Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Thursday, July 31, 2003

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Will The Nigerian Government File An Amicus In This Case?

Hormel Foods is suing SpamArrest for infringing on its trademark.

Silent Africa

FrontPage Magazine contributor Lisa Makson reports Rachel Carson's legacy in Africa. Carson is the author of Silent Spring, a classic 1962 eco-whackball treatise that grossly exaggerated (if not invented) risks associated with DDT, an insecticide that stood as one of the greatest advances in public health:

The discovery of DDT by scientist Paul Herman Muller, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1948, was originally hailed as a major public health success because DDT kills mosquitoes, lice and fleas, which are carriers for more than 20 serious infectious diseases like the bubonic plague, typhus, yellow fever, encephalitis and malaria.

"To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It is estimated that, in little more than two decades DDT has prevented 500 million human deaths, due to malaria, that would otherwise have been inevitable," a statement from the National Academy of Sciences said. Before DDT, infectious diseases spread like wildfire, leaving millions dead in their wake. During World War I, typhus epidemics killed 3 million Russians and millions elsewhere in European. But during World War II, before it was blacklisted by Carson and her crew, DDT saved millions of Allied troops from becoming ill and/or dying from infectious diseases such as malaria, typhus and the plague. Plus, DDT also saved the lives of recently liberated Nazi concentration camp survivors by killing off typhus-causing lice.

Other reasons for DDT being hailed as a modern day miracle are legion. For starters, it is extremely cheap to produce, costing $1.44 to spray one house for a whole year. Alternative pesticides being pushed by the U.N. and environmentalists are 10 to 20 times more expensive.

(Keep in mind that West Nile virus is spread by mosquitos.)

And what of the economic benefits?

Another reason DDT is such a blessing is that it enables developing countries to make significant economic progress, thanks to plunging infectious disease rates. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, "The unparalleled benefits stemming from [public health] programs [in developing countries] are due almost entirely to the use of DDT. DDT provides the only safe, economically feasible eradication measure available today [that helps to promote economic development."

The nation of India provides an illustrative example. Before the World Health Organization began its worldwide malaria eradication program in the 1940s, India had more than 100 million cases of malaria and 2.5 million deaths annually; produced less than 25 million tons of wheat per year; was host to widespread starvation; and spent 60 percent of its GDP on malaria control. But by the '60s, India's malaria cases dropped to fewer than 100,000 reported cases, with less than 1,000 deaths. Thanks to this stability, India produced more than 100 million tons of wheat annually.

And the environmental impact?

But most importantly, DDT is also not hazardous to humans or the environment -- despite all the propaganda to the contrary. According to tests conducted by Dr. Philip Butler, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Sabine Island Research Laboratory, "92 percent of DDT and its metabolites disappear" from the environment after 38 days. (See Environmental Protection Agency's DDT hearings transcript, page 3,726.) Plus, humans have nothing to worry about small exposures to DDT.

"DDT is so safe that no symptoms have been observed among the 130,000 spraymen or the 535 million inhabitants of sprayed houses [over the past 29 years of its existence]. No toxicity was observed in the wildlife of the countries participating in the malaria campaign," said the WHO director in 1969. "Therefore WHO has no grounds to abandon this chemical which has saved millions of lives, the discontinuation of which would result in thousands of human deaths and millions of illnesses. It has served at least 2 billion people in the world without costing a single human life by poisoning from DDT. The discontinuation of the use of DDT would be a disaster to world health."

Then comes Rachel Carson's hysterical Michael Crichtonesque doomsaying:

Carson predicted that pesticides -- namely DDT -- would cause "practically 100 percent" of the human population would be wiped out from a cancer epidemic after one more generation. This would come about because a race of super-insects, impervious to pesticides, would come about threatening U.S. farms. Desperate farmers then would triple the amount of pesticides they were using so they could stop the super-bugs from destroying their crops. As a result, DDT would eventually work its way up the food chain, killing off first the bugs, then the worms, then the birds (hence her title), the fish and finally mankind.

The latter half of the article refutes her junk science claims - well worth reading.

I guess the population control crowd doesn't have any complaints.

A Disturbing Trend Continues

First it's cats, now...

Woman accused of stabbing her husband in face with crab

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Blogrollin' Across The Globe

First stop in South America.

Venezuela News And Views Daniel, hailing from San Felipe, a city roughly 120 miles due west of Caracas, reports on the turbulent times in Venezuela. His latest post explores the cadena: "for supposedly important reasons the President can commandeer the entire broadcast signals, TV and Radio, for a discretionary amount of time to communicate some important message to the Nation."

On to the UK.

Unpersons "A British group-blog focusing primarily on UK, EU and Anglosphere affairs from a free-market laissez faire perspective." Stephen Hodgson, Duncan Morgan, and Robert Swales have just recently set up this blog. A sort of mission summary is posted here.

Take a cab to Heathrow, catch a flight to Moscow.

Russian Dilettante's Weblog "Life, Liberty, and Trivial Pursuit." Alexei lives in Moscow and occasionally reads Ludwig von Mises. He linked two of my posts, spotting the error on the date of the crackdown on the Prague Spring, and commenting on the Mark Ames book review.

Take the next Aeroflot to Baghdad.

Where is Raed? This is the site of legendary Iraqi blogger Salam Pax. Notice that Samizdata is on his blogroll - the times they are a-changin'. He is rather disappointed with al-Jazeera, and thinks Uday and Qusay got off easy.

Hitch a ride with a convoy smuggling Western movies and CDs into Iran:

Notes Of An Iranian Girl The host is an anonymous college student in Tehran. If I were an Iranian blogger with LGF on my blogroll and a post featuring a Cox & Forkum cartoon, I'd be anonymous, too. Internet censorship is naturally a serious issue. This post has links to some photos of Iran.

Sneak aboard an oil tanker bound for Hong Kong.

Gweilo Diaries Daniel is an expatriate living in Hong Kong. He posts on the news in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and, of course, Hong Kong.

Back to the US to update the blog.


Two of the announced anniversaries - the 1835 Moon Hoax and the 1968 Soviet-led crackdown on Czechoslovakia, were announced a month early. The events occurred in August, not July.

Here's some genuine July 30 anniversaries:

1619 Founding of Virginia's House of Burgesses, the first legislative body in colonial America.

1839 The schooner Amistad is seized by slave rebels.

1965 Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Medicare bill. The Libertarian Party has this to say about the program.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Clinton-Gore National Security Legacy

I cringe every time I hear someone exclaim that we should "seal our borders." This is a huge nation with huge borders. This isn't the starship Enterprise that can keep out aliens by simply raising the shields. We can't have guards and spy satellites watching every square foot of coastline and Canadian and Mexican border. We can't Vulcan mind meld with every tourist to find out which ones are planning to shop at Saks and which ones are planning to torch a building.

Imperfect security doesn't mean nonexistent security. The Coast Guard and out albeit Rube Goldberg-esque airport screening make the country safer than it would be otherwise. The goal of providing security is not to hermetically seal the country against all criminal threat - no deterrent is foolproof - but to deter the majority of them.

One security concern is the naturalization process. Citizens have greater freedoms and privileges than aliens, even in California. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has certain procedures for guarding against naturalizing people who pose serious criminal threats. A fingerprint record is taken from each applicant and run through the FBI database. If the check reveals that the applicant was convicted of certain major crimes, or has lied about his or her arrest record, the applicant is rejected.

In his book Sellout, David Schippers describes how this process was circumvented in 1996. In February 1996, HUD secretary Henry Cisneros sent a memo to President Clinton, suggesting that expediting the naturalization process in certain key states could "turn out 96,000 voters [from a constituency that votes heavily Democratic] for the 1996 presidential election."

INS Commissioner Doris Meissner (who would later block the emigration of one Cuban) was leery of what could be perceived as the politicization of her agency. Clinton gave National Performance Review staff member Doug Farbrother the task of examining options for expediting naturalization in Los Angeles San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Miami, and to report directly to Vice President Gore regarding this project. Farbrother started putting pressure on Deputy INS Commissioner Chris Sale and Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to, as stated in a March 22 memo, "to delegate broad authority to the managers" in the five targeted cities. The two resisted.

