Friday, September 29, 2006

S & S recommends

My son thinks that his father has a thing for, as he puts it, "quirky, chick singers." I am afraid that he is right. Beyond all reason, I am a fan of Rickie Lee Jones, Dolores O'Riordan of the Cranberries, and, the Queen, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (her politics suck but the Shark is all about the music.) My latest is Shannon McNally. Definitely worth a listen.

Islamofascism revisited

A while back, I addressed the question of whether "Islamism" can be properly characterized as fascist, something which the most overrated Senator in America thinks is beyond the pale. (Here and here. I think so. Lefty blogger David Neiwert thought I had not done my homework and no serious scholar would think such a thing, but I argued that Whatever It is That Motivates Terrorist lines up awfully well with scholarly definitions of fascism.

But I hadn't done my homework because I was unable to point to that body of scholarly opinion that has made precisely the point that is supposed to show that W. is just too dumb to live. You can read about it here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shark Held Hostage - Day 8

I have been down for a week with the Islamofascist flu, but the amoxicillin seems, finally, to be kicking in.

Xoff and the Journal-Sentinel don't like Mark Green's claim that the paper reported that Doyle's lawyer tried to secretly rig an election board in order to steal the election.

They are right in that the paper didn't characterize it that way but, as political ads go, that's a minor offense. Can the facts that they did report be characterized that way?

"Steal the election" is a bit of hyperbole. Most people would assume that has something to do with vote totals, although Doyle was certainly not motivated by anything other than gaining an advantage in the election. I wouldn't have put it that way (but, then again, no one would hire me as a political consultant), but still a minor infraction.

Did Doyle's lawyer "secretly rig" the vote? Yes and no. What he did was done in secret. But I don't know that he could have rigged the vote since the fix was in as soon as the Dems knew what would favor Doyle and harm Green. He was just confirming the tank job.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Green denied

I have read Judge Niess' decision denying Mark Green's motion for an injunction blocking enforcement of the State Election Board's decision requiring him to divest certain money that had been converted from his federal to his state account.

To begin with, I do not discount what the judge had to say because he is a Doyle appointee. Judges, in general, struggle to get beyond that and his opinion should be judged by the strength of his legal reasoning and not by the provenance of his place on the bench. There is no reason to think that Judge Niess did anything other than try to call it as he sees it.

Having said that the conclusion he reaches is far from obvious.

It is painful to read the mischaracterization of it in the blogoshere. Xoff, for example, says the judge ruled that the conversion was illegal. Close, but not quite. He ruled that Green had not demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success which was the only issue before him on a motion for preliminary relief. The merits of Green's claim are, strictly speaking, still before him.

But Bill's misstatement is not so bad given that I think it's likely that the judge will ultimately rule that the SEB was right. This is so because he bought into the argument that, even thought this may have been a change in state law - in other words, Green was not permitted to do something that (four years earlier) Tom Barrett (over Xoff's objection) had been allowed to do - the reason is because of a subsequent change in federal law.

The lefty blogosphere acts as if this change was obvious. It's not. In fact, I think it may be a fairly weak argument. The claim is that a 2004 amendment in the BCRA (the Orwellian-named "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act"), listing permitted uses for federal campaign contributions, prohibited the type of conversions that Wisconsin had always permitted. This is so, the Court reasoned, because the amended BCRA permits donations to state and local candidates only in conformity with state law.

There are two problems with this. One is that when we speak of "what is permitted by state law" might that not include the fact that the SEB in Wisconsin had, in the few cases which it came up, permitted conversion of federal contributions to state accounts? How can we carve out only some state law (those on regulation of PACs making in-contributions)and not the law permitting conversions?

The second is that a conversion is not obviously the same as a donation to a state and local candidate. The latter seems just as likely to refer to money given to someone else than money that one already possesses converted to a different use. We normally don't think of money that we give to ourselves as "donations."

The circuit court's decision amounts to a holding that Congress placed a new limit on federal to state conversions without expressly saying so. That can happen, but I think it would be a disfavored interpretation.

The court (in fairness, this was a preliminary decision) did not say much to justify that conclusion. Only about 3 pages of it's 15 page decision are devoted to the merits and my first objection is unaddressed while my second is relegated to a footnote. The footnote says that, if Congress wished to exclude donations to oneself, it could have said so. True. But one could just as easily say that, if Congress wanted to federalize the application of limitations on contributions to state candidates to conversions, it would have said so. That's a pretty big thing to do by implication.

Even if the circuit court was right, it is not obviously right (all questions do not have obvious answers) and to say, as Doyle's campaign blog still does, that this means that Green "chooses with laws to obey" in an "outrageous" manner is more than I could ever do.

