FauxPolitik

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Gas Pain: Nick Schulz has a good essay on gas prices at NRO, backed up with some humorous research:
Gas is also cheaper than orange juice ($6.64 a gallon), Snapple ($10.32 a gallon); olive oil ($51.04 a gallon), eye drops ($995.84 a gallon) and nasal spray ($2,615.28 a gallon) according to figures from the Department of Labor, Consumer Price Index.
Talk about "record" gas prices should serve as a reminder of how little pressure it takes for a politician, of either party, to propose monkeying with the market. Now, obviously OPEC isn't a free-market organization, but domestic action will only compound the problem. Kerry, for example, talks about "streamlining" environmental regulations to iron out the disparity between gas prices in, say, Georgia and California. (Never mind that the upshot will likely raise Georgia's gas prices as much as it lowers California's.) But there are reasons for the disparity. Californians have opted for more of that luxury good we nebulously call "the environment"; in other words, they (through their state legislature) have agreed to fork out more in gas costs, to cover additives and refinery issues, in exchange for some perceived (arguably nonexistent) benefit.

Also, Kerry wants to put topping up the strategic petroleum reserve on hold for a while. (Note that some conservatives have said he wants to "tap" the reserve: well, yes, in the sense that reducing the rate of growth of an entitlement can be called a "funding cut.") As Schulz notes, this would have a negligible effect on prices since, as both parties pointed out a few years ago, our "reserves" consist of really laughable amounts.

As Schulz's price comparisons indicate, gas is pretty goddamn cheap, considering we have to explore, haul it out of the ground, ship, refine, ship again -- things not necessarily true about Visene -- with everyone getting a profit along the way. The stuff comes pretty cheap, particularly when you consider that -- after all that labor getting dead dinosaur from the shale layer to your tank -- a quarter to a third of the cost is straight tax.

Long Assignment: Read this piece by Alan Wolfe, on the trendy quasi-fascist political thinker Carl Schmitt:
Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end. Politics, for liberals, stops at the water's edge; for conservatives, politics never stops. Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition. Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes. Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them. Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal. Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency -- conservatives always find cases of emergency -- the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.
Then read this piece from the WSJ:
For a moment this Sunday, the yard outside White House senior adviser Karl Rove's home looked like a scene from "On the Waterfront."

In the screen version, Karl Malden's parish priest finds his church surrounded by union toughs who bang their clubs on the basement windows in an effort to intimidate those inside attending a meeting on dockside corruption. In the real-life Beltway version, nine busloads of activists "stormed" (the Washington Post's word) Mr. Rove's yard, blocking the street, surrounding both sides of the house and pounding on the windows at a time when he was inside with his 15-year-old son and his son's friend.

Okay, I'll admit that Wolfe covers his ass with this sentence: "There are, of course, no party lines when it comes to conservatives and liberals in the United States." But then, of course, he goes on to examine the 2004 election as though he had never made that caveat statement:
No wonder the 2004 election has aroused so much interest. We will, if Schmitt is any guide, be deciding not only who wins, but whether we will treat pluralism as good, disagreement as virtuous, politics as rule bound, fairness as possible, opposition as necessary, and government as limited.
Which side do you think is which, in his view? And when, exactly, was the last time that blue-blazered College Republicans burned newspapers and shouted down speakers; that the staff of the American Enterprise Institute went into the political streets with bike chains and flick knives; that the chamber of commerce "protested" you by (criminally, by the way) storming your property and attacking your house in an obvious attempt at intimidation?

Liberal, conservative: whatever.

Look, I'm more likely to call myself liberal than conservative -- but anyone willing to look closely will admit that the banner of fascism is carried by the left these days.

More: Another Wolfe howler:

Ann H. Coulter . . . regularly drops hints about how nice it would be if liberals were removed from the earth, like her 2003 speculation about a Democratic ticket that might include Al Gore and then-California Gov. Gray Davis. "Both were veterans, after a fashion, of Vietnam," she wrote, "which would make a Gore-Davis ticket the only compelling argument yet in favor of friendly fire." . . . Liberals, by contrast, even in their newly discovered aggressively anti-Bush frame of mind, stop well short of Coulter's violent language.
First, as I've written about Coulter before, she's something of an arsonist. Even National Review fired her. Second, take a peek at what the "liberals" say at Indymedia or Democratic Underground. They're about as representative of liberalism as Coulter is of conservatism. (And I'm sure I don't even need to point out famous liberal Hunter Thompson's assertion that Ed Meese deserved to be sodomized by drug-enraged bull elk.)

More: Jacob Levy beat me to this by two days. Not fair! I'll bet he doesn't have to pay for his own subscription to the Chronicle! (Now out of the academic world, I have to wait for the content to move to the "free zone" of chronicle.com.) His observations are similar to mine, but better written, and with less elk sodomy. (Suggested motto for Volokh Conspiracy: "Now with less elk sodomy!")

More David Brooks: Noam Scheiber offers a half-hearted defense of Brooks over at TNR. He offers the same defenses I did (though he seems more convinced of their power to inoculate).
But you see where I'm headed: Issenberg is guilty of the exact same thing--ignoring the broader point that Brooks is basically right. Yes, there are pockets of Blue in Red states, and pockets of Red in Blue states. But, by and large, there do seem to be some stark cultural differences between the kinds of people you find in one type of state versus the other.
This was my point about changing the scope of view in order to pick at technicalities. But Scheiber also admits that Brooks is guilty on a number of counts, and that being a serious journalist who uses humor to make points is not license to selectively analyze or ignore inconvenient facts.

I guess what I like most about Brooks is that the picture he draws traces my experience of the red/blue divide. That is to say, as Scheiber does, he's generally accurate. But I'd rather have him be specifically accurate (and I'm not asking for PhD candidate sophistication), even if it means making the picture a bit more complex.

Running at the combine: This whole testimony rigamorole reminds me of the NFL's scout combine where it has become en vogue for the top college players to not work out at the event in Indianapolis, but instead only submit to confidential one-on-one interviews with teams while technically attending the combine. The thought is that it's better to only work out for the teams in the friendly confines of your own school, with its own springy track-like turf, after having received all the appropriate massages, stretching, and inject...I mean, vitamins. The risk is too great that once out in the open, under the unforgiving lights, before a crowd of semi-hostile scouts and their stop-watches, that the player will freeze up ever so slightly and add .2 to .3 to his 40 time (or subtract 3 or 4 repetitions on the bench). Hence the "private work-out".

Condi has begrudgingly agreed to say something publicly, which is viewed as such a concession, despite that fact that I've personally seen her on no less than 4 different t.v. shows over the past week saying how dumb Clarke is and how wonderful Bush is. Funny, for all the kudos she gets (albeit fewer of late), she's really a bad interview. She's incredibly wooden, has little apparent sense of humor, and she adds nearly nothing of subtance to the "conversation". Yes, I know this is a skill any high-level appointee needs, but at this point, does Congress expect to really get anything new out of her?

My advice to Condi: keep hydrated.

More Testimony: Iwas going to add this as a "More" update to the post below, but it seems to deserve its own discussion. Yesterday I mentioned a possible administration strategy to make the media and opposition cry for Condi's testimony -- something the administration was probably willing to negotiate anyway. In other words, make the Dems jump around and get red faced about it, then agree with them.

Well, so much for strategy. I listened to the president's press briefing on this. Am I mistaken that the presumption was that he'd take questions? This was a seriously bad move. Why send the president out to simply read a statement (and a reversal of policy, at that)? Hell, if you're going to capitulate to the chattering classes, at least do it with some style. Instead of looking magnanimous, Bush still looks defensive.

The administration, and the campaign for that matter, seems not to have grasped the relatively simple concept that the media is an insatiable carnivorous bitch goddess. Karl Rove just sent Bush, rather than some underling, out to snub them. The press theme for the past week or so was "Why won't Condi testify?" The administration seems to think that yesterday's strategic retreat makes this week's theme "She will testify!" Wrong. The new theme is "Dramatic reversal + nonsubstantive explanation = playing politics."

More: Spence Ackerman think just the opposite, that cutting a deal to have Rice testify publically helps to insulate the president himself. Perhaps, if you believe that a) Bush has something to hide, other than minor contradictions in testimony, and b) that the commission was gunning for Bush, something that has not been obvious. (On the contrary, they have made nary a peep about Bush's 1-hour, in-private, just-the-chairmen interview restrictions.) I think the Condi Rice debacle, combined with the cheap 180 the administration did yesterday, has been a worse hit than Clarke's unsupported, rather self-serving testimony.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well, Well: Condi will go before the panel, and before the cameras. You can't help but wonder whether this was a strategy to get the audience stirred up, then send the good Dr. Rice in front of the cameras to calmly refute Richard Clarke.

At any rate, the legal wrangling that led up to this reversal

(To reach the compromise, the administration said Tuesday it had won agreement from the commission that it would seek no further public testimony from White House officials and that Rice's appearance would not be viewed as a precedent.)
could have been hammered out weeks ago. Why the delay, if not strategic? As I said before, I think the separation doctrine is sufficient. And I think that Rice's private testimony was too. Whatever the White House thinks this move will buy them, they've pretty clearly heaped their hopes onto Condi's back. I imagine this will be a serious media event, followed by some seriously dull parsing of words.

