Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Monday, May 30, 2005
The Kid Gets Persuasive
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Another Update, Random Thoughts and Observations
1. The internet situation has been resolved to my satisfaction. But blogging will continue to be anywhere from light to non-existent because I work all day and go to class all night, with about three hours per day to play with my kids. That means the blog is pretty low on the priority list, until the bar exam at the end of July.
2. Not that it matters, because my traffic is now exclusively generated by what I assume is an automated Google search. I seriously doubt I'm getting 50 people per day searching for "Mr. Potato Head" and "Armpit."
3. Question for the classic rock D.J.s here in Vegas: Uh, R.E.M. is classic rock, now?
4. 106 degrees? What was I thinking?
5. "Bang bang, shoot 'em up, the party never ends." Skid Row is in concert, with Slaughter. An eighties hair-metal dream come true. Vegas is where rock comes to die.
6. Speaking of rock, the new System of a Down album is getting rave reviews. These guys keep their music so tight it's amazing, but then Serge has to screw it all up with the most ridiculous voice in all of rock. Also, the lyrics suggest he's not too bright. For example: "Why don't presidents fight the war?" Because we want to win the war, you moron.
7. According to CNN, "Suspense builds before big French vote." (That's how the link phrases it, not the headline). What's your source here, guys? While it's true and indisputable that there is, in fact, a big French vote coming up, on what basis do you claim that there's any suspense involved? Suspense requires that people care.
8. Memo to Tom DeLay: just because the "scandal" you've recently seem to have avoided was utterly baseless doesn't mean you should start making an ass of yourself.
9. Did Dave just imply that he knows what it's like to spoon with Skeletor?
Sunday, May 22, 2005
I am still alive.
Also, I have been reduced to an AOL dial-up connection. That should change for the better within a week. I have internet access at work, but I'm not being paid to blog (yet). Meanwhile, I have no idea what's been going on in the world, other than something about Newsweek making unfounded allegations about soldiers desecrating a Qu'ran that's gotten everyone up in arms. Whatever. Everyone was already up in arms - people who want to freak out over stupid crap will always find something over which they can freak out. What difference does it make what the story of the day is, to people who have to hear the whining regardless?
Also, there's a woman here who wants to get elected judge, and it's come out that she used to be a stripper. I swear, the only difference between New Orleans and Las Vegas is rainfall.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
OK, Fine, One Last Photoshop Post
See Dave's post here.
Screw You Guys, I'm Outta Here
We hit the road tomorrow around noon, and I probably won't be on-line during the trip, so SobekPundit is officially in mothballs until I get an internet connection in Las Vegas. In the mean time, remember that "Crack is Whack."
The Inconsistencies of Boortz
Two items from libertarian radio show host Neal Boortz today struck me as so inconsistent that I wondered how Neal could be oblivious to the weakness of his argument.
1. Responding to news that United Airlines won't have to pay some pesions to retired employees, Boortz supported the decision. I can't for the life of me understand why a self-professed libertarian would support corporate welfare, and I can't think of any better description of Bankruptcy reorganization than corporate welfare. Come on, Neal, you believe in personal responsibility, don't you? Does that or does that not include the duty to repay the debts you owe? (Sorry, no link for Neal because I didn't see anything on his page about it).
2. More irksome is his brief mention of Georgia governor Sonny Perdue signing into law a bill that imposes certain restrictions on abortions (follow Boortz' link to the story, because registration is required and I don't feel like registering). First, Neal absolutely will not take callers who want to talk about abortion. Look, you can do what you want with your own show, Neal, but if you're going to hector your audience with your own views, you might want to have the gonads to get some criticism, I should think.
Second point: let's get back to personal responsibility, supposedly the hallmark of libertariansim, no? I believe in the fundamental importance of freedom of choice. If government is going to restrict my right to choose, it had better have a really freakin' good reason to do it or they're going to have an insurrection on their hands. That said, nothing about freedom of choice absolves me of the responsibility to own up to the consequences of my choices. It's such a simple point, and indeed Neal goes on and on about it every single day he's on the radio. Are you poor? It's because you made bad choices. Did you get shot trying to break into someone's house? You made a bad choice. Are your children hellions? You made some bad parenting choices. And in every case, Neal thinks you have to live with the consequences of those choices.