Schippers tells what happened next:

The White House wanted any applicants for citizenship to be naturalized in time to register for the November election, so the pressure on the INS was constant. On March 21, Elaine Kamarck in the Vice President's office sent an e-mail to Farbrother saying, "THE PRESIDENT IS SICK OF THIS AND WANTS ACTION. IF NOTHING MOVES TODAY WE'LL HAVE TO TAKE SOME PRETTY DRASTIC MEASURES." Farbrother responded, "I favor drastic measures." If he couldn't get what he wanted from the INS, he wrote, he would "call for heavy artillery."

In a March 26 e-mail to the Vice President, Farbrother reported that Chris Sale had indeed "delegated hiring authority to the five cities and increased their budgets by 20%." But, he wrote, "I still don't think the city directors have enough freedom to do the job." Two days later, Farbrother told the Vice President by e-mail, "[U]nless we blast INS headquarters loose from their grip on the frontline managers, we are going to have way too many people still waiting for citizenship in November." He added, "I can't make Doris Meissner delegate broad authority to her field managers. Can you?"

Gore answered, "We'll explore it. Thanks." By the end of March, Doris Meissner capitulated. On April 4, 1996, Elaine Kamarck, to prepare the Vice President for a lunch with Clinton, drafted a memo to Gore briefing him on the INS progress. In time, Newark, N.J., and Houston, Tex., would be added to the list of targeted cities, and in all, more than a million aliens would be naturalized in time to vote in the 1996 election.

Because of time constraints, we focused our own investigation on the INS district office in Chicago, which Gore had visited in 1996 to check on the registration progress. We quickly discovered that the most flagrant and critical breakdown occurred in fingerprint checks.

A KPMG Peat Marwick audit of what was known as the Citizenship USA program revealed that :

1. More than 75,000 new citizens who had arrest records when they applied;

2. An additional 115,000 whose fingerprints were unclassifiable for various technical reasons and were never resubmitted; and

3. Another 61,000 people who were given citizenship with no fingerprints submitted at all.

The investigation continued:

In the course of our investigation, we discovered that FBI arrest records were still missing from the proper files; many were still in boxes. We unearthed that several individuals who had been naturalized illegally were now trying to sponsor their relatives for citizenship. We found sponsors who were unable to speak a word of English, a condition that should have prevented naturalization. Similarly, we uncovered arrest records or other information that should have been disqualifiers for naturalization. But, according to interviews my staff conducted with sources inside INS offices, INS agents who had found these irregularities were ordered to ignore them and to revoke citizenship only in cases ordered by the auditors.

Our sources inside the INS revealed that, in preparation for the 2000 elections, INS agents in the district offices were directed to relax the testing for English, complete every interview within 20 minutes, and ensure that all applicants pass the civics test by continuing to ask questions until an applicant got a sufficient number right. Sometimes it was necessary to ask 25 questions before four or five were answered correctly.

We received no cooperation from either the Justice Department or the INS. Instead we received nothing but complaints about not going through proper channels, investigating old news, being partisan - if not racist - and so on. But we reasoned that if criminals were given citizenship in 1996, at least some of them had probably continued their criminal activity in the two years since. We asked the GAO - an investigative agency that works for Congress and is therefore not subject to White House or Justice Department pressures - to give us FBI arrest records related to the CUSA program. We were given unquestioned cooperation and boxes of FBI reports.

We reviewed every document in those boxes, pulling out about a hundred of the most violent or serious crimes committed by aliens prior to naturalization and documented by arrest records. I specifically excluded minor immigration crimes, tax offenses, or white-collar crimes such as driving under the influence. I asked the staff to search for drug trafficking and violent crimes such as rape and child abuse. Those are the types of crimes that are most often repeated. A child abuser tends to abuse again, and a rapist tends to rape again.

After a few days - and going through only a few of the 20 or so boxes - we had our basic 100 heinous crimes, including one criminal who was actually in jail at the time he was naturalized.

We asked the FBI if it had arrest records for crimes committed by the same aliens in this country since 1996 and sent them our 100 profiles.

Less than a week later, the FBI sent the updated arrest records to the Justice Department. (Per an agreement between the FBI and the Justice Department, all materials requested from the Bureau must go through Justice.) But when we inquired about them, the department claimed that it hadn't yet received the records. An hour later, however, Justice called back to say that the "misplaced" reports had been located.

Of those 100 arrest records updated by the Bureau, some 20% showed arrests for serious crimes after the subject was given citizenship. Based on these random results, we asked for updates on every arrest record in our 20 boxes. Our plan was to update every report, using only FBI numbers and with the FBI redacting all identifying information to address the issue of privacy concerns. If, as we anticipated, anywhere near 20% came back with subsequent crimes, we would then confront the Justice Department, demand the identity and address of these known criminals, and point out that they had been given citizenship illegally, and were still engaged in criminal activity. Unfortunately, before we could go further, the referral from Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr arrived. Had we been given sufficient time to develop evidence and witnesses, the CUSA matter might have been included in the abuse of power impeachment article.

The 1996 arrest records are still available, and I am sure the FBI is still willing to update all of them. In the meantime, thousands of criminals are now citizens of the United States because it was assumed they would vote for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

I hope that the agencies investigating the War on Terror are combing through those boxes of FBI documents to make sure that none of those criminals who benefited from quickie citizenship have terrorist connections.

How To Offend PETA And NOW In One Stroke

Man Whips Fiancee With Cat

Monday, July 28, 2003

Bob Hope Dead At 100

 photo BobHopeCollage2.jpgThanks for the memory
Of things I can't forget
Journeys on a jet
Our wond'rous week in Martinique
And Vegas and roulette
How lucky I was

And thanks for the memory
Of summers by the sea
Dawn in Waikiki
We had a pad in London
But we didn't stop for tea
How cozy it was

Now since our breakup I wake up
Alone on a gray morning-after
I long for the sound of your laughter
And then I see the laugh's on me

But, thanks for the memory
Of every touch a thrill
I've been through the mill
I've lived a lot and learned a lot
You loved me not and still
I miss you so much

Thanks for the memory
Of how we used to jog
Even in a fog
That barbecue in Malibu
Away from all the smog
How rainy it was

Thanks for the memory
Of letters I destroyed
Books that we enjoyed
Tonight the way things look
I need a book by Sigmund Freud
How brainy he was

Gone are those evenings on Broadway
Together we'd go to a great show
But now I begin with the Late Show
And wish that you were watching, too

I know it's a fallacy
That grown men never cry
Baby, that's a lie
We had our bed of roses
But forgot that roses die
And thank you so much

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Reynolds/Lucas 2008: No Blogger Left Behind

Alphecca is promoting a Glenn Reynolds/ Rachel Lucas presidential ticket for the 2008 season. The post lists recommendations for all sorts of presidential appointments. (The Smallest Minority has suggestions, too.) I sent in a few nominations, which Alphecca kindly posted:

Andrew Ian Castel-Dodge: Ambassador to England (poetic justice for the grief he ran into with Britain's immigration bureaucrats - can't find the original blog posts, you can ask him to refresh our memories)

Patrick Crozier: Secretary of Transportation

Daniel Drezner: Secretary of Treasury

Charles Johnson: Secretary of State (Mideast relations will never be the same)

Brink Lindsey: Secretary of Commerce

Jay Manifold: He should hold the cabinet post he invented: Secretary of Defeated Former Enemies' Security

Virginia Postrel: Press Secretary (seems appropriate for a former magazine editor)

Rand Simberg: In charge of privatizing NASA and all government research facilities.

Andrew Sullivan: Fundraising chairman (get that PayPal button working, Sully)

Pejman Yousefzadeh: Solicitor General

I can't wait to see the campaign posters.

Update: Jay Manifold grudgingly graciously accepts the DFES post, and is laughing his head off silly at congratulates Rand Simberg for his upcoming oversight of NASA.

Blog Milestone

Last Wednesday (when I was too preoccupied with LASIK recovery to notice), the blog received its 30,000th viewer, hailing from the domain.

Victoire Pour l'Amérique!

 photo LanceArmstrong5.jpg

Lance Armstrong a gagné son cinquième Tour de France. ESPN et Le Monde ont tous les détails.