More: So much for strategy. I listened to the president's press briefing on this. Am I mistaken that the presumption was that he'd take questions? This was a seriously bad move. Why send the president out to simply read a statement (and a reversal of policy, at that)? Hell, if you're going to capitulate to the chattering classes, at least do it with some style.

The administration, and the campaign for that matter, seems not to have grasped the relatively simple concept that the media is an insatiable carnivorous bitch goddess. Karl Rove just sent Bush, rather than some underling, out to snub them. The press theme for the past week or so was "Why won't Condi testify?" The administration seems to think that yesterday's strategic retreat makes this week's theme "She will testify!" Wrong. The new theme is "Dramatic reversal + nonsubstantive explanation = playing politics."

Bob Edwards: That "NPR reporter" sounds like a typical behind-the-scenes media rat. "Can you believe," they are wont to intone, "that he just reads this stuff? And everybody loves him!" In other words, if only they had smart, wonderful me on the air. I'd ask probing follow-ups, add commentary when needed. Thing is, everyone thinks they're qualified to be on-air talent. (I thought so.) But mostly they're not. (I wasn't; I was just a convenient fool who was willing to do the no-listeners, pre-drive shift.) Remember that we sell brassieres by showing them on chicks who look hot in them, the same way we sell radio content through an attractive voice. We don't sell the bra in a wordy 60-second spot featuring the fat, 50-ish garment worker who came up with the latest push-up technology -- even if he has a hell of a lot more to say about it than Tyra Banks.

As for NPR listeners being conservative in this way, I won't argue, even if the word conservative is gratuitous here. Bob Edwards was an institution among the fair-trade morning-coffee set. And he's a virtuoso, even if he isn't writing the score. Everyone, liberal or conservative, should hesitate in a situation like that, to avoid blowing great talent just because some marketing guru suggested a "freshening up" of the program.

As long as we're on the subject: Wanna freshen up Morning Sedition? Theme music, for god's sake! Lose the f*cking "BAH-buh-bum-BAH-BAH-buh-dum-bum" that's meant to telegraph "Prepare to be told Important Things . . . " Who knew stale liberal earnestness and self-importance could be set to music.

Randy Newman: I will admit Eno that you have, as usual, given me new perspective on the singer/songwriter. I have eschewed Newman when given the opportunity. In fact, when I'm watching a movie and I see his name pop up as the guy providing the theme/mood music, I try my best to completely ignore the music so as not to be angered by what might otherwise be an enjoyable movie. A couple of examples pop up: Toy Story and Seabiscuit. Toy Story (he also did Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. - apparently, he has something on the Pixar people) was of course a great movie whether you were 3 or 33. His lyrics were fitting to the movie and I didn't hate them. Seabiscuit, on the other hand, was a great book and terribly sappy, formulaic movie which Newnam did nothing to help. He played into the hands of the director, in my opinion.

I should probably then focus more on his original work (forgetting Short People for the moment). Now, if I only had a ...what was it you called it...a record player?

Classic From the Racks: I've been trying to pull out a piece of old vinyl every week lately. It's not easy -- the turntable is tucked away from curious three-year-old hands -- but it keeps me from getting too musically stagnant. Some oddball selections have made appearances lately, from Willie Nelson's Stardust (outlaw country icon does jazz-vocal standards?!) to Willis Alan Ramsey (minor meteor of 70s country-folk). But this week a classic came out: Randy Newman's Sail Away. There's a reason why advertisers for years used Newman sound-alikes for their jingles. His voice and delivery are earnestly upbeat, which probably explains why his irony, bordering on sarcasm, can slip under the radar. The title track, delivered as piano and voice over syrupy strings, might be a perfect Madison Avenue product itself but for what it is selling -- slavery.
In America you'll get food to eat
Won't have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet
You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
It's great to be an American
You can see, looking closely at the words, instead of buying the song whole, why controversy might follow. But Newman can be subtle, too. His song "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" is a gentle portrait of simpler, slower times; the irony is not in what is said, as in "Sail Away," but in what is unsaid: the two people missing from that portrait of Dayton are its most famous sons, Wilbur and Orrville Wright, who in 1903 were about to put an end to the world Newman describes. It's not cutting or particularly bitter, despite the unspoken lament of its narrator.

Beyond the songs themselves, the musicianship is excellent. Ry Cooder's twang is in full force on songs like "Last Night I had a Dream"; and Newman's facility with arrangements is obvious, from the subversive salesmanship of "Sail Away" to the rising horns that usher in the climactic "Burn On":

Cleveland, city of light, city of magic
Cleveland, city of light, you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams
The dated topicality of "Burn On" is exceptional to the album. Nothing else strikes the listener as horribly out of place. Even the ironic A-bomb-romancing of "Political Science" transcends its 1970s, no-nukes pedigree:
No one likes us, I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens
You might even -- if you strain -- detect the tiniest kernel of misanthropic literalism in those lines.

If you don't have the taste for vinyl (and Sail Away can be found in that format for $2 in every used record store), the remastered disc is available. But I like the sound of Newman on vinyl, with all the scratches and skips and imperfections. It's more like the world he describes.

Bob Edwards had it coming?: Well, that's the belief of an alleged NPR reporter. Seems that Mr. Edwards has been no more than a talking head all these years, albeit one with a voice booming with gravitas. Now this isn't exactly breaking news that anchors whether on t.v. or radio do little but read teleprompters, and that everything is scripted if it's off-teleprompter.

I guess the real issue is why do listeners/watchers develop affinities for these talking heads to the degree they do? I mean, the actual content of network news differs by minute degrees, so it can't be that say Dan Rather gives you something that Jennings does not. What is it that resonates with an audience? Myself, I'm partial to Brokaw for my direct news, and then Russert for wonky commentary. Is it a coincidence that they're both on NBC? I dunno. Anyway, this intrigues me.

Partial Birth and UVVA: Should a fetus be considered, under law, a person? How is this possible without endangering abortion rights? Cathy Young presents the extremes well in this article.
These days the most intense political battles over abortion are being fought on the periphery of the issue. There are no attempts at the moment to ban abortion by constitutional amendment or to overturn Roe v. Wade and send the matter back to the states. Rather, the current debates are about a ban on some late-term abortion procedures, which is now being challenged in court, and about a federal law making it a crime to cause the death of a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman, which was passed by Congress last week.
This is worth pondering, especially since I'm in favor of both abortion rights and UVVA. I think partial birth is barbaric, yet I don't see a compelling case for its proscription. In other words, I can't reconcile the two completely. And this is an issue where the "I contain multitudes" defense seems flippant. Young sees a middle ground between the two extremes, though she rests it on viability -- which has never really been much more than a legalism masquerading as science.

There is a certain logic glimmer of logic to the intuitive argument that abortion and UVVA are compatable, though. Obviously, when a woman shares her body with a fetus, no state power can intrude. (The anti-abortion side would disagree, but perfect implementation would require women to "declare" a pregnancy to the government.) On the other hand, if an assailant kills the fetus inside a woman's body, what's the recourse under the "clump of cells" rubric? Assault doesn't come close to covering that kind of crime.

In Any Year Ending With Zero . . . : Bill Whalen offers a collection of the statistical and not-so-statistical indicators of presidential politics.
From 1940 to 1972, the home state of the NCAA men's basketball champ also voted for the winning presidential candidate (the lone exception: 1960, when Ohio State won it all and Nixon didn't). Since 1988, the tournament has alternated from winner to loser, this year being the winning candidate's turn to carry the champ's state. The advantage here: Bush. Three of the teams in next weekend's "Final Four"--Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Duke--come from Republican "red" states. If you're a Democrat, the Connecticut Huskies are your team.
Fun (but meaningless) stuff.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Nomination Fights: A Bush re-election fully ensures a knock-down, drag-out Supreme Court nomination battle. While these can be fascinating to watch, the fights over the lower court nominees durning Bush's first term have set a new context. The Dems make no bones about holding to a scorched-earth strategy; some have even suggested that these first skirmishes were intended to telegraph to the GOP that the Dems would and could make it a terribly painful war of attrition.

That in mind, I think Dubya got a big assist from 60 Minutes last night. Nominee Charles Pickering submitted to an interview, addressed the accusation of racial insensitivity, and put forth a strong (i.e., not whiny) defense of why he reduced the sentence of a cross-burner. One of the highlights was Chuck Schumer, who seems to have inherited Al D'Amato's tone-deafness with the press. He sounded strident, painting Pickering in harsh terms. True, it isn't the first time Schumer has spoken in such a way. But it's the first time (that I've seen) that offered counterpoint in the form of Charles Evers, former NAACP honcho and brother of civil rights martyr Medger, upbraiding a current NAACP honcho about his lack of knowledge about Pickering's record. Adding to the effect were interviews with two black lawyers, both Democrats, who have pled cases before Pickering, have found him fair, and were offended by the charges leveled against him by Schumer, Pat Leahy, and PFAW.

Was the piece biased? I don't know. I'm pro-Pickering in the sense that he's getting a raw deal. Were I a senator, I'd still be inclined to vote against him. I think ideological differences are fair game when it comes to confirmation votes. In other words, I can vote against your confirmation because we disagree on, say, abortion. But to claim, as Leahy and his crew do, that a nominee's anti-abortion stance is prima facie disqualification is absurd.

