Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kerry Loompa

Via The Man at GOP and the City.

I have to assume everyone has heard that Kerry's face mysteriously turned orange, and that most of you have heard the inevitable jokes about Kerry being an Ommpa Loompa. But someone went the extra mile and wrote a Kerry-ized Oompa Loompa song:

Oompa Loompa Democrats doo
I’ve got another doozy for you
Oompa Loompa doompadah dee
If you are clueless you’ll vote for me
What do you get from a glut of TV?
Swift Boat Vets always shooting at me
Why don’t you try simply reading a book?
But at my weak record you better not look!
Oompa Loompa Doompadee Dah
At your expense I will go far
Taxing and spending, flip-flopping too
Like the OompaOompa Loompa Democrats do

Adams v. Sullivan: Smackdown!

Mike Adams has a fantastic column about how his university sponsored a lecture by "conservative" Andrew Sullivan. Read the column for the details of the school's blatant hypocrisy and Sully's feeble attempt at presenting two sides of an issue, when he is losing readers almost as fast as CBS is losing viewers because he is so obsessively focused on only one side of that issue.

I just wanted to point out the following tidbit:

"The university’s press release said that Sullivan focused the end of his lecture on the 'pursuit of happiness' clause in the Constitution. Wouldn’t it have been better to spend $10,000 on a speaker who knew that there is no such clause in the Constitution?"

Indeed. That whole "pursuit of happiness" deal was from the Declaration of Independence. I knew that, but no one paid me $10,000 to point it out. Seriously, I had no idea that idiocy could be so lucrative. I've decided to start touring campuses presenting a lecture entitled "Bush is Part Monkey: A Conservative View on the Possibility that George W. Bush is Part Monkey." See, because I'm a conservative, that means the universities can sell my appearances as promoting "diversity." And since the entire content of my lecture will be me holding up pictures of George W. Bush and pictures of monkeys, the universities can feel perfectly comfortable with the content, as well. Heck, I'll only charge $9,000 per visit - it'll be a bargain!

Repost: Conceding a Point

[Note: the following is a column that will be featured in next week's Dicta, the law school student newspaper. Crocodile fans get the scoop]

Some John Kerry supporters argue that it is unfair to describe him as an unprincipled flip-flopping political opportunist with no moral compass. I’m ready to concede that point. Basically, in order to flip-flop on a position, one must first take a position. By definition, therefore, the vicious Republican attack machine must be wrong when it calls john Kerry a flip-flopper. With that in mind, and as a public service, I offer a run-down and harmonization of certain Kerry statements that may look like flip-flops, to the untrained eye, but which actually are not. I’m good that way.

Immediately after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, Kerry called the war in Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Please note that you should not read this as inconsistent with his statement, weeks earlier, that he would have voted to give the president authority to go to war even if he had known there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. As the "flip-flopper" door is closed to us, we must conclude that John Kerry supports wars when they are wrong. I’m glad that’s clear.

Similarly, just because Kerry told a group of Jews that he supports the wall Israel is building, and then later told a group of Arabs that the wall is a bad thing, that doesn’t mean he is flip-flopping. It could simply mean that he fully supports the walls that violate international human rights. This shouldn’t be too surprising, coming from an admitted war criminal who did nothing to stop soldiers in Vietnam from committing war crimes in the manner of "Jinjiz Khan." Again, he’s not flip-flopping, he just supports very bad things.

Just because John Kerry is on record saying he supports gay marriage, and also on record saying he does not, that doesn’t mean he’s a flip-flopper. It just means he’s lying to at least one of his audiences.

Just because he wrote a letter to a constituent claiming he supported Gulf War I, and wrote a letter to the same constituent the next day saying he didn’t, that doesn’t mean he’s a flip-flopper. It means that one of the letters was written by a John Kerry from an alternate universe, and somehow it ended up here. See, the explanations are all perfectly reasonable, and no one needs to resort to using names like "flippy," "waffles," or "shameless panderer."Just because he said, reportedly with a straight face, that he "actually voted for the 87 billion, before I voted against it" doesn’t make him a flip-flopper. A moron, perhaps, but not a flip-flopper.
Finally, just because John Kerry proposes a trillion-dollar spending increase on his medical programs alone, and later claims he won’t increase taxes, and yet he criticizes the President for the budget deficit, that doesn’t mean he’s flip-flopping. It just means he can’t add.

So in conclusion, I will not stand idly by while vicious conservatives accuse John Kerry of flip-flopping. Just because all the available evidence seems to point that way doesn’t mean the accusations have any basis in reality. It just means you aren’t being creative enough.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Pardon My French, but...

Darn Haloscan to Heck!

It's not giving me access to the comments section. Considering that comments are Haloscan's sole raison d'etre, how am I to feel anything other than deep malaise at the trompe l'oeile by which my blog has the comments section in camoflage? Zut alors! There goes my joie de vivre for today.

Fancy That - Apologies Work!

Via Instapundit, it seems that National Geographic learned that some pictures attached to a story were faked by the photographer.

That page has a link to the National Geographic forums. The comments there pretty much universally praise the editors for their candid admission, explanation of how and why they were duped, and apology for the error. In addition, we get the following gems:

"Good think, Dan Rather doesn't work for National Geographic. That is what an appology should sound like. Note: they never mention that the thrust of the story was correct and that just the photographs were wrong." The Snake Guy.

"Apoligy accepted, and thank you for the integrity to fully investigate the faked images without having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the admission. Your fine publication shows the sort of integrity others should aspire to." Brett Carnaby.

"What a brave and decent way of handeling a mistake like this. Hats off to National Geographic. Would that other media had the same decency. Congratulations for facing the issue and solving it this way." Miguel.

"National Geographic Magazine, like CBS, has become agenda-driven. But unlike Dan Rather, when confronted with fraudulent information, fess up and do the right thing. The agenda may be wrong, but at least it's not fraudulent. Kudos." Paul.

And so forth. There's a lot more, assuredly the product of getting an Instalaunch. Perhaps the best part is that there is another story circulating the blogs today about yet another CBS stroy slamming Bush, and relying on totally debunked information. From Powerline - who provided a huge part of the thrust on the first Dan Rather story - linking and Little Green Footballs.

So what's this one all about? CBS wants to scare you into thinking that Bush will reinstate the draft. After all, even as I write this, there are bills in the House and the Senate that would do just that! The only (minor) problems with the story are that the bills were sponsored by Democrats, and that the bills are basically dying in committee because no Republicans will sign on to them.

Not that either of those two points should get in the way of a good story.

Query: Is CBS actually trying to lose more viewers?

But to be fair, I'll leave CBS with this tip to a nice juicy story. I heard that George W. Bush likes to go to the desert, strap on rocket-powered skates, and chase after very crafty birds so he can viciously devour them. I bet I can find a totally authentic picture, too.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Bruce Springsteen Doesn't Like Fox News

Boo Hoo.

There's more in there, of course. Like the part where he actually sounds proud to be raising money for Americans Coming Together, which is now being investigated by the FEC for fradulent registration in Ohio. As it turns out, the FEC can be a real stickler about not registering dead people, or just making up names altogether.

And speaking of just making things up, let's get to the best paragraph:

"The press has let the country down."

Yeah, I know. Who would have thought a major news network would actually use such a transparent forgery as the centerpiece of a blatantly partisan hit-job on a sitting president in a time of war?

"It's taken a very amoral stand, in that essential issues are often portrayed as simply one side says this and the other side says that."

Amoral stand? Are we talking about the same press, here? Because when I hear the words "press" and "let the country down" in the same sentence, I think of the hyperpartisan liberal media that is far more concerned with "inner truth" than "actual truth." You know, the kind of thing that makes a career newsman put his reputation on the line for a forgery that a nine-year-old kid could see through. That kind of thing.

"I think that Fox News and the Republican right have intimidated the press into an incredible self-consciousness about appearing objective and backed them into a corner of sorts where they have ceded some of their responsibility and righteous power."

Ah. My mistake. It turns out that Bruce is really disappointed because Republicans keep getting so hung up on objectivity! We sure do suck, that way. And I'd like to point out that Dan Rather wasn't "intimidated" for a good two weeks after his forgeries were exposed. So much for that theory.

"The Washington Post and New York Times apologies about their initial reporting about Iraq not being critical enough were very revealing."

Ah yes. I'm always reassured when the Times tells us they just aren't liberal enough!

"I've found enormous sustenance from Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd on the op-ed page."

Okay, this fisking is over. I have to go throw up. Bruce must be some type of mushroom, because if he considers the Grade A bulls%$# coming from Krugman and Dowd to be "sustenance," there's no other explanation. Which leads me to my final thought - if a liberal does enough mushrooms, will he or she actually become a mushroom?

If You Can't Trust Jimmy Carter to Tell You About Election Fraud...

...who can you trust?

The former President is worried about the elections in Florida.

I know what you're thinking, and I agree. It's true. We all should be worried that the failing government schools in Florida haven't educated the morons who couldn't figure out the ballot four years ago, so why should we trust them to vote properly this time?