Another Fiftieth Anniversary

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War was drawn to a stalemate.

Fiftieth Anniversary Of The Beginning Of Castro's Revolt Marked Yesterday

This Yahoo headline tweaks one of my pet peeves:

Cuban Revolution Faces Dissent, Isolation at 50.

For nearly five decades many Western journalists have used the term "revolution" in reference not so much to Castro's revolt against Batista, but to Cuba's entire Communist era. Yahoo, for example, declares the Castro government "one of the most enduring socialist revolutions of the 20th century."



Update: The actual age of Cuba's Communist government is 44. Castro's atrocities against the Cuban people, of course, predate his ascent to power on January 1, 1959.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Andrew Sullivan Misfires

Sully finds it disturbing that faith influences the voting patterns of many white evangelical protestants. He interprets this as a belief on their part that there is "no real distinction between religion and politics."

Christianity concerns itself with the whole of ethics. Politics is a subset of ethics, concerned with the issues of the proper role and structure of governance and the rights of citizens. Politics is not hermetically sealed from the rest of moral thought.

The improper mixing of religion and politics - as I have argued here - is when the State governs the relationship between citizens and the spiritual realm:

Whether their deity (or religious interpretation of the deity) is genuine or not, the citizens [of a theocracy] have no objective means of determining that the deity plays an active role in its government, endorses the ruling party, or ordered the creation of the theocracy in the first place.

Christianity revolves around a voluntary personal relationship with God. The Bible makes no record of God granting authority to a State to govern that relationship through force. Christian theocracy is therefore a heresy by which government usurps the authority of God over the individual's relationship with Him.

What is relevant to political debate is the nature of a policy, not whether or not support or opposition is religiously motivated.

Sullivan doesn't mention the topic of the article with the cited poll: religious objections to same-sex marriage. Marriage is both a religious institution and a legal contract. Where's that distinction between religion and politics, Sully?

Jacob Sullum Responds

I sent an email to Jacob Sullum with a link to my post on the Mark Ames review of his book Saying Yes: In Defense Of Drug Use, and received a response. He addressed several issues, including Ames' misrepresentation of his attitude toward drugs; in the review, Ames wrote that "Sullum condones drug use repeatedly in his book." The complete email is as follows:

Thanks for your note. My aim is not "promoting [the] joys" of drug use but attacking the specious moral distinction between alcohol and the currently illegal intoxicants. (There's a reason why the book is called Saying Yes instead of Just Say Yes.) I think it's important to address this issue because the cost-benefit analysis is not enough to persuade people who accept the myths of voodoo pharmacology. If you believe that certain drugs cannot be used responsibly because they hijack the user's will and force him to sin, you will have a hard time accepting the idea of a world without prohibition, even if you recognize the costs associated with the war on drugs. Voodoo pharmacology also undermines the moral argument that people should be free to do as they choose with their own bodies (provided they don't violate other people's rights), because it teaches that certain substances make choice impossible.

I think voodoo pharmacology is the key reason why alcohol prohibition was repealed while drug prohibition was expanded. Most people knew from their own experience that the typical drinker was not an alcoholic. But when it came to less familiar drugs associated with out-groups, they found it easy to believe that the typical user was an addict, or at least a dangerous maniac while under the influence. If such ideas are not addressed directly, most Americans will continue to believe that, whatever the costs of prohibition, the costs of making these choice-negating, mind-enslaving substances more readily available would be greater.

My main problem with the Ames review is that he imagines the world is divided into two groups: hard-core drug warriors and drug enthusiasts. I think most people occupy a middle position, troubled (at least potentially) by the side effects of prohibition as well as the damage done by drug abuse. That's the audience where voodoo pharmacology makes a real difference, and the one I'm trying to reach.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Missed Some Anniversaries

On yesterday's date in 1939, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was signed, ensuring that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would not go to war with one another.

Ten years later in 1949, NATO was born.

And on that day in 1968, France became the world's fifth nuclear power. Timeline of important dates of the nuclear age available here.

Update: Oops, these were reported a month early, too.

This Day In Lunar History

The New York Sun reported the discovery of life on the moon.

Update: Off by one month.

Fisking A New York Press Book Review

Jeremy Lott says he has stumbled across the worst book review of the summer: Mark Ames' review of Jacob Sullum's Saying Yes: In Defense Of Drug Use.

Ames' fallacy essentially rests in the presumption that drug war hawks - especially religious ones - cannot be reasoned with. Confirming James Lileks' observations about "lumpers," he dishes out a swathe of anti-Christian bigotry thicker than the layer of bullet casings in Uday Hussein's last place of residence:

In the first chapter, "Chemical Reactions," he rationally engages mainstream Christians by comparing their beliefs about drugs to Mormon and Islamic attitudes, and then he debunks widely held Christian prejudices by citing counter-examples within the Bible which support wine-drinking and merriment.

At which point I thought, "Is Sullum f___ing nuts? He’s debating Christians!"

You can almost see Sullum at a witch-burning a few centuries earlier, standing calmly at the edge of the mob, confident that his power of reason would win them over one by one and free the condemned woman: "Gentlemen, fellow Colonials, hear me, for ye may think that the woman ye are befixing to the stake is a witch deserving of fire, but did ye know that among the Africans along the Western Cape, there doth practice witches who perform good and bad–"

(One wonders if Ames is aware that some "mainstream" Christians do support drug decriminalization, and that some oppose it but respect Sullum anyway. One also wonders if he is aware that the number of people burned for witchcraft who really were witches is vastly smaller than the number of people who believe that Andrew Sullivan is secretly dating Tammy Bruce.)

Ames spells out his strategy:

A counter-war should be waged. We need more and better cultural propaganda to promote the joys of drug use, marginalize the drug war lunatics and expose the destruction that the drug war causes to innocent lives. It should no longer be respectable to promote the drug war. In fact, it should be dangerous.

Ames obviously believes that minds can be changed, but not those of the Drug War's most ardent supporters; such people must simply be bulldozed. It doesn't occur to him that the Drug War may have side effects that threaten the interests of the hawks as well as those of everyone else.

And what sort of "danger" is he proposing? That scares the heck out of me.

Sullum and Ames are both wrong in assuming that support for decriminalizing drugs can be brought about by promoting their "joys." That's like citing the gulag as a selling point for Communism. The intellectually honest debate from the anti-prohibitionist side is that criminalization carries far greater risks than decriminalization.

Update: Jacob Sullum emailed a response. See this post for the full text.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Consultant Blames The FAA

WorldNetDaily reports that Global Market Strategies managing director Andrew R. Thomas places most of the blame of 9/11 on the Federal Aviation Administration:

The consultant and airline-security author said al-Qaida operatives who planned and conducted the attacks were aware of "non-existent cockpit door protection, inadequate flight-crew training and porous screening protocols," which were all under the purview of the FAA.

He also cites "'cursory at best' terrorist training for flight attendants" - and identifies one other problem:

Since the attacks, Congress has managed to pass legislation supporters hope will make it more difficult for terrorists to gain control of airliners in the future.

One step, as WorldNetDaily reported extensively, was to authorize commercial airline pilots to carry firearms, after receiving the appropriate federally mandated training.

Ironically, the FAA had adopted a rule allowing pilots to be armed, but rescinded it just two months before the 9-11 attacks.

For decades the FAA's policy has been for crews and passengers to cower like a bunch of sheep every time someone tries to hijack a plane. Guys with freakin' knives were able to kill 3,000 people because the FAA applied unilateral disarmament to its industry, taking gun control to the extreme of disarming both the proverbial citizens (passengers) and the proverbial cops (flight crews), with the exception of the rare sky marshal.

In earlier days of passenger transport, whether by rail, ship, or stagecoach, policies regarding the carrying of weapons by passengers may have varied, but in no case did someone suggest that everybody, even down to the last crew member, go unarmed. The threat of banditry was always present, and is still present today.

