Friday, March 31, 2006

White like Eddie

Young Jenna is incensed (and properly so)at the concept of "white privilege." The problem, I think, isn't so much that her teachers take an ideological position but that, based upon her link to the excerpted material, they do it in such an insipid fashion. There may be something called white privilege but who would think so based upon the material that was apparently assigned to Jenna and her classmates. It paints with such a broad brush as to be incredible.

A lot of this stuff reminds me of the old SNL bit "white like Eddie." Eddie Murphy puts on "white face" and finds out that the world is a party and money is free.

All he really had to do was read some of the stuff that passes for social science "literature."

Goldberg: They sure are nice down there.

Jonah Goldberg, in town to speak at Marquette, has posted the following about our area:

I think this is my fourth or fifth visit to this part of the country in the last year or so alone. And every time I come out here the more impressed I am with the people. Politics aside, the people seem to be one standard-deviation nicer than people elsewhere. The college kids I meet tend to be sharp, but also very decent. Normal workers -- flight attendants, cab drivers, store clerks, waiters, etc -- all seem to be just slightly more professional for professionalism's sake. I don't want to live out here -- Milwaukee is hardly a garden spot and Madison has very high level of lefty zomboid infiltration -- but I always leave with just a bit more respect for the people than when I arrived.

I would like to argue that Milwaukee is a garden spot, but I suppose I can't (although it's alot nicer than Jonah implies). What strikes me about this is that I have the same reaction when I go to Iowa (where we have a plant). Kind of dull and pedestrian place, but the people sure are nice.

Is there an inverse relationship between the superficial "attractiveness" of a place (e.g., the night life, scenery, trendiness, fast paced professional life) and the decency of the people who live there? If so, why is that?

Jill Carroll

Is it just me or do you see Jill Carroll and think Stockholm Syndrome?

GPS Monitoring of Sex Offenders

I may be missing something, but I'm not sold on the legislation for GPS monitoring of sex offenders. It seems fairly expensive at 10k/offender and I suppose that's a result of the need for new staff to actively monitor these guys. I wouldn't think the system itself would cost that much.

The problem I have with that is that it seems unclear that monitoring would have a direct preventive effect because I don't know that it is all that obvious where an offense would take place. You could keep these guys away from obvious danger zones like schools and playgrounds but that really isn't sufficient to keep them away from kids. Unless you have someone constantly watching each offender's movement (or develop an incredibly sophisticated program to kick out "suspect" movements), I'm not sure that you get the bang for the buck.

It may be that "passive" monitoring is a better deal. These guys would know that, in the event of an offense, the cops would know exactly where they had been. That may deter some from offending and would certainly make apprehension of those that do easier.

On the other hand, maybe the compulsion to offend is so strong that the certainty of capture doesn't matter.

Maybe the program has more merit than is immediately apparent to me, but as someone committed to controlling the cost of government, I want new initiatives to be rigorously justified. Turning this proposal into a referendum on whether a legislator agrees that sexual predators are sleazebags makes little sense.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Heckler's veto

More signs that irrational and violent outrage does pay.

First, a major bookseller won't stock an issue of a magazine that shows the Mohmammed cartoons.

And NYU refused to allow a student group to show the cartoons at a long planned event unless it excludes "non-NYU" guests. The event with on with speakers discussing the controversy accompanied by a set of blank easels.

Absolutely shameful.

On the border

My own inclination on the illegal immigration issue is that we should move toward regularizing the status of those who are here. But that alone won't solve the problem. We had a broad based amnesty program 20 years ago (I represented a few amnesty applicants; nice people)but then did nothing to control the border.

No immigration reform proposal is serious unless it addresses border security and addresses it in a radical way. Open borders are not a good thing as this column shows. Our border areas should not be subject to this type of lawlessness and social disarray.

Drum Circle Left Update


I am informed that the Walworth County Week reports that, on Saturday at 6:30 pm in Walworth, there will be a drum circle for peace, apparently at a place called "Drumming for Peace and Fire Circle Drums" at 408 Howard Street. You are asked to bring your own drum although some will apparently be available for the drumless among us. I can't say for certain, but I am confident that hemp will be involved in some way. My guess is that one will be free to chant as well as to drum. Levitation will be optional.

"Maybe if we drum hard enough, man, we can stop this war."

The Jude jury

While I agree with Owen and others that it is unwise to fetishize the racial composition of a jury, it's impossible not to believe that the selection of an all-white jury in the Jude case is unfortunate.

It would have helped community perception if, instead of just reporting the judge's "unhappiness" and statement that "we are stuck with the law," the paper would have explained the law we are stuck with.

Lawyers get a certain number of peremptory challenges when a jury is being empaneled. You just strike who you do not want. You don't have to explain why and, in practice, the reasons are usually pretty subjective. You might not have liked an answer during voir dire (the questioning of the jurors). You might not have liked the tone of an answer. Or how somebody looked. It is not uncommon for lawyers to rely on stereotypes in exercising these challenges. Recently, my priest was called for jury duty. I told her that she was unlikely to be selected and she wasn't. Either she would be viewed by the prosecution as too apt to "forgive" or by both sides as too risky because she might have extraordinary moral authority in the jury room. Lose her and you lose everyone. That's not very scientific, but that's the way it is.

However, you can't exercise these peremptory challenges to purposefully exclude jurors on the basis of race. So once the challenges had removed the last two African-Americans from the panel and the issue was raised, the defense lawyers did have to explain why they exercised these challenges. They did so and the judge was convinced, not that the challenges were the best a lawyer could make, but that they were not exercised for the purpose of excluding blacks.

Once he found that, the inquiry was over because no one has a right to a jury of any particular racial composition.

Still, this is not going to help race relations if the defendants are acquitted. That's just a sad fact.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The I-word

The game of "hawks" and "doves" which I refer to below is aided by euphemism. Pro-abortion groups have long tried to make that debate about liberty by resolutely avoiding the word "abortion." No one likes to speak out against freedom. Few people are willing to defend abortion. If someone were to awake from a forty year coma, she'd have no idea what most pro-abortion discourse was actually about. All she'd hear is words like "choice," "women's health" and, occasionally, "reproductive rights."

Are we seeing the same thing in the debate over illegal immigration? As others have pointed out, the issue is almost always framed as being about immigration generally rather than immigration that is illegal. The term "undocumented immigrant" suggests someone who forgot her driver's license at home, not someone who has entered the United States in violation of the law and probably remains through fraud.

Proposals, like Sensenbrenner's bill or the proposal to build a wall, may be impractical but are attacked, instead, as "racist" and "hateful." My fellow community columnist Maria Flores (who is a bright and delightful young woman) recently likened the bill to the fugitive slave act and the Holocaust.

Calling people who support the enforcement of our immigration laws as "racist" or "fascist" is a ploy to create doves.

Much of what we are hearing from the left on immigration is bunk. There are few, if any, countries in modern history who have been indifferent to the security of their borders and who is and is not permitted to live within them. Immigration reform may be in order, but trying to find some way to enforce the laws we have is nothing like genocide, slavery or any other inapposite metaphor that proponents of illegal immigration might choose.

10 grand for everyone

Charles Murray is a libertarian scholar who jump started the welfare reform movement with his classic book Losing Ground. Later he (with a co-author) wrote a controversial (and somewhat misunderstood) book called The Bell Curve which suggested a strong correlation between a person's intelligence and level of prosperity. It also argued that intelligence was largely genetic and not evenly distributed.

Now he's proposing that we abolish the welfare state and replace it with a cash grant of $ 10,000/year to every American. You must use $3000 for health care (maybe you have to buy a policy at age 21 and then keep it place thereafter). The government will give you nothing else. Ever.

I seem to recall that this was part of George McGovern's campaign for President in 1972. He was going to give everyone a basic grant, although he was not proposing the abolition of all other social welfare programs.

I don't know that I agree with this, but Murry is always interesting. He puts forth the details and considers objections in a new book.

Gay marriage and polygamy

Folks who are critical of the suggestion that gay marriage will affect the way in which we view marriage may want to consider the impact that the debate has already had. For the first time, I suspect, in American history (outside of Utah), we are having a debate about polygamy. The reaction to HBO's Big Love (which self consciously echoes the gay marriage debate) is not "how awful" but "why not?"

Maggie Gallagher sees this as an example of the academic game of "hawks and doves". Increasingly, those committed to nontraditional lifestyles have become "hawks," aggressively insisting on not only tolerance, but approbation. Those who disapprove become "doves," keeping silent to avoid conflict. Hawks not only dominate doves; they turn doves into hawks.

