The Right Coast

October 31, 2003
While the Supreme Court is at it
By Tom Smith

We may have to get rid of our national anthem (adopted in 1931) as well as the Pledge. What, you don't know the fourth verse?

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Hat tip to anti-idolitarian rottweiler for the reminder.

Don't mess with Catholic Schoolgirls
By Tom Smith

This story of Catholic school girl vigilante justice doesn't surprize me. Hat tip to my corporations student Gina Kim.

Philosophy memories
By Tom Smith

Brian Leiter has an interesting history of the ups and downs of various philosophy departments over the years. It brings back some memories for me. I was a philosophy major at Cornell when it was a powerhouse department. Terry Irwin taught the Greeks, Kant and Rawls and was a dedicated teacher of undergraduates as well as graduates. To say he was held in high esteem by undergraduates and graduates alike would be a gross understatement. Norman Kretzman gave me the first "C" on a paper I had gotten since about 6th grade, woke me from my doctrinal slumbers and got me fascinated with medieval philosophy as I have been since. Nick Sturgeon was super smart and another dedicated teacher. Stalnaker was a bit of a cold fish but also scary smart. Dick Boyd taught philosophy of science and was good. Visitors included Saul Kripke, Rawls, Max Black, and on and on. It was pretty thrilling to a kid from Boise, Idaho.

After Cornell I went to Oxford and tried to decide if I wanted to study more philosophy and ending up compromising. I was in the B.Phil program for a term, but found myself assigned to P.M.S. Hacker, whose first initials aptly describe him. R.M Hare and Jeremy Waldron proved you don't have to be a jerk to be a top philosopher, but I had ended up with Hacker. So I quit the B.Phil. and read PPE and ended up with Waldron as my top tutor (I forget the official Oxford slang). He was great; another great teacher.

After that I went to law school at Yale, mostly because I did not know what else to do and vaguely thought it might lead to an exciting career in Washington. Intellectually speaking, I found Yale a crushing let down from Cornell and Oxford. I was used to small seminars with great minds. At one seminar at Oxford, led by Dworkin, Derek Parfit and AK Sen, I found myself sitting next to HLA Hart and Charles Taylor. Parfit, widely regarded as a genius but pretty full of himself, was going on with some theory about moral consensus. I asked a question intended to puncture his theory and with Dworkin's help, it did. Parfit was really pissed off, and Dworkin came up afterwards to introduce himself to me! From that, I went to being condescend to by Bruce Ackerman at Yale, who wanted nothing to do with any student not licking his shoes and who, whatever Brian says, I just don't consider to be a serious philosopher, not in Dworkin's or Parfit's league anyway. It was pretty depressing.

After law school I decided to apply to philosophy graduate school and got into Harvard and Princeton, which were, as no less an authority than Brian confirms, the best departments at the time. I was ready to either give up law or do real philosophy and law. I visited Harvard, thinking, I could be studying with Rawls and Nozick! They were both there at the time. But the graduate students told such depressing stories. No need to bother with Nozick, they said. You're not a hot babe; he only likes hot babe students. As to Rawls, he doesn't like grad students at all. And watch out for [forget the name], the director of graduate studies, he's a sadist, no, not figuratively speaking, they said, a real DSM-IV, diagnosable sadist. Yikes. So I called Princeton on the phone. It actually seemed like a much better program, but their idea of what a good job was was so depressing, I gave it up and took a job in law teaching instead.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at some book about Wittgenstein and my wife said, "Oh, Wittgenstein. I have a patient who likes him." "Is he a philosopher?" I asked. "He has a PhD from Pittsburgh," she said "but he works as a groundskeeper at a golf course. He likes it. It leaves him lots of time to read philosophy."

Oh dear, I'm a moderate
By Tom Smith

My political identity test. I find it reassuring that I'm pretty close to Milton Freidman.

October 30, 2003
Left-Wing Hypocrisy; Dog Still Barking
By Tom Smith

I'm working on my cardboard sign. How does this sound: "Will engage in left-wing rants for use of private jet, fleet of SUVs and large sums of cash." Comments welcome. (via

Juicy Corporate Law
By Tom Smith

I admit it. A lot of corporate law cases are boring. So much the better when something juicy comes along. No I'm not talking about Kozkiwski's party for his (second) wife's birthday, complete with well-oiled male models. I'm talking about the Disney/Ovitz matter going back to court. This case was brought by none other than our local plaintiff's canine Bill Lerach on behalf of the long suffering shareholders of Disney, complaining about the $100 million plus severance payment that Michael Ovitz got when he left Disney, as everybody knew he would as soon as he signed on there. The Delaware courts will get another chance to decide how stupid a Board can be and still be protected by the business judgment rule. Case law establishes that profoundly stupid is not stupid enough. How about Unbelievably-stupid-to-the-tune-of-more-than-$100 million? We shall have to wait and see. As Fortune magazine wisely notes, the atmospherics are different now, in a post-Enron, post-WorldCom, post really tasteless ice sculpture etc. etc. world.

October 29, 2003
By Tom Smith

Roger Hedgecock is reporting on KOGO AM600 that the California Department of Forestry refused an offer to use Navy and Marine choppers to fight the fire for bogus safety reasons, questioning the training of military pilots. This story needs a full investigation. Arnold needs to do a full audit of CDF procedures when he gets in. If Davis did not order the CDF to get over itself and reach out to use any and all resources necessary to save people's homes, he should be impeached . . . Well, it's late for that. But if this story is true, it's truly an outrage.

And this L.A. Times story is a must read. I know Davis is a weak leader, but how much courage does it take to yell Help! San Diego congressman Duncan Hunter should push through legislation that makes it easier to use military helicopters. Apparently the private helicopter charter lobby doesn't like the idea. Now there's a group we ought to care about.

Military Helicopters
By Michael Rappaport

It appears that a scandal may be emerging concerning the refusal of California to use available military helicopters to fight the fire. From what I just saw, the refusal to use them may have been an enormous loss. As I drove by the Miramar Marine Base, I saw a string of at least 10 or 15 helicopters carrying large waterbuckets. In the main, the helicopters appeared to be flying to the northeast of Miramar, but one dropped its water on an area that was either on the base, near it, or perhaps even in nearby Scripps Ranch. What a difference these helicopters might have made if employed earlier.

In view of the reports that California officials refused to use these helicopters, perhaps Arnold will have to reprise his role as The Terminator.

The International Red Cross Attack
By Michael Rappaport

Michael Totten has an interesting post on the attack on the International Red Cross. It is a strong statement, but it is hard to argue with its logic.

    [Totten begins]: Even after the terrorist massacre at the International Red Cross center in Baghdad, Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani still doesnt understand the world she is living in. [He then quotes the spokeswoman]:

    Maybe it was an illusion to think people would understand after 23 years [working in Iraq] that we are unbiased. I can't understand why we've been targeted.

    [Totten continues]: Mrs. Doumani. You are not unbiased. You are trying to help the Iraqi people. You are not on the side of the Baathists or the Islamists. You represent civilization and the West. And you work for the Red Cross, not the Red Crescent.

    More than two years have passed since Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington. For more than two years the world has known, and should have been able to grasp, that the “infidel” is their enemy. You, Mrs. Doumani, are an “infidel.” You are not an Islamic fascist. So you’d better watch your back and quit pretending you are a neutral. You will never please them. You can never appease them. You will never earn their trust, their thanks, or their respect. Never. Get used to it. When they say they want to kill you, for your own sake, for all our sakes, take them at their word.
(Emphasis added).

Poverty and Philosophy
By Tom Smith

I seem to have irritated betrandrussell with my post about Stupid Philosophers. It might be worth a word in reply to what might be called betrandrussell's temperate attack on my comments.

As to philosophers, I think a lot of professional philosophers overestimate their intelligence relative to people in other professions and to people generally. Philosophers tend to be good at some forms of reasoning, but often have very little in the way of what you might call practical wisdom in other areas. I have found it amusing over the years to observe, for example, that many moral philosophers seem to have trouble living very morally. My philosophy advisor, a truly wonderful man and teacher, Norman Kretzman, who died some years ago, once remarked at a meeting in which one of his (now pretty well known) philandering colleagues was assigned to teach the course "Contemporary Moral Problems" that "it takes one to know one." Sometimes you have great moral philosophers, but having an insight about metaethics or whatever does not give you a leg up on insights into the world's problems. But I have no reason to think Honderich is even a particularly good philosopher. Honderich seems to me to be a second rate philosopher at best, and one who is spouting wicked nonsense. That he is well insulated from the consequences of his ideas just makes him more contemptible. His gesture of trying to buy off his critics with a scrap of his wealth is disgusting. OxFam showed a bit of real moral rectitude by refusing his donation. The idea that his moral wisdom on any topic is worth listening to, is ridiculous.