Are you pregnant with an unwanted child? No problem, there's no consequence there as long as you can kill that child. Why the exception, Neal? Why does a criminal get no sympathy from you, but a woman who can't keep her damn legs together for more than five minutes at a time get a pass?
Like Neal, I'm not a fan of government coercion, but also like Neal, I understand there's a time and a place for coercion. If I try to kill Neal, I think we can all agree the government should intervene and throw my sorry butt in jail, yes? But what happens when the government intervenes to save the life of a child? Ah, then it's a waste of tax-payer money, the onset of creeping theocracy, raving Bible-thumpers trying to steal our freedoms. If Neal or anyone else could explain why personal responsibility is only sometimes a necessary corrollary to personal choice, I'd love to see it.
Cassandra has more on personal responsibility here, and more on fathers' rights here.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Nature of Evil
To quote the 2002 Flaming Lips single Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots:
"Those evil-natured robots:
They're programmed to destroy us."
But wait, if they are programmed to destroy, how can they be evil by nature? If merely re-programming them will turn them into productive workers, or defenders of humanity, or comic relief for old Jetsons episodes, doesn't that prove the robots are not, by their very nature, evil?
I mean, give me a break, you know?
Update: And what's up with that cover, anyway? The song and the title sound like they're anime geeks, but instead of getting an illustrator to do a Japanimation-style cover, they hire Rene Magritte? I hope someone got fired over that blunder.
Taking Substancelessness to a New Low
New York Times columnists can be amazingly vapid (read: Maureen Dowd), but at least they are reasonably timely in their vapidity. Not so with Bob Herbert's new column (registration required, but I wouldn't recommend it), which made me keep checking the date on my paper to see if I was caught in some wierd time warp. Mr. Herbert's main complaint? Abu Ghraib. What month is it again?
Let's start at the beginning, with demonstrable proof that President Bush is a raving theocrat:
"When Bob Woodward asked President Bush if he had consulted with his father about the decision to go to war in Iraq, the president famously replied, 'There is a higher father that I appeal to."
That's according to Woodward's book Plan of Attack, which was published over a year ago. Way to stay on the cutting edge there, buddy. But hey, at least Herbert didn't complain about Bush ending a sentence with a preposition.
"From the very beginning the war in Iraq has been an exercise in extreme madness, an absurd adventure that would have been rich in comic possibilities except for the fact that many thousands of men, women and children have died, and tens of thousands have been crippled, burned or otherwise maimed."
Here Mr. Herbert consciously takes us back in time -- "From the very beginning..." -- but without any suggestion that the situation may have changed in the mean time. Like for example, have we overthrown any of history's most violent regimes? Captured or killed any significant terrorists? Seen any historic elections? Watched any positive repurcussions in neighboring nations? Bob Herbert certainly isn't about to tell us about any of them. Funny how our "exercise in extreme madness" has produced so much tangible good, in defiance of liberal doomsday predictions, and our "absurd adventure" has resulted in millions of Iraqis breathing free air for the first time ever (and let's not forget developments in Lebanon, Syria, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan, Libya, UAE, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan...).
Note that the positive developments are current events, but Herbert wants to focus attention on a year ago. Is he really so desperate for material?
"The world now knows that the weapons of mass destruction were a convenient fiction."
We know it because we went in and had an unsupervised look, something France, Germany and Russia never had any interest in doing, even though their own intelligence estimates said the exact same thing.
Wait a second, that rebuttal seems awfully familiar. Oh, yeah, conservative bloggers have been saying the same thing for a year, now.
"As for training and preparedness, the scandal at Abu Ghraib is instructive."
Speaking of living in the past. Even the second wave of this "scandal," the part where all the culprits are getting punished for their actions (although you'd never know it from Herbert's column) is old news. There are actually something like new developments he could have mentioned, with the military tribunal refusing to accept mega-hottie Lynndie England's plea-bargain, but Herbert doesn't talk about that. It's too "today."