In a related post, Gallagher writes:

Just as gay people were inspired and informed by black civil rights leaders, who had no intention of endorsing a movement to normalize homosexuality, much less gay marriage, polygamists are being inspired by the gay marriage movement to come out of the closet, and their arguments now strike many cultural elites (such as the editors of the New York Times Arts page) as plausible, worthy of being entertained, because of the way they echo the gay marriage arguments.

This in itself marks a cultural shift. It’s ultimate importance and power of course are yet to be determined. I don’t believe polygamy is an inevitable result of the gay marriage debate. But I think the push for gay marriage has already visibly altered our public culture of marriage. Things that were taken for granted, now must be discussed and defended.

She concludes:

I’m not saying you should be against gay marriage because of this. I am saying, you know, culture happens. Claiming that you can strip marriage of its one virtually universal rule (marriage is a union of male and female) and that cultural consequences are improbable, strikes me as well, head in the sand fantasy, the anti-intellectualism of intellectuals.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In Whatever We Trust?

Professional Atheist and Public Censor Michael Newdow has filed a lawsuit seeking to eliminate "In God We Trust" as our national motto.

The American Center for Law & Justice, representing 47 members of Congress, have filed an amicus brief supporting dismissal of Newdow's case.

Of our Wisconsin delegation, only Paul Ryan joined the effort.

Liberals learn to love the rich (candidate)

Mark Green has called on Jim Doyle to join him in a pledge to reduce spending in this year's Wisconsin gubernatorial race and to disavow negative advertising by outside groups, with each candidate reducing his own spending by whatever amount such outside groups spend attacking his opponents.

Doyle has rejected this out of hand and a few liberal blockers like Jay Bullock and Xoff have denounced greens proposal as "phony" and as a "stunt."

What is heartening is the way in which these guys are now extolling the virtues of private property in an almost Reaganesque ("Mr. Green, I paid for this microphone!) manner. The Governor has sold perfectly good state contracts for all his money and, by gum, he's going to keep it. We have more money, they say, and we're not giving up a penny.

Refreshing. I hope these guys can stick to their new found commitment.

Is UW restricting stem cell research?

A California scientist is complaining that the Wisconsin Alumni Research Association is impeding stem cell research. The UW apparently has a patent on (at least some) embryonic stem cells and the method to grow them. If other researchers want to use the cells or the method, they have to pay.

Jeanne Loring now says that the price is too high and this will impede research. The response of the foundation's executive director is, essentially, "cry me a river."

I don't know who Loring works for, but California is legally obligated to spend three billion dollars on stem cell research over the next ten years, need it or not.

Embryonic stem cell research makes me nervous (more later), but you'd think that the white coats out in California could shake loose a little cash to pay the UW's royalty.

And if they want a better deal, a little taste for Governor Doyle might work wonders.

Interpretation of the marriage amendment in Ohio

Ohio has adopted a marrriage amendment. One of the issues that has arisen is whether its "second sentence" would forbid the application of domestic violence laws to unmarried couples. Until now, every court of appeal in Ohio that has considered the issue have said that the amendment does not prohibit application of domestic violence laws to cohabitating couples, but now one has.

Whatever happens in Ohio may not mean much for what might happen in Wisconsin, Our "second sentence" is not the same as Ohio's. In Ohio, the legislature is forbidden to recognize a legal status that "intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." In Wisconsin, it would be forbidden to recognize a status that is identical or substantially similar to marriage.

By focusing on the status itself rather than its incidents, the Wisconsin language is arguably more narrow.

But the issue is out there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Doyle: Fooling some of the people more of the time

Let's see. Nobody in this real estate firm from Chicago was ever interested enough in politics until the great Jim Doyle became governor of Wisconsin. Even though they are not fortunate enough to be ruled by the Great One, members of the firm are spontaneously moved to begin begin donating to his campaign.

And then, in one of piece of spine-tingling bit of serendipity, the state of Wisconsin decides that this very firm, suddenly so appreciative of the quality of state government in a neighboring state, is just the firm to sell off excess state property.

Who would have thunk it?

Go Patriots

Sean at The American Mind jumps on George Mason's bandwagon and notes the coolness of their economics program.

I am with any mid-major at this point of the tournament. That Larranga had the guts to suspend his star for the first game is just another reason. It also has one of the most conservative law faculties, outside of certain faith-based schools like Regent, Liberty and Ave Maria.

Sometimes the good also do well.

But will it taste like fish?

Scientists have apparently created pigs with omega-3 fatty acids, making possible the dream of healthy pork.

Joseph Mendelson, the legal director for the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit group that opposes the use of genetically engineered products, says he is "confident that consumers would not want them."

Speak for yourself, granola man.

Moussaoui signs his death warrant

Zacharias Moussaoui has apparently repaired any harm done to the government's case by the misbehavior of FAA lawyer Carla Martin by conceding that he was part of the 9-11 plot and lied to investigators when arrested because he wanted the remaining parts of the scheme to go forward.

Remember, to get the death penalty, the government must show that his lack of cooperation helped bring about the 9-11 attacks. After conceding that he and convicted shoe bomber Richard Ried were to highjack a fifth airplane and attack the White House, the following cross took place:

''You lied because you wanted to conceal that you were a member of al-Qaida?'' prosecutor Rob Spencer asked.

''That's correct,'' Moussaoui said.

Spencer: ''You lied so the plan could go forward?''

Moussaoui: ''That's correct.''

That is seashells and balloons for a trial lawyer. No wonder Moussaoui's lawyers tried so hard to keep him off the stand. This is pretty close to suicide by testimony.

Should Liberty Counsel be through in Viroqua?

Professor McAdams at Marquette Warrior and Peter DiGuadio at Texas Hold 'em have commented extensively on the decision by the Viroqua (Wis.) High School to cancel its planned "Diversity Day." The day would have included speakers who were Hmong, Jewish, Muslim, American Indian, African American, Latino, Buddhist,physically disadvantaged, poor and, most notably for our purposes, gay. The idea was to provide students an opportunity to "come into contact with people of different backgrounds."

When requested to include speakers who would present a traditional Christian perspective on homosexuality (including, apparently, an "ex-gay"), the School initially refused. You ought not get carried away with this diversity stuff. After they were told by a public interest law firm called Liberty Counsel that this would be sort of completely unconstitutional (and confirming that with their own lawyers), they decided to call the whole thing off. Some backgrounds, the school believes, are better left "uncontacted." “Non-positive groups were not what we were going for,” said Ellen Byers, an English teacher on the planning committee.

I'm not going to repeat what others have said about how close-minded this is, but I do want to suggest that cancelling the event does not solve the constitutional problem.

Our Supreme Court has declared that government messages about religion must be neutral. It has insisted that the state refrain from "endorsing" religion or irreligion so as not to make nonadherents feel like outsiders, "disfavored members of the political community."

(Faithful readers of this blog will know that I chase this endorsement test, about which I just finished an article, like Ahab sought the white whale.)

You can violate this indirectly. You can violate neutrality by what you don't teach. In Epperson v. Arkansas, the Court held that an Arkansas law forbidding the teaching of evolution violated the establishment clause because it was motivated by the religious beliefs of creationsist. Prohibition was not religiously neutral.

What was the motivation for the cancellation of the Viroqua event? What message did it send to traditional Christians about how the state views them? Doesn't it say that they are regarded as so odious that an otherwise desireable pedagogical event must be cancelled rather than include them? That their views are "nonpositive?" Won't this - doesn't this - make them feel like outsiders and disfavored members of the political community?

There are all sorts of prudential - and even some legal - reasons for declaring victory and going home. But if rigorous neutrality with respect to religion is required, Viroqua has fallen short.

It's the culture, stupid !

In the wake of news about the young man who was beaten to death at a busstop in broad daylight, I wondered what a conservative perspective might add to the problems of violence and poverty in the inner city.

In the past, I have recommened John McWhorter's new book.

Yesterday, there was an interesting op-ed in the New York Times by an African-American sociologist at Harvard named Orlando Patterson. Patterson is decidedly not a conservative, but he does note the inability of liberal academics to propose anything that works in connection with the persistence of the black underclass, and the alienation from the mainstream of so many young African-American men. He writes:

"The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.

After noting that the proposition that poverty and the lack of jobs is responsible for the persistent loss of young black men does not square with the evidence, Patterson, like McWhorter, places much of the blame on an "oppositional" subculture (McWhorter calls it therapuetic alienation), the idea that being authentically black means buying into a disaffected gangster culture. Patterson:

"I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.