As to my views on terrorism, I think it is wrong under all circumstances. By definition, it means killing the innocent indiscriminately. I would be willing to fight for liberty, and kill its enemies as necessary, but that does not include waging war on civilians. I'm not interested in the opinions of philosophers who support terrorism, when I know it's not their children who will be blown to pieces or forced to murder themselves to avoid a worse fate. That's why I suggested Honderich put in a year in Africa working with people who are poor and suffering. Maybe if he acquainted himself with some real suffering, he would be more circumspect about advocating doling it out.

On the point of suffering and poverty generally, I think that Marxists and other materialists overestimate the role that wealth plays in making people happy. Empirical social science tends to support this claim. The very poorest of the poor, in Bangladesh and parts of Africa, are indeed unhappy. But most people, including people very poor indeed by American standards, tend to be pretty happy with their lives, and do not miss the things Americans put so much stock in. When people like the Shining Path start killing people in order to bring about more equality and justice, I think as an empirical matter they are causing more unhappiness than will ever be outweighed by the changes they seek to bring about. It just would not occur to most philosophers to actually inquire, using social science, how unhappy poor people are, before advocating equality. I was struck by the dignity and relative simplicity of the life of Peruvian Indians, though they are very poor. There were not miserable that I could tell. They were not particularly friendly to tourists--they were too proud for that. They were surrounded by a rich environment in which they were intensely interested. Their kids did not watch TV for 4-6 hours a day like many American kids. The idea that we should start a civil war so they could have all the pleasures of modern life strikes me as ridiculous. As to whether I would choose to live the life of a hunter-gatherer in the Amazon, well, I have a wife and kids and wouldn't impose that choice on them, but as for myself, I wouldn't mind trying it for a year or so. Lice don't bother me that much.

October 28, 2003
Battle of Julian
By Tom Smith

As I write this, firefighters are battling the Cedar fire which threatens to engulf the mountain town of Julian, famous in San Diego as a resort and destination for Sunday drives, and home to many who love its unique Southern Californian mountain beauty. It does not look good. The winds that shifted and saved many in my part of East San Diego County have sent the fire raging toward Descanso, Cuyamaca and Julian. The community of Cuyamaca has, reportedly, already been destroyed. Local news channels are reporting 90 percent of the homes have been burned. Julian is a much loved community in this area. We all hope somehow the fire will spare it. The courage and physical stamina of the firefighters is remarkable. They face not just exhaustion, but an unpredictable enemy that can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees. I am still somewhat fearful that a shift in the wind could send the fire barreling down Pine Valley toward my home--it is eerie to hear described as burning places are am used to driving by. But the weather report predicts no more winds from the East, and I somewhat guiltily pray that is right, even though it would be bad news for my neighbors to the the northeast.

NBC News, I am happy and surprised to report, did a good job on their national news, reporting with dignity and sensitivity the losses of the families who live 5 miles to my north in Crest, who lost homes and family members in the fire. They did a good job capturing the suddenness of it, and how easy it is to get trapped at the end of these rural roads in east county.

Fire Photos
By Tom Smith

This is what fire looks like. Thanks to instapundit for the pointer. Try stopping this with your garden hose. Here's a fire map I stole from and posted on my personal website. You can click on it twice to enlarge it. Here's a gallery of photos from Crest, a small community about 5 miles north of Jamul, where I live.

What do you call a right-wing comedian?
By Tom Smith

Senator. To answer the Daily Standard, yes, I'm ready for Senator Dennis Miller. Liberal Hollywood hates him. He calls the French "les bags du scum." He has been denounced by Sir Elton John. He renamed the San Andreas fault Grey Davis's fault. He's tough. People will vote for him. Another reason. Barbara Boxer. Oh, and he said of a tired Robert Byrd "he must be burning the cross at both ends."

BBC glorifies communist spies; dogs bark
By Tom Smith

So what else is new. BBCAmerica begins its mini-series tonight or maybe last night on those darn glamorous, aristocratic Cambridge spies. I think I'll give it a miss. They were young, they handsome, they were rich . . . they were in league with the most murderous regime in human history.

And while we're on the subject of glorifying murderous regimes, there's this little nugget on ANSWER, the anti-war folks. Thanks to Left Coast Conservative (worth a visit) for the pointer.

October 27, 2003
Davis's Fire 2
By Tom Smith

Here is the site for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. It is showing the national fire alert level at 2. A couple of summers ago, when forest fires were burning in Western states, but far fewer homes were threatened, and fewer acres actually burning, the alert level was at 5. This is messed up. My older brother, a volunteer fireman and lawyer, tells me it is only because Sacramento did not request federal assistance that federal resources stayed on the ground and the alert level remained at only 2. He says he thinks it has to do with rivalry between the California Department of Forestry and national agencies. So San Diegans have to watch houses burn to satisfy bureaucratic egos. This is not the time for recriminations and finger pointing. But the time is coming for that, and it is yet another mess Arnie should sort out. Perhaps a good start would be firing the people at the top of CDF. They should have told Davis they needed help in time to stop the fire's march in San Diego suburbs, which the right aircraft may well have don.

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
By Gail Heriot

I've been trying to ready my house in case of fire for the past two days, clearing debris from my Spanish tile roof, clipping bushes and planning what to do if I am ordered to evacuate. It's somewhat disconcerting work, especially when I take the time to watch the ashes raining down into my yard. What used to be a picturesque canyon view along the back of my modest freehold has begun to look a little menacing in the smokey glow that is enveloping much of Southern California.

I feel useful when I'm clearing brush and debris (even though I have no particular talent for the work). I know that there isn't a lot that I can do to alter the odds in the immediate run, but like most games, this one is played at the margin. I do the best I can, given the cirumstances, to protect my property and the property of my neighbors. If that's only a little bit, that's okay; the stakes are certainly high enough to justify the effort. Those who moan that they want to be able to shift the odds more decisively in their favor frequently wind up doing nothing. When they repeatedly fail to do the little things that move the odds just a little bit, they usually end up worse off in the end. Little improvements are the stuff that real life is made of.

Here's what's bothering me. On television, civic leaders and media talking heads seem to agree that the fire storm is something that must be taken care of by professionals. Either you are a firefighter (or policeman, doctor, nurse, or relief worker) or you are a victim. There are no other categories. Professionals are praised for their heroism (both when they have earned it and when they have not). Victims, on the other hand, are praised for their docility--that is their willingness to evacuate their homes when ordered to do so and to place their trust entirely in the hands of professionals without complaining.

It would be nice to be able to rely on the professionals completely. But nothing is more obvious than the fact that our firefighters are stretched too thinly to control the 50-mile fire fronts that currently snake across San Diego County. To place one's trust entirely in their hands is foolish; despite their spirit and dedication, there just aren't enough of them. Last night, for example, television crews showed home after home aflame without a firefighter in sight. I am not at all certain that I will leave my house immediately in the unlikely event that I am commanded to leave. What if that order comes in too soon? Should I be required to abandon everything I own, taking only my purse and car keys, no matter how far away the fire is and no matter how much I might to able to accomplish by staying a while longer? What motivation do the authorities have to avoid ordering an evacuation prematurely?

California wildfires are just like the rest of real life. If you want to make sure that your interests are being attended to, it's best to attend to them yourself. That doesn't mean that a man ought to stand there like an imbecile defending his house from a 50-foot high wall of fire with a garden hose. But it does mean that he must occasionally employ his own judgment in determining whether or when to fight a little longer or turn and run. There's something to be said for the feisty homeowner (even the one with the garden hose) who refuses to abandon his home to be defended by the non-existent firefighter. He's like the law-abiding citizen who insists on the right to carry a gun to defend herself against street thugs or like the concerned parents who insist on home-schooling their children rather than to submit meekly to substandard public schools. I can't help feeling that we all benefit as a result of some of these feisty souls.

One of my favorite movies is the Seven Samarai. In it, seven samarai come to the rescue of a small Japanese village that is under attack by brigands. Good triumphs over evil; I can't help but love it. Still it has one fault. The villagers are not portrayed as idiots; they take some responsibility for recruiting the samarai to protect them and they cooperate with the samarai to help drive off the bad guys. But in general, theirs is a passive role; it is the samarai who save the day, just as it is the firefighters and policemen who are being set up as our sole protection this week. I prefer my peasants a bit more self-reliant.

The Seven Samarai was re-made into an American Western--the Magnificent Seven--starring Yul Brynner with excellent support by James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Robert Vaughan (in a wonderful role as a Southern dandy gunslinger who loses his nerve and then, briefly, gets it back again). But it was obvious from the beginning that this sort of story just didn't fit in well with the average American's concept of the American West. American farmers might benefit from leadership from some professional, but in popular memory they were full participants in their own protection, not passive peasants. So the Magnificant Seven was set in Mexico rather than in the United States. Evidently, Hollywood thought that American moviegoers would be more willing to tolerate the notion that a Mexican village would need seven deliverers. American frontiersmen were expected to be feisty.

