Friday, April 19, 2002

No Worries, Mate. I'll take the weekend off from blogging, so in the meantime, go visit Oz. Martin Roth of Melbourne (but born in New Zealand, land of Hobbits) has a new blog up -- very good reading.
Protest Holiday? I'm not sure what to make of this or what to do. I've been told that the place where I work has officially shut down early for the day and all employees have been released. This is due to the protests planned here in DC this weekend. I don't see it being a problem for me -- where I drive won't cross protest areas. My normal quiting time is at 3 pm any way. Plus, I've got work to do.

Update. I should've left early -- I ended up getting caught in a horrible thunderstorm. Having lived in Tulsa for a few years, I can tell you that this was close to twister weather. At one point, I felt my car rocking (while I was sitting at a light) and saw the wind whipping in several directions at once. Hail was flying sideways. All in all, my normal 40 minute drive lasted 90 minutes.
Sum of All Fears. The movie based on the Tom Clancy novel by the same name will be released at the end of May. If you've read the book, you may be interested to learn that CAIR successfully mounted a two year campaign to censor portions of the book, which resulted in the villains of the book being transformed from Muslims to white Europeans.

Sort of like those white European suicide bombers in Israel or those white Europeans who hijacked four planes last September.

Letters -- not to me, though. In the Harvard Crimson, someone who has been admitted to Harvard Law, indeed, someone who made it to the second year, published an essay which begins
As the cruel Israeli invasion of the occupied territories continues, atrocities emerge daily. White Israeli soldiers destroy refugee camps of the brown people they have dispossessed for decades. The army rounds up civilians by the hundreds with new evidence of point blank executions. Troops invade hospitals, preventing staff from treating their own patients.
The essay goes on in this vein, totally devoid of logic or supporting evidence.

In response, a 20 year-old underclassman, who was born in Jerusalem writes:
Faisal Chaudhry writes of the American and Israeli desire to “reconstruct the ideological framework” of the Middle East situation, while creatively framing the same article with a conversion into a “white” vs. “brown” struggle (Op-Ed, “An Ideology of Oppression,” April 11). At one point, Chaudhry even compares the situation to apartheid. This is a distortion of the fact that most Israelis and Palestinians are indistinguishable physically.

The Israeli government itself is comprised of a great number Sephardic Jews, many of whom originate from Arab countries. The chief of staff of the army, the minister of defense, the minister of finance (who is the new leader of the labor party) and the president of Israel are all “brown.” One might have an idea of the physical likeness between Arabs and Israelis by examining this week’s Newsweek cover on which an 18-year-old female Palestinian suicide bomber and her 17-year-old female Israeli victim could pass for twins.

Israelis and Arabs are historically cousins. Until we accept the fact that we are constituents of the same family, we will blunder in believing that a loss for one “side”—or, as Chaudhry names it, a “color”—is not a loss for all human kind.

Outrageous and untrue finger-pointing is a childish tactic that disregards the responsibility of all parties involved, including Europe, the Arab nations and the United States, along with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

We must be ashamed of every act of violence and mourn every child as if they were our own. I pray for the safety of all those in the region and hope that we may someday use our unique human assets of language and empathy rather than military technology or propaganda to resolve this conflict.
This is a more thoughtful response than the original essay deserved. Chaudhry's response? That the Crimson published the letter only because writer is a movie star.

Revealing my bias: this is why I don't have a lot of respect for Harvard Law.
Lamp Lady Dies. Columbia's Lady With The Lamp Dies Amelia Bacheler, the actress who held the torch aloft in Columbia Pictures' logo, died on April 15 in Santa Monica, CA at the age of 94. Although she was paid only $25 for the original shoot in 1936, it assured her of the record for appearing in more motion pictures than any other individual.
Wish I'd Said That. Forgive me, for taking someone's entire column and republishing it here, but I've had these thoughts in vague form over the past few days and weeks, but Carol Iannone crystalizes them perfectly:
Not Again

I wonder if the diary of Anne Frank has had as much of an impact on today’s youth as it did on my generation. The astonishingly mature and beautifully composed diary she wrote during her two years in hiding brought home to us with searing immediacy the Nazi horror that had ravaged Europe and devastated the Jews in particular in the years before we were born. Here was a young person, like us, living in a household full of people, like us, struggling with the aches and pains of growing up, like us. Except that, in Anne’s case, she was confined with her family in the annex behind her father’s food-products business and hounded for her very life because she was a Jew.

