Friday, February 22, 2002

School Prayer. Back when the Supreme Court disclosed that the First Amendment banned organized prayer in schools, Engel v. Vitale, a young Catholic priest denounced "...the alliance of Protestantism, secularism, and Judaism which controls the public schools."

Who was this early version of Jerry Falwell? Click here or here to see what this guy is up to today.

Source: Religion, The Courts and Public Policy (1963) at 120. (as quoted in Goldberg Reconsecrating America 65 (1984).
Problems. Having a few computer problems -- mostly with MSN -- just got a huge batch of back mail -- so if I haven't responded, that's why -- I went through the first 20 and realized I still have 95 more. Back tomorrow -- or Sunday.
Go home already. So now the Ruskies want a gold medal for Slutskaya. "'We filed the protest last night because we think the judging was biased,' the head of the Russian delegation in Salt Lake City, Viktor Mamatov, told The Associated Press on Friday. 'Canadian pairs skaters were awarded their gold medals. Now that subjective judging harmed us, we want the same for Slutskaya.'"

Look, Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya fell during their competition, while the Canadians were flawless. Second, Russia swapped votes and pressured the spineless French (sorry about the redundancy) judge. We're dumb Americans, Viktor, but we're not senile -- our memories last more than a week. Third, Sluts wobbled around the rink like she'd been out bar-hopping with Oksana Baiul. Speaking of Oksana, maybe we should give Nancy Kerrigan a gold as well, eh, Viktor? After all she tied with Oksana -- Baiul got the gold by the tie-breaker.

At last, new reasons to hate the Soviets, err, Russians. Just in time for tonight's hockey game.

BTW, some of my earliest political/international memories were of the Russian tanks rolling into Prague in '68. Something that many of us will never forget. See Jaromir Jagr who wears number 68 on his back for that very reason.

Update Admiral Hailey writes something very similar -- and posts it at the same time -- too weird.

More. USA holds on to beat the Russian men in hockey -- setting up a gold medal game with the Cannucks. Also, the Russian protest over the skating results was rejected.

After this brief message, we'll be back with traffic and weather.
The Ninth Battle of Manassas. (Everytime the subject of development in Manassas comes up, it's always billed as the "Third Battle of Manassas.") I just wanted to tip my cap to Rich Hailey for his last shot across my bow. He has a very good, very thoughtful and thought-provoking response to my last ramble through the cause of the Civil War. If anyone read my note but didn't read his reply, you should.

Besides, he does great stand-up.
Stats. Iain ("the Edge") Murray sets forth five rules for dealing with statistics, based on an article by Wendy McElroy. Make that five and a half rules. He has some reservations about her sixth rule "who says so?" and I see his point. This was something that came up for me about a week or two ago when there was the inter-blog discussion about the harm caused by pornography. The opponents of the propostion ("porn is bad") demanded proof of the proponents (and I agree, to a certain extent, that the burden is on the proponents). I did find some evidence which would support my contention, but since it was coming from anti-pornography organizations, I could see it would be discounted out of hand. The Edge notes "To dismiss a study because of the authors' prejudice is a variant of the ad hominem fallacy. If the data appear to have been skewed, that, and only that, forms legitimate grounds for suspecting bias."

In any event, these five simple rules should be affixed to the frame of every computer monitor for easy reference.
My Scorecard. Yes, Sarah Hughes deserved the gold medal. Her performance was by far the best, both in terms of performance and style. Also, I thought her short program was better than she got credit for. You can see the judges scorecards for the top five performers from last night here. The scoring for the whole event is a little convoluted with it's mix of short and long program, weighted ordinal scoring, instead of cummulative combined points. It's a system that an IRS agent might love, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

USA Today reporter Christine Brennan indicates that the judges may have given Irina Slutskaya high enough scores to place second because that would be the only way to knock Michelle Kwan out of first and give Hughes the gold she earned last night.

My own scorecard borrows from the boxing 10 point must system. The best performer would get the top score -- a 6.0, and the next best a little below that, 5.9, and so on:
Kwan ------- Slutskaya ----- Cohen ------- Hughes
Tech. Pres. * Tech. Pres. * Tech. Pres. * Tech. Pres.
5.8 -- 5.9 ---- 5.9 -- 5.7 ---- 5.7 -- 5.8 --- 6.0 -- 6.0
or a combined:
11.7 (Kwan) 11.6(Slutskaya) 11.5 (Cohen) 12.0 (Hughes).

But I don't know, under my system, who would get the gold, because I didn't see all the performances on Tuesday night.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Bye-Bye Boris. The obvious solution to the Soviet, err, Russian temper-tantrum. Go ahead and forfeit the hockey game -- right.

