Your hosts in the Hall of Super Justice:

Conservator: The Red-Blooded, Blue-Collared American Hero
Captain Capitalism: Valiant Protector of a Free Market
Libertaria: With her Bureaucratic Shrink Ray
The Dynamic Uno: A Lone Force Against Idiotarian Evil
Senator Stupendous: Mild-Mannered Page by Day

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The Leandro case is back in the news in North Carolina, just in time for back-to-school season.

A decade ago, some of the poorer counties in North Carolina sued the state for more funding because their children were failing, and failing significantly more than students in affluent counties. Judge Howard Manning ruled in their favor, demanding that $22 million be given to the poorer school districts.

When politicians asked where the money was to come from ("Debate Begins Over How To Pay For Low-Wealth Schools"), Manning pointed (rather snarkily) in his ruling to the rich counties:

The right to the equal opportunity to a sound basic education, is only to the sound basic education, not the frills and whistles. The State Constitution does not require that children be provided the courses and experiences to enable them to go to Yale or Harvard. While there is no restriction on high-level electives, modern dance, advanced computer courses and multiple foreign language courese being taught or paid for by tax dollars in the public schools, the Constitutional guarantee of a sound basic education for each child must first be met.

As a student from an affluent county whose courses and experiences did enable her to go to Yale, I felt personally offended when I read that. Doubly so when I found out that state per pupil expenditure for Hoke County ($4663.08) is more than for Wake County ($4220.46). (In another bit of irony, Robb Leandro, the Hoke County student for whom the case was named, got a scholarship to Duke for undergrad and is now in his second year of lawschool at Vanderbilt.)

The entire lawsuit seems to me to be a case of wealth redistribution, which as Americans we're not supposed to believe in.

Some students just don't want to learn -- how much money has to be thrown at them before their failure becomes their own fault?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Captain: I don't praise a lot of Democrats, but is there anybody as charismatic and likeable in the Democratic party as Barack Obama?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Captain: More petty obnoxiousness by MoveOn.org.

NEW YORK (AP) – Fox News' use of the slogan "Fair and Balanced" constitutes deceptive advertising, two political advocacy groups claimed Monday in a petition filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Liberal MoveOn.org and historically nonpartisan Common Cause assert that Fox News' reports are "deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint."

Alleging consumer fraud, the complaint calls for the FTC to order Fox News, consistently the highest-rated cable news network, to cease and desist from using the slogan.

Irena Briganti, a Fox News spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that "while this is clearly a transparent publicity stunt, we recognize all forms of free speech and wish them well."

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Captain: Sports Illustrated's website asks: who's the better athlete, Bush or Kerry?  And who's the  bigger sports fan?  (Bottom right poll.)

Bush is beating Kerry solidly on the second question (possibly having to do with that whole owning the Texas Rangers thing) but only 58-42 on the first.

Sure, we remember that fall on the bike.  But to be quite honest, I don't think I could have held out until the sixteenth mile of a seventeen mile trick to tank my bike.  We do know that Kerry's an excellent skier as long as those pesky servicemen dedicated to protecting his life aren't in the way.  And has Bush ever netted a hat trick?

Captain: Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Randy Barnett at Mad Professor Volokh's Blog stirs up things by calling for a discussion of what constitutes a libertarian foreign policy.  His post links to several interesting discourses on the subject.

I for my part (as well as the good Prof. Barnett) believe that often times war, and in particular, the Second Gulf War, is reconcilable and beneficial to a libertarian domestic policy.  Of course, that doesn't make me popular in many libertarian circles--I'd better watch my back or I could end up a pariah like Neal Boortz.

As long as we're on the subject of Libertarians and foreign policy, I'd like to point out that Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik gets it wrong:

First, allow me to dispel a myth. People in the Middle East do not hate us for our freedom. They do not hate us for our lifestyle. They hate us because we have spent many years attempting to force them to emulate our lifestyle.