"The United States is now stuck in a war it should never have started."
Does this sound eerily familiar? This is the exact same stuff we heard for the entire campaign cycle. You know, back when we could speak of the war in the present tense. Does Bob Herbert own a calendar? Or did he write this column a year ago, lose it behind his desk, find it last week and think "It's still relevant"? Next week we can expect a hard-hitting expose of decadent orgies in the Roman Senate.
"Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Richard Myers, told Congress that the war in Iraq was taking a toll on the military and would make combat operations more difficult."
Frankly, if Congress needed someone to point this out to them, they are far dumber than I've ever suspected. A war in one place reduces our ability to fight a war in another place? Who'da thunk it? A war takes a toll on the military? Knock me over with a feather! Unless Herbert is under the impression that the U.S. military can put soldiers and equipment in more than one place at a time, I don't see how this is an actual revelation -- and yet, in spite of Herbert's futuristic assumptions about military logistics, he uses the statement as an opportunity to write a year-old column based on premises since proven false. Thanks, New York Times, for your crack squadron of progressive thinkers.
One more gem:
"If Bush had consulted with his father before launching this clownish, disastrous war, he might have gotten some advice that would have pointed him in a different direction and spared his country -- and the families of the many thousands dead -- a lot of grief."
Right. Bush senior backed off in Iraq, and was voted out of office. Bush junior won the war, and was voted back in. What is the lesson, here? Oh, yeah, if at first you don't succeed, maybe there was something wrong with your plan.
Herbert doesn't actually provide anything of substance in his column. Granted, don't expect substance out of him, so I'm rarely disappointed, but I think he should at least try to keep his discussion of current events, you know, current. The closest thing we get to anything like substance is back in the Abu Ghraib discussion:
"The problems there went far beyond the photos of Lynndie England and others humiliating the Iraqis under their control."
Oh? Sounds salacious. There's something bigger than naked dogpiles? Are we talking something really juicy, like murder? Maybe Lynndie got pregnant with Ibn Samar's love child before faking her own death, to collect the insurance and get out of marrying Hassan al-Yemeni who was secretly plotting to murder his own father?
"We learned last week that Janis Karpinski, the brigadier general whose reserve military police unit was in charge of the prison, had been arrested for shoplifting at a military base in Florida in 2002."
Really? What else?
Wait, that's all you've got? That's as deep as the rabbit hole goes?
That's "the problem" that goes "far beyond" the England photos?
Sounds like you're really reaching, Bob. Apparently a complete inability to write on currently relevant topics is not mutually exclusive of an insensitivity to the relative importance of breaking news. Thanks for the lesson, Bob.
From the "Loaded With Irony" Department
Howard Dean endorses a socialist to take Vermont Senator Jim Jefford's spot.
"A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Democrats," Dean said in a telephone interview Monday.
Uh, yeah, but we expect you to at least pretend you aren't taking the entire DNC down with you, Howie.
Monday, May 09, 2005
A Brief Conversation Between Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards
Ozzy: So I told the bloke, whot the 'ell is in ... on the thing with the...
Keith: I think I've [unintelligible] gone and pissed meself.
Ozzy: And I ... with the ...
Keith: Whot? I think I just ... Eh?
Keith: Bloody 'ell.
Suppose it's the year 2009, and a Democrat is in the White House, with a Democrat-controlled Senate. Let's suppose that the President nominates a batch of federal judges, and a handful of the nominations stall in committee because of either filibusters or threats of filibusters by Republicans. In such a scenario, is it more likely that:
a) the Dems would use the nuclear option to end filibusters and get their nominees on the bench; or
b) the Dems would first call the Republicans hypocrites, and then get their nominees on the bench.
Just, you know, something I've been wondering about.
It looks like Senate Repubs have finally shown enough spine for long enough that Senate Dems are letting a formerly-filibustered Bush nominee through.
"We know the difference between opposing nominees and blocking nominees. We will oppose bad nominees, but we will only block unacceptable nominees,' [Harry] Reid said."
