Saturday, February 02, 2002

Best Analysis - Ever. In my opinion, Walter Shapiro's column on May 1, 1998 (the USA Today website indicates it was written/published on April 30, 1998) is the best analysis of the differences in politics and partisanship in current America (even post 9.11): Here are some excerpts, but please read the whole column:

...So let me offer my own single-cause interpretation of American politics in the last quarter of the 20th century. Virtually everything flows from the Supreme Court's 1973 decision to legalize abortion in Roe vs. Wade.
...Missouri Republican John Ashcroft, one of the Senate's fiercest foes of abortion... [wps: why do you think he is so reviled as attorney general?]
...Bill Clinton, so eager to find common ground on the most divisive issues, has always been an unyielding champion of abortion rights. By wielding a veto pen, Clinton is saying, in effect, that he places a higher premium on the consistency of his pro-abortion stand than he does on eliminating Iraq's potential to wage chemical and biological warfare....
...The sad truth is that this destructive divisiveness was tragically unnecessary. In early 1993, three months before Clinton named her to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a memorable speech lamenting the high court's error in Roe. To Ginsburg, the issue was not abortion rights, which she supports. Rather, her legal critique was solely based on the sweeping implications of the Supreme Court's decision.

By creating out of whole cloth a legal right to an abortion, Ginsburg argued, the court took the issue away from the voters....
...So the enduring question is not abortion rights, but the wisdom of ever removing an important social issue from political debate. Abortion opponents were driven toward extremism by their frustration that what they regard as a moral issue was enshrined in the Constitution by the Supreme Court. Soon abortion supporters were equally polarized. And this rift in the social fabric has never healed....
...OK, my facile abortion-explains-everything theory glosses over external factors like the end of the Cold War. But it is hard to find a single event that did more to contaminate American political life than the Supreme Court's anti-democratic hubris in Roe vs. Wade.

Like I said, read the whole thing.

Friday, February 01, 2002

Power Outage. Wow, this afternoon, after making a small change to my template here, the power went down in the neighborhood. So I took the kids out back to play on the swings while I cut wood. Then it got dark and still no power (it was very windy, but otherwise clear and in the high 60's). One of the kids suggested going to the library, which we did, although it closed about 7 minutes after we got there. However, once again, I realized how much I depend on electricity. Nearly all my "jobs" required it in some form or another. Even the telephones we have are all cordless, so the base requires power. It's back up now -- wasn't out that long, really. Just enough to be a good reminder.
Facinating Book Review. I just got around to reading some of last Sunday's book reviews and this particular book, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, sounds incredibly interesting. Here's a clip from Collin Walters review:

Just past the halfway point in Jasper Fforde's first novel, a "curiouser and curiouser" combination of literary thriller, alternate history and science fiction, the heroine whose name is Thursday Next ... is visited by an English literature scholar from Swindon University called Dr. Runcible Spoon. The scruffy-looking academic claims to have evidence that a character called Mr. Quaverley actually has disappeared from all extant copies of Charles Dickens' novel "Martin Chuzzlewit."

The website for the book as all kinds of interesting stuff -- I'm going to search this one out and I'll let you know.

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Guaranteed to Alienate. The AP writes: "A developing fetus may be classified as an 'unborn child' eligible for government health care, the Bush administration said Thursday, giving low-income women access to prenatal care and bolstering the arguments of abortion opponents."

This will alienate pro-choice liberals who don't want the fetus called a child, as well as right-wingers who don't want the class of government beneficiaries expanded. The largest group alienated? Libertarians.

Update. Sorry, that last bit probably was a cheap shot. I have received a message from a pro-life libertarian, who indicates she has less of a problem with this than some other government programs from a libertarian stand-point.

Also, I don't really think that this is an abortion issue, but acknowledge I'm just a blithering idiot.
Parthenogenesis. The AP has a story that was embargoed until a few minutes ago concerning the production of stem cells from an unfertilized egg cell, a process called parthenogenesis.
Football. He was one of the greatest ever. Rest In Peace, Night Train.

The Patriots make the right choice in having Brady start as their QB this weekend. I don't think it's going to make a difference -- the Rams in a blow out. However, Bill Parcells likes the Patriots.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Buying Trouble. Here I am, writing again to disagree with the master blogger Glenn Reynolds, who I generally agree with.

At issue, the good old Commerce Clause.

He comments on an op-ed in the NYTimes, by Yale Prof. Jack Balkin, who writes the current Supreme Court would probably deny Congress the power to regulate cloning under the Commerce Clause. I agree with Reynolds on nearly everything in this entry (the point's been made repeatedly, Balkin looks foolish, and the founders are spinning). [Please read his piece, I don't do him justice.]