It was both shattering and inspiring to know that a person who had been made to live with such dread fear and to face such naked inhumanity, and at our age, could still believe in the goodness of the human heart. Anne’s words spoke directly to our souls, not filtered through today’s Holocaust curricula, which present Hitlerism as an example of "intolerance"–as if the ferocious, dehumanizing, exterminationist anti-Semitism of the Nazis was just a stronger form of "discrimination" or "prejudice," akin to opposing affirmative action or some other piece of the civil rights agenda.

The lesson of the Holocaust is not about intolerance, but about evil, the implacable evil that can possess and corrupt the souls of vast numbers of people, the evil that is not amenable to logic and rationality, the evil that cannot be appeased, but that must simply be opposed. And when I see the world turning against Israel today, I am saddened to realize that the lesson has not yet been learned.

No, it’s not the same as last time. The devil doesn’t assume the same shape twice. The Jews have a homeland now–thanks to two-thirds of European Jewry having been killed by the Nazis–and today they have the means to fight their tormentors. But even the differences between then and now suggest an underlying similarity. The last time the world would not defend the Jews; this time the world will not let the Jews defend themselves. There are no gas chambers today, but there is the carnage of repeated suicide bombings, and there are people who feel the Jews should continue to walk defenselessly among the bombers and treat for "peace" with those who send them. There are no Nazis, but there is a terrorist Palestinian leadership supported by great numbers of Palestinians and Muslims who wish only death to Jews and the Jewish state. And, like then, the Jews are once again alone, enduring the condemnation of Europe and–unbelievably–of the Vatican as well.

Elite Western opinion posits false equivalencies between inconceivably barbaric acts of terrorism on the one side and defense against that terror on the other. It erases the difference between the deliberate, savage targeting of civilians as they ride on buses and eat in restaurants, and the unintended but inevitable harming of civilians in war. It demands that the Israelis return again and again to the "peace process" that has resulted in the worst violence in their history. At the same time, it ignores all that the Israelis have done to bring about a Palestinian state. It pretends that only some perverse willfulness prevents them from resolving the conflict by withdrawing to the 1967 boundaries, even as Palestinian leaders announce that they will not stop until they have destroyed Israel.

In the Arab world, an Egyptian imam calls for continued extermination of Israeli men, women and children, and nothing is heard from the "moderate" Muslims, they who have always indignantly insisted that Islam is a religion of peace. Even when young Palestinian girls add their bodies to the pile of "martyrs"/murderers, there is no protest from the Muslim peoples. We can certainly feel for the lively, dark-eyed, dark-haired Palestinian children as well, knowing that their worst enemies are the adults of their own community who prefer child sacrifice to building the homeland they could have had if they had only been willing to accept Israel’s existence.

Yes, after decades of pious memorializing about the Holocaust, the world has still not learned the lesson of the evil that can only be opposed, not appeased. I used to wonder how such a thing as happened to Anne Frank could happen at all, and if it could ever happen again. Well, it seems I have lived long enough to find out.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Showboat. This story is just too strange. Junior Cuomo laid into NY Governor Pataki saying:
Pataki "stood behind the leader," Cuomo said. "He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader."
Look, I'm not a Pataki fan -- in fact, I'm very glad I don't live in NY, but this type of comment shows that the kid has no idea about really what it means to be a governor. Pataki did the right thing in his response to 9-11. The job isn't to be a showboat, it is to 'serve and protect' (to borrow a great phrase).

BTW, I worked with an attorney who went to school with Junior -- she said he was a real slacker and was incredulous when he was named director of HUD.

Update. The NY Times, in an editorial, had this to say on Friday morning:
. . . the fact that Mr. Pataki showed no jealousy about his subsidiary role seemed to be the sign of real maturity, and a perfect sense of priorities.

When voters elect a leader, they are looking for a whole panoply of useful qualities. One of them is an ability to sense when an occasion is about something greater than yourself. Mr. Pataki demonstrated that part of leadership on Sept. 11. Mr. Cuomo has yet to demonstrate it during this campaign.

Nothing much. Nothing much to say. I'm celebrating the birth of another blog -- this one by Alexander and Eugene Volokh. Eugene should be considered for the next Supreme Court opening and would probably be on my own dream team Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

One case. The Supreme had one case today, another 6-3 decision, this one giving more power to the IRS.