Reid did not, however, go on to explain what was unacceptable about Thomas Griffith for two years that is now acceptable. And frankly, I don't expect him to explain any such thing. All he's done it picked one of the lesser-known names from the list and used it to both back away from the line in the sand and to get a little ammo to hurl at Repubs for the rest of the pending show-down. Expect to see Reid or other prominent Dems say something to the effect of "See? We were reasonable about Griffith!" in the next little while. Of course, there's nothing reasonable about it. They're playing nominees like cards in poker, which is no more and no less than what I've come to expect from my elected representatives.
Here's the kicker:
"Griffith was the Senate's general counsel during President Clinton's impeachment and became Brigham Young University's general counsel in 2003."
What!?! They're letting a Mormon on to the federal bench? Have they learned nothing?
And this old chestnut:
"Democrats have threatened to block again the seven whom Bush renominated this year, as well as future ones they consider outside the mainstream of legal thinking."
The first problem is that if a minority group in Congress gets to decide what "the mainstream" is, we have a serious inversion of the majority/minority dynamic going on, here. The fact that Reid et al are in the minority of Senators (and Reps, and governors, and White House staffers) suggests they shouldn't be the final arbiters of "mainstream" thought. And the second problem is that this sort of behavior is simply unjustifiable, historically. If hard-core ultra-liberal and radical feminist Ruth Bader Ginsburg got confirmed by almost every Republican, it means the Senate is simply not used to oppose candidates on ideological grounds. If hard-core liberal Stephen Breyer got confirmed by a slightly thinner margin, it's because Republicans don't use ideology to block judicial nominations. If hard-core liberal David Souter got confirmed -- okay, bad example. That just means Senate Republicans don't know how to do background checks.
Liberal response: But didn't Republicans filibuster Abe Fortas?
Yes and no. He was already on the Supreme Court; he was filibustered when President Johnson tried to elevate him to Chief Justice. For more background on the Fortas filibuster, look here, especially the second-to-last paragraph. If you ask today's Democrats why they oppose Bush nominees, it's for ideology, plain and simple. But the Fortas nomination was opposed because:
"...as a sitting justice, he regularly attended White House staff meetings; he briefed the president on secret Court deliberations; and, on behalf of the president, he pressured senators who opposed the war in Vietnam. When the Judiciary Committee revealed that Fortas received a privately funded stipend, equivalent to 40 percent of his Court salary, to teach an American University summer course, Dirksen and others withdrew their support."
There are genuine separation of powers concerns here, as well as concerns about this guy getting serious money on the side. Yes, the guy was a hard-core lib, but Johnson nominated him because in spite of his liberal views, he had a realistic shot at the nomination.
"The president took encouragement from indications that his former Senate mentor, Richard Russell, and Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen would support Fortas, whose legal brilliance both men respected."
So the Fortas filibuster simply does not compare to what's going on in the Senate these days.
"Frist and Reid have rejected compromise offers from their counterparts, with Frist insisting on confirmation votes on all judicial nominees and Reid insisting on Democrats keeping their ability to block Bush nominees."
Little as I care for Reid, I'm a little disappointed that Frist didn't try a little harder to work out some middle ground. True, Repubs are in the majority. True, the Constitution doesn't require a super-majority in the Advice and Consent clause. True, Dems are acting like petty obstructionists and offering nothing of substance. And yet I still think there is much virtue in holding to tradition. It may be that American society is rapidly sliding into such a state of polarization that traditional notions of Senate comity will soon be out-moded, but that doesn't justify hastening the effect.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Happy Mothra's Day
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Done with Finals
Happy Happy Joy Joy!
For the benefit of any new readers, this is the picture I post when I'm done with tests, to show how happy I am. Hooray for graduation!!!
Thursday, May 05, 2005
No Queer Sperm!
Interesting article here. The short version is that the FDA is making a rule banning men who have had gay sex within the past five years from being anonymous sperm donors.
"The FDA has rejected calls to scrap the provision, insisting that gay men collectively pose a higher-than-average risk of carrying the AIDS virus."
