Wednesday, December 24, 2003

I'll Say This for Strom Thurmond

He was no hypocrite. Most commentators on the revelation of Strom's illegitimate child, like Anna Quindlen, are criticizing the late racist for hypocrisy -- advocating segregation and fighting "miscegenation" on the one hand, while fathering a child with a black woman on the other. I think calling him a hypocrite lets him off the hook too easily. Hypocrisy, to be sure, is a great sin, but Thurmond's were greater still. From where I sit, his fathering a child with his family's black maid was perfectly consistent with his avowed racial views. He viewed the maid as his property, his to do with as he pleased. It was not uncommon, in the antebellum South, for slave owners to rape their female slaves. Yet it was this culture that spawned the anti-miscegenation laws struck down in Loving. These laws did not make Southerners hypocrites. They were consistent with a view of Blacks as less than fully human -- they could be used sexually, but they could not have equal rights in marriage, or in anything else. In the South, old ways die hard. Thurmond's fathering of a child with his maid was par for the course for a Son of the Confederacy.

Nor is it inconsistent with Thurmond's racial views that he supported his child. He was, above all, a politician, who loved being a member of the Senate. To have Ms. Washington-Williams revealed as his child could have done his career serious harm. He simply preempted that possibility. Strom Thurmond was despicable man, but he was no hypocrite.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Their Names Both Use the Letter "Q"

At least in transliteration. [I don't know Arabic, and so don't know whether the "q" in Iraq and the "q" in Qaeda are in fact the same letter (in Hebrew, the sound /k/ can be rendered with two different letters, and in English with three, after all).]

My good friend Chris has asked me whether I find this piece from the Weekly Standard convincing on the alleged Iraq-Qaeda connection.

The short answer to Chris's question is: No. As I read the article, there is proof that bin Laden invested in the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant that Clinton bombed in 1998, AND that Saddam may have been a customer. In other words, there's rock solid proof that Saddam and bin Laden have at least the same relationship that I do to Rupert Murdoch (he, of course, owns the FOX television network, on which I frequently watch broadcasts of NFL games). No, if there were a real connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, the Bush administration and its cheerleaders would trumpet it, not construct false syllogisms from old intelligence.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Well, we had to invade somebody

Dennis Miller, former comedian (as his angry white man persona has come to the fore, he's gotten distinctly less funny), former sportscaster, and soon to be talking head, offered perhaps the most inane justification I've yet heard for the war: "I wish there was a country called al-Qaedia that we could have invaded, but there wasn't. (Saddam was) the only one who had a home address." That might make sense if there was any demonstrable link between the Baathist regime and al Qaeda, but there isn't one I've seen. Miller himself opines on the link: "They both think we're Satan. How about that as a nice point of departure for them car-pooling?" That's something short of convincing. I'm willing to bet there's a stronger link between Iran and al Qaeda, and between Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda, than ever existed between Saddam and al Qaeda. Anyway, this little bit of "reasoning" by Miller (together with Miller's endorsement of gay marriage) has earned him an endorsement from no less an intellectual than Andrew Sullivan, who calls Miller "my man Dennis." Sully, you can have him. A much better justification for the war (the best short one I've read) is this oldie but goodie from Dan Savage. Notwithstanding its credulity at the "detailed plan" the administration was allegedly developing for post-war Iraq, it remains a cogent analysis of why this war was on balance probably a good thing, and why it may not be the last such war we'll have to fight.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A Tale of Two Posts

Andrew Sullivan objects on Monday that Joe Wilson lacked class for calling members of the adminstration "f***ing a**holes and thugs". A fair critique, actually. While I'm guilty of some ad hominem invective myself in this blog, it's not effective argument, and I won't defend it as such. But then Tuesday, Sully's hawking t-shirts with a similar expletive. Granted, the t-shirts are tongue-in-cheek. But that doesn't render them classy. Perhaps in Sully's view, the expletives lack class only when they're directed at Beloved Leader.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Self-Defense and Probable Cause

Last week, Volokh posited that where a homicide is committed in self-defense, there is no probable cause to arrest. I responded here that self-defense being an affirmative defense, it ought not to figure in the probable cause determination. Volokh responded to that assertion, hewing to his original premise. He brought one case from the Northern District of Ohio in support of his theory. But there is contrary authority in the state courts. In Louisiana, for example, the Court of Appeals has held that
The police need not investigate all possible defenses or negate every explanation in determining whether probable cause to arrest exists.
Jenkins v. Baldwin, 801 So. 2d 485, 496 (La. Ct. App. 2001). The Washington courts have held the same. See State v. Mull, ___ P.3d __ (Wash. Ct. App. 2001); McBride v. Walla Walla County, 95 Wash. App. 33, 40, review den. 138 Wash. 2d 1013 (1999).

I think Volokh's authority and those cited here are not in conflict. The Ohio case he cites finds fault with the arrest because the police had actual knowledge that there was a valid affirmative defense. The Louisiana and Washington cases hold that an officer is not obliged to investigate those possible defenses to a fare thee well. Obviously, there are many, many cases where actual knowledge of a defense and its validity won't be available to the police. I think the "actual knowledge of a valid defense" cases will be rare, but I'll concede that in a case where the officers have such knowledge, probable cause may be lacking. I certainly think the Texas case with which Volokh began this discussion is not one such. The officers can't have known the chain of events immediately preceding the killing, much less the dead man's history with the woman. I think (based on the reported facts) that the arrest there survives any motion to quash.

One more point. In my original post, I made a categorical assertion that we don't want police officers making these factual determinations in the field. While I think that it is a fundamentally sound view, not all policy makers agree. Maryland law, for example provides that in cases of domestic violence where there is mutual battery of spouses, the police officer "shall consider" whether one of the spouses was acting in self-defense in determining whether to arrest both. See Md. Crim Pro. s. 2-204(b). So there are some cases where the officer ought to be able to bring her experience and expertise to bear in deciding probable cause where a defense may exist. Homicides, however, ought not to be among them.

Please pass the crow

Last week, I accused Dubya of being dense in his handling of the Iraqi debt forgiveness/reconstruction contracts issues. Comes yesterday's announcement that France and Germany have agreed, in principle, to a Paris Club restructuring of Iraqi debt, and he's looking not quite as dense. Of course, there's a quid pro quo, as the article reveals that the decision on reconstruction contracts is open for discussion, as is the exact extent of the debt forgiveness. In other words, nothing new under the sun: There's a deal to be done, and Jim Baker is nothing if not a master deal maker.

In my defense, I'll say that this turn of events still leaves room for the possibility that Dubya is more Chauncey Gardner than Niccolo Machiavelli. It's possible, for example, that the Pentagon announcement was a carefully timed opening gambit in these negotiations. It's equally possible that (1) Pentagon blundered, (2) Dubya called Daddy, who told him to hire Jimmy Baker, (3) who told Dubya, look you ninny, you're going to have to open up the reconstruction contracts to the Euros if you want them to restructure debt. Which scenario is closer to the truth, I suppose, we'll learn only when the histories are written, and I'm not sure I'd put a wager down.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Volokh Channeling McKinnon/Dworkin?

Professor Volokh points to this article about a woman in Texas arrested after shooting to death her estranged husband. It appears to have been an act of self-defense, as the dead guy had broken into the woman's home the night before she was to go to court and seek a restraining order against him. Volokh thinks that this arrest violated the Fourth Amendment, because the police did not have probable cause to believe a crime had been committed. I think this argument fails, for theoretical and practical reasons. First, self-defense as a justification for homicide is an affirmative defense, on which the defendant bears the burden of proof. That, at least is the law in Illinois. See 720 ILCS 5/7-1 & 7-14. I haven't done a 50-state survey, but I'd be willing to bet that's the case most everywhere, and has been since time immemorial. In other words, homicides are presumptively crimes at the arrest stage, and a peace officer has probable cause to arrest if he has probable cause to believe there has been a homicide (as opposed, say, to an accident). If I had any free Westlaw time this month (I don't), I'm sure I could dig out a case or 6 that so hold.

And practical considerations militate against asking a peace officer to make these fact intensive determinations on the spot. Just one hypo: a gang member finds himself alone in the territory of a rival gang, and is shot dead. Police arrive, finding only members of the shooter's gang, all of whom swear up and down to the officer that the dead man was threatening and the shooting was done in self-defense. What result? Or simply take the Texas case. The dead man looks like a bad guy. But is it possible he just went there to talk? Not likely, I'll admit. But it is possible, and if it's true then the wife (BWS aside) is a murderer. He apparently has a record of beating the woman; but do we expect every cop to know such background when called to the scene of a shooting? I think the answer is obvious. I appreciate Professor Volokh's principled views on the Second Amendment (though I don't share them). I think on this question, his zeal for that cause has led him astray.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Either he's really stupid. . .

or he thinks everyone else in the world is. How else to explain announcing in the same news cycle that you're barring the anti-war nations of Europe from participating in the reconstruction, while asking them to forgive Iraq's debts? This is what Bush said:
If these countries want to participate in helping the world become more secure, by enabling Iraq to emerge as a free and peaceful country, one way to contribute is through debt restructuring.

In other words, we won't let you make a profit on the reconstruction, but we'd like you to help fund it.