David Brooks: Brooks's socio-journalism is subjected to serious critique here. It deserves a read. I think Brooks is a great writer and a keen observer of cultural trend, as I've noted here before. In addition, I think his critic commits the error of changing the scope of view of the cultural landscape to make a point. But it's difficult to refute the central argument: Brooks's commentary is pretty facile, and his defense -- that the reader will know what part of his commentary is exaggerated for humor -- is unconvincing. I think this deserves a response from Brooks, given the recent trend toward responsibility in commentary in Brooks's newest employer.

(Link via Hit & Run.)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Not a liberal?: I dunno, I think Carlin is a liberal (notice small "L"). I think he's smart and I think he wants people to think for themselves, but note a quote of his from an interview he gave promoting "Jersey Girl":
What would you change about the government if you could?

Everyone should have the right to shelter and food and a way to get a job to provide shelter and food on your own. The government should provide for people. There ought to be a way to take care of human needs, and we haven't worked very hard at that. That's my complaint. They say underneath a cynic is a disappointed idealist. And that is what I am. And that flame can be rekindled, no doubt.

Political Entertainment: Along the lines of this discussion, what do you make of Bush getting idiotic flack for his "Where's Waldo?" slide show showing him hunting for WMDs (e.g., under the furniture)? The press, which laughed and applauded at the Correspondents' Dinner, is suddenly clucking its collective tongue by taking the complaints seriously. Political opportunists are pouncing; David Corn wants you to know that he sat on his hands. What a surprise. But even the cheerleaders over at National Review are a little uncomfortable about it. Ramesh Ponnuru says:
I'm against it--not against the occasional quip or funny line in a speech, but against the Washington dinners where the president is expected to perform for the press corps. It lowers the office. And I'm especially against it when the humor concerns matters of war. Call me a killjoy if you like.
You're a killjoy, Ramesh.

Then there's Kerry's response:

George Bush insulted me as a veteran and as a friend to many still serving in Iraq.
Ah, John "As a veteran, I have to use the bathroom" Kerry. He's too precious for words.

Jesus, there's not a goddamn subject left in the world that people will not wring their hands over at the drop of a f*cking hat! The last thing I need is a bipartisan lecture about how I should "take these things seriously."

It was funny. Now shut up.

My Media Sources: Yes, I do get most of my broadcast news from radio. But I have seen Stewart's show. Some of his stuff is well written, but he can't seem to decide if he wants to be sophisticated or silly. Sometimes I gape at him, with an expression usually reserved for Saturday Night Live skits, wondering, "Who on earth thought this would be funny?" And nobody -- nobody! -- is worse than Stewart at recovering from a dud or misfire. He sits there waiting, stunned look firmly in place, as though he has no idea what just happened, and any minute now we'll come around to the joke.

I've also heard Shearer's show, and he can indeed be wickedly funny. He can also be strident, a failing that Limbaugh shares. (The strident parts of Limbaugh's show are unlistenable, no matter whether I think he's right or wrong.)

George Carlin is undeniably funny, partly because he's not a liberal. He's certainly not a Republican, but he's got zero patience for the politically correct tropes and feelings-based policies of American liberalism. When he goes sacred-cow tipping, both sides have reason to tremble.

A corallary to your theory might be this: since political humor is typically aimed at the other side of the aisle, conservatives are funny because liberals make good targets -- racing to be called metrosexuals and be "black" white presidents, for example. Conservatives, being so heartlessly evil, make better targets for the outrage and tantrums of liberals -- like when they try to put arsenic in school lunches. Or was it mercury? I forget.

I'm the wrong one to analyze it, of course, since it is precisely the most heartless parts of conservatism that I support.

Put this in the category of "unlikely": Can't someone please give this poor girl a date?? She also failed to mention the price.

Left-winging it on the airwaves: I dont' want to belabor my working thesis of "Conservatives: evil but entertaining; Liberals: good but shrill" but since you keep bringing it up. What makes Rush et al. entertaining is that they pound their desks and say how empty-headed the Democrats are. It's fun saying people are stupid - this is after all, the beacon of much comedy. The Democrats can't easily say how "stupid" the Conservatives are; after all, many of their ideas are academically sound. No, the Dems harp on how "heartless" the Conservatives are, and that the "little guy" or "Middle America" is getting the squeeze at the benefit of the Rich. This is anger, fuming anger. Anger has a short shelf-life (See Dean, Howard).

What sells (on talk radio) is humor mixed with intelligent rantings, or sex. Since the Dems can't say much on sex (see Clinton..oh forget it), they have to be funny and smart. Al Franken is funny and smart, but rarely for a whole book's-worth, and I whole-heartedly doubt for every weekday. What's left is whining, and it just gets old real quick - or it turns into prostelytizing (see, Garofolo, J.).

John Stewart, of the Daily Show (I know Eno, you get your news via the "wireless" and don't watch cable) is probably the funniest guy (with his writers) doing news-like commentary, but he's quite a-political. Harry Shearer (Simpsons, Spinal Tap, etc.) does an NPR gig on Sundays, and while his bits are funny, his delivery is deadly - and not in the sense that he's killing with laughter. George Carlin is perhaps the funniest of all Liberal ranters, but he's a bit long in the tooth - he'd probably do a good Andy Rooney segment, but not an entire show.

Two Cheers for Kerry: That vacation did him some good. He's returned to propose a cut in corporate tax rates and a tightening of tax loopholes. Of course, he makes "keeping jobs from going overseas" the major premise of his proposal, which is popular but unsound. A small cut in corporate tax does not close the wage gap between America and, say, India. And the mainly bogus "tax loophole" talk really does nothing to domestic employment. If Kerry really wanted to be results-oriented, he would cut corporate taxes (which fall disproportionately on poor Americans, in the form of higher prices) and tie the revenue loss to anti-market subsidies, which distort the economy a lot more than allowing companies to defer taxes on foreign profit until realized domestically.

Still, a tax cut is a tax cut, and I never met one I didn't like. This is the first winning issue Kerry has come up with. Bush will be forced to respond beyond this anemic soundbite:

"John Kerry's plan to reshuffle the corporate tax code does nothing to help America's small businesses and entrepreneurs be more competitive," Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said.
Neither did tariffs, you idiot.

Another word about the "offshoring" context that Kerry is using for this proposal. By all accounts, Kerry's no moron. He certainly understands that 99.99999% of practicing economists consider it a non-issue. Beyond that, his own economic advisors have no doubt told him that this will do little to create more domestic jobs, except as a function of an expanding economy. Given that an already expanding economy is using productivity gains to surge at significant rate without coincident employment growth, isn't it possible, even likely, that the net effect of this will be negligible on the job market? I suppose that's what makes it such a winning issue. It does something right for the wrong (but popular) reasons, even if the biggest effect is minor and unrelated to what Kerry says will be the effect.

More: Julian Sanchez says,

Kerry's plan to encourage companies to do business in the U.S. apparently includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Maybe there is a silver lining to this "exporting America" bollocks.

The Left's Limbaugh: Here's David Skinner on the topic at the Weekly Standard. Skinner's not advancing the ball much on this, but he does make some useful points -- for example, that Limbaugh was successful pre-Clinton; that Al Franken probably won't stick with a program beyond a Bush loss in November; and that heavyweights like Mario Cuomo and Phil Donahue still can't raise an audience.

I'm sorry to see Skinner give short shrift to the theory that Limbaugh's conservatism is more marketing than principle. He dismisses it with one anecdote. In addition, he dismisses the entertainment factor, saying

If success on radio is basically a question of being entertaining, well, then the left can do that. The left, after all, can claim the allegiance of the vast majority of working entertainers.
That's too facile. To cite a counterexample, Dennis Miller was a famous entertainer, host of a well-regarded HBO show, and an emmy-winner to boot. He's even taken to a fairly conservative schtick (is conservative the new gay?), but he still can't buy an audience. Janeane Garafolo, who can be pretty funny, has died on TV every time she's tried to do issues chatter.

I don't know what the secret is, and nobody else does either. One of the folks doing lib talk might hit the mark. My bet is that, rather than making the network a success, such a person would more likely head into a major syndication deal.

An ounce of prevention...: The debate over whether we could have prevented 9/11 is I suppose necessary and may prove useful, but at the moment it just seems like a forum for the politicians and book-sellers to get in the limelight. Clarke would have been more interesting to hear if he sad all this right away rather than when he's selling his book. Let's face it, most of America had no idea who he was until "60 Minutes". The fact is that the intelligence agencies had no shortage of information on a variety of proposed attacks on our country. I bet you they heard "chatter" on using a giant (ACME) slingshot to fling giant balloons of paint at the White House. Anyway, you can only move on what you believe is an imminent or highly likely threat.

Speaking of which, imagine if Bush had authorized the bombing of Afghanistan prior to 9/11. Even if you buy into Kerrey's argument about not needing Congressional approval, there is little question that Bush would have been lynched for it. What is most interesting about 9/11 from a looking-back view point is how much we have changed.