For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.

This diagnosis of the problem, while it challenges standard liberal nostrums, also challenges the presuppositions of, at least, libertarian conservatives in that it suggests that (at least) self- restraint on the part of the free markets and mavens of popular culture is in order.

Update: Elliott agrees and manages to call his the post the same, in retrospect somewhat obvious, name. Great minds think in alike cliches.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

S- squared, Sykes & Same-sex marriage, pt. 8

But much shorter this time, the Colorado legislature recently considered a "reciprocal benefits" law. Rather than create a status such as "domestic partner," it would authorize the entry into a single agreement by which two unrelated persons who cannot marry are able to grant each other certain rights. The law, in part, provides:

[A]ny two unmarried persons who are excluded from entering into a valid marriage under the laws of [Colorado] or who are or were related by blood, adoption or marriage, and who meet specified requirements, to establish a reciprocal beneficiary agreement that extends specific rights and related responsibilities to each reciprocal beneficiary … including, but not limited to, health care insurance benefits.

A summary of the bill by Concerned Women for America, who opposes it, can be found here. Apparently, employers would not have to recognize a reciprocal benefits agreement, but would be free to do so. An reciprocal benefits agreement could be terminated by either party. I don't know that the bill is going anywhere in Colorado because it has been defeated in committee.

I have to admit being a bit surprised to learn that the bill is supported by Focus on the Family and, apparently, by the Alliance Defense Fund, two organizations staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships.

Is this a solution? I suppose the argument in its favor is that, because it deesn't create same-sex marriage or (arguably) a marriage-like "status," it does not create the potential dangers to marriage that I have discussed elsewhere.

Advocates of same-sex marriage oppose it, at least in part because it does not confer the symbolic affirmation that the extension of marriage to same sex couples would.

Would it be consistent with the "second sentence" of the proposed Wisconsin amendment? Its conservative proponents, who are also supporting similarly worded amendments, think so.

Where Russ belongs?

The Green Party wants Russ Feingold to join.

I'm thinking that this is a match.

More on McGee's Jim Crow law for murder

Michael McGee, Jr.'s proposal for two tier justice (which was first reported in the blogosphere by Shark and Shepherd who heard about it on WMCS where it was dimissed as "impossible" and "ridiculous")has not yet been reported by the major news outlets; perhaps because he has not yet held the press conference at which it will be "announced."

That McGee would propose something blatantly unconstitutional as a response to the terror under which his constituents must live says everything we need to know about him.

On the other hand, isn't this, in some ways, a logical extension of the idea that you have to consider race to get beyond race? If it's ok to favor certain racial groups because they are "underrepresented" in colleges and universities, then why not penalize them because they are "overrepresented" in the population of victims and criminals.

As someone pointed out in the comments section to my earlier post, one effect of this proposal would be that black murderers would tend to get longer prision sentences - by law. Milwaukee would once again become the Selma of the North; this time at the insistence of an African-American "leader."

Hasn't McGee showed us how affirmative action elides into Jim Crow?

Nice work, Mike.

Cut and run resolutions

In criticizing Patrick McIhleran's column on the surrender resolutions, Jay Bullock says he doesn't like this essay by Victor Davis Hansen. Responding to Hansen's suggestion that more troops would not necessarily have hastened the defeat of terrorist insurgents, Jay writes:

I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I think he's suggesting that no matter what we could have done in Iraq, there would have been no way to avoid the kind of insurgency (bordering on civil war) that we see now. Gee, I wish he would have figured that out three years ago and told someone in power who might have suggested that we give the inspectors more time to do their jobs.

In other words, for Jay, if we knew it wouldn't be a complete and total cake walk (and over quickly), it should not have been done.

What Hansen is saying is that we need to be grown-ups about this. The invasion of Iraq was a bold and aggressive gambit to address the "root causes" of terrorism. Sure, everyone thought Saddam had WMDs and he was a tyrant who regularly killed far more people than have died as a result of the war, but there was more to it than that.

Bush was trying to do two things. First, he was sending a message that, in the war on terror, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The ties between Saddam and al-Qaida may not have been strong (although they were not, as is commonly claimed, "nonexistent"), but Saddam was leading state-sponsor of Islamofascist terrorism. In taking down Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush was sending a message that you do this at your peril.

Second, he is trying to introduce democracy into the middle east and is having some success. We don't know what will happen in Iraq, but it is certainly too soon to declare defeat. (I'd argue that the odds for success are greater than the chances of failure.)

Given the enormity of these objectives, Hansen is saying that it is unreasonable to think that they could have been achieved instantaneously and without cost. If the goal is to establish an independent government and turn over security to Iraqi forces, too many Coalition troops is a hindrance. And leaving too soon would be a disaster.

Hansen sums it up:

Syria is out of Lebanon — but only as long as democracy is in Iraq. Libya and Pakistan have come clean about nuclear trafficking — but only as long as the U.S. is serious about reform in the Middle East.

And the Palestinians are squabbling among themselves, as democracy is proving not so easy to distort after all — a sort of Western Trojan Horse that they are not so sure they should have brought inside their walls. When has Hamas ever acted as if it has a "sort of" charter to "sort of" destroy Israel? We worry that Iran is undermining Iraq. The mullahs are terrified that the democracy across the border may undermine them — as if voting and freedom could trump their beheadings and stonings.

Ever since 9/11 we have been in a long, multifaceted, and much-misunderstood war against jihadists and their autocratic enablers from Manhattan to Kabul, from Baghdad to the Hindu Kush, from London and Madrid to Bali and the Philippines. For now, Iraq has become the nexus of that struggle, in the heart of the ancient caliphate, rather than the front once again in Washington and New York. Whose vision of the future wins depends on who keeps his nerve — or to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, “Hard pounding, gentlemen; but we will see who can pound the longest.”

War is a nasty business and should never be entered into lightly. The casualties of this war are all tragic, but they are a fraction of what opponents of the war said they would be. (Much like the casualties from Katrina were a fraction of what was feared prior to and immediately after the hurricane.)

I have always thought that the decision to go to war in Iraq was a close call. I'm glad I didn't have to make it. But it cannot be undone and having been done, it must be done right.

Censure idea is win-win

Isn't this a mismatched headline? I expected there to be a poll showing that Feingold has, in fact, boosted his standing among voters. That the idea is popular among Democrats doesn't mean that Feingold has gained support among voters generally (or even, for that matter, that Dems are more likely to support him.)

My guess is that Feingold has garnered some attention and support for himself on the left side of his party, but he has done so with a stunt that will be just another way to call him weak on national security. This double-edged effect is why conservatives call his ploy a gift and he calls on the right to "bring it." Both sides are getting what they want.

But being weak in security issues is the largest single reason that Dems lose the Presidency. Good thing they remain in denial about that.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I want dissent

Gene Kane says, in the course of saying that bloggers are overly sensitive, that blogs are run "similar to right-wing radio talk shows that screen callers to prevent any dissenting voice from being heard."

Is that right? I am not a talk show host, but I've been on a few and I've spoken to more than one of the "squawkers" who told me that they want people who disagree with them because that is what makes the show entertaining. It is entertaining shows that get ratings that allow hosts to keep their gigs and get paid. Some hosts, like Belling, may be nasty with those callers. But they want them on the air, don't they?

Isn't the real problem that people don't like to listen to opposing points of view so that conservative shows don't have a lot of liberal listeners while the WPR shows are largely heard by a liberal audience.

As far as the S&S blog is concerned, bring it.

Stand up Danes

Via The Brussels Journal

Not surprisingly, the Danes are standing firm against the potential execution of Abdul Rahman for converting to Christianity. This statement by a representative of the Danish People's Party says it all:

“I don’t give a damn what laws they think they have. We are sort of an authority in Afghanistan and the President must prevent an execution, or we’ll give it to him good. If the Americans, the British and the Danes weren’t there, President Hamid Karzai would be butcher’s meat in the roadside before long. He knows the stakes and he better do what the Allies say in this matter.”

A representative of the Social Liberals says the case "underlines the need for Sharia law to be fought wherever it is found.”

If that's arrogant and imperialistic, I'll live with it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Just Walker away

Scott Walker did the right thing. Contra Jay and Xoff, it's really ok that he prayed and tried to discern how to best serve God; people do that.

Today's big loser is Doyle who can no longer count on the GOP candidates to beat each other up and deplete each other's bank accounts.