And I'm a shark. As we used to say, in the day, grok that.

S-squared at C-squared

I have been extended blogging "privileges" at Constitutionally Correct, a law blog operated by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative public interest law firm with which I work. My first post there is here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't get too happy

On another widespread misinterpretation of the significance of a legal development, I know that there are some lefty bloggers who think Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy's dismissal of a lawsuit by development partnership Prism alleging impropriety in the award of the Kenilworth Building contract shows that those allegations were "baseless" and that no one acted improperly. Jay Bullock is one.

The allegations may have been baseless, but it is simply not possible to draw that conclusion from Judge Malloy's decision. As Sean Hackbarth suspected in an e-mail query to me on Thursday, the decision had nothing to do with the merits of those allegations.

Malloy was ruling on a motion to dismiss. Essentially, a motion to dismiss says, even if all the allegations in the complaint are true, the plaintiff can't win and, therefore, the case should be dismissed. By definition, it does not pass upon the truth or falsity of what is alleged.

In this case, Malloy found that the matter was "moot." In our legal system, judges generally don't pass upon the legality of things that can no longer be fixed. The case brought by Prism was review of an agency decision under Chapter 227 in which damages are unavailable. All you can do is reverse the agency or tell it to act again.

In this case, however, that wasn't possible because the Kenilworth contract had already been let. In other words, the pork was out of the pen and could not be put back in. Under those circumstances, Judge Malloy concluded, the case is moot. There was, he believed, nothing he could do to fix what had happened (if, indeed, it merited fixing), so there was no reason to proceed.

Although Judge Malloy apparently made some statements from the bench on the irregularity of the process, you can't read much into that either. There was not a full exposition of the merits of the underlying allegations.

In short, the decision means Prism is out of luck. It doesn't tell us a fig about whether there was something wrong with the way in which the Kenilworth contract was awarded.

BONUS OBSERVATION: Nor does it mean anything that the State Department of Justice is arguing that the State Election Board was correct in forbidding Mark Green's transfer of federal funds to his state account. It is the AG's job to represent state agencies. Had the SEB gone the other way, so would the DOJ.

Wiley contacts State Election Board

Although some may argue that the fact that GOP executive director Rick Wiley contacted State Election Board member John Savage prior to the vote on Mark Green's transfer of federal campaign contributions to his state account somehow neutralizes the furor over Doyle attorney Mike Maistelmann's orchestration of the Democrat majority's retroactive adoption of a rule prohibiting the transfer, I think not.

First, there is no evidence that Wiley did what Maistelman did, i.e., inform board members of what "powers that be" would go along with and tell them what "we" want to accomplish. There is no evidence that he urged them to rule so, at the very least, Green would look bad and have to spend money on lawyers.

But let's assume that he did all of this. It just underscores that the SEB "ruling" was an exercise in partisan hacksmanship and that the Democrat hacks outvoted the Republican hacks. There was nothing impartial about it and it says nothing about the Mark Green's ethics or even his compliance with pre-existing law.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kick Sobran under the bus? It's tempting, but ...

James Wigderson - at 2 am - sent an e-mail to Wisconsin political bloggers to place pressure on the Wisconsin Forum to rescind an invitation to columnist Joseph Sobran to speak at the MAC this coming Thursday. Sobran is a former editor of the National Review who was removed from the masthead of that magazine for writings that were deemed to be anti-semitic or, as Bill Buckley once put it, inconsistent with the "welcome" structure of "prevailing taboos" concerning Jews and Israel. James wants us all to pressure the Wisconsin Forum to give Sobran the boot.

I am not unsympathetic to James' position, but, ultimately, I disagree.

Where I come from: Although I am a practising Christian (Anglican; hence use of the letter "s"), I am ethnically half Jewish. My wonderful daughter-in-law is Jewish and intends to raise my outstanding little grandson in that great tradition. When it comes to Israel, I am militant. If the Islamofascists (that word again) want global jihad over the right of little Israel to exist, I'm in. Israel may be, as Sobran says, an "expensive ally" from whom we have little material to gain, but everything that is decent compels that we give her our strong, if not uncritical, support.

I think the idea that Jews have some ill-gotten disproportionate influence in American life is laughable. While it is true that Jews are represented at high levels of certain professions at a level that greatly exceeds their share of the general population (mine is one of them), they have earned it. If you are embarassed by it, shut up and study harder.

There are two perversions of Christianity that just floor me. One is the historic failure on the part of many Christians to recognize the equality of women that screams from the Gospels. Granted it was a completely countercultural, but what do you expect from the Son of God? The other is anti-semitism. I am with John Paul II on this. You cannot be a good Christian and an anti-semite. It's incoherent.