More. The Russians ". . . have been gravely insulted by the fact that one of their athletes tested for high hemoglobin levels, and one of their judges is alleged to have been involved in rigging figure skating results."
Obvious Solution. The Sun-Sentinel reports on the latest challenge by those seeking to kill the "Choose Life" license plate in Florida: "Pro-choice groups are challenging the distribution system because they aren't eligible for any of the money under a state law reserving tag profits for agencies offering adoption services but not abortion services."

Maybe they should start a "choose death" license plate.
I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition. Neil Addison, writing in the Times, points out a provision in the UK, "religiously aggravated harassment," may have made outlaws of the Monty Python troop. Should they expect a Spanish Inquisition the next time they perform that skit?

<diabolical laughter>Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! Ha !</diabolical laughter>
Top 10. Rich Hailey's Top Ten Signs You've Blogged Too Much is a classic.
Lovin' It. I love Kirk Franklin'snew album The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin. Nevertheless, I can't help but thinking the last track on the disc, the "hidden" track, Throw Your Hands Up has a line that sound's like it was taken straight from Smells Like Teen Spirit. ("...Here we are now, entertain us...")
Disappointed. The new head of the National Religious Broadcasters, a trade association of theologically conservative Protestant and Pentacostal broadcasters, resigned after making the following statement to the Minneapolis Star: "We get associated with the far Christian right and marginalized. To me, the important thing is to keep the focus on what's important to us spiritually. . . . We need to not be pulled into the political arena." [The article is not on-line, but the larger quote can be found here.]

I am disappointed that he resigned (or was forced out). FWIW, I think he was correct.

Sources: Christianity Today Weblog, WaPo.

Update: Google has the Star Tribune article cached.
CPCs. This morning's Washington Post has an article on the battle against Crisis Pregnancy Centers ("CPCs"). Except the Post can't quite admit that this is what's happening. The article explains that the NY Attorney General ("NYAG") is investigating complaints of deception at CPCs.

What is left unsaid, until the end of the article, and even then, only in the mouth of a CPC director, is that this is a political vendetta being carried out by the NYAG.

To put it in context, imagine the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft announced that, due to complaints he received, he was undertaking a review of every abortion clinic in the country. His speeches and quotes to anti-abortion groups would be included in the context of the news article and the thrust of the article would probably revolve around whether this was an attack on the fundamental right of abortion. There would be no coverage concerning the lack of regulation or oversight of abortion providers. (This latter point has actually puzzled me for years -- the abortion industry is one of the least regulated in the country, with even minimal regulations being tossed due to Roe. Generally speaking, most abortion advocates also favor a larger governmental role in business and in people's lives, except in the case of abortion. Is this a tacit admission that regulation is evil?)

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

What a day. I was awakened a little early this morning by our baby -- 4 am -- I'm usually up at 4:40. So I got an early start -- got a little work done. Posted a note here, which generated a lot of traffic. Thanks to everyone who stopped by -- 1430 hits today -- normally I get about 60-75. Then I had a great, but very busy, day at work. Worked straight through lunch, which is why there was nothing else added, then into the evening. Very productive. Nice evening at home with the kids, then doing a dance pick-up and run to the store for my oldest daughter. At about 9:30 the middle daughter was complaining about a pain in her stomach. It turned out she had a tick there and it was embedded. So we made a quick run to the night care and back home at 11:30. Long day. I'm closing up the computer and the house and going to bed.. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by.
Supreme Court Report. One case released so far -- the Court (Ginsburg, writing) upheld Wisconsin rules that prevent the sheltering of assets from Medicaid means testing. What's notable about this case is the split: 6-3, with Stevens, joined by O’Connor and Scalia, dissenting. "left," "middle," and "right," respectively. Decision in PDF (so far, not on the LII).
New Front on the Judicial Attacks. In the WaPo this morning, there's a new attack on yet another nominee (I wonder if this means the Neas-led coalition is pulling back on Charles Pickering? -- nah). The jist is that D. Brooks Smith, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania, issued orders on a case assigned to him for a period of 30 days before recusing himself because his wife worked for a bank where funds were held by the defendant in an SEC case. The bank was not a party to the action, which the Post discloses -- in the 15th paragraph ("Mid-State Bank was not a defendant in the case and was not accused of wrongdoing by the SEC. The school districts were inconvenienced, but eventually gained access to all of their money when another judge lifted the freeze.")

The Post quotes two "ethics experts" (my quotes). The first, Steven Lubet ($1,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2000, $0 to others) calls Smith's delay in recusing "an inexplicable lapse." Whereas Stephen Gillers ($1,700 to Democratic candidates since 1992, $0 to Republican, Libertarian or other) concludes the article "I can't say [Smith] certainly had to recuse himself . . . I can say that a serious argument for recusal is present in these facts, so that Judge Smith should have revealed the information" before making any rulings."

