Update: Anybody else getting an odd effect? The page seems to load up normally, then cuts off at the bottom of the archive block. Not liking this . . .
Friday, August 29, 2003
Update: Nalbandian survived, barely. He can't be looking forward to facing Philippoussis. Blake wins in four, buying himself a shot at Federer.
"When it comes to creating opportunity, restoring fiscal discipline, putting values back into our economy, and preparing for the jobs of the future, George Bush hasn't lifted a finger," Kerry said. "I intend to move mountains."Kerry then goes on to propose a plan that consists, mainly, of keeping the Bush tax cuts in place. The moving mountains part? Tax cut repeal for the wealthiest 1% -- with that revenue to be spent rewarding state legislatures for passing budgets that lack even a winking reference to reality. If Kerry's plan does nothing else, it at least sends the bold message that, under a President Kerry, the states will not be held responsible for creating the "deficits, debt and doubt" at the state level that Kerry accuses Bush of creating at the national level. In other words, don't worry about running up a deficit . . . unless I'm running for office against you.
If this sort of timid policy is the mainstream Democrats' idea of centrism (which it seems to be, since Edwards claims Kerry ripped this plan from him), Dean is better off staying on the left.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
"Bodybuilders party a lot, and once, in Gold's--the gym in Venice, California, where all the top guys train--there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together." Asked by Manso if he was talking about a "gang bang," Schwarzenegger answered, "Yes, but not everybody, just the guys who can fuck in front of other guys. Not everybody can do that. Some think that they don't have a big-enough cock, so they can't get a hard-on. Having chicks around is the kind of thing that breaks up the intense training. It gives you relief, and then afterward you go back to the serious stuff."From The Smoking Gun...where else?
"Two hundred and seventy seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California…which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7, including illness and accidents, each day."I think this is sort of besides the point, but thanks Mr. Hume (or rather your intern) for this information.
as this week's Forward notes, a growing raft of single-issue, left-wing groups are taking him to task for some of his more centrist leanings, particularly on Israel, gun control, and medical marijuana. But does this really spell doom for Dean? Not at all. On the contrary, he couldn't ask for a more positive development.This is a little true and a little false. Months remain before the primaries actually occur, and Dean does court risk by heading for the center too soon. If he can pull his base to the center with him, he's in good shape -- but he shouldn't hold his breath. TNR notes, further, that
Why? For one thing, Dean has already gotten more mileage out of the far left-wing than he could have reasonably hoped for, having used their early support to cement his image as coming from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Now that he's trying to strengthen his centrist bona fides, their support isn't so important.
when you get criticism from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, even the most doubting of centrists have to rethink their assumptions about Dean's supposedly ideological tendencies.This overstates the awareness of the center, while understating its ambivalence. First, centrists are unlikely to be wholly informed about what the Brady Campaign's platform is. (For the record, it's pretty draconian.) This is not to say that mainstream voters are ignorant; they're simply less likely to be in touch with activists on either side. (They're centrists, remember?) Second, and related, centrists are not necessarily anti-gun-control. If they are as informed on the issue as TNR's piece implies, they are still more likely to be divided on the matter. Dean will have to push the left away with far more visibility for it to matter in a general election
This brings up one final point: the "Sister Souljah" moment. This was Clinton's first real break with the left, and it came with the black left, which continued to support Clinton fully. It was a moment of finesse, pulled off effortlessly. It combined several cultural issues (racial attitudes, violent music lyrics) that were on the "kitchen table" at the time. Dean has to make the same sort of high profile break with the uglier parts of the left, and he hasn't shown any real signs of that yet. (Nor has he shown that he has the finesse to do it well; rather he seems impetuous compared with Clinton's easy modulated air.) His support for troops in Liberia was an attempt to show moderation in his attitude toward military power, but in general Liberia just isn't bright enough on America's radar for him to complete the trick. I think, for reasons of timing and politics, it's too early to head for the center.
Lost amid news of the horrific attacks and Iraqis' complaints about the disorder that war has brought to their nation are signs that this capital city of more than 5 million people is slowly returning to normal and that most people are getting on with their lives.Iraqis seem to be coming to terms with a couple of facts. First, the U.S. can't simply hand them back a functioning society:
Protests and complaints have dogged the coalition government since Baghdad fell in April. But some Iraqis caution not to read too much into them. They say many Iraqis had unrealistic expectations.And nothing's going to happen without the help of the Iraqis themselves:
"The image of the United States in the Iraqi mentality is that it is supernatural," says Usama Al-Duri, a professor of Iraqi-American relations at Baghdad University. "That supernatural entity is now on the streets of Baghdad, not just on TV," and it isn't looking so all-powerful.
The United States is making some headway in getting Iraqis to cooperate and participate in government. At first, Iraqis were wary. Slowly, people are coming forward, and in meetings around the country, many Iraqis are building working relationships with U.S. military and civilian officials.The realization is there, too, that despite the failures of the American presence, occupation is, on balance, the right path:
A half-dozen Iraqi businessmen meet regularly to share kebabs and chew over the issues of the day in the office of one of the men on Harithiyah Street in Baghdad. To a man, they say the U.S.-led coalition is botching the effort to restore order.Above all, Iraqis seem resigned to the difficult reality that this will all take time:
But asked who should lead the country, they are equally unanimous. "I would recommend an American," says Kaldoun Abdulatif Othman, 48, an engineer.
Muhsin Hamid Akar, 32, has been doing a brisk business selling satellite phones from a small store in another part of downtown Baghdad. He urges his fellow Iraqis to be patient: "A man gets the flu, it takes seven days to recover. After 35 years of dictatorship, what can anyone expect?"Good point.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
The six "Fish Freaks" volunteered their services to Bennett Global Marketing Group, the company that was hired by Fish's family to help promote Mardy. In exchange, they received a free ticket and a small stipend.I guess I should have known when the Kournikova phenomenon exploded: it's not about tennis anymore, is it?