The U.S. government has meddled in the affairs of the Middle East far too long, always with horrendous results. It overthrew the democratically elected leader of Iran and replaced him with the Shah. After making Iranians the enemies of Americans, the U.S. government gave weapons, intelligence and money to Iran's mortal adversary, Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government also helped Libyan Col. Qaddafi come to power, propped up the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptian regime, and gave assistance to Osama bin Laden.

Fair enough, Michael.  Then why do they hate places like Indonesia?

To some extent Badnarik is correct--part of the spark for Islamist violence is the increasing westernization of the Middle East.  However, this is less the fault of the government then of private companies who recognize the Middle East as the next frontier of the global market.  There are, as far as I can tell, two solutions to that problem--tell American companies to stay out of the Middle East or attack those whose resentment of such westernization has manifested into violence.  One is considerably less libertarian than the other.

Captain: Hello, folks.  I promised (myself, and then everyone else in apostrophe) that I would start posting again once I got my super-fast UNC laptop.  Here I am; I've had the laptop for a week, and well, this is my first post.  Sorry.

But it is a matter of EXTREME IMPORTANCE.  I don't know about you, but every time I hear "The Iraq War" my ears hurt.  It's such an awkward, clodding name--using a noun as an adjective as all that.  Especially when an excellent and natural substitute--"The Second Gulf War" exists.

In repsonse, I have founded an organization, APACHE: The Association for Propriety in the Appellation of Contemporary Historical Events.  It has no formal membership yet (except myself, Conservator, and Libertaria) but it does have this spiffy new petition to FOX News.  It's the media that decides these things, you know.

Please, dedicated readers--future American history students need you.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Captain: Youth are at the "bottom of the learning curve" because they, by definition, have had less time and experience with which to learn.  I don't think that's insulting at all.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer:

Craig Newmark (who was the professor of my first economics class, and who gave me an "A-" in it) repeats Bryan Caplan's "rallying cry" for economists:

Unfortunately, a large fraction of voters do suffer from economic illiteracy. Indeed, it is fair to say that an ample majority does not understand the basics of how markets work.

According to "Harry Potter, Market Whiz" by Ilias Yocaris (first published, tellingly, in Le Monde), that's a good thing:

Harry Potter, probably unintentionally, thus appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism. Like Orwellian totalitarianism, this capitalism tries to fashion not only the real world, but also the imagination of consumer-citizens. The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson.

Speaks for itself, really.

I have no fundamental objection to the French position on the war, which is what everyone who says "freedom fries" seems worked up about, but to not even believe in the market is simple foolishness.

Foolishness, however, was not exclusively French this week, as shown by Jonah Goldberg's NRO piece this morning, "Baby Cons in the Mist." I understand his point that "the youth vote" can never be a coherent interest group and that to treat it as such(the way liberals do) is both silly and condescending, but to say that young people are "by definition at the bottom of the learning curve" was unnecessarily insulting. At least in his similarly-themed November column he took the time to offer the "important caveat" that "there are many smart and well-informed young folk." We know you know, Mister Goldberg, sir, but it's important to say it.

Goldberg does, however, get Buckley Points for using the word "lugubrious."

Friday, July 16, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Charlie Pierce has had a good week: here at The Nation making fun of Michael Dukakis, here at the American Prospect talking about box turtles, and here on Altercation poking Tucker Carlson with a stick.
In other news, Richard Posner reminds us that even conservatives believe in Marbury v. Madison:
It is one thing to believe that the Supreme Court is too aggressive; it is another thing (and it is Kramer's argument) to suppose that lay people could do a better job of interpreting the Constitution.

This from his review of Larry Kramer's new book The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial ReviewHow Appealing called it a "must-read" (the review, not the book itself).

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Conservator: So its been a long time. What can i say....

As tomorrow is July 4th, my mind goes to one thing. America, and how much it kicks ass. But something else comes to mind. Fireworks. Nothing represents America and its policy making decisions like a controlled explosion. But something as gone wrong with the wonderful world of the firework. Living in North Carolina I can't buy the best that my good friend George can get. Why? Because the two groups that I consider the most dangerous and inherently stupid (liberals and Jerry Falwell conservatives) don't want you to have fun. Something about being dangerous to kids or something. Whatever. Everything is dangerous to kids if you use right. There is no reason to ban them.