I never bought the idea that Walker would be stronger in the general. While Walker has shown an impressive ability to get votes in Milwaukee County, given the forces that drive Democrat turnout and mobilization, I just didn't see that happening against Doyle. He had, I suppose, the potential to get a few extra points here and that might be crucial in a close election but 1)he might have lost as much outstate as a result of being from Milwaukee County and from having to do the things that the Milwaukee County Exec must do and 2)whatever might have been gained as a result of the Walker-from-Milwaukee theory would have been lost as a result of the primary.

Having said that, Walker is a going to be a strong candidate for some office in the future. Might he deliver us from Feingold in '10?

More stupidity from McGee

Alderman Michael McGee has called for legislation that would add ten years to the sentence of anyone convicted of intentional homicide when the victim is black.

Feingold's lost father?

In the wake of Le Maverique's appearance on the Daily Show, Charlie Sykes says that Russ Feingold looks like comedian Soupy Sales. Yesterday, on Eric Von's show, I was told this was inaccurate and unfair.

I report. You decide.

Here's Soupy:

And here's Russ Feingold:

I appreciate that it'd be easier to compare if we had a picture of the Senator in a polka dot bow tie or of Soupy engaged in blatant political grandstanding, but I think the resemblance is remarkable.

Is this a cheap shot? Is it somewhat childish? Of course. On the other side, people claim that President Bush looks like Alfred E. Neumann.

Here's Alfred:

And here's the President:

No, actually, this is the President:

I won't dismiss it out of hand, but not as close as Russ and Soupy.

"Hope I die before I get old" - The Who

Maybe that would have been most merciful for the aging hippies that populate America's university faculites. A Worldnet Daily column by a Hillsdale college student on the opposition of Harvard students to the ouster of Lawrence Summers contains this shot across the bow:

The faculty is dominated by left-wing '60s radicals, all of them aging despite their former fantasies. It is perhaps from the realization that the sands of time are sinking and a new generation is rising on campus at odds with the values of the '60s that makes the Faculty of Arts and Sciences so desperate.

So what's the new rule? Don't trust anyone under 50?

"Beaten to death?"

A 15 year old boy was beaten in broad daylight on the streets of Milwaukee yesterday afternnoon. Although the precise cause has not beeen determined, he died at the hospital one hour later.

Charlie Sykes links to a blogger known as Cantankerous at Ask Me Later who wonders:

How does something like this happen at 2 o'clock in the afternoon? Is it reasonable to believe that not a single soul was around the intersection of 1st and Center St. when this crime occurred? Is it reasonable to think that nobody, anywhere could have done something to help this kid?

Cantankerous goes on to say:

The fact that yet another crime like this can happen, and in the middle of broad daylight should turn a glaring eye back on the community in which it happened. When will the people who live in these communities decide that they've had enough?

As I have blogged before, I think that conservatives - at least Christian conservatives - cannot be indifferent to problems of the central city. Its misery diminishes us all. But we believe that no amount of money and no set of social programs will address that misery without the restoration of the institutions and habits of civil society. Before a community can be helped, it must be a community.

And there are people in Milwaukee's central city that have had enough. Shortly after this incident, I was in the studios of WMCS appearing on Eric Von's show. During a break, the show's producer called in to say that the station was being bombarded with calls about a boy who had just been beaten to death near Malcolm X Academy. Why wasn't the station reporting on it? That word of this had spread through the community before it was reported on any news outlet suggests that there are people in the community who are not at all indifferent about what happens there.

(Eric's producer tracked the story down about ten minutes later, interrupting a fantastical riff by Robert Miranda about how the US produces terrorism.)

Yet Cantankerous' question remains. How could this happen in broad daylight? Why didn't anyone call the police? Maybe there is an answer to those questions here, but, if not, it wouldn't be the first time that citizens ignored violent crime.

Can a community become dominated by lawlessness unless it has, in some ways, tolerated it? If that is so, how do we change that? How do we empower the folks who "bombarded" WMCS with phone calls over the people who wear (and sell) "stop snitchin' t- shirts? What can conservatives contribute?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Establishment of Religion in San Francisco

The Supreme Court has, for the last 20 years or so, fairly consistently said that the government may not endorse religion or irreligion. It is supposed to stay neutral on matters of religion. To pronounce on religious questions would violate the constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion

So it is generally agreed that the Wisconsin state legislature could not adopt a resolution stating that Jesus Christ is the sole path to salvation or one declaring Scientology to be a fraud.

But the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution denouncing Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. It called the church's opposition to homosexual adoption:

"hateful and discriminatory rhetoric (that) is both insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors.''

I am not a fan of the "endorsement" approach, but why isn't this a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state?

I just checked the web site of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State because I am sure they would want to denounce this. They did manage to denounce Pat Robertson for saying Islam is not a religion of peace. Robertson, of course, is not a representative of any government, so you'd think that when a governmental body weighs in on the nature and value of religion, they'd be all over it.

But nothing.

Maybe someone should send them an e-mail.

Or a clue.

Expanding abortion rights

According to a physician who has defected, North Korean babies born with "physical disabilities" are routinely killed. Charlie Sykes' notes that this should provide inspiration to euthanasia advocates everywhere. Here's some more. Holland is about to legalize the euthanasia of newborns.

An Italian cabinet official has compared this to practices in the Third Reich and certain papers in that country have referred to the Dutch as "Nazi tulips." This is one time that playing the Nazi card seems appropriate.

The love of God at work

Brian Fraley quotes from the statement released by Christian Peacemaker Teams on the rescue by Coalition forces of three of their colleagues held hostage in Baghdad. One part struck me. Writing about the three rescued men, CPT says:

They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers.

Yes, and sometimes God sends the Marines.

Shark and Shepherd on the Air

I will be on Eric Von's "Backstory" segment from 4:30 to 6:00. It's on WMCS-1290 AM.

Topics will include the proposed airport transfer, the Moussaoui trial and the missing boys.

Where the boys are (not)

On the editorial page of thhe New York Times, the dean of admissions at Kenyon College
apologizes for discriminating against femake applicants
. Young women have better credentials and, to get some measure of "gender balance" (less than 60% female is apparently important), you have to set lower standards for men.

Although she is not about to stop, she does wring her hands and worry about the damage that a policy of blatant discrimination might do. She writes:

What are the consequences of young men discovering that even if they do less, they have more options? And what messages are we sending young women that they must, nearly 25 years after the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, be even more accomplished than men to gain admission to the nation's top colleges? These are questions that admissions officers like me grapple with.

Sure, now they grapple with them because a group that is supposed to be a victim in the left's narrative of exclusion has found itself on the short end of the diversity game. But I have not heard much worrying or "grappling" from the higher education establishment over the adverse consequence of the far more pronounced discrimination in favor of racial minorities.

Have they been concerned about the consequences of African-American applicants "discovering that even if they do less, they have more options"? Have they fretted over the "message" that affirmative action sends to white and asian students?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Religion and cults

Back (already) to South Park, Ann Althouse asks, "taking the broader view, answer the question: Is religion a super adventure club?"

Good lawprof style. Earlier this evening, in a Law & Theology class on euthanasia and assisted suicide, we kept asking, essentially, "whose life is it, anyway?" That is the great thing about teaching law school. I ask; you answer. (That is, incidentally, not a criticism [although it is an oversimplification]. I can't imagine how else you could become a lawyer.)

The show dodges the question by having the kids say that the myth of the Super Adventure Club are "way more retarded" than the claims of traditional religions but the question persists.

My best answer is that "true" religion, certainly authentic Christianity and Judaism (which are the only traditions with which I am sufficiently familiar to speak) are not. They are not if, by super adventure club, you mean something that removes you from engagement with the world and which indulges your predilections. There is, in my experience, great comfort in Christianity, but it is just as likely to make you uncomfortable in a way that forces you into relationships that you would have preferred to avoid. There is an old saying among (at least) Christians ( the source of which I am too tired to look up) that if you find the God you want, you haven't yet found God. That makes religion radical.

But, at the same time, there is, at least in my own Anglo-Catholic tradition, a recognition that God calls you into relationships and commitments that are not overtly religious, but which are nevertheless sacred. If you find yourself casually renouncing these commitments, caution is in order.

That makes religious discernment an art and not a science. I can live with that.

They killed Chef !