And you're also thinking, After Bush sends all those hurricanes into Florida, using a special hurricane machine designed by Halliburton and the Jews, of course people are going to get disenfranchised!

But trust me, if Jimmy Carter is worried about the Florida vote, then we all should be. After all, this is the guy who observed Hugo Chavez' perfectly legitimate victory in Venezuela.

Now I'm sure you're all interested to know what the "minimum international standards" are that Florida does not meet. Me too, and I'm sure Mr. Carter will explain that in all the necessary detail the next time he gives a press conference. So let's all be patient...

Update, but no, not an update to provide any of Carter's details, which I assume are forthcoming:

If the above-linked column got you angry, you have something in common with Neal Boortz.

You can also read VodkaPundit's take on Carter's comments. It's good because he shows how Carter's criticism is fundamentally at odds with the United States Constitution.

Kerry to Bush: You're Hurting my Feelings!

Story here.

The short version is, as I've noted before, that some time after John Kerry uttered the words "Bring it on" with respect to Bush's future attack ads, Kerry decided that he didn't actually like to have it brought, and so he has changed his tune to something closer to "Can't we all just get along?"

Note carefully that Kerry never suggests that should stop with the anti-Bush ads.

In related news, Kerry announced at a later press conference that the terrorists in Iraq are "a bunch of big mean-heads," and if he is elected President, he will "take his ball and go home." Vice Presidential hopeful John Edwards was unavailable for comment because his mouth was full of paste, but Mary Mapes, who was hanging around with the Kerry campaign for perfectly legitimate reasons, opined that "just because John [Kerry] told Bush to bring it on doesn't mean he actually wanted [President George W.] Bush to bring it on. Haven't you people ever heard of nuance?"

Reporters failed to ask Mapes what she was doing speaking at a Kerry press conference.

Update: from that same article, I really need to point out the following quote by Kerry:

"It's all scare tactics ... because (Bush) has no record to run on."

I see. This is so wonderfully rich for a few reasons. First, as for scare tactics, showing John Kerry windsurfing instead of getting CIA briefings is not "scare tactics," it's pointing out that Kerry doesn't seem to take national security as seriously as his extreme sports. Second, I can't think of any way a Republican could outdo Ted Kennedy's scare tactic of suggesting that if GWB gets another term, we will get nuked. And third, as far as records go, are you sure you want to go there?

Because if you do, I'd like to ask the following question.

Mr. Kerry, in all the time that you served with honor and distinction in the U.S. Senate, which bill that you sponsored are you the most proud of, and why?

And I know I'm asking a lot, but try to answer without using the word "Vietnam."

Update: Maybe I should have just printed the whole thing and fisked it line by line, because this article is jam-packed full of hilarity. Here's another gem:

"A statement called the spot, run by the Republican group Progress for America Voter Fund, the latest in a series of 'desperate and despicable attack ads' aimed at diverting attention from Bush's record."

Desperate? Pardon me, but isn't desperation a hallmark of the guy who's polling 11 points behind? Why would a guy with a comfortable lead, vastly higher credibility ratings, and a massive list of dead or captured al-Quaeda operatives do something "desperate"? And especially a week after polls show that Kerry is as popular as Martha Stewart?

And on the other side of that question, do attacks on Bush that are based entirely on forged documents smack of desperation, or of something else? Does shaking up your campaign team to pull in Clinton's old pals smack of desperation, or of something else? How about Kerry's refusal to give interviews to the reporters who travel in his entourage for over a month (i.e. since the Christmas in Cambodia story was first de-bunked)?

Who is the desperate one, here?

"Kerry said America's middle classes had suffered from the huge tax cuts that Bush had presided over and which Democrats say mainly benefit the most wealthy."

I'm totally unclear on this one. If the government takes less of Bill Gates' money next year, but takes the same amount from me (we're assuming that I had income - it's a rhetorical device, you see), how exactly am I hurt by that?

"'He doesn't care, he's out of touch,' said Kerry."

Just in case you didn't catch that, let me repeat it. John Forbes Kerry actually suggests that someone is out of touch. Let that sink in. No, actually, don't let that sink in because it could cause madness.

That's not to say there isn't some element of truth in what Kerry is saying. Any time I really, really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I want to order my personal valet - who is in charge of nothing else bu making me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - to make me one right then and there, I find myself reflecting - as I enjoy that peanut butter and jelly sandwich - just how out of touch Bush is.

Also, when I fly to Idaho to stay in one of my mansions for a week while snowboarding and cussing out secret service agents, I often wonder how much more out of touch Bush thinks he can get and still count on my vote.

And when my wife has to ask me what "chili" is when she sees it on the menu at Wendy's, I explain to her that it's the kind of thing common folks, like me or John Kerry eat, unlike that stuck-up snob Bush, who has his meals and his hairdressers flown across the country in a private jet.

It's a good thing John Kerry feels my pain.

When Boards are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Boards

I had a discussion with a friend of mine just before he had to give a presentation on the law as it relates to nursing homes, and specifically whether gay men should get their own nursing homes to prevent abuse by homophobic staffers.

But at no point in the conversation did this friend of mine mention the fact that old people sometimes kill each other with boards in nursing homes. That's why you should never trust an old person. You never know when one of them will snap and kill you with part of his bed. And you should never trust a liberal, because they omit important facts like the violent propensities of old people.

She's Gonna Blow!

Bad news for people who live near Mount St. Helens.

I've never really understood why someone (and I'm thinking Naples, here) would build a city near a volcano. But I guess it makes about as much sense as building a home in New Orleans. Maybe a hurricane doesn't do as much damage as a volcanic eruption, but we get 'em more often.

That said, I wonder how long it will take for someone to blame the volcano's rumblings on Bush's failure to sign the Kyoto treaty. Any takers?

BYW, make sure you follow the link. The pictures of the mountain are gorgeous.

Update: Via Rusty Shackleford at MyPetJawa, this page has photos of the last time Mount St. Helens blew her top.

Response from Steve Palme

Steve was good enough to respond to my criticisms of his letter to the editor, and because Haloscan (may it's makers die a foul death) has a limit on how long comments can be, so he sent his reply directly to me. Because nobody wants to read six paragraphs in italics, I'm writing my own preface in italics, and Steve's response is in regular type. My comments will be in bold.

NOTE: You can find Steve's original letter, and my fisking of it, here. For my translation (that I got bored with after a few paragraphs) of the Arab-language column that was the source of Cal Thomas' column, look here.

Update: I've chopped out all but my conclusion because I felt I have an unfair advantage when I can write as much as I want, and Steve is limited to either Haloscan's word limits or e-mailing me his posts directly.

Steve writes:

I wanted to take a moment, now that I have a moment, to respond to Sobek’s criticisms of my editorial letter about Cal Thomas. However, I don’t want to engage in some tit-for-tat rhetorical dance or back and forth parsing of statements to see who may gain the upper semantic hand. I am far more concerned with the larger ideas that I found implicit in Cal Thomas’s editorial those couple weeks ago, and have seen with disturbing and growing frequency over the last 3 years.

You can look almost anywhere on the far right, at columnists, radio hosts, cable talk, or authors and find either explicit or implicit in much of what is being said a current of intolerance. Not just intolerance, really, but often outright exhortations to violence broadcast across the airwaves or circulated in print. They are constant, and numerous. Mike Savage called Muslims in America a dangerous fifth column that should be killed or rounded up. Limbaugh dismisses torture of prisoners in Iraq (and let us not quibble, it was torture—people went into interrogations alive and came out beaten to death) as just a few guys letting off steam, really nothing more than a fraternity hazing. Coulter, well she consistently advocates violence against just about everyone except herself. Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly called for wholesale slaughter of Iraqi men—armed or no—on his Fox show. And Michelle Malkin penned an entire book on the defense of the internment of Japanese during WWII (and implied that it is something that should be revived again today).

I am certain that there could be more hairsplitting over exactly what was said, in what context, where, when, by whom…but what is the point? It is undeniable that this idea of using violence—and detainment is most certainly a form of violence—against a minority group that is part of our society not only exists, but has been growing and is fomented by those I mentioned above and others. Whatever the rhetorical frame or semantic dancing that is applied to statements and suggestions that have been advanced, if you are prepared to be totally honest and objective in your assessment then you must admit that this is actively occurring. And I for one, am horrified by it and feel compelled to speak out.

Muslims, Arabs, however you want to characterize the group that is currently being demonized, are no more guilty of a collective crime than the Jews of Germany or Russia or the African Americans of the United States or the Tutsi of Rawanda. Yet that is the portrayal that is being foisted on the American public with increasing frequency and virulence.

Whatever our differences of opinion as to the way our country should be governed and move forward, this is something that we must not permit. It is a dark, dark road that once started down is hard to turn away from and, as history has shown, even harder to atone for. These calls for internment, for violence, for the curtailment of the civil rights of Arabs and Muslims (and by extension, all of us—the law as applied to one applies to all in the same way) that have been increasing over the last 3 years are something that we should denounce, loudly and without reservation. I can see in these statements that are being made and the calls for action against a minority group that is part of our society in America shadows of McCarthyism, of the shameful treatment of the Japanese in America during WWII, and of worse things still. It cannot be allowed to continue. Democracy is a fragile thing, and once the rights that we enjoy within our democracy are lost they will never be regained. This is the way that governments falter and the manner in which republics fail. This has been true since Caesar crossed the Rubicon and signaled the demise of the Roman Republic. Citizens acquiesced, they gave up rights, they allowed security to overtake liberty, and they allowed those in the minority to serve as scapegoats for their insecurities and fears.