[Source for contributions: ]
Sled or Sleigh? Putting and end to that tiresome soap opera that was known as USA-1, Bakken and Flowers take the gold. Sometimes things work out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Chesterton on Ritual:
. . . humanity is divided into conscious ritualists and. unconscious ritualists. The curious thing is, in that example as in others, that it is the conscious ritualism which is comparatively simple, the unconscious ritual which is really heavy and complicated. The ritual which is comparatively rude and straightforward is the ritual which people call "ritualistic." It consists of plain things like bread and wine and fire, and men falling on their faces. But the ritual which is really complex, and many coloured, and elaborate, and needlessly formal, is the ritual which people enact without knowing it. It consists not of plain things like wine and fire, but of really peculiar, and local, and exceptional, and ingenious things-- things like door-mats, and door-knockers, and electric bells, and silk hats, and white ties, and shiny cards, and confetti. The truth is that the modern man scarcely ever gets back to very old and simple things except when he is performing some religious mummery. The modern man can hardly get away from ritual except by entering a ritualistic church. In the case of these old and mystical formalities we can at least say that the ritual is not mere ritual; that the symbols employed are in most cases symbols which belong to a primary human poetry. The most ferocious opponent of the Christian ceremonials must admit that if Catholicism had not instituted the bread and wine, somebody else would most probably have done so. Any one with a poetical instinct will admit that to the ordinary human instinct bread symbolizes something which cannot very easily be symbolized otherwise; that wine, to the ordinary human instinct, symbolizes something which cannot very easily be symbolized otherwise. But white ties in the evening are ritual, and nothing else but ritual. No one would pretend that white ties in the evening are primary and poetical. Nobody would maintain that the ordinary human instinct would in any age or country tend to symbolize the idea of evening by a white necktie.
Taken from Heretics.
Foghorn Leghorn Update. Virginia's beloved senior senator, the former Mr. Elizabeth Taylor, also known as Foghorn Leghorn or Sen. Claghorn has announced he's running for re-election. sigh. The guy doesn't have an honorable bone in his body. I remember when Foggy voted against Judge Bork he gave all kind of high-falutin' reasons why, but we all knew it was because he liked getting Sen. Dodd and Sen. Kennedy's cast-offs. He had to remain in good graces with his buds. At the time, Dick Obenshain's son acknowledged that his father would've voted for Bork. Richard Obenshain was the last man to beat Warner, but died in a plane crash.
Fodder for the Bias Watch. The AP story on the school paper grading case, mentioned below, contains the following three sentences, in this order:
The Bush administration backed the school district. Falvo's[the child's mother] lawsuit became an ideological contest between the rights of parents and the rights of teachers to run their classrooms, and between social conservatives and teachers' unions.
So then, are we to assume that the Bush administration backed the "right[] of teachers to run their classrooms" and the unions against parents and social conservatives?

I don't think so. It sounds to me like the AP reporter Anne Gearan is putting in something that isn't there. I did talk to a few "social conservatives" a while back, when the case was argued, and all thought this was a case of "those ACLU types" trying to meddle where they weren't welcome. In fact, I hadn't talked to anyone supportive of the parent in this case -- not that the parent might not have a sympathetic case. At worst, the thought was, if the statute did forbid this type of practice, it was an unseen consequence and deserved an amendment to permit such grading.

[More] I think I see Gearan's error. She must have dropped her "education" notecards and got this case mixed up with the school voucher case, to be argued tomorrow. That one does pit parents versus the teacher's unions. There's an essay on it in today's WSJ.
Standdown. My last note, now deleted, was in error. The case I was mentioning turned out to be two certs. on copyrights and sex offender lists posted on the internet. In addition, the Court held that having students grade each others work does not violate federal statutes on privacy.

Update. On the school case, the decision was unanimous. Also, it should be noted that the LII of Cornell was faster getting this up than the Supreme Court (as of 10:50 am, it's still not on the Supreme Court web page).

Scalia concurs in the judgment and writes a brief concurrence:
I agree with the Court that peer-graded student papers do not constitute “education records” while they remain in the possession of the peer grader because, as the Court explains, a student who grades another’s work is not “a person acting for” the school in the ordinary meaning of that phrase. Ante, at 6—7. I cannot agree, however, with the other ground repeatedly suggested by the Court: that education records include only documents kept in some central repository at the school.
FWIW, I think he's correct.
Sharkman Six. Okay, I'm not quite finished with the book (Sharkman Six), but I'll tell you it's a good one. I've alluded to it once or twice in the past few days and this morning I had to force myself to put it down, or I'd be late for work. It's the debut work of Capt. Owen West, USMC (Ret.) about the first Marines in Somalia. You can read the first chapter on-line (although, to be frank, the rest of the book is much better than the first chapter). In brief, Sharkman Six is a first person narrative of a Marine Lieutenant trying to lead his men and do right and good in Somalia, 1992, and the constraints of the Rules of Engagement. It's a book of honor and duty and the United States Marines.