"We were asked to create some buzz for Mardy, we had the idea, implemented it and I think these guys nailed it," said Jeff Bennett, president of the company.
. . . Mardy's father, Tom, said having the group was "money well spent."
Michael Jackson has always been white.Ouch. (Thanks to Jacob Levy.)
The Democrats, on the other hand, are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.No dispute there. We said much the same, as I recall (here, here, and here). But I disagree with her contention that the
This causes two problems. First, it drags the party platform marginally farther to the left than the Republican platform is to the right, which in a 50/50 nation is bad news, and it narrows the well of political talent. At the local level this doesn't matter, since districts go reliably for one party or another, but nationally it's a problem . . .
Republicans only have two groups to please: social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives will, by and large, allow you to throw a bone to the social conservatives so long as you do it somewhere the fiscal conservatives don't have to look at, such as prisons and homeless shelters, or small towns in Alabama. The small towns in Alabama, so long as they are left alone and not asked to celebrate gay wedding ceremonies next to the creche in the town square, will generally leave the fiscal conservatives to their own devices except during the annual farm-subsidy festival.This is an oversimplification. Social conservatives come in various flavors, just as social liberals do (represented among the Democratic pressure groups on Jane's list by feminists, gays, abortion activists). And we can be fairly certain that, in the near future, GOP nominees will not be endorsing abortion or gay marriage; not because of the "social conservatives," but because social conservatives include anti-abortion groups and anti-gay-marriage groups. Lumping them all together as social conservatives is true in that someone who is opposed to legal abortion will likely be opposed to gay marriage; but it is just as true that a self-identified feminist will likely be "socially liberal" on other issues. I wouldn't deny that Democrats have more (and more powerful) pressure groups barking at them for position statements; in fact, that was my point to begin with. But the GOP has its share of tigers to pet.
Along those lines, Jane's discussion also ignores the NRA, which despite its GOP leanings is neither fiscally nor socially conservative, per se. As I said in previous posts, that makes it a powerful GOP pressure group (since it can't be mollified by low taxes or a sop to the religious right), although it is far from having party-wide litmus test power. Others with a great deal of sway, at least regionally, include farmers (every GOP presidential hopeful goes to Iowa to take the ethanol/corn pledge), oil, timber (viz Bush administration tarriffs), steel (ditto), and telecom. The difference is that most of these groups have equal pull in both parties. And to some extent that benefits the GOP, since they can blow off, say, the teachers, since they know that vote is lost anyway. (Link via VodkaPundit.)
I think the Constitution has grown beyond this, though, like it or not. And I'm totally comfortable with the interpretation that the 14th binds the states to the same limits as the federal government regarding the bill of rights. For example, I'm not comfortable with an interpretation of the First Amendment that says, although Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, the states can do so.
The surprises thus far are on the women's side, with Maleeva and Bovina both losing to unseeded players, though both (Shinobu Asagoe, who went to the final in Birmingham in July, and Ludmila Cervanova, who has seen some quarters and semis this year) are far from nobodies.
Second round unconventional wisdom: Watch Todd Martin against Martin Verkerk to see if Todd has one more shot at glory. The Croation Sensation Ivo Karlovic blew past clay specialist Felix Mantilla. It's worth seeing if he can take veteran Hicham Arazi, who beat Kafelnikov and put up a respectable performance against Federer in the quarters in Dubai.
"We have already seen that the actual language of the Constitution does not forbid an establishment of religion. Rather, it forbids Congress to legislate on the subject at all, reserving it entirely to the states. No language in the 14th Amendment deals with this power of government.This tenuous argument is supported with examples like this:
Portions of that amendment do indeed restrict the legislative powers of the states, but they refer only to actions that affect the privileges, immunities, legal rights and equal legal status of individual citizens and persons. The first clause of the First Amendment in no way deals with persons, however, but rather – in concert with the 10th Amendment – secures the right of the states and the people to be free from the dictates of federal law respecting an establishment of religion."
"The government's power to arm soldiers for the community's defense does not inherently contravene the individual's right to arm himself against personal attack. The government's power to establish institutions of higher learning does not inherently contradict the individual's right to educate his young or join with others to start a school. The government's power to engage in economic enterprises (such as the postal service or electric power generation) does not inherently contradict the individual's right to private enterprise. It is possible for government coercively to inhibit or repress any of these individual activities, but it is obvious that government action does not in and of itself constitute such coercion."Finally, he argues that Judge Moore, in refusing to comply with the Federal order is standing for liberty. More specifically, Judge Thompson's order
"represents a destructive violation of the right of the people of Alabama to decide how their government will or will not express their religious beliefs. This right of the people is the first one secured in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, and it cannot be compromised without surrendering the moral foundations of republican liberty. Judge Thompson's assault upon this right, and that of the entire federal judiciary for the last several decades, is not, therefore, a trivial threat to the liberty of the people. Judge Moore cannot obey the court's order without surrendering that liberty.I'll stop now for comment.
I wonder if this is corallary to your thought that we remember the flashy players. Up-and-coming players took on the style of the players in the public eye, and that always meant Andre over Pete. Oddly, this wasn't the case with Connors, whose huge, flat swing all but disappeared as technology and racquet size allowed spin to heat up dramatically. At any rate, I can't remember a time when one style dominated so completely.