Is California still home to self-reliant homeowners prepared to stand their ground sometimes even when the authorities tell them not to? I hope so. But you couldn't prove it by the television coverage of the last two days. Television's homeowners seem to be a dependent lot.

Davis's Fire
By Tom Smith

Fox News 6 here in San Diego is now reporting that there are military tankers waiting on the ground for Gov. Davis's order to help out with the fire. Any time now would be fine, Grey. Maybe this is the Grayman's revenge on San Diego County. Seriously, there should be a full investigation of where the hell the helicopters and tankers are while San Diego burns. If the answer is, "they're busy," then we need to find out why there is not more federal help on line, and why we don't have more state and county resources on tap.

There is a fire to the south of me in Proctor Valley, where I go hiking because it's only a five minute drive away. Maybe 3 or 4 miles. The Crest fire is about four miles north. The San Diego Sheriff's department just drove through a neighborhood about 10 minutes north of here telling people to get out. But now the news says that CDF (California Department of Forestry) has said, no, that was a mistake. Those people can stay where they are, according to CDF. So, I guess the message is, evacuate! or Don't! Or, as they tell you on the evacuation help line: USE YOUR DISCRETION! Or as they say here in California, how do you feel about it? Do you feel like you are in danger? If you feel like you are in danger, then FLEE!

When this is over, this little corner of Jamul is going to become a fire department of one. Pool pump. Foam generator. Regulation quality fire hose. Maybe it's time to put down that well. 50 horsepower diesel generator to power the firehose. Maybe I could buy my own firetruck on ebay.

Across the street one of my charming neighbors, who violates the CCR's by keeping part of the inventory of his used car business parked in his driveway, has hired somebody with a bobcat to clear out brush in the ravine next to his house. Illegal because of environmental regs, I think, but I say, die Mormon Tea bush, die! Scrape it down to DG (that's decomposed granite for you city folks)!

October 26, 2003
The Evil Rich
By Tom Smith

OK, we can confiscate wealth just this once.

Fear of Fire
By Tom Smith

It's that time of year in San Diego again, when you watch the flames on the ridge line and wonder if you will still have a house in 24 hours. It doesn't sound fun and it's not. I should not complain. Hundreds of people have lost their homes already and a dozen have died and not in any way you would choose. I am situated between two fires which the knuckle head on the news has predicted will merge by morning. I am betting they won't, but will check every so often through the night to make sure.

The information hotline was amusing. I had my wife call, because I have a tendency to get irritated. She asked if we should evacuate, and the operator said if the sheriff had not come by to tell us to leave we had no worries. But the news said there were not enough personnel to do that, my wife observed. Well, that was true, the operator admitted. Could we see flames? Oh, yes, my wife confirmed. (But about 3 or 4 miles away on a ridgeline). Well, we would just have to use our own discretion. Good to get that learnt.

For some reason, Jeanne is taking this fire quite seriously. I wanted to leave during that last scary fire, some 3 or so years ago. Our neighborhood was 'voluntarily evacuated,' which means leave, unless you are stupid. Jeanne said we should stay, since we could not actually see the flames yet. The sky had that soothing nuclear winter look, neighbors were packing up and leaving, but we stayed. I adjusted the sprinklers on our patio cover and bargained with God. The wind and the fire just stopped about a mile from our house. Being scared with a mile between you and the fire line is considered wimpy by old hands. If the wind had not just stopped when it did, our house had about 6 hours of life left.

Pack up, they say. Just what are you supposed to bring? Photo albums, various documents, OK. But after that? A despair sets in when you realize you cannot really pack for losing your house. Underwear, socks, your PDA and cellphone. Your two big dogs. Dogfood. Your current trashy novel. A family size bottle of Valium would be nice if I had one.

I am being cute now, but if this fire gets much closer, it will cease to be funny in a very big hurry. The ceasing to be funny part is bad. Fear, anxiety, more fear. You get the idea. I never want to find out what it feels like to find you have no house. I hereby take back all the nasty things I've said about my house.

My precocious 12 year old is reading The Art of War. Watching the news, he says to me "If your enemy leaves a door open, rush through." And then, after the news idiot predicts an even more general conflagration, my son helpfully observes "the door is closing, Dad." I hope it is not a long night.

October 24, 2003
Child Saved from Burning House; Women's Right to Choose Eroded
By Tom Smith

From an AP story yesterday:

. . . Dr. David Grimes, a North Carolina physician who formerly headed the abortion surveillance division of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called [the decision to reconnect Mrs Terri Shiavo to her feeding tube] "a very sad day."

"Here we have a governor of Florida interfering with a family's choice and Congress interfering with a woman's right to choose," Grimes said yesterday. "I thought this administration's role was to get government off people's backs."

Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said people need to realize "it's not just a fight about abortion. It extends far beyond, to family planning and other personal, private decisions."

These people are starting to really creep me out. I understand how non-Catholics could view as unreasonable the stance that a little cluster of cells should be treated as a human life. But with Terri Schiavo, it is members of her family, her parents and brother, who want her kept alive and her husband who wants the plug pulled. The husband may be right, but it is at least worth inquiry as to whether he has his wife's best interests or just his own at heart. The pro-abortion people are acting as if the principle is, if it's alive and we can't kill it, it's a set back for a woman's right to choose.

Similarly with the partial birth abortion debate. Late term abortions of babies who would be viable if put in a neo-natal care unit are morally problematic, at best. The vast majority of physicians won't go anywhere near them. Yet the NARAL etc. view seems to be Congress should not even be allowed to discuss regulating them, for fear legitimate abortions would be impacted. That is nuts. It lends weight to the claim of the right-to-life people make that the logic of abortion will spread outward to include other vulnerable people. Can it really be the pro-abortion people do not recognize there is a public interest in making sure decisions about ending a life are made properly? Do they seriously expect us to treat these decisions as entirely "private"? How can they be called private when the life of a person (or quasi- or semi- person) who by hypothesis is not consenting to being killed, is involved?

October 23, 2003
Statutory Intrepretation
By Tom Smith

I confess I often don't like scholarly presentations by law professors. Many of them strike me as having been done only because everybody likes to feel productive. But today's by Einer Elhauge on statutory interpretation was really very good. His article is at 102 Columbia Law Review 2027. As my cell phone rang in the middle of my asking him a really deep question (it was my wife saying she could not get the oven to work), I must go, but let me just commend it as a really careful and serious grappling with various jurisprudential issues of statutory interpretation, as well as a careful avoidance of others.

Stupid Philosophers
By Tom Smith

Philosophers can get away with making arguments that would be laughed out of other disciplines. Causing controversy is the latest missive from Ted Honderich. (thanks to NRO for the pointer.) I read a book of his called if I remember correctly "Violence for Equality" back in the 1970's. I remember thinking at the time it was pretty lame. The argument goes roughly, it's OK to kill people in a good cause, and equality is a good cause.

The review of the new book, After the Terror, in the CHE is pretty stupid, I'm afraid. It just assumes the usual cant about the causes of third world poverty (globalization, blah, blah), and goes from there. The reviewer timidly suggests, maybe there are moral dangers in approving terrorism. You think?

(To digress a bit, I also just don't see what's so bad about a lot of third world poverty. I hung out for a while in the Amazon last summer, and frankly I would much rather be a Peruvian Indian fishing that big river for a living than some Manhattan investment banker drone or Wall Street law firm associate. You fish for a living, you're in great shape, nobody seems to be working very hard. So you have lice and die younger. I'd rather do that than pull 80 hours a week in a glass box.)

Honderich's new book is said to be written in an offhand, chatty style. How odd. That's how his 1970's book was written, too. Other terms might include sloppy, full of unsupported assertions, presumptuous, and so on. Oh, yes, and windy.

How's this for slimy: to try to defuse controversy over his apparent approval of terrorism, Honderich offered to give 5000 pounds to OxFam, which, get this, refused the donation on ethical grounds, saying it held that all humans had a right to life and it was wrong to kill some of them to try to achieve political ends through the terror thereby created, and it wouldn't take money from somebody who supported terrorism. Oh, how very philosophically confused of OxFam, or maybe they're just Kantians (or Christians). Still, good on OxFam! But 5000 pounds is a lot for a philosopher to offer, no? No. Honderich hails, how shocking!--from a very wealthy family. Would it just be too incomprehensible for Ted to leave off advocating killing people for say, one year, and spend that year maybe working with AIDS victims in Africa? I could him in touch with lots of groups that would welcome the help. But I guess advocating roasting people alive (those that couldn't get to the windows in time to put themselves out of their misery) in buildings in New York from your, let me guess, fashionable west end of London address, is a finer thing, in some philosophical sense. And there are better restaurants nearby as well.