In a recent issue of Book magazine, in the list of ten new authors to watch in 2002, Owen West is listed as "The New Tom Clancy." Not quite. He's unique, thankfully fresh; if I had to categorize him I say he's a cross between Jim Webb (Fields of Fire, A Sense of Honor, Something to Die For) and Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, Lords of Discipline).

This is a good book. (and I will let you know if the ending disappoints me).

Military Operations Other Than War -- what a concept.

Monday, February 18, 2002

Gruden Gone. Frankly, I'm stunned by the announcement that John Gruden has left the Raiders for the Bucs. I'm not surprised that he's leaving -- he's at his high point with the Raiders -- it's doubtful they could win the Division next year with the retirements and the continued aging of the oldest team in the league. What puzzles me is: Tampa Bay -- this isn't exactly sound management, as Tony Dungy found out.

ESPN is reporting that the Raiders will receive first- and second-round draft choices in 2002, a first-round choice in 2003, and a second-round choice in 2004.

So who's next? My favorite is Art Shell -- but I'm not sure where he is, or if he's even interested. ESPN, in addition to mentioning Shell, also lists former Viking coach Dennis Green and current Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Callahan "a seven-year NFL veteran whose primary area of expertise is the offensive line. But he has worked with Gruden since the two were Philadelphia Eagles assistants together."

And, since I'm talking football, let me say that the Texans made a great first pick of Tony Boselli.
Why Not? Kevin Holtsberry has a short, sweet explanation as to why he's not a libertarian. For the most part, I'm in agreement. I've seen a libertarian society -- it took place in the country called Somalia, 1992, and it wasn't pretty. Nevertheless, I think I've mentioned before, isn't God a libertarian? I'll explore this in a few days. [stay tuned - grin]
Lincoln's Best Speech? Not the Gettysburg Address, but the Second Inaugral Address says Ronald White. I agree (although it's a close call). Lincoln backed off from claiming the righteousness of the North and noted that both North and South
looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully.
(I would continue on, but then my discussion would be longer and less sufficient than his address.) Lincoln concludes with these famous words:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
And it is these words which have echoed throughout our history, in the restoration of our enemies to seek a "just and lasting peace..." It will happen again -- indeed, it is happening in Afghanistan today.
Sandra Day O'Connor. The WaPo has a good article on Justice O'Connor in Monday's paper. While it contains some pretty standard analysis, there are some excellent sound-bites (print bites?) by Eugene Volokh
Church and State II. I'm of two minds regarding the prayer in school issue. On the one hand, I don't think government schools should be dictating prayer for the students (and teachers). On the other, I think the Supreme Court was wrong to determine that devotional readings, without comment, or even non-sectarian prayer in schools was the equivalent of the establishment of religion, and therefore, in violation of the First Amendment.

In the WSJ Opinion, Gen. Josiah Bunting III, superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute takes issue with the finding of a federal judge that VMI's prayer before meals violates the First Amendment. When I first heard this, I thought it was a no-brainer: under the recent history of the "school prayer" cases, there was going to be no way that this practice would survive. However, Gen. Bunting introduces the following facts which lead me to believe the practice should survive the challenge:
Just before entering the mess, all but our new cadets may fall out of formation and go their own way. They may enter the mess hall later, while the meal is still being served. Those who proceed into the mess hall are called to attention while the senior cadet presents the corps to the officer in charge. Then they are ordered to "rest," a position that requires them to remain standing, but not attentive.
A brief, nonsectarian, inclusive blessing is then recited over the loudspeaker by a cadet. . . After grace, the cadets continue with their meal.
VMI requires no participation in this grace. There is no mandatory head bowing, hand folding, eye closing or other manifestation of a prayerful attitude. In fact, cadets at rest can talk quietly, eat, drink . . . in short, disengage from the point in the ceremony where the prayer is recited. They are merely expected to remain standing until the ceremony is concluded. Such deportment is similar to what will be expected of them should they choose a military career; and it is a mark of respect that we would expect of them in any civilian setting.
I agree. The fact that the cadet can disengage from the prayer and may even begin eating and drinking -- thereby manifesting non-participation -- means the practice should be allowed, even though it is taking place on a state school.

What a contrast from Berkeley.

Church and State I. This article in a small Kansas publication notes a speech by a Christian activist notes
that original manuscripts and artwork showing the founding fathers as men of faith are systematically being lost or locked away.
In some cases, altered representations of the material is being passed off as original. And the alterations all remove references to faith or religious belief.
[Catherine] Millard said her research has uncovered enough instances to prove a pattern of quiet government censorship that tends to support more recent historical revisions portraying the Christian historical figures as either non religious or degenerate.
I seem to recall a former classmate of mine did some research along those lines and came up with similar findings.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

testing don't know if this will get through -- having trouble today, both posting and opening the page.