There is one factor to 9/11 having nothing to do with the FAA that deserves more attention than it's been getting: the 1995 discovery of Project Bojinka, code name for a scheme to ram passenger planes into major buildings in the United States. Yes, 1995.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Today's Lesson In Risk Assessment

"Returning to Lu, Confucius found his native province so disordered with civil strife that he removed to the neighboring state of T'si, accompanied by several of his pupils. Passing through rugged and deserted mountains on their way, they were surprised to find an old woman weeping beside a grave. Confucius sent [his pupil] Tsze-Loo to inquire the cause of her grief. 'My husband's father,' she answered, 'was killed here by a tiger, and my husband also; and now my son has met the same fate.' When Confucius asked why she persisted in living in so dangerous a place, she replied: 'There is no oppressive government here.' 'My children,' said Confucius to his students, 'remember this. Oppressive government is fiercer than a tiger.'"

- Our Oriental Heritage, Will and Ariel Durant, p. 662.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

More Info On The Nevada Supreme Court Decision

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency reports a little-known fact about the court's recent order to circumvent the state constitution's requirement for a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes (scroll down to Item 2):

Not as well known is that neither [Governor Kenny] Guinn nor any other party to the complaint called upon the court to vacate the two-thirds requirement - a provision established by a vote of the people via ballot initiative in 1996 (the Gibbons Initiative). That request came specifically from an amicus brief filed by the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) and its largest local affiliates.

Antonucci delivers a fisking of NSEA's amicus that is well worth reading. Here's a sample:

[NSEA] "After all, if the purpose of the Initiative is to limit the adoption of tax measures to those that most people think is a good idea, doesn't it make sense to require that everyone agree? Shouldn't one 'statesman' be allowed to resist the 'tyranny' of a 'temporary majority' that includes everyone but him?" [Antonucci] Ever heard of a filibuster?

[NSEA] "Here, the Gibbons Initiative results in some votes being weighted more heavily than other votes depending on geographical locations, i.e., the precinct boundaries that the 15 dissident Assembly members represent." [Antonucci] Kind of like Wyoming and California having the same number of U.S. Senators.

Antonucci closes with this observation:

Nevadans who think higher taxes and bigger government are the way to utopia can simply elude the border guards and float a simple raft to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, where the experiment has been so successful the citizens are pondering whether to recall a career politician and replace him with an Austrian bodybuilder.

Remember what I said here (emphasis and update in original):

The Nevada Supreme Court invokes a right to education under the assumptions that a) this "right" demands that the State of Nevada supply education (rather than contract out the service to private bidders), and b) public schools really need everything that is in the official budget. (Note that the Court never considers that the Nevada legislature could make cuts to education or other departments as an alternative to raising taxes.) Translation: Nevada public school administrators [Update: that is, school policy makers] have a right to whatever tax revenues they demand.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Springtime For Brezhnev

Thirty five years ago today, the Soviet bloc sent troops to Czechoslovakia to crush the "Prague Spring" political reform movement of Alexander Dubcek. See here and here for background info.

Update: Off by one month.

Iraq And Kosovo

Earlier today I was listening to Rush Limbaugh's characteristic fisking of audio footage (did he invent fisking?), in this case that of Jay Rockefeller. Rush notes that many of Bush's critics accepted humanitarian reasons for going to war with Kosovo, but refuse to accept such reasons for accepting war with Iraq - despite the fact that Saddam's genocide was far greater than that of Milosevic.

Well, I can think of one difference between Kosovo and Iraq. The Kosovar government was left intact; Milosevic even stayed in power until October 2000 (the war ended June 1999). The Iraqi government, by contrast, was completely uprooted. Maybe that's it - the antiwar left thinks we should go after genocidal regimes only if we promise to let those regimes continue to operate.

Our Interest In Liberia

FrontPage Magazine contributor Peter Brookes makes the case for regime change in Liberia. Charles Taylor - who received guerilla training from Muhammar Qadaffi in the 1980s (y'all reading this, Pat and Jesse?) - has designs on neighboring Sierra Leone's diamond mines and employs doped-up child soldiers (I'm guessing he's not putting them on Ritalin). Civil war has killed 200,000 to date. Taylor also has an al-Qaeda connection:

First, according to a report by European law enforcement agencies, in 2000 and 2001 (pre-9/11), Taylor sold diamonds to al Qaeda. The terrorist organization moved as much as $20 million into commodities to outmaneuver the international effort to freeze al Qaeda assets following the 1998 American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Removing Taylor and bringing him to justice would help stem this problem.

Second, there is legitimate concern that parts of Africa could become a safe haven or breeding ground for terrorism. The U.N. Special Court on Sierra Leone claims Taylor is harboring terrorists from the Middle East, including al Qaeda and Hezbollah.

The University Of Michigan's Minstrel Show

WorldNetDaily contributor Star Parker has some unkind words for affirmative action:

Liberals use words like "critical mass" to justify their thinly veiled quota system, but all in all there isn't any more difference in these school admissions policies than there is in a white person exclaiming "I've just bought me a black friend ..." All in the name of diversity...

What does it mean when the University of Michigan and the liberal elites on the Court explicitly state that black or Hispanic presence would be healthy for the white students on campus? It sounds awfully close to saying, "You all look alike, act alike and we sure love the way you sing 'Mammy.' Could you sing it to us one more time ... we whites really need to understand your cultures. In fact, could you share with the class what you had for dinner last night ... or better yet ...?"

Read the whole thing.


James Brolin, Barbra Streisand's husband, will play Ronald Reagan in a CBS miniseries.

I bet they won't be casting Jane Wyman to play Nancy.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

One Small Step

July 20, 1969. The Apollo 11 mission was the first live news coverage of an event I remember watching on TV. I was eight years old and living in Gulf Breeze, a town on the southern edge of Escambia Bay across from Pensacola, Florida. My mom still has a 1969 issue of (either Life or Time, I think) featuring this image on the cover. (Other images available here.) Jay Manifold has some musings here.

I recall someone recently commenting that for the 20 minutes that Michael Collins piloted the command module behind the moon as the LEM was on the surface, he was the most alone that any human had ever been. May there come a day within my lifetime when space travel is far less solitary.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Okay, Just A Little Bit Of Blogging

The surgery went fine. Only the right eye needed to be worked on. Distance vision is now normal, and the halo effect (see here for image that shows what it looks like) has been reduced; it should go away with time. Last night I whipped out my cheapo 30x collapsible telescope and did a test: the halo effect has no effect whatsoever on telescope-gazing. Looking at the Moon with the naked eye is another story.

Virginia Postrel also had her right eye fine-tuned recently at a local LASIK clinic. I don't know if Dr. Boothe gives out complimentary coffee mugs like Dr. Tylock - you'll have to ask her.

Friday, July 18, 2003

No Blogging This Weekend

I'll be going in for my followup LASIK surgery this morning. Behave yourselves.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Milestones In German Architecture

On this day in 1961, construction on the Berlin Wall began. The wall was completed one day later.

Another Anniversary

This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the discovery of Vince Foster's body in Fort Marcy Park.

Thomas Sowell wrote a review of Chris Ruddy's The Strange Death of Vince Foster. Sowell states that the book reveals two "indisputable" facts, the first of which is this:

The most important of these facts is that the White House impeded the investigation of Foster's death in both gross and subtle ways. I didn't need to read this book to learn that. This was painfully clear from last year's U.S. Senate Report 104-280 (pages 51-90, for anyone interested in the facts).

These blatant attempts at covering up do not necessarily mean that the White House was somehow involved in Foster's death. They do suggest that a full investigation of his death might have brought out other things that the Clintons preferred to keep quiet. They have a lot of things that they have gone to a lot of trouble to keep quiet.

I have long believed that Clinton need not have been complicit in the death of Foster to have a motive for obstructing the investigation into his death. Foster was involved in both the Whitewater and Waco scandals, each of which offers a long list of people who would have a motive to kill Foster. A competent investigation would have meant greater scrutiny into two issues the Clintons were hoping would go away.

The second conclusion that seems undeniable is that the U.S. Park Police, which investigated Foster's death after finding his body in a federal park, immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a suicide committed in that park, even before the investigation really got underway. Clues that might suggest otherwise were just not followed up. Various independent forensic experts have been scathing in their criticisms of how the Park Police handled the case and neglected the evidence.

Sowell explores two possible scenarios:

Any number of things might have happened on July 20, 1993, when Vincent Foster's body was discovered in Marcy Park. The hardest thing to reconcile with the evidence is that he committed suicide in that park.