My impression from the outside is that there is very much a hierarchy in philosophy, with the smartest people going into quite technical areas such as epistemology and metaphysics, in which there have been some bona fide geniuses in recent decades (such as Saul Kripke, I would say) down to very applied ethics and political theory, where stuff gets said and written that strikes me as downright embarrassing. I would put Honderich in very much the latter category. I have certainly sat in philosophy workshops where not well-known but at least tenured philosophy professors made generalizations about, say, contract law that were so wildly wrong that any half-intelligent business person who had occasionally to read a contract would be chagrined--not to mention any first year law student. Yet at the top of the philosophy profession are people who probably compete with Nobel prize winning physicists for sheer brain power. Go figure.

Bumper Sticker Wars
By Tom Smith

Blame the Volokh conspiracy for this post. Where I live, bumper stickers are a major cultural form (one of the few). These favorites bear repeating:

Jesus loves you. Everybody else thinks you're an asshole.

God is my co-pilot. But we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat Him.

Then the environmentalist stickers:

Earth First. We'll log all the other planets later.

Hug a logger. You'll never go back to trees.

Out of toilet paper? Wipe your butt with a spotted owl.

Hard to argue with:

Maybe you'd drive better if I crammed that cellphone up your ass.

Honk again. I'm reloading.

Then there's the evolution wars.

The Christian fish symbol, of course (means I'm an ancient Christian, presumably)

The little fish with feet (means I believe in evolution, though I may not be a particularly advanced life form myself)

Christian fish eating Darwinian fish (My Christianity will swallow up your evolutionary philosophy, hopefully by non-violent means)

Darwinian fish eating Christian fish (My evolutionary philosophy will outcompete your Christianity)

Large Christian fish with little Christian fish following (I am a Christian who has reproduced)

Shark (screw all of you; I'm a predator--normally seen on muscle cars or show-off pickup trucks)

When I finally get my Yukon XL with big tires, I want to get a little chrome silhouette of an oil tanker to put on back.

October 22, 2003
Violence in the Grocery Strike
By Tom Smith

Here in San Diego, strikers followed and beat a replacement worker with a baseball bat. Surgeons will have to rebuild the guy's face. I wonder if the UFCW will pay his medical expenses.

Maybe I should wear my football helmet on my next shoping trip.

The Boykin Controversy
By Tom Smith

As Hugh Hewitt points out, it sure would be nice to know what Boykin said before we decide on his punishment. In Saudi Arabia, I suppose he might have his tongue cut out, but here, resignation in disgrace might be enough. According to this dim-witted, even for John Carroll, piece, Boykin said he was fighting for the real God, while that of his enemies was only an idol. This smacks, according to Carroll, of "exclusivism." What is "exclusivism"? You know, that sort of thing where you get put in prison for practicing a religion that the medieval theocracy doesn't approve of. I'm not a theologian, but when someone drives an airplane into a crowded building and says God told him to do it, it's not disrespecting Islam to say they got their orders wrong, or were listening to the wrong guy. Hear voices telling you to slaughter infidels? Work on plague viruses to spread among people whose women don't wear parachutes? Which says lots of nasty things about Jews? Important hint for you: It's not God. Check your area code and number and try again. As for Boytin: he should be ordered not to wear his uniform while he is talking in church, saying things like, no true God would tell people to use weapons of mass destruction on innocents. He should only wear his uniform when he is doing things like dropping 2000 pound bombs on them. Blowing people into little fragments is one thing. Hurting their feelings is another.

He Vas Only Using Ze Jews as a Scapegoat!
By Tom Smith

I'm so relieved. I had thought President Mohammed Mahathir of Malaysia was just engaged in hateful anti-Semitism when he made his recent speech about Jews ruling the world and so forth. Paul Krugman explains he was only scapegoating Jews for domestic political reasons. This was "inexcusable," Krugman says, which makes it somewhat puzzling that he takes the rest of his column trying to explain it. I also feel better about Hitler, now that I understand he was just using his hatred of the Jews for political reasons. I thought he hated Jews for, I don't know, religious reasons. Perhaps Krugman could give some P.R. coaching to Hamas. "We don't hate the Jews because they are Jews. We want to exterminate them because we want to take their land. I hope that distinction is clear." Paul Krugman is proof of the well-known phenomenon. Person achieves well-deserved academic renown. Person decides he is a genius. Person loses ability to be self-critical. Person says stupid things. Person does harm. Krugman should shut up about Jews and go back to making mathematical models.

North Korea's Gulag Archipelago
By Tom Smith

An important new report is out detailing North Korea's massive system of slave labor camps. Opinionjournal has a good summary.

October 21, 2003
Sullivan -- Church's Sexual Advisor
By Tom Smith

This is an interesting reaction to Sullivan's apparent departure from the Church. Camassia makes a point I was hestitant to make myself, about Sullivan's libertinism. If you read enough of his posts, you're bound (no pun intended) to come across some celebration of the gay bar scene in Provincetown. It's a free country, and all that, but if you're going to celebrate the scene that is located sexually and morally in about the same place as it is geographically (on the very far edge of the country, for you geographically challenged folks), I think you're just not in much of a position to be advising the Church on its sexual morality. It comes off like Bill Bennett lecturing us on virtue, so he can raise the cash to settle up with Fat Eddy. Sullivan's personal life is relevant only because he is making such a big deal about his leaving the Church, rather than just criticizing the Church's view on gay relationships per se. Even if the Church did approve of gay marriage, there be no more fun with bears and otters for good gay Catholic boys.

Want to Be Scared?
By Tom Smith

This detailed article from about our friends the axis of evil and their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Here's a good place to buy your survival gear.

But see this good news from Iran.

On the other hand, there's this from the Philippines.

October 20, 2003
When Labor and Management Get Along
By Gail Heriot

I confess that I do not understand the current grocery strike in Southern California. It has been a week now with no agreement in sight. The non-unionized Wal-Mart, whose consumer-friendly low prices have made it the most popular grocery retailer in the world, is sure to be the major beneficiary. Southern California appears to be witnessing a suicide.

But I will resist asking Rodney King's question. The last time labor and management in the traditional grocery industry "got along" with each other, it was to persuade California's daffy legislature to squelch their competition. The statute that got passed would have made it illegal to sell groceries in a building the size of a Wal-Mart or CostCo. It was one more occasion for the California legislature to demonstrate what a carnival of special interests it had become.

Fortunately, this was back in the year 2000, when now-recalled Governor Gray Davis was still in his responsible moderate phase. He vetoed the legislation. In his scathing veto-message, he called it "anti-competitive and anti-consumer" and "the worst kind of end-of-session manuevering by special interests." Had Gray Davis continued to stand up to the California legislature the way he did that day, he might not have been recalled.

A Way to Kill Kill Bill?
By Tom Smith

The Easterbrook Donnybrook, as Mickey Kaus calls it, will probably wind down soon. It may be worth recalling what got it started--Greg Easterbrook's outrage at the level of violence in the new Quentin Tarantino movie Kill Bill.

Easterbrook was presumably trying to put pressure on Michael Eisner and the other folks at Disney to reconsider the distribution of such ultra-violent fare. I haven't seen the movie myself. I'm not sure whether I will or not. I generally don't mind violence in movies, if it's appropriate, as in Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List. Making violence seem fun, though, contributes to the cultural degradation that Hollywood seems, for reasons I don't fully understand, to want to actively promote, at least if it is profitable to do so, and sometimes even if it isn't.

What is to be done? One technique that I am not aware being used before, or at least not much, against violence in movies is the filing of shareholder proxy resolutions that would be put before the shareholders of Disney and other studios. If may have been done before, I'm not sure, but it certainly could work as a way to get the attention of top management in the entertainment industry. All it takes is a shareholder who holds a fairly minimal dollar value of shares in the target company, and a resolution crafted to avoid various objections the directors can put up to stop it. Typically, a resolution is drafted requesting the Board of Directors appoint a special committee to study some topic of concern. In this case, a resolution requesting study of the potential impact of a movie with the level of violence in Kill Bill might be appropriate.

These resolutions never pass, but that does not mean management does not really hate them. If the resolution qualifies for inclusion in the corporation's proxy statement, it means the target company, Disney in this case, has to send out, at corporate expense, the resolution plus a brief supporting statement, to every shareholder of the company, all over the world. For a company that spends millions nourishing its corporate image, this is most unwelcome to say the least. Moreover, it means every institutional shareholder, which maps pretty well on to the power structure of the US, has to consider how to vote its shares on this resolution. So the trustees of CalPers, Harvard, the Ford Foundation, etc, etc. etc. down to the American Kennel Association, will have to consider, how do they want to vote on the Kill Bill resolution? That means they have to think, for at least a moment, Just how bad is this movie? You can start to appreciate why companies hate these things so much.