Whatever our differences may be, the line should be drawn at allowing a minority, any minority, within our society to suffer the malicious rhetoric that is now growing in our society and is directed at the Muslim community. If we will stand to see our neighbors treated in this way and even, as some now suggest, to be taken away and interned then who will stand up for you or me when they come for us?

This may or may not come as a surprise, but malicious rhetoric is fundamentally engrained in our society. The ACLU is willing to defend the KKK, not because they agree with the Klan's racism and violence, but because they recognize the value in keeping speech free even when that speech is genuinely vile, hateful, counter-productive to an ordered society, profoundly ignorant, or maybe even leading to violence. Because therein lies the "when they come for us" issue. I support the KKK's right to speak, much as I despise what they say, because I value my right to speak.

To Steve's credit, I will remind the readers that his conclusion in his letter to the editor was entirely reasonable. He did not call for Thomas to be fired, or for the Times-Picayune to stop carrying his columns. He didn't ask the government to silence him. He recommended that Thomas be shunned, and while I disagree with the necessity, I totally agree with the approach.

If no one reads Thomas' columns, he will have no forum to say what he wants to say. If people turn off Rush, Hannity, Savage or Boortz, they are effectively fired. If no one shows up at the KKK rally, there will be no more KKK. And if, as a society, we shun and ignore those who really do preach violence against Muslims and Arabs, then they will have no forum and their ideas can do no harm. And of course, if Steve is wrong about the relative danger of Thomas' words, then Steve's suggestion can be safely dismissed - and for that reason, the specific boundaries of the source and degree of anti-Muslim rhetoric is unimportant to this conclusion. If Rush really is preaching violence, then turn him off. If Steve is wrong, and Rush isn't preaching violence, keep him on. He has no right to speak if we have no desire to listen. And perhaps a thoughtful letter to the editor will cause some reader to decide that a certain speaker really has crossed the line, and that voice will reach one less person in the audience.

But all of this, of course, is the effect of the masses consciously choosing their message, and tough as it may be, I must support any speaker's right to say hateful things. That's just what we do, because we're Americans.

The Sweet Taste of Victory

Or at least runner-up to victory.

I got a runner up prize in the Ace of Spades haiku contest. Here is my entry:


Snow on Mt. Fuji
Settles soft and white, like death,
Like burnt memo ash.

I'm honored, but considering that my prize is the chance to massage Oliver Willis' feet. Hmm, I may have to decline for ... um, artistic reasons. Yeah, that should work.

Actually, I thought my best one was this untitled entry:

Haiku experts tell me
That this poem has the requisite
Number of syllables.

Oh, well. There's no accounting for taste, I suppose.

More Hurricane Blogging

I spent the bulk of Sunday in Pensacola, FL, volunteering for hurricane clean-up with a group from church. Mostly we tacked tarps or plastic to roofs to keep them from leaking, but we also carted branches to curbs, raked up debris, and at the last house we did I got to use the chain-saw (yeah, baby) to chop up a tree which had crashed through a fence. So today I am totally exhausted, but it was worth it. I could not believe my eyes, even as a looked at the extent of the destruction. The first house we did, we couldn’t even see from the road because the street was lined with massive stacks of lumber. I didn’t realize until the guy showed us a "before" picture just how beautiful his house had been. But he was lucky - he had a few small holes in his roof, was missing all of his trees, and his swimming pool looked like it was filled with root beer, but that was basically the extent of it.

At the end of the day, we returned to the first house we visited because the lady had made a huge pot of homemade chicken gumbo, and it would have been a shame to let her efforts go to waste.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

First Amendment Musings

"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."

Almost from the beginning of First Amendment jurisprudence it has been assumed that when the Framers used the words "no law," they didn't really mean "no law." Lots of things have no First Amendment protection, such as incitement to violence, obscenity, and libel (unless you're CBS - and I'm only partly joking, here). In fact, as Justice Brennan pointed out in Roth v. United States (1957), "[t]he guarantees of freedom of expression in effect in 10 of the 14 States which by 1792 had ratified the Constitution, gave no absolute protection for every utterance... In light of this history, it is apparent that the unconditional phrasing of the First Amendment was not meant to protect every utterance." This, in contrast to Hugo Black's dissent in Konigsberg v. State Bar (1961), in which he basically argued that the words "no law" mean "no law."

It's hard to argue with Black's approach, because the framers presumably knew what the words "no law" meant and stuck them in there on purpose. But it's also hard to argue with Brennan's observation, because if the states had anti-obscenity laws (for example) when they ratified the Amendment, and they continued to enforce those laws after ratification, it stands to logic that the people who ratified the Amendment didn't think they were violating it.

Being the textualist that I am, I think there's a perfectly simple way to read the First Amendment without running afoul of either Justice Black or Justice Brennan, and it all falls on the very first word - Congress.

When the Constitution uses the word "Congress," it means one and only one thing. It refers to the two federal legislative bodies, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The word "Congress," in that document, does not apply to any other group. So re-read the words: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Consider the possibility that those who ratified this amendment meant it to do exactly what it says - prevent federal legislation that in any way, shape or form abridges the freedom of speech or of the press. Why? Because regulation of speech is more properly left to states, perhaps. Because there's nothing about federal power which makes it better equipped to deal with speech issues, perhaps. Because those who wrote the Constitution only wanted the Federal government to deal with Federal issues, and a man's right to wear a shirt that says "F--- the Draft" into a courthouse has nothing whatsoever to do with federalism, perhaps.

The next step in my analysis must turn to the Fourteenth Amendment, because that is the instrument, according to the Court, by which the Bill of Rights became applicable to the states. In relevant part, it reads, "[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Apparently the reasoning goes like this: as a citizen of the United States, I enjoy First Amendment privileges. States are forbidden from abridging those privileges. Therefore States (and State entities, such as the local police) cannot infringe upon my right to free speech.

The problem with this logic is that is pre-supposes that I have a privilege as a citizen against any and all free speech infringement. That is not necessarily the case, because as I just demonstrated the text of the First Amendment can reasonably be read as supporting my right against Federal meddling with speech laws. And in the Amendment, the phrase "of the United States" is code language meaning "federal." Therefore, if I have no federal right as a citizen, the States can continue to enforce speech laws without any fear whatsoever about infringing upon my federal rights. Simply stated, my only federal right in this context is to keep Congress from limiting my speech rights.

Any comments? Am I being too anti-federal-government? Just the right amount of anti-federal-government?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Is the Democrat Party Constitutional?

Is the Democrat Party Unconstitutional?

Of course it is. You just have to read the Constitution the way a liberal does. Article IV, section 4 of the Constitution requires that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."

Now wait a second, Mrs. Hypothetical Liberal says (we’ll call her "Shrillery," for short), Sobek is playing word games.

Sobek: How so?

Shrillery: Being a smart, if vicious, crocodile, assuredly you know that’s not what the framers meant when they used the word "Republican!"

Sobek: Pardon me, but since when do you care what the framers thought?

Shrillery: Bush lied!

You see, folks, if you’re going to insist that the Constitution be a "living, breathing" document, so that the words "equal protection" are to be interpreted as they mean today rather than in the 1800s, then our same rule of "living, breathing" construction means that the word "Republican" is to be interpreted by today’s standards. And frankly, there’s no way today’s liberals would use the word "Republican" to describe themselves, and therefore they are barred by the Constitution from playing any role in government.

Shrillery: Ah, but you are committing a grave error of logic!

Sobek: How so?

Shrillery: You are assuming, falsely and without any evidence, that liberals use the phrase ‘living, breathing" with any kind of consistency.

Sobek: Touche’. Never mind, then.

That looks about right Posted by Hello

Funny Stuff

I haven't done a shameless link dump in a while, and I just spotted two funny top ten lists at GOP and the City, here and here.

He's also doing a weekly "You're so liberal if..." thing. Some good things in there. I made my contributions in the comments:

You're so liberal if you can say "Fake but Accurate" with a straight face.

You're also so liberal if you were offended by my use of the word "straight" in the previous paragraph.


al-Rashad Column

I don't have all of it yet. It's taking longer than I expected because I've been very busy. I'll update straight to this post when I can.

The Painful Truth is that All Terrorists are Muslims

Abd ar-Rahman ar-Rashaad

Of course not all Muslims are terrorists, but sadly we say that most terrorists are Muslims. The kidnappers of students in Ossetia were Muslims. Most of the killers of Nepalese cooks and laborers were also Muslims. Those who commit extortion and murder in Darfur are Muslims, and their victims [?] are Muslims also. Those who violated the masses in Riyadh and Khobar are Muslims. Those who abducted the French journalists are Muslims. [I can’t figure out the last sentence, but I know it ends with "...after a week are Muslims."]

bin Laden is a Muslim and al-Howthi is a Muslim, and most of those who do violent acts against parties and schools and houses and buildings in [...] of the world in the past ten years are also Muslims.