Justice O'Connor, writing for the majority, overturned a lower court decision, and said the IRS can seize a family house to cover the back taxes of just one person in the family.

Justice Thomas, joined by Stevens and Scalia dissents noting the Court is essentially riding roughshod over principles of federalism (which both O'Connor and Rehnquist normally support) and property law to allow the government to seize the family house. What makes this case interesting is that the Court does, in fact, modify a common law principle that predates the formation of the United States. Initially, Don and Sandra Craft held the property as tenancy by the entirety, pursuant to Michigan law, which, as under English common law, "does not belong to either spouse, but to a single entity composed of the married persons." The Crafts then conveyed the property by quitclaim deed to Sandra Craft, which terminated the entirety estate. Thus, Sandra Craft owns the property in fee simple. Justice Thomas notes that "The District Court and Court of Appeals both held that the transfer did not constitute a fraudulent conveyance, a ruling the Government has not appealed." FN1.

Justice Scalia, who really has a bone to pick with O'Connor, writes a separate dissent which begins: "I join Justice Thomas’s dissent, which points out (to no relevant response from the Court) . . ." Scalia goes on to note:
I write separately to observe that the Court nullifies (insofar as federal taxes are concerned, at least) a form of property ownership that was of particular benefit to the stay-at-home spouse or mother. She is overwhelmingly likely to be the survivor that obtains title to the unencumbered property; and she (as opposed to her business-world husband) is overwhelmingly unlikely to be the source of the individual indebtedness against which a tenancy by the entirety protects. It is regrettable that the Court has eliminated a large part of this traditional protection retained by many States.
Pentagon. Every morning, on the way to work, I drive by the Pentagon. The road I travel is the same one that was followed by Flight 77, so when I go over the crest on Arlington ridge, I look right at the side of the Pentagon that was hit. There are two large cranes there, but it appears that most of the work on the shell of the Pentagon is done -- amazingly quick work. As you may know, the workers have vowed that this wing of the Pentagon, all rings, will be fully operational by 9/11/02. It seems to me at the rededication ceremony -- does anyone doubt that there will be one -- America needs an address from the President that will be of the same quality as the Gettysburg Address. A short, eloquent, defining address. An address of resolve and inspiration. An address that can not only be understood by schoolchildren, but one that they can memorize. Yet, it will need to have the same depth and gravity.

I think (and hope) that George Bush (and his speechwriters) are up to the task.
On the Rez. As I previously indicated, I was in Arizona last week, most of the time was spent on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. It was a productive week for work and a good learning week for me. I did get a lot out of the brief time I spent with the members of the Tribe. Most of what I want to convey sounds like cliches, but there is so much truth in those cliches.

The Apache (and the Navajo, who we also encountered) are truly strong, noble, dignified people. It grieves me to see how poorly treated they have been by the U.S. government in the past. Nevertheless, they are strongly committed Americans -- everywhere we went we saw American flags and bible verses. In talking with the few I did, I can not begin to tell you how strong the feelings of love and patriotism I heard for our country -- this is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be an American and a fellow citizen with the Apache.

A few other notes:
-the Apache language is so complex and different sounding to my ears. I've heard the various European and Asian languages, yet, this is as different from the others, to my untrained ears, as Japanese is from Spanish.

-the names of the housing areas showed the impact of popular culture on this very remote people. There were the names you might expect, like Yucca Flats and Diamond Creek. But when you got to Lonesome Dove, you began to wonder. Other names of the neighborhoods showed the impact: Knots Landing, Another World, Dark Shadows, Ben-Gay, Over the Rainbow, Smurf Village, Sixpack and Jurassic Park, among others that I remember.
-the area was beautiful -- very remote, if you ever head out that way, go through Globe, it's a little slower, but the Salt River Canyon is breath-taking.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Auroral Activity. On Monday, April 15, 2002, a full-halo coronal mass ejection emanated from the Sun. This cloud is heading toward the Earth and could ignite Northern Lights tomorrow night or even the next night. Here is a good place to check auroral activity against a map.
Conservative Catholic. Thanks to Mark Byron, I have become acquainted with the work of blogger Emily Stimpson and, more specifically, the issue of the term "conservative" being applied to theology and worship.

This has been kind of a funky issue for me in the past few years. I belong to the Episcopal church, which once stood for the establishment and therefore, by implication, was a "conservative" institution. Over the past 30 to 40 years, however, the Episcopal Church in the US has become synonymous with the more "liberal" elements of Protestantism, both politically and theologically. Yet, within the Episcopal denomination you see a broad spectrum and my church is on the more conservative end. It's almost like being a conservative Democrat.