Filing these resolutions is pretty easy. A group I belonged to as an undergraduate filed some resolutions against various big corporations regarding investment in South Africa (yes, I was an undergraduate leftist. You grow.) and we did all the work ourselves. For some reason, social conservatives and others on the right have rarely used this technique. It has long been a favorite of left-wing activists. Unlike perhaps some in the corporate law area, I see nothing wrong with shareholders getting the board of a company to ask themselves whether they really want to be, for example, selling particularly harmful violence (if that's what it is). The technique is susceptible to abuse, but I don't think complaining about a super-violent movie would be an abuse. It's better than showing up with swords and chopping their heads off.

October 19, 2003
It's Anti-Cathlic Sunday at the New York Times!
By Tom Smith

The Gray Lady is in rare form this Sunday. In the national edition anyway (available at my local Starbuck's) there are four above the fold stories. From left to right, we learn that Bush's popularity is falling with older voters (according to a NY Times / CBS poll); Bush thinks Iraq is like the Phillipines; The wise heads at the State Department forsaw current troubles in Iraq, but were ignored, and the creation of new jobs is being stalled by overcapacity. In my edition, there is a full-color picture of President Bush looking dorky in one of those Philippino light cotton shirts (with his T-shirt showing through -- at least it's not a tank-top), next to a demure looking President Arroyo. Below the fold we learn that life sucks in Zimbabwe, as it does for the poor of New York, and in the bottom right hand corner, that the beatification of Mother Theresa is really just an excuse to sell religious kitch of the sort we simple-minded but pious Catholics are so fond.

With such an appetizing menu, it's hard to know what to choose first. More out of duty than curiosity, I turn to page 10 to read the rest of the Bush in the Philippines story, and am greeted by a picture of Philippinos burning American flags in protest over Bush's visit. Of course, whether this is typical of his reception, we have no way of learning in this newspaper. We are reminded, however, that the Philippines was yet another victim of American imperialism, which dumb old Bush apparently did not appreciate to the Time's satisfaction. Of all the Americans who died rescuing that nation from the Japanese, we hear little.

Flipping back to page 8, I look at the Mother Theresa story. This a hard one for the Times. A life of heroic virtue and sacrifice, helping the poorest of the poor. But we musn't like Mother Theresa, no, no, no. She was also an arch-conservative, against abortion, and not really very keen on sex of any sort. So what to do? Cover all the commerce around the event, that's an angle! So we get some nice photos of Mother Theresa statues for sale. I guess helping all those dying Indians was just an elaborate marketing device for rosaries.

But this is just one of several Catholic-themed stories this Sunday. The next I noticed was a profoundly clueness reflection in the Week in Review section about the pope growing old in public. How remarkable it is, muses Frank Bruni, that the pope appears in public even though he is so old. I mean, he actually looks old. He looks sick! He drools sometimes! He nods! But, he's a celebrity! Why is he letting us see him in this very un-photogenic state? Oh, I know, we are informed, it is to put before us all those issues that come from technologies that extend life! Look, the pope is saying, look at my quality of life issues! In fact, clever readers may infer this is probably not what this religious leader is doing. Try this, Frank. He is showing people that he is dying, that thing we do before we are dead. That thing we are all going to do, even the fetching model on page 11 in the Allen Schwarts champagne satin gown. And before we do, if we are lucky, we drool, nod, have trouble standing up and all the rest. It's called being old and sick, and it's part of being human. Then we die, and the religious part kicks in. Momento mori. Don't these people read books?

Finally, we are treated to an update on Andrew Sullivan's conscience as a gay man in the Catholic Church. I wonder what the odds would be of getting one's struggles of conscience published on the op-ed page of the times if the chase was, "you know, I should go back to the Church," or "I guess conventional morality was right about X after all." Remote, I should think. We find out Mr. Sullivan was unable to bring himself to go to Mass this Sunday because a gay couple he knows was kicked out of their parish choir for getting civilly unionized in Canada. (I should disclose that I was unable to bring myself to go to Mass this morning because of a combination of 2 Stone Pale Ales, half a bottle of some decent cabernet, being awakened at 2 am by our 2 day old, then again at 8 am by my wife who said 'I need to leave for William's first communion meeting in 12 minutes. I need 2 fried eggs and a copy of his Baptisimal Certificate.' In a clear act of divine grace, I was able to find the certificate in the garage file cabinet.) I guess the gist is that Mr. Sullivan is threatening to quit the Church if it doesn't shape up on gay issues. But he's not quite fed up yet, I guess. Maybe the Church can have one last chance. Me, I think the corruption at Vatican I than Acton complained about is embarassing, the whole Spanish Inquistion thing was bad, persecuting Protestants generally no better, priests taking part in recent genocides in Africa even worse, pedophile priests awful, etc., etc. Being a Catholic is like being an American. There is a lot you have to put up with. But the best of it is pretty good, and we have good enemies.

October 18, 2003
How Popes are Elected
By Tom Smith

Here is a good description of how papal elections work. (Thanks to relapsed catholic for the pointer.) This is the leading description of vatican institutions. (Bear in mind it's by a Jesuit, as in "Mrs. O'Mally went to a Franciscan and asked, 'Father, may I say a novena for a Lexus?' The Franciscan replied 'What's a Lexus?' So Mrs. O'Malley went to a Jesuit and asked, 'Father, may I say a novena for a Lexus?' The Jesuit replied, 'What's a novena?'" Catholic humor.)

And speaking of Anglicans, this is interesting too. (relapsed catholic again.)

Safire on UN Victory
By Tom Smith

Last night on the Lehrer News Hour, William Safire of the New York Times finally provided some insight on the sources of Bush's recent victory at the UN. According to Safire, Bush and Putin made a deal at their recent meeting at Camp David. At the time, the New York Times played it as yet another defeat for Bush, where the Russians refused to stop helping Iran with their nuclear program. Here's part of what Safire said:

Something happened and what happened was the Russians. And where did the Russians suddenly become our supporters? Go back two weeks to Camp David, and that meeting between Bush and Putin and what came out of that meeting was a terrible statement by Bush saying that freedom and democracy and the rule of law was the vision of Putin. I said -- Putin, you know, the KGB cadre running that place is running down human rights and all.

Well, evidently, a deal was struck that I'll put a good face on our relationship, but we expect real help in the U.N. And, sure enough when push came to shove, the Russians went to the French and Germans and said we'll broker the deal.

When you look at the deal, you see what the French wanted. The French wanted a provisional government taking power . . . away from the Americans, and the Americans said no. So what was worked out was some nice language saying that the sovereignty will be embodied in this governing council -- I noticed that an 'and' was changed to an 'or' -- which lawyers think is very important -- but what happened was unanimity on the Security Council.

When the Russians turned, the Chinese turned and the French and Germans realized we can't be out here by ourselves and that left Syria, which didn't want to vote for that but they just had a black eye and they didn't want to be all alone in the U.N., the Security Council, and so they went. And so what we got: a fifteen to nothing vote for continued American political control in Iraq

I still wonder what all Bush offered Putin to get him to support us in the UN. Simply a statement putting a happy face on Putin's regime in Russia does not seem like enough to secure Putin's support.

October 17, 2003
Smells Like Victory
By Tom Smith

Who says we don't have culture in San Diego?

Taming the Poodle
By Tom Smith

Why did the U.S. get what it wanted at the UN? As usual, American press coverage of the event is equal parts spin and misdirection, aimed more at convincing readers this was not a real victory for the U.S. than explaining the behind-the-scenes politics. To me it looks like the Colin Powell made it clear that if the Security Council did not pass the resolution, then that would be the end for meaningful U.S. participation in the "process," which would effectively mean the end of the U.N., at least in Iraq. Why else? We made no meaningful concessions. And it is not as if European politics have shifted recently, as far as I can tell. As the WSJ explained in their editorial today (subscription required), France and Russia flat out capitulated to U.S. demands. Why? The language of the editorial hints they know something they're not telling. Something quiet and deadly serious happened in the background here and as usual the media is missing the story in their haste to recast events as something they're not.

October 16, 2003
I knew there was hope for me
By Tom Smith

And all this time I thought I was just lazy.

Another Setback in Iraq
By Tom Smith

They better get busy at the New York Times figuring out how to cast this as another setback for the U.S.

October 15, 2003
The Grocery Store Strike
By Tom Smith

In the unfashionable part of San Diego country in which I live, the grocery store clerk's strike is a big deal. Some 7000 or so clerks are striking throughout southern California. The union decided to strike Von's, then Albertson's and Ralph's locked out union workers pursuant to a previous agreement. The main issue seems to be a surcharge the stores want to impose on workers to help cover health care costs. The charge proposed is small, something like $5 per week (I heard), but the union sees this as the thin edge of the wedge.

