view the re-imagining of his horrible crimes, albeit just mentally, as additional harms that the murderer does to the victims' families. Indeed, this seems to me one of the best reasons to put people like Rader to death. It gives victims' families the consolation of knowing that the murderer is not sitting in his cell savoring his past crimes. One might say, if he wants to delight in his crimes, let him do it in hell. I am sure many people, like me, regret that Rader cannot be executed under Kansas law.

It seems fair to say that psychopathic sexually sadistic predators are not that well understood, but more is known about them than used to be. Several articles noted the strangeness of Rader's statement at sentencing in which he tried to humanize himself by drawing parallels between him and his victims. One of the boys he murdered had a dog. Rader had a dog as a child. One of the women he tortured and murdered liked to garden. He liked to garden. This sort of grotesquely inappropriate "moral" thinking is common in psychopaths, or so I have read. They typically have an emotional poverty and superficiality, and lack of empathy and conscience, that makes them unable to engage in moral and empathic talk without appearing ridiculous. It is like someone who does not speak French trying to do so, and coming out with ridiculous nonsense -- "Waiter, please boil the blue tractor and eat it for me." It is not much of an exaggeration, if it is one at all, to say it is like a monster pretending to be human, and failing when the context disfavors his imitation. Yet in other contexts, psychopaths can be extremely glib, smooth and persuasive. One suspects many sucessful con artists are psychopaths.

Not all psychopaths are sadistic sexual predators, though inappropriate sexual behavior, such as early and extreme promiscuity, is apparently common. Scarily enough, psychopaths can be quite sucessful, in business or politics for example. Though no expert, I find it hard to believe that the extreme depravity evinced by Rader and similar killers, comes about without either a marked genetic predisposition, some sort of organic brain trauma, or both. Rader, again typically, apparently hanged stray cats as a child, showing an early preference for strangulation. This is not something he got from watching TV or growing up in a mean, capitalist society. This was evil bred in the bone. Cruelty to animals in childhood is definite danger signal of psychopathy, something parents and teachers should take seriously indeed when they come across it. (The two others in the triad are setting fires and fighting with other children.)

It remains mysterious to me, however, and perhaps to psychologists, why there should be a way in which humans can go wrong, such that they end up wanting to torture and kill people for sexual gratification. But then, a lot of sexual perversions are very odd. But at least some are odd, but not so extremely evil. Creatures such as Rader leave one wondering, where does it come from? One wonders for a while, but then one must turn one's face away.


August 19, 2005
 
Rafting adventure
By Tom Smith

Here are some photos of my family unit and the Cassells (dad Paul is a federal district judge in Utah, his wife and my sister is Trish Cassell, a DA in SLC) rafting on the Salmon River in Idaho. If you look at the sequence starting at number 28, you will see my lovely wife Jeanne having fun, then slipping to the edge of the raft, then in the water, then under the water. (You can just see her head under the water underneath the copyright symbol.) I am the handsome fellow on the left front (or port bow, as we river rats say) oar. First I am oblivious that she is in the water, then I see she is, then I start to move to pull her out. It was not a particularly dangerous swim as these things go, but it still scared me. If you want to know whether you love your wife, try dropping her in some raging rapids.

If you go back before 28, you can see a federal judge falling into the water, a sight many litigators will probably enjoy.


 
Bush's trip to Idaho
By Tom Smith

The Gem State (which sounds so much better than "the Potato State") is all atwitter about W's scheduled trip to Idaho this coming Monday. By coincidence, I just returned from the mountainous, lakey area where he is heading to recreate. I cannot confirm rumors that I was there on a secret mission for the White House. It's way too secret for that.