He may have committed suicide somewhere else, where it would have been embarrassing to have the body discovered, so that it was moved to the park. Some experienced police detectives have suggested this, partly because the small amount of blood found with the body in Marcy Park is wholly inconsistent with what they have seen happen when someone puts a .38 revolver in his mouth and pulls the trigger. Moreover, there are many other inconsistencies.

Another possibility is that Foster might have been killed somewhere else and a suicide faked. Far out as this sounds, it is more consistent with the book's diagram of the pattern of powder burns on Foster's hands than the notion that he pulled the trigger himself. To produce that same pattern of powder burns by shooting himself would have required some real contortions.

In a recently released audio recording, key investigator Assistant US Attorney Miquel Rodriguez saying this:

"This whole notion of [Fiske and Starr] doing an honest investigation is laughable...All I know is that things did not happen the way Fiske says that they happened, and the reports don't support what Fiske said. There is nothing consistent with [Foster] committing that kind of violent act [suicide] at all."

Read this WorldNetDaily story for further details. At the bottom of the page are links to other articles related to Foster.

Gnat Trek

James Lileks tells of a recent conversation with his daughter:

She usually stands in the doorway with a guilty grin, and I walk her back to her bed. But tonight she had a downcast expression. "I'm sad," she said when she came in my room.


"I can't sleep."

Well, then think of things that make you happy, and you can sleep. Think of playing with Jasper. Think of caramels. Think of flying to the moon.

"I can't fly to the moon," she said. "It's too high."

You could if you had a rocket ship.

"Oh, yes. Then I could go to the cheese planet moon."

Maybe Rand Simberg could be of assistance.

France Is Lovely This Time Of Year

Last night, radio talk show host Mike Gallagher talked about a Mediterranean cruise he will be taking with his wife Denise and two close friends. He stated that he does not want to disembark at any French ports of call. Like many Americans, he still has a bitter taste in his mouth from the Chiraq government's appeasement of our enemies, and like many of those people, he wishes to respond through boycott.

A caller suggested that he should go ahead and go ashore, and wear something with an American flag on it to see what kind of reactions he gets. Gallagher had a jacket that fits that bill. I think that he and his wife should match; I suggest for Denise a T-shirt with this image printed on front:

I am not enthusiastic about boycotting an entire country because of the actions of some of its citizens, even prominent ones. As another caller pointed out, anti-American sentiments are far less common in the south of France as they are in Paris. If Gallagher takes the opportunity to chat it up with the locals when the Love Boat pulls into Nice, he'll probably find that the socialistic, petromonarch-appeasing kleptocracy of France has more than just one dissident. And he'll get lots of material for the show when he gets back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Radio Talk Show Host Quote Of The Day

"Slander is The Berenstain Bears compared to Treason."

- WBAP host Mark Davis, remarking on the colorful invective in Ann Coulter's recent bestseller

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A Sad Day For Cowboys Fans

Tex Schramm passed away Tuesday morning. See here for bio. From 1947 to 1957 he worked for the Los Angeles Rams; during that time he gave the job of public relations director to Pete Rozelle, who would later becoe NFL commissioner. In 1959 Clint Murchison hired Schramm to orchestrate the development of the Dallas Cowboys franchise; they hired Tom Landry as its first coach. He also founded the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, negotiated of the merger of the rival National and American Football Leagues that created the annual Super Bowl game, and pushed for several game innovations that included the use of instant replay. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, and into the Cowboy's Ring of Honor - which he had created himself - only three months ago.

We will miss you, Tex.


NewsMax reports the latest whackball health claim: that fast food is as addictive as heroin.

Somebody's been listening to this song waay too much.

Bush Going Wobbly On His Base, Reaps What He Sows

Enter Stage Right sees trouble on the Prez's horizon:

First there is the anecdotal evidence. When I wrote critically about candidate Bush during the 2000 election, my inbox would flood with missives chiding me for being unfair in my characterizations of his conservative credentials and unrealistic in my political expectations. Just as frequently, there would be impassioned defenses of the man and his policies. In fact, one column where I was particularly hard on Bush elicited the most hostile response I have ever gotten from a conservative reader, who actually sent me an e-mail challenging me to a fight...

Less anecdotally, professional conservatives, the very people who have generally been most reluctant to criticize the Bush administration, are beginning to gripe about some of the president's policies. Conservative think tanks are openly opposing the administration's passivity on health care, for example. Perhaps more representative of grassroots sentiment is some of the grumbling now being heard on the predominantly conservative blogosphere.

And Bush has no one to blame but himself (and any Republicans who are encouraging him to go into this direction):

Why this outpouring of criticism of the man many conservatives breathlessly predict will usher in an enduring national Republican majority? As a sequel to dropping serious conservative education reform in favor of giving Ted Kennedy the big-government education bill he wanted, Bush is dropping serious conservative Medicare reform in favor of giving Kennedy the big-government Medicare bill he wants. (The latter promising to be a massive boondoggle that will impose staggering costs on future generations to come.) To follow up on his decision to cave on the free speech-strangling McCain-Feingold campaign finance travesty, he is caving on Second Amendment rights by backing a renewal of the assault weapons ban. He has apparently decided that as long as the Sandra Day O'Connor pays lip service to color-blindness 25 years from now, ruling in favor of a more surreptitious regime of racial preferences is A-OK. He's willing to spend federal money on constitutionally dubious "marriage promotion" initiatives but has yet to take any proactive steps to curb the growing judicial threat to traditional marriage.

Then of course there is the steel and lumber tariffs, the PATRIOT Act, the decision to sign ridiculously bloated farm and transportation bills and the refusal to veto wasteful federal spending. Rather than address porous borders and an immigration policy that lends itself more to balkanization than Americanization, the administration treats us to Karl Rove's schemes for illegal alien amnesties. The list goes on.

Hey, Bush is only continuing the trend that started in the wake of the budget debacle of 1995. Since then, the GOP's chronic vacillation on domestic issues has eroded the presence of conservatives at the polls on Election Day. Memo to the GOP leadership: if you won't fight for us we won't fight for you.

Slamming A Fake Scandal

Neal Boortz takes on the hysteria surrounding the purported Iraq-Niger connection.

Remember, Bush did not say that Saddam had attempted to buy the uranium. His statement was "the British Government has "learned" that Saddam tried to buy the uranium. You may be surprised to know that Tony Blair's government is standing by the claim to this day!

Last week Blair made the following statement to the British Parliament: "In the 1980s, Iraq purchased somewhere in the region of 200 or more tons of uranium from Niger. The evidence that we had that the Iraqi government had gone back to try to purchase further amounts of uranium from Niger did not come from so-called 'forged' documents; they came from separate intelligence." This makes Bush's infamous 16 words absolutely true.

What's that? You say that this is the first time you've heard about Blair's statement? No surprise there. Blair's defense of British intelligence claims has been virtually ignored. As of the end of last week there had not been one mention of Blair's statement to Parliament in any major U.S. newspaper or broadcast news network. You can select from two possible reasons the American press has ignored Blair's words. On the one hand you can chose to believe that in spite of their vast resources, The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and The Washington Post never learned of the contents of Blair's statement to Parliament. On the other hand, if you're more reality-based you can choose to believe that the media knew of Blair's words, but didn't want to publish them and see a vigorous anti-Bush story fall victim to the truth.

Boortz also took the opportunity to counter the claims that Bush had no real evidence of Iraqi WMDs, noting that the UN itself asserted that Saddam Hussein had WMD materials and that the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed the existence of his nuclear weapons program. Check it out.

Monday, July 14, 2003

More On Positive Law

New Zealand blog No Right Turn (link via NZ Pundit) accuses the Cato Institute of philosophical incoherence.

In particular, they point out that two of the Institute's five categories (legal protection of property rights and "sound money") are positive rather than negative liberties - things the government provides so you can actually use your freedom - and that this reduces the whole index to measuring "what rich people need to enjoy their money".

The blog host makes three faulty assumptions. The first is that the index relates only to what benefits the "rich." The second is that the opinion of Daniel of Crooked Timber, whose post is linked by NRT, is that of Cato - Daniel claims that "Legal Structure and Security of Property Rights" and "Access to Sound Money" represent positive law. The third is that this opinion is correct.