To rack up that number of trophies is an astounding achievement. The fact is most people don't want to give Sampras his due because he was dull, and he and Agassi never really got a great rivalry going as Agassi did sleepwalk through the middle 90s (as Eno points out). This is true, but it cannot take away from his achievements. The fact is we're more likely to enshrine with greatness those who not only won, but did it with elan. See: Bjorg, Mac, Connors, Becker (eventually Agassi, I'd warrant). We forget the boring ones, or downplay what they did, even though they were kicking the arse of everyone they came into contact with, see: Courier, Wilander (a slight stretch), Lendl, Edberg. I'm not saying all these guys are the absolute elite, but they all won more than one slam, and got into countless finals. Only the mythic Laver, who didn't play in many of the "open" tournaments yet still took home 11 Slams, can we unquestionably place at the top. But, if Sampras isn't within one or two slots of him, then it's beyond me. He may have been dull and reserved, but he was the player, above all others, who brought the game into the modern era. While his serve-and-volley techniques have become passe, his big serve, huge forehand, and range all are prevalent today. I didn't always enjoy his game, but I'll miss seeing him nonetheless.
The shuttle program has done its bit, and I don't mean to be slagging it. It's simply that we must decide what we want from NASA (or a private space program, for that matter). Sending the shuttle up to the space station and back every few months is a nice way to keep a space program without having to think about it. If that's what we decide we want, so be it; but we'll end up as the Branniff Airlines of the space world while someone else (the Chinese, or this guy, probably) is building the Concorde.
"NASA is already preparing to repeat its unacceptable response after the first Shuttle tragedy: shuffling around the same managers, firing no one, pretending to reform, and then doing the same old things," Tumlinson pointed out. "This is as unacceptable as it is predictable! The White House and Congress must demand NASA do more than just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic."I'm certainly inclined to agree that private enterprise could do a more effective job of exploring and exploiting outer space for its many treasures. NASA is another federal bureaucracy that needs an overhaul. Wouldn't this be a great place for a small government politician to start?
Link via Rand Simberg, who's covering the issue in depth.
The end result of all this is that many libertarians see no compelling reason to support the Republican right they identify with John Ashcroft and Sen. Rick Santorum. By default this means that they often end up working with the left. They've joined with the ACLU and other traditionally liberal civil libertarian organizations to oppose Patriot Act-style legislation (although some prominent conservatives joined them in opposition). Antiwar libertarian bloggers and Internet columnists often link to left-of-center websites like Indymedia, Common Dreams, Alternet.org and CounterPunch in making their arguments.I think a lot of the hype over the Patriot Act is unwarranted (I'm not alone in this), and I supported, and still do support, the administrations strategy, if not tactics, in Iraq. But I do agree that the GOP has seriously lost touch with its small government raison d' etre. The GOP is all in favor of a large, intrusive govvernment, as long as it intrudes into the right place, bedrooms instead of boardrooms. This is philosphically inconsistent and leaves would be supporters (like me) scratching their heads in wonder. I don't think, as Antle points out, that Howard Dean is the answer. Sadly, I don't see a legitimate candidate who could carry the small government banner in the next few election cycles from either party. Any ideas?
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Barra brings up Tiger Woods, and since I'm more knowledgeable about golf I'll use it as an example. But golf and tennis are very different, so someone else will have to take up that analysis.
The PGA Tour, as a whole, is far deeper today than at any time in the past. There are more players who can truly compete at the highest level now (just look at this year's major winners) than there were in the '60's and '70's, when Jack Nicklaus reigned supreme. However, the key is how many "great players" there are, as opposed to just very good. In that case, I'd say Nicklaus faced tougher competition, having to compete regularly against Palmer and Gary Player in his early days, and Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson in his later years. They were truly exceptional talents. Tiger faces a very good crop of players, but none that has the same kind of intimidation and ability to win, as opposed to just play well, as a Tom Watson. The closest is Ernie Els, but even he's not at that level and there's noone else even close. So, great as Tiger is (and he may be more talented than Jack) he will have trouble ever measuring up if there's not a complementary group of rivals to test him.
I think Sampras probably suffers from the same lack of real competition. In fact, by these standards, McEnroe and Connors look even more impressive, since they had to face each other so often. But I don't know enough about the competition Laver faced to say how he compares. But I do know that, other than Agassi, Sampras never had to contend with many great players in their prime.
Future sports historians, when looking back on the last 25 years of the 20th century, will probably name Tiger Woods over Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky and Lance Armstrong as the most dominant athlete of the era. In doing so, they will leave themselves vulnerable to those who would take up the case for Pete Sampras.I bet Flyer has a take on this too. With a brief nod of the head to Rod Laver, who sat out several prime seasons, Barra points to Sampras's domination in slam events. This is true enough, but it deserves some context. Despite Barra's implication about the quality of the competition Sampras faced ("At the time when Pete was at his best, there were more good players coming into the game from all over the world than at any previous time in tennis history," he quotes Pete's coach Paul Annacone as saying), it's clearly not true. Several of Pete's best years were men's-game doldrums. Pete's acknowledged rival, Andre, seemed barely conscious for several of those years. Beyond Andre, who else was there as a consistent threat in a slam or elsewhere in the mid-late 90s? Meanwhile, the man with far and away the most tour wins, Jimmy Connors, played during an era that makes Annacone's claim on the talent pool ridiculous.
Mr. Sampras will need no future historians to make his case as the greatest tennis player of our time. His career credentials--the 14 Grand Slam singles championships; the 63-7 record in Wimbledon and seven Wimbledon titles in eight years; the 71-9 record at the U.S. Open with 87 consecutive service games won there; the six straight seasons of being ranked No. 1--do that admirably.
As for the Tiger Woods comparison, I see Pete's dominance in much the same way as Tiger's: pace Annacone, both dominated at a time when no one was stepping up to the challenge. Both had a reputation for cold, consistent play that invoked the "Who's going to lose to him this week?" mantra. As I said recently, Pete's one of the greats, but is it any wonder that the boom in women's tennis coincided with a decline in men's?