I want to blog on the new episode of South Park but I have found that it is nearly impossible for a middle aged man to explain this show to his unitiated peers without having them look at him like he is in need of therapy. We first test to see if we are speaking to fellow cogniscenti. You throw out a little Cartman impression - "I hate hippies!" - and if there is a flicker of response, we can talk. Kids have it much easier.

My prediction landed wide of the mark. Beginning with a scenes from the last (nonexistent) episode, we learn Chef had left town to join the Super Adventure Club. When he returns, they do start to goof on his voice, sampling, in an intentionally, awkward way, prior Isaac Hayes-voiced dialogue. The words say that Chef wants, basically, to make love to children, but the mechanical way that they are strung together doesn't sound right. (The fact that they can grab Hayes-voiced lines that are vulgar enough to imply this, reinforces Stone and Parker's criticism of Hayes as a guy who would go along with stepping on everyone's sensibilities but his own.) As always, "the children" (as part of the show's ongoing lampoon of the idolization of kids) investigate.

Of course, it turns out that the Super Adventure Club, apparently a take-off on the League of Extraordinary Gentleman, is a cult dedicated to child molestation in remote places. If you are slow to associate this with Scientology, the explanation of its origins, the graphics matching the show criticizing Scientology, etc., will get you there.

The children try to rescue Chef, but he dies a (literally)"grizzly" death. "They killed Chef! You bastards!" In the obligatory reprise of a televison M.O.S., Stan says they should remember Chef for the good times, but direct their anger at the nutjobs who took him away (at "the fruity little club that scrambled his brains"). Back at the Cult, Chef is resuscitated into a Darth Vadar figure who reaffirms their nefarious purposes.

My old teach Dershowitz

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Alan Dershowitz. He was my first year Criminal Law professor so many years ago. When I took the exam at the end of the semester, I thought I had failed. The questions were so confusing. Each hypothetical presented seemed to have a dozen issues and all of them could be decided either way. I was sure that my analysis of them was hash.

Modesty prevents my sharing the grade I actually received on the exam, but I learned that law school exams are generally constructed to throw out a lot of obvious and hidden issues that can, often, be argued either way. Sometimes, a feeling of confusion is a sign of success.

And Alan was (probably still is) a very entertaining lecturer and very approachable for students. I remember that he was like an excited little boy one Monday after a weekend during which he had met Woodie Allen in New York. I thought it ironic when he later represented Mia Farrow in her nastly legal battle with Allen.

Even when he's done things I disagree with (which is often), I have still liked Alan.

Now he's written what could be a fascinating and important book called Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways. In it he argues that the ability of small numbers of people to do apocalyptic damage may require us to rethink some of the tradeoffs that we make between personal liberty and privacy and security. Rather than just cling to old notions of what that balance should be, we need to develop a jurisprudence of preemption and prevention.

This is intriguing. One of the weaknesses of the current posture of Sentor Censure may be that he is committed to a notion of civil liberties that tries to place new circumstances into old categories. Treating the computer monitoring of electronic communications as a "search" in the same sense as entry into your home may not make sense. The idea that profiling is unfair because it may inconvenience persons based on immutable characteristics they share with suspected wrongdoers may need to be more rigorously balanced against the cost of not doing so and compromises reached.

I'm not saying - and I'd be shocked if Dersh, civil libertarian that he is - would say that this means we have to cede all authority to the state, but that we have to be prepared to think creatively, not reflexively, about how to respond to new threats.

Now they've come for me

I thought about commenting on this, but but John McAdams beat me to it.

The other night, I commented that abortion proponents were upset by Amazon's computer generated referral of persons who search for books on "abortion" to the topic of adoption and to books that, while they are on abortion, are written from a pro-life perspective. Charlie Sykes extended that discussion on his show and at his blog.

While Amazon's computer may be pro-life, Google's supports gay marrriage.

I have written a series of thumb-suckingly long posts developing my position on the same-sex marriage amendment and have concluded, with some reluctance and dissatisfaction, that I am leaning in favor of the amendment.

But, while I have been opposing legal recognition of gay marriage, Google has been putting ads on my site for ... gay wedding rings! Google is stepping on my content! It's editorializing against me! In fact, the offending ad is there as I write this. Mocking me. Marginalizing me. Who do I sue?

Actually, I'm not offended by the ad (although I may be by the lack of ad revenue). But I would like to know what it is about a wedding ring that makes it, as the ad says, uniquely GBLT?

And what would be a "T" wedding anyway? "I've got it, honey, you be the wife for the first five years and then we'll, you know, switch."

It'll be like Heather's Mommy is Her Daddy.

Censure Carter ?

Via Instapundit

Is there a nascent movement to censure Jimmy Carter? Apparently you can sign a "censure Carter" petition here.

I'm not on board, but can't you make the point that what Carter is up to is at least more unusual than the power struggle between Congress and the President on the NSA program? In the one case, you have a disagreement over who has the constitutional authority to determine how war is to be conducted and the borders of the country secured from comunications to and from terrorist operatives in the United States.
As I have blogged without ceasing, there are reasonable arguments on both sides and the matter is an appropriate subject for conversation, not condemnation.

On the other hand, we have an ex-President running around and undermining the policy of the current administration. The issue is not whether the administration can be criticized, but whether it is appropriate for someone to use the status of an ex-President to do so. I can't think of an ex-President who has injected himself into the national and international partisan frey in quite this way.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Funeral protests

Dean Mundy has a good piece in Monday's Journal Sentinel (I am behind; not on blogosphere time) opposing the proposed law restricting protests at funerals.
I agree with him but want to point out something about the group that has prompted this proposal.

I am not going to link to the website of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church because it is disgusting. But Fred and his "congregation" protested outside my church about 18 months ago and I took a little time to learn about them then.

This is not a "group" or a "church." It is a family. They are virtually all Phelps' children and grandchildren. It is a very small group. A number are lawyers and they are very careful not to do anything that would cross the line legally. They won't block access to anyplace. They won't get into fights.

They are really odd looking people.

They do try to cross the line emotionally so that bystanders will cross the legal line. They hold up signs that say the most childish and disgusting and inaccurate things. But I can't give examples because this is a family blog.

Did I mention that they are all kind of goofy looking?

On the other hand, they are so obviously deranged that it's kind of hard to get angry. And, based on my experience, they are stupid. We were able to route all traffic in and out of the church into an entrance that completely avoided them.

Having these people outside of a funeral would be awful. But then again so is having Code Pink outside a VA hospital. Unfortunately, the law can't protect us from offense.

A gay financial partnership

Dennis York and Elliott have commented on Monday's op-ed by a Glendale woman repenting of her gay marriage to a man.

Amanda Seligman wrote that she would not want to "join a club" that discriminates, but, at the end of the day, you can't argue with the numbers. She wanted the bennies. Money talks, principle walks.

Now she is starting to regret it because she's married, but gay people aren't. Maybe it would have been better to boycott this marriage thing. She is embarrassed.

I think she illustrates my point about the threat to marriage posed by its redefinition. I am sure that Ms. Seligman loves and is committed to her husband. But she apparently regards what she calls a "holy union" as something that she entered into in order to get health insurance and a double stepped up basis in marital assets so she can avoid capital gains taxes after her husband dies. She may love him until death do them apart but the marriage bit is about money. It's kind of like joining Sam's Club. She wouldn't want to do that if Sam's discriminated no matter how much she could save on items purchased in bulk.

In fairness, I am sure Ms. Seligman would agree that marriage is not about getting a discount card, but committing to a person; of choosing to enter into a relationship. You choose that without regard of what it will get you in benefits and official recognition.

What benefits and burdens result from that choice depend on the nature of the relationship and what is likely to result from it. That is the debate we need to have. To say that a certain group people "feel excluded" because they cannot do what another group can does not tell us anything about whether there are relevant distinctions between the two groups.

To reduce marriage to an economic arrangement obscures the question.

Clash of cultures

I have not blogged on Justice Ginsburg's recent speech defending the use of foreign law and atttudes in interpreting the Constitution. For Ginsberg, this is just decent respect for the opinions of humankind about the "common denominators of basic fairness governing relationships between the governors and the governed."

There is the obvious problem that "basic fairness" is generally not what the Justices are called upon to discern, but let's put that aside.

Isn't the real problem that our values are not shared by much of the world?

Via The Volokh Conspiracy:

Danish paper Jyllands-Posten has broken the story of a forthcoming report by a UN functionary criticizing the Danish government for not supressing speech in the wake of Cartoon-gate. Such cartoons presumably violate the norms set by Article 20 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which says:

Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

So if I say something about your religion that makes you mad, I need to go to jail. I guess the next time some pro-abortion protester urges Catholics to "take your rosaries off my ovaries" or calls Jerry Falwell a hateful homophobe, we should call the UN.

