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Archive for November, 2006

Last Will and Testament

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

I’m going to be eating one of these tomorrow. It’s unlikely that I’ll survive, so I just wanted to wish everyone well as I stand at precipice of doom.

As for my few worldly possessions, I have a lot of reading material and assorted crap in my office that I’m sure my wife and daughter won’t be interested in — highlights include issue #3 of ANSWER Me!, featuring the 100 greatest suicides of all time; the complete works of Aristotle; Pranks! from RE/Search publications; a talking Ann Coulter doll; Axis of Evil finger puppets (featuring Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, George Bush and the Ayatollah Khamenei); an unopened miniature bottle of Mexican tequila from 1999; CD test banks for several major American history survey texts; 150 boxes of pseudoephedrine (don’t ask); some old IWW posters; and a gigantic stack of ungraded papers and tests. First come, first served.

Apparently some Milton Freidman fans are assholes

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

I think because I’m listed first, I often get emails meant for other bloggers here at LGM. Today, I’d like to share with you one of those emails:

I read your article on Milton Friedman. I see you live in Seattle
and are 31. You are quite the underachiever and malcontent. If you
become a dentist and live in Seattle, perhaps you will do the
statistically right thing.

Best regards,

(redacted)

Now, I can only assume that the bizarre reference to dentistry is a reference to the high suicide rates amongst members of that honorable profession. I’ll also note that this email came from someone’s work address, with full name and contact information, and a long disclaimer that included the following: “If you have received this communication in error, please immediately notify us by telephone at XXX-XXX-XXXX”

So, if I wanted to counter his assholishness with some retailatory assholishness, I could call that number and say, “I got an email in error–your employee, so and so, insulted me and suggested I commit suicide because he didn’t like what I wrote about Milton Friedman, but since I didn’t write anything about Milton Friedman, I think this was an error on his part.”

Would that be petty retaliation or just deserts? Opinions welcome…

Disgusting

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

Scott Johnson — whose sense of shame is inversely proportionate to his lack of historical knowledge — invokes the term “massive resistance” in a post from yesterday, which reprints a letter from University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman on the subject of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Coleman, responding to the passage of Proposal 2, has spoken (and now written) of her university’s continuing commitment to racial diversity; as such, she has convened a task force named “Diversity Blueprints” that will “explore ways to encourage diversity within the boundaries of the law.” Asking the recipients of the letter for “your ideas and your energy,” Coleman vows that “[t]ogether, we must continue to make this world-class university one that reflects the richness of the world.”

Johnson, chiding Coleman for disrespecting the “rule of law,” glibly compares the university’s administrators to the revanchist ideologues who tried to throttle desegregation efforts in the American South. Other dirtbags and morons have drawn similar analogies in recent weeks, usually — as in John Fund’s editorial (see “dirtbags” link) — by referring to George Wallace’s infamous 1963 inauguration speech.

Comparisons between affirmative action and segregation are, of course, willfully absurd and melodramatic. There’s simply no way to compare the caste system of white supremacy — a regime of collective humiliation and exclusion that saturated every aspect of Southern cultural, economic, social and political experience for more than a half-century — with the mildly redistributive affirmative action policies of universities seeking the objectively laudible (if blandly-phrased) goal of “diversity.” Considering, however, that we live in an era when actual expressions of segregationist nostalgia have no long-term, adverse consequences, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that historical memory can be abused and trivialized in this way.

Let’s remind ourselves, nevertheless, of what “massive resistance” actually meant. Rather than abide by the vague contours of the Brown decision, school districts closed their doors and white parents established private “Christian academies” to avoid the indignity of having their children educated with Blacks; scores of “White Citizens’ Councils” appeared in cities and towns throughout the South, where their 250,000 members defended the beleaguered condition of Caucasian rights; Black children who dared to cross the racial picket lines were harrassed and threatened to such a degree that they required federal marshalls and troops from the 101st Airborne Division to protect them from harm; school libraries were sifted for evidence of “integrationist” literature produced (of course) by Jews and Communists; Southern state legislatures revived the antebellum doctrine of “interposition,” passing more than 450 laws intended to block federal interference with their caste system; and self-proclaimed Christians rose to their pulpits and condemned the red menace emanating from the nation’s capital — including a young minister from Virginia named Jerry Falwell, who claimed to see “the hand of Moscow” in the Warren Court’s ruling. (Had the justices “known God’s word” — which dictated that Blacks serve Jews and gentiles alike — Falwell had no doubt the Brown ruling could have been avoided.)

And since John Fund, Scott Johnson and others have clearly never read George Wallace’s infamous address, let’s remind ourselves of that, too, and ask if it isn’t just a wee bit improper to suggest that Mary Sue Coleman is carrying on his tradition of despicable, racist populism:

Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever. . . .