I was watching a re-run of "Executive Decision" which is a decent action flick starring, among others, Kurt Russell, Steven Segal (blessedly, briefly), Halle Berre, John Leguizamo, and Oliver Platt. The premise is that a bunch of militant A-rabs have taken over a jumbo jet and have a bomb. Either they get to land in D.C. or they blow up the plane (this is what I remember anyway).

The director shows several shots of the White House biting its nails on how to deal with the problem. The most obvious is of course to slide a stealth fighter up underneat the plane, then telescope this collapsible tube up to a conveniently-placed hatch, which allows the special ops soldiers and technicians to climb up into the plane (all at 30,000 feet mind you), but sadly, Segal gets literally blown away as the punk Air Force pilot can't keep the plane steady. Anyway, if these boys can't do the job, then the only remaining option is to have the F-14s shoot the plane down before it gets over land. One of the top admin guys says something like: "400 American lives. If we shoot them down, we'll be slaughtered in the election." It struck me how odd that sounded to me.

Nowadays, the fighter jets wouldn't even have the opportunity to bring down the air liner as you'd have a mob on the plane fighting the terrorists hand-to-hand. If by chance they couldn't get control, you can be sure they'd bring the plane down in the ocean. Moreover, I don't think any President or his staff would quibble for too long over the political expediency of bringing down the plane - the order would be issued and that would be that.

This is what 9/11 has done to my, and I expect many others', mind-sets - we're hardened now to the reality that we need to fight, and that the cost may be great, but the cost of not fighting is greater.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Why Condi Rice Isn't Testifying: I don't begrudge Bush his separation-of-powers argument. He's asked Rice to give testimony privately, as he will later do himself. Good enough for me. It's worth remembering that a lot of the people carping about this were happy enough to roll over like two-dollar whores when Bill Clinton announced that everyone including Buddy and Socks all of a sudden had executive privilege. It was a much flimsier case, but the Democrats, nearly without exception, swallowed it without a chaser.

Richard Clarke: After listening to some of his testimony, and reading some of the heavy breathing in the opinion pages, I'm ambivalent about the man. He's smart on the issues of terrorism, although he appears to have revised some of his opinions with the benefit of hindsight; he sounds like a guy who's been beating the drum on Al Qaida for years, in two administrations, with nobody listening until too late.

Of course, the guy bleeds self-promotion, bitterness, and false sincerity. For instance, am I the only one who found his apology to the 9/11 families disgusting? There's a place and time for that, and bully for him if he wants to be "the only one with the guts," etc. But it was self-congratulatory moral grandstanding, pure and simple, to do it in the hearing room.

Clarke makes a great "gotcha" witness for the Democrats, despite the inconsistencies in his story. I don't agree with, say, Reynolds, who believes Clarke is committing public self-immolation (though I agree that his opinion of a president's anti-terrorism efforts seems to vary in proportion to the amount of stroking he got). The media sue isn't playing it that way. To me he sounds, essentially, like a bureaucrat angry because he had it right and nobody listened. (I've known the type.) Of course, he also had a lot of things wrong, which he conveniently leaves out of his self-serving testimony and book.

By the way, a lot of folks are characterizing Clarke's run in with Jim Thompson as a victory for Clarke. I guess it's a draw, given Thompson's own heavy-handed indignation, but I don't buy the "I was just spinning for the Bush administration" excuse. If Clarke wants to admit that, in hindsight, his previous statements amounted to political spin and he's sorry for it, that's one thing. Instead he painted himself as having done the right thing back then, and doing the right thing now. That's the most damning thing so far -- evidence that Clarke, in his own mind anyway, is never wrong.

In the end, he will likely come out looking like something of a wannabe whistleblower, a self-promoting hack, and a bit of a jerk. But he's a jerk who thought al Qaeda was a threat to domestic targets -- whether he was right-right, or just broken-clock right.

I think it's a wash.

More: Do you think 9/11 could have been prevented? Clarke does. I'm not so sure I agree. I think all the agencies could have done better, but the crux of the biscuit lies in the "unknown unknowns," as Rumsfeld famously said. The terrorists, to succeed, need only get lucky once in a while; in defending America, we need to be lucky every single time. There's no way to do that, I think, short of making America a police state with draconian immigration laws. Even then, there are limits to intelligence. That is why terrorism is the weapon of choice for those out of power. At any rate, while there is a non-zero chance that we somehow could have foiled the 9/11 plot, I think pursuing that question, at least to the degree the panel is doing so, is wasted time.

Later: No, I'm not the only one bothered by Clarke's self-serving apology. Jeff Jarvis can't stomach it, either.

Pants on Fire: A funny article by Jon Chait in TNR reviews White House press man Scott McClellan's disastrous performance: his inability to spin well, the way his tics and mannerisms broadcast official discomfort with certain issues, and -- most of all -- his inability to lie.

Chait is right, as even some of the president's supporters have noted, that the White House spin machine has an awful veneer overtop a shabby PR product.

His characterization of Ari Fleischer, though, is so ironically ungenerous (heaping praise on his stone-faced ability to lie, for example) that one might forget Joe Lockhart's incredible ability to dissemble in oddly hyperventilated monotone. For that matter, think back to the days when Mike McCurry was basically forced to announce to the press that he had nothing to say on various matters of some public interest because the president had to be cautious not to prejudice the lies he might need to tell under oath. In fact, McCurry would say, the administration isn't even really talking to me right now. Here's the president's schedule for this week. I consider myself something of a cynic, but I remember being shocked at the brazenness of the strategy.

Guest of Honor: In light of Israel's declaration that the new Hamas leader, Abdulaziz al-Rantisi, is among their priority targets, picture if you will, a phone conversation between Yassir Arafat (YA) and al-Rantisi (AaR):

YA: Hello?

AaR: Yes, Yassir? This is Abdulaziz. What is going on my brutha?

YA: Oh (pause) yes, yes. Abdul...wonderful to hear from you. (muffled mutterings) Ummmm, how are things?

AaR: Well, Yas, as saddened as we all are by the Sheik's untimely death cauaed by the Zionist infidels, we thought it might be nice to have a little party...you know for morale. I want you to be my most honored guest. You shall sit right next to me during the whole event!

YA: Well...(barely audible whispering to someone in room - "He says he wants me to come to his party...yes...and sit next to him!") Ahh, yes this is indeed an honor, Allah be praised, but wouldn't you know it it...uh, hold on (more murmurings)...it's just that I have this awful...very painful...crick in my neck, you see.

AaR: A crick?

YA: Yes a crick, well it may be some nerve damage for all I know and uhh...(what? ... oh, yes, yes...I forgot) oh and you know of course, the real, real problem I have is the house arrest. I mean, the crick is something I could overcome, but the Zionists have me locked in here soooo...

AaR: Well, I see, yes, I forgot about this. Well, there is no reason why we can't have the party over there. I will come over ... yes, I will just walk down the main road and into your compound, you see. Once we meet, I shall embrace you as the true brother in arms that you are....uhh, hello....hello?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

But Seriously: Bob Kerrey got in the best, and possibly sharpest, criticism of both administrations. The question came up: Why didn't we act earlier, based on the number of attacks we suffered, starting in 1993, with the first WTC attack. He's just been told by Bill Cohen that the political consensus wasn't there to muster a military response beyond the famous cruise missile/camel's butt stuff:
KERREY: . . . I would disagree. I respectfully disagree. First of all, again, as I said, there are many instances where the president doesn't even come to Congress. Operation Just Cause in Panama. He didn't come to Congress and say, Gee, is it OK to do that? Grenada -- the president didn't come to Congress and said, Is that OK to do it? In Bosnia and Kosovo, the very examples that you cite, the president didn't have the support of Congress, and he went ahead and did.

I think he did the right thing. But the fact that it's unpopular, that it's difficult, that our allies are not necessarily with it shouldn't deter a president who believes that what we have is a serial killer on our hands who had begun killing us at least as early as 1993, who had issued a very specific declaration of war calling Islamic men to join an Islamic army on the 23rd of February, 1998, and then demonstrated that he had the capacity in a very sophisticated way on the 7th of August to carry out that threat.

We had a round in our chamber and we didn't use it. That's how I see it. And I don't know if it had prevented 9/11. But I absolutely do not believe that just because a commander in chief sits there and said, Gee, this thing is unpopular therefore I can't do it, I don't think that's a good argument. I know Secretary Rumsfeld is going to use it here in a few minutes and I'm going to be just as harsh with him. I don't buy it.

Rumsfeld, in fact, gave the best answer in his opening statement. One can only hope John Kerry was listening:
But imagine that we were back before September 11th and that a U.S. president had looked at the information then available, gone before the Congress and the world and said we need to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban and destroy the Al Qaida terrorist network based on what little was known was known before September 11th.

How many countries would have joined? Many? Any? Not likely.

We would have heard objections to preemption similar to those voiced before the coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. We would have been asked, "How could you attack Afghanistan when it was Al Qaida that attacked us, not the Taliban? How can you go to war when countries in the region don't support you? Won't launching such an invasion actually provoke terrorist attacks against the United States?"

Panel Funnies: Despite the collegial atmosphere, there were some bits of standard ass-kissing and demagoguery that partisanship injects. They were typically less substantive than they were embarrassing. Here's a good one, from Tim Roemer, addressing Albright:
Madam Secretary, I want to mention your book, if I may, Madam Secretary -- I don't need to mention a bestseller.
I'll have to take my head out of your ass to quote from it though.