Yes, I don't think that risk-assessment is reasonably disputed. It may be asked, of course, whether risk alone is good enough for a general ban, rather than an individualized determination.
The rule, of course, has gay rights advocates unhappy.
"'Under these rules, a heterosexual man who had unprotected sex with HIV-positive prostitutes would be OK as a donor one year later, but a gay man in a monogamous, safe-sex relationship is not OK unless he's been celibate for five years,' said Leland Traiman, director of a clinic in Alameda, California, that seeks gay sperm donors."
Traiman argues for the latter:
"Traiman said adequate safety assurances can be provided by testing a sperm donor at the time of the initial donation, then freezing the sperm for a six-month quarantine and testing the donor again to be sure there is no new sign of HIV or other infectious diseases."
In other words, increased costs and possibility of error is more important than hurting anyone's feelings? Please. We're discussing the an activity that could potentially lead to women contracting a deadly disease and dying, but some people are more concerned with politics.
Because Traiman sees fit to rely on generalizations, I guess I can, too. According to every report I've ever seen, homosexuals are statistically unlikely to be in "a monogamous, safe-sex relationship." Sure, some are, but not many, and that's part of the reason that gay men are more likely to have AIDS. It is also generally true that a man is not as likely to contract the disease from an HIV+ woman as a man from an HIV+ man.
Considering these generalizations, and assuming that no screening system is perfect, posit ten sperm samples from gay men (set A) and ten samples from straight men (set B). Now suppose that the screening system works for the first nine samples in either set, and fails for the last samples in both sets. It is more likely, given the characteristics of the donor group, that the set A sample will be HIV+ than the set B sample. With these results in mind, we can drastically reduce the deadly effects from screening failures by simply refusing set A donations. And less people will die as a result. Traiman may be proposing a safer screening process, but it's also a) more expensive, and b) still imperfect, so the set A samples are still more likely to produce negative results.
Here's a guy who makes a poor statistics-argument:
"'The part I find most offensive -- and a little frightening -- is that it isn't based on good science,' Cathcart said. 'There's a steadily increasing trend of heterosexual transmission of HIV, and yet the FDA still has this notion that you protect people by putting gay men out of the pool.'"
But this misses the point. It doesn't matter if set B donations are getting increasingly more dangerous compared to past set B donations, if set A donations are still significantly more dangerous as a whole. Let me come up with an analogy.
Suppose I decide I want to send one hundred kindergartners to school with fake hand grenades. I have two suppliers of fake hand grenades, Company A and Company B. As it turns out, both companies occasionally screw up and send real hand grenades. Statistically, Company A send me 50 live grenades per 100, and Company B sends me only 5 live grenades per 100. Of course, being a responsible person, I inspect the grenades before giving them to the kindergartners, but hey, I make mistakes sometimes. I can reasonably argue that, for the sake of the children, I won't send any grenades from Company A, because the danger that I'll accidentally send a live grenade is just too great. But wait, objects the president of Company A, some of the Company B grenades are live, too! Sure, but when my screening system fails me, there is only a 5% chance that a B grenade that slips through the system will be live, whereas an A grenade that slips through has a 50% chance of being live.
Now let's go move a year into the future, and Company B is getting sloppy. The president of Company A, in order to win back my business, presents convincing evidence that now 10 in every hundred B grenades is live, doubling the amount of dangerous grenades and the likelihood that a grenade with a failed screening will be live. That may be so, I respond, but 10 is still a lot better than 50, yes? It seems like such a simple concept, doesn't it? But the concept is lost on Mr. Cathcart, who doesn't seem to realize the difference between "good science" and "good math."
"'With an anonymous sperm donor, you can't be too careful,' said a society spokeswoman, Eleanor Nicoll. 'Our concern is for the health of the recipient, not to let more and more people be sperm donors.'"