As for Joe Sobran, my impression is that he is an intelligent writer who says stupid things about Jews and Israel. Its hard not to think that there isn't a black part in his heart, although Buckley has denied that this is so.

But I am not a fan of imposing orthodoxies on who can be invited to speak - particularly after the speaker has been invited. There are some people with bad opinions who make no sense. They cannot be engaged because they are uninterested in the rules of rationality. Ward Churchill, Kevin Barry and homophobe (the word fits here) Fred Phelps are examples. There is no point in inviting them to speak because discourse is not possible.

I am not convinced that Sobran falls into that category. I think he is almost completely wrong about what I take to be the premise of his talk, i.e., that "the Jews" (as if they are a monolithic body)have taken over conservatism. But I don't know that he is incapable of linear thought or that the subject itself is beyond polite company.

So I don't think the Wisconsin Forum ought to be pressured to disinvite him.

I do think he was a poor choice. Were I advising a conservative group on who to have speak, I'm not so sure I'd choose someone who makes conservatives look bad. But they did and we're grown-up enough to hear what he has to say.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What's wrong with Doyle

Jay Bullock (as Xoff before him) thinks Jim Doyle is getting a bum deal from the local press. Didn't Tommy Thompson give contributors a break? Doyle attorney Mike Maistelman's (perhaps) legal orchestration of the Election Board's ex post facto rule forbidding Green's transfer of legally raised federal funds to his state account was on the front page, Jay complains, while a report that some people contributed to Green's congressional account and to his federal account and that the combined amounts exceeded state contribution limits was less prominently featured. The latter, Jay says, is illegal.

As a preliminary matter, its only "illegal" if you buy into the charade that was the SEB's decision. If a GOP-controlled SEB had permitted a GOP candidate to transfer federal funds and then, in the very next gubernatorial cycle, voted that a Democrat candidate could not - the day after the Democrat candidate had, in reliance on the then-existing rule, done so - Jay and Xoff would be apoplectic. If the GOP candidate then ran ads painting the Democrat as some kind of wanton criminal, they'd start foaming at the mouth. If they then found out that the GOP candidate's lawyer had secret communications with members of the Board instructing them on "what we want to accomplish," they would succumb to the curse of lycanthropy.

This is true even if you think that recent changes in federal law change the earlier result or if you believe that the state election board was wrong when they let Barrett transfer his federal funds. The worst you can say about Green is that he did what appeared to be legal (informing the SEB as he did it) and that the SEB decided that the law had changed or had been interpreted incorrectly. To say, as Doyle does, that this means Green was "caught" deliberately breaking the law is just shameful. It is the type of crass behavior that Jim Doyle (on his own and not because of bad press) has come to be known for.

And that's just a symptom of the Doyle problem. All politicians are a bit nicer to their contributors and are driven by their key constituencies, but Doyle is gracelessly blatant about it. All political campaigns play fast and loose with the truth, but the Doylies' addiction to dishonesty in the service of victory reminds one of Tommy Flanagan, Jon Lovitz' old character on SNL. "Why, I ... I didn't know we had hired a lawyer to screw my opponent out of a cool half mill. Yeah, that's the ticket. I never even heard of Mark Green."

After all of this, Doyle has developed the persona of a ruthless pol who is all about himself. He appears to have no vision for the future of the state other than that Jim Doyle should be its governor and there is little that he won't do or say to make that happen. If you speak privately to committed liberals, many will say that he's a sleaze and they can't stand him, but they are more opposed to Mark Green's policies than they are disgusted with their governor. For them, Doyle is a rearguard action. He keeps the conservatives at bay.

Can you win a statewide election that way?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Doyle's on fire again

Having spent the morning semi-comatose, I'm late to the story, but imagine my surprise when I weaved down the stairs this morning and found that my daily newspaper was sitting on the counter with smoke pouring from its pages.

The Dem spin on the Election Board's ruling that Green could not transfer legally raised federal money to his state account was that the Board "found this" as if the SEB were a Council of impartial elders, furrowing brows and contemplating the truth.

If that were the case - if the SEB was acting as an impartial tribunal - it would not be permissible to ex parte its members. If I call a judge (in the absence of the other side) and ask for a little love on a pending motion, I will soon become intimately acquainted with the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

Nor could I ask a judge to find in my favor because it will be a PR victory for my side and force my opponents to spend money. A lawyer may not take a position to harass or delay.

If its OK to contact the SEB on a pending matter, it is because it is acting in a quasi-legislative capacity. Legislators don't "find" things, they vote on them. Its an exercise of power and the one with the most votes wins. In this case, Democrat partisans had the votes to stick it to Green and they did so.

That may be legal but is it is hardly scandalous for the losing side.