I don't see anything wrong with excluding Germany, France, and Russia from the reconstruction contracts. We took all the risk in the war; we're entitled to the rewards. Not even Captain Renault could feign shock at such an outcome.

But if that's the way we're going to go with it, it seems absurd to ask these same countries to contribute cash (for that's what debt restructuring would amount to) and get nothing in return. Which just goes to show that even though it's justifiable to deny these countries participation in the reconstruction, it's not wise. Perhaps Dubya should ask himself, in matters of foreign policy, "WWCD?" Fortunately, Sir Winston left us a handy guide:
In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will

Dubya, Dickey, Condee, Rummy and Wolfie seem to have Resolution down pat. Here's hoping they never need the Defiance. But God Almighty do they need some schoolin' on the Magnanimity and the Good Will.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

298 Pages, Signifying Nothing?

McCain-Feingold is, in the main, constitutional. That summary should save you some reading. If you're still inclined to read the opinion, finish this post first.

The various opinions run to over 250 pages. The syllabus alone will consume 19 printed pages in the United States Reports. I’d be willing to wager this sets a record.

But don’t mistake the opinions’ heft for weight. The most telling words are these, from the peroration of Justices Stevens’ and O’Connor’s joint opinion for the Court: “We are under no illusion that BCRA will be the last congressional statement on the matter. Money, like water, will always find an outlet.” (slip op. at 118). Indeed. The AP article on the web is posted with a schematic that explains – albeit poorly – how the powers that be have already devised ways to evade BCRA’s limitations.

BCRA’s almost certain impotence also gives the lie to Justice Scalia’s tsk-tsk’ing about what a sad day this is for freedom of speech. The CEOs of Phillip Morris, GM, ExxonMobil, and the rest will still always be able -- for better or worse -- to whisper into the ears of the powerful.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend John?

He was my childhood idol (I came to baseball later than normal children), and thirty years of revisionist history have done little to lessen either my admiration or my sense of loss for a man I know only from books and television. Today, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his murder, I remember him by quoting from his speech in Houston during the 1960 Presidential campaign, when he confronted head-on the widespread anti-Catholic bias that threatened to undo his candidacy:
it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

That's a very different America from the America of George Bush and Pat Buchanan, of John Ashcroft and Roy Moore. But it's still an ideal worth fighting for.

T'hei nishmato tzirurah bitzror hachaim: May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.

Amor Vincet Omnia

Gregg Easterbrook demolishes "Christian" arguments against gay marriage. He speaks the truth, with a capital "T".

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Now What?

Gregg Easterbrook thinks that we must leave Iraq immediately, having discovered that there are, in fact, none of the banned weapons that furnished our justification for invading in the first place:
Why are we in Iraq? If the reason really, truly was that we really, truly believed Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons, then our assault on Iraq was justified, but now we must leave immediately, as no banned weapons have been found. Arguing "we're there by mistake, but are obliged to pile more mistakes atop the original mistake"--even France has recently said as much!--makes no sense.

Either the Bush aministration (sic) must admit that it was wrong about weapons of mass destruction and articulate different--possibly valid--reasons for the occupation of Iraq, or we must leave immediately.
Easterbrook gives Bush an out -- if he can articulate post-hoc rationalizations that would have justified the war had they been argued before the war, then we can also stay.

But the question whether we stay in Iraq and for how long must be divorced from the question of whether we should have gone in the first instance, because US military invasions typically have a transformative effect on the invaded country. This invasion is no exception. Having invaded Iraq, having toppled along with Saddam's tyrannical regime all the elements and institutions of civil order, it is incumbent on us to stay and fix, as best we can, the mess we've helped to create. In the long run, assuming Iraq's reconstruction is handled competently and fairly, the Iraqi people will be immeasurably better off without the Baathist regime. In some important respects, they already are. Picking up and leaving at this juncture, whether the war was justified or no, would be shortsighted, irresponsible, and immoral. We owe it to the Iraqi people to help them lay the foundations of a new order. And we owe it to ourselves to make sure that when we leave Iraq, it is to the thanks of a people freed from the yoke of an awful dictator and left with the means to build a stable, free, and prosperous society of their own. If we leave now, that won't happen.

Aside from ignoring that realpolitik rationale for staying in Iraq, Easterbrook errs logically by reducing the argument for staying in Iraq to"we're there by mistake, but are obliged to pile more mistakes atop the original mistake." It is not self-evident that by remaining we will pile more mistakes atop the original mistake. Early evidence is not encouraging, to be sure. It seems clear that advance planning for the post-war period was, to put it mildly, sub-optimal. But just because the Bushies aren't doing it well, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

By the title of his post, Easterbrook implies that staying would be the equivalent of staying in Vietnam. I rejected that comparison before the war, and I reject it now. Vietnam was a quagmire precisely because we intervened in a civil war and sought to prop up a corrupt and unpopular dictatorship. In Iraq, we deposed a corrupt and unpopular dictatorship. Iraqi resentment at the invasion and occupation -- if the occupation and transition back to Iraqi rule are handled humanely, generously, and wisely -- will cool. Sadly, though, humane, generous, and wise are not adjectives I'd use to describe George W. Bush or those to whom he's delegated responsibility for this war and its aftermath. That's not an argument for leaving -- just for voting Democratic in 2004.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Sign This Petition

There's an online petition to save Gregg Easterbrook's job at ESPN. I've signed it. So should you. Click here
UPDATE: A good friend pointed out to me that perhaps the petition goes too far, in that it calls on prospective employers not to consider negatively Easterbrook's anti-Semitic rant. Indeed, that formulation does go too far (as my own post below implies). Of course employers may, indeed should consider it. But they should consider it fairly, which means weighing it against a quarter century's work that gives the lie to any characterization of Easterbrook that could be drawn solely from the offending piece. That said, I don't regret signing the petition, because I agree with what I take to be its goal -- saving Easterbrook from consequences out of proportion to his actions. The reputational harm he has suffered I think is lasting, and I think sufficient.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Higher Standards, Chosen-ness, and All That Jazz

One blogger, the aptly named Isntapundit defended Gregg Easterbrook’s anti-semitic raving last week on the grounds that “he wants to hold Jews to a higher moral standard, which any rational person would take as a compliment.” Well, we don’t view it as a compliment, and we’re not irrational. The higher standard is a form of a hatred, plain and simple. We’re human beings, just like the rest of you. Which means we’ve a hard enough time, just like everyone else, of living up to the common standard. That should be obvious enough not to need saying. So holding us to a higher standard than everyone else is merely an excuse to bash us, because we’ll inevitably fail to meet it. Isntapundit isn’t backing down, either.

But then we Jews need to recognize too that this double standard has its roots in our own self conception. We are to God “am segulah” a treasured people. On festivals, we sanctify the day over a glass of wine, recounting in joyful song that God has chosen us from among all the peoples, exalted our language (Hebrew) from among all the languages. The concept of the Jews as a Chosen People has of course been the source of much misunderstanding over the centuries. It has consistently been misconstrued by anti-semites as a form of haughtiness, a claim to status as Uebermenschen. From the Jewish perspective, it is, of course, nothing of the kind. Herman Wouk has written the best explanation of the concept in English that I’ve ever read, in his masterful book This Is My God (which I commend to everyone who hasn’t read it, Jew and non-Jew alike, as the most concise and complete and readable explanation of Judaism ever written). He writes:
Where then is the chosen aspect of the Jews? Is it solely in their own minds? That would make them no different from the in groups all over the world, the Babbitts of Zenith, . . . blissfully sure that theirs is the best way of life, and that they are the best people. If the ”chosen people” meant no more than that, it would be part of the common folly of man, and not worth discussing. . . . What then becomes of the choice of Israel? It remains, as the Bible puts it, an election of Abraham’s family to special disciplines and duties in the service of God. . . .Jewry’s failure to measure up to its mission is the burden of Jeremiah and Isaiah, as well as of country club chatter.
. Therein lies the rub. God himself holds us to a different standard than that he applies to the rest of humanity. They are bound only by the seven Noachide laws, and faithful obedience to them ensures the Gentile a share in the World to Come (Wouk points out that Job, the example par excellence of righteousness is, in the Jewish tradition, not himself a Jew). We Jews, on the other hand, are bound by 613 commandments. It is a decidedly higher standard. We get upset when non-Jews purport to remind us of this, and I think we’re entitled to be upset. Easterbrook, after all, is not himself God, nor even Jeremiah or Isaiah (and Isntapundit isn’t even Easterbrook). He’s a human just like us, so we’ll thank him to leave it to God whether we Jews are living up to the standard He sets for us. Perhaps Easterbrook would do well, rather than upbraiding Jews for not living up to their calling, to heed the words of his own God: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (The Gospel According to Matthew, 7:1).

Evil Simple-minded Pandering Nitwits

I bet Gregg Easterbrook never imagined the tempest he'd whip up when he penned his pan of Kill Bill. I've got a few thoughts on the matter. First, Sullivan and InstaPundit both minimize what Easterbrook did in posts this weekend by linking to the text of the Malaysian Prime Minister's hate-filled diatribe at the OIC this past week, and calling that "real anti-semitism." What they're saying is, if you stop short of calling for the extermination of the Jews, you're not quite an anti-Semite. I think that sets the bar for what constitutes "real anti-semitism" a mite too high (or too low). I agree with them that what Easterbrook wrote isn't in the same league as what Mahathir Mohammed said, and to suggest otherwise would border on libeling Easterbrook. But that doesn't absolve Easterbrook of the charge of anti-semitism.