Oh, what a terrible record; doesn’t that tell us something about our souls, our society and our culture?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Louisiana Gay Marriage Amendment Passes

By a lot. About 4 to 1, in fact. But it wouldn't be a Louisiana election without some kind of scandal, and in this case it's about voting machines. Some of the machines didn't show up until four-ish in the afternoon. It didn't make any difference to me, because I was driving all that day (and with that kind of margin, my vote wouldn't have made a difference either way).

As I've suggested before, I'm not entirely comfortable with this Amendment. It goes much further than necessary. And it addresses a symptom (judicial activists trying to shape societal norms about homosexuality) instead of the root problem (the anti-democratic practice of getting judges to make laws that Congress/state legislatures never could). I'm not going to protest the Amendment because I think it's fine to treat the symptoms as well, but if that's where things stop then we're just going to see this all over again with the next hot-button issue.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Conceding a Point

[Note: the following is a column that will be featured in next week's Dicta, the law school student newspaper. Crocodile fans get the scoop]

Some John Kerry supporters argue that it is unfair to describe him as an unprincipled flip-flopping political opportunist with no moral compass. I’m ready to concede that point. Basically, in order to flip-flop on a position, one must first take a position. By definition, therefore, the vicious Republican attack machine must be wrong when it calls john Kerry a flip-flopper. With that in mind, and as a public service, I offer a run-down and harmonization of certain Kerry statements that may look like flip-flops, to the untrained eye, but which actually are not. I’m good that way.

Immediately after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, Kerry called the war in Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Please note that you should not read this as inconsistent with his statement, weeks earlier, that he would have voted to give the president authority to go to war even if he had known there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. As the "flip-flopper" door is closed to us, we must conclude that John Kerry supports wars when they are wrong. I’m glad that’s clear.

Similarly, just because Kerry told a group of Jews that he supports the wall Israel is building, and then later told a group of Arabs that the wall is a bad thing, that doesn’t mean he is flip-flopping. It could simply mean that he fully supports the walls that violate international human rights. This shouldn’t be too surprising, coming from an admitted war criminal who did nothing to stop soldiers in Vietnam from committing war crimes in the manner of "Jinjiz Khan." Again, he’s not flip-flopping, he just supports very bad things.

Just because John Kerry is on record saying he supports gay marriage, and also on record saying he does not, that doesn’t mean he’s a flip-flopper. It just means he’s lying to at least one of his audiences.

Just because he wrote a letter to a constituent claiming he supported Gulf War I, and wrote a letter to the same constituent the next day saying he didn’t, that doesn’t mean he’s a flip-flopper. It means that one of the letters was written by a John Kerry from an alternate universe, and somehow it ended up here. See, the explanations are all perfectly reasonable, and no one needs to resort to using names like "flippy," "waffles," or "shameless panderer."
Just because he said, reportedly with a straight face, that he "actually voted for the 87 billion, before I voted against it" doesn’t make him a flip-flopper. A moron, perhaps, but not a flip-flopper.

Finally, just because John Kerry proposes a trillion-dollar spending increase on his medical programs alone, and later claims he won’t increase taxes, and yet he criticizes the President for the budget deficit, that doesn’t mean he’s flip-flopping. It just means he can’t add.

So in conclusion, I will not stand idly by while vicious conservatives accuse John Kerry of flip-flopping. Just because all the available evidence seems to point that way doesn’t mean the accusations have any basis in reality. It just means you aren’t being creative enough.

al-Rashad Update

I finally found the original text (in Arabic, so the translation won't appear for a while). The link to the column only had al-Rashad's picture, not his name, so it took me a while to figure out where I was supposed to look. But it's there, and some of the comments are in English, so I'll post some of the highlights from that right away.

"I totallt agree with you. I can't imagin myself being a Muslim, and what those pepole doing is just killing and killing for no understandable reason. They disfigure Islam as a peacefull religion. They don't belong to us. They are the new (khawareg). We have to do something to save what is left form our image if we really want to go somewhere." - Waddah, USA (De-capitalization mine. I'm unsure about "khawareg," but I'm looks like the root is kh-r-g, suggesting apostates, those who have gone out of Islam).

"Good article. But I can't believe that any intelligent person, much less a TV executive, would claim that 'all terrorists are Muslims.' What were you thinking when you chose this clumsy title? Anyway, I agree with you on the serious problem concerning those self-appointed religious leaders who take bloodshed lightly. Their claims are not consistent with the basics of Islam .." - Abbas, USA

"CNN, North America, just mentioned your article in its Saturday coverageHope many other journalists follow your example in honesty and courageAnd those readers who keep justifying our violence with the Israeli and American injustice excuse better think again about how they can link Sharon's actions to killing those Russian children or the Spanish civilians before them" - Camille-Alexandre, Canada (Joke's on you, Camille. Several Muslim leaders have already blamed the Beslan massacre on the Jews).

"I Agree with you somehow.However, i think it's wrong to say that all terrorists are muslims. How do you define terrorism? and what about state terrorism?American in Iraq, israeli in Palestine, Russian in Chechenia and so on?how do you call this? i want just a name...... TERROSISM isn't it" - Ridha, France (To be fair, Ridha's question, "how do you define terrorism," is a lot trickier than it might look at first glance).

"I agree with you that alot of terrorists today in this world are Muslims. And they do give the wrong impression about Islam to the non-Muslim world, but lets look at the reasons why these Muslims commit such terrorist acts. It is basically because of the injustice we have today in our Islamic world. Our brothers in Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya and many other parts of the Islamic world. We watch those people die everyday and we do nothing about, and then grows the thought of 'we should do something ' which leads to all this terrorism since nothing else could be done . if we did the right thing from the first place then non of that would have ever happened. but I guess you forgot to write about that Mr.AlrashedOne more point is that you don't have enough knowledgein Islam to attack great Islamic scholars like sheikh Yoseff al-qaradawi even if they are wrong" - Mohammed, ON, Canada (Mohammed doesn't seem to realize that injustice does not inevitably breed terrorism, and therefore terrorisim is not excused by the presence of injustice. "We should do something about it" does not automatically translate into "I'm going to strap a bomb belt onto this fifteen-year-old kid and send him on to a bus").

"Congratulations. I did not read any Arabic article for the last few years because I gave up, All we used to read or hear was justification of terror Our media is to blame,mainly some satellite channels.We must be clear that terror has no justification . We look like a nation commiting suecide .The image of Islam has been badly damaged" - Mona Nablusi, UK (You go, girl. And incidentally, her last name suggests she's from the Israeli city of Nablus. Fancy that).

"Mr. Rashid; thank you for this article, you are absolutely right; many Muslims keep justifying our violence with the western injustice. Muslims have to examine themselves and stop blaming external forces for their misfortunes. They have to fight to change their government’s systems; fight for real democracy, freedom and human right inside their societies. Since Islam is based on these principles, Islam is never based on monarchy system, prophet was not a king. I believe that the problem is inside the Islamic world and not in the west. The western societies did not gain the doctrine of democracy and freedom from the outside, they did not blame any one, but they fought for it inside their societies...they were wise, strong and brave... so why Muslims do not fallow the same path?" Selly Amrane, UK (This author refers to "our violence." It's refreshing to see people taking responsibility like that).

I'll get a translation when I can, as well as a translation of some of the Arabic-language comments. Also, I found an article by Fahmi Hawidi entitled "Muslims are the most terrorized ... and the most deaf to terrorism ... but why?"

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Cruel? Unusual? We Report, You Decide

Hat tip to Supernatural Rabbit Scribe for this story, which about made me fall out of my chair. Which is more shocking, I wonder - that a Michigan court might actually send a man to jail for refusing to convert to Pentecostalism, or that I find myself completely agreeing with the ACLU? I'll have to work that out later.

In the meantime, let me announce that I fully support creative sentencing. For example, Pentecostal potheads should be forced to convert to Catholicism. I'll come up with more on Monday. It's late.

Letter to the Editor

There’s a letter to the editor in last Wednesday’s Times-Picayune (page B-6, in case anyone cares) by a guy named Steve Palme. He writes to criticize Cal Thomas’ column. It seems that "a manager" at al-Arabiyah (he is, in fact, the general manager Abdulrahman al-Rashed, Thomas’ transliteration, not mine) made some harsh statements about Islam’s failure to produce anything of value in this century, and Cal Thomas was happy because it means some Muslims are prepared to face up to some harsh reality. With that introduction, here is the text of Palme’s letter [and I take full credit and apologize for any mistakes in my transcription]:

Benighted columnist deserves to be shunned

Cal Thomas wrote about how a manager at Al Arabiyah finally pointed out that terrorism in an end result of the Middle East’s "corrupted culture."