And consider that in the same state, Alabama, where the Judge Moore sideshow is getting nonstop media attention, Republican Gov. Bob Riley is risking his political neck to campaign for tax-law changes that would increase taxes on the well-off while exempting everyone who makes less than $17,000 annually. Gov. Riley phrases the campaign in religious terms, saying, "According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor." How come this pure and admirable Christian sentiment gets no media attention while the egomaniac with the hunk of stone in the same state's courthouse enjoys round-the-clock coverage?Pure and admirable Christian sentiment, sure, but no way to work out a tax code. Some of us, Reverend Easterbrook, might not be Christian, and might therefore not want to pay our taxes "[a]ccording to Christian ethics." This is what I meant by separation of church and state at the wallet's edge. Suggested campaign theme for Governor Riley: "Tax the Christians!"
1. There is an argument for the ten commandments as a judicial symbol -- as much as we can have a statue to the personification of Lady Justice without legislating Paganism. Justice Moore himself killed any chance of that, though, by declaring his intention to "honor God," which I think we agree runs afoul of the amendment.
2. The separation between church and state at the judiciary level is, at its heart, about a system of justice that does not judge a person by alien standards. Thus the Bible's denunciation of homosexuality falls short as a cause for sodomy laws -- but so does secular moral disapproval of it. But flip that around. What cause is there to enshrine "diversity" as a good other than simple "secular moral approval" of it -- a moral approval, in fact, that some on the Supreme Court literally took on faith from the University of Michigan? No, it seems to me that if "We think [sodomy] is bad" doesn't work then "We think [diversity] is good" (Michigan's actual argument) doesn't either.
3. I don't think it's possible to have impartial judges. Like you said, all of them have beliefs that influence their decisions. But the left pretends otherwise, as we see with judges like Bork and, lately, Pryor -- whom Russ Feingold implied was too bigoted to serve on the court because he changed the dates of his family trip to Disneyworld so it wouldn't coincide with Disney's "Gay Day." See, a right-wing judge who believes a law is unjust (e.g., abortion) is outside the mainstream, not to be trusted, in danger of legilating from the bench, etc. Never mind that many of the liberal ideas we hold dear were at one time dissents against "settled law" (Dred Scott, Plessy). That's why I characterize modern liberalism as, effectively, a religion.
"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening."Leviticus 15:19-23 Okay, I'm devolving into the slippery slope. I hear Eno concerning the religion of Social Justice or diversity. I also think that such an argument may be a bit stretched - not that the Ten Commandments aren't more rational (ironically), but I think when you go on matters of faith, they have to remain separate. There's no reason the Judge can't have his monument back in his Chambers, for example (I've been before born-again judges whose chambers are riddled with crucifixes, "WWJD" symbols, and the like). The point is, when the black robe goes on, all else is hidden - that symbol, the black robe, is not accidental. The system is not perfect and we do indeed "shop" judges, or at least take that judge's sensibilities into account beforehand. That is different from having to be able to quote from the King James in opening arguments.
A judge may not use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs.Really? You both believe that? Or is it that, because of the First Amendment, the judge may use that pedestal to trumpet any beliefs he wishes, so long as they are not religious? The tenets of modern left-liberalism make up a religion, with articles of faith (the magic of "diversity"), dogma (PC), punishment of heresy (shouting down dissenters as racist, homophobic misogynists), and a canon of hagiographized saints (Kennedy, King, Gandhi, Margaret Sanger, Sojourner Truth, etc., etc.). Yet you don't have to look very far to find judges who are more than happy to trumpet these principles from the bench. This is how we ended up with a legal system wherein the burglar sues the homeowner when he falls on the rickety back staircase while breaking and entering. This is how we ended up with enormous lawsuits against legal products (cigarettes, guns, Big Macs) that seek the payment of vast sums, though treading carefully to keep the product itself from being declared illegal (which would kill the golden goose). This is why plaintiffs go venue shopping. This is why we had Florida in 2000, for god's sake, why the Florida Court saw one wholly extra-legal (and unattainable) principle as the highest good -- namely, the principle of the "voter's intention."
Sorry to be kick-starting a rant here. I'll take my meds now. Look, I don't particularly see a place for religion in jurisprudence, but I also don't think we should be fooling ourselves. The point of the First Amendment is to not subject non-believers to the articles of faith in which they hold no belief, to judge them by laws that do not rely on faith for their derivation and justification. And judges "reason" from foolish, misinformed, illogical principles every damn day, whether their god is Yahweh or Social Justice (whatever the hell that means) or Diversity (ditto). Hell, at least Yahweh left a book with laws and principles in it. I've never heard a social justice advocate give any principle other than "It's just not fair" which, true as it may be in a given situation, is not a basis for proper jurisprudential thought. Every judge you appear before in court eats, sleeps, and defecates like the rest of us, and is just as likely to be an idiot, a bigot, a holy roller, or a PC whacko as anyone else. And, thus, thinking that religion, as we know it, is a singular threat to a fair judiciary is foolish and blind to the spirit of the First Amendment.
Monday, August 25, 2003
As for my other comments, about religion and politics in general, I think some go too far by declaring a judicial appointee unfit based on his religious convictions. There's a real good way to tell if a judge will base his rulings on religious principles or, properly, on precedent. Examine his record. No, a judge may not "use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs..." How a devout Catholic wrestles with his conscience when interpreting Roe v. Wade is his business, but he had better follow the law. We'd expect the same from a strict vegetarian hearing a suit involving McDonalds.
My point is that individuals acting in a public capacity are entitled to their own convictions, religious or otherwise. It's how they act in their official capacity that should be the test of their qualifications.