So I urge everyone who reads this blog..go buy some fireworks...REAL FIREWORKS. Real blow your finger off fireworks. Smuggle them into your state if you can't buy them where you live. Then tomorrow night get yourself a beer and light those suckers off. And while theyre screaming into the air...yell something patriotic like "Go America!" or "France can eat me!".

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Captain: Here's an interesting bit of close-to-home news: The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting the United Auto Workers' Union and an automotive company, Freightliner, for illegally coercing workers at a Thomas Built Bus facility in High Point, NC into signing union recognition cards.

Captain: Instapundit links to open letter, indicative of how popular L. Paul Bremer is in Iraq, even among avowed communists:

We miss you Sir and we know that it’s been difficult for you too. Your speech has touched the hearts of all the Iraqis I have met just as your efforts have contributed in drawing the outlines of the bright future of Iraq, the new free democratic Iraq and we will never forget you. You worked hard as if you were a true son of Iraq and in fact you’re one of Iraq’s sons, that’s how we look at you.

I never heard anyone talk badly about you, I heard people say a lot of bad things about GWB and the GC members but you were the most respected and loved political character among Iraqis and I can say I’m almost sure that if there was a poll about who’s the most popular person in Iraq, then you would’ve been the winner.

I once heard Bremer's name volleyed about as the eventual replacement for George Tenet. I wonder if that's still a possibility.

Captain: Are you a lunatic, afraid that no one running for President in 2004 represents your interests? Don't worry. You can still vote for Lyndon Larouche.

Captain: Randy Barnett thinks that it's time we discussed whether or not a libertarian outlook necessitates a noninterventionist foreign policy:

Given the stance of most of the Liberty & Power contributors on the "war on terror" in general, and the Iraqi war in particular, the time may be ripe for a full fledged debate on the relationship between libertarianism and foreign policy. It appears that there is an assumption on the part of many libertarian intellectuals that libertarian principles entail a very specific version of "noninterventionism" in foreign policy.

I believe that this is a category mistake, and that noninterventionism (which I favor), and its exact contours, does not follow deductively from libertarian first principles. In other words, two people holding exactly the same commitments to libertarian principles can favor radically different foreign policies. I realize that this is a cryptic observation, but I do fear that the recent anti war vociferousness of some libertarian intellectuals, of whom I have the highest regard and respect, may unfairly tag all libertarians with a very particular set of foreign policy positions about which even radical libertarians actually differ.

I confess that my instincts here are driven by the fact that I disagree sharply with the anti war stance of these libertarians, and they with me, but I do not believe my libertarian principles, or my commitment to them, have changed in the slightest. Because I think neither has theirs, something other than libertarian first principles are at stake. About all this I am open to reasoned argument. I have not given this matter any sustained or systematic thought, but the time may be nigh to do so.

I am quite interested, if this debate should occur.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Captain: Michelle Malkin points out what the school board in Worcester, Mass. has assigned for summer reading:

Have you checked your child's summer reading list? Beware: Some lame-brained school officials have decided to ditch the sonnets of Shakespeare for the tripe of Tupac.

That's slain gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur -- the drug-dealing, baseball bat-wielding, cop-hating, Black Panthers-worshiping, convicted sexual abuser who made a fortune extolling the "thug life" before he was gunned down in Las Vegas eight years ago.

Teachers in Worcester, Mass., have embraced Shakur's posthumously published book of poems as a way to get middle school students' attention. "We wanted to include books that kids would want to read," Michael O'Sullivan, a member of the summer reading list selection committee, explained to the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester last month before school let out. ''Reading counterculture in schools, and to get kids to read anything that is not completely objectionable, is the goal,'' Deputy Superintendent Stephen E. Mills echoed.