Where I disagree is whether Congress has the authority under the Commerce Clause to enact such a ban. I believe it does. As far as I know Wickard v. Filburn is still good law and that held that Congress could regulate a person who grew wheat for their own personal consumption -- no interstate commerce there. If Congress can regulate the growing of wheat, why not the growing of human cells?

Anyway, like Prof. Reynolds, I too am enjoying this brutal winter, chopping wood, cleaning gutters, carport, playing with the kids, grilling, etc. So I apologize for the infrequency of the posts.
New Low. Thanks to Kathy Shaidle for the link to Michael Novak's response to the blood libel published (but not online) in the New Republic, earlier this month.

In the TNR article, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen accuses not only Pope Pius XII of complicity in the Holocaust, but the Roman Catholic Church, in practice and doctrine, as fomenting the Holocaust.

Novak is correct -- this is a new low.
Law must go. Michael Kelly today calls on Cardinal Bernard Law to resign. I agree. It is the only honorable thing to do. Letter from Law.

By the way, these scandals aren't limited to the Church of Rome -- the Anglican Dioscese in Australia has a similar problem.
Small Things. There's an interesting anecdote that introduces an essay by Sheryl Henderson Blunt on the midterm elections. The Congressman who cast the deciding vote on giving the President trade authority did so for a somewhat different reason.
Standing before the House Republican Conference, [Robin] Hayes told members why he had ultimately decided to support the bill. "He stood up in front of the Republican Conference choked with emotion and said, 'I just want to tell you all, I'm not a hero,'" recalls Rep. Mike Pence, (R-Ind.).
"He said, 'I just want to tell you the fact that this President and the speaker of the House both claim the same Lord as I do had a big impact on me. I see them as men of integrity, and I wanted to hand them a victory.'
"The 220 Republican members sitting there were dumbfounded," says Pence, who attends a weekly Bible study with Hayes and five other congressmen. "[Senior] congressmen told me afterwards it was the gutsiest thing they had ever seen in Congress."

I know people of faith are mocked and belittled in this oh-so-chic post-modern world -- they're all fundies and/or perverts (see, for example, this reference to John Ashcroft), nevertheless, I see them (us) as the backbone (and conscience) of civilization. The libertarians would love to turn this world into a state of anarchy -- private justice for all -- the conservatives would sell their mother for a buck and the liberals just seem to want everyone to disappear, except for the most discrete and insular minority. Yet, world-wide, the people of faith go to worship, serve God, and try to help their neighbor.

Maybe Rep. Hayes made an irrational choice -- in terms of re-election, it would seem so. Yet it is these intangibles that will always confound the Richard Posners of the world. I, for one, love it. Power to the Lech Walesas, the Mother Teresas, the Cesar Chavezes, the MLKs, the M.K. Gandhis of the world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Credible Expert. The AP has a story critical of the claim that there may be as many as 100,000 terrorists who have been trained. While I agree that it doesn't sound plausible, the fact that they quote an ex-CIA analyst as a critic ("it's laughable" he said ) doesn't do anything for me. Does anyone put any faith in these experts?
The Rise and Fall of Geneva. A London Barrister, Jon Holbrook, has a good essay analyzing the politization, and therefore the decline of the Geneva convetions at Spiked: "If the [Geneva] conventions are seen to have a political connotation, as opposed to a merely humanitarian one, then the humanitarian goal will be thwarted."
Put the Burden Back Where it Belongs. This statement from the conclusion of an interview with bioethics lawyer Lori Andrews:
  • I think the common denominator is that we must determine what our relationship should be to technology. Perhaps I am more skeptical about the benefits of technology because science has failed to deliver on so many things that have been promised. I'm of the generation that heard scientists promise to cure cancer by 1979. In 1984, they said that within three years gene therapy would fix every health-care problem. And then fetal-tissue transplants were supposed to cure Parkinson's and other diseases. And so now when I'm pressured, even coerced, by scientists with the idea that embryonic stem cells are going to be the complete cure to any disease, I can ask whether we should run roughshod over the values of a lot of people for a cure that might not materialize. Perhaps it's time to shift the burden of proof to the scientists to show more about the potential benefit, more about how they're going to deal with individual and social risks, before allowing profoundly novel technologies to proceed.
Mea Culpa. Books and Culture editor John Wilson has a long and worthy apology, of sorts, for having backed Michael Bellesiles's book, Arming America: "I allowed myself to be seduced by the thrill of a thesis that overturned common wisdom."

My own belief is this is something we all share, regardless of our political belief. It's part of why we root for the underdog. Yes, if you're on the gunowner's side of this debate, you may have rejected this, but on another issue, you'd accept it just as Gary Wills did this book. I wonder if this accounts for the continued popularity of the Kinsey Institute.

Here's a very brief catalogue of similar academic frauds, pre-Bellesiles.