Further, to adjudicate in this case in favor of removing the monument based on your reasoning, we must assume that the 8 presiding justices who decided that it should be removed were motivated out of fear that some judge might get the idea, from walking past the monument presumably, that he should be judging cases based on the commandments. With all due respect to the unknowable court, I doubt that was their reasoning.
Perhaps I have missed your point entirely. Oh, and thanks for clarifying the federal/state First Amendment issue.
Here's the key: what if the Judge was faced with interpreting a law that was "legal" but not in accordance with his religious beliefs? Would it be okay to overturn it because God told him to? The Judge cannot use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs (you'll notice the other 8 Justices did not agree with him). The statue wears the imprimatur of the state's highest jurist - it's hard to say therefore that the state is not endorsing a certain belief. Interestingly, witnesses are told to put their hands on "The Bible" when they swear in to testify - but, you're allowed to "solemnly swear OR affirm" thereby giving the atheists an out. I've always thought that Bibles should be taken out of courtrooms - but then again, I have alterior motives.
To answer a question, the 14th Amendment passes the 1st Amendment's contents onto the states, so it's not just a federal issue. Also, and although it's a good point, the fact is that all judiciaries are "established" by the Legislature. Federally, we call them "Article III" judges because, uh, that's where they come from in the Constitution. With the states, it's typically the same. Also, the Alabama District Court had a nice little ditty on this:
"The Chief Justice placed the monument in the Judicial Building Rotunda under his authority as administrative head of Alabama's judicial system. Ala. Const. amend. 328, § 6.10 (administration); Ala. Code § 41-10-275 [*1315] (1975) (leases). His placement of the monument, therefore, has the force of law. The Chief Justice is the only person with the authority to place the monument or remove it, authority given to him by the laws of Alabama. To say that his actions in placing the monument in the Alabama Judicial Building does not constitute a "law" obfuscates the truth of the situation: the monument was placed in the Judicial Building by a state official, acting in his official state capacity, under powers granted to him by state law."
This, as I said, seems like common sense to me. Religion is part of social and cultural life, particularly in a polity of a smaller size than the country as a whole. To do away with it altogether in the public sphere seems like a baby/bathwater mixup of the plainest sort.
We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment.Lovely. And the constitutionality question?
The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson's order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution.I have a few thoughts. First, I love how Amendment 1 is written, with that slight ambiguity that makes modernist interpreters do backflips to makes it read to their advantage. There is no "Chinese Wall" between Church and State, no "separation" as such. There is no reason that religion should not have it's legitimate place in social discourse, but it legal or political. If the Gospels or the Talmud or the Koran is what informs your judgement and guides your moral compass, so be it. By the same token, if the writings or Susan Sontag, the movies of Michael Moore, or the work of Milton Friedman are your intellectual touchstones, that's great too. Politicians, and judges, shouldn't be discounted because of religious convictions, though they shouldn't get bonus piints either. To place the emphasis on a candidate's religion (or membership in another controversial but legitimate group, like PETA) is to say that we can't take issue with one's actual judgements or decisions, so we'll attack what we believe motivates or informs the same. This is lazy and not productive. Religion is one aspect of a person's character, and it's frequently a label that's applied cheaply and inaccurately. Intelligent discourse demands more.
That said, I think Judge Moore is on thin ice. The Ten Commandments is not attributed to a generic g-o-d, a "higher power." It's the central teaching of a particular religion, Christianity, and plopping them down in the foyer comes awfully close to "establishment," even if no law has been passed. And even if I'm wrong legally, I think he'll face a hard time just because of his lack of humility. Something I think God commands of his subjects.
By the by, Eric also writes Smarter Harper's, which dissects the frequently misleading statistics in Harper's famous "Index" feature.
The answer is that Daschle had to publicly support McCain-Feingold--in deference to Democratic voters, who overwhelmingly believe unregulated "soft" money has corrupted our political system. But he is now trying to quietly gut it, because party strategists believe soft money is the only way Democrats can compete financially with the GOP, and interest groups like afscme are determined to keep running the bogus, preelection "issue ads" that give them influence over the party.Aside from the true believers, nobody really liked McCain-Feingold. It makes it harder to get the money. But it doesn't make it impossible. The point here, of course, is that if the money will keep flowing anyway (with or without the guts of CFR after the courts and the FEC get done with it), why not make the central tenet of CFR to shine the most sunlight on the flow of political money as possible? The unintended consequence of CFR is to force money underground. Why not simply make and enforce disclosure laws that bring the money out in the open and allow Americans to see the trail it leaves? In the business world, we'd call this transparency.
With another anti-reform vote on the commission, McCain-Feingold may be doomed. And it didn't have to be this way. Republicans never tire of saying that money is like water, that, if you prohibit one method of fund-raising, smart campaign finance lawyers will simply find loopholes and do much the same thing. But campaign finance loopholes, like tax loopholes, don't appear magically--they appear because enforcement agencies like the FEC don't close them. And they don't close them because Republicans--and Democrats like Daschle and Pelosi--appoint FEC commissioners who they know won't.
MORE: Here's a thumbnail of just about everyone and their chances.
Friday, August 22, 2003
As for the chicks, you know the drill: Venus, Kim, or Justine, with outside chances for J.Cap (unlikely, since she's in Venus's bracket), Lindsay (though her 3-seed is a gift), or one of the Russian ladies' mafia. Speaking of whom, USA Today reports that Anna Kournikova will make it to the Open after all. As an "entertainment reporter" for USA Network.
On another entertainment note, Sampras is going to get weepy at another slam, only this time it won't be because he didn't need his usual "injury" excuse. No offense, Pete; you're great and all, but you should have hung it up at your last Wimbledon when somebody still gave a shit.