Let us send this message back to Washington by our representatives who are with us today: that from this day we are standing up, and the heel of tyranny does not fit the neck of an upright man; that we intend to take the offensive and carry our fight for freedom across the nation, wielding the balance of power we know we possess in the Southland; that WE, not the insipid bloc of voters of some sections will determine in the next election who shall sit in the White House of these United States; that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we give the word of a race of honor that we will tolerate their boot in our face no longer. And let those certain judges put that in their opium pipes of power and smoke it for what it is worth.

Hear me, Southerners! You sons and daughters who have moved north and west throughout this nation — we call on you from your native soil to join with us in national support and vote. And we know — wherever you are, away from the hearths of the Southland — that you will respond, for though you may live in the fartherest reaches of this vast country, your heart has never left Dixieland.

And you native sons and daughters of old New England’s rock-ribbed patriotism — and you sturdy natives of the great Mid-West — and you descendants of the far West flaming spirit of pioneer freedom. We invite you to come and be with us, for you are of the Southern spirit and the Southern philosophy. You are Southerners too and brothers with us in our fight.

Outright Thuggery

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

If you love the VD Hanson-bashing genre (and obviously we do), be sure to check out Matt’s contribution. A sample:

Rather than view this appreciation, imitation, and innovation as a metaphor for the cultural exchange which has characterized the relationship between Islamic and Christian civilizations just as often as has “clash,” Hanson views this as a form of “parasitism.” This tells you a lot about his approach to the study of history, as well as his feelings about Islam in general. “We” create, “they” copy (and destroy). The fact that it was Muslim learning that turned the lights on and helped to end Europe’s Dark Ages seems not to have penetrated Hanson’s fuhrer’s bunker of a head. I mean, sure, Fibonacci got people to abandon the abacus by introducing Arabic numerals and calculation to Italy, sure our word “algebra” comes from the Arabic al-Jabr, transposition, but who really even uses mathematics any more these days? Sure, Muslims developed the modern university, but when was the last time you heard of anyone “going to college”? What a bunch of parasites.

"My daddy didn’t pull out, but he never apologized "

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

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Wondering how Eric Keroack–the crank Bush as appointed to be in charge of family planning funding–could believe a bunch of non-scientific gibberish (which, to be fair, he expressed–appropriately enough–in cartoon form?) Apparently, he’s not a board-certified doctor at all. Heckuva job, Bushie!

Demented Choirs

[ 0 ] November 22, 2006 |

Ooh, there’s a novel out about the construction of Dreadnought. John J. McKeon:

When a nation has a big technological lead over its potential military rivals, how long can that lead be expected to last?

The United States enjoys such an edge today, with no other nation either willing or able to compete in firepower, communications or mobility. Other nations, at other times, have occupied similarly advanced positions.

History suggests these advantages don’t last long, and pursuing them can lead to unexpected places[...] It was in search of just such a long-lived war-fighting advantage that Great Britain set out in 1905 to build what was then the most extraordinary weapon in the world, the great battleship HMS Dreadnought.

In fairness, there’s a pretty big difference between the technological advantage displayed by Dreadnought and the advantage displayed by, for example, the Zumwalt class destroyer. Dreadnought represented the synthesis of a number of different developments (turbines, long range gunnery, etc.) that were widely available and that had been used, in isolation, by most of the other navies in the world. Both Japan and the United States had been working on designs (Satsuma and South Carolina) that would have accomplished the revolution that Dreadnought precipitated. Consequently, the construction of Dreadnought didn’t represent technological primacy on the part of the Royal Navy (indeed, the American design was more advanced in some respects) but rather an advanced understanding of how to synthesize and employ extant technologies. The Royal Navy couldn’t exclude other navies from this understanding, however.

The Zumwalt destroyer is a bit different, because it includes genuine technological advances that are simply unavailable to countries that aren’t the United States. In fifteen years somebody may be able to build a ship similar to a Zumwalt, but right now it just can’t be done. Similarly, the F-22 is a generation ahead of any fighter in any other country in the world. Now, the existence of a Zumwalt or an F-22 can generate both symmetrical and asymmetrical responses. A symmetrical response would be additional effort to develop the necessary technologies to produce a comparable plane. An asymmetrical response would be the development of alternatives ways of fighting an F-22, including better SAMs, better techniques for avoiding air attack, and so forth.

I suspect that Dreadnought and the race she inspired was a rather unique development; I can’t think of a similar manifestation of technological advance, while the Zumwalt and F-22 cases seem more common. To be sure, the gap between major powers isn’t usually as large as it is right now. Of course, it’s because of this gap both in technology and in size of current force that both the Zumwalt and the F-22 seem uncompelling as defense acquisitions.