And Jamie Gorelick couldn't resist this sideswipe:

ALBRIGHT: . . . But on this particular subject, I do agree with Undersecretary Wolfowitz.

GORELICK: I appreciate the caveat.

'Cause of course they disagree with his policies on, say, feeding the prisoners at Gitmo hamburger meat made from the Taliban KIA.

Check out this exchange during Colin Powell's opening remarks:

KEAN: Mr. Secretary, we are going to run out of time...

POWELL: Yes, I will get shorter.

KEAN: Thank you, sir.

Not as short as Howard Dean, though . . .

Bipartisan suck-up award to Richard Ben-Veniste:

And thank you, Secretary Powell, for your testimony here today and for your dedicated service to our country. As you know, I have long been a personal admirer of yours, and thank you again for your commitment in service.
Or not. Powell has long been the one Republican ass it's not only politically safe but nearly required for Democrats to kiss.

Finally, there was the exchange between Rummy and Ben-Veniste about using aircraft to attack targets. It's toward the end of the transcript, and it was much funnier listening to it. Ben-Veniste was unable to comprehend the difference between packing a private plane with explosives and hijacking a commercial airliner to use as a missile. It was a moment of ridiculously partisan obtuseness.

Okay, one more, from Gorelick:

So my question is: In this summer of threat, what did you do to protect, let's just say the Pentagon, from attack? Where were our aircraft when a missile is heading toward the Pentagon? Surely that is within the Pentagon's responsibility to protect -- force protection, to protect our facilities, to protect something -- our headquarters, the Pentagon . . .

RUMSFELD: . . . just to put it right up on the table, we're in the flight pattern for National Airport. There's a plane that goes by, you know, how many yards from my window, 50 times a day. I don't know how far it is. But anyone who's been in that office has heard it roar right by the window. There isn't any way to deal with that at all.

In other words: Lady, if a plane heading toward my office was cause for concern, we'd be shooting down a lobbyist-packed US Air shuttle from New York every day. And come to think of it . . .

The 9/11 Panel: It made for riveting radio, yesterday. I wonder how much TV would add. (I don't have C-Span.) Not much, I figure. I was one of the cynics who thought that the Republican members would roast Bill Cohen, while the Dems would skewer Rummy. Likewise Maddy Albright and Colin Powell. The whole thing is pretty darn collegial, though (with the exception of that shrill shill, Jamie Gorelick, who thinks she's trying Leopold and Loeb).

I'll stop short of some teary-eyed, road to Damascus realization of how wonderfully effective government is, and what forthright and upstanding people these former senators and governors are -- although I confess a bit of a hetero crush on Bob Kerrey, even if he did shiv some unarmed old VC bastard in 'Nam.

More: Speaking of Kerrey, here's a great line from the Socialists (at WSWS) on his appointment to the panel, titled "War criminal to probe mass murder":

In a change of personnel that signals a further tightening of the Bush administration’s reins on the supposedly independent probe into what happened on September 11, 2001, former Nebraska Senator Robert Kerrey was tapped Tuesday to sit on the 10-member panel investigating the terrorist attacks.
Got it? The appointment of Kerrey signifies that the Bush administration is tightening its reins on the investigation. Now, read it again and keep it in mind for half a second (WSWS is betting your pea-sized brain can't hold onto it). The story goes on to detail Kerrey's brimful-with-atrocities Vietnam closet and notes that Calley, er, Kerrey has forign policy views disturbingly similar to George Bush's! Then (and here you'll want to be remembering that previous passage) a paragraph near the end of the story says,
The selection of Kerrey was made not by Bush, it should be pointed out, but rather by the Senate minority leader, Thomas Daschle (Democrat of South Dakota).
Golly, boys, what just happened to the point of your f*cking story?

Stop Being Successful: If Microsoft made cars, they'd get sued for not offering their customers the choice of another company's transmission.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

This is (was) NPR: Adjust your morning drive accordingly: Bob Edwards got the axe. Is nothing sacred?

The Compassionate Conservative: The GOP would have been nuts, in 2000, to pass up a candidate who
was a uniter, not a divider . . . a reformer with results. He was a pragmatic, can-do centrist from humble Western roots with a gift for communicating time-tested, homespun conservative verities.
I guess the GOP was nuts. TNR has a brief profile of Mark Racicot, who might have been a presidential contender in 2000 had not another Republican run as the exact same character. Ironically, Racicot is now in charge of that other fellow's re-election campaign.

An Idea Worth the Cost of Pursuit? Jonathan Rauch describes the nascent so-called democracy caucus at the UN:
Imagine a better Washington. Imagine a conservative Republican administration working hand in glove with liberal congressional Democrats on a foreign-policy initiative designed to strengthen the United Nations while simultaneously increasing America's clout there. Imagine both parties and both branches bringing this initiative to fruition smoothly and unfussily, during an election year. Say, this year. Say, right now.

Pinch yourself. It is happening.

Since 1996, a handful of foreign-policy wonks have been kicking around the idea of a "democracy caucus" at the U.N. Two administrations, first Bill Clinton's and then George W. Bush's, took quiet but significant steps in that direction. Now, according to Bush administration officials, the concept will be test-flown at the six-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that began on Monday in Geneva.

Now, if you're like me, you don't hold out a lot of hope for the UN to improve in any real way; but you might be interested in an effort to make it perhaps a little less obstructive, maddening, and structurally representative of the very forces the UN was founded to oppose. Or, as Rauch puts it,
The most fundamental [problem] is that the United Nations is built on an obsolete premise: that countries governed by their people and countries governed by thugs, thieves, or tyrants should meet on equal terms, one vote each.
The democracy caucus, as a sub-group of the UN, would presumably attempt to create a bloc of liberal, or at least liberalizing, states in order to counter regional and ideological currents in the UN that sometimes cause member states to vote against their own interests, and to the benefit of illiberal states.
To add injury to insult, democracies at the U.N. are disproportionately weak. The U.N. is dominated by a cluster of regional and ideological caucuses. African countries, for example, are pressured to vote together, with undemocratic governments often calling the shots and democracies going along to get along. Tyrants thus routinely exempt themselves from human-rights resolutions, while log-rolling ensures that condemnations of Israel sail through.
So is there hope? Would you consider me a horrible cynic if I tell you that this passage apprehended me immediately?
Asked if the meetings would be simply organizational or social, as earlier ones have been, [Richard S. Williamson, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Commission] said: "We want to move beyond that. We are hopeful there will be meetings to discuss particular agenda items at the commission meeting and seek to find a common approach to them."
Yes, and after that we'll have a luncheon to discuss the makeup of the executive panel for the conference on the prioritization of agenda items. Sigh. Bureaucracy is inherently a stultifying power. I'm not sure that UN diplomats have it in their power to reform the beast that feeds them. It would be a grass-roots push from inside the DMV for courteous, customer-focused service.

Get Ready: The joys of single-payer healthcare.
A leading British brain surgeon has been suspended from work following a dispute over a bowl of soup.

Dr Terence Hope was sent home from the Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham, where newspapers say there is a 39-day waiting list for brain operations, after being accused of taking extra croutons without paying, hospital sources said on Monday.

Emphasis added, naturally. Did you listen to the Dems in the primary campaign? This is the kind of efficiency they want to bring to America.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Corrections and picks: Having spent a grand three minutes filling out my bracket I misstated my final four picks last week. They look even better now that I've checked the sheet.

Kansas is looking great right now, since I had them beating Kentucky anyway. I think they'll roll UAB since the surprise factor is officially played out. They ought (dangerous word in tourney time, I know) to roll into the final four. And UConn lucked out by having Stanford eliminated - Syracuse is probably their biggest threat out of Phoenix. I actually picked Duke, not Texas, out of the Atlanta region, and that still looks good. I wasn't smart enough to see Xavier being that strong, coming out of the Atlantic 10 conference. I'm a Dayton fan, which means I'm used to seeing my team beaten up in the first round every year. It gives me a low opinion of the conference and so I never pick those teams to go very far. Still, I see them losing to Texas and think a Texas-Duke matchup will be a good game. Finally, I had Pitt beating Wake Forest in East Rutherford, which I think will be one of the best games of the Elite Eight if it comes to be. The danger is my anti-A 10 bias biting me twice and St. Joe's continuing to live the dream. But I don't see it happening. Wake's backcourt is good enough to play with St. Joe's most of the time and they're bigger and deeper all around. A long ACC season should have them prepared.

Overall, my bracket looks pretty good, despite a few holes. I think I look pretty good having all my final four teams alive, since a lot of people who may be beating me now will feel the pain of not having Kentucky and Stanford around for the next three rounds. But I'm sure not spending the winnings yet.

NCAAs: Interestingly, I'm tied for first in my bracket competition - this is a singular event. I picked 25 out of 32 games correctly in Round 1, and 9 out of 16 in round 2. My big failures were picking Air Force to win as many as I did, and assuming Wisc would make it to Sweet 16. However, I picked correctly Xavier and St. Joe's, which were against the grain, even though St. Joe's is a No. 1. Of course I lost on Kentucky, but then again, who didn't? I have 3 out of 4 in final four, but I need Wake to keep winning, which is the longest shot right now.