In an earlier post I made this statement:

Rights are legitimately understood as freedom to engage in certain activities, and freedom from certain coercive acts committed against us...Positive law insists that people have the right to be given stuff.

The freedoms to do and to not be done unto are actually two sides of the same coin. Negative law, as stated by Daniel, represent "the absence of forcible restrictions on you doing something." The definition of positive law I offered needs more precision, and Daniel offers it: "the provision of the means for you to actually do something."

But he improperly translates property rights and sound money into positive law. Property rights do not demand that people give us property, or that private parties or government provide means for acquiring property. They demand that individuals and government refrain from restricting our freedom to trade voluntarily with others, that individuals and government refrain from theft, and that sellers refrain from fraud, which is a form of theft.

The right to sound money seems to represent positive law because we're so used to government providing money. (The Federal Reserve is a weird sort of private contractor whose officers are appointed by the government - technically a private entity, but functionally a public one.) Theoretically, the money supply could be privatized completely.

The right of sound money is not a right to be provided currency. Nobody has to be coerced into selling the commodities for which I desire to trade, whether they be education, first-class mail, food, or armed protection. If I want something that is not available, then tough luck; if enough people want something that is not available, voluntary markets will emerge. Sound money rights demand that those who do supply money refrain from engaging in fraud. A dollar whose purchasing power is not equal to a dollar is a fraudulent instrument. Any purchase with such a dollar is selling someone short; inflation cons a buyer into trading a dollar for less than a dollar's worth, and deflation cons a seller into trading more than a dollar's worth for a dollar.

Hijacking Feminism

FrontPage Magazine contributor Tammy Bruce says that the mainline feminist movement has betrayed women. Hillary Rodham Clinton serves as one example:

As a feminist, Clinton disgusts me because she single-handedly has managed to tell women the world over that no matter what your husband does - humiliate you, betray you, lie to you, abuse other women, sexually harass other women, intimidate women, even possibly be a rapist - you should not only not leave him, you should forever support and enable that behavior.

Then there's the imperialism of Patricia Ireland, who insists on joining an organization whose creed she doesn't believe in and changing that creed:

After the YWCA appointment, Ireland refused to say whether or not she’s a Christian (she’s not), and then finally stated in the New York Times (April 30, 2003) that the YWCA was no longer be a Christian organization, but one of - surprise! - social justice. That does not bode well for the tens of thousands of little girls and their families who rely on the YWCA.

Making Pat Ireland an officer in the Young Womens' Christian Organization is like making Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf president of the American Historical Society.

Bruce also lambastes Ms. magazine for this feature story: "Janeane Garofalo's Shock and Jaw: 'Say YES to the First Amendment!' Plus Susan Sarandon, the Dixie Chicks and all your favorite free speech stars." Garofalo and company publicly criticized others, and were shocked to receive public criticisms themselves. NOBODY tried to silence them. Ms. ignores one woman who WAS silenced because of her views:

After all, who can forget the obscene attack on the free speech of a Jewish woman who dared to speak her mind a few years ago? She was attacked by the New Gestapo for using an unapproved-of word. There was a very public attempt to destroy that woman, professionally and personally, because she dared to speak her opinion about serious social issues, Gee, kinda like what Sarandon and the Dixie Chicks are claiming.

Was she featured in Ms. magazine? Is her case discussed in their article about the assault on freedom of expression? Of course not, because the woman I’m speaking of is Dr. Laura and the gang that flew into a jihad to destroy her was the gay establishment, along with the help of the Feminist Elite and hypocrites like Susan Sarandon. The double-standard is stunning, and exposes nothing less than the partisan leftist agenda that has been masquerading as feminism for far too long.

Summer Reading

Thomas Sowell has some suggestions at FPM.

UN Secretary-General Jimmy Carter?

To the best of my knowledge, nobody is suggesting that Carter succeed Kofi Annan. But this news makes me wonder if that post might be in his future:

Former president Jimmy Carter says a "modest" force of perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops should join a coalition of west African countries to help stabilize Liberia.

As discussed in this post, the United Nations has a history of sending tiny forces into African powderkegs: 3,000 in Rwanda (later reduced to 500), and 600 in the Congolese town of Bunia. And in Europe there's Srebrenica. Carter is perfect for the job.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The Totalitarian ANSWER

Vermont Reactionary's Rick Henderson (no relation - my northernmost relatives live south of my latitude, and I live in North Texas) reports that blogger Protest Warrior has infiltrated a meeting of ANSWER and came out with video and transcripts. (Many of y'all will recall that ANSWER backed a lot of the antiwar demonstrations at home and abroad.) This portion caught Rick's eye:

I hate to point out that the Constitution itself sucks; there's a lot wrong with it. There's no right to healthcare, no right to education, no right to jobs, none of that is in there. Racism, anti-gay bigotry, none of that is outlawed by the Constitution. Those are the things that need to be in a real peoples' constitution. It's important to point out because we keep defending the Constitution, but it's a Constitution that's extremely weak and does not represent what people need. And when we defend the Constitution we have to go one step further and say "this is what a real constitution should look like."

Most of these dream proposals fall under the category of positive law, which I addressed here. But note the desire to outlaw prejudice. Beware of anyone who wants to criminalize "anti-______ bigotry." The desire to ban across-the-board bigotry is bad enough; legislation of belief is itself totalitarian. But when someone spouts off about banning bigotry directed against only certain factions, that person reveals a preference for some sort of legal caste system favoring some groups over others - and in many cases such a person emphatically denies that bigotry against certain factions even exists. And how can we trust the State to objectively determine what is and is not bigotry? And what sort of person will such a State tend to attract to its positions of power? Perhaps the people of Iran can answer that one.

Remember Srebrenica

Ellen Hampton lets us know that July 11 marked the eighth anniversary of the greatest massacre of the Balkan fighting of the 1990s. I blogged on this subject in an earlier post; click here for a detailed timeline of events.

Golden State Follies

Clayton Cramer reports California commemorative quarter designs here and here.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Islam And Individuality

In the previous post, Jamie Glazov's source in the cited column is the book Woman in the Muslim Unconscious by Moroccan feminist Fitna Sabbah. I did a little Googling and stumbled across a quote of a direct passage from her book:

'Paradise, with its food and its houris [virgins], is programmed for a consumer-believer deprived of the creative dimension. The believer is fulfilled in Paradise by renouncing all the potentialities that define 'a human being, all possibilities of making choices not programmed by an external will. The purpose of the believer is to fit himself into the plan organized, conceived, and programmed by another will. The purpose of the believer is to reduce himself to a consumer and annihilate within himself his creative potential, for to create within the paradisal context would be to disturb the order and destroy the plan. The believer is passive: He digests, makes love to a houri deprived of a uterus (for she is a virgin), and relaxes. Like the houri, he forms an integral part of a system where he exists as a thing deprived of will. The only difference is that the houri is consumed as an object by the believer, and he is consumed as an object by the system. In the Muslim Hereafter, where one would expect that the spiritual dimension of the being would be magnified, one witnesses the metamorphosis of the human being into a thing. In the ideal society of Islam, the ideal citizen, the successful believer, is an automaton reduced to a few limited, programmed movements of the digestive tract and genital apparatus.'

The article, written by Daniel Easterman, was found on a Bahá'í website. He is not Bahá'í; in light of this the webmasters inserted a disclaimer that it "includes opinions some Bahá'ís may find disagreeable." Evidently the Bahá'ís found the article worthy in light of the Salman Rushdie controversy that inspired the article; the Iranian-rooted religion took great exception to the Ayatollah Khomeni's issuance of the fatwas against Rushdie.

Easterman describes a war waged by Islam against individuality:

It is this reification of the believer that lies, I believe, at the heart of our dilemma. By dressing all women in much the same costume, above all by covering the face, the seat of individuality and recognition, it is possible to transform each single woman into a stereotype of 'woman' as she ought to be, as she is prescribed for in the law. A man may go abroad with his face uncovered, but even here the law lays down how he should wear his hair and beard, how he should dress, how he should eat, drink, urinate and make love. There is little room for the individual. The image of rank upon rank of believers praying in unison brings home how powerful is this erasure of man as individual and his replacement by man as believer, as an ordained type.