The politics of this are interesting. Bush is supposed to be going to a new resort being built on Lake Cascade, about 90 miles or so north of Boise. The resort, called Tamarack, is the first destination resort to be built in the West in twenty-five years (they say). A large French development company tried for ten years to develop a ski resort in the area, naively supposing that the U.S. Forest Service would eventually give them the required permission for the ski resort. Finally, the French surrendered, perhaps unable to grasp that the Forest Service was never going to help them. American developers took over the project, and hit upon the elegant solution of moving the whole resort north (I think, either that or south) a few miles, taking it off federal and onto state land. The State of Idaho issued its permits, and almost immediately ground was broken and brochures were printed. Home prices in the area shot up in a speculative frenzy. Perfectly modest homes on the lake are now selling for over a million, and on nearby (and more picturesque) Payette Lake, there are houses selling for close to $5 million, which is nuts in the view of many locals.

Idaho has two well established destination resort areas, Lake Coeur d'Alene and Sun Valley. Why isn't Bush going to one of these spots, which have much more in the way of infrastructure than Tamarack, which is still largely a gleam in speculators' eyes? I'm guessing several reasons. Both established resorts are heavily Democratic, especially old money and Hollywood frequented Sun Valley, where you may recall John Kerry has one of his palatial homes. (And where he reportedly stood up the gathering of supporters who worked on his visits to Sun Valley during the campaign.) But also, cynic that I am, I wonder whether there is not some serious Texas money behind the new resort. W's trip creates millions of dollars worth of publicity for the fledgling resort. It would be interesting to know everyone who wins by that. Whether or not friends of W are in on the deal, however, it is a very nice thank you to the folks at Sun Valley, who have got to be eating their hearts out at the prospect of Marine One touching down among the pines and mountains, but a hundred miles or so northwest of them. It is a gesture that has Karl Rove written all over it. But Sun Valley should take heart. They can look forward to visits from Sir and Lady John for many years to come. Just remember to stay out of his way.


August 18, 2005
 
Using Widows and Orphans
By Mike Rappaport

In looking up the Able Danger story, I noticed that the "Jersey Girls," the partisan Democrat widows of 9/11 victims had chimed in defending Jamie Gorelick. My reaction to this Jersey Girl is -- I am sorry about your loss, but I hardly see why that gives you expertise about national security.

But then I realized that the Jersey Girls, who were accorded much publicity and influence over the 9/11 Commission and investigations, were actually precursors to Cindy Sheehan: Women who had suffered losses were used by the Democrats to attack the Republican Administration. Republicans need to develop a way of responding to this tactic. One possibility is to form Republican groups of victims. Do we not see such Republican groups because behavior of this sort is just too unseemly?


 
Able Danger and the Costs of Civil Liberties
By Mike Rappaport

It is too soon to know what to make of the Able Danger story. But the revelations so far are striking. Consider this:

A military intelligence team repeatedly contacted the F.B.I. in 2000 to warn about the existence of an American-based terrorist cell that included the ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a veteran Army intelligence officer who said he had now decided to risk his career by discussing the information publicly. The officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said military lawyers later blocked the team from sharing any of its information with the F.B.I.

He said he learned later that lawyers associated with the Defense Department's Special Operations Command had canceled the F.B.I. meetings because they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States. "It was because of the chain of command saying we're not going to pass on information - if something goes wrong, we'll get blamed," he said.
I have not made up my mind about whether this type of information gathering is constitutional or legitimate. But one thing is clear: these broad civil liberties have important costs, and 9/11 may have been one of them.

What is amazing is that the 9/11 Commission, which apparently did not see fit to publish these matters, included Jamie Gorelick on it, the principal person concerned with putting up the wall of separation.

When historians look back at this commission, will they be able to understand why she sat on the Commission? And why the Republicans allowed her to? I certainly don't know why.