I agree that Kansas wins, and that Ga. Tech wins, although Nevada sure looked good in beating the Zags. UAB barely won, and seems too reliant on amazing streaks to keep it going - although stranger things have happened.

I'd love to see St. Joe's win, and I think they can, but Wake seems too powerful, and if St. Joe's rainbows aren't falling into those pots of gold often enough, they don't have the inside presence to make it. Pitt is good, but not great. It will be tight. I'm taking OK. I like the 'Cuse over 'Bama too.

I agree with all your others: Xavier, UConn, Duke - I have UConn winning it all, but now that Duke doesn't have to face Kentucky, I expect the Dookies to make it to the finals. Big risky pick there.

NCAA Regionals: As I hinted, two of my final four are out already. My sports motto, therefore, is now "Enobarbus: As accurate as a coin toss." Emboldened by such success, here are my regional picks -- nice and early, Razor, so that I can claim undimmed prescience when my underdogs come through. (Like Seton Hall, eh?)

I like Georgia Tech over Nevada, even though Nevada upset #2 Gonzaga -- I had Georgia Tech over Gonzaga anyway. And I like Kansas over giant-killer UAB.

I'll take Wake over St. Joe's in a close game, and Pitt over Oklahoma in a not-so-close game.

Duke will beat Illinois against my wishes, and Xavier, high on a big upset, will roll Texas.

Syracuse will beat Alabama in a good matchup. And to pick a flat out favorite, UConn will complete the elite eight, beating Vanderbilt.

For whatever they're worth.

Liberal Chatter: Lizz Winstead, of Daily Show fame, is supposedly one of the big guns at the Air America Network -- the folks that want to create the liberal Limbaugh movement. Here she is cracking up Howie Kurtz:
With her slipper-clad feet on the chair and her knees pressed up against her chest, Lizz Winstead is performing for an imaginary microphone.

"Dick Cheney is a man of the people -- the people who run the energy industries," she says.

"The administration is pushing a 'No Medic Alert' bracelet for some people. If they don't have health insurance, you'll know not to help them."

In 10 days, the co-creator of "The Daily Show" will be doing her shtick for a real audience. And her success in devising an entertaining but nakedly liberal program will help determine whether the country's newest radio network achieves liftoff or implodes on the launch pad.

Oh-ho! Stop, before I wet myself! Jesus. I hope for her sake she can come up with some better laugh lines in the next ten days. I doubt it. As we've discussed before, liberals are usually too sanctimonious or self-righteous to be funny.

More: I see, far down in the piece, that Air America has hired Rachel Maddow. I know her stuff well -- she did a morning show locally (full disclosure: she once gave me tickets to the movies and a blues concert, plus she cheered on my wife at a sunflower-seed-spitting contest). She's a natural for a big, pointedly liberal network, in that she illustrates the problem: She's funny and charming, with a hilariously understated out-lesbian schtick; but when she hits politics, her charm evaporates, and she sounds like a standard-issue liberal scold, like someone who wants to abolish fun. I even had to switch off her show when she would go after the religious right -- and I'm a libertarian atheist, for (um . . .) god's sake! It was Queen of the Bitch Valkyries stuff: "People who disagree with me are not only wrong, they're Eeeeeeee-vil!" (Declaring people stupid, wrong, or evil is always more nuanced -- hence legitimate -- when liberals do it.) It was like listening to a liberal Sean Hannity. (The glaring exception to the funny conservative rule.)

Anyway, I generally like her and wish her success. I hope she manages to be funny, but I'm not betting the farm on it.

More Recusal: Here's a nearly fair look from the L.A. Times. Different justices have different standards. it seems to me, though, that the comparisons between Scalia and Ginsberg miss the point. Scalia went on a hunting trip. Ginsberg lends her name to a political organization (NOW) devoted, in part at least, to the protection of abortion rights. In other words, Scalia's trip is a murky and debatable case of indirect social connection and a space-available ride (standard practice) on a government airplane. Ginsberg's situation, on the other hand, is a case of support and outright advocacy on an issue that has been and could again be before her in court, even though the Times mentions her conflict only in passing -- choosing to focus on duck hunting and penny-ante poker games.

More Doubts: About global warming, that is.
In response to human emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, the Earth warms, more water evaporates from the ocean, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere increases. Since water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, this leads to a further increase in the surface temperature. This effect is known as "positive water vapor feedback." Its existence and size have been contentiously argued for several years.

. . .

Using the UARS data to actually quantify both specific humidity and relative humidity, the researchers found, while water vapor does increase with temperature in the upper troposphere, the feedback effect is not as strong as models have predicted. "The increases in water vapor with warmer temperatures are not large enough to maintain a constant relative humidity," Minschwaner said.

In other words, all those efforts to model global warming -- you know, the models that predict the loss of the polar caps, unprecedented species die off, and oceanfront real estate in Nebraska -- were based on an erroneous speculation.

In the spirit of my idiotic final four picks, I think I'll call my bookie push my losses double or nothing on the following proposition: All the climate change alarmists will hold press conferences this week to say, "Hey, things really aren't as bad as we thought."

Link via Ron Bailey.

Legislating...Pennsylvania style: Can't make it to Harrisburg to vote for legislation? No problem, just have your row-mate press "yea" or "nay" for you. Need to step out of the room for a few hours while votes are cast? No problem, just wedge some paper into the button housing so that it goes off all day voting either "yea"or "nay". Arrive in Harrisburg feeling sick, need to go back home, but still want to vote? Don't worry Honorable Representative. See the wedge of paper trick above (pennies and paper clips also work well).

Oh, and don't forget to pick up your $126 per diem on the way home.

Friday, March 19, 2004

You don't let me have any fun: To be serious, I think that judges should make the first call whether they should recuse themselves. Usually, the issue is pretty self-evident, and most judges use the "appearance of impropriety"-type test. There is nothing that says you can't sit in judgment of an acquaintance or professional colleague. You just shouldn't do it if your personal feelings for or against that person or party, or some financial interest, prevent you from being fair - whatever that means.

What I am barking about is that it's easy for Scalia to say all the papers have it all wrong "because I was there." Of course, if we let Martha Stewart decide her own case based on what she remembers having said or done (or not said or not done)...well, you see my point, even if facetiously made.

A Fair Point: But I think, Razor, that you are arguing spurious procedure rather than spurious logic. Scalia's point, as it is addressed in his memorandum, is that polling the editorial boards of the nation's leading papers is not an alternative procedure for deciding recusal. You can argue for changing the protocol if you like, and we can have the other eight justices decide for Scalia instead. Oh, but doesn't he occasionally have drinks with the Chief? Didn't he play handball with Ruthie B. last month? (It's so funny to see them playing in their robes.) Didn't Kennedy and Scalia once share a cold-water walk-up in their Haight-Ashbury days? Maybe we should let the press decide. They are the "fourth estate," after all. Says so right in Article . . . um . . .

Hell, maybe we should let the guy who dishes the slop in the Supreme Court cafeteria make the call.

Recuse moi!: I concur that Sierra is out of its politically correct organic gourd in proposing that he recuse himself based on the strength of editorial outcry. However...

Let's look at how most judicial determinations are made: usually you have two sides that make allegations and then strive to drum up evidence to support same. Then, the law is applied to the facts as appropriate to reach a legal conclusion on who wins. This decision is made either by a judge, solely, or by the combination of a judge and jury, i.e. third parties who aren't supposed to have a dog in the fight.

In recusal matters, we perversely let the judge be not only the one who analyzes the facts and law, but the one who supplies the facts! So, he says: "No, the newspapers have it all wrong. Here's what really happened when I invited Dick Cheney to come hunting and then traded jokes with him all the way down to Loozeeanna in a private jet that the taxpayers were kind enough to provide. Based on these immutable facts, I conclude that in view of the law, I did nothing wrong." Tell me who's doling out spurious logic now?

See, if this were run differently (and admittedly, a recusal motion is not the same as a substantive motion for summary judgment, for example), you'd have the moving party taking depositions, collecting documents to support one's position (i.e. you depose the pilot, the stewardess, Cheney [assuming you can find his undisclosed location], and Scalia himself). Then you try to play mix-and-match with the testimony to find smoking guns and inconsistencies.

Anyway, you can rest assured Scalia is telling you all you need to know. I mean, we know those dead animals ain't talking.

Scalia's Recusal Refusal: Want to read an absolute workout? Here's Scalia denying the Sierra Club's request that he recuse himself from the case involving Cheney and the Energy Task Force (over the now-famous duck hunting trip).
The core of Sierra Club’s argument is as follows:
“Sierra Club makes this motion because . . . damage [to the integrity of the system] is being done right now. As of today, 8 of the 10 newspapers with the largest circulation in the United States, 14 of the largest 20, and 20 of the 30 largest have called on Justice Scalia to step aside . . . . Of equal import, there is no counterbalance or controversy: not a single news-paper has argued against recusal. Because the American public, as reflected in the nation’s newspaper editorials, has unanimously concluded that there is an appearance of favoritism, any objective observer would be compelled to conclude that Justice Scalia’s impartiality has been questioned. These facts more than satisfy Section 455(a), which mandates recusal merely when a Justice’s impartiality ‘might reasonably be questioned.’” Motion to Recuse 3–4.