Second, if Sullivan and InstaPundit underestimate the wrongfulness and the hurtfulness of what Easterbrook wrote (and it was hurtful, especially because it came from the pen -- and the mind and heart -- of one whom I'd never have suspected of harboring such awful views), then ESPN went way over the top in firing him. The blogosphere has been near unanimous in their view that ESPN's firing of Easterbrook was cowardly, sinister, and wrong-headed (InstaPundit rounds up the links here. In saying why the firing was wrong, Sully and InstaPundit do some shoddy analysis. They both think it significant that the comments for which ESPN presumably fired Easterbrook (ESPN hasn't explained its decision, or even announced it; they've just purged his stuff from the site, Soviet-like) weren't even written for ESPN, but were published elsewhere. Dan Drezner agrees To see why that's insignificant, imagine the comments were somewhat harsher and more evil than they were. Assume for the sake of argument that Easterbrook had written on his blog things along the lines of Mahathir Muhammad's speech. Any doubt that ESPN would be justified in firing him out of concern for its own reputation? I don't think so. So ESPN's firing of Easterbrook wasn't wrong because Easterbrook wrote the comments elsewhere; ESPN has the perfect right to offer its forum only to people it believes will enhance its reputation for excellence in sports journalism, and to deny space to people they think will detract from that reputation. No, their firing of Easterbrook was wrong because what Easterbrook wrote was out for character for him (can't say the same about Rush); and because Easterbrook recognized (sort of) the wrongfulness of what he wrote, and he apologized for it (can't say the same for Rush). His weekly TMQ column is the best football commentary available in any medium anywhere, and its absence from ESPN will detract heavily from the network's value to its readers. (I'm going elsewhere for sports commentary unless and until and they reinstate him. I've told ESPN as much, and you can too, here). I'll post separately my views about the substance of what Easterbrook wrote. In the meantime, check out the several posts on this subject over at Meryl's place, where Easterbrook's piece was first exposed to the light of day, and at Roger Simon's.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Sic Semper Tyrannis?

Sully, InstaPundit, and the rest of the Bush propaganda machine (no, I'm not asserting they're in the administration's employ) have been busy, ever since it became obvious that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, trying to spin the war in a way that shows it was justified after all. The tactic that seems to have had the most traction for them is "thus always to tyrants": Hussein was a horrible tyrant guilty of horrendous crimes on a massive scale against his own people. It is right to topple tyrants. Therefore it was right to go to war against Saddam. It's a neat little syllogism. (The first premise -- Saddam was evil -- is irrefutable, and many on the left have committed egregious political error (and even sin) in attempting to down play the horror that was Saddam). And it plays in Peoria. We Americans like to see ourselves as defenders of human rights around the world, and we can lay claim to a strong, albeit not unblemished, record of being just that.

But the syllogism has its problems. The most obvious one (not the real subject of this post) is that toppling a tyrant does not necessarily imply war as a strategy. The real problem with the syllogism is the second premise -- it is right to topple tyrants. First, there is no logical stopping point to it. Here's a partial list of tyrants guilty of sins at least as egregious as those of Saddam: The murderous monarchs of Saudi Arabia; The Mad Mullahs of Iran; Bashar Assad of Syria; Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, and the rest of Mao's filthy heirs in China; Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; Kim Jong Il of North Korea. For a more complete list, just read State Department country reports here. That's proof enough that sic semper tyrannis, while stirring rhetoric, and lofty aspiration, is at best an incomplete rationale for policy. The current crowd of pro-war cheerleaders have admitted as much. See, for instance, if you can find among today's pro-war crowd any record of opposition to the Nixon and ReaganBush policies of the 70s, 80's and early 90's supporting murderous tyrants in Central and South America. I'll gladly print a correction to my thesis if someone can show me that Sully, Reynolds and the rest have been consistent in their anti-tyrannical ardor.

No, in order to prevent the anti-tyranny argument from leading to perpetual war, there must be some constraints. No war should be fought against a tyrant unless there is something more than tyranny alone to justify it. Alternatively, tyranny can be excused, or condoned, if there is some greater policy goal served by excusing or condoning it. Thus, Sully et al. would surely argue that condoning (or even supporting) the awful tyrants of South and Central America was necessary in the 70s, 80s and early 90s because those tyrants were bulwarks against Communism, which represented even a greater evil. For the sake of this argument, I'll accept that explanation at face value (although strong arguments can be made, and probably carry the day, that, for example, Pinochet was not necessary to stop Chile, which had a long history of stable democracy, from going Communist under Allende.)

But is not Islamofascism today's Communism? Sully consistently, and rightly, makes exactly that argument. So if Saddam's tyrannical regime were one that was a key support for Islamofascism, then the war was surely right -- the combination of Saddam's tyranny and his support for Islamofascist movements outside Iraq would make this war a slam dunk. But the supposed link between Saddam and al Qaeda or any other terrorist movement remains as ethereal as his WMD program. His famous payments of blood money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers don't cut it. That was great propaganda for Saddam in the Arab world, and cost him next to nothing. Compared to the overall cost of the Islamofascist assault on the West, those payments were but a raindrop on the ocean. They hardly justify a war. The pro-Bush forces have yet, in my view, to establish a solid case for the "something else" that turns tyranny simpliciter into a cause for war.

The three or four of you who read this blog will no doubt notice that this post is a sea change in my views compared to what I was writing before the war. What can I say? I believed the WMD claims. Had they been true, I still think this war would have been justified (I'm still a BIG fan of Israel's bombing of the Osirak reactor twenty years ago). They weren't true. I was lied to -- regardless of the spin Sully and the rest are trying to put on it now -- and I fell for it. "Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks
in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Arafat's Demise

Yesterday, Meryl Yourish channeled Janis Joplin on the subject of Arafat's death:

Oh Lord, won't you give us an Arafat death?

We've waited for decades, so please stop his breath

Prayed hard for this deed, and fasted, no less

So Lord, won't you kill him, and settle this mess?
I have two problems with the ditty. I raised one of them directly with Meryl, and she published my view and a thoughtful response of her own here. There's some daylight between Meryl's view on the matter and my own, but not a lot. So I'll leave that one where it stands.

Here's my second problem: I don't think Arafat's death settles a whole lot. His policies are wildly popular, and the cult of death he has created will outlive him in Palestinian society. Indeed, I think it not unlikely that those hungry to claim Arafat's mantle might seek to outdo one another in Jew killing as a way of proving themselves "worthy" successors in the eyes of their death-crazed people. Settle this mess? I don't think so. (I realize that in song parody, one must sometimes sacrifice accuracy and nuance for the sake of meter, and I actually found Meryl's version quite clever; heaven knows my own meager writing ability is confined to prose. But since the parody came without a disclaimer, I thought it worth raising these issues).

Limited Imagination

Susan Ager, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, "can't imagine who would disagree" with her assertion that Jack Kevorkian should be released from prison.

Well, I do, for one. And I doubt I'm alone. Ager submits that incarcerating Kevorkian any longer serves no purpose because (1) he's been punished enough and (2) he poses no danger to anyone. Wrong on both counts. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years imprisonment for second degree murder. I'm not sure whether the Michigan Truth-in-Sentencing provision was in force at the time of Kevorkian's crime, although it was at the time of his sentencing. That provision would require that Kevorkian serve at least the 10 year minimum sentence that Judge Cooper courageously imposed on him. Since he's only served 4 1/2 years, he's not even close.

That Kevorkian's lawyer, the self aggrandizing publicity fetishist Geoffrey Feiger, is asking a judge to resentence the Terminator to time served implies that truth-in-sentencing does apply to him: only by vacating the old sentence and imposing a lighter one could truth-in-sentencing be avoided. I'm quite certain that it's bad public policy to set a precedent of avoiding the truth-in-sentencing law by vacating and reimposing sentences. If Kevorkian's medical condition is such that he should for reasons of compassion receive special dispensation, then the common law has long provided an avenue for such relief -- executive clemency. Jennifer Granholm (who by the way would be a smashing candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, should the Arnold Amendment be passed) is a fair minded woman, and I think the people of Michigan would respect her judgment in the matter. Frankly, I think the relief that Feiger seeks via resentencing might well violate the Michigan constitution by usurping the Governor's exclusive right under the Constitution to grant clemency.

So keeping the felon Kevorkian exactly where he is serves at least this purpose: it reassures the people that the law means what it says.

There's another reason to continue punishing Kevorkian: he has yet to accept, much less admit, that he did anything wrong. He is a zealot. Kevorkian's fanaticism is well documented, and his "pledge" not to assist in any more suicides is hard to take at face value. Judge Cooper said as much on the record at Kevorkian's sentencing. And while Youk, the victim of whose murder Kevorkian was convicted, might well have been of sound mind and desired his own death and freely consented to Kevorkian's acts, the same cannot be said for many of his other victims.That conduct, while not charged in Kevorkian's indictment, is certainly relevant conduct that Judge Cooper was entitled to consider in sentencing the bastard. Let him rot.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Hey, Teleparasites: Don’t Call Me

When the Oklahoma judge struck down the national Do Not Call List on Tuesday, I didn’t much care. He ruled on narrow grounds of statutory construction, and whether he was right or wrong, the remedies were quick and relatively painless as Congress showed today.