Of course, apart from the legality, this looks awful. Here's Maistelman carefully circumventing the open meetings laws and telling these intrepid seekers of truth what the "powers that be" had deemed acceptable. Here he is again telling them that they can tie Green up in the courts and make him look bad.

The Journal Sentinel says Maistelman denied that he was representing Doyle at the hearing. What is that about? Did he just remember? Or did he think he could take off his lawyer hat and disavow his client when he entered the hearing room?

You can't blame Doyle for denying that he knew about this. But how plausible is that? Was he really indifferent to the matter before the SEB? And, if he was briefed on it, wouldn't one of the first items of conversation be that they had retained counsel.

S & S Scratches

My trip to Wausau - and appearance on WPR - was cancelled. I came down with this Islamofascist flu (the name is a joke) that been going around my office. I wanted to go anyway, but the Reddess physically blocked the door and, even though she's about 5-4 and a buck-ten, in my condition she would have put my lights out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on the Air - In Wausau

For those of you in North Central Wisconsin, I will be on "Route 51" on Wisconsin Public Radio tomorrow afternoon between 5 and 6, debating the marriage amendment.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Threat to Islam

Dad29 links to a statement by local Muslim leader Othman Atta criticizing the Pope's recent remarks as contributing to the "discredited and false, yet persistent belief among many in the West that Islam is a faith that preaches violence ...." Atta says that the Pope gives aid and comfort to those who would use an "infinitesimally small group of extremists to define an entire faith tradition."

All religious traditions can be - and have been - abused. While our modern conception of the Crusades as simply wars of aggression is, at best, incomplete, they certainly came to involve (if they did not from the out set) perversions of Christianity. The Inquisition was not entirely a religious phenomenon, but it too is impossible to reconcile with Christianity's foundational texts.

Some people argue that Islam lends itself - even explicitly calls for - the spread of the faith by violence. Mr. Atta obviously does not think so and, assuming (as I do) that he is sincere, there is little to be gained from arguing with him about what Islam means to him and those he worships with. If he has settled upon a peaceful Islam, that's wonderful.

The problem for the rest of us is that it doesn't much look like those who adhere to a nastier version of the faith are am "infinitesimally small group." While I guess the number of people who have actually committed terrorist acts could be characterized as very small (although not "infinitesimally"), the number who support them does not seem to be. The numbers rioting after publication of the Danish cartoons does not seen to be. The number who live under Sharia law does not seem to be.

What Mr. Atta ought to understand is that the biggest threat to Muslims in the US and Europe is not the innate chauvinism of Christians, Jews and secularists, but the outrages perpetrated in the name of his faith. People can ignore what they see for only so long. If Muslims seek tolerance for Islam, they are going to have far more vocal and active in their own intolerance for - call it what you want - Islamist terror, Islamic Fascism or Those Guys.

This is so without regard to whether the Koran "really" can be read to support violence. The threat posed by some acting in the name of Islam is intolerable and that lack of tolerance will inevitably come to include Islam generally unless the oft-posited but seldom heard from moderate Muslims become very proactive in opposing their more bloodthirsty co-religionists.

This may be unfair, but its inevitable and it will happen no matter how careful we are about not using "mean" terms like Islamic Fascism that call a thing what it is. People figure it out.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Northshore Grassroots Forum on Marriage

Last Wednesday, I participated in a debate on the marriage amendment sponsored by the Northshroe Grassroots organization. I spoke on behalf of the amendment, along with Pastor Reed Heckman, currently with the Family Research Institute. Opposing us were Madison attorney Lester Pines and the Rev. Drew Kennedy, pastor of the First Unitarian Society.

There were about 75 people there and my initial guess is that Reed, the Reddess and I were the only pro-amendment people there, although I got an e-mail from at least one other. The folks running the forum - and many in the audience were gracious and friendly. There was, however, among many others a certain smugness and sense of moral and intellectual superiority that is the particular temptation of the politically certain. Reed would say things that are simply facts and a good portion of the crowd would gasp, giggle and hiss as if it were the silliest thing that they ever heard.

It is good to keep in mind that everything we know may not be true. On the other hand, I need to be reminded of that as much as the next guy.

In any event, thanks to Keith Schmitz for inviting me. It was great to see Legal Aid Society lawyer Pete Koneazny, an old college classmate. Pete is an incredibly decent fellow and an excellent lawyer. His politics could use a complete makeover, but who among us is perfect?

Leonard Sykes, R.I.P.

Eugene Kane had a nice column Sunday on Journal-Sentinel reporter Leonard Sykes who suffered a massive stroke this past summer. Leonard died over the weekend.