What is really driving the stores is the plan by Walmart to open a series of stores in Southern California selling both groceries and other goods. Walmart is a ferocious competitor. It pays something like $10 per hour to its workers, versus $15 to $17 for unionized stores. Walmart also offers little to nothing in the way of health benefits. How this will square with the new legislation Davis just signed required employers to offer health care, I don't know. Perhaps as part time employees, most won't be covered. The unionized stores are trying to position themselves for the arrival of the big retail gorilla in town. Walmart sells an astonishing 7 percent of all goods sold retail in the U.S. I read in the WSJ years ago that every cash register in every Walmart can be monitored centrally in the head office in Arkansas, and management can pick up very quickly on anomalies that suggest employee theft (a very big problem at these establishments) or other problems, such as the thermostat being set too high or low for maximizing sales. Walmart is scary efficient.

My wife is not crossing the picket lines because she knows all the checkers and wants to be friends afterwards. I'm more the sort just to cross the lines, but at a store I don't usually go to. It's important to be principled about these things. The stores are a mess inside now. Produce rotting. Shelves getting empty. The replacement workers are pretty clueless. There seems to be quite a lot of sympathy around here with the strikers. La Jolla is probably a different story. We're not planning any fish dinners.

I feel sorry for the workers at the unionized stores, but it seems to me they're on the wrong side of history. There seems to be a cheaper more efficient way to get food to people, and charging a tax on everybody who eats hardly seems like the best way to finance the health care of grocery store workers. To the extent the health care charges are structured to provide incentives to use health care rationally, I would even be in favor of them. In any event, it doesn't look like it will settle soon.

October 14, 2003
New Baby
By Tom Smith

Today I spent in the hospital getting a new son. Here's a link to my (still work in progress, i.e. pretty lame) personal webpage with some photos of the "cute but weird-looking" (as Patrick put it) new boy. I have not always been happy with my encounters with American medicine, but gosh, these people today were professional, friendly, fun, everything that could possibly be wished. We were at Scripps Memorial in La Jolla. I can enthusiastically recommend their baby service.

Berkeley's Honest Mayor
By Gail Heriot

The City of Berkeley's efforts at self governance are always entertaining. UC-Berkeley's Daily Californian reports that the city council is expected to pass an ordinance at tonight's meeting that will outlaw the theft of free newspapers. Why is this necessary? In Berkeley, it has become a common occurrence to heave thousands of newspaper copies in the trash when one disagrees with its editorial endorsements. Up until recently, the most notorious case had been in 1996 when 25,000 copies of the Daily Californian were stolen in order to prevent voters from learning that the student editors had endorsed Proposition 209. Affirmative action zealots couldn't stand for anyone to know that not everybody on campus endorsed racial preferences.

A more recent incident concerned Berkeley's mayor, Tom Bates. Just before last November's mayoral election, then-candidate Bates pitched 1000 copies of the Daily Californian when it endorsed his opponent, former Mayor Shirley Dean. I know what you're thinking: Recall the bum. But after the election, he promised to outlaw the practice in the future. And he appears to be delivering on that promise. In ever-earnest Berkeley, I suppose that has to be worth something ....

October 13, 2003
Conventional Wisdom Wrong on Political Effect of Affirmative Action Initiatives
By Gail Heriot

A Michigan Civil Rights Initiative similar to California's Proposition 209, which passed by a wide margin in 1996, is currently being proposed. If passed, it would prohibit the State of Michigan from discriminating or granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethicity or national origin.

Conventional wisdom has it that when such initiatives are put on the ballot, Republican candidates are hurt even though they tend to side with majority opinion in opposing racial preferences. The reason is voter turnout. Those who oppose racial and gender preferences seldom consider the issue to be the most important issue of the day. Hence putting it on the ballot will seldom cause them to turn out to vote if they were not going to do so anyway. On the other hand, those who favor such programs may bother to show up only because the issue is on the ballot. Once there, they vote for Democrats.

Under this view, it doesn’t matter whether voters overwhelmingly oppose racial preferences (as indeed polls indicate.) Nor does it matter that initiatives opposing racial preferences tend to pass by strong margins. All that matters is that having the issue on the ballot might induce a number of Democrats to turn out at the polls who otherwise would not have, thus disadvantaging Republican candidates.

The conventional wisdom is not ridiculous on its face. Certain hot-button issues do indeed affect voter turnout in the way that the theory suggests. In 1994, for example, California’s Proposition 187, which prohibited the state from providing certain taxpayer-supported services to illegal immigrants, Latino voters clearly and unequivocally turned out in greater numbers than they otherwise would have. In California, 50% of voting-age Latino citizens voted that year as contrasted with 34% in New York, 39% in Florida, 29% in Texas and 33% in the rest of the United States. Although California Latinos had traditionally voted in greater numbers than Latinos in other parts of the country, the gap has neither before nor since been as large as it was in 1994. Hence while Proposition 187 itself passed overwhelmingly (with quite a few Latino votes in its favor), it is likely that Democratic candidates picked up some votes they would not have otherwise gotten. The effect was small. Republican Governor Pete Wilson, a strong supporter of Proposition 187, was nevertheless re-elected by a strong margin. Indeed, some commentators attributed his victory to his support for Proposition 187.

The question is whether there is any support for the conventional wisdom as applied to Proposition 209. The answer is no. The bump in minority turnout that the conventional theory predicts did not occur. The turnout of voting age African American citizens actually went down from 67% in 1992 (the next previous Presidential election) to 65% in 1996; Latino numbers held steady at 54%. These California numbers do not by themselves disprove the conventional wisdom, since white turnout declined even more steeply form 1992 to 1996. But they put it in doubt.

And when one compares California with other states, the conventional wisdom is discredited entirely. The pattern in California–big drop in white vote turnout relative to 1992, modest drop in black turnout–was mirrored throughout the country. This is reflective of a long-term trend towards higher levels of black voting. In some states, like Texas, the effect was even greater than it was in California. Yet in Texas there was no Proposition 209. It is difficult enough to account for how Proposition 209 could have caused higher than expected turnout for African Americans not just in California but around the country. Accounting for how it could have affected African Americans in Texas more profoundly than African Americans in California is just impossible.

Republican fear of addressing the issue is thus misplaced and Republicans need not fear taking a principled stand against racial preferences. The turnout issue turns out to be a chimera. Indeed, taking principled positions may do the GOP some good with minority voters. While George W. Bush received a only 9% of the African American vote, Proposition 209 received 26% according to exit polls.

Why was Proposition 209 so different from Proposition 187 in its effect on voter turnout? Among potential voters, Proposition 187 had its most profound effect on recently-naturalized Latinos who often had friends or relatives in the country illegally. These recently-naturalized Latinos are likely to be less well-educated and less affluent than the average voter, including the average Latino voter. Since less well-educated and less affluent citizens do not vote in high numbers whatever their race or ethnicity, when an issue comes along that concerns them specifically, they have plenty of room to ratchet up their turnout. Proposition 209, on the other hand, primarily affected middle and upper income African Americans and Latinos. These groups already enjoy relatively high voter participation. Indeed, when African Americans are matched with whites with similar socio-economic factors, African American often vote at higher levels than whites. And although Latinos are somewhat less likely to vote than whites with similar socio-economic factors, the gap is small. As a result, it is difficult for them to increase their numbers at the polls. There simply isn’t much room for improvement.

Why does the conventional wisdom persist despite the lack of evidence to support it? If a small group of preference supporters wanted to persuade a larger but less-focused group to leave the issue along, what better way to do it than to argue that it will be costly to them on issues they care more about? They emphasize their voter turnout theory to the media, which then report the theories as fact. In time, such propaganda becomes the conventional wisdom.

By Tom Smith

Glen, Glen. You tell us about the "highly photogenic" new Joan of Arc in Paris, braving the commies, the whiners and the America haters, and don't give us a link to a photo? Well, here. (Picture takes a minute to load for some reason; try scrolling up and down a few times.) Libertarians in love.

October 12, 2003
These Guys are Good
By Tom Smith

These guys are good on the media on Iraq. Pointer thanks to

Why Buy the Land When Politicians are Cheaper?
By Tom Smith

Fortunately, here's a bill Gray won't get to sign. This (outrageous) Indian Sacred Sites legislation basically would have allowed an Indian Tribe to put a hold on the development of any land that had something on it they considered sacred. It almost passed. If you or I wanted to stop development on some bit of earth we liked, we would have to buy the land. But this would not be fair to Indian tribes, because they are so poor. Oh wait! That doesn't work! They are absolutely rolling in gambling money! Tax-free gambling money! So what can the justification for this bill possibly have been? And now, it's too late, at least for a while. I guess they were crying up in Sacramento. What a heart-breaker.