Today’s decision from Denver, however, is another matter entirely. The Denver judge bought the teleparasites’ First Amendment argument – that the Do Not Call List infringes their right to free speech. I disagree. True, the FTC is a government agency, and its regulations therefore constitute “state action.” Thus, if FTC regulations suppress speech in violation of the First Amendment, then they must be struck down. The Do Not Call regulations, however, suppress no speech at all. Not one word. Any speech that is “suppressed” by the Do Not Call List is suppressed because of the private choices of over 50 million (and counting) Americans. It seems to me that Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, decided just two terms ago, teaches that when a putatively objectionable outcome results from private choices, and the government acts merely as facilitator of those choices, there is no First Amendment violation.

There are two distinctions between this case and Zelman . First, Zelman was an Establishment Clause case, and not a free speech case. Though the two clauses exist in the same amendment, they have spawned two different bodies of law. Second, the government here is more than a neutral facilitator. It threatens to fine the teleparasites should they violate the rules (as they are sure to do). I am not troubled by the first distinction. Without state action, no clause of the Amendment – indeed, no provision of the Bill of Rights – can be violated. As I read Zelman (and I may be out on a limb here, but what the heck, it’s a blog), and the cases on which the Court there relies, it holds that not only must there be state action, but also a causal link between the state action and the putative Constitutional violation, in order to find that there be a Constitutional violation. Stated thusly, Zelman’s holding has “crossover” appeal to the teleparasites’ free speech case.

The second distinction is more troubling, because by threatening to fine the teleparasites, the government really does become more than a neutral facilitator. It can be argued, rather convincingly in view of the potentially enormous fines, that it is the government’s fines, and not the people’s choices, that is suppressing the teleparasites’ speech. Here’s an easy fix: delete the fines, and have Congress create a private right of action to sue violators. A few privately filed class actions ought to do the trick of putting teeth in the list without any Constitutional violation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Mooses on Beaches & Tuesday Morning Twist

Lord knows, the ease of blogging, lack of editors, and press of time can lead to errors in posts. Lord knows I've made a few. But Gregg Easterbrook, over at Yet-to-Be-Named has a couple of glaring ones this week. First, his assault on Chief Moose, late of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department. Apparently, Moose settled with Marriott on a claim that he was racially harassed at a Marriott resort on Oahu, when a hotel security guard asked him for his room key as proof that he had a right to be there, solely on account of his race. Easterbrook thinks that this was "blackmail," noting that the resort's claim to fame is its "spectacular private beach," and that the hotel routinely checks ID to make sure that the uninvited aren't hanging out there.

Plausible explanation, no? Here's the problem, though -- all beaches in Hawai'i are public, from the high water mark on out, and developers purchasing or leasing state land above the high water mark have to provide public access. (see Haw. Rev. St. sec. 171-42.) Of course, that's only half the problem with Easterbrook's analysis. Here's the other half. Assume, for the sake of argument, that Moose was on a part of the resort (a stretch of beach above the high water mark, with cabanas, for example) that is private, and where Marriott would be within its rights to exclude the non-paying. There's still a legitimate question of whether the hotel checks all people's id's, or just the black folk. If the latter, than Moose's claim isn't blackmail at all. Since Easterbrook isn't privy to the facts, he's jumping a little to quickly to the accusation. And as anyone who's ever known an actual black person knows, such racially discriminatory enforcement practices are not altogether uncommon. Was Moose out to make a quick a buck, or is Marriott trying to keep its beach rassenrein? Who knows? I don't. Neither does Easterbrook. So maybe he should be a little slower pulling the trigger on blackmail accusations.

Now let's talk ice cream. Seems that the Tuesday Morning Quarterback (and that's really a misnomer, since ESPN rarely has the column published in the morning EST, which is, as we know, God's time zone) doesn't understand the difference between a flavor of ice cream and a sundae. Apparently, up in Vermont, for a single day, in celebration of Governor Dean's announcement of his candidacy, Ben & Jerry's headquarters outside Burlington offered a sundae called "Maple Powered Howard." If Easterbrook had read the very story he linked to he'd have discovered that the MPH, like all sundaes, was a dish comprised of ice cream and one or more toppings -- in this case, vanilla ice cream topped with maple syrup, maple-flavored whipped cream, and walnuts. MMM, mmmm, good (except for the nuts. Love nuts, love sweets, hate nuts in sweets. But I digress). Cute story, right? Not for TMQ (and, for the record, TMQ is the best sports column written today, in any medium, on any sport. Read it.) He uses the story as a jumping off point to knock Dean and Unilever. He notes that you won't find Maple Powered Howard in B & J's on-line flavor inventory. But that's because it's not an ice cream flavor. It's a sundae. The only ice cream in the sundae is vanilla. Now to be fair to TMQ, many common B & J flavors have sundae-like elements (nuts, heath bars, caramel swirls and the like), but without a hot, gooey topping and whipped cream, they're not sundaes -- they're just really complex ice cream flavors. So Easterbrook's conclusion that the limited availability of MPH equals limited appeal for Governor Dean isn't really very sound. Indeed, it's absurd. He does get in a fair dig at B & J itself however. The stoners who founded it sold their eponymous brand to one of the world's largest conglomerates, so its vaunted social responsibility is now just an advertising slogan for one of the world's largest conglomerates. Then he offers an uninspired list of B & J flavors for the rest of the field (although I do like Hilary's Endless Fudge). All in all, not an auspicious bloggining.

Friday, September 12, 2003

If Rupert Murdoch Owned Mastercard

then Josh Marshall might be defending a law suit today. Hilarious. Trenchant. Tragic.

Silvio, Arnold. Arnold, Silvio

Already met? Great, then you'll have lots to talk about . . .Seems that Berlusconi, like Schwarzenegger, has something of a fetish for fascists. Now to be fair to Berlusconi (and Mussolini) Il Duce, as early 20th century fascist dictators go, wasn't the worst of the lot. (Indeed, Italy's Jewish community suffered the third-lowest percentage of murders in all of occupied Europe. Only Denmark, famously, and Bulgaria, somewhat paradoxically, saved a higher percentage of their Jews.) But still, Berlusconi's assertion -- that Mussolini didn't kill anyone -- is absurd. Unlike Schwarzenegger, who still supports Waldheim, Berlusconi at least had the manners to backpedal. (and for what it's worth, I don't think Arnold should bother renouncing Waldheim now. It would be such an obvious cave-in to pressure, with so obvious an ulterior motive, as to be meaningless).

Monday, September 08, 2003

Harvard Made Him Do It

How else to explain Al Franken's apology to John Ashcroft?. In his fabulous new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, Franken lampoons the hypocrisy of the right's "just say no" approach to teen sex. In writing the book, Franken sent a letter to Ashcroft (on Harvard stationery, as Franken was then a Harvard fellow), claiming that he was writing a book called Savin' It!, on the administration's abstinence education program. He solicited the famously mammophobic AG's contribution to a a chapter in this work called "Role Modelin' It", in which prominent Americans recounted their "abstinence stories." Of course, Franken wasn't penning a book called "Savin' It." He was writing the hilarious and trenchant Number One Bestseller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. (I have a number of issues with the book, but that's another post).

Volokh thinks Franken actually owed Ashcroft the apology that The Smoking Gun posted. I think Franken's apology is a sign of just how sinister Ashcroft's Justice Department has become. The key passage in Franken's apology is this:

My biggest regret is sending the letter on Shorenstein Center stationery. I can assure you that no one at the Shorenstein Center had knowledge of the letter before I sent it. I am very embarrassed to have put them in this awkward and difficult position, and I ask you not to hold this against the Center, the Kennedy School, or Harvard in general.

The entire reason for the letter is right there in that paragraph. Harvard feared it would suffer Ashcroft's wrath, and forced Franken to issue the mea culpa. What exactly was the harm to the AG from the "Savin It" letter? He was satirized? So what? That comes with the teritory when you're a public figure. Volokh thinks this satire crossed the line because it touched on Ashcroft's sex life. Hello? President Clinton had his sex life minutely examined, not by one satirist, but by the whole comedy community, and by a High Inquisitor (does anyone else picture Ken Starr in drag when reading of Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter V?) who cost the fisc some half a billion dollars. And Clinton wasn't pushing abstinence as public policy. Ashcroft is. So his hypocrisy vel non on matters sexual is absolutely fair game. I think it deeply disturbing that Harvard -- an institution with no small amount of power -- felt compelled to kiss derriere on this one.

Franken did owe the Shorenstein Center an apology, though. Just because he was a fellow at the time, did not give him the right, in my view, to use the Center's name and imply its imprimatur on the ploy. And Franken didin't need to have it either. He knew that no member of the administration would respond to his request for an abstinence story. None of them could. That's the whole point. Didn't matter whether the letterhead said Harvard or Franken or Hogwarts.

Methods of Madness

Eugene Volokh points to this article about the Utah Sentencing Commission's solicitation of the Mormon Church’s view on proposed legislation that would eliminate the firing squad as a permitted method of execution in that state. Somewhat fuller discussions can be found in Utah’s Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune.