Or should we just shut up about McCarthy ?

Further to the post below, Xoff thinks McCarthyism is a Wisconsin tradition.

Let's see. McCarthy was a junior Senator from Wisconsin with national ambition. He accused people who he disagrees with of being criminals. He wished to try these people in the press or on the floor of Congress, rather than in a court of law. He made accusations he couldn't back up.

Maybe it is.

Is McBrideism the new McCarthyism ?

Xoff and Paul Soglin think Jessica McBride is practicing McCarthyism in pointing out that the useless anti-war referenda are supported by some far left groups. Not fair, Xoff says, just as it apparently bothered him when Charlie Sykes pointed out that "distraught Gold Star mother" Cindy Sheehan expressed, and associated with people who held, rather extreme left wing views.

I guess we aren't entitled to know the perspective of those who are speaking to us. We should assume that Cindy Sheehan or people who support the referenda were born yesterday (actually ...) or have minds that are tabular rasa. They are all just normal unbiased people - people with no presuppostions or prior opinions about anything - who have just come to the rather obvious conclusion that the Che Guevera wing of the Democratic party is right. (Oh, I'm sorry, red baiting!)

Because we know that the Dems would never ever criticize a conservative positon because it was shared or promoted by the Bradley Foundation, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Federalist Society, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund, Club for Growth, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, or, increasingly, some group called the "Christian Reconstructionists" (all three of them).

That would never happen.

What has happened to Chef?

Faithful readers of this blog may have noticed that I, right-wing Christian neo-con, am a fan of the TV show South Park. As others have noted, the show has been in the news. First, Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, quit the show, apparently for its rough treatment of Scientology, of which he is apparently an adherent.

Second, Comedy Central pulled a scheduled rerun of the offending show (which included, among other things, scenes in which Nicole Kidman, John Travolta and others plead with Tom Cruise to "come out of the closet" in which he has, literally, locked himself) because of pressure from Scientologist Cruise who is reported to have threatened to suspend promotion for the upcoming movie Mission Impossible 3.

The shows creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker responded with a press release blasting Scientology that reads more like the fist-shaking rant of a foiled super hero.

For the record, I don't believe the Cruise story. I think it is a publicity stunt.

But now the 10th season is about to begin (nice coincidence) and the first episode will be ... The Return of Chef." It turns out that the kids will notice there is something wrong with Chef, that he is getting into trouble and that they need to save him. (A rescue which will be followed by a speech beginning "You know, I learned something today ....")

So what will be wrong with Chef.

It could be a Scientology thing. Maybe something about a Thetan trapped in his body, but that's too obvious and I don't know what a Thetan is.

My guess is that it has something to do with his voice. It'll be obvious to viewers (he'll sound stereotypically white or gay) but no one in town will notice it, while he engages in behavior consistent with the stereotype.

Or he'll become easily offended by things and cause all sorts of trouble. In the end, he'll give a speech in which he'll say, somehow, that people who are easily offended are "nothing, but a bunch of douches, children."

We'll see.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Together we will stand every boy, girl, woman man (and other)

Apologies to Canned Heat.

Oregon State will modify its admission forms to permit students to select "male," "female" or write in some other choice. According to Angi Baxter, executive director of the OSU student government's Queer Affairs Task Force, this will allow everyone to express "exactly who they think they are." I am glad we are insisting on precision.

Having accomplished this, the task force is moving on to get "gender inclusive" bathrooms in every building on campus for those who can use neither the men's or women's room because they are neither.

This reminds me of a story I heard recently about an organization of cross dressing transsexuals. Who would belong to such a group?

People who realize that they have made a mistake.

What I am is what I am
Are you what you are or what?

- Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

H/T: Townhall, via Alliance Defense Fund.

Addiction, Amazon and abortion

They say that the first step is the hardest.

My name is Rick and I have a book problem.

I buy too many. I have for years, but the advent of Amazon was like putting a bottomless tapper on an alcoholic's kitchen sink. I can't tell you what I've spent there. That comes in some future step.

One of the great things about the Amazon business plan is that they suss you out so completely. They've got the algorithms to know that if you want item A, there's a good chance you'll want item B. (And, in my case, items C-E.)

So when you would search for books on "abortion" it'd ask you if you want books on adoption. No good, said a retired Episcopal priest who found Amazon's computer-driven recognition that people considering abortion also think about saving their child "offensive." (I am, once again, an embarrassed Anglican.)

Amazon buckled under and disabled that part of the system, but things still aren't ok for the pro-"choice" folks.

The problem now is apparently that three of the top ten books are pro-life in perspective. (It's not about that choice.)

Amazon should consider itself placed on notice: If I go over to Borders, my guess is that your share values will drop 20%. Give in again at your peril.

Erin Kaplan: Fighting with half of her brain tied behind her back

Charlie Sykes draws our attention to an LA Times op-ed suggesting that former Bush administration official Claude Allen committed petty theft because he was black and conservative. This, according to Erin Aubry Kaplan must be "a life sentence" akin to that of a slave working in the big house. He cracked under the pressure of being black and conservative; two things she thinks are mutually exclusive.

This is so stupid as to defy refutation. Yet I doubt Erin Aubry Kaplan is as clueless as this makes her sound. How can an otherwise intelligent person write something this dumb? I think the answer is found in this paragraph:

Allen, a lawyer, was also President Bush's top advisor on domestic policy in an era when domestic policy has been indifferent at best to the growing needs of the poor — the black poor especially. Bush is fond of this kind of symbolism: putting black faces in key positions in order to appear racially progressive. It wouldn't be such a bad thing if the faces actually were progressive or had a vision more pressing than being loyal to the president, but they don't.

Therein lies her problem. She can't even imagine a conservative approach to the issues she cares about. She can't, in fact, even be bothered to find out what we have to say because we are obviously racist and reactionary.

She's not atypical of the left. And while, on one level, it makes me angry, on another, I know this is one of the reasons they keep losing at the polls. You can't respond to what you refuse to understand.

Keep it up, Erin.

Sharon Stone says ... Do we care?

Warren Bell at The Corner says it's unwise to date an actress because you'd have to listen to stuff like the following statement from Sharon Stone on the Israeli peace process:

"It feels to me that we have an opportunity ... to choose understanding in a new way," she told a press conference in Paris when asked about her trip.

"And it really is just a breath. It's just an agreement that's just a breath. We are not far apart. We can choose to have this alternative kind of growth that is a collective nuance of understanding."

Of course, the Reddess is both beautiful and has an IQ of around 642, but I still must ask myself.

Would must guys care?

Jeter to Iowa State?

This is getting old. Iowa State has now asked to talk to UWM men's basketball coach Rob Jeter. Last year we go to the sweet 16 and Tennessee hires Pearl before the guys are out of the shower. This year we get to the round of 32 and Jeter is meeting with Iowa State before anyone on campus can give the players a pat on the back.

I don't think Rob will go to Iowa State and I can't blame him for talking to them, but there is something about this that is very unfortunate. It was essentially the same seven guys that carried Bruce Pearl to riches at Tennessee who might well have done the same for Jeter.

Yet having accomplished things that I would not have thought imaginable two years ago, these guys had the rug pulled out of them last year and may be about to have it done again this year. When the coach leaves like that, there is immediately a lame duck air around the team's accomplishment. Last year's time had to cancel their celebratory reception on campus and, when it did happen, it was bittersweet.

Of course, none of these 9 guys are going to see a dime. There's not an NBA player among them.

Jeter leaving the program may disrupt its progress more than Pearl's departure because last year we had 7 of the first 9 returning. This year we have 7 of the first 9 graduating. We have some serious recruiting to do and this makes it virtually impossible.

If UWM wants to get to the next level, it's going to take serious cash. I wonder if the university and its alums are ready to make that commitment. The 900k buyout in Jeter's contract would make a nice start on a new package.

Shark and Sly Reprise

Two segments on Sly's midday show on 1670 AM in Madison. I really dislike doing those things by phone, but I'm obviously not going to drive to Madison.

Sly would probably hate either comparison but he seems like more of a Belling than a Sykes. Lots of speeches. Rapid talker. You tend to get drawn into the same thing in order to keep the playing field even. He kept repeating that Bush broke the law without any attempt to respond to any of the reasons why that probably isn't true. I guess it must be because Russ, who has a near iconic status in Madison, said it's so.