Thoughts on the DeLay Scandal
I haven't really followed the DeLay scandal. Not because I believe it's all a smear job - I couldn't possibly know that without actually following the story. And not because I think it's okay for him to violate ethics rules - it's not, and I won't defend Republican leadership from legitimate criticism. Rather, I've assumed that if there's anything to the story, those with a visceral hatred for the man (Kos, Atrios, Josh Marshall et al) will bring him down without my help, and the ins and outs of Congressional rules on which form you need to fill out before flying to Scotland ... well, I just don't care.
That said, I'd like to make two points. The first is a response to something I heard Rush Limbaugh say yesterday. It seems that Nancy Pelosi has a little egg on her face because in spite of her criticizing DeLay, her own travels have now raised some eyebrows, and it would certainly be the height of irony if she's throwing stones in her glass house. According to Rush, a Republican congressman (don't remember which one) called Pelosi a hypocrite for insisting on an investigation into DeLay's actions without insisting on an investigation into prominent Democrats (see here for more, including: "Although House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is by far the most high-profile lawmaker caught up in the scandal so far, to this point, more Democrats than Republicans have found themselves the subject of news reports outlining potential violations of House ethics rules for taking trips funded by registered lobbyists or lobbying firms.")
Rush criticized the Congressman by saying, and I paraphrase, "he shouldn't wait for Pelosi to call for an investigation, he should do it himself."
I think Rush misses the point. It is true that House Republicans can call for investigations into Democrat violations, and it may be true that more Dems than Repubs will go down. But isn't it far sweeter to get to stand on the House floor and call Nancy Pelosi a hypocrite? Especially if you can do both?
My next point is that I wouldn't mind seeing some people go down for this. The partisan in me wants DeLay to keep his job, simply because any charges that stick to DeLay will hurt the party as a whole, and although I have little love for the party as such, I'd rather have it in power than see the Dems take back the reigns. But other than that one point, I have no real reason to support Delay. If he didn't know what his staffers were doing to finance his trips, that's a problem. If he's breaking rules just to enjoy even more perks, that's a problem. And I have no love for the guy, personally (he's not my congressman), and I'd just as soon see politicians - any politicians - get the axe when they get caught stealing more than usual.
But I will continue to leave the actual discovery of incriminating evidence to those who care more about DeLay than I do.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Don't Nooooooobody Wanna go to Jail in Pakistan
Not Worth the Time or Effort I Put Into It
Monday, May 02, 2005
I don't think I've ever linked The Therapist before, but right now is a fine time to start.
I don't know if I still have any readers left, but if I do, click on the link for possibly the finest use of the phrase "disastrous chromosomal train wreck" ever penned.
Solomon Amendment Before the Court
So I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about the Solomon Amendment.
Okay, that was technically a lie. I've never gotten any e-mails asking me that. The only time I've gotten any communication asking about any topic at all was from my brother, who wanted to know what I think about Title IX, and I still haven't answered him. Maybe he'll get the hint sooner or later.
Anyway, back to the Solomon Amendment. The Supreme Court is going to decide whether it's constitutional this fall. The way it works is this. The military says "don't ask, don't tell" when it comes to homosexuality, and excludes openly gay recruits. This angers law schools, who say "fine, but we're not going to let you come to our campus to recruit anyone." So Congress, in 1994 (try to remember who was President that year) passes the Solomon Amendment, which says if the law school won't let military recruiters on campus, the school doesn't get federal funding.
The law schools say the Solomon Amendment violates their free speech rights under the First Amendment. That is utter nonsense. Yes, there is such a thing as compelled speech, and no, government can't compel speech without violating the First Amendment. But no one is so foolish as to assume that every view of every group that conducts an activity on campus is attributable to the school. Tulane has an American Constitution Society (hard-core Lefties) and a Federalist Society (right-wingers and libertarians). What sane person thinks the school is so schizophrenic as to subscribe fully to every view expressed by both groups? In other words, the law schools' argument is dumb because the recruiting activity cannot reasonably be attributed to the school, and therefore there is no compulsion.
"The Bush administration countered in court filings that equal access to campuses for recruiting is necessary to fill the military's legal ranks 'in a time of war.'"