Volokh’s view, which I think is correct, is that the solicitation of the Church’s opinion does not violate the Establishment Clause. I’d be more concerned if the Church had commented negatively on the legislation, and the Commission thereafter withdrew it. That course of events would raise the specter of the Church being given veto power over, rather than merely input on public policy initiatives. I think Volokh’s post draws this same input/veto line. Utah presents unique problems in drawing the line, however, given the religious homogeneity of the state’s population (some 70% of the state’s population are Latter Day Saints) and the stress the religion itself places on obedience. Hardly the type of problem, alas, that is easily explored in a blog . . .

Another interesting aspect of the Commission’s soliciting the Church’s view is the complete absence from the Sentencing Commission’s minutes on the subject (discussed in the April, August, and September meetings). Utah’s open meetings act, like that of most states, provides that minutes must be kept of open meetings, and must include inter alia “the substance of all matters proposed, discussed, or decided.” (Utah Code § 52-4-7(1)(c)) Seems to me, vague as that provision is, the discussion of the LDS Church’s view on the proposed legislation ought to have been included. At least the press was on top of it

Friday, September 05, 2003

A Little Knowledge

Eugene Volokh has a pet peeve . . . Jews who claim that "Jews for Jesus" is an oxymoron. Eugene brings the precept that birth to a Jewish mother confers on one the status of a Jew, and even grave sin does not remove that status. And Eugene is accurate, as far as he goes. A Jew for Jesus remains a Jew, but at best only in the same sense that Karen Anne Quinlan, while connected to life support, remained a life in being. The question of the "Jew for Jesus's" jewishness can be approached from several perspectives, none of them offering much support to Eugene's view. Let us start, though, with the standpoint of halakhah, Jewish religious law (for the precept on which Eugene relies is an halakhic one). While the apostate remains Jewish even after his renunciation of the faith, that is not to say that he retains the same status under halakhah as other Jews. He is indeed, singularly disfavored; even a Jew who professes atheism has greater status under the law. For example, the child of a female "J-for-J" is not to be given brit milah; he may not be brough into the coventant, even though Jewish at birth. Thus, the jewishness of the Jew for Jesus is rather short-lived. Because an apostate is not considered competent to testify in a bet din, a Jew for Jesus may not do so. A family is not sit shiva for a Jew for Jesus when he dies, and a he is to be buried only at the outer edges of the Jewish cemetery. He may not be called to the Torah in a synagogue, may not even touch a sefer torah. Jews may not eat in the home of a J-for-J". . .

But it is not just observant Jews who consider Jews for Jesus tobe an oxymoron. That view is widely held even among Jews who haven't been to synagogue in years, and who would no sooner give up bacon than they would sex or water. What then is the source of their view of Jews for Jesus? It is this: we Jews are a community, one that transcends -- when we are our better selves -- differences of observance, of nationality, of language. Whether yankees fans or red sox fans (or, non-baseball fans pu pu pu), we are all one people. Becoming a Jew for Jesus is not just a bothersome difference of opinion over a matter of observance; it is a very public renunciation of membership in the community. Indeed, Jews for Jesus are without exception people who feel no connection to the Jewish people, and don't want one. That they claim one in their name (devised by evangelical chrisitians, who founded the movement and fund it) only rubs salt in the wound.

Volokh is a bright man, and I'm surprised he can't understand this, or that it should bother him. Perhaps he is just being lawyerly, and his pet peeve is a symptpom of a lawyer's fetish for precision in language. But Jew is a term without "plain meaning," and the oxymoron claim is well justified if one understands the word "Jew" in all its complexity.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Sweet Reason!

McDonald's has prevailed in the latest round of the absurd and repulsive law suits blaming it for America's obesity. 3 cheers for U.S. district Judge Robert Sweet.

Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass

Dr. Laura's now an ex-Jew. Delightful news, on so many levels. Of course, having validly converted to the faith, she remains a Jew, from the point of view of halakha. That though, is a subtlety that will be lost on most of her admirers. (Hat tip to David Bernstein over at the Volokh Conspiracy). Bernstein thinks that Schlesinger's reputation for gay-bashing is undeserved. He says:

"[Schlesinger's] purported anti-gay bias is overblown to say the least. Before that controversy erupted, I heard her berate a caller for acting unkindly toward a homosexual relative. Dr. Laura said something along that lines of although homosexual acts are a sin, homosexuals as individuals must be treated with respect, just as we treat with respect people who violate the Sabbath, don't honor their parents, and engage in other sins. This certainly didn't sound to me like the attitude of a gay-basher.

If that were a true representation of Schlesiner's views, Bernstein might have a point. But this is what she really thinks. So Bernstein is all wet on this aspect of Dr. Laura's character. He does, however, quite rightly peg the hypocrisy of her de-conversion.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

LGF Goes Too Far

The weblog Little Green Footballs performs an invaluable service by tracking the hypocrisy of Arab/Islamic terrorists and their western apologists. But at times, I sense in Charles' tone that he has become so overcome with anger and frustration (and I empathize, believe me) that his commentary slides over into a knee-jerk bashing of anything connected to Islam. Today's post on Islamic banking practices is an example. Islam forbids the lending of money at interest, but modern commerce cannot exist without it. Islam has come up with devices to keep within the letter of the law, while managing to do, in substance, what the law appears to forbid. Charles' post describes the techniques, and I won't repeat that description here. LGF calls these techniques "a hypocritical mind game."

But anyone who's schooled in even basic talmud (and it would be generous to describe my knowledge of talmud as basic) will recognize in this "hypocritical mind game" the reasoning of the Talmud. Over and over again, the Talmud's binding law -- binding to this day -- contradicts what the Torah appears to demand explicitly. One example (and there are dozens) is the Talmud's softening of what appear to be unambiguous demands for capital punishment (Justice Scalia would make a miserable orthodox Jew). Under Jewish law as it has been interpreted by the sages since Sinai, most of the Torah's capital punishment edicts were never carried out. Another example, perhaps closer to the point. Physicians, like others, are not permitted to ply their trade on the Sababth (search the Torah for an exception; you'll search in vain). Yet simple human decency says otherwise -- surely the physician must be allowed to perform his duties on the Sabbath, or people will die needlessly. After all, death doesn't often take a holiday. And as you might expect, the Talmud carves just such an exception, pikuach nefesh. If it means saving someone's life, the physician (or anyone in a position to save the life) may, indeed, must, violate the sabbath. This is not hypocrisy, it is the law in action. People in glass houses . . .

p.s. I don't know Charles, and it's possible that he's a secular Jew who holds the Talmud in the same contempt as he holds Islamic banking. If so, then his criticism at least has some consistency to it. Yet strangely, he deicided only to ding the Islamists, and not the Talmudists. To me, that raises the inference that charles is simply looking -- out of a frustration and anger that I share and understand -- to ding Islam in any way he can. He only harms his own credibility when he does so.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

First they came for sadists . . .

If a statue showing a naked breast is too much for Ashcroft, then it stands to reason that films depicting actual breasts are are an outrage worthy of jail time. He's actually instructed the 94 US Attorneys to make the anti-porn crusade a priority.To be fair, it seems from the reports that little Johnny has gone out of his way to find films that are difficult to defend, the self-proclaimed "hardest of the hardcore." But he's chosen those films not because they're the only ones he's interested in, but because he wants a victory -- indeed a string of them -- to chill the entire pornography industry. And let's face it, not all porn is bad. Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that Ashcroft's anti-porn jihad (of which, it is worth noting, the Taliban, Catherine MacKinnon, and the mullahs of Iran would heartily approve) is a legitimate public policy, ought it to be a priority in the post 9/11 world?! Ashcroft is a worthless hemorrhoid of a man, easily the worst thing about the Bush administration, despite some stiff competition.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Coming Attractions

I've just finished reading Jon Krakauer's new book, Under the Banner of Heaven. Krakauer's a great story teller (his Everest account, Into Thin Air and his earlier book, Into the Wild are both must reads), but this latest work is problematic. Because he raises a number of questions in the book that I've always found intriguing (faith vs. reason, church vs. state, and the like), I'm going to try to get a fairly extensive essay worked up. For now, I'll just say Krakauer's undisguised skepticism of religious faith generally causes him to link a pair of brutal murders to the very nature of Mormonism. If the link is indeed there, Krakauer's analysis is far too glib to establish it.

Lies, and the Lying Lawyers Who Tell Them

In denying Fox's request for a preliminary injunction against Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, US District Judge Denny Chin stated: "There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case. This case is wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that by presenting a signed pleading to the court, an attorney is making four separate representations, and the violation of any of them opens the attorney to sanctions. Two of the four representations are that to the best of the attorney's knowledge information and belief (after reasonable investigation, so that wilfull ignorance is no defense):

(1) the pleading is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass . . .;

(2) the claims and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or a non-frivolous argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law or the establisment of new law.