 
Joan Didion on Terry Schiavo
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Joan Didion takes on the Terry Schiavo case in the New York Review of Books. Didion is quietly devastating about Michael Schiavo and his lawyers. She makes it clear that whatever Terry Schiavo's actual condition and prognosis might have been, the poor woman wasn't in the "persistent vegetative state" depicted by those eager to end her life. Didion is quietly devastating, too, about the callousness of the leftish "base", for whom the case was "about" abortion, and (even more) about booing at Christians and demonising "fundamentalists".
[E]ven if we had managed to convince ourselves that this case involved the right to die, a problem remained. No one even casually exposed to religious teaching believes any such right exists. "So teach us to number our days," the Episcopal litany asks, "so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." This is a prayer for the wisdom to accept that death is inevitable, not a plea for control over its timing. "Control" itself, when it comes to the natural processes of life and death, is seen as an illusion, an error we learn through life to relinquish. This is by no means a view confined to Christian fundamentalists. It is a view shared by anyone whose ethical principles or general idea of how life works have at any point been touched by any of the world's major religions.

That this was a situation offering space for legitimate philosophical differences seemed obvious. Yet there remained, on the "rational" side of the argument, very little acknowledgment that there could be large numbers of people, not all of whom could be categorized as "fundamentalists" or "evangelicals," who were genuinely troubled by the ramifications of viewing a life as inadequate and so deciding to end it. There remained little acknowledgment even that the case was being badly handled, rendered unnecessarily inflammatory. There was an insensitivity in the timing of the removal of the feeding tube, which took place on the Friday before Palm Sunday, meaning that the gradual process of dying coincided with a week that for Christians has specifically to do with sacrificial suffering and death. "Oh come on," someone said when this was mentioned on a cable show. There was a further insensitivity in the fact that the tube was removed at all. If the sole intention is to terminate feeding and hydration, there is no need to remove a gastric feeding tube. All anyone need do is stop plunging the formula into the tube. Hospitals routinely leave gastric tubes in place long after patients have progressed to oral feeding, because any later need to replace the tube (after the incision has begun to heal and scar tissue to form) can be difficult and require surgery. In this case, in the absence of some unusual circumstance that remained unreported, the sole purpose of actual removal would seem to have been to make any legally ordered resumption of feeding difficult to implement.
This doesn't mean Didion is sure about keeping someone like Terry Schiavo alive:
[T]his specific case, which had to do with whether a healthy woman whose brain was damaged to a catastrophic but still unestablished extent should or should not continue living, was never about abortion alone. It had at its core a virtually unthinkable but increasingly urgent question, one that few on either side of the debate wanted to address aloud.

The question began with the different ways in which we define a life worth living, but it did not stop there. The question had ultimately to do with whether or not there could be occasions when the broad economic and ethical interests of the society at large should outweigh any individual claim to either the most advanced medical attention (which Theresa Schiavo, outside the one procedure at UCSF in 1990, did not have) or indefinite care. This was the question no one on any side of the debate wanted to hear. This was the question conveniently muffled by talk about "right-to-die" and "murderers" and "mullahs," about the "freak show," the "circus."
There is much more to Didion's piece than this, or any, brief excerpt can convey. It's superb reportage: thorough, and troubling. If you took any interest in the Schiavo case at all -- and eveyone at least briefly did -- then do read the whole thing.

Give full credit to Joan Didion, by the way, for thinking and writing about this with an open mind and heart. Didion's political journey in life, like much else about her, has been edgy and not without weirdness. She started as a writer, many decades ago, for the National Review. A wonderful collection of her essays from the 1960s and early 70s, called The White Album, captures the sometimes-sinister absurdity of that era's radicals, feminists, and "counter-culture" as well as anything you will ever read. Then and always, Didion's style was (and is) nervy and febrile; she is an old-stock Californian with a disconcertingly sharp, scarcely American, eye and ear for class. But at least since the 1980s, Didion has been a person of the political left; often of the angry left. I confess that I assumed, when I first saw she was writing about the Schiavo case for the NY Review, that it would be one more bitter screed against "fundamentalists". It is anything but. I underestimated her -- though no doubt she still despises Bush and the "religious right".