There’s A Shocker

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

Wondering where Marshall Wittmann would end up after the termination of his unreadable blog? The answer may not surprise you:

Two weeks after winning reelection as an independent due to losing Connecticut’s Democratic primary, Joe Lieberman has hired a former spokesman for the Christian Coalition as his new communications director, RAW STORY has learned. The new hiree also formerly served as a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a legislative director for the conservative Heritage Foundation, and as communications director to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Fifty-two year old political pundit and activist Marshall Wittmann is very popular with Washington journalists because he often “gives good quote,” according to a Washington Post profile from earlier this year.

My question: why would Lieberman pay for what he’s already getting for free?

"Why Would We Honor This Man? Have We Run Out Of Human Beings?"

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

I’m very torn about this. As a fan, I was very, very pleased to see Jeter not win. The scholar in me sees this as idiocy even by the standards of AL MVP voters, in a league with Gonzalzes over Rodriguez or Bell over Trammell. I wish they had at least voted for Mauer, so it would be colorable, but Morneau is the third-best player on his own team. Ah well, Pasta Diving somehow has two Gold Gloves–live by irrational voters, die by another set of irrational voters.

This also makes clear that, while there has been a clear New York bias in Hall of Fame voting, there is if anything a New York anti-bias in MVP voting. The strange thing is that for most of his career Jeter has been staggeringly overrated–and yet he’s now probably been screwed out of two MVP awards.

Too Much Pork for Just One Fork

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

A few scattered thoughts on the calliope music emanating from Victor Davis Hanson’s head:

(1) Hanson on energy policy: “Strike a deal on energy: allow drilling in Anwar and off the coasts in exchange for tougher mileage standards on trucks and SUVs.”

Call it a regional pet peeve if you must, but I’m of the mind that if you don’t know that ANWR is a bloody acronym, you should forever be prohibited from referring to it in the context of a “serious” policy discussion — if we expand the definition of “serious” to include statements (e.g., “tougher standards,” etc.) that are so completely dislodged from reality that one might as well ask for a pony.

(2) Hanson on immigration:

“Put aside worry for the moment about guest workers and amnesties and just close the border now—through more fencing, more agents, more employer fines, and offering a verifiable ID system.

Introduce a spending freeze. Since the revenues are soaring, the current deficit is a result of government spending exceeding the rate of inflation.

I really don’t know what to say here. Those two paragraphs actually appeared in that order.

(3) Hanson on Israel and Jimmy Carter:

Unlike blacks in his own Georgia of the 1950s, Israeli Arabs vote and enjoy civil liberties, perhaps a million of them, with another 100,000 plus as illegal aliens. In fact, they enjoy rights not found in other Arab countries, inasmuch as Jews treat Arabs inside their own country not just better than Arabs treat Jews (they ethnically cleansed 500,000 from the major Arab capitals in the 1960s), but in the sense of civil liberties better than Arabs treat Arabs.

There’s something beyond grotesque, I would submit, in the suggestion that cheap, exploited day laborers from Israeli-occupied Palestine are to be regarded merely as “illegal aliens.” There’s also something dishonest in the assumption that Carter’s “apartheid” analogy merely refers to the status of Arabs living within the internationally-recognized borders of the Israeli state. Then again, Hanson probably believes the territories have been “liberated” rather than “occupied” in the first place, just as he congratulates Israel for barely surpassing — if even that — the appalling record of civil liberties established by the United States’ other regional allies.

(4) Hanson on World War II:

To me it was summed up when Democrats alleged that “We took our eye off Afghanistan by going into Iraq”. My Lord!—this is a country that fought Italy, Japan, and Germany all at once, and was in an inferno on Okinawa while racing eastward past the Rhine, while bombing Berlin, while slogging up through Italy, while igniting the Japanese mainland.

OK, Victor. Your priapism is duly noted. But can we dispense once and for all with the suggestion that America’s experience during World War II — that is, total mobilization against an array of nations that were themselves absolutely mobilized for war — pre-authorizes us to wage several half-baked, disconnected, poorly-theorized adventures simultaneously?

As for the question of when it was “summed up,” to me it was summed up when the President announced “Mission Accomplished,” or when he claimed not to spend that much time thinking about Osama bin Laden, or when he joked about not finding weapons of mass destruction, or when he claimed that the United States doesn’t torture anyone. When was it “summed up” for the rest of you?

Robert Altman, 1925-2006

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

I was lucky enough to see a beautiful 35mm restoration of La Regle Du Jeu last week. The most obvious modern inheritor of the “open” filmmaking style invented by Renoir, Robert Altman, has died.