The implications of this argument are staggering. I must recuse because a significant portion of the press, which is deemed to be the American public, demands it.
He goes on to point out, amusingly, how poorly those editorials grasp the facts -- never mind the law.

Surrounded . . . Still: From Reuters:
Pakistani forces have surrounded between 300 and 400 rebels, both foreign militants and their Pakistani tribal allies, in a fierce battle near the border with Afghanistan, the military said on Friday.

Pakistani troops pounded the besieged militants, who possibly include Osama bin Laden's second-in-command as well as many other al Qaeda fighters, for most of the day with artillery while helicopters attacked them from above.

They can't be giving much of a pounding, considering the story broke yesterday morning and today's reporting says the battle began Tuesday. How the hell long does it take to kill "between 300 and 400 rebels"?

Funny, he couldn't have even gotten an intern job today: J.J. Jackson, one of MTV's original "V.J.s" (remember those? Now MTV is like Clear Channel - you have no idea who is bringing you the music, when they actually show videos, that is), died yesterday of an apparent heart failure.

Take yourself back 23 years when MTV first started - I remember it clearly as I could only watch it at my grandparents' house as I didn't have cable yet. I loved that freakin' channel. I remember the V.J.s all hanging out and interviewing musicians with actual questions about their music and careers (as opposed to the TRL crap you see now where MTV brings in a hand-picked audience to scream over the latest lip-syncher). J.J. was 40 years old when he debuted on the channel. 40. Look at MTV today and you won't see anyone over 30 who's not Kurt Loder.

I suppose the channel is just giving the kids what they want, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to tune into the channel and see ground-breaking music as opposed to just what you hear on the pop stations on the radio?

Anyway, good on you J.J. RIP.

Aw, Lay Off: Here's a brief paean I wrote to McPaper last year. I'm much more surprised to find bullshit getting into print in USA Today than in the Times, if only because McPaper has less of a crusader image. USA Today has solid reporters, is easy on the eye, and can be digested with the alacrity of a multivitamin chased with a glass of metamucil. In other words, it does what a paper should do. If I want opinion or "news analysis," I'll go to sources whose biases are declared. Furtive spin under the guise of much-trumpeted objectivity? No thanks.

I'm reminded of a radio spot I heard this morning, an advert for some wireless phone company or other. The joke of the ad was that every time the Dishonest Wireless rep said anything, he mumbled a disclaimer in rapid-fire legalese. Not true of Beacon of Probity Wireless! So if you're tires of the disclaimers, you should try Beacon of Probity's new Special Plan . . . You get the idea. So what comes after the final pitch for switching to Beacon of Probity Wireless? Yes, the rapid-fire, legalese disclaimer.

When I read the Times, I'm always looking for the disclaimer. The chinese wall between reporting and editorial functions about as well as the chinese wall between consulting and accounting at Arthur Andersen did.

Your next Jason Blair: See, this kind of thing is supposed to happen at USA Today, as opposed to the NYT. You have to wonder how many more of these guys are out there. And he almost got a Pullitzer out of it.

Bracketology: It was a day of mixed results for me, with the only bit of wisdom being the Manhattan pick (which apparently everyone else saw coming as well). Depaul beats Dayton (will my boys ever win a first rounder?), the Salukis come up short, and I'm blindsided by Nevada beating Mich. St. Hopefully today will go better.

I'm awful at these brackets and only get in to make watching two weeks of basketball slightly more interesting because of the gambling. I'm too swayed by sentiment. My Final Four this year? UConn, Kansas, Wake Forest, Texas. I think at leat two of those have been in my Final Four every year for the past decade. Oh well, picking Duke is like rooting for Microsoft. You might win, but you don't exactly look clairvoyant. So I'll keep plugging away and hope my Dream Four comes together this year.

I Love This: The New York Post, the most entertaining paper in America by far, decided to try for some Matalin/Carville-style sparks by setting up political opposites as blind dates. They set up two couples: one was Boy Republican meets Girl Democrat; the other was Girl Repulblican meets Boy Democrat. The idea is good enough on its face, but some of the quotes from participants are priceless. Boy Democrat:
I'm a vegetarian and there wasn't much on the menu that hadn't been living or breathing at some point. She had very rare lamb. To be honest, though, I wanted a bite because it looked delicious.
Funny stuff. I'll have the hairshirt with my metrosexual, please.

Girl Republican:

We talked about how we both came to think of ourselves as Republican or Democrat. He was at the Whitney [Museum], so I think he was exposed to the left there.
Think?

Boy Republican:

We started off talking about where we are from. She talked about how much she dislikes Bush and wants him to be voted out. I told her how, basically, that's not going to happen.
Mmmm. Guess who didn't get luck that night.

Girl Democrat:

I found it a bit dismaying that someone could be so extremely conservative at such a young age.
Viva diversity, eh?

Via Swamp City.

More: On reflection, I don't think I talked much politics with my wife (that's Mrs. Enobarbus) until well after we were married. A wise move, as it turned out. It's much easier to drop a loopy boyfriend than a loopy husband.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Manhattan/Picks: Actually, after writing that, I walked down to the lobby of my building to have a smoke and saw the score on the tube. At that time they were up by about 10, fairly late in the game. It could be coincidence. Or it could be My Year of Triumph.

Either way, I refrain from laughing in the face of your Team of Destiny nonsense. (Last time I did so, your Team of Destiny ate my lunch in the AFC Championship.)

I've never had a problem picking against Duke. If you lose, you're a brave contrarian unswayed by the appeal of the Blue Menace. If you win, you're a genius who knew that Duke was always hollow at the core of its evil machine. Win-win, baby.

Eno will take Manhattan.: Interesting dark horse pick seeing as how it just beat Florida - I wonder if you back-dated your timeline on the post. I'll put Flyer on the case.

I am absolutely no good at winning the bracket. This year a co-worker and I went in together on a bracket, but given how well he and I do at managing a fantasy baseball team, I'm not any more optimistic.

But, because we all must do it: My favorite dark horse is Air Force. A perennial loser, hasn't won its conference in forever and this year the team is like 22-8 or something. Just unprecedented. I like them into the Elite Eight. I take Wake over St. Joe's (my local pride just ain't enough), but like the Zags over Ga. Tech. I also like Wisconsin into the Quarters - I'm partial to the Big Ten given my roots, but still, they show some real moxie. CW is that Duke ain't for real, but how do you vote against them, even though you're dying to? I have them at the Final Four, but losing to UConn, who is my team of destiny, even though it's not a daring pick. Although if Okafor's back doesn't improve, that destiny thing must succumb to reality.

So: Kentucky, Duke, Wake and UConn. UConn takes it home versus Kentucky.

Hopeful first or early round bow-out: Cincy (maybe Illinois takes 'em, but I doubt it); and Miss. St. (I like Xavier for some reason for a few rounds).

NCAA: I hate this time of year. After paying little attention to college ball for months, I feel compelled to pick four teams, if only out of pure force of habit. In college (at a perennial also-ran for the NIT invite), it was an absolute, a ritual. My roommate would make a huge blowup of the brackets to hang on the wall, on which he would make copious notes, record scores, and write down mysterious phone numbers -- such as that of a certain "Uncle Louie." Like someone who lives with a devoutly religious person, I learned certain phrases, magical incantations, and the hoops equivalent of last rites when 400 clams was on the line, UNLV was on a tear, and Louie wasn't about to let you roll your losses into the next round . . . again. (As someone who had previously confined his money-losing activities to cards, ponies, and tech stocks, it was a very strange feeling, at least for this cat, to pick a team for the final four, only to be betting heavily against them several nights later, based on a choky near-loss against some ridiculous play-in team.) Anyhow, I've managed to strike a balance between picking sentimentally and realistically -- go long enough to keep it fun, stay short enough to have at least one of my teams stay in beyond the first round -- based on little actual love for college basketball (though I admit its superiority to the pro version) and zero practical knowledge. Pick, then enjoy the side action.

Enough. My picks: Kansas; Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; Maryland.

A couple of sentimental picks: Seton Hall over Duke in the second round; Georgia Tech over Gonzaga in the St. Louis regionals; Wake over St. Joe's in the Jersey regionals; Dayton over UConn in the second round. Total dark horse to win it all: Manhattan, Princeton. Top seed most likely to get bitch-slapped: Duke, if there's a god.

Have at it, lads.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Terrorism as head cold: The fundamental differences between our approach and the Euro-weenies' approach to terrorism is, as Eno has delved into below somewhat, caused in part by what each side views the cause to be.

The Euro-weenies (hereinafter the "EUW" or ewwww) think that poverty, disenfranchisement and (again to borrow from Eno) the price of goat cheese cause terrorism. There is a hint of truth in that concept because if everyone was living it up in Monaco, it would be hard to find someone willing to strap on a satchel of C-4. But I'd suggest that poverty and its cousins only make it easier for the message to spread; they're not the cause itself. We view terrorism as being spawned by radical hardliners who only want power for themselves, but they dress it up in tones of nationalism and religious fervor, or they just blame it on the jews.