These terms are really misleading -- I love to learn of something better.

I remember a few years ago, I passed a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. on to a friend who considers himself a conservative Republican and a religious fundamentalist. He seemed to humor me by taking it and I got the feeling he wasn't going to read it. A year later he came to me and said that he finally read the sermon and was delighted because he didn't realize that Dr. King was so conservative. :\

BTW, here is a small collection of some of MLK's sermons.
More TV. Also on television last week, I saw a commercial promoting some television program and the voice over said something like "you'll never know what you see next." The visual was a woman who looked like Rosie O'Donnell grabbing and squeezing the breast of a large black woman.

Don't you ever complain about Clarence Thomas and sexual harassment, Ms. O'Donnell.

Update: I received an e-mail message explaining that the other woman was Star Jones.
Begala the Liar. I don't watch much television, but will have it on in the background while I'm working in a hotel room while on travel. This was how I came across this whopper from Paul Begala last week on Crossfire. Begala did an elaborate schtick to tarnish Attorney General Ashcroft, taken straight from the CNN transcript:
[Begala:] Speaking last night with David Letterman who has given him [John Ashcroft] endless grief for spending $8,000 of taxpayer money to cover up a naked breast on the statue of justice that has graced the Justice Department for decades. Well, here's how the attorney general explained it to Dave last night.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I didn't really know much about this. Someone ordered some draperies for the statues, and I've kind of looked into it since you sort of made an issue of it. And it turns out that -- it turns out it really wasn't a covering for the statue so much as it were for a construction curtain.


ASHCROFT: They are being remodeled.

LETTERMAN: Is that right?


BEGALA: Sure, John. Remodeled? Right, what are they going to do, plastic surgery for giant statues with brass breasts?
Coincidentally, I happened to see the Letterman show the night before and all of the above took place, except, of course it was all a set up for a big joke. What happend after Letterman asked "Is that right?" was that Ashcroft said something like, oh yeah, here let me show you what the statue will look like when it's finished and he proceeded to pull out a picture of the statue with Letterman's head -- a very large picture of it -- pasted on top of the picture of the topless statue.

Begala is a flat out liar.
Porn Win. Justice Kennedy, writing for a 6-3 split Supreme Court, struck down legislation barring some child pornography.

Specifically, the Court struck down certain provisions of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 ("CPPA") holding these provisions are overbroad. Writing for the Court, Justice Kennedy, referring to the play Romeo and Juliet, and the movies Traffic and American Beauty (the Bard must be rolling in his grave at the comparision) struck down restrictions and prohibitions on "virtual child pornography" (pixel pixie porn) and apparent child pornography -- ('barely legal teens' may now be advertised as 13 year olds, I guess).

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in the judgment only and issued a short opinion by way of explanation.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor concurred in part and dissented in part. Her opinions are, in my own estimation, the models of clarity; this is a good one to contrast with the majority opinion. She agreed with the majority on several points:
"Because the Government may already prohibit obscenity without violating the First Amendment . . . what the Government asks this Court to rule is that it may also prohibit youthful-adult and virtual-adult pornography that is merely indecent without violating that Amendment."
"I also agree with the Court’s decision to strike down the CPPA’s ban on material presented in a manner that 'conveys the impression' that it contains pornographic depictions of actual children ('actual-child pornography')."
"Finally, I agree with Court that that the CPPA’s ban on youthful-adult pornography is overbroad."

She disagreed "with the Court, however, that the CPPA’s prohibition of virtual-child pornography is overbroad. Before I reach that issue, there are two preliminary questions: whether the ban on virtual-child pornography fails strict scrutiny and whether that ban is unconstitutionally vague. I would answer both in the negative."

Dissenting, the Chief Justice, joined by Scalia, argues that the majority and Justice O'Connor misunderstand or misinterpret the CPPA: ". . . the CPPA bans visual depictions of youthful looking adult actors engaged in actual sexual activity; mere suggestions of sexual activity, such as youthful looking adult actors squirming under a blanket, are more akin to written descriptions than visual depictions, and thus fall outside the purview of the statute . . ." Rehnquist acknowledges that one could read the CPPA, as does O'Connor and the majority, and therefore "an individual who merely possesses protected materials (such as videocassettes of “Traffic” or “American Beauty”) might offend the CPPA regardless of whether the individual actually intended to possess materials containing unprotected images." However, "there is . . . no need or reason to construe the statute this way" When the court examined the precursor statute to the CPPA, it held that an 'actual knowledge' standard applied: ". . .so that the Government would have to prove that a person charged with possessing child pornography actually knew that the materials contained depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct."