Altman was a risk-taker, and as is well-known this made him uneven. (Pauline Kael, one of his biggest critical supporters, said about the disastrous Quintet that “Altman has reached the point of wearing his failures like medals. He’s creating a mystique of heroism out of emptied theaters.”) But the upside is that he made a number of pictures that will be seen as long as people watch American movies. For me, the canon starts with the hauntingly lovely McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville–his most successful Renoir-style social panorama–and the superb late-career Raymond Carver adaptation Short Cuts. And since any fan needs one, my favorite of his less-lauded pictures is California Split, his loose, amiable picture about happily degenerate gamblers. He was a giant of American film, and will be sorely missed.

Roy has an excellent tribute; I agree about The Gingerbread Man.

The Left weighs in.

…as does Randy Paul.

The "Undue Burden" Test: It Has Two Parts

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

I have an article about the Supreme Court and the federal “partial birth” legislation up at TAP. I’d like to add something about the lack of connection between the legislation and any legitimate state interest, and what it says about the “undue burden” test:

Based on the court’s existing precedents, this bill should clearly be struck down. Planned Parenthood v. Casey held that the state cannot regulate abortion in a way that constitutes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose, and Stenberg v. Carhart struck down a similar state statute as being inconsistent with Casey. As Justice Stevens held in the latter case, the law is so arbitrary it’s not clear that it would be constitutional even if abortion wasn’t a fundamental right. It is far from clear what rational connection the legislation — which, as Richard Posner has pointed out, bans an abortion procedure based on which way a fetus’s feet are pointing — bears to any legitimate state interest. Certainly it is not in any way related to the protection of fetal life. At oral argument, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement himself conceded “no woman would be prevented from terminating her pregnancy” because of this law. Moreover, to the extent that it has an impact on woman’s health, it’s a negative one.

Meanwhile, Roe and Casey clearly require a health exemption for a regulation such as this law, and the findings that Congress adduced to claim that the D&X was never medically necessary are, as both District Courts found, blatantly erroneous. And if the “undue burden” standard means anything at all, surely it proscribes legislation wholly unconnected to the preservation of fetal life or a woman’s health, and that in fact places women’s health at risk for the sake of sheer symbolism or political strategy. In Judge Posner’s words in Hope Clinic v. Davis, “if a statute burdens constitutional rights and all that can be said on its behalf is that it is the vehicle that legislators have chosen for expressing their hostility to those rights, the burden is undue.

Judge Posner understands–while Justice Kennedy, in his frankly bizarre claim to have been double-crossed, does not–that the “undue burden” test, to the extent that it has any content at all, is a two-part test. The Solicitor General mentioned again and again that other (if more dangerous) procedures would always be available, presumably to minimize the burden. And, indeed, the extra risk to women’s health might be acceptable if the state had some legitimate interest at stake. But it doesn’t–the statutes certainly don’t protect fetal life or woman’s health, and punishing women for sexual choices is neither asserted as an interest nor a legitimate interest under our current constitutional law. This is the same issue as the error Alito made with husband notification laws. It’s not just the “burden” that’s relevant–one must also consider whether the burden is “due,” and since common law conceptions of marriage have been discredited the state cannot have the same interest in husbands supervising and protecting wives as parents do with respect to children. “Partial birth” laws are even easier cases–if they’re constitutional, then the first word might as well be stricken from the test.

All The More Money To Promote Other Assholes Responsible For Many Deaths!

[ 0 ] November 21, 2006 |

Fortunately, the Murdoch empire, in a rare manifestation of good taste, has decided not to publish the “book” “written” by an illiterate who chopped off his wife’s head. However, as Steve points out ReganBooks will still have plenty of gems coming out next year:

* If I Helped Turn Iraq into an Open-Air Abbatoir for Human Beings, Here’s How It Happened by Douglas Feith
* If I Invented Ideological Ambulance-Chasing, Here’s How It Happened by Larry Klayman
* If I’ve Become Rich Spewing Bigotry and Enabling Some of the Worst Political Leaders on the Planet, Here’s How It Happened by Neal Boortz
* If I’m Responsible for the Rise to Power of the Worst President in American History, I’m Going to Avoid Talking About How It Happened by Ralph Nader
* If My Pomposity Back in the 1980s Helped Make It Acceptable for the United States to Openly Embrace Brutality Overseas, Here’s How It Should Happen Again by Jeane Kirkpatrick

I think you can see why she thought the O.J. book was a good idea–he’s roughly on the current moral level as these types, and you can imagine somebody actually buying his book…

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