So, EUW thinks that if they play nice, give away more free healthcare, and subsidize labor, farms and exports, oh and turn their head away from every bit of terrorism that occurs elsewhere, then they'll have solved the problem, or in any event, be left alone from making the hard decisions.

But, if we compare today's terrorists to the Nazis (and there's no good reason not to), we see that while the messenger is buying into the message, the author is only buying more Mercedes or bad art. Meaning the creator of terrorism only cares about himself and his own skin; not the so-called jihad.

Terrorism is the disease, everything else is just a carrier or a symptom. So, to get rid of the disease, you don't focus on anything else other than destroying the genetic make-up of the pathogen so that it can't spread and eventually withers away. While any good doctor must treat symptoms to alleviate the pain, he or she knows that it's just a temporary fix. The Spaniards have chosen Advil over an antibotic. They figure if the fever and aches go away for a few hours, then they must be all better. What they fail to realize is that they have the Plague, and those black boils developing under their own arms are about to kill them - perversely and sadly - again.

Terror and Europe: I'll be blunt. I get the feeling that, up until last week, the whole "war on terror" thing was something of a parlor game in Europe. It was fun to joke about unsophisticated Americans, just cowboys really, seeing things in black and white. Blah, blah, blah.

Our reaction to 9/11 was outrage, anger, giving rise to vengeance. I'm more convinced than ever that the general European response, though veiled in "Nous sommes tous Americains" bullshit, was really more like, "Well, you did have it coming to you, after all." I say this because, now that large-scale terrorism (as opposed to assassination and violent demonstration, IRA style) has struck Europe, the tone has changed entirely:

EU President Romano Prodi took this lesson from Madrid: "One thing is clear: things will only start moving when we have resolved the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians." A non-sequitur for the ages, or simply a strategy of mouthing the words of fanatics? After all, scratch an Arab nationalist and you'll find someone who thinks the high price of goat milk, the heartbreak of psoriasis, and the dictatorial nightmare of a government he's saddled himself with can all be cured if only we could get those cursed Jews off the back of that great friend of peace Arafat.

Freshly minted Spanish PM Zapatero said: "Fighting terrorism with bombs, with operations of 'shock and awe', with missiles, that does not combat terrorism it only generates more radicalism . . . The way to fight terrorism is with the rule of law, with international legislation, with intelligence services . . . This is what the international community should be talking about." Oh. In other words, let's return to doing whatever it was we were doing back when these folks were only attacking America. Zapatero has formulated the tall dandelion principle for a new generation: Walk quietly, don't draw attention to yourself; maybe you'll get the part of Vichy France in the next global revival of that old classic Freedom versus Fascism, and avoid being cast as Poland. (In a fit of typecasting, Poland will no doubt get that role again. She plays it so well and, frankly, I don't see anyone in Old Europe with the stomach to handle the demands of the part.)

I won't even bother to quote from Chirac and Schroeder's bunny hug, in which they declared war on everything but cliches about terrorism (root causes, economic dislocation, and all the rest of that stuff: no doubt you've noticed the other economically dislocated populations around the world crashing jets into tall buildings).

Of course, some root causes are more equal than others. Item: "Chirac backs Mubarak in opposing US plan for Arab democracy"

French President Jacques Chirac backed Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak in his opposition to a US initiative for political and economic reform in the Middle East, saying the plan amounted to "interference."
You can't make this stuff up.

The wearin' o' the green: Michael Graham gives a timely refresher on John Kerry's confusion about his roots. Who can blame him, though, for wanting to be Irish? Just remember, John, never substitute rice for the potato.

T.O. in da House: So, the Eagles, one of the more conservative, buttoned-down teams in the No Fun League, bring into the fold one of the most outspoken, selfish, yet terribly talented and determined players to ever play the game.

Early on, even before the free agency filing fiasco, the CW on TO was that there was no way Andy Reid, a monotone mormon, would ever agree to coach such a flamboyant and at times, mutinous, player. Then we start to hear of how much Andy and TO saw eye-to-eye at the pro bowl games (Andy has coached the last three by virtue of being the losing coach in the NFC championship), and that despite their disparate personalities, the leadership in the team (both players and management) would keep him under control. Well, it's an interesting theory.

What is clear is that Eagles took a hugely aggressive stance in the free agent market and nabbed two of the arguably top 3 or 4 free agents available. As we have seen in places like Washington, big names and salaries does not always equate into big wins, but when you look at the Iggles, they had two glaring problems - no consistent pass rush, and their receivers couldn't get off the line much less get open, thereby causing McNabb to get crushed. Well, no more excuses and the Iggles get a free pass through and including the first game from criticism.

The legal theories being batted back and forth concerning his contract were also interesting. As it stands, it looks like not too many teams are going to be eager to deal with Donohue of the 49ers, nor will too many players want to sign with such management.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

But First: Before launching into the politics of Spain's awful week, I should have posted my earlier thoughts. Having been away for a few days, I didn't get the chance to say that I feel for them terribly. Last week we were all Spaniards, and I mean that quite seriously and not in a condescending, French kind of way. Tragedy is tragedy, no matter who they picked in their election. I happen to think they picked a defeatist socialist. (And Zapatero doesn't seem to protest either description.) But I understand the conflict of emotion that suffuses their country now. On September 11th, I dialed two New York phone numbers, cell phones, until I thought the buttons would wear out. One belonged to a friend who worked in the financial district. He called safely from midtown, later, on his long walk home amid chaos.

The other number belonged to a friend who had been downtown to pick up his girlfriend. He didn't find her until that afternoon (she had been among those who sought escape on the Hudson ferries and ended up in Hoboken and Weehawken, watching the smoke rise from across the river). He called that night, drunk and pessimistic.

There was no personal tragedy for me; my friends were safe. But I remember the emotions welling inside me as I called again and again, hearing only emptiness or "no service" messages. I was frightened; I was angry. Who the hell knows whom I would have voted for a day or two later? Bush wasn't exactly a pillar of leadership in those first few days.

That was more than two years ago. Today I wonder about my friend Cynthia Rodriguez, who lives in Madrid and who tried to teach me how to say the "d" in "Madrid" like a native.

It's worth noting, and many have, that Spain is still occupied territory in the Islamist mind. I disagree with those who take the lesson that Madrid was bombed because of Iraq. Yes, Madrid was bombed because those who wish to hurt America cannot (at least not right now, though they wait for our guard to drop again), and thus Spain became a surrogate target. But others have pointed out that Turkey, after rebuffing U.S. entreaties for strategic aid in Iraq, suffered bombings just the same. In this conflict, the grievances are too old to be parsed neatly. In Istanbul or Madrid, 1918 or 1492 might as well have been yesterday for all the safety it buys them. Ataturk or Ferdinand might just as well still be in power for all the enmity they still inspire.

So I hope for a change of heart among the Spanish, and I hope their new PM will pause before he takes his country out of an alliance that, I think, is the only hope the West has.

Required Reading: The always-insightful Robert Lane Greene wonders if Al Qaeda just won it's first election -- in Spain:
It is still not too late for the incoming Socialist government to deny Al Qaeda an election victory: The Socialists must under no circumstances pull Spanish troops out of Iraq by the summer, as they said they might do during the campaign. If they do not break this promise, they will be allowing Al Qaeda to dictate policy outcomes in a democratic country--which will surely encourage further attacks in democratic countries, especially those that were part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The Socialists have a right to their views on the war. But they also have an obligation to the community of free nations, all of which will suffer the consequences if Al Qaeda believes it can use bombs to play electoral politics. For the moment, that obligation trumps the promise the Socialists made to Spanish voters.
I'm not optimistic.

More: Any doubts that this is clearly Al Qaeda's plan will be ended here:

"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it," the al Qaeda document says.

"If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed -- and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto."

(As Sullivan says, "If it worked in Spain, al Qaeda might surmise, why not try it in the U.S.?")

Still more: A splash of Vodka.

Friday, March 12, 2004

U.N. Oversight Causes 800,000 to Die!!!: Sorry, I just wanted to try my hand at journalistic hyperbole. But seriously, dude, this is like totally messed up.

The best part of this is that the "experts" assumed that the flight recorder couldn't possibly be from the downed flight because it was in such good condition. Like it was too much effort to simply plug in some headphones and listen to the first thirty seconds.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Following the Money: The WSJ on the Oil-for-Food program: "Fortunately, Saddam appears to have been a stickler for record-keeping."

Read it all.

More here (via Glenn Reynolds). The UN should provide the same transparency we require from businesses operating in America, or we should suggest they find another sugar daddy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Supremes to decide gay marriage?: From MSNBC [forgive the lack of block-quoting - just easier to read]:

Q. What indication has the U.S. Supreme Court given that it might decide that marriage between homosexuals is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution?


In their ruling last June in Lawrence v. Texas, a five-justice majority of the court struck down state anti-sodomy laws, deeming them a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Justice Sandra Day O'Connor concurred in the ruling but used different reasoning, saying anti-sodomy laws violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.)

The language of the decision implied that the liberty protected by the due process clause included the liberty for gay couples to get married.

Although the question of marriage itself was not squarely before the court, the majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, is significant in indicating the future direction of court's rulings.

"Our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education," Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The Constitution, he added, demands respect "for the autonomy of the person in making these choices."

Then he added, "Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do."