. . . Dean had once signed Vermont's "Clean Elections" law; in 2000, he was planning to run under its auspices, meaning he would forgo serious fundraising efforts and abide by a government-set spending limit in exchange for accepting public campaign financing. But then Dean changed his mind: he opted out of the public system and raised his own money, well beyond the limits the Clean Elections option would have imposed. "All of that moral pontificating didn't amount to much when the money became the issue," said Ruth Dwyer, Dean's Republican opponent in that race. "I've seen him do that on many occasions."Translation: Dean was afraid he would lose under the "Clean Elections" law he signed. Squawk on about out-of-state money if you please, but Dean was in trouble for doing something that many people in Vermont didn't like. (I support civil unions, but I don't dispute the right of Vermonters to have problems with it, particularly how it was imposed.) Supporting public financing until you're in trouble does not demonstrate any strength of character.
Perhaps. But keep in mind the real circumstances of the 2000 election: It came right in the wake of Dean's most controversial move as governor, signing a bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples. That decision drew the ire of conservative groups and financiers across the nation, enabling Dwyer to opt out of the public system--something she was only too happy to do. Dean's choice was to do the same, in order to keep pace, or to stick with a public finance system that would have left him woefully underfunded against what was about to become the most vitriolic statewide campaign in memory.
I wrote a piece for my town newspaper a couple years ago about integrity in political campaigns. In it I noted that Russ Feingold ran his last senatorial campaign without soft money, reasoning that since his McCain-Feingold bill targeted soft money (even though it was not yet law), he should stand on the principle he supports. The GOP knew that this would make him vulnerable, and Feingold knew that they knew. He won anyway. I don't think I've ever agreed with Russ Feingold on politics, especially campaign finance, but good for him for putting his money where his mouth is.
In contrast I wrote about Massachusetts Rep. Marty Meehan. When Marty first ran, his pet issue was term limits, and he pledged not to run again after four terms. Surprise! He ran again, in 2000, for a fifth term . . . and won a sixth term in 2002. And when a term limits lobbying group ran a television ad pointing out Meehan's duplicity, Meehan's campaign called the ad . . . wait for it . . . "a publicity stunt by a right-wing special interest group." How original.
Dean's flip-flop is sheer political hackery, like Meehan's -- a case of wanting the office more than the principles. No matter how much you gussy it with talk of being financially competetive, Dean flaked out on Clean Elections because he wanted to win re-election.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Agricultural protectionism--the combination of quotas, tariffs, and subsidies for farm products--may be the purest example of destructive special-interest politics ever created. Rich countries--with a few exceptions, such as Australia--burden their own populations three times over. The policies cost taxpayers directly--the atrocious 2002 U.S. farm bill is slated to cost $180 billion over ten years. (Worse, annual unbudgeted "emergency" farm spending during the late 1990s accounted for a great deal of the spending boom that squandered much of the predicted budget surplus long before the first Bush tax cut took effect.) In return for their largesse, taxpayers get the privilege of paying higher prices as consumers (and, of course, inflated prices for basic foodstuffs hit the poorest proportionately hardest). And, by locking up an excess of labor and capital in an agribusiness sector that couldn't turn an honest profit on its own, agricultural protectionism inhibits productivity growth, preventing shifts in employment and investment to more productive parts of the economy.He concludes that the current U.S. position is one of stalemate: with the EU not moving toward liberalizing trade, the U.S. has no incentive toward dropping subsidies:
Still, the costs agricultural policies impose on their own societies are manageable in the huge economies of the developed world.
In the meantime, the ostensible U.S. position is an odd one. We accept the principle that trade in agricultural goods ought to be liberalized, and that this is a matter of justice as well as of efficiency. But we're not willing to give any more than Europe and Japan are--and "Europe," in this case, means "France." The current administration is supposed to be unburdened by the temptation to wait for French approval for everything that happens in the international arena; it's supposed to be willing to indulge some American idealism rather than reducing everything to the cynical level of Gallic sophistication. Where's a bit of unilateralism when you need it?It's a nice piece of analysis, one that calls the bluff of free-trade-for-free-trade's-sake posturing.
This is wrong on so many levels. Stern's show is facing this fight because he's not considered news (hey, there's just as much fluff on three hours of the Today Show -- and Stern makes a helluva lot more news than any other show) and also because the FCC has a hard-on for him. The FCC -- the government -- should not be in a position to determine what is news and what isn't and what we can and cannot hear.Nobody considers the Today Show news anyway; candidates appear there to hit a demographic. But riddle me this: Didn't Bush and Gore go on Oprah in 2000? I don't recall Oprah being told she had to give the fringe candidates equal time. And Oprah is to the female audience what Howard Stern is to the male audience.
You know you're a professional spots-changer when your own ex-husband -- who not only came out of the closet after the divorce, but came out of the closet and questioned his Republican loyalties, to David Freakin' Brock -- calls you a "chameleon" in that New York Times profile you were waiting for.
I'll start with vouchers, since that's taking the headline. If you wanted a good sample of the public mood on vouchers, how would you ask the question? I bet you'd use the word "voucher," right? The survey asks:
"Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?That's one way to describe vouchers, but not the most complete or accurate way. Predictably, it only gets 38% support. (Note that the other side is excellent at this technique, too. Christian education boosters trumpet majority support for vouchers in America, though their questions tend to focus on constitutionality, not desirablility.) The follow-up question does use the word "voucher," and -- unsurprisingly -- support for the voucher concept rises, to 42%. (And when asked of only public-school parents, support goes up another four points.) But this number is unreliable anyway, since the interviewer already got the interviewee on record as opposing the concept. Psychologists can tell you all about priming the cognitive dissonance pump.
Briefly, there are flaws with other parts of the report. For example, the report concludes that Americans have "high regard for the public schools"; this is not true. Rather, Americans display the same prejudices they display in most surveys. They tended to grade their public school as "A" or "B" 48% of the time, while grading public schools nationally as "A" or "B" only 26% of the time. This fallacy is so common in polling as to be almost a gimme statistic. For example, poll victims usually say the same thing about their congressmen: "Mine's OK, but the rest are crooks."