As for the New York Review of Books, now very much a vehicle for the bien pensant left -- it prints multiple, repetitive, often feverish denunciations of Bush in every issue -- full credit, too, for going against the grain and carrying Joan Didion's piece.


 
Paranoid Pasionaria
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Mark Steyn has it right, of course, about Cindy Sheehan, and about those who are cheering and exploiting her sad derangement:
Cindy Sheehan is a woman whose grief has curdled into a narcissistic rage, and the Democrats cheering her on are cheering their own marginalisation. Most Americans will not follow where she’s gone — to the wilder shores of anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-Iraq, anti-Afghanistan, anti-Israel, anti-American paranoia. Casey Sheehan’s service was not the act of a child. A shame you can’t say the same about his mom’s new friends.
Read the whole thing.


August 17, 2005
 
Slade Gorton and Hank Brown on the Akaka Bill
By Gail Heriot

Former Senators Slade Gorton and Hank Brown weigh in against the Akaka Bill in today's Wall Street Journal:

"The Senate is poised to sanction the creation of a racially exclusive government by and for Native Hawaiians who satisfy a blood test. The new race-based sovereign that would be summoned into being by the so-called Akaka Bill would operate outside the U.S. Constitution and the nation's most cherished civil rights statutes. Indeed, the champions of the proposed legislation boast that the new Native Hawaiian entity could secede from the Union like the Confederacy, but without the necessity of shelling Fort Sumter.

The Akaka Bill classifies citizens by race, defying the express provisions of the 14th Amendment. It also rests on a betrayal of express commitments made by its sponsors a decade ago, and asserts as true many false statements about the history of Hawaii. It should be defeated.

The Akaka Bill's justification rests substantially on a 1993 Apology Resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton when we were members of the Senate representing the states of Washington and Colorado. (We voted against it.) The resolution is cited by the Akaka Bill in three places to establish the proposition that the U.S. perpetrated legal or moral wrongs against Native Hawaiians that justify the race-based government the legislation would erect. These citations are a betrayal of the word given to us--and to the Senate--in the debate over the Apology Resolution.

We specifically inquired of its proponents whether the apology would be employed to seek 'special status under which persons of Native Hawaiian descent will be given rights or privileges or reparations or land or money communally that are unavailable to other citizens of Hawaii.' We were promised on the floor of the Senate by Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a personage of impeccable integrity, that 'as to the matter of the status of Native Hawaiians . . . this resolution has nothing to do with that. . . . I can assure my colleague of that.'

The Akaka Bill repudiates that promise of Sen. Inouye. It invokes the Apology Resolution to justify granting persons of Native Hawaiian descent--even in minuscule proportion--political and economic rights and land denied to other citizens of Hawaii. We were unambiguously told that would not be done."

Read the whole thing.


August 16, 2005
 
They're at it again
By Mike Rappaport

The MSM is attempting to attack John Roberts by misrepresenting his opposition to the absurd idea of "comparable worth" as opposition to principles of equal pay. These guys really have no shame. In addition to the information in these links, I heard Gwen Ifil lie -- er, misrepresent -- the two concepts on the Lehrer show.

The funny thing is, whether or not these guys are fools or knaves, they think they are doing Gods work. (They of course would not put it exactly that way.) Amazing.


 
Abbas and Arafat
By Mike Rappaport

How different is Abbas than Arafat?

According to David Pryce-Jones, writing in the New York Post:

In the past six months of supposed truce, they have mounted some 800 attacks on Israel, with many more foiled or aborted during the mission. Contending between them for supremacy, the two main Palestinian movements, Fatah and Hamas, have an almost equal share in these attacks—the former in the name of nationalism, the latter as Islamists. As chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas calls for calm while simultaneously, as head of Fatah, he either permits or fails to prevent his men from attacking Israel—a facing-two-ways performance worthy of his dissembling predecessor Yasser Arafat.