Also dumb. The argument seems to accept that this is compelled speech, and basically turns on whether a state of national emergency justifies violating the First Amendment. That's dumb because whether or not that was the original intent of the amendment, it's certainly not the law now. Any argument that is virtually guaranteed to lose in front of the most important Court is a dumb argument. And the First Amendment also looks to whether there is some other way of achieving the government's purpose without trampling the First Amendment right, and in this case, the government can simply take its lists of students who get federal grants for law school and mail them flyers. Maybe not as effective, but less of a constitutional encroachment. And most importantly, we're not always in a state of war, so the administration's argument has a shelf-life. It's not a wise move to try to get the Court to say the Solomon Amendment is only constitutional for X more years. And by that logic, it certainly wasn't constitutional when enacted in 1994.
So then, having berated both sides, where do I stand? Let me start by changing the facts a little bit. Lawyers, you see, have to be very practiced at manipulating reality for the sake of an argument. Let's suppose that instead of gays, the military excluded blacks. And suppose that law schools wanted to keep recruiters off of campuses, and that Congress passed a law saying "let them on or we stop sending you money." Under this scenario, all reasonable people will agree that the law school has a legitimate objection to the recruiters. It becomes easier to look at the substance of the First Amendment and Congress' spending power, rather than getting caught up on the content of the speech.
So, if I were a law school and an overtly racist military wanted to recruit on my campus, could I exclude them? Certainly, if I'm a private institution; I can do whatever I want with my property. But can I first overtly tell the government to go soak its head, and then assert a constitutional right to get significant amounts of money from that same government? That seems a little like a bratty teen-ager yelling, "I hate you dad! Now give me the car keys!" While I don't think Congress should be spending federal tax dollars on local universities in the first place, I also think Congress can choose to withhold funds at its discretion, and if it ever does something as dumb as a Solomon-like Amendment that operates against black people, electoral retribution will be swift and certain. Where people have a legitimate remedy through the political branches, I always disfavor judicial intervention.
That's my blank-slate conclusion. Once we throw Supreme Court precedent into the mix, everything gets a lot more complicated, in no small part because that precedent is highly contradictory. Let me offer two examples. In Rust v. Sullivan (1991), Congress passed a law that said a doctor who is working for a federally-funded clinic can't discuss abortion with his patients. The Supreme Court upheld the law even though the doctors claimed it infringed their First Amendment rights, because (a) the doctors could talk about abortion all they wanted on their own dime, and (b) government doesn't have to fund anything it doesn't want to fund. By contrast, in Legal Services Corp. v. Velazquez (2001) Congress gave money to lawyers doing free work for welfare recipients, but only on the condition that the lawyers didn't challenge the constitutionality of the welfare statutes. The lawyers were free to make any other arguments in support of their clients, just not that one. And the Court said Congress couldn't do that.
What's the difference? Beats me. But as a matter of precedent, Velazquez is followed more often than Rust.
One more case. The case of Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia (1995) involved a Christian group on a university campus. They published a newspaper with Christian-slanted editorials, and they applied to the University for funding. The University denied them, saying they wouldn't fund any publication with any religious discussion at all, although they funded publications by all other secular student groups. The Supreme Court said the University couldn't deny the funds because it was viewpoint discrimination. This case doesn't exactly cover the Solomon Amendments question, because it's a case of the university using its own money to fund student groups, rather than asking for federal money and then refusing access to a certain group. This case can either help or hurt the schools. On the one hand, it might mean that yes, government (as represented by the school) can be forced to pay for things it doesn't want to support. On the other hand, it might mean that schools can't discriminate against military recruiters any more than it can discriminate against Christians.
So the case law is tangled and could go anywhere, which usually means the outcome will depend on whether O'Connor thinks she's a liberal or a conservative on the day of the hearing.
All that said, let me reduce the issue to a serious of short questions that I feel sum things up.
1. Does a private school have to let members of (list group here) on its campus? No.
2. Does Congress have to fund you while you're speaking out against Congress? No.
3. Should the military be forced to let gays in? Maybe you should ask someone in the military.
4. Is O'Connor really that wishy-washy? Oh yes.
5. Should my tax dollars (here we're pretending for a moment that I have income) be used to fund law professors who are actively working to undermine our nation's military in a time of war? What do you think?