Finally, there is the sampling methodology:
Within each contacted household, an interview was sought with the household member who had the most recent birthday. This frequently used method of respondent selection provides an excellent approximation of statistical randomness in that it gives all members of the household an opportunity to be selected.Well, sure, if you're willing to live with the downside of statistical randomness. They may have got hold of Gramps, who thinks Old Lady Ferguson still teaches grades 2-5 in a single room down at the little red schoolhouse. (And when the sample age composition tells you only that 38% of those polled were "50 and over," that's not a stretch.)
So what's here? Nothing, really. It's a flawed poll with lax interpretation, sponsored and published by a group with a major stake in the answers. Even if you push aside the influence of PDK and rest on Gallup's reputation, you're really only left with a "popular" polling organization; a political candidate or a product placement manager wouldn't twitch a finger based on Gallup's results. Neither should you.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Props to Instapundi.
You know, George, the nine of us are here to audition for the important job of challenging a reckless, dangerous, untrustworthy president who never should have taken office.It's a distinction worth noting.
New York-based Deloitte Consulting admits it helped foster confusing,What do they say, "Those who can't do, consult." So Delloitte (and Andersen, and PWCL, and Ernst & Young, since no good idea goes uncopied) came up with all this jargon to confuse the hell out of people so they can sell them software to clean up the mess. These guys are good.
indecipherable words like "synergy," "paradigm," and "extensible
repository," but now it has decided enough is enough. On Tuesday it will
release "Bullfighter" to help writers of business documents to avoid jargon
and use clear language.
Knowing more than my share of what are being called "liberals" (usually done with considerable phlegm in the throat), and if there's one word I would not use to describe them, it's "dangerous". Hmmm, could it be a marketing ploy?
Two Cuban gymnasts in California for the World Gymnastics Championships have defected and are seeking asylum in the United States, their attorney said Tuesday.Oddly enough! No doubt that goes right into that man-bites-dog category. I mean, who knew that people would want to leave that sunny workers' paradise, with its free medical care and emphasis on education, for the corrupt capitalist nightmare to the North? Next they'll try to tell us that all those Ukranians weren't actually on the Scarsdale diet after all.
The State Department needs to experience culture shock, a top-to-bottom transformation that will make it a more effective communicator of U.S. values around the world, place it more directly under the control of the president of the United States, and enable it to promote freedom and combat tyranny. Anything less is a disservice to this nation.More specifically, Gingrich argues that, consciously or not, State serves to undermine administration policy in the world by operating under a structure and according to principles that will prove increasingly ineffective in the post-9/11 world. Much like the UN, it exists as a closed society and an insular culture. To offer just one example of my own, consider Egypt, a State-Department ally, nominally friendly government, and recipient of massive U.S. aid, whose state-run media expose the unfriendly, anti-American side that Foggy Bottom ignores. In a world where the rhetoric of Islamic extremism may be a leading indicator of threat, wouldn't it be useful to treat such relationships with a realpolitik outlook? For another example, see Arabia, Saudi.
When Gingrich first brought this up, it was dismissed in the press as a partisan shot at the perceived doveishness at Foggy Bottom. But the bipartisan Hart-Rudman commission on national security (which co-chairman Gary Hart touted as resume material during his brief flirtation with presidential candidacy) came to similar conclusions about the efficacy of the department in the 21st century. To wit:
This Commission believes that the Secretary of State should be primarily responsible(Italics in original; bold mine.) One can certainly argue that Gingrich, as a Republican, likes the idea of a State Department more directly under the guidance of a strong GOP president, and would be uncomfortable with the hand of, say, Howard Dean on the wheel. Nonetheless, Gingrich's suggestions, along with the recommendations of the commission, argue coherently for change.
for the making and implementation of foreign policy, under the direction of the President. The State Department needs to be fundamentally restructured so that responsibility and accountability are clearly established, regional and functional activities are closely integrated, foreign assistance programs are centrally planned and implemented, and strategic planning is emphasized and linked to the allocation of resources. While we believe that our NSC and State Department recommendations make maximal sense when taken together, the reform of the State Department must be pursued whether or not the President adopts the Commission’s recommendations with respect to the NSC Advisor and staff.
. . . We cannot emphasize strongly enough how critical it is to change the Department of State from the demoralized and relatively ineffective body it has become into the President’s critical foreign policymaking instrument.
When the law was passed in 1997, the Canadian Grand Prix was granted a six-year grace period before the strict ban on tobacco advertising at sporting events would be enforced. The deadline for this reprieve is October 1 of this year. The Formula One teams have agreed to a self-imposed ban on tobacco advertising, effective 2006. Yet, with few exceptions, the teams refuse to race in countries with bans currently in place. Most of the newer Grands Prix on the calendar are being organized in countries such as China and Bahrain, where tobacco advertising is not an issue.As Spiridakis reports, Canadian politicians are investigating remedies, but have strictly ruled out modifying the law. It's hard to imagine what sort of solution is available, though, with the law in place as written. This is, as Spiridakis observes, a real shame. Montreal is a great setting for a race, with the course beautifully laid out on an island in the St. Lawrence. It's also the only race an American can easily see in person (leaving aside the silliness of running F1 cars at Indianapolis these past few years). Yet another whack at the decidedly non-powerhouse Canadian economy courtesy of the good intentions of the political left.
The news of the demise of their largest tourist event has hit Les Montréalais hard. The French-Canadian city relies heavily on tourism and along with a horde of race fans, the annual Grand Prix brings in an estimated US$60 million of revenue.