Of course, the reality of Muslim society has been quite other than this. Muslims are individuals, they are creative, inventive, different. But the pressures are undeniably present. The inculcation of a norm to which each individual must conform, the fear of innovation, the elaboration of rules for all areas of human conduct--all have conspired to render individuality something very close to a sin...One of the most central problems for Muslims in the modern period has been that of identity - of finding old identities or forging new ones. Ironically, the very shari'a-mindedness that is looked on as a route to the rediscovery of the Muslim self is more likely to imperil any real formulation of personal identity, precisely because of its stress on conformity to an exaggerated ideal.

Easterman seeks a gateway through which Muslims can glimpse the potential of the very human individuality that is stifled by their faith, namely through "the novel and the biography, [and] the rounded characterisations of the theatre and the cinema."

This article illustrates why the Muslim world is so resistant to tolerating political liberty. Islam, like Communism, Nazism, and Political Correctness, subordinates the worth of the individual to the worth of the group. Society is supreme; the individual is disposable. Liberty assumes the opposite; society is the servant of the individual, and government must serve to minimize both public- and private-sector coercion of the citizen.

What Americans Support Liberian President Charles Taylor?

Pat Robertson (link via Josh Claybourn):

"We're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country," he said on his 700 Club show Monday. "And how dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down."

Bill Clinton was a duly-elected Baptist President, too. Matt. 23:25-27

Robertson has financial interests in Liberia - "a four-year-old, $8 million agreement between Robertson and Taylor to mine gold in the country...intended to fund humanitarian and evangelical efforts in the country." It appears that he has also fallen for a strongman's propaganda, the way many Hollywood celebs praise Fidel Castro:

[At] a February 2002 Liberia for Jesus rally... Taylor reportedly told 65,000 of his subjects, "I am not your president. Jesus is!"

"There are people who say that's phony baloney, but I thought it was sincere," Robertson told Cooperman. "He definitely has Christian sentiments, although you hear of all these rumors that he's done this or done that.

"I have never met Taylor in my life. I don't know what he has done or hasn't done. I do know he was elected by the people, and he has maintained a relatively stable government in Liberia; and they observe the rule of law; they have a working legislature; they have courts. And though he may have certain dictatorial powers, so do most leaders in Africa."

Evidently he is also be blinded by the presence of Islamic guerillas in that country. Is it possible tha the guerillas and Taylor are both threats to peace in Liberia?

But guess who else is siding with Charles Taylor? Jesse Jackson (link via Paul Jané). While Robertson is merely going through disreputable channels to set up a business, Jackson has been actively fanning the flames of violence and despotism. In 1999, Jackson strongarmed Sierra Leone president Laurent Kabbah into signing a truce and eventually a power-sharing agreement with insurgent leader Foday Sankoh. Sankoh was granted authority over the nation's diamond mines. This was the disastrous result:

* Sankoh then began smuggling out thousands of diamonds, many of which he sent to Charles Taylor in Liberia in exchange for weapons. Jackson repeatedly raised the issue of the illicit diamond trade and the clandestine arms supplies with Taylor, who simply denied the charges. Jackson never pressed him further.

* Jackson stayed in contact with Sankoh, phoning him repeatedly with words of encouragement. Braced by this support and funded by the diamond trade, Sankoh built up his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forces, ignoring Jackson's pleas to disarm and give peace a chance. New fighting broke out in January 2000 in the hinterland. Jackson's cease-fire lasted less than six months.

* By May 2000, the fighting in Sierra Leone took on crisis proportions, when Sankoh's fighters murdered U.N. peacekeepers and took 500 of them hostage. Meanwhile, Liberia, which has no diamonds, reported that it had exported $300 million worth of diamonds the previous year.

* Jackson made one final attempt to halt the bloodshed in mid-May 2000, but was warned by the U.S. embassy in Freetown not to set foot in Sierra Leone because of widespread popular anger over his role in rehabilitating Sankoh, a known mass murderer. One local journalist wrote bitterly that the U.S. civil rights leader was better known in Africa as a "killer's rights" leader.

* Jackson's final contributions to the "peace process" were vain attempts to cajol Taylor to "negotiate" an end to the hostage crisis, since Taylor was the godfather of the RUF and Sankoh's arms and diamond broker.

* Arriving in Monrovia, Liberia, at the peak of the crisis, Jackson declared, "President Taylor has been doing a commendable job negotiating for the release of the hostages. All the hostages should be freed, and freed now. There is no basis for delay, there is no basis for negotiations."

Jesse Jackson had government help:

The Clinton State Department is not innocent in this affair. Declassified dispatches and briefing documents show that top State officials primed Jackson with information, talking points and background papers throughout his three years as Clinton's envoy.

Soon We'll Be Hearing, "They Were Just Born That Way"

At Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (colorful language warning, for the uninitiated), Emperor Misha comments on a CNSNews article about various efforts to normalize pedophilia.

Aside from the usual subjects - academia, the American Psychiatric Association, and the North American Man-Boy Love Association - support for destigmatizing pedophilia (or, more specifically, ephebophilia - sexual attraction to post-pubescent minors) comes from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

"Given that homosexual advocates are in a full court press to lower the age of consent as low as it can go, and pro-pedophile sitting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 's documented advocacy of lowering the age of consent to 12 years old, parents should be horrified that there are so few politicians, like Sen. Santorum, actually defending the family," Timothy Chichester, [Catholic Family Association of America] president, said April 23.

Chichester was referring to a paper authored by Ginsburg entitled "Sex Bias in the U.S. Code," which was prepared for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in April 1977

The allegation was further substantiated by Robert Knight, director of [Concerned Women for America's] Culture Institute, in "Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia," an article he co-authored with the Family Research Council's Frank York.

"When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an attorney for the ACLU, she co-authored a report recommending that the age of consent for sexual acts be lowered to 12 years of age," the article points out.

Knight and York's footnoted documentation on this is as follows: "Sex Bias in the U.S. Code," Report for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, April 1977, p. 102, quoted in "Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Feminist World View," The Phyllis Schlafly Report, Vol. 26, No. 12, Section 1, p. 3. The paragraph (from the Ginsburg report) reads as follows: "'Eliminate the phrase "carnal knowledge of any female, not his wife, who has not attained the age of 16 years" and substitute a federal, sex-neutral definition of the offense. ... A person is guilty of an offense if he engages in a sexual act with another person. ... [and] the other person is, in fact, less than 12 years old.'"

In the Rottweiler's comments section, "fiery celt" posted a link to a Jamie Glazov column on the role of pederasty in the Islamic world:

When sociopaths rape and kill, they do not see their victims as human beings, but only as objects. This is because the sociopaths were themselves, at one time, used as objects - as their bodily integrity was repeatedly violated. The rage that results from sexual abuse is one thing, but when combined with living in a dysfunctional culture of sexual repression and misogyny, where love is reduced to violent domination, it is quite another...

Socially segregated from women, Arab men succumb to homosexual behavior. But, interestingly enough, there is no word for "homosexual" in their culture in the modern Western sense. That is because having sex with boys, or with effeminate men, is seen as a social norm. Males serve as available substitutes for unavailable women. The male who does the penetrating, meanwhile, is not emasculated any more than if he had sex with a wife. The male who is penetrated is emasculated. The boy, however, is not, since it is rationalized that he is not yet a man.

In this culture, males sexually penetrating males becomes a manifestation of male power, conferring a status of hyper-masculinity. It is considered to have nothing to do with homosexuality. An unmarried man who has sex with boys is simply doing what men do. As the scholar Bruce Dunne has demonstrated, sex in Islamic societies is not about mutuality between partners, but about the adult male's achievement of pleasure through violent domination...

With women out of touch - and out of sight -- until marriage, males experience pre-marital sex only in the confines of being with other males. Their sexual outlet mostly includes victimizing younger males - just the way they were victimized.

In all of these circumstances, the idea of love is removed from men's understanding of sexuality. Like the essence of Arab masculinity, it is reduced to hurting others by violence. A gigantic rupture develops between men and women, where no harmony, affection or equality is allowed to exist. In relationships between men, meanwhile, affection, solidarity and empathy are left out of the picture. They threaten the hyper-masculine order.