I did not know Leonard Sykes well. He was, for a short period, my colleague on WMCS's Backstory. But I do know this about him. He was gracious and generous to a rank amateur (this would be me) among professional journalists (that would be Leonard, Jim Rowen and Faithe Colas). We disagreed on a few things, but Leonard was open-minded and fair. One of the first things I remember him saying was how he might go broke downloading music (an affliction I share). I pray that now, somewhere and somehow, he can listen.

The Pope on Islam

I am not sure what to make of the controversy over the Pope's speech at Regensburg. It is certainly true, as Dad29 points out, that the speech was not really concerned with Islam, but the western separation of faith and reason. Having said that, he clearly shot one across someone's bow. Given the global controversy around Islam, anything that is said on the subject by the leader of one of the world's largest religious tradition is going to get attention.

And, although I am no scholar in the philosophy of religion, he seems to be saying, apart from the citation to Khoury (relating a medieval comment that all that was in the Koran was evil and inhuman), that the Islamic and Judeo-Christian concepts of God are different. Muslims, the Pope seems to be saying, are more likely to see God as absolutely transcendent and not bound by - or, perhaps more accurately - choosing to act within - the strictures of rationality. Thus, the concept of conversion by force which, for the Pope, is contrary to the dictates of faith illuminated by reason. (Christians may have done this, but, unlike Islam, there is really no support for it in the foundational text.)

I don't know enough about Islam to know whether its true, but the Pope had to know that this was a provocative thing to say. It may well be a shot across the bow of radical Islam, but it may also be a challenge to the West of the dangers that are presented by both faith and reason when the two are relegated to separate realms.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More on Islamic Fascism

In response to last night's post on Islamic fascism, lefty blogger David Neiwert thought I done him wrong. You could read it in the comments section, but I'll reproduce it for you right here:

I only happen to cite the bulk of the serious scholarship of fascism of the past half-century, including Oxford scholar Roger Griffin, considered one of the world's leading experts on the subject, and Robert O. Paxton, whose Anatomy of Fascism was published in 2004.

Perhaps if you can demonstrate some actual, serious scholarship of the subject yourself -- beyond, of course, political hacks like Jonah Goldberg, who is only a scholar of mendacity -- you might be taken seriously.

Otherwise, your discussion here is about as lightweight as the megabytes required to post this nonsense.


I'll forgive him the left-netroots "I'm smarter than you are" snarkiness. You can't really deny a man his lifeblood and, in fairness, it may be I attributed a view to him that he does not hold.

Lots of fascism scholarship (and, no, I haven't written any) used to hold that fascism was a late-stage of capitalism; sort of a rearguard action against encroaching socialism. In that sense, it was a thought to be a very specific social phenomenon; part of the Hegelian arc of history. It was thought to be a creature of the right, even though it is, essentially, socialist in that it recognizes no property rights against the state. With the fall of communism, this view sort of lost its lustre.

Maybe Neiwert doesn't think that. His posts on fascism largely consist of bloc quotes from other people and are themselves a bit imprecise. He does have a longer essay that he links to that makes that point, but it looks like he wrote it in 2003. Perhaps he's reconsidered.

He cites, as authoritative, historian Robert Paxton. Professor Paxton is an accomplished scholar, although I hardly think he has settled the issue. But let's take Paxton's self-described "tentative" definition and see if we can fit it to the Whatever It Is That Keeps Blowing Stuff Up:


''A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood (check) and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity (check), in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants (check), working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites (check), abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.''(check),(check),(check) and (check).

The only one seems questionable is the "uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites" but its not clear to me that this would necessarily be a permanent characteristic of fascism as opposed to a tactic by which it assumes power. In 1920, Hitler did not have alot of traditional elites in his corner. What he did have was a myth that he would ultimately spin (with a lot of muscle) into a sufficiently powerful social force that he could pull those elites along. Eventually, "traditional elites" in Nazi Germany came to realize that they had been used. They thought that they were in control, only to learn that they were not.

But whether tactic or enduring characteristic, the Terrorists Whose Name We Dare Not Speak (they are quite clear on who they are) are generally state sponsored and, in Iran, have certainly co-opted the institutions of that society. They certainly cooperate "uneasily but effectively" with the Saudi royal family.

I suppose that you could say that you can't abandon democratic liberties until you have them, but that seems to get us back into the March of History Mess and would seem unimportant to those who are the fascist's victims. In ay event, places in which Islamic fascism has taken a foothold have generally repudiated whatever liberal notions existed, see, e.g., Iran and wherever sharia law has taken hold.

Of course, there are going to be differences between European fascism and the Islamic variety. I agree that using the term "fascism" only gets you so far. But it hardly seems beyond the pale or, as some would have it, clearly and ridiculously wrong. In fact, it seems, for the most part, quite accurate and may be an effective shorthand to convey the nature of this particular enemy.