While he seemed to be talking about the corrupt rulers in the region, Mr. Thomas explained to us what the Muslim in question was really saying: that Islam, which he says in the inventor of the suicide attack, is all about promoting extremism, violence and intolerance. That there are no "moderate Muslims." And, of course, thank God we have the Patriot Act so that we can keep an eye on all them shifty, dangerous Muslims in our midst. Otherwise, we’d have to do something drastic like put them in internment camps or make them wear armbands so that we could identify them on the street.

Mr. Thomas conveniently forgets about Christian extremists, like Eric Rudolph, who have set off bombs in the United States. He leaves out the fact that of the millions of Muslims who are American citizens, not one has ever been convicted for any terrorist act. He fails to mention that the Japanese kamikazes (along with many others throughout history) used suicide attacks - it wasn’t an invention of Islam.

The Muslim community is made up of tax-paying, hard working people who, like most of the rest of us, are just trying to build a life for themselves. But it would ruin Mr. Thomas’ despicable stereotype if he had to talk about all those troublesome facts.

I think it is high time that we call Mr. Thomas what he has shown himself to be: a venomous bigot who deserves nothing less than to be shunned by decent people.

I bring this letter to your attention because I plan on fisking it, but it also turns our I know Mr. Palme - or rather, I know who he is. He goes to my school, and he wrote a column in the school’s newspaper in response to something I wrote. His column chided me (and to a degree, rightfully so) for, in effect, using language that perpetuates the bitterness that divides American politics. But his column also took the extra step of using incredibly acerbic language. I pointed that out in my follow-up column, and based on the above it seems he didn’t take my counter-chiding to heart. At least, not while typing the phrases "despicable stereotype" or "venomous bigot." If the phrase "actions speak louder than words" has any meaning, it seems that Palme only supports harsh rhetoric when it is coming from himself (or, I assume, like-minded people). So with all of that in mind, and also considering that I will e-mail Mr. Palme to invite him to weigh in on this discussion, I proceed with the fisking. I hope he will choose to jump in on the conversation, and we can talk about things like civilized adults.

For starters, here’s a link to Mr. Thomas’ column that has Mr. Palme so up-in-arms. Read it for yourselves, then come back here.


Okay. It’s always good to go to your sources. And speaking of sources, I should add that I found the full text of Rashed’s column in the original Arabic on They don’t have permalinks, but if you happen to read Arabic, it’s from September 7, 2004. I haven’t had time to translate it or the readers’ comments yet. And I was unable to find an English translation anywhere. Maybe one of my readers can help us out.

I. Mr. Palme Misrepresents Mr. Thomas

As anyone can see from Thomas’ quote, al-Rashed states plainly that "our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture." Thus, regardless of what Palme wants us to think the Bahraini author was saying, he really was indicting the culture, not just corrupt leaders. So I hope my readers will take Palme’s mischaracterization of Thomas’ arguments with a grain of salt, because if we are to criticize the man, we should do it on the basis of what he actually says, instead of what Palme says he says.

Another example: according to Palme, Thomas says Islam is the inventor of the suicide attack. Thomas says no such thing. The only time the word "suicide" appears in the column is when Thomas quotes al-Rashed. And al-Rashed says no such thing, either. He says, "Most perpetrators of suicide operations in buses, schools and residential buildings around the world for the past 10 years have been Muslims." It is somewhat ironic that Palme’s conclusion that these words indicate a "despicable stereotype," yet they proceed from the Arab guy, not the white guy.

Not that facts should get in the way of a good diatribe, I guess.

Another example: Thomas never uses the phrase "moderate Muslims," let alone state that there’s no such thing. Instead, Thomas wonders why moderate Muslims don’t actually come out and condemn the suicide attacks that I hope Mr. Palme doesn’t deny are happening.

Not that Thomas’ actual words should be taken into account, I guess.

So again, I urge you all to read Thomas’ actual words, rather than relying on Palme’s representations. Of course, that’s good advice in all cases, not just this one, but I’ve given a few examples to illustrate why that is.

II. Mr. Palme’s Use of Hyperbole and Sarcasm

Interestingly, Palme sarcastically refers to putting Muslims in internment camps (an idea never mentioned by Thomas, btw). He apparently misses the point that using the Patriot Act to monitor specific targets and prosecute criminals is a much better option than internment camps. I think that criminal prosecutions are a nice middle ground between mass internment and simply ignoring the fact that most terrorists today are in fact Muslims. Those that want to attack America, at any rate.

Also interestingly, Palme sarcastically refers to making Muslims wear armbands so we can identify them - apparently a reference to Nazis forcing Jews to sew Stars of David onto their clothes to identify them. I wonder (and I really don’t know) if Palme heard about the Taliban’s decision, not too long before 9/11 if memory serves, to force Hindus living in Afghanistan to wear such identification. I was horrified at the time, and the close link with Nazism makes me even more glad that the Taliban has been decimated. I honestly don’t know Mr. Palme’s feelings on the invasion of Afghanistan, and whether or not it’s a good thing that the people who were doing that to Hindus are no longer in power. But I do know that the practice was an excellent example of al-Rashed’s indictment of corrupt culture. And I, for one, will support the President who removed that regime.

III. Mr. Palme Misses the Point

Due in part to his misrepresentation of Mr. Thomas’ point about the source of suicide bombing, Mr. Palme assumes that examples of non-Muslim extremists and suicide bombers will refute Thomas’ point. Well, knocking down a strawman doesn’t really prove much of anything. And perhaps more importantly, Palme uses Thomas’ omission of facts as proof that Thomas is "a venomous bigot." The problem is that the omission of irrelevant facts is considered good writing, not evidence of bigotry. It may be true that Eric Rudolph and others have set off bombs in the United States. But Thomas was arguing that Muslims should stand up and condemn bombers, and since moderate Christians condemn the actions of bombers, Palme’s example is simply meaningless. It may be true that the Japanese kamikaze pilots used suicide attacks, but since Thomas never said the Muslims invented them, his example is simply meaningless.

Furthermore, it's interesting to see that Palme's example show us exactly where his thinking is. He is in the past, not the present. There was a time when yes, Japanese fighter pilots crashed planes into military targets. That was a problem for another time. Both Thomas and al-Rashed are thinking about today's problems.

IV. Stereotyping: Okay for Me, Bad for You

Palme says that "the Muslim community is made up of tax-paying..."

What, all of them? Or is this a stereotype?

"...hard working people..."

What, all of them? Or is this a stereotype?

" the rest of us..."

What, all of us? I don’t pay taxes. I would need income to do that. So much for your despicable stereotype.

"But it would ruin Mr. Thomas’ despicable stereotype if he had to talk about all those troublesome facts."

Thomas’ only assertions, and they go utterly unaddressed in Palme’s letter, are that a) Muslims are responsible for most of the suicide operations in the past ten years (he’s approving a quote by al-Rashed) and that b) many Americans avoid noticing that terrorists are Muslims because of politics. If there’s any doubt as to the latter point, look at the reporting on the Beslan massacre and see how often the reporters mention that the terrorists were Muslims. Key quote from Thomas: "It’s long past time to ditch political correctness and identify the enemy, which is not disembodied ‘terrorism’ but radical Islamicists who commit terror in the perverted name of their god." If Palme has a problem with anything said in that sentence, I’d love to know what it is. Because by identifying the problem as "radical Islamicists," Thomas implied accepts that not all Islamicists are radicals. And if the terrorists have perverted the name of their god, he implies that there is an unperverted name out there, something more pure and holy, that does not approve the slaughter of innocents in Beslan or anywhere else. Careful reading, Mr. Palme: it’s a good thing.

Correction: The Sept. 7 article I found archived on is not, in fact, the article that Thomas referenced. That means I have to keep looking. The archived editorials have a comment feature, so I'll see what I can do about translating reader reactions, as well. But that takes time (heck, translation even takes time with an easy language like Italian), so you will have to either be patient or simply stop reading my blog.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

This is Lame

Nothing spells "class" quite like stealing a political sign from a three year old girl and tearing it up. Yeah, I'd really like to say the libs have hit a new low, but who am I kidding? Jack-assery seems to be their official party sport.

Note that I didn't exactly have to comb the files for links that make libs look bad. Every single one of the above is from Drudge's page all at the same time. Are they having a contest of some sort?

Movie Mania

Blockbuster has this cool deal where you spend like fourteen bucks and you can rent as many movies as you want in a month. That means I can be more adventurous with my movie picks. On Monday I got Starsky and Hutch and one I'd never heard of called Scorched. Starsky and Hutch was okay, but I really loved Scorched. The wife thought it was wierd. But I like wierd, so that's pretty much consistent.

I also got Hidalgo, and wondered why all the Arabs were speaking Arabic so slowly, and hitting many of the consonants wrong. And why the Pakistani-sounding goat-herder would speak fluent English. Other than that, it was good times. I recommend it, if you're not the type to get hung up on slow Arabic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Refugee Blogging

Okay, here's the story. On Monday evening, Tulane cancelled all classes for the rest of the week. Tuesday morning we heard that some parishes have mandatory evacuation orders in effect, New Orleans is in a state of emergency, and Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish president, strongly urged Jefferson Parish to evacuate. So we thought that would be a swell idea. We were planning on visiting friends in Texas anyway, and we figured the 7 hour drive would be more worthwhile if we could stay longer than a week-end, so we wrapped some things up in plastic, packed up, cleared the yard of potentially destructive things, and took off.