"XXX Consulting Corporation specializes in the implementation of strategic objectives, change management and skills training. Our clients are from both corporate and social sectors in the United States, Europe and Asia. The XXX network is comprised of over 40 consultants and training specialists working on projects spanning the globe in both established and emerging markets. Our practices are grounded in action learning methodologies and high-performance team protocols."Or this:
"The basic objective of the Strategic Retail Management Programme is to drive learning in core strategic retailing areas such as embracing the appropriate retail value paradigm, retail market structure analysis and retail life cycle trends, segmentation and positioning in a competitive retail environment, creating the right service mindset, managing the retailer and manufacturer brand mix, and developing successful market entry strategies.I find this stuff fascinating because I'm amazed anyone has a clue as to what it means. More importantly, these snippets are from websites trying to entice people to use their stuff - I suppose the core paradigm strategy is to make them feel stupid, and thus, have them believe you are smart.
. . . only one of Lieberman's problems is that he's seen as too conservative to be the party's presidential nominee. The other, as Will Saletan recently pointed out, is that he's seen as too wimpy to be the party's (for that matter any party's) nominee. By attacking his fellow Democrats for their leftward drift, Lieberman may be exacerbating one problem, but he's probably solving another.I think it's fascinating that the W-word has reappeared -- the very label George Bush the Elder fought off. Sure, Lieberman seems a little milquetoast-y. And he talks like the father from the TV show "Alf." But while John Kerry rides around an a motorcycle wearing his dude-shades (and recalling Dukakis in the tank), Rabbi Joe has firmly (but politely!) pushed his homeland security cred, which he has over all the other candidates; his hawkishness on Iraq, for which he cites (and always has cited) the far more appealing humanitarian justification that TNR itself pushed, and which the Bush team is now trying to co-opt with the WMD hunt going at less than a kettle-rattling boil; and his generally conservative fiscal positions, where he might just be able to flank Dubya and hit from the right.
I think Lieberman could win, but he's getting no oxygen with Dean and Kerry arguing over the centimeter of straight-up liberal turf left to stand on.
The case being made against Bush is that, on matters both foreign and domestic, he misleads if he doesn't intentionally lie and that his presidency endangers not terrorists but law-abiding Americans. That is a harsh indictment that, while pleasing to the base, has yet to appeal to voters in the middle who don't share the Democratic hatred toward Bush and don't regard his presidency as a continuous act of deception designed to destroy America.An obvious point perhaps, but one worth a moment's pursuit. I received my first Bush/Cheney solicitation yesterday, a letter asking me to give money or time to help "campaign efforts in your town." (If I may digress momentarily, here's my contribution to Bush/Cheney: Don't waste your time or money in my town. You lost it already by virtue of not being Howard Dean. The downside is that you'll probably lose Massachusetts, too. The upside? It shows you're doing something right.)
The Bush/Cheney letter hit exactly the right note for the 2004 campaign: It was friendly, but did not fail to address me as Mr. Enobarbus. (All the letters we get from the liberal side assume first-name familiarity.) It mentioned the threat from terrorists, but did not dwell on fear. It asked for help to re-elect the president, but made no mention of the other side; to read the letter one might suspect Bush was running against al-Qaeda, not the Democrats, in 2004. (Ann Coulter will tell you the same thing.)
I haven't received any mail from the Dems yet, though I'm certain I will -- I know for a fact that I'm on both mailing lists. It will be interesting to see if the eventual Dem nominee stays with the angry, aggressive tone. I think it's a losing tenor for 2004, as much as it was a losing tenor in 1996, when the all-but-official GOP slogan was "Anyone But Clinton." So far, Lieberman has come the closest to running a campaign without the "Bush Is The Enemy" theatrics, and even he has had to cut it close. Is it any wonder, then, that Lieberman continues to poll ahead of Kerry and Dean nationally? It's partly name recognition, but with the way the press has covered Dean's white-hot rise from obscurity, there must be another contributing factor.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
This administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes . . . I'm not talking about a quickie or a temporary tax cut, which would be more appropriate if a recession were imminent; nor am I talking about giving the economy a mere shot in the arm to ease some temporary complaint. I am talking about the accumulated evidence . . . that our present tax system . . . exerts too heavy a drag on growth . . . that it siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment and risk-taking.Yep, it was Kennedy.
The biblical account of Jesus' life and death should not be sacrificed to political correctness. But the cry of "political correctness" can also become a cover for very real bigotry.That's a bit glib and jejune for a columnist as sharp as Young. When just about anyone else creates art of a controversial nature, the left rushes to defend the various freedoms being trampled under critical foot. Think of Andres Serrano or Chris Ofili. The right, meanwhile, insists on sensitivity and respect. On the issue of Gibson's movie, both sides seem to be getting a cheap thrill from hoisting the other side by its own petard. (There is, of course, a minor distinction to be made: Gibson is financing the picture himself, without the help of taxpayers.)
In the end, I'm disappointed to see Young ignore the underlying issue, which is not bigotry, blasphemy, art, or political correctness. It's money. And the claims by Jewish groups like the ADL that the movie will "fuel anti-Semitism" are worth the scrutiny. For example, if the claim is true, what is the proper remedy? Who decides if the public can handle the release of this film without burning synagogues? Are these even issues we want to introduce into the art world? As I implied in mentioning Gibson's self-financing, there is a legitimate debate over the content of art that citizens are forced to support in the form of tax revenue that goes to, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts. But that legitimacy does not hold here. Those offended by the film can picket theaters, write letters denouncing the film, organize a boycott -- whatever. But I wish they would please leave off the open ended (in their words) "expressing [of] concern" over it, as though implying that someone (perhaps Joe Lieberman) should step in and take care of this. Perhaps I'm jumping the gun a bit on this, but when people start "expressing concern," I foresee calls for censorship not too far behind.