Update: In the original version of this post, I mispelled Mr. Neiwert's name. My apologies.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Is it Islamic fascism?

I got some very nice comments from Jay Bullock on my 9-11 piece in the Journal-Sentinel, although Jay objected to my use of the term "Islamic fascism" as have others. Jay has a longer post at his blog objecting to the use of that term and praising Russ Feingold for objecting to it. I think its worth responding to and, since, I can never access his comments (due, I think, to some incomprehensible techno-incompatibility), I'll do it here.

Jay and Russ say that whatever Islamic terrorism is, it's not fascist. Russ doesn't explain why (I suspect he hasn't a clue), but Jay, a much more rigorous thinker, won't punt on that. But he cites David Neiwert who relies on a highly tendentious and somewhat dated definition of fascism as a "dictatorship against the left" and, therefore, something that can only be found in decaying, capitalist democracies. As Jonah Goldberg (who has a book coming out on this) points out here (but you need a subscription), this is a Marxist-influenced proposition that has been discredited among scholars of fascism who cannot, themselves, agree on what it means. Fascism may be a term that, as Orwell said almost 60 years ago, means little more than "something not desirable."

I think there's a lot of truth in that. Fascism does not have the precise technical meaning that Jay and Feingold think it does. In common parlance, it denotes, in its narrowest meaning, an authoritarian ideology that exalts whatever animates it (race, nation, religion) above all else and seeks to exercise total control over all who it are subject to it. As we have experienced it, is a socialist enterprise (even if it "allows" private enterprise to exist) which is consistent with the idea of total control.

Seen in this way, it is not off base to describe Islamic terrorists as fascists, although, in doing so, we are not using a very precise term.

But what Feingold (and, I am afraid, Jay) really object to is not the noun, but the adjective. Feingold says that not all Muslims are terrorists and this is true. But that does not change the fact that the terrorists we are concerned with not only "happen to be" Muslims, but are motivated by Islam. Not all Muslims become, if we can use the term, "fascists" but these Muslims have.

Recognizing that, Jay goes for a moral equivalence between Christian fundamentalists and Muslims. How can we suggest that some realm of Islam is fascist, when we get upset about people who say that fundamentalists have hijacked the GOP in the way that People Who Do Bad Things For Reasons That Have Nothing To Do With Religion have hijacked Islam.

To suggest an equivalence between a global Islamic terrorist movement and any nontrivial faction of Christianity is simply to quit being serious. First, Jay ignores the distinction between evangelicals and fundamentalists. Evangelicals have influenced the GOP (as many groups influence both parties), fundamentalists have not. Second, I am unaware of any Christian jihad. You can dislike people who oppose abortion and gay marriage, but they are not blowing up your subway stop. They are not stoning people who do not live in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Perhaps, as Jay suggests, it is politic to avoid the elephant in the living room, i.e., the connection between a particular interpretation of Islam and terror. Bush tried that. But in suggesting that he was simply going after "evildoers", he fell into the trap of suggesting that the war on terror was simply a fight against a discrete band of criminals, and not an ideological movement. That made it hard to explain why he has done some of the things he has done. His critics suggested that he was wrong unless he was going after the very individuals who perpetrated 9-11.

The war on terror is larger than that and Bush, finally, has begun to explain that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It'll be shaking in Shorewood

Tonight at North Shore Presbyterian Church, 4800 N. Bartlett. The debate on the marriage amendment is sponsored by Grassroots NorthShore, a left-liberal advocacy group, as part of a series of debates. (They have also scheduled debates on the Iraq war and death penalty). I will be representing the pro-amendment side along with Reed Heckman, a Madison area pastor. A Madison attorney, Lester Pines, and Drew Kennedy, pastor of the First Unitarian Church, will be speaking against the amendment. The debate will be moderated by Jack Murtaugh of the Fourth Street Forum.

There will be lots of audience participation (most of the time is given over to Q & A) and, given, the provenance of the debate, I am expecting a hostile crowd.

So come and watch me have a hard time. Or give me one. Or help me out.

Post-election question

One of the things that surprised me was that Mac-Mac got 35% of the vote in the DA's race. I could be wrong, but I don't think the moonbat vote in Milwaukee County is that high. I think that has to suggest a significant anti-McCann sentiment. Given that I suspect there was substantial crossover by Republicans (not a huge - but still a significant - group in Milwaukee County) to vote for Clarke, it may be even larger that Mac-Mac's vote would suggest.

Does this mean that independent Lew Wasserman might get some traction? Can he appeal to conservatives? Could it be that the DA's race is not quite over?