When will Gary Wills file his mea culpa?
Pay no attention to that scandal behind the curtain. This morning's WaPo runs two stories on Enron on the front page, while it buries Global Crossing Files for Bankruptcy in the "E" section. This line, "Former President Bill Clinton's chief fundraiser, Terry McAuliffe, turned a $100,000 investment into at least $10 million." does not appear until the 11th paragraph (under a line about former president George Bush). The Post omits the fact that McAuliffe is the current head of the DNC.

Update. Worth magazine reports that McAuliffe made $18 million off a $100,000 investment.
Too Much. "I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society." -Paul "Enron" Krugman, New York Times, 29 January 2002.

Monday, January 28, 2002

It's Not the Crime, It's the Cover-up. ABC's Beverley Lumpkin reported last week that the Department of Justice has spent $8,000 on drapes to cover up a semi-nude statue of female Justice. Of course, Ms. Lumpkin notes it's because he's "a strongly religious and conservative man." Therefore, these actions are suspect. I guess if he were Anita Hill, the cover-up would be okay.

This kind of thing has always seemed flaky to me. I recall when I was in college in the late-1970's some friends told me that Liberty Baptist College (now University) had specially made flags so the figure ("Virtue") on the Virginia state seal was fully clothed.

Anyway, if this is the worst thing happening at Justice, we're okay.

Update The WaPo has a short item saying that DOJ purchased the drapes because it occassionally rented them before formal events "for aesthetic reasons." While it seems somewhat juvenile to cover these statues, the actions of the photographers and editors to do everything they could to embarass Meece and Ashcroft in front of them seems more childish to me.

Capitalism Works. AT&T is dropping the 900 lines "dealing a serious blow to psychics, sex lines" according to this article from last week. Now can we get AOL and MSN to do a better job of filtering out spam mail. I don't need to read about barely legal girls, I don't need a mortgage, I don't need any body parts enlarged, I don't need an international driver's license or diploma.
I've given both of these companies (msn and aol) notice that if they don't do a better job, I'm dropping them -- and I've been with aol since the near beginning. Shape up or ship out.
Standard Time. Having read a little more Kass, and the Birthmark, over the weekend, I still don't think Kass is anti-science or anti-development. Andrew Ferguson has a nice dispatch in the current issue of the Weekly Standard. I would have loved to have listened to the discussion.

Pick up the magazine, if you can find it at the news stand. The cover story is "Does Human Nature Have A Face?" And a critique of Larry Tribe's view of Bush v. Gore by GMU's Peter Berkowitz
Which is it? William Safire this morning succinctly frames the issue: "...are these guys Taliban soldiers with rights, or military criminals with fewer rights, or Al Qaeda terrorists with almost no rights — and who is to decide which detainee fits in which category?"

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Early Odds. AP indicates the Rams are 14 1/2 point favorits, while Yahoo! indicates they are 15 1/2 point favorites.
Best. "The online magazine may be the best site on the Web" says the National Post. What is it? Arts and Letters Daily. I agree, it's one I do check daily.
To POW or not to POW. I'm still thinking about the news report in yesterday's Washington Times about Colin Powell's dissent on whether the Gitmo detainees should be classified as Prisoner's of War. My initial reaction with all these detainees, including Johnny Walker, was that they should be turned over to the Northern Alliance.
Do we apply the Geneva Convention to those who don't follow it? We did during WWII with Japan, which was not a signatory. But that was a constitutionally declared war. Here we're involved in another undeclared war -- a military action. I'm small minded and like consistency, I admit. (following my link I see: "...the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them..." Art. II) More on this tomorrow night -- separate listing.
If we do apply Geneva (and related conventions), then it's clear they violated it by not wearing uniforms and using civilians as shields, among other violations.
Six Degrees of Separation. It's every conspiracy lover's dream -- to be able to link incidents together to draw up a vast conspiracy -- like Her Royal Clintoness did with the Right Wingers. So here's the starting point: Enron is taken down by Arthur Anderson and so are the --- Raiders? The Contra Costa Times is reporting that the Raiders are resurrecting claims that AA shredded documents -- evidence -- in a lawsuit against it by the Raiders.
Astounded. I was really surprised by the easy time the Patriots had putting away the Steelers and now the Eagles leading the Rams at halftime. I still think the Rams will be back, but am shocked that the Eagles have scored 17 points in the first half. I'm also thinking about the Eagles record of not giving up more than 21 points in any single game this year. If the Rams don't make that fall, they won't win. [duh.]
Stat of the day, for Raider fans: NE has just one penalty against the Raiders, but commit 12 today. Did they really play that differently today? No, their DB's finally get called for holding and interference.

Update Rams-Patriots in the Superbowl? The final score will look like the Bears-Patriots, Rams by at least 21. Eagles fans -- although I'm still cursing your team for the dirty play against the Bears -- should hold your heads high. Your team played a good game and never quit. You are definitely on the upswing.