Fox's complaint, clearly a pleading that comes within the rule, arguably violates both of these representations. But the first one, improper purpose, would be hard to prove. It requires the judge to find a bad intent, and because protecting one's trademark (however invalid the registration might be) is a proper purpose, it is unlikely, absent a "smoking gun" memo ("fuck Franken, sue his ass just to bug him"), no judge will dig deeper than that in evaluating the suit's purpose. But the second representation, that's a bit easier in this case. Judge Chin himself said the case was "wholly without merit, factually and legally." How far a step is it from there to "not warranted by existing law, nor supported by a non-frivolous argument for the extension, modification, reversal of existing law?" If I were Franken's lawyer, I'd be inclined (after a reasonable investigation) to file a motion under Rule 11(c)(1) and ask for a hefty fine.
UPDATE: Sadly, Fox has seen reason and dropped the suit.That dooms the idea of monetary sanctions against Fox's lawyers, as such a motion must allow the lawyer agsinst whom sanctions are sought to withdraw the offending pleading. The dismissal also deprives the court of authority to act on its own to sanction Fox's attorneys. Too bad. L'Affaire Franken was fun while it lasted.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Fucking Moron

Dubya, that is. After last week's blackout, he stopped spreading his legs for the wealthy republicans of Orange County long enough to go on the air and reassure us all. Trouble is, he's so fucking stupid that no one with half a brain winds up reassured. On Thursday, in his first comments, he repeatedly referred to the blackout as a "rolling blackout." Then he did it again the next day suggesting either that the people who prep him aren't very smart themselves (not true, sadly), or that he's simply unteachable. Unlike last week's blackout, George, rolling blackouts are planned. They're a method, albeit a shitty one, to deal with demand for electricity that exceeds supply. You could have asked any of the Californians you met last week about this. They're very familiar with them.

And what galls me about this more than Bush's stupidity itself (he delegates most important functions to people smarter, if no less evil than he, anyway) is the fact that he gets a free pass from the media. If you've seen a reference to this glaring error in a newspaper or mainstream media outlet (or even in a blog more widely read than this one) let me know.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

11. Thou shalt not force thy religion

down the throats of thy fellow citizens. And yet, in the proud tradition of Missibamiana government officials, Chief Justice Roy Moore has announced his intention to defy a federal court order, and force his religion down the throats of his fellow Missibamianans. To be fair, Moore has announced only that he will take his case to the Supreme Court, after losing in the District Court and the Court of Appeals. Of course, unless Moore applies for and receives a stay of the district court's order pending the Supreme Court's ruling -- or decision not to take the case, he's courting a contempt citation. And there can be little doubt that he'd disobey the Supreme Court as well. Federal marshals forcibly restraining Moore while they remove his theses from the wall for him? I hope it doesn't come to that.

UPDATE 8/19: The trial court denied Moore's request for a stay. Moore's applied to the Eleventh Circuit for a stay, but I think they'll deny it too, having already upheld the trial court on the merits. And unfortunately, there won't be any showdown with federal marshals. Moore will simply be fined for contempt, and the taxpayers of Missibamiana will be poorer by $5,000 a day than they already are -- unless, as is apparently the case, other state officials simply remove the monument in compliance with the order, Moore be damned. Thanks to appellateblog for the links.

Everybody's doing it . . .

Fair and Balanced . . . It's the new black. Not only are Lord Voldemort's minions smug and nasty, they're also humorless.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Passion Fruit

I haven’t seen the film. But I’ve read enough of the frothing criticism to know that the Anti-Defamation League has gone seriously, seriously wrong by calling for Gibson to modify his film before releasing it.

To demonstrate, let’s assume that every factual allegation Abe Foxman has made is true. That is, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Gibson’s film:

(1) ”portrays Jewish authorities and the Jewish "mob" as forcing the decision to torture and execute Jesus, thus assuming responsibility for the crucifixion.”

(2) “relies on sinister medieval stereotypes, portraying Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of God who lack compassion and humanity.”

(3) “relies on historical errors, chief among them its depiction of the Jewish high priest controlling Pontius Pilate.”

(4) “uses an anti-Jewish account of a 19th century mystical anti-Semitic nun, distorts New Testament interpretation by selectively citing passages to weave a narrative that oversimplifies history, and is hostile to Jews and Judaism.” and

(5) “portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of God and the locus of evil.”

Let’s also assume that each of the above flaws is compounded by the fact that they contradict the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, as Paula Fredriksen argued at length last month in the New Republic. Let’s assume that these contradictions of the Church’s teaching were deliberate: that Gibson believes, and wishes to propagate, these anti-Semitic canards. Let’s even go a step further, and suppose for the sake of argument that Gibson shares the loony, well documented, white supremacist and holocaust-denying beliefs of his evil father.

So what? To whom would this message appeal? Is the film so powerful that it would win converts to anti-Semitism who are not already inclined to hate? Or does the ADL believe people so weak-minded that despite the best intentions they would be manipulated by the film into becoming anti-Semites? I think not. Indeed, by producing the film in Aramaic and Latin (the latter, Fredriksen argues, being historically inaccurate, despite Mel’s claim to historical accuracy), Mel has already weeded out most of the weak-minded: Americans, effete intellectuals aside, are notoriously hostile to films with subtitles. Of the people in this country fluent in Aramaic, and thus able to understand the film without subtitles, 98% (or more) are observant Jews (who must know Aramaic because it is the principal language of the Talmud), and they are unlikely to join the ranks of the right-wing fringe.

Like would-be speech suppressers the world over, Foxman only does his cause harm with his jeremiad, giving Gibson publicity and prompting people to see the flick out of curiosity.

Foxman doesn’t see this. Today, the ADL put out a new press release, disclosing some of the – wait for it – anti-Semitic hate mail that was generated by its first press release. I’m not sure what Foxman’s purpose is in releasing the hate mail. It certainly proves nothing about any harm the film would do. All it does is drag some of the audience into the light of day. That’s good information to have. But at any rate, Foxman claims not to be calling for censorship of the film: “The League has not called for ‘censorship’ of the Gibson film, but rather asked for sensitivity to the dangerous implications of a conspiracy-oriented, historically false caricature of the Jews which has been repudiated by the Catholic Church itself.” Oh, I see: It’s not censorship Foxman wants it’s sensitivity. How should Mel show his sensitivity, though? Why, by “modifying” his film, of course. Abe, bubbeleh, if you talk like a censor and you smell like a censor, you’re a censor.

The country’s rapidly approaching the point where we enshrine in law a right not to be offended. In other places, like Australia, it’s already happened. When it happens here, God help us all (with, of course, no offense intended to you atheists and agnostics).

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Legal Tender

This isn't an earth shattering topic (or even, truth be told, a particularly interesting one), but there's just enough of the would-be law professor in me to offer a gloss on Volokh's post today about people miffed because they can't use a c-note to pay for their $4 latte. Volokh thinks that once the merchant gives you the goods (e.g., you pump your gas, then go to pay), the merchant is obliged to accept whatever legal tender you proffer. I think it's somewhat different. A merchant offers goods, and it's up to her on what terms she'll sell them. So if she puts up a sign that says "no bills larger than $20", she's simply stating "I'll sell you guess, if you agree to pay me in full, using no bill larger than a $20 bill." You take the gas, you've accepted her offer, you pay like she asks. If she doesn't have a sign, so you're not on notice of her terms, different result. No time to research it, but I'm pretty sure that's how it plays (and it may be that's what Volokh meant, but I didn't read his post that way).

Monday, August 04, 2003

President Hatred

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points posits that the dynamics of the Bush-hating and Clinton-hating phenomena are remarkably similar. Drezner's given him partial props, agreeing that the animus is parallel.

Marshall and Drezner are a lot smarter than I, but I have to disagree. Bush-hatred and Clinton-hatred differ fundamentally in their genesis and their manifestations. The jihad against President Clinton was a revanchiste movement. The species of Republican politicos that ran it never accepted that what Richard Nixon did was wrong -- criminally, historically, constitution-destroyingly wrong. They saw Watergate as nothing more than a garden variety political witchhunt. When they seized control of Congress, they were bound and determined to get their own pound of flesh. Clinton could have shown them bloody holes in his palms, and they'd still have gone after him. It was sheer dumb luck that their victim was flawed enough in character to make their work easy.

The media, for their part, were forever changed by Watergate. For the first time in history, Watergate made the media players, not just reporters. It was like a first hit of heroin to them. There hasn't been a so much as a six-inch snowstorm since 1973 that the press hasn't used to try to feed its addiction to power. So when something as juicy as the anti-Clinton jihad came along, they could no more resist it than Janis Joplin could a bag of smack. Sadly, Janis succumbed, and the press (in their ugly, senseless-addict incarnation) are still with us.

And of course, they had a ready-made audience. If the Republican politicos felt a political animal's need to get back at their enemies for Watergate, they were not some mutant, inside-the-beltway species. From 1965 until 1995, Democrats controlled the Congress and the political agenda. (No matter that for 20 of those of those 30 years we had Republican presidents. It is by now commonly acknowledged that Nixon's policies were in the main far more liberal than anything today's conservatives would countenance, or anythign today's Democrats would dare propose). And the Supreme Court, despite not having a single new justice appointed by a democrat between Thurgood Marshall in 1967 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, left largely undisturbed, and in many senses extended the work of the Warren Court. So resentment and a feeling of disenfranchisement among the most conservative elements in our polity had been brewing before Clinton -- whether rightly or wrongly -- for more than a generation.