Profound Prognostication

Dennis York points out that Lautenschlager waxed Kathleen Falk in Dane County, but still lost statewide. I haven't had a chance to look at the numbers, but this implies a fairly solid margin for Falk elsewhere. Does this suggest that this was more of an anti-Lautenschlager vote? Falk loses her base, but wins elsewhere. Was her win driven, in the end, by the drunk driving arrest to the near exclusion of all else? And, if that's the case, what are her chances against Van Hollen? Kathleen, who is a nice person and a very good lawyer, has some real left liberal baggage that won't play well much beyond University Heights. I do not know what lies in store for the GOP nationwide, but, here in purple Wisconsin, the Republicans might own both houses of the legislature and all but one constitutional office. Doug LaFollette may be the ranking Dem in state government.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shark and Shepherd Debate

But not with each other. I will, however, be debating the marriage amendment in forum sponsored by Grassroots Northshore tomorrow night, September 13, at the North Shore Presbyterian Church, 4800 N. Bartlett, in Shorewood. Rev. Reed Heckman, a pastor who is currently on sabbatical and working with the Family Research Institute, will also support the amendment. It will be opposed by Lester Pines, a Madison area attorney, and the Rev. Drew Kennedy, pastor of First Unitarian downtown. Doors open at 6:30.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Free speech as a crime

Via the Volokh Conspiracy, an Evangelical activist in Wales faces criminal charges for passing out a pamphlet that, apparently without acrimony or incendiary language, makes the traditional Christian (and Jewish) case on the morality of homosexuality, citing biblical passages, etc. Steven Green, who distributed the pamphlets at Mardi Gras in Cardiff is charged with using "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour."

According to the Daily Mail, police in the U.K. are increasingly active against those who are critical of gays:

In recent months incidents have included a Metropolitan Police warning to author Lynette Burrows that she was responsible for a 'homophobic incident' after she suggesting on a BBC Radio Five Live programme that gays did not make ideal adoptive parents.

Another warning about future behaviour was delivered by Lancashire police who visited the home of a Christian couple after they complained about their local council's gay rights policies.

The Met Police in London also investigated former Muslim Council of Britain leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie after he gave an interview saying homosexuality was harmful. However, no prosecution followed in that case.


Closer to home, John McAdams reports on the views of the President of Marquette's gay and lesbian student organization who believes that opponents of same-sex marriage should not be allowed to speak on campus, since the issue involves "human rights."

Maggie Gallagher has argued that same-sex marriage will make it increasingly difficult for people to advocate - or act upon - traditional religious notions on human sexuality.

There is, of course, no reason why this has to be true, but it may well turn out that way.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Shark and Shepherd on Dead Tree

I have a column in tomorrow morning's Journal-Sentinel on the 5th anniversary of 9-11.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Secular establishment

The Secular Coalition for America has released its scores for members of Congress. The scores are supposed to reflect a legislator's commitment to the separation of church and state. For the Senate, few of the votes on which people are rated relate directly to that. For example, Senators are rated on selected judicial confirmation votes (for both cloture and to confirm), the cloture vote on the federal Marriage Amendment and the Stem Cell Enhancement Act. You can make the case that these reflect one's commitment to a certain notion of separation, but it's attenuated. Legislative ratings are always imperfect, but one could cast a vote on all of these without regard to any view of the relation between church and state.

In any event, our "maverick" Senator fangled, as is generally the case on all measures of adherence to the agenda of the left, scored a "perfect" 100.

On the House side, there were votes that fairly measured a legislators hostility to, or refusal to accommodate, religious perspectives. No Wisconsin legislator scored 100 (Tammy Baldwin apparently whiffed on DoD funding for the Boy Scouts), but three of our 4 GOP members scored what is truly a perfect 0.

As is generally the case, Sensenbrenner was more of a "maverick" than Feingold, scoring a 20.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Attorneys Against the Ban

Some may wonder if the newly-formed group called Attorneys Against the Ban largely consists of lawyers who, however accomplished and talented (and many certainly are), largely lean left and Democrat?

The answer would be "yes."

Green and stem cells

The left side of the Cheddarsphere thinks its all that in criticizing Mark Green's proposal to spend $25 million dollars on research which seeks to create pluripotent stem cells without destroying the embryo from whence they came. Xoff gathers 'em up. The nature of the criticism seems to be that he wants to devote money to an "unproven" technology rather than the "proven" embryo-destructive research.

Of course when it comes to the ultimate objective, i.e/, curing people, both technologies are unproven. Embryo-destructive research has yet to help its first person, but its proponents think that it might. We haven't yet learned how to create embryonic stem-cell lines from a biopsied stem cell (which we do know can be taken without destroying the embryo), but some researchers think we might and, in fact, some recent work (although it did not itself accomplish - or even attempt - the task)suggests that it might work. Other lines of research seek to "tease" adult stem cells into pluripotency.