August 15, 2005
 
Limiting State Spending
By Mike Rappaport

Here is an article about the Colorodo experience in using state spending caps. Californians will vote on a similar measure in the next election. While I have supported supermajority rules at the federal level, I am likely to support the California proposal once I have read it to make sure there are no hidden problems.


 
Sharon's View
By Mike Rappaport

I have mentioned the views of Sharanksy and Netanyahu criticizing the disengagement. Here is Sharon's defense of it today in Israel:

Sharon said that "Gaza cannot be held onto forever. Over one million Palestinians live there, and they double their numbers with every generation. They live in incredibly cramped refugee camps, in poverty and squalor, in hotbeds of ever-increasing hatred, with no hope whatsoever on the horizon."

Sharon said the plan was good for Israel's future. "We are reducing the day-to-day friction and its victims on both sides. The IDF will redeploy on defensive lines behind the Security Fence. Those who continue to fight us will meet the full force of the IDF and the security forces."

Repeating his oft-articulated argument that the disengagement plan has given Israel the diplomatic initiative, Sharon said that now the "burden of proof" was on the Palestinians.

"They must fight terror organizations, dismantle its infrastructure and show sincere intentions of peace in order to sit with us at the negotiating table," Sharon said. "The world awaits the Palestinian response – a hand offered in peace or continued terrorist fire. To a hand offered in peace, we will respond with an olive branch. But if they chose fire, we will respond with fire, more severe than ever."


 
The Trouble With Harry
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Hugh Hewitt has it right, as usual, on the egregious William Raspberry and the Roberts nomination.

Except it's Harvey the rabbit, of course, not Harry.


 
Passive Bias
By Mike Rappaport

I think the principal way that the MSM exhibits bias as to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and that is saying something -- is to refuse to mention the source of violence. The press writes "violence occurs" rather than "Palestianians shot at Israelis." Surely, the writers know what they are doing.

LGF gives an example of this bias by CNN.


 
Natan Sharansky's View
By Mike Rappaport

Previously, I quoted from Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation letter outlining his disagreement with the withdrawel from Gaza. Here, I quote from a report on Natan Sharansky's resignation letter, of May 2nd, 2005,also opposing the withdrawel:

In his resignation letter, Sharansky told Sharon any concessions to the PLO should be based on sincere democratic reforms, and explained that unilaterally withdrawing will instead "weaken the prospects for building a free Palestinian society and at the same time strengthen the forces of terror."

"Will our departure from Gaza encourage building a society where freedom of speech is protected, where independent courts protect individual rights and were free market enable Palestinians to build an independent economic life beyond government control?" Sharansky asked.

He further questioned if Israel's retreat will "end incitement in the Palestinian media or hate-filled indoctrination in Palestinian schools" or "result in the dismantling of terror groups or the dismantling of the refugee camps in which four generation of Palestinians have lived in miserable conditions?"

"Clearly, the answer to all these questions is no," Sharansky stated.
Sharanksy develops these points at greater length in his excellent book, The Case for Democracy, which I am now finishing. I shall have more to say about it in the near future.


August 14, 2005
 
L.A. Times on Tort Reform
By Gail Heriot

The L.A. Times has a remarkably one-sided piece on tort reform today entitled "Legal Urban Legends Hold Sway." Ted Frank and Walter Olson comment at Overlawyered.com.


 
More on the Akaka Bill: Poll Suggests that Even Ethnic Hawaiians Oppose It
By Gail Heriot

The Akaka bill, which would put into motion a process transforming ethnic Hawaiians into America's largest Indian tribe, continues to fascinate me.

Last month, the Grassroot Institute released a massive poll with 39,000 participants. The results of the poll appear to show that Hawaiians oppose the Akaka bill by a remarkable ratio of 2 to 1 (56.8%/28.2%) when asked the following question:

"The Akaka Bill question, now pending in Congress, would allow Native Hawaiians to create their own government not subject to all the same laws, regulations and taxes that apply to other citizens of Hawaii. Do you want Congress to approve the Akaka Bill?"