Buy Now Before It's Too Late!
By Tom Smith

This is disgusting. You would think mere decency would stop you from using your few weeks left as a lame duck governor from polishing apples for your campaign donors. Or maybe it's just Davis being an "honest" politician (def: an honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought.)

Telephone Solicitors as High-Tech Parasites
By Gail Heriot

One more point on telephone solicitations: In addition to the the evolution of etiquette in dealing with telephone solicitors, there is the related evolution of technology to consider. Sure, most of us have learn over the past couple of decades to say no and to get rid of unwanted telephone calls with dispatch. Nobody in his right mind would think ill of a person who declines to engage a telephone solicitor in the kind of pleasant banter that is prelude to the solicitor's sales pitch (though I might think ill of a customer who is similarly abrupt towards a clerk in a department store). But technology has come to our rescue also. Old-fashioned answering machines allowed us to screen calls by simply listening for the caller to identify himself before deciding whether to take the call. More modern caller id and call screening services make it even easier. These innovations alone would probably have sealed the fate of the telephone solicitation industry had it not fought back.

Unfortunately, two can play at the game of technological evolution. Like a parasite, the telephone solcitation industry has had to adapt to changes in the public's behavior with a few changes of its own. In the old days, each solicitor had to dial each number by hand. Such a technology would never work today, since so many people are, through one technology or another, screening their calls. It's just not cost effective. Then came automatic dialers that saved a little time, but still allowed the solicitor to deal with only one call at a time. Today, these solicitors can handle several calls at the same time and attend only to the comparatively rare call that is answered by a live prospect. When the number of calls a solicitor can handle in a day rises exponentially, it doesn't matter that the yield (that is the number of actual sales per 100 calls) has declined significantly.

Maybe Mike is right that I am overly optimistic to suppose that this evolutionary arms race is going to wind down and that the telephone solicitation industry is doomed. It is certainly true that the industry's litigation against the "Do Not Call" list shows that it has no intention of going quietly into that good night. Still my instinct is that one way or another it is about to go the way of small pox. I would give it more thought but my telephone is ringing off the hook, so I'd better go deal with it ...

October 11, 2003
Inside Dope on Clark Campaign
By Tom Smith

I worry about Clark. Inside baseball here, thanks to instapundit for the pointer.

Japan: The Strange Country
By Tom Smith

My oldest son is fascinated by all things Japanese. It is one strange country.

Is That You, Mom?
By Gail Heriot

The argument currently being put forth by the telephone solicitation industry--that the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from creating a "Do Not Call" list applicable only to commercial solicitors and not to political or charitable solicitors--strikes me as non-frivolous under current case law. One way or another, however, the industry is doomed. There are few issues about which Americans are in any more agreement: They hate getting these calls.

I've been impressed with how American culture has changed over time. The first telephone solicitation I ever received was for some dubious charitable cause back about twenty years ago. I don't recall what the caller said, but I ended up purchasing a box of washcloths from him. Like most people, I quickly learned to say no. In time I even learned to be quite brusque. The Gail Heriot of 1983 would think the Gail Heriot of 2003 unnecessarily rude (although the Gail Heriot of 2003 hasn't had to spend her hard-earned money on any low-quality washcloths to benefit a probably nonexistent charity). I can't help but wonder if this shortness with callers has any spillover effects into other areas of my life.

I hadn't realized just how far it had gone until this week when I called my elderly mother. Now remember, this is my mother. Unlike her daughter, she has never used foul language in her life. And she's had almost eighty years of opportunity. But when I called on my cell phone, the connection was bad, so she couldn't hear me say helllo. Mistaking me for a solicitor, she muttered, "Screw you," into the receiver and hung up.

MMMooommm!!! Is that you? Obviously, something has to be done before all the little old ladies in the country go bad.

Why I Believe in the Death Penalty
By Tom Smith

This San Diego case involving the torture and murder of two young boys by miscreant and serial rapist Scott Erskine speaks for itself.

October 10, 2003
Halloween Lit
By Tom Smith

It's October and time for one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. It's fun and a lot less stressful than Christmas, which we Catholics celebrate with double Manhattans and . . . oh, don't get me started on Christmas. Turns out, I am your source for the best scary books of at least some literary merit. You can begin with this classic anthology, which was reviewed by Edmund Wilson back in the 1940's and sort of made this sort of fiction respectable for a while. A more contemporary collection is The Dark Descent, which contains a nice introduction to the various sub-genres and good lit crit analysis of the psychology of each (including interesting speculation on why some of best ghost/horror writers are lapsed Catholics). The ghost story reached its peak in Victorian and Edwardian England and one of the pleasures of the genre is its depictions of everyday English life in the period. The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories is a gem. This Oxford collection of Victorian Ghost Stories overlaps some, but is also pretty good. One of the very best writers of ghost stories was Edith Wharton, who of course wrote great novels as well. This collection of ghost stories includes "Afterward" considered by some the finest such story ever written. Anglophiles and folks who like stories with a scholarly angle will like M.R. James. If these stories catch you in the right mood, they can actually be pretty scary. A very different sort of writer is Algernon Blackwood, whom you will love or hate. His stories are often set in remote, wilderness locations, such as an island off the coast of Sweden, or in a marsh on the Danube. Take it on your next camping trip and terrify the kids! Ambrose Bierce was an American writer and by all accounts an extremely unpleasant man. Wrote pretty good stories, though. You may have read "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge" in your Junior High English class. All this bunch in this post are of pretty high literary quality. I used to read these stories to my kids until my mother-in-law made me stop.

October 09, 2003
Red but Right
By Tom Smith

Sometimes the far left gets it far more clearly than the right. Marc Cooper is dead on here in his analysis of the recall (except for the army of progressives bit -- we like it in the suburbs, Marc). What a contrast to the clueless George Will. I guess it helps to pound the pavement in LA. (Thanks to WSJ's for the pointer.)

Most Tedious Pundit of the Year
By Tom Smith

Normally the prize for most tedious pundit of the year goes to some rabid feminist sort advocating reeducation camps for boys who like football, but this year George Will is going to be tough to beat. I just love it when some bow-tie wearing, Eastern weenie conservative who doesn't know Temecula from Tuscany tells us in California how we should govern ourselves.

Professor Will is just outraged by the "odor" of direct democracy in our recent recall. The Framers would not approve! Oh, Pa-leeeeese. A little direct democracy is just what you need when a government has been hijacked by comically corrupt politicians.

But that's not all -- George is afraid our exercise in government, explicitly authorized under the constitution of our state, lends credence to the claims that Bush stole the election. There's a difference, dude. It's called the law, as in the rule of. Our law says we can have a recall, and we did. As to democracy, if you had bothered to come out to California and do some real reporting, instead of curling your toes in your Persian rug in whatever tony DC suburb you abide in, you would have seen just how inspirational democracy can be. There was no circus. You should not believe what you read in the Washington Post. Instead, in one of the highest turnouts in California history, ordinary people stood up to say, enough is enough. And our constitution, which is, thank God, a lot clearer than Bush v. Gore, gave its express blessing to the whole exercise.

Will regurgitates the usual baloney about the whole recall effort being the product of a few millionaires conspiring together, led by Congressman Issa. Here's the news, George. Two million bucks is chump change in California politics, which you would know if you lived here. Lt. Gov. Bustamante raised twice that in little more than a week from Indian Casinos and spent it in even less time. The reason why the recall was a landslide was because of the thousands of people who worked on it and the millions of people who followed it by newspaper, talk radio and the internet. News flash for George: It ain't the 18th century out here, and we don't wear powdered wigs or knee socks either.

Speaking of bad smells, Will's screed just reeks with contempt for voters, for democracy and for everybody who isn't the kind of conservative who carried a briefcase in junior high. Well, he's full of it. I have never been as proud to live in a democracy as when I was waiting in the orderly line to cast my vote last Tuesday. No anger, not even any talking. It was quiet, like people were in church. These were ordinary people, and a lot of them, who took their duties seriously, who were taking time off from working for a living (and not by telling other people how to govern themselves) to be citizens. Will needs a little more Ron and a lot less Nancy Reagan in his conservatism. Maybe somebody should buy him a horse (but, please, with a Western saddle!).

Will is upset that the recall will hurt Bush in California. Oh boo hoo. I guess I missed the part where he explained why we have to run state government as an adjunct to the reelect Bush campaign. We have serious problems out here that need to be addressed now. If Bush wants Californians to vote for him, he should come out here and convince us. That's how it works in democracies, George. You have to get out of the imperial capitol every so often.