More on Free Speech
And just to be clear, I'm not just angry at hypocritical liberals, who say they love free speech but who are perfectly willing to shut up conservatives. I am equally annoyed at this story about the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, who wants to pressure PBS and others to de-liberalize.
Look, if you de-regulate and de-subsidize, then Americans can decide for themselves what they want to watch. If I don't like nanny-statism coming from the Left, what makes you think I want it coming from the Right? Liberal bias is already sending CNN, the New York Times and the L.A. Times down the toilet without government help. Just shut up and let the system work.
You know what really pisses me off?
Leftist free-speech hypocrisy. The wife and I agree that dressing up in a penis costume and walking around a college campus is just about the height of poor taste, but we are at a complete loss to understand how that is any more offensive than displaying a 40-foot inflatable plastic vagina. The sheer gall of the Roger Williams University administration is - well, it's gob-smackingly vile, as Ace said. Consider my gob soundly smacked.
Related: The college has also just approved a proposal to redesign the fire hyrants on campus.
Sure, no problem
Update: read this post, especially the footnotes. Heh.
Update: Ah, here's the problem. If you're going to march around in a giant penis costume, you just have to be in California.
Arch-enemies Phil the Sore and Healthy Penis unite to protest the unfair detention of Testaclese.
Update: I've been looking around to see if I could find any liberals actually defending the actions of the school, and so far I've come up empty-handed. But there are some interesting things here. First, as noted, none of the Lefty commenters overtly congratulate the school for supressing free speech on campus, so credit where credit is due. But that's about as far as credit extends.
"Christina Hoff Sommers really, really hates 'The Vagina Monologues', no doubt because she..."
Yes, as you can see that sentence is about to turn into an ad hominem attack. I guess if you've got nothing else...
Our author also posts a series of phallic symbols, apparently to suggest the argument that the nation is loaded with penises anyway, and so a few representations of vaginas is necessary to balance things out. A convincing case? Let's see. The first picture is of the Washington Monument.
It's an obelisk.
Yes, it's long and skinny and pointy. You can see obelisks all over progressive Europe, as well. Want to know where they got them? Stole them from Egypt. And what were the Egyptians doing with them? They were placed in front of temples, to symbolize holy ground. Egyptian creation mythology says the world was formed from chaos, represented by water, which turned into solid ground when a ray of the sun struck it and was petrified, and a mountainn emerged from below. That is the divine center, or ombellicos (congate with the word 'umbillical').
There is nothing phallic about it, except in the minds of people who don't know what obelisks are.
Item number 2 is a jet fighter.
Uh huh. I'm sure that aerodynamics had nothing to do with the shape of jets. They're designed the way they are, in spite of the laws of physics, just so people can fly around in metal penises. Right.
Next we have Tom Delay (I think - why should I care what Tom Delay looks like?) holding a very long rifle. Because, you know, rifles would work so much more effectively if they were shaped like breasts...
The last two images kind of break with the theme to get more tongue-in-cheek.
In summary, not even crazed liberals are willing to stick up for these university administrators who think Free Speech rights depend on content. I guess I should be thankful for the small miracles.
"Pity Me" Update
Final exam this morning in Secured Transactions, then a week of frantic studying for a final in International Sale of Goods on Saturday morning. So until then, don't expect much from me.
When I was doing my Constitutional Law studying, I would occasionally find Supreme Court opinions so outrageous that I had to blog them (see my Thurgood Marshall post a few slots down), but that sort of thing doesn't usually happen with Secured Transactions. I can't imagine any of my readers would care if I said something like "I'm outraged that purchase money security interests in inventory are prioritized differently from purchase money security interests in equipment!" And speaking of, what's the deal with enabling credit?
Yeah, I know. Banker humor is a bit of an oxymoron.
Update: Done. Harder than I thought, but I don't care. Now it's time to worry about Saturday.