Even ethnic Hawaiians were against the bill. Forty-eight percent (48%) opposed it to only forty-three percent (43%) in favor and nine percent (9%) not responding.

When the poll first came out, there was a lot of talk that other polls had shown the opposite. But it turns out that just one poll was being cited in the other direction, and it is a flawed one. In 2003, the very pro-Akaka bill Office of Hawaiian Affairs commissioned a poll in which ethic Hawaiians were asked:

“Do you think that Hawaiians should be recognized by the U.S. as a distinct group, similar to the special recognition given to Native Americans and Alaska Natives?"

Eight-six percent (86%) of the 303 ethnic Hawaiians polls and seventy-eight percent (78%) of the 301 "non-Hawaiians" said "yes." But what are they saying "yes" to? "Recognition." Well, ladies and gentlemen, who wouldn't want recognition? It really seems to me that the Grassroot Institute's question comes a lot closer to the reality of the Akaka bill than the Office of Hawaiian Affairs question.


August 13, 2005
 
Basically Silly
By Gail Heriot

Basic Books used to be a great publisher. Now it is reduced to publishing a book with a title like "Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)." The author is a professor of media studies at New York University, and as the title suggests, the book is the product of a fevered mind. How do I know? I was unlucky enough to see an advance copy sent out to drum up book reviews.


August 12, 2005
 
America Unloved
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Clive Davis is right, unfortunately, about British attitudes to the US, which are ambivalent (to put it charitably):
[T]here's no mistaking the hostility to American values among large sections of the British population. Conservative commentators in the US have got plenty of mileage out of jibes at French anti-Americanism; the unpleasant truth is that Britain is home to a similar phenomenon. Last October an ICM opinion survey registered a sharp increase in hostility to the US. A startling 73% of British voters felt that the US exercised too much influence around the globe. As the Guardian reported at the time: "A majority in Britain also believe that US democracy is no longer a model for others. But perhaps a more startling finding from the Guardian/ICM poll is that a majority of British voters -- 51% -- say that they believe that American culture is threatening our own culture."

Where has this hostility come from? Well, to some extent, it was always there. Even at the height of WW2... attitudes to Americans were decidedly mixed. Hence that famous catch-phrase about US servicemen: "over-paid, over-sexed, and over here". Angus Calder's vivid account of the wartime UK, "The People's War", points to the result of a popularity poll conducted in 1943. Americans were well down the list of admired allies: "After Mussolini's fall in the summer of that year," writes Calder, "they were actually less well spoken of than the Italians..."

There's no question that media bias plays a major part in skewing public perceptions. The BBC, which once brought us "Alistair Cooke's America", [now] seldom misses an opportunity to portray the States as violent, dysfunctional and imperialist. A left-liberal mind-set is de rigueur at Broadcasting House, tarnishing what is still, in many ways, a great institution. In this closed world neocons, not Islamists, are regarded as the great threat to democracy. Unfortunately, even in these days of multi-channel broadcast, the Corporation's huge resources and its immense cultural reach mean that it still sets the agenda. While the national press is slightly less shrill, pro-American commentators are very much a minority.
Anyone who spends time in Britain -- I've just returned a few days ago -- will recognise the truth of Davis' report.

What is to be done, as V. I. Lenin so plangently asked? Davis criticises the Bush administration's public relations, especially where Europeans are concerned. And no doubt, American public diplomacy in Europe (and elsewhere) is dire. But it is not clear that it would make much difference even if American diplomats and spokespeople were far more self-assured, non-apologetic, and articulate than in fact they are. The truth is that America's hard-driving economic success -- and its demotic, commercial, utterly non-traditional popular culture -- inspire a mix of envy and contempt among many Europeans (and among many people elsewhere in the world as well, of course). American public diplomacy surely ought to be improved: there's almost nowhere to go but up. But ambivalence, at best, is probably an inescapable price of America's success: at least so long as America is successful in, well, such a very American way.