"fiery celt" also has links to documented teachings of the late Ayatollah Khomeni regarding bestiality and sex and marriage with pre-pubescent girls. Don't know how Iran's current mullahcracy addresses these issues.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Another Lawless State Supreme Court

First the Florida Supreme Court tells the State of Florida to ignore state election laws. Then the New Jersey Supreme Court tells the State of New Jersey to ignore state election laws. Now, as Eugene Volokh reports, the Nevada Supreme Court is ordering the Nevada legislature to ignore an explicit provision in the state constitution requiring a two-thirds minority to raise taxes. (See here for the ruling.)

The Court's argument is as follows:

What a procedural requirement that is general in nature prevents funding for a basic, substantive right, the procedure must yield. Here, the application of the general procedural requirement for a two-thirds majority has prevented the Legislature as a body from performing its obligation to give life to the specific substantive educational rights enunciated in our Constitution.

Professor Volokh counters with several legal arguments, including the observation that American constitutions place equal priority on substantive rights and procedural rules - one does not trump the other - and that the supermajority itself protects the substantive right to keep one's property.

The Nevada Supreme Court states explicitly, "Our [State of Nevada] Constitution's framers strongly believed that each child should have the opportunity to have a basic education." I have railed against the concept of substantive due process before, arguing that it presents a blank check for courts to invent rights out of thin air. Now it's time to attack another popular legal theory: positive law. Rights are legitimately understood as freedom to engage in certain activities, and freedom from certain coercive acts committed against us. We have the right to own firearms, and the right not to be tried twice for the same crime (unless we beat up Rodney King). Positive law insists that people have the right to be given stuff.

The Nevada Supreme Court invokes a right to education under the assumptions that a) this "right" demands that the State of Nevada supply education (rather than contract out the service to private bidders), and b) public schools really need everything that is in the official budget. (Note that the Court never considers that the Nevada legislature could make cuts to education or other departments as an alternative to raising taxes.) Translation: Nevada public school administrators [Update: that is, school policy makers] have a right to whatever tax revenues they demand.

Update: Jay Manifold reminds his readers of another instance of court-ordered school taxation.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

LASIK Update

I had my six-month checkup last Tuesday. On July 18 I'll be getting followup surgery on the right eye.

Forget The Alamo

NewsMax contributor Barry Farber worries that we've grown complacent about 9/11. He had this interesting exhange during a radio interview:

A radio talk host who invited me on his show to heckle me about my last column, which called for an American attitude similar to that of World War II, zeroed in on my line about having been raised on "Remember the Alamo!" "Remember the Maine!" and "Remember Pearl Harbor!" I asked in that screed, "When's the last time you were exhorted to 'Remember 9/11?' "

"Our historians have done a pretty good job," he said, "discrediting any remembrance of the Alamo and the Maine. Those are bad examples."

"Right you are," I said. "Let me give you some better ones. How about 'Remember Khobar Towers!' 'Remember the Cole!' 'Remember the East African embassies!' Have you heard much of that, before or since 9/11?" His guns fell silent.

David Horowitz Takes On Ann Coulter And The Appeasenik Left

In a recent FrontPage Magazine column, David Horowitz sharply criticized Ann Coulter's new book Treason. His objections are twofold: she lumps all "liberals" together, failing to distinguish between pro-Communist-appeasement and anti-Communist factions, and she lionizes Joseph McCarthy and incorrectly places him at the center of the anti-Communist cause. On the latter issue he states:

It is a shame that Coulter mars her case with claims that cannot be sustained. In making McCarthy the center of her history, ironically, she has fallen into the very liberal trap she warns about. It is the Left that wants McCarthy to be the center of (and in effect to define) the postwar era so that it can use his recklessness to discredit the anti-Communist cause. In fact, as Coulter herself points out, McCarthy began his anti-Communist crusade after the decisive battles of 1947 and 1948, surfacing only in 1950, after the onset of the Korean War. By then, even Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party's presidential candidate, knew he had been duped. [The Progressive Party formed in 1948 out of protest against Truman's anti-communist policies.] This is why McCarthy did not unearth any Communists in government or out (all they had all been previously identified by the FBI), and why FBI officials engaged in counter-intelligence work despised McCarthy for damaging their efforts. Hopefully, Treason will not have a similar effect.

Horowitz doesn't let the communist-appeasing segment of the political Left off the hook:

If liberals abhor "McCarthyism," why are they such worshippers of Hillary Clinton who is the unrepentant author of the most famous McCarthyite smear since the Senator's censure fifty years ago? In fact, liberals like Joe Conason were eager abettors of her lie that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" invented her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky in order to destroy his liberal good works. Liberals like Conason indulge in related "McCarthyite" tactics like "guilt-by-association," gleefully linking political opponents (myself for example) to those they have demonized like Richard Mellon Scaife -- the alleged kingpin of the alleged conspiracy -- with the express purpose of discrediting those they have so linked

Where was the liberal opposition to prosecutions by congressional committee when Col. Oliver North and others were in the dock? Who on the Left objected when Senator Inouye, chair of the Iran-Contra investigating committee, in true McCarthy fashion condemned North as a "traitor" before a national television audience and without the protections of a court proceeding? The only difference between the Iran-Contra victims of Senators Kennedy and Inouye and the Communists who were pilloried by Joe McCarthy was that the Iran-Contra witnesses were patriots and the Communists called before McCarthy's committee were not.

The fact is that if so many liberals and Democrats had not covered so assiduously for Communists and Soviet spies like Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, there would have been no "McCarthy Era" -- no wave of loyalty oaths and no congressional investigations. Derelictions like Roosevelt's, the sense of insecurity created when the public realized that there was an enemy within who had thoroughly penetrated the Democratic Party and which was indeed controlled by the Kremlin, and the refusal of Democratic leaders to take the threat as seriously as they should have -- created the demand for investigations and made the exploits of demagogues like McCarthy inevitable.

One of the greatest ironies of Iran-Contra was that people like Edward Asner and Jackson Browne, who think of themselves as champions for the rights of indigenous peoples, would lionize the Sandinista regime that was committing genocide against indigenous Indian tribes in Nicaragua. Some people are just way too soft on mass murder.

Update: Earlier today Ann Coulter appeared on the Mark Davis show on WBAP. Filling in for Davis was Brian Wilson (this guy, not this guy). Wilson lightly touched on the Horowitz column, without asking anything about the charges of factual errors with regard to McCarthy's role in exposing Communist agents, and without mentioning Ronald Radosh's charges, as reported by Andrew Sullivan, that Coulter took him out of context in the book. All she had to say was, "He hasn't read my book."

Coulter will be the first to object to journalists like Barbara Walters and Katie Couric who grant softball interviews with Hillary Clinton (D-Arkansas/New York), refusing to raise most of the serious issues that surround the senator. Although she has nothing as serious as sexual assault coverup and Secret Service assault coverup in the closet, Ann Coulter has a few things to answer for, too. Golden Rule, baby!

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Attention All Mullahs Of The Islamic Republic

 photo Iran2112.jpg

We've taken care of everything
The words you hear, the songs you sing
The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes.
It's one for all and all for one
We work together, common sons
Never need to wonder how or why.

We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
All the gifts of life are held within our walls.

Look around at this world we've made
Equality our stock in trade
Come and join the Brotherhood of Man
Oh, what a nice, contented world
Let the banners be unfurled
Hold the Red Star proudly high in hand.

We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.
We are the Priests, of the Temples of Syrinx
All the gifts of life are held within our walls.
"Temples of Syrinx," Rush

"All it means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality." - Neil Peart (Creem, 1982).

Fans of Canadian rock band Rush will recognize the inspiration for this meme hack. Today the red star gives way to the emblem of the Islamic Republic, in honor of the fourth anniversary of the student protest movement in Iran. Jay Manifold and Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee president Pooya Dayanim have some words well worth reading. I have taken the occasion to reword the mission statement of the Henderson Prize, my humble online tribute to the advance of liberty. Hope that someone finds some inspiration in this "Statement Of Individual Rights" (see next post). May freedom ring in Iran and in all corners of this world.

Update: Go see Carnival of the Liberties for postings on the Iranian protests.

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