George is just outraged that we voted for Arnold in spite of his groping and even though he is pro-choice and pro-gay. This Will dude is clueless. I disapprove of Arnie's Id, but I disapprove more of a crook in office. And George, your precious framers were some of horniest people in history. Good lord, Ben Franklin's musings on older women are unfit for mixed company, Tom Jefferson's bastards could probably populate an independent state, and who knows what the rest of them were up to. As to Clinton, he was plausibly accused of rape and certainly perjured himself. A big difference. On abortion and gay rights, well, welcome to California. I may disagree with them, but the majority of people out here think abortion should be legal, and besides, that decision was taken out of our hands by the geniuses in Washington a long time ago. As to gay rights, well, what about it? I know I have some gay friends, I'd bet I have some gay students, and some of the best priests in my (Catholic) church, though celibate, are probably inclined that way. So what? Anybody who lives in a big city in California just runs up against good, gay people every day. Call it diversity, or democracy, and frankly, I could care less whether James Madison would like it or not. I have come around on this issue, but as far as I'm concerned, a lot of the opposition to gay rights is just hate, and the sooner Republicans get over it, the better. Will accuses us of compromising our principles just to win an election. Uh, no, George. It's more that we think some of your principles suck.

I have some advice for Will, since he seems so full of wisdom for us Californians. Lose the bow tie. Get some Lasik, dude, and lose the nerd glasses. Eat some protein and go to the gym. Get off your high horse. Check back in a year and see whether we have sorted a few things out with a new governor. We like to surprise people.

October 08, 2003
You Know It's a Big Deal When . . .
By Tom Smith

My fifth grader was sent home with a homework assignment tonight to write an essay: "A New Governor for California." A sample sentence: "The people of California recalled Governor Gray Davis because they thought he was not fulfilling his responsibilities." (No, I had nothing to do with it.) He asked if he could just call the new governor "Arnold," rather than coping with the formidable last name.

Arnold's Revelers
By Gail Heriot

Well, I couldn't resist. I got an invitation to go to Schwarzenegger's Victory Celebration at the Century Plaza Hotel, so I decided to brave rush hour traffic and make the trip up to L.A. It turned out to be a surprsingly easy drive. And I wasn't even out of San Diego before I received a telephone call from a journalist friend of mine assuring me that the exit polls showed that Arnold was a sure thing. This was not going to be a stressful night.

If the news media were looking to see either peasants with pitchforks or Hollywood glamour types at party, they would have been disappointed with Arnold's supporters. They looked pretty normal (although a few had that alternately nervous and expectant look that political operatives get when they are clutching their resumes after an election). This was a happy crowd, of course, but as political victory celebrations in my experience go, it was more sober than average. And fittingly so. There was a sense that something significant had just happened, but no one had yet articulated just what it was and where it's going. Judging from the comments made while gathered around the television monitors, these people understood that dealing with California's comically corrupt legislature won't be easy. But they also understood that Schwarzenegger has certain political assets that no other politician can claim. And they're optimistic.

If I were an ancient Roman, I might be concerned about whether the gods were giving me an omen during the drive back to San Diego very late that night. In contrast to the easy drive up, the return was horrific. Interstate 405 was closed down and following the detour signs was no easy task for this very sleepy law professor. But for now I choose to take my sign from the the mouth of the young Marine I sat near while drinking coffee at the Denny's in Oceanside a little before 2:00 a.m. "Are you kidding? Arnold's going to kick butt," he said to his companion. The companion seemed ready to believe. Maybe it's true.

Martha Stewart Again
By Tom Smith

Steve Bainbridge is right on about Martha Stewart. He is perhaps too polite to add, however, that the ill-defined insider trading laws are perfect tools for ambitious prosecutors who want to go on scalp-hunting expeditions. Is Martha the most egregious insider trader in Manhattan these days? Hardly. But she is a high profile celeb with a reportedly obnoxious personality that the press would love to see fall. The Bonfire of the Vanities with the feds roasting their marshmellows on the flames.

Well, That was Satisfying
By Tom Smith

I would settle for a news media that wasn't actively trying to deceive me. Fortunately, I'm old and jaded enough not to be fooled. Any doubts that I had that Arnie would win were driven away when I showed up at my polling place, and found it the most crowded I've seen in ten years, with a palpable determination in the air.

My expectations for Conan are not terribly high. I'll be happy if he gets rid of the new car tax hikes (I really don't want to pay $500 to register my POS minivan--it bad enough to have to drive the thing!) and slaps a new tax on the casino gangs. (Disclosure-- a village of Jamul Indians is attempting to build a casino in my neighborhood, starting with six acres of land and about two dozen Native Americans, this after a tribal election in which the relatively full blood Indians who did not want a casino were thrown out, in a campaign that featured such novel events as arson, by Indians of fractional ancestry who want the casino. In the meantime, we are inundated with an ad campaign insinuating that gaming with put us in closer touch with the Great Spirit (come to think of it, a lot of praying does go on in casinos) and anyone who opposes a 100 acre gambling complex a couple of miles from the local high school is a racist. Stay tuned. Tax them, Arnie, tax them!)

Mickey Kaus, gets the reasons to have voted against Davis just about right. Everyone expects a little log rolling in politics, but the truly prodigious levels of corruption in the Davis administration are a lot to swallow when you're talking about national security (the drivers' license give away) and when the California economy is gripped so badly by the European disease. Kaus is right. Arnie does seem to have character issues, but a lot of successful leaders have been cruel SOB's, and this one has a chance of being more honest than most.

October 07, 2003
Mystery of Divorce and Daughters Solved!
By Tom Smith

My colleage Shaun Martin makes a very insightful point:

I don't know [Shaun writes] whether anyone else has made the connection, but here's my take on the subject. The problem with the existing theories (the ones that didn't persuade you on is that they conflate causation and correlation. It's not that baby girls tend to cause divorce more than baby boys; rather, it is that the things that tend to cause baby girls also tend to cause divorce.

Absurd, you say? What could possibly cause both baby girls and divorce? It seems that the answer is simple: Stress. At least (for the former point) according to the latest -- fairly large -- study of births in Germany from 1946 to 1999

It is fairly clear that stress -- particularly economic stress -- causes divorce. So if stress -- particularly economic stress -- tends to increase the number of baby girls, that explains why couples who have baby girls more frequently get divorced. It's not because of the baby girl; rather, it's from what helped to cause the girl in the first place. And no, I don't mean the sex part. I mean the stress.

If Shaun keeps up this kind of clear thinking, he's bound to become a Republican. Shaun made the news in San Diego this summer with a lawsuit to reform the recall ballot (which he won).

Insider Trading -- It's a Good Thing
By Tom Smith

It's that time of year again when law students are looking for supervisors for their law review comments, papers, etc. As the professor who can't say no, I have a large number of students eagerly scribbling away, and probably because of Martha Stewart, insider trading is once again a popular topic.

Personally, I really hate insider trading laws. The law itself is an embarrassing, incoherent mess, as Daniel Fischel captured well in his book about Michael Milken, Payback. Many law professors seem to find the prospect of insiders making money on information professors have no access to particularly outrageous, and there is no end to academic proposals to stop the "abuses."

My thought today on insider trading is this--I wonder whether a robust insider trading market would have made it harder for managers at Enron, Tyco, etc. to pull off their accounting shenanigans, which really were wicked and harmful to shareholders. Wouldn't information about bogus off-shore corporations hiding losses, etc., tend to leak out to the market much faster if it were legal for insiders to place bets on it not remaining secret forever? You would be pitting private greed against private greed, surely more effective than the SEC.

By the way, about Martha Stewart, try this tip for peeling kiwis. Normally when you peel this tasty fruit, half of it ends up going down the disposal. Instead of peeling it with knife like a peach, try cutting it in half then scooping out the flesh as you would a soft boiled egg! It really works! It would be wrong to put such a clever woman in prison.

Escape this Mundane World
By Tom Smith

In the market for a deep, serious but still bizarre exploration of philosophy and cosmology? My copy of Infinite Minds: A Philosophical Cosmology, John Leslie's new book, just arrived from Amazon. It develops a creation story along Platonic and Spinozan lines. A previous book of his got a very positive review from J.L. Mackie, an Australian philosophy not exactly sympathetic to theism.

October 06, 2003
Boy Babies are Good
By Tom Smith

Couples with daughters are apparently more likely to get divorced than couples with sons. (Hat tip to The effect is strong, especially in LDC's (do we still call them that?). There's probably some evolutionary psychology explanation for this; none of the theories in the slate piece seem very convincing to me.

News Junkie Alert
By Tom Smith

When I'm in pure news junkie mode, after I've scanned the headlines of WaPo and NYT, the WSJ, LA Times and various local California rags and still need more, I visit this page at It's pretty raw right (definitely Field Conservative, indeed ready to hit the overseer on the head with a hoe conservative), but it works. Right wing nuts all over the country (planet?) scan news sources and then post links to whatever strikes them as interesting. Everything mixed together, long on national security.