It took us two hours to drive to the airport exit off the I-10 (ordinarily a 20 minute drive). It took us three hours and 45 minutes to get to Gonzales, LA (twenty miles from baton Rouge), which ordinarily takes a little more than an hour. And it took us four hours to drive from Gonzales to the west side of Baton Rouge. All this in a car with my nauseous, pregnant wife and a kid who was decidedly unhappy about being stuck in a car seat but not actually going anywhere. Once we got past Baton Rouge, however, traffic thinned out and we made decent time.

It took us 15 hours to make a trip that, absent hurricane weather, takes seven and a half. We arrived at 3:30 am. Then I slept until 2:00 pm. I'm really looking forward to driving back to N'awlins through what I assume will be comparable traffic.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Hurricane Ivan

Ivan, I WAS JUST KIDDING!!! You don't seriously have to come to New Orleans. No offense, bud, but I was thinking more along the lines of a Category 1, or 2 at the most. So really, if you want to just hang out in the Gulf, and just kind of blow yourself out down there, that's just fine.

Dave's Credibility in the Crapper

Recently, Dave from Garfield Ridge took a serious hit to his credibility when it turns out that the nuclear weapon detonated by North Korea was not, in fact, a nuclear weapon. Sources indicate that what appeared to be a giant mushroom-shaped cloud was actually play-doh. So you can see where Dave would have gotten his false impression.

Which reminds me of a riddle I once heard. What's the difference between Dave and Dan Rather? Other than the fact that Dan Rather has never threatened to turn me into a pair of boots? Dave admits when he's wrong. Also, Dave looks like Pyle from Full Metal Jacket, not an aging pear.

Remember When Words Meant Things?

Last week the Times-Picayune published (I assume for the comedic value) a letter to the editor explaining in calm, patient language why it is perfectly fair to compare Bush to Hitler. That’s sad, because now the phrase "like Hitler" joins words like "censorship," "fascist" and "imperialism" as devoid of meaning. Pretty soon, the only words we’ll have left are "double," "plus" and "ungood."

The problem is this - Hitler may be successfully compared to many people. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has devoted a lot of time and money to repairing the roads around here (sooner or later). Hitler built the Autobahn. Therefore, Ray Nagin is "like Hitler." Tom Selleck has a mustache that is a virtual trademark. So did Hitler. Tom is therefore "like Hitler." Gandhi wanted a united country free of foreign control. Gandhi was therefore "like Hitler." John Kerry is a carbon-based lifeform who converts oxygen to carbon dioxide before expelling waste gasses into the atmosphere in a process called "respiration." Kerry is therefore "like Hitler."

Comparing someone to Hitler used to mean something. Saddam Hussein is like Hitler because he conforms to Hitler’s behavior in meaningful ways, ways for which Hitler is widely remembered. For example, Hussein ordered the mass deaths of his own citizens, tortured and murder his political enemies, wanted to see the Jews exterminated wholesale... Do you see why these comparisons get to the heart of what we think of when we say "like Hitler"? But now those words have been hijacked by moonbat leftists, and they don’t mean anything anymore.

The most recent dilution of the English language is from Dr. Mike Adams' latest column. He prints a hate-mail he got from a reader who took issue with his opposition to abortion. The reader writes, "People like you who want to tell people like me what to do with their lives are like Hitler."

The problem, of course, is that it is government in general, not just Hitler, that tells us to one degree or another how to live our lives. Government tells me not to murder people, to sell or use drugs, or to molest children. Americans have elected leaders to make value judgments on what is or is not acceptable behavior, and punishes that which is not. Now a thoughtful person might legitimately question whether government should put a negative value judgment on abortion - that debate can be and is carried on by thoughtful, sane people almost every day. But to suggest that making that value judgment at all means you are "like Hitler" - well, it divests the phrase of all meaning.

Hitler was famous, of course, not for trying to tell Germans how to live their lives, but for the systematic executions of people for living their lives at all.

Another good example is Al Gore's thoughtful description of internet writers (I guess that would include me, although I was not a blogger at the time) who are so bold as to point out inconsistencies and even lies as "digital brownshirts." So now the word "brownshirts" has no meaning. That's a shame. Or rather, that's double plus ungood.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Two Points about the Forgeries

Gen Gap asks for clarification on two points of Dan Rather's defense.

1. The first point, regarding a superscripted "th" in an identical manner, is covered by Ace in a couple of places. Here are a few key quotes:

"To type out that superscripted small-font "th," Shape of Days' expert actually had to switch out the ball -- the thing that actually does the character-striking -- in the middle of typing to a smaller 8-point font, then type the "th" after raising it by turning the cylinder a half-click, then switch back to te ball with the regular sized font to complete the letter.
Just to produce that small-font superscripted "th," mind you."

In other words, we're looking at the realm of possibility, but extreme improbability.

And the New York Post comments on the specific document Rather referenced:

"Rather last night pointed to an undisputed document from Bush's National Guard files and claimed it has a superscript, so they were available by 1968. But that document is in a different typeface and experts say it was made on a different type of machine without proportional spacing so it proves nothing. "It could be a superscript, it could be a correction with a letter showing through white-out, but in any case it's absolutely irrelevant . . . It doesn't prove a thing," said document expert Bill Flynn."

And the NYPost printed that after Ace himself linked the document in question, and observed that "that character is not clearly anything. Look closely. It's a badly-distorted character. What it actually looks like is a square with a vertical line through it."

So while it's possible that we're looking at a small-font, superscripted "th," it's also possible that we're looking at partial characters showing through white-out. Look for yourself. It's on the third page, on the second line, which begins with 4Sep68. It's a .pdf document, which comes with a zoom function so you can get a really close look. Is this simply a question of bad copying? Possibly, but usually photocopiers add more black spots, and for this to be a real "th," some of the "t" would have to be missing. Photocopiers don't white stuff out.

2. Regarding the handwriting expert, let me make three points. Again from the NYPost, Rather's expert Marcel Matley relies on signatures for authentication of all the documents, but there are only signatures on two of the four. Second, it is a fairly easy maneuver to cut and paste an authentic Killian signature with Microsoft Word, so we could in fact be looking at a Killian signature - even though he never signed the paper on which his signature now appears. Finally, Rather himself complained that it's unfair to criticize the documents because of the poor quality of the transmissions, but if that is true for the typed text, how is it less true for the signature, which is arguably in much worse shape?

So Rather's expert is not without his weaknesses.

Friday, September 10, 2004

A Closer Look at the Documents

Here is a link to the memos themseves, in .pdf format, so that everyone can get a nice close look. (Courtesy of Fox News).

1. Note that on page 1, the Memo's header says "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron," and the th is not superscripted. After the number 2. in the body of the memo, the phrase "111th F.I.S. administrative officer" does have superscript. Also, no superscript in the first line, "MEMORANDUM FOR 1stLt. George W. Bush."

Whence the inconsistent superscripting? When I type in Word (or, since buying my current computer, Word Perfect), I use the ctrl-z (undo) function after typing an ordinal to get rid of the stupid superscripting, but sometimes I forget. Is that what we're looking at, here?

2. Did military memos address lieutenants by their first name, middle initial, and last name? I don't know the answer to this, but that "W" in there looks fishy.

3. On page 2 the distorted lines really jump out at you. I don't know how to explain that as the result of either a typewriter or a computer, but I know from my experiment that repeated photocopying will warp text like that. And the only reason I can think of to repeatedly photocopy something, of course, is to artificially age it.

4. No superscripting on pages 2 or 3.

5. If you want to CYA, as in memo 4, why would you type of a memo to that effect and put it in a file, rather than simply C'ing YA?

6. Was it standard for typewriters in 1972 to randomly put a bunch of spots all over a page?

Update: CBS' website has the text of a DNC "Action Alert" e-mail, basically asking people to sign a petition to get GWB to answer some questions. Key quote: "But now we know that Bush dishonored the Oval Office by lying to the American people."

Query: since when do Democrats think that lying dishonors the Oval Office?

Proof that Drudge creates his report with a 1972 military typewriter...

(In case you can't see it, Drudge has wittily superscripted the letters 'th' in 'Rather' and 'Authentic').

Forgeries Update

AS long as we're digging up old memos, The Man at GOP and the city has dug up an old report card from when Dan Rather was in school. Pretty damaging stuff.

Also, I went to fisk Kos' take* on the scandal and quickly decided that was a bad idea. Someone over there spent waaaaay more time on this than I am willing to do, like researching the history and functions of the IBM Selectric. Instead, I'll just sum up an important point he makes and lay the smack down. The argument, basically, is that when you superimpose the CBS memo and one produced on MicroSoft Word, they are similar, but they are not identical. He especially criticizes LGF for shrinking the overlapped images down to where the size of the pixels makes the similarity look more clear, and notes that at larger sizes the letters match up less and less.