In short, it's a full win for the pornographers and a loss for civilization.

Update: I received a note from a reader (yay -- I love knowing that I'm actually read) asking for an explanation of Justice Thomas' opinion. It's short, which is why I didn't sumarize it. Basically, Thomas said that banning pixel pixie porn was, at this time, a speculative endeavor. If, when prosecuting child porn, the pornographer raises as a defense that it's "just pixel porn" and not pictures of the real thing, then the government may need to go back and adopt such a law.

As an additonal note, it should be pointed out that Justice SCALIA joined the Rehnquist dissent. Scalia is usually a pretty strong Free-Speecher -- he was the deciding vote in the flag burning case, for example. He has also pretty consistently voted for abortion protestors, although that's seen as more an abortion vote, for some reason. [Actually, I think it is the Ginsburgs, Breyers, Stevens, Souters et al. who tend to flip-flop on that issue just because it's abortion. I really think they believe that pornographers have more freedom of speech than do abortion protestors, just because they are so committed to abortion.] I wish Scalia had written separately on this one.

My own belief is that all child pornography is obscene -- and there is no first amendment protection of obscenity.

Last Update: I missed footnote 2 earlier when reading the Rehnquist dissent. Justice Scalia joined all but one paragraph of the dissent, the one where Rehnquist writes "We have looked to legislative history to limit the scope of child pornography statutes in the past and we should do so here as well." Justice Scalia has a well known, and probably well-founded, aversion to relying on legislative history in interpreting statutes.

Monday, April 15, 2002

RIP, Justice White. The AP is reporting that Byron "Whizzer" White passed away today. You will see notes like this one in the AP: "Appointed by President Kennedy in 1962, White soon became a dissenter from many of the court's liberal rulings of the 1960s." Actually, I think the AP has it wrong. Byron White was the mirror image of Robert F. Kennedy: he was strongly pro-labor and as equally opposed to corruption and organized crime within the unions and without. See, for example, RFK's service on the McClellan Committee in the late 1950's.

What else will they say about Byron White -- he was one of two dissenters in Roe v. Wade. Guess what? Bobby Kennedy (and especially his wife, Ethel) was opposed to abortion on demand.

White was anti-communist. RFK started out working for Sen. Joe McCarthy, although was opposed to McCarthy's tactics (but not his anti-communist, pro-America stance) and resigned and wrote a tough critique of McCarthy's methods and conclusions.

White was pro-civil rights, especially in the areas of voting rights and education rights, as was RFK with his move to desegregate Ole Miss. Yet, White, like RFK and others of that generation, most notably Hubert H. Humphrey, were strongly opposed to the evolution of affirmative action into goals, quotas, and reverse discrimination.

As you might have guessed, I have long admired Byron White. Nevertheless, I think he made his share of mistakes. For example, while he was not a doctrinaire absolutist (siding with the state) in the church-state cases, he dissented in the Widmer v. Vincent case which held that religious speech was entitled to the same rights as non-religious speech.

Justice White, former football star, attorney, Judge; you had a good run. May you rest in peace.
It's over. The Supreme Court today rejected, without comment, the appeal of some parents who wanted to continue the busing of students in Charlotte, NC. Some history on the Swann case, which initially upheld the judicial application of busing as a remedy to racial segregation here and here. For a good, detailed analysis, see Swann's Way: The School Busing Case and the Supreme Court by Bernard Schwartz (out of print, but available in most libraries).

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Cover Watch. I would put Tiger Woods on the cover -- but the two major magazines were on the newsstands before he had even teed off. So Newsweek goes with Hepatitus C. While Time does Human Guinea Pigs. It's a push. I'm frankly surprised that neither one went with the Mid-East, which was clearly the news story of the past week.

Misses. Yes, I missed the last two weeks. On Easter, there was no way I could stomach a face-off between Time trying to make Arafat look pathetic and Newsweek trying to make Clinton look sympathetic. Then, last week, I couldn't get my ISP to work in Phoenix and after I got back from the Apache reservation, I figured it was too late.