Turn now to Bush-hatred. It shares none of these characteristics. For one thing, Democrats in Congress and other positions of power don't really feel it, or if they do, don't express it. For another, although our hatred of Bush (and for that matter, Ronald Reagan, Henry Hyde, Asa Hutchison, and the rest) is quite intense, it has never had to fester all that long without correction. We had the Carter administration, eight years of Clinton, and even against the backdrop of a Supreme Court we're, er, not fond of, key victories in cases like Romer, Casey, Lawrence, Dickerson, and Grutter. And, as others have noted, Democrats simply do not have the same ability as Republicans to focus ruthlessly on the goal of destroying a man. They have Bob Barr and TomDeLay, Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter. We have Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, MoDo and Anna Qundlen. No contest.

Drezner is right about one thing though: Clinton-hatred was not a powerful weapon for Republicans at the polls, and it won't win for Democrats in '04. Not that I know what will . . .

Monday, July 14, 2003

I'll Be Back Soon

May, June and July were busy months: getting married, moving, starting a new job, euthanizing a beloved pet (I'm still in heavy-duty denial on that one). We're temporarily at my wife's in-laws' place while we wait for our apartment to be ready, and my home computer is in storage, so it'll likely be late in July before my first new post -- which will no doubt be a mea culpa for my naivete in believing the liar-in-chief. Ciao for now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

More Depravity from the Press

Another day, another Palestinian murders innocents. The Guardian (as well as the Austin American Statesman and other papers that didn't bother to edit the AP's vicious headline) presents the news in this way: Bomb Mars Historic Day for Palestinians. Seems to me (and I'm just spitballing here) that the dead and injured Israelis and their families perhaps had their day marred just a tad more than the Palestinians, who were probably feting the "martyr" and rejoicing at the shedding of Jewish blood, as is their wont. Dollars to donuts, the murder was more important to this hideous people than the cosmetic change in their "government." permalink

Thursday, March 06, 2003

So Long, Neighbor

What with all the turmoil in the world, I forgot to mention this. Saddest news in a quite a while. The themes were obvious, and they get a little repetitive, but I doubt you can read through all six pages of cartoonists' Tributes to Mr. Rogers on Slate without a lump in your throat. I know I couldn't. May his soul be bound up in the bond of life.

Jingo Bells, Jingo Bells

I'm in favor of a war to depose Saddam and bring to an end Iraq's quest to achieve regional hegemony. And I'm no friend of the Arab world. But when pro war bloggers cross the line into jingoistic ad hominem attack, I have to call bullshit on them. In the linked item on Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson cites the insulting remark of the Iraqi delegate to an Arab summit to his Kuwaiti counterpart, which has been translated, no doubt word for word, from Arabic as "Shut up you monkey. Curse be upon your mustache, you traitor." Now if one were to criticize diplomats acting like children, fair enough. One ought to expect high public officials, even when in high dudgeon, to carry themselves with a bit more dignity than that. But Johnson's criticism goes farther. He says:"These are the leaders of the Islamic world. When they get angry, the worst, nastiest insult that pops out of them is a frickin’ curse upon their opponent’s facial hair." Here, Johnson shows his own ignorance about the about the nature of language, and the perils of literal translation. My knowledge of Arabic is limited to a very few phrases, but I think it fairly obvious from the reaction it engendered that the insult, although odd to English ears, hit a nerve in Arabic. Hell, even the New York Post managed to report the incident accurately without being snide. And if you think the LGF post was bad, you see the string of comments he got.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Bye bye, Judgeship

Oh well, my chances of ever being nominated or elected to the bench were pretty slim anyway, so I'll just call this one as I see it. John Ashcroft is out of his mind. Not just content with depriving suspects of lawyers, or covering up naked breasts on statues, he's now focusing on another "peril": pot smokers. (thanks to Instapundit for the link). Ashcroft is hardly the first public official to waste precious public moneys waging "the war on drugs." But to focus on marijuna is particularly absurd. According to Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, "moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health." Perhaps more to the point, the Lancet editorial stated "it would be reasonable to judge cannabis less of a threat to health than alcohol or tobacco, products that i[n] many countries are not only tolerated and advertised, but are also a useful source of tax revenue." Are there non-health based justifications for criminalising marijuana use? The only one ever proffered is that marijuana is a "gateway drug." Only problem is, the gateway theory is pretty much a load of crap. Assistant United States Attorneys are some of the most talented lawyers in America, and they're paid pretty handsomely (albeit less than private sector lawyers), with your tax dollars and mine. Aren't their talents (and those of the FBI and DEA, for that matter) better used for more important matters?

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Ashcroft Running Amok?

The war on terrorism is being used as an excuse for eroding the right to counsel. I'm no fan of Matt Hale, the white supremacist at issue in the news story. And the crime of which he's accused -- conspiring to murder a federal judge -- is one that strikes at the very heart of our system of justice. But if we, on the flimsiest of grounds, restrict the right to counsel, then we do Hale's work for him. The Tribune article says that the restrictions on access to counsel are used rarely. Perhaps so, but restrictions on the right to counsel, whether the administrative rules used in Hale's case, or the "emeny combatant" designations at issue in the Hamdi and Padilla cases,are being used more frequently now, as best I can tell, than ever before. Less than two months ago, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the government could hold suspected terrorist Yaser Hamdi incommunicado indefintely and without access to counsel. Phillippe de Croy, on the Volokh Conspiracy correctly pointed out at the time that Hamdi was an easier case -- because Hamdi was not a US citizen -- than the Padilla case, where General Ashcroft is arguing that he can name an American citizen an "enemy combatant", a designation that under the Fourth Circuit's holding would essentially be beyond judicial review, and use that designation to strip the poor sod of his right to counsel, his right to a speedy and public -- or indeed, any -- trial, holding the "enemy combatant" incommunicado until hell freezes over. "While expeditious, and
certainly painless, [that] might not be in a manner of speaking,
the American way."

The Hale case takes Ashcroft's diabolical heavy-handedness to a new level. Hale, vile though he may be, neither represents nor is connected to a terrorist threat of any magnitude. He is part of a fringe movement best contained not by suppression, by exposure to the broad light of day. If rodents like Hale can't be defeated without subverting the Constitution, then what's the good of having the thing at all? Hale's lawyer plans to appeal Ashcroft's decision. Here's hoping he wins, and promptly. UPDATE: According to today's (i.e., 3/5/03) Chicago Tribune, the Special Administrative Measures have not been used, in Hale's case, to block his access to his lawyer -- yet. Instead, he has simply been cut off from virtually all contact with other outsiders, including incoming and outgoing mail and phone calls, and visits with his family. I still have a few issues with special administrative measures (especially since they may limit his counsel's ability toprepare for his defense), but as currently applied in Hale's case, they don't yet implicate his right to counsel, and I concede that prosecutors are entitled to more discretion in such matters than they are on access to counsel.permalink

Monday, March 03, 2003

This Ain't Vietnam

Instapundit links to this column by Gerald Posner, a supporter of the war against Iraq, who is now embarrassed by his participation in protests against the Vietnam War. His embarrassment reflects the same misunderstanding of history demonstrated by the AWIBs, who see themselves as the proud heirs of the anti-Vietnam War movement. So I'll say it again: This Ain't Vietnam. Posner has a point when he says that he, and others in the anti-war movement, were naive about the nature of the Ho Chi Minh and his cohorts. History has proved that like all Marxists, they were brutal, tyrannical, vile. But in the 1950's and 1960s, they were also genuinely popular among their own people. The regime in South Vietnam that we were propping up was no better -- it too was a cruel, autocratic regime. And had we packed up our troubles in our old kit bag in 1964, instead of having our own President swindle us with the Tonkin "crisis", the true impact -- on Indochina and on the eventual course of the Cold War -- would have been negligible, and the impact on our own polity immeasurably positive. Johnson and Nixon's war was indefensible, and we who stood against it (even as precocious pre-teens) should always be proud of having done so. (That doesn't mean that those who spit on soldiers should be proud. That is repulsive behavior in any context, and attacked entirely the wrong targets. That doesn't mean that Jane Fonda was right to have gone to North Vietnam. But the entire anti-war movement was not wrong for those excesses, any more than John McCain, John Kerry, and thousands of others who served honorably and heroically in Vietnam should be tarred with the same brush as Calley and the butchers of My Lai.). Understanding history is vital to understanding the present, but we have got to get beyond seeing every international crisis through the lens of Vietnam. permalink

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Be Not Idle Spectators

"My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total and I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." Barbara Jordan, of blessed memory, said that nearly thirty years ago at the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the impeachment of Richard Nixon. That is what each and every one of us must be saying to General Ashcroft, every day, loud and clear. My support for the war should in no way be construed as support for the wholesale destruction of civil liberties in which the administration is engaged. Nat Hentoff, though sometimes bordering on hysteria, has been keeping close tabs. His latest column is a must read, and a call to action. Let your senators and congressmen know how you feel. Send the Hentoff link to your friends, and tell them to act, too. And if you weren't old enough to hear Barbara Jordan live in 1974 (I was a nerdy enough sixth grader that I spent more of my summer vacation than I perhaps should have watching the hearings), you really should listen to the mp3 clip at the site above. permalink

Friday, February 28, 2003

When We Build It, They Will Come

This post is not as timely as a blog should be, but I'm posting it anyway. So it's Libeskind for Lower Manhattan. I think that's the wiser choice from the two finalists, and an inspiring vision, although I was rooting for Norman Foster and crew. I thought it crucial that the design chosen incorporate a twin towers element, and that those twin towers be as architecturally audacious in our day as the WTC towers were in theirs. This would be a deliberate "fuck you" to the Islamofascists, a testament not only to our greater economic strength, but to our superior conception of the human heart, mind, and soul -- the very source of that greater economic strength. I thought the Foster towers did that beautifully. I'm content with the Libeskind design, though, because although it does not do the obvious homage with twinned towers, it is still breathtaking in its audacity. The THINK plan, the second finalist, failed that test. While it had a twin towers element, they were mostly empty, functionless latticework, and openly derivative of the Eiffel Tower, a photo of which THINK actually included in their slide show. The Eiffel Tower was the WTC of its day, but boldness, not imitation, is what's called for here. I also disliked THINK's decision to place the 9/11 memorial at the apex of their Eiffel knock-offs. Foster's memorial, by contrast, planned voids, on the footprints of the WTC, that I thought much more appropriate. See today's New York Times for a commentary about descending to memorials, rather than ascending. I think this article sums up the point nicely. Libeskind, like Foster, sees the memorial in the same way.