Instead of spending hours researching thirty-year-old typewriters, I thought I'd simply perform the experiment myself. First of all, I had to adjust the margins, something LGF say he didn't have to do. I read on Ace that you don't need to adjust the margins if you are using Word 97, but I am using my school's version of Word 2003. I had to adjust the margins inward by half an inch to get the words to match up.

Next I ran my memo through a photocopier for ten generations to "age" the original.
Finally I compared the results. First, although I didn't tell the photocopier to manipulate the size, it did anyway. That's important because Kos puts a great deal of emphasis on LGF shrinking down the CBS original to get the margins to line up.

Second, the text itself was warped a little bit. That means that even though the fonts from the original and the tenth generation are similar, they are not identical, which reasoning Kos uses to debunk the LGF theory. I've demonstrated to my satisfaction that "similar but not identical" is exactly what we can expect from a 10th generation photocopy.

Certainly my little experiment is not sufficient to answer everything over at Kos, but as I said above, I'm not about to do the same research into 1970s typewriters that I saw there. I will say, however, that Bill from INDC got a nationally-renowned expert to weigh in on the question, and that expert says we're looking at a fake. Every news outlet that's gotten an expert says it's a fake. (Other than CBS, but I'm not fully convinced that their unnamed experts even exist).

* It's not clear from his blog whether Kos did this research, or whether it's a guest-blogger named Hunter, or what. But since it's on Kos' site, I'll just attribute it all to Kos, and if he has a problem with that ... he'll never know, because he doesn't read my blog.

Update: You can compare the CBS and LGF documents here (or look for them on LGF, but I don't feel like hunting around for the link). Note especially that in the CBS doc, the lines are slightly warped, and angled upwards. Compare the words "Memo to file" to the words "SUBJECT: CYA," and you'll see that the "Memo to File" line is not parallel to the "CYA" line. That is precisely the kind of warping I saw on my 10th generation photocopy, and precisely why the fonts would end up similar but not exactly identical.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Holy Crap!

Will the mainstream media actually find a way to commit suicide? This story is so huge in so many ways ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First of all, you can read Ace's updates here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There should be one more link, but it's broken as I type this.

Allah has stuff here, here, here, and here. If it looks like Allah's more of a slacker than Ace, it's because Allah is more generous with his updates, rather than starting new posts.

Spoons reports here and here. It doesn't look to me like Spoons has an excuse.

Powerline has just gone insane. This post alone has over 300 trackbacks as I write this. Another link here.

Okay, that's enough of the copious linking. I don't expect anyone to read every one of those, I just wanted to create a visual impression of the volume of blogging at some (a very small number) of my favorite blogs. The guys who seem like they have nothing to do but blog all day.

The story in a nutshell is this. CBS is triumphantly showing recently discovered memos from the time period when GWB was in the National Guard, which purport to show he was AWOL, thus substantiating an old hobgoblin of the liberal attack machine. The problem? CBS' Dan Rather can't get it through his head that the old days of news reporting with no accountability are over. A million bloggers, working at a million typewriters, for anywhere between all day and a couple of minutes have demonstrated amply that the documents are forgeries.

Bill at INDC Journal actually got an authentication expert to give an evaluation, and the expert says 90% chance of a fake is perfectly plausible. As I write this, Bill's post has 259 comments.

It is amazing just how much of an impact this is having in the blogosphere. And more importantly, we're talking about (for the most part) an army of people with no professional training in forgery-spotting who research information about what kinds of typewriters the Army was using in the early 70s, what kinds of fonts were used, whether "smart quotes," super-scripted ordinals and letter-spacing could be done on those typewriters. Less frequently, we get people like Bill who are doing the stuff we traditionally rely on the media to do, like authenticate stuff. As in, the opposite of what Dan Rather did before putting his career on the line with this one.

And that's what a lot of bloggers are saying - that his gallingly reckless partisanship and whole-hearted effort to destroy a president rather than report the news have combined to end his ability to be taken seriously, ever again.

That's it for the serious stuff. And just as I said you don't really need to click on any of the links above (what the heck, you can if you want...) I think you should click the following:

The Commissar has found another smoking gun.

Via Ace, who got it from Right on Red, who in turn got it from Right Wing News, yet another smoking gun.

And it wouldn't be a decent conspiracy without America's favorite fat man. Dave tells me his permalinks aren't working, so if that link doesn't do the trick, just go to his blog (Garfield Ridge - it's on the blogroll) and scroll down to Sept. 9 at 17:14 (military time? What's up with that?). And the post right above that one is good, too.

More links forthcoming as more bloggers find ways to spoof Kerry, the media, or liberals in general.

Update: More good times at Politicalities. If you don't click this one, you deserve to be shot.

Also, this morning the Times-Picayune (to their credit) picked up the Washington Post article about this whole scandal (which article gave due credit to internet writers!). But to their demerit, the story is on page A-10.

Important Update

Two Good Causes you can Feel Good About

The first is The American Alliance to Stop Headlines from Ending in Prepositions.

The second is Garfield Ridge's recent wager against his nemesis, "Angus." If Dave wins, he gets Angus' immortal soul, or something else upon which they manage to agree. If Angus wins, Angus gets to control Dave's site for a full week. Let's pull together for a good cause. But please note, I'm only supporting Dave to the extent that he is willing to make more references to Dune.

Hurricane Update

I've changed my mind about wanting a hurricane. Ivan can stay as far away from N'awlins as it wants.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

More on Louisiana's Gay Marriage Amendment

I originally wanted to comment on the text of the amendment before the panel, but thought I wouldn't have time to do so. That was before I realized the panel is next week, so it turns out I do have time, and I'd like to take advantage of it. But not in this post. I want to start by philosophizing on gay marriage amendments in general.

I'm not particularly excited about an amendment. As you may know, I do not support gay marriage, I think marriage is by definition a union between a man and a woman, and I really, really don't like the idea of activist judges acceding to the gay lobby's desire to force new social norms on Americans who are quite happy with their norms, thank you very much. But for all that, I'm still not super-enthusiastic about an amendment because I regret the necessity to amend the constitution (lower case "c" for states) over something so nit-picky. The amendment process is bulky and slow to respond, and that's by design. It is meant to set forth broad principles, not to react to the latest headlines.

Nevertheless, I support the amendment because I do believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, and far more importantly because I don't want activist judges and liberal interest groups overriding basic principles of democracy. Had the gay lobby not been so adamant about insisting upon gay marriage (as was the case in Boston, San Francisco and a few other places) I would have been quite content to leave out the amendment. But at this point, an amendment is the only democratic way of preventing judicial tyranny. It is the only way to uphold the will of the people, rather than forcing the majority to bend to the will of the loud, obnoxious minority.

But I have a better idea for an amendment. I see the real evil here not as gay marriage, so much as the liberal activist judges. Targeting gay marriage only means stopping acticist judges from one specific instance of abuse, rather than cutting to the root of the problem. My amendment would be a much bigger deal, but it would have to be in order to solve the problem, which is a much bigger deal.

As things stand now, the notion of Constitionality is the exclusive province of the judiciary. Because that exclusivity was first established by the judiciary, and the judiciary is not about to willingly give it up, a Constitutional amendment is the only viable means. And that amendment would read something like this:

When in the exercise of judicial review the United States Supreme Court declares a statute to be unconstitutional, that decision may be overridden by a declaration by two thirds of the House of Representatives, two thirds of the Senate, when such declaration is duly ratified by the President. Should the President decline to ratify the declaration, Congress shall have no power to override the will of the President as to that issue.

It is perhaps inelegantly expressed, as I just made it up right now. But the basic purpose is this: we have three branches in our federal government, and all three are governed by the Constitution. Yet one branch excercises unlimited power over the other two because it can declare their acts unconstitutional. I would not shift that decision to another single branch, because that wouldn't solve the problem of concentrated power. But I think that if two branches (the Executive and the Legislative) were to agree on consitutionality, then if the branches really are of equal dignity and power, their combined determination of constitutionality should defeat the Supreme Court. I gave it a super-majority requirement because I recognize the seriousness of the issue of overturning Supreme Court decisions. And I put the last sentence in because Congress shouldn't be able to do the equivalent of a veto override and thus snatch exclusive control from the Supreme Court and the President.

Naturally, any attempt to override a Supreme Court decision would have enormous political repurcussions, but that is exactly the point - the legislative and executive branches are the political branches. They cannot arbitrarily exercise any power if they know they will suffer in the polls for it.

Google Update

My blog is now the twenty-third hit on a Google search for "Sobek." That's exciting news. I figure that since every time I post I add the word "Sobek" to my blog some more, I will inevitably overtake the other hits, considering that there isn't that much new and exciting research being done on the Egyptian crocodile god (er, I mean, me).

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

This is interesting

Via Instapundit, this story says France and Germany are facing some very serious internal problems.

I'm not posting this just to gloat. Rather, the story is interesting as giving lie to a liberal asusmption that America is highly divided (and that's a bad thing, and Bush's fault), while European nations are unified (and therefore we should be more like them). More later, when I have a chance to look into this some more.