Censuring the President is not equivalent to criticizing him. . It is essentially branding him as a criminal. It sends a message to the world not just that there are many here who disagree with his policies, but that he has lost legitimacy. Believing the President has exceeded his authority does not mean he has acted criminally.

Why are these things so hard to understand?

You're in on a killing

Charlie Sykes' poll on the various views on the gay marriage amendment made the point that I think he intended to make. There is a fairly vigorous intellectual debate among conservatives. Gay marriage not only splits libertarian and social conservatives; it creates a further (albeit smaller split) among social conservatives, some of whom see value in encouraging monogamy and permanency among same-sex couples.

There would be less of a split on the death penalty, but I'm guessing that there is still a significant minority of us who oppose the adoption of the death penalty in Wisconsin.

Here the group that is potentially split is Christian - particularly Roman Catholic - conservatives who oppose the death penalty for faith-based reasons.

As I have blogged before (but can't link to because Blogger won't let me), I am in that group.

Which is why I have to commend, with a great reluctance that I have shared with him, Sunday's op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by former Milwaukee Journal reporter and editor, former Norquist chief of staff, current (I am sure proud to be called)Moonbat, and current guy whose heart bleeds on Eric Von's show, Jim Rowen.

Jim makes some points on the death penalty that I do not buy, but the beginning and end of my position is captured by his closing quote from E. Michael McCann (I find myself in some strange beds here), "you're in on a killing."

I do not criticize Christians who support the death penalty and I do not think being pro-life and pro-death penalty are logically inconsistent. My view is sort of an extension of Christian just war theory. Once an offender is neutralized, then our justification for taking his or her God-given life (however reprehensibly he or she has chosen to live it) is gone.

This doesn't mean I have sympathy for murderers or that I think it is likely that they can be rehabilitated. It doesn't mean that I care much if the conditions of their confinement are very unpleasant. I wouldn't even shed a tear if they are caught, like Jeffery Dahmer and Jesse Anderson, in the wrong place while the guards are on break.

Some of that I suppose I need to work on.

I am reminded of the comment of one of my former partners; a very conservative and very devout Roman Catholic who opposes the death penalty on the same basis and represents death row inmates on a pro bono basis. When someone asked him how he would feel if his client were to be "fried," he said "it's just another day at the office."

But once people like this are no longer a threat, it is not given to us to decide when their miserable lives will end. Otherwise, we'd be in on a killing.

Shark and Shepherd on the air

I will be on WDTY (1670 am) in Madison at 1 pm discussing the Feingold censure. I did not catch the name of the host when they called, but it turns out to be Sly of "Aunt Jemima" fame. If you are totally bored or down with the flu, you can listen online.

Too bad for Avery

Although it's not in the on-line version, The Spice Bs snarked at my former partners at Foley & Lardner yesterday for collected big money from Aurora. Actually, I think the shot was more across Aurora's bow, but I was left with but one thought:

That's some serious pastry. Maybe I should have stayed.

They also bat around a Madison lawyer Robert Gingras for seeking to enforce a contract that allegedly entitles him to 40& of Steven Avery's settlement for his wrongful incarceration. Two Milwaukee lawyers, Walter Kelly and Stephen Glynn, apparently were retained by Avery later and did all the work.

Normally, I am not a fan of lawyers gobbling up a client's settlement, but I am willing to make an excpetion here, especially since Gingras' partner says they would contribute the money to charity and the client may have just raped, tortured and killed someone.

Give Gingras the money. Honor the sanctity of contract.

But Kelly and Glynn should get paid too. After all, they convinced the County to pay that money even after Avery was charged with the Halbach murder. It would be wrong not to pay them too. They earned it.

Too bad Steve.

And if Gingras doesn't have a charity, I am announcing today the formation of the Richard M. Esenberg and Reddess O. Roscommon Foundation for the promotion of peace between the MSM and the blogosphere.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tell me

Ann Althouse asks why chanting is a required part of (I would say lefty) demonstrations?
It's not just the "hey ho" chants, but the doggerel. And it's not just the granolas. What is it with you guys? Why the shouting? Half the time you see Gore, he looks like he needs to be sedated. What's up with these repetitous slogans? "Keep hope alive !" "Bring them home?" "The farmer's in the dell?"

You're scaring people.

Fisking Folkbum

Jay Bullock responds to my op-ed on the censure resolution. I am sure he will be shocked to know that I am not convinced.

Jay, begins by suggesting that I am somehow wrong in suggesting that Feingold's reference to the NSA surveillance as "domestic" is oversimplification because "one of the parties" is in the US.

There is, as the cases that I refer to in my previous point demonstrate, a longstanding distinction between domestic surveillance and surveillance of foreign and international communications for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence and protecting the national security. (Thus my crack about WWII movies; something Jay dismisses because it suggests how problematic Feingold's position is.)

To merely call this "domestic" suggests that we are in the former territory; that Bush could be listening to your phone calls to Aunt Emma in Peoria. That is misleading and inflammatory. It is demagoguery.

Note I did not call it overseas surveillance either which, on Jay's logic, would be just as fair because one of the parties is overseas.

I call it what it is. It is surveillance of communications between persons in the US and persons overseas.

Jay doesn't like the argument from AUMF and Hamdi either. First, he can't find FISA's exception.

This is the old "AUMF" overrides FISA. First of all, I did a search of the FISA statute, and did not find the phrase Rick quotes. I'm not saying it's not there; I just couldn't find it with my eyes or the search tools I have available to me.

In fairness, I paraphrased and should probably have not used quotations on the whole phrase, but 50 U.S.C. sec. 1809(a)(1) makes it unlawful to engage in surveillance under color of law not "authorized by statute." The question is whether the AUMF constitutes such an authorization.

Jay says it's not. He writes:

This is a bit of spin, too, as the government actually lost that case--the majority opinion held that the US had to follow constitutional guidelines regarding the detention of US citizens captured in war. In addition, the AUMF explicitly states that the president's war powers, under the War Powers Resolution, are in force; however, "even the war power does not remove constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties," the Hamdi court noted. I'm pretty sure the Constitution says something about "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."

Well, of course activity authorized by Congress is still subject to constitutional limitations. The point, as I explained in the op-ed, is not whether the government won or lost Hamdi, but the fact that a majority thought that you interpret the AUMF by asking what are the traditional incidents of waging war and then concluding that those are what was authorized. Now, if Jay - or Russ - want to argue that monitoring communications between the the enemy and its domestic agents is not such a traditional incident, knock yourselves out.

It doesn't matter by the way what individual legislators intended or even what the administration thought and when they thought it. If the language is broad enough - and Hamdi suggests it is - then the language is broad enough. It is the words that matter.

Now, and here is where you must follow closely, the fact that Bush has the statutory authority doesn't mean that he has exercisd it constitutionally. In Hamdi, while a majority thought the detentions were authorized, a majority thought they had been conducted in a way that violated applicable constitutional safeguards.

But that doesn't mean that the NSA program, if authorized, would also violate the constitution. Jay would argue that the surveillance even if authorized violates the Fourth Amendment. He would almost certainly lose that argument because, as referenced in my prior post, most courts have thought that there is a national security/foreign intelligence exception to the warrant clause.

Then Jay cites a different statute. 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(f), that says the procedures of FISA are the exclusive means of conducting electronic surveillance as that term is defined in FISA and suggests that this resolves all of this. But of course it doesn't. If 1809(a)(1) - which is part of FISA - excepts surveillance authorized by statute from FISA's requirements then 2511(2)(f), which simply refers to FISA, can't
prohibit what FISA permits.

(As an aside, and I'm not going to get into it here because I'm not sure it works in the end, the NSA program may not even constitute "electronic surveillance" as that term is defined in FISA since, if it is not wiretapping, it requires the targeting of a United States person sending or receiving a communication in which he or she has an expectation of privacy. United States person is a defined term that excludes any person engaged, among other things, in clandestine activities or terrorism on behalf of a foreign power. So depending on how they captured a communication or who was involved, it might not even fall within the Act's prohibition. But this is serious inside baseball.)

As to the constitutionality of any limits on FISA, Jay says the government had 25 years to challenge it. Not so simple. Courts require a case or controversy. As a general matter, the goverment can't run into court and say that a law is unconstitutional anymore than Jay Bullock and Rick Esenberg can. That a statute has gone unchallenged may reflect the fact that there has been no justiciable circumstance in which any of the affected parties had a motivation to go to court.