Green suggests addressing an ethical dilemna and, all of a sudden, the "pro-science" forces want to shutter the lab. Some of this is undoubtedly simple partisanship, but some may well be a recognition that we need to discard the notion that human life has intrinsic value if we are to move into a utilitarian future. I can countenance political hacksmanship. But the latter really bothers me.

Can Dane County get into our solar system?


The Madison Common Council, in an admirable piece of self-parody, wants to support Pluto as the 9th planet and to express its support for planets that orbit to their own tune. Presumably, Madison is still hoping to become the tenth.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

They can handle this

A bit old, but Peter Beinart, writing the TRB column for The New Republic(registration required), argues that the Democrats ought to be the party of no ideas this fall. (No, that's not a typo.) He thinks that the voters will express their dissatisfaction with the GOP at the polls as long as the Democrats don't say what they'd do differently. From their, Beinart suggests, it'd be all downhill.

At least he's honest.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Community columnist on same-sex marriage

I don't want to spend a lot of time criticizing the new batch of community columnists at the Journal-Sentinel. That would just look wrong, but responding to Tom Biehl's Friday column on same-sex marriage is, I suppose, a way of taking it seriously.

Biehl, who is an English teacher at MPS, is obviously schooled in the art of good propaganda and bad argument. He says that the argument against same-sex marriage is about "tradition" and then goes on to associate marriage with all sorts of traditional human failings. Tradition must be bad.

But saying that the argument that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman is about tradition is an enormous oversimplification. The argument extends beyond the existence of "a" tradition to explore what "the" tradition is based on, in this case, an institution which serves to, for lack of a better word, "domesticate" sexual urges shared by 98% of the population that can and do produce children - often unintentionally. The fact that all married couples don't have children - or that some can't and don't intend to - doesn't change that. Limiting marriage to only those couples who will procreate would be unworkable and is not necessary to support marriage as the type of social norm that promotes, however imperfectly, a stable family headed by a child's mother and father.

The fact that marriage is singled out for a special type of social and legal recognition and comes with a set of reciprocal rights and benefits flows from that, not, as Biel would have it, the mere fact that two (or some other number) people can "succeed at caring, supporting and loving each other over time." Married couple should do that - and the institution is designed to increase the prospects that they do - but their mere willingness to do so is, at most, a necessary, but insufficient condition If marriage was just about helping people to love and support one another, there would be no need for presumptions of economic vulnerability on the part of one of the parties or for an elaborate requirement of divorce. There would, in fact, be no need to require - or presume - that the relationship is conjugal and no real reason to limit it to two people.

There is, however, a sense in which the debate over same-sex marriage does reduce to how one feels about tradition and what happens when it is abruptly abandoned. The proponents of same-sex marriage are either 1)comfortable in assuming that changing the definition (and,necessarily, the reasons for)an institution won't change the institution itself or 2)(and this is where lots of the scholarship and theoretical energy is) they want to change the institution - even to destroy it as a remnant of a patriarchal past.

We can argue about that, but that argument is not, as Biel says, about "discrimination." If the purpose of marriage is as I describe then there is no need to, and reasons not to, extend it to same-sex pairings. The question that presents is no more about discrimination than the argument about whether to extend veterans benefits to non-veterans.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mac-Mac - nine days to a deserved obscurity

Larraine McNamara-McGraw's suggestion that maybe the police shot Candace Moss is irresponsible even by her standards. While I'd like to think it's just a manifestation of her special brand of silliness, I am not sure that she is really that dumb. It's hard not to see this as cynical race-baiting of the very worst sort. She would be, perhaps, the worst district attorney in the country. Good thing she has less chance of winning than I do of running a four minute mile.

She suggests that the Journal-Sentinel's report that the child was killed by errant bullets is an "insensitive article that is dividing our community." She apparently thinks it would be better to pretend that people in the central city are not at the mercy of lawless thugs. Hers would be a rather bloody sensitivity.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Religion of peace

Theodore Dalrymple has an interesting piece in the latest issue of National Review. He writes about the false "comfort" of "knowing" that most Muslims don't want to kill anyone. "Is it much of a consolation to know that, in a crowd in which there is someone who is determined to kill you, there are many more people who have no such desire."

He writes of the Islamic concept of taqiyya in which a Muslim may disavow his religious beliefs if it necessary to do so. He notes that the so many of the bombers in England presented themselves as perfectly integrated into British society.

For me, this puts perspective on whether, in response to the threat posed by Islamofascist terror, we "should" profile? It's a phony question. Given human nature (we are stubbornly unable to ignore what is plainly in front of us), we will profile. The better question is how?