Update: Hat tip to my wife, who points out that if Chirac is considered the conservative choice in France, there's nothing at all to gloat about in seeing Chirac falter. Her observation seems to be at least partially borne out by this report on Gerhard Schroeder's recent string of losses, because as his socialist party wanes, the big winners are the communists and the neo-Nazis. Cripes, can't they pick something that at least resembles moderate?

Forum on Gay Marriage

Tonight at 7:00 Tulane is hosting a panel discussion on gay marriage, and I plan on attending it. I'll post more information on the speakers in a bit. During and after the panel I'll summarize the arguments made by each of the speakers, and then conclude with my own evaluation.

As I mentioned below, this fall Louisiana will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriage. Opponents of the amendment have launched a series of legal challenges in state court, and as of this time it appears they have all failed - meaning the only question is whether or not it will pass. A law school is as good a place as any, I suppose, to debate that question, although the legal ramifications of the amendment are distinct from the social issues behind the desire for (or opposition to) the amendment.

Update: The speakers for tonight's program are listed as:

Chris Daigle from Equity Louisiana
Randy Evans from Forum for Equity
Rev. Gene Mills from LA Family Forum
Rep. Steve Scalise (R.- Metairie) - Amendment author
Moderator Robert Scott, Chief of the Times-Picayune Baton Rouge Bureau

Update: Here is the text of the proposed amendment:

To provide that marriage in this state shall consist of the union of one man and one woman, that legal incidents of marriage shall not be conferred on a member of any union other than such union, and that the state shall not validate or recognize a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals or any marriage contracted in any other jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.

The proposed amendment has been approved by the state legislature, and will be voted upon Sept. 18, in spite of fierce legal battles to delay or stop the voting. It's an interesting bit of text, primarily the bit at the end which seeks to override (?) the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution. I suspect Rep. Scalise would pick a word other that "override," but I'm not sure if there's a more accurate one. Also, I wonder if perhaps the proposed amendment isn't reaching a little further than necessary to accomplish Scalise's goal. But more on that later, after the panel.

Embarassing update that reveals me as an idiot: The panel isn't until next Tuesday. Boy is my face red. Normally it's green, you see. I'm a crocodile.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Legal Argument?

I hope so. I just found a liberal lawyer blogger who links a post about tort reform. Considering that my views on this subject are neither typically conservative (that I know of) nor typically liberal (that I know of), I wonder how he will respond to my comment, if at all.

Mostly I'm linking this so I will remember to go back and check for a reply. My readers don't have to care.

Update: Since I'm unlikely to find that blog again, and in response to Patton's request in the comments, I'll just rehash my argument here, and y'all can take swipes at me if you feel so inclined.

In general, liberals believe that our protectionist laws should stongly favor plaintiffs against companies (and in personal injury actions, that's virtually all you ever get), because companies are big and bad and mean, and poor plaintiffs deserve a million dollars for pain and suffering and such.

Conservatives believe that all plaintiffs are jackals who fake injuries, scheme for the deep pockets, and systematically work to undermine capitalism by hitting businesses which could otherwise develop new products, employ new people, and so forth.

Under such a dichotomy, the liberal approach would favor expansive liability with little or no controls to protect companies. The conservative approach is to cap liability so that companies can take more hits without going out of business.

I think the conservative approach - caps on recovery - is calculated to create the most unjust situation, and therefore I reject it as fundamentally unfair to both plaintiffs and defendants. By that same token, I don't believe the law should reward stupidity, and so I favor courts which bascially ask, "You were dumb enough to do what???" before throwing cases out. Thus, I'm not squarely in either camp.

Here's why I reject the conservative approach. By capping damages, defendants will, in the aggregate perhaps, reduce their overall liability, thus allowing them to accomplish the good things conservatives want to accomplish (employ more people, develop new products, etc.). I suppose caps might be sensible in that case, because companies will therefore be more insurable, and can stay in business, and everyone's happy. The problem with the Plaintiffs.

When we speak of tort reform, it is perfectly cold-hearted to assume that it should stem entirely from a desire to protect businesses. We also want to dissuade frivolous lawsuits, and at the same time relieve the burden on our courts. Suppose that Bob fakes an injury, and says it was caused by a defect in his Ford. He concocts a story and sues Ford out of greed, pure and simple. Now Ford has very good lawyers, and they will look into Bob's claims and soon discover that his story is weak, he has no witnesses or proof of defect, that Bob has been fired from every job he's ever worked (so his damages for lost wages will be minimal), he has a criminal record a mile long (to impeach his credibility, should it become an issue), and everyone he knows thinks he is slime. Also, he has a swastika carved into his forehead, and he's suing in New Orleans (over 50% black).

In summary, Bob has a highly scarce chance of winning this case. But Ford can't quite get it thrown out. So the parties meet to discuss a settlement, and they pick a paltry sum: $25,000. Ford is willing to pay this, because it will cost them more than 25k just to pay their lawyers. It's a simple cost-benefit analysis. And Bob is more than happy to take it, because after paying off his attorney's fees, he walks away with a wad of cash (about $16,000) that he did not earn and to which he has no right. In this situation, note that statutory caps on recovery won't held Ford at all. $25,000 is well below anything that any legislature ever contemplates as a cap, so Bob is not affected by "tort reform" in the least, and the result is unjust.

Now consider Chuck, who is really is injured when his Ford breaks down. Chuck is a very sympathetic character, with a wife and ten small children, he used to have a lucrative job at the shoelace factory making $90,000 per year, now he's permanently disabled and horribly disfigured, and the cause of the accident was clearly and indisputably caused by the gross negligence of Ford's upper management. He quickly racks up a zillion dollars in medical expenses, not to mention pain and suffering and so forth.

In summary, Chuck has an air-tight case, and I think he really does deserve compensation. There is nothing at all of frivolity in his case. He was injured through no fault of his own, and Ford should have to pay for their gross negligence. But because of statutory caps, Chuck can only recover two thirds of his medical expenses, and nothing for anything else. Chuck is affected by "tort reform," much to his detriment, and the result is unjust.

Tort reform, meaning statutory caps, have no inhibiting effect whatsoever on those who would abuse the system, because a recovery to the statutory limit still leaves them in a much better position than before. And they leave truly deserving cases uncompensated. For those reasons, I reject statutory caps as a means of tort reform.

If I had my druthers, I would institute tort reform by limiting liability. That is, I would recognize that doctors (for example) are human beings. If they operate while drunk, or they leave a scalpel in the abdomen, then they should get slammed with the full weight of every cent of punitive damages available. But if they do something minor (example failure to use fetal monitoring, which is of dubious value anyway), liability should not attach at all. Give them some freakin breathing room. They are people, not machines.

The problem is that such an approach might not be possible, legislatively, and at the very least would be extremely difficult. Medicine, like many things, is a fluid science, with the horizons of knowlege constantly being expanded. So if a legislature sits down and says "No doctor shall be liable for damages if he fails to use fetal monitoring," the law will be unresponsive should medical science ever decide that wait, no reasonable doctor should go without fetal monitoring. And legislators aren't doctors (usually), the legislative response to medical discovery will be even more slow and cumbersome. Plus doctors would have to fill their heads with equal parts medicine and equal parts regulation, which I think is a truly foolish approach. I suppose the legislature could try sweeping language, such as "no doctor shall be liable for small mistakes, only if they do something reeeeeally stupid," but the imprecision in such a statute wouldn't help doctors, judges or juries.

Instead, I propose that any tort reform go to expert witnesses, in cases where experts are likely to testify. The problem with medicine is that, like any scientific endeavor, there are always different points of view. I might remove a patient's kidney one way, and somewhere in the world there is a doctor who would have done it a different way. So the Plaintiff's attorney will find that doctor, pay him a million dollars, and have him tell the jury that I'm an irredeemable moron. By using partisan (because paid) doctors, juries are likely to be overawed by the signifcance of ordinary mistakes.

In the German legal system, the idea of an expert retained by a party is completely unthinkable, and in this case, I agree with the Germans. Instead, the judge has a list of trusted experts in different fields and calls upon them as necessary to help with different cases. Of course, the German approach cannot simply be adopted wholesale into the American system, but I would take that idea as my starting point and work from there.


I just love that phrase. So perfectly calculated to smack of unmitigated paranoia. Which is why it immediately sprang to mind when I found this. Basically a blogger links the "Top 25 Censored Stories," along with five examples such as "Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Hold Corporations Accountable."

I mention the list because it is clear that the word "censored" is now officially meaningless. It used to mean that the government used force to prevent people from saying or writing about certain topics, or in certain ways. Now, apparently, it means that a story is not covered in sufficient quantity to satisfy a group of liberal watchdogs. It's a shame we're running out of words that have an agreed-upon meaning.

I link the post (rather than the list directly) because I found the list via that link (credit where credit is due), and also to note that the blogger says, "Free your mind. Read them all."

Query: why is it that when liberals free their minds, they all come up with exactly the same paranoid crap, usually expressed in precisely the same terms? It seems that the wholesale adoption of leftist conspiracy theories and the calculated destruction of meaning in the English language are indicia of a free thinker. Count me out.