Jay keeps swinging, arguing that Bush didn't adequately inform Congress. I don't know. I do know that, under the law, the AG was supposed to brief the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. That happened, although I guess Jay is right - Jay Rockefeller doesn't think he understood what was going on. The fact of the matter remains that there are people in Congress who know more about this than the public does and they are proposing that we censure the President or cut off NSA funding. There is an effort to change the statutory framework. But Feingold won't go for that, because it's not about Russ.

That I don't know exactly what the NSA is doing is a necessary incident of war in a world which has evil people. If hard left Dems think we can fight terrorism by having a public discussion of the specifics of counter-terrorism measures, then thank God they are not in power. To some extent, we have to rely on the President and limited Congressional oversight and the due process rights afforded American citizens, (if there are any), who are harmed by this.

Jay then thinks that Feingold's "Bush lied" paragraphs constitute some kind of powerful argument. His references to the State of Union address seems to constitute nothing more than Bush's refusal to agree with Russ that FISA gives him the authority that he needs and that he is limited by its terms. That is a difference of opinion; not a lie.

The notion that Bush lied when he made a campaign statement in Buffalo is silly. It was a political speech not a law review article. What he says is - and remains true -for purely domestic communications. That he didn't stop and say - well, it's not true for a tiny subset of international communications does not offend me.

Censure is not an appropriate way to express policy differences.

Further fisking Feingold

While I think (but I am biased) that much of the weaknesses in Feingold's position can be discerned by reading his and my op-eds in yesterday's paper, here's a more detailed fisking of what he has to say.

Russ: When a New York Times article exposed the National Security Agency program, the White House launched an intensive effort to mislead the American people yet again. This time, the White House suggested that the program was necessary in order to wiretap terrorists.

Attorney General Gonzales has testified that the program is necessary to conduct the type of surveillance that following Al Quaida in today's technological world requires. As I point out, whether that is true or not depends on details that are not publicly available. But it's not an implausible suggestion. We live in a world where people can change cell phones and urls by the minute. Responding to that reality was one of the innovations of the Patriot Act (which Feingold also opposed). The notion that one can know "where" a target is (or precisely who a target is) and then establish probable cause may be defeated by technology. While we may want to stick to the old rules domestically, there is a long traditon of allowing more leeway where foreign agents are involved in international and transnational communications.

Russ: In this year's State of the Union address, the president implied that before he authorized the program, he couldn't have wiretapped terrorist suspects. That is simply untrue. Congress passed FISA in 1978 specifically to lay out the rules for wiretaps of terrorists and spies, and it has updated that law repeatedly since. FISA includes safeguards, which the president is ignoring, to protect the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Americans.

See above.

Russ: He [Bush] has said that the Authorization for Use of Military Force signed into law after Sept. 11 authorized warrantless wiretaps, when virtually every member of Congress agrees they intended no such thing.

I do not believe that virtually every member of Congress has said that they believe the AUMF cannot be interpreted to apply to the NSA program. In any event, what legislation means is determined not by what those who passed it said they meant but by what it actually says. Whether or not the President has acted without regard for the law turns on whether he has ignored the law and the manner in which the courts have interpreted it. Feingold doesn't even begin to address why Hamdi v. Rumsfeld doesn't more or less resolve the issue in the president's favor, much less make what he has done a good faith interpretation of the law. Yeah, I know that this legal stuff is boring, but we are talking about censuring a president here. I thought our heroic maverick was all about substance and not soundbites.

Russ: And he has said that past presidents have used the same authority and that federal courts have approved the exercise of that authority, when neither is true.

Let's start with the court decisions. Seth Zlochota asked for links to the cases I referred to in my op-ed. You inguire and Shark provides:

First, from SCOTUS:

Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). Katz held that in an ordinary criminal prosecution (subject to many exceptions)a warrant is required for wiretap information to be admissible in court. The Court specifically noted, however, that its decision did not apply to situations involving national security:

Whether safeguards other than prior authorization by a magistrate would satisfy the Fourth Amendment in a situation involving the national security is a question not presented by this case.

In his concurrence, Justice White made clear that he felt that the President would not need a warrant for national security surveillance:

In joining the Court's opinion, I note the Court's acknowledgment that there are circumstances in which it is reasonable to search without a warrant. In this connection, in footnote 23 the Court points out that today's decision does not reach national security cases. Wiretapping to protect the security of the Nation has been authorized by successive Presidents. The present Administration would apparently save national security cases from restrictions against wiretapping. See Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41, 112 -118 (1967) (WHITE, J., [389 U.S. 347, 364] dissenting). We should not require the warrant procedure and the magistrate's judgment if the President of the United States or his chief legal officer, the Attorney General, has considered the requirements of national security and authorized electronic surveillance as reasonable.

United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). One of the defendants was charged with dynamiting a Michigan office of the C.I.A. The Court's held that warrants were required for wholly domestic surveillance in matters of domestic security. As I stated in my op-ed, the Court expressly stated that it was reserving the question of the president's surveillance authority with respect to tha actions of foreign powers in this country and abroad.

How about the lower courts? (I don't have readily available links to the older ones. You can't use my Westlaw account.)

United States v. Clay, 430 F.2d 165 (5th Cir. 1970). In the course of its opinion rejecting the Greatest of All Time's claim that his conviction was based on information obtained from illegal wiretaps, the court wrote:

The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether electronic surveillance for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information is constitutionally permissible [citation omitted], though Mr. Justice White has expressed the view that such surveillance does not violate the Fourth Amendment. [citation omitted]

We…discern no constitutional prohibition against the fifth wiretap. Section 605 of Title 47, U.S.C., is a general prohibition against publication or use of communications obtained by wiretapping, but we do not read the section as forbidding the President, or his representative, from ordering wiretap surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence in the national interest.

Strictly speaking, this case (like those which follow) addresses the limitation of the 4th Amendment, not Congress, on the president's power but, when it comes to the gathering of foreign intelligence for national security purposes), the rationale underlying the former is reasiliy applicable to the latter.

United States v. Butenko, 494 F.2d 593 (3rd Cir. 1974). The defendant was convicted of espionage. The court wrote:

In sum, we hold that, in the circumstances of this case, prior judicial authorization was not required since the district court found that the surveillances of Ivanov were “conducted and maintained solely for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information.”

United States v. Truong Dihn Hung, 629 F.2d 908 (4th Cir. 1980)

In upholding warrantless wiretapping conducted by the Carter administration which resulted in evidence leading to the conviction of the defendant for espionage, the court noted:

For several reasons, the needs of the executive are so compelling in the area of foreign intelligence, unlike the area of domestic security, that a uniform warrant requirement would, following [United States v. United States District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)], “unduly frustrate” the President in carrying out his foreign affairs responsibilities. First of all, attempts to counter foreign threats to the national security require the utmost stealth, speed and secrecy. A warrant requirement would add a procedural hurdle that would reduce the flexibility of executive foreign intelligence activities, in some cases delay executive response to foreign intelligence threats, and increase the chance of leaks regarding sensitive executive operations

Truong did not hold that FISA was an unconstitutional restriction on the President's power (that issue was not before it because the wiretapping took place before FISA was enacted), but it's rationale suggests that it might be.

United States v. Buck, 548 F.2d 871 (9th Cir. 1977) was a firearms prosecution. In the course of it's decsion, the court snoted that "foreign security wiretaps are a recognized exception to the general warrant requirement…."

United States v. Duggan, 743 F.2d 59 (2d Cir. 1984), in which the court said:

Prior to the enactment of FISA, virtually every court that had addressed the issue had concluded that the President had the inherent power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information, and that such surveillances constituted an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

Finally, the FISA Court of Review (it sits over the FISA tribunals that hand out warrants) in a case called In re Sealed Cases, said:

The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power. The question before us is the reverse, does FISA amplify the President’s power by providing a mechanism that at least approaches a classic warrant and which therefore supports the government’s contention that FISA searches are constitutionally reasonable.

Do these cases definitively resolve the issue. No, they don't. But they do suggest that the President's interpretation of his constitutional authority is reasonable and certainly does not constitute the type of criminality and wholesale disregard of the law that would warrant censure.

How about other Presidents:

Oh gee, there's Wilson in WWI; Roosevelt in WWII. If that's too old schoo foy you, how about the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter (see Truong and the Clinton Justice Department, Details are here.

I am reminded of John Randolph's observation that Edward Livington was like a mackerel in the moonlight that "both shines and stinks."

I see Jay Bullock has some comments. I'll respond to those later.