A good friend and I had a dialogue about the choices back when the current group of plans was unveiled last fall. We both agreed that they represented an improvement on the sterile, uninspired choices from the first attempt earlier in 2002, but he felt that we had an opportunity, in the wake of the horror of 9/11, to reclaim the historic character of the neighborhood that the WTC itself had destroyed. Like me, my friend can have no real memory of that character -- we were 9 when the WTC opened in 1971; I lived in Boston, he in sunny California. And although I agree that we are generally too quick to shed old buildings in this country (Steve Martin exclaiming to Victoria Tennant that "some of these buildings are over twenty years old in L.A. Story is one of the funniest lines in film), you can't go home again. The WTC had a transformational effect on Lower Manhattan. It is no more possible to restore the old character of the neighborhood than it is to make Hester, Rivington, and Delancey once again the center of the American-Jewish experience. My friend also pointed out that it took 12 years for the WTC to reach full occupancy after it was built, and that we don't need that much office in lower Manhattan. I respond to that argument in part with the title to this post, and also with the observation that the core buildings of New College, Oxford are more than 600 years old.

The friend in question is one of the few loyal readers of my ramblings, and I suspect he has yet more to say on the subject. So I shall post his reply here without delay. permalink

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Don’t know much about history . . .

I think we need a corollary to the old Santayana aphorism about remembering the past, because the parade of commentators twisting history in the service of Saddam Hussein is astounding. Molly Ivins’s insipid, name-dropping love letter to the French (see the post immediately below) is hardly alone. So today, I’ll hit two more. First up is Russell Martin’s diatribe from NPR a couple weeks back. (It was delivered in sonorous, soothing NPR-tone, but it was a diatribe nonetheless) I heard it on my way into the office and almost drove off the road. Martin is a historian and author of the book “Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece That Changed the World”. A tapestry of the painting in question which hangs in the UN is often a backdrop for dignitaries giving press conferences there. In a stupid and indefensible move reminiscent of General Ashcroft’s ridiculous prudery at the DOJ, the tapestry was covered during a press conference the day that Colin Powell made his presentation to the Security Council. Martin comments:

.Three years prior to his invasion of Poland, Adolf Hitler sent planes, tanks and troops into Spain in support of General Francisco Franco, who was attempting to overthrow that country's popularly elected government. On April 26th, 1937, in the late afternoon of a busy market day, in the town of Guernica, Hitler's Luftwaffe began relentless bombing, and three and a half hours later, the village lay in utter ruins, its population decimated. Hitler's act of terror and unspeakable cruelty outraged the world, and painter Pablo Picasso responded with artistic fury, creating a massive canvas that would become his testament in opposition to the horrors of war.

And a marvelous testament it is. But is it not fair to ask, had the world responded with force in aid of the Republican cause, would Spain have been spared forty years of Franco’s tyranny? Perhaps Prime Minister Aznar has asked that very question, and this is what motivates his staunch support of America now.

The UN's decision not to allow “Guernica's” images to be used as a backdrop for discussions about whether Iraq should be attacked preemptively are ironic, given the Pentagon's stated intention to intensively bombard Baghdad, a city of five million people, as the war commences. US defense planners call this type of attack `shock and awe,' a tactic meant to overwhelm the Iraqis with so much initial force that their will to defend themselves will be shattered, the strategy that Nazi Germany's military leaders called blitzkrieg, and tested for the first time in Guernica.

There you have it: an outright comparison of the United States to Nazi Germany. I’m not a military historian, and I can’t say whether American military plans for the bombardment of Baghdad bear any actual resemblance to the Nazis' destruction of Guernica. I rather doubt it, but let me take the comparison at face value. I think it is incumbent on one who would make such an accusation to show not just that the tactics are similar, but also that the world’s casus belli against Iraq is as nefarious as the Nazis’ in Guernica (which, as far as I know, was simply a training exercise for the campaign to subjugate the continent of Europe). Unless one proceeds from Jimmy Carter’s assertion that war “is always an evil, never a good,” it is simply grotesque to compare the two. I reject Carter’s formulation, because a war, like the coming war, which promises to prevent even worse horrors to come, is a net good. Martin apparently disagrees. He continues

It may be that as they finalize plans for a preemptive war against Iraq, Mr. Bush and his strategists have carefully considered the lessons of Guernica and the different course history might have taken if Hitler had been stopped as he aggressively entered Spain. Yet if the Bush administration does see a correlation, it misses a vital point. A bold strike against Hitler would have been made in response to his slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians and not on the possibility that he might do so. It remains difficult to imagine that any nation in the world would have sanctioned a military strike against Hitler that year had his troops, tanks and planes remained inside Germany's own borders, had the town of Guernica continued to stand. Yes, the Nazis were amassing sophisticated new weaponry at an alarming pace, precisely the charge that Saddam Hussein stands accused of today. But the decision to go to war before one's enemies do is the thinking of despots, not statesmen.

Shall we call this the Martin One Free Atrocity Rule? He’s honestly saying that the French were right not to have stopped Hitler when he occupied the Rhineland (which might well have resulted in the General staff deposing him). Of course, Saddam has already gotten more than just one free atrocity. Just ask the Kuwaitis, the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs (not to mention the Iranians, but then they gave as good as they got). The question for Martin and his simplistic AWIB (All War Is Bad) cohorts is how many more people must die at this man’s hands before you say genug shayn (that’s Yiddish for “enough already”).

Then there’s yesterday’s New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. Kristof thinks that Saddam Hussein is no more menacing than Nasser in ’56, and that Ike’s handling of the Suez Crisis should be our model today. Anyone who disagrees with him is a “shrieking hawk.” For brevity’s sake, I’ll take at face value Kristof’s assertion that Nasser really wasn’t that much of a menace, pausing only to note that Israelis might disagree.

But Kristof asserts that “Eisenhower . . . faced a crisis in Egypt similar to today's.” I think not. Today’s situation differs from 1956 in at least two crucial respects. First, in 1956, there were two superpowers, who contained most international conflicts between their client states. Today, the bi-polar world is gone, and regional conflicts that were suppressed in the good old days of MAD are not as easily checked. Saddam Hussein has no external constraint on his ambitions except the United States and its allies. Second, although Nasser apparently tried to go nuclear it was a goal well beyond his reach. Nuclear proliferation in 1956 (or even 1967) wasn’t what it is today. Saddam Hussein, by contrast, continues an effort to obtain nuclear weapons (see especially pp. 24-27) that would already have borne fruit had not Israel had the foresight and the will to bomb the Osirak reactor in 1981. So whatever the West’s perceptions of Nasser in ’56 (and not being an expert in public perceptions in 1956, I’ll again give Kristof the benefit of the doubt), Saddam Hussein is, in fact, a greater threat to regional stability and world peace than Nasser could have hoped to be in his wildest fantasies.

Kristof’s errors are not, however, confined to this facile analogy. He tells us

hawks have a consistent track record of shrieking obsessively and seeing one minor country after another as global threats — in an eye-bulging, alarmist way that in retrospect looks hysterical. In the 1950's and 1960's, the hawks magnified the threat from Vietnam and Cuba. In the 1980's they obsessed about Nicaragua (only a one-week bus ride from Texas!). None of these threats were imagined, but they were exaggerated.

It seems to me that all the shrieking these days is coming from the AWIBs, who are in such hysteria over this war, and have so lost their perspective, that they routinely, with complete sincerity compare George Bush to Adolf Hitler. Personally, I’m no great fan of war. Opposition to the Vietnam War (and the Nixon administration) was my political mother’s milk. My mom wore a war is not healthy for children and other living things pendant, and in a box somewhere in my parents' home is the neon blue peace sign and other paraphernalia from my childhood bedroom wall that establish my anti-war bona fides. In college during the 80’s, I hated Reagan, and while I’ve come to appreciate a couple of things about the man, I still pretty much do. I still think Abbie Hoffman was a great American, and revisionist history notwithstanding, I still revere Jack, Bobby and Ted. So I’m hardly a “hawk.” But this ain’t Vietnam. Kristof’s lumping together of current “hawks” with historical hawks is, I suppose, a necessary corollary to AWIB philosophy. But it’s counterfactual, like a lot of the AWIB propaganda that’s being printed in our newspapers and aired on NPR these days.