Frances Arena, manager of curriculum and professional development of the Worcester Public Schools, told me this week that Shakur's book will remain on the list for the foreseeable future because it "heightens awareness of character education" and, more importantly, because it's "popular with the kids."

Helen Rittelmeyer: Rich Lowry's article "Where's the Misery?" is probably the most accurate piece on higher education I've read so far this year, as someone who just finished ten months deep inside the college admissions process.

Tuition hikes and increased availability of financial aid form a vicious circle in which students pay only a fraction of official tuition price, various aid programs (federal, state, and private) pay the difference, and colleges keep the profits. The money from higher tuition, for the most part, doesn't go towards improvement in the quality of education provided at the college. Colleges are simply seeing this opportunity to multiply profits, and are taking it. There's no reason why they shouldn't.

It doesn't mean that Kerry should play into their hands with this new college aid initiative. Lowry explains:
The game for universities is obvious — hike official tuition rates ever higher. Then everyone thinks students cannot afford college and plies them with more aid, which ends up lining the pockets of the schools. It's one of the great scams of our time, and Kerry has been happy to play along by hyping nominal tuition increases and promising yet more aid. He is the dream candidate of greedy college administrators.

The problem isn't that students hungry for knowledge are being frozen out from college, but the opposite. Marginal students take their generous aid and go to colleges that don't teach them. Eighty percent of universities aren't selective, e.g. more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check. Only 37 percent of first-time freshmen graduate in four years, and only 60 percent graduate in six years. Universities are happy to take money from unprepared students and fail them right back out, or dumb down their standards to stay on the government-aid gravy train.

Something Lowry doesn't mention, but which makes his argument even stronger, is that most of the aid available is based on financial need and not academic merit, which means that universities not considered selective (those which, as he put it, are "more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check") have no incentive to accept outstanding applicants that would make their schools more competitive. Instead, they accept students likely to receive large amounts of need-based scholarships, students who are not necessarily the most qualified ones, all while raising tuition further.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Even if the facts in David Brooks' column this morning ("Age of Political Segregation") are right, and Betsy Newmark seems to doubt they are, Brooks is still drawing the wrong conclusions.
To a large degree, polarization in America is a cultural consequence of the information age. This sort of economy demands and encourages education, and an educated electorate is a polarized electorate.

In theory, of course, education is supposed to help us think independently, to weigh evidence and make up our own minds. But that's not how it works in the real world. Highly educated people may call themselves independents, but when it comes to voting they tend to pick a partisan side and stick with it. College-educated voters are more likely than high-school-educated voters to vote for candidates from the same party again and again. . .

Once you've joined a side, the information age makes it easier for you to surround yourself with people like yourself. And if there is one thing we have learned over the past generation, it's that we are really into self-validation.

Educated voters are more likely to vote consistently not because education turns people into ideologues, but because educated voters actually vote based on parties' positions on the issues (which stay essentially the same from election to election), whereas less educated people vote for the candidate with the coolest name.

Well, that may be overstating it. Still, the reason why politicians care about silly things like their hairstyles is that those are the things that influence the votes of of most Americans.

It is appropriate that on the same day the Time published Brooks' editorial, it reported that only 27.2% of Americans even have bachelor's degrees.

Helen Rittelmeyer: There has been much discussion of whether the Iraqi government can have sovereignty if they still answer to the United States. This article from Sunday's Washington Post ("U.S. Edicts Curb Power of Iraq's Leadership"):
Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government, and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition.

It's like allowing the Supreme Court to rule a constitutional amendment unconstitutional. (Which, in India, it can. Go figure.)

Also, the idea that a seven-member commission has "the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support" (CPA Order No. 97) has been widely criticized, and for good reason.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: I always enjoy stories about the Reverend Sun Myung Moon because he's such an absurd character, but I think the recent "having himself crowned Messiah at a bipartisan gathering of Congressmen" story is particularly delicious, and not just because it involves a grown man playing dress-up.

What makes this story noteworthy is the tone of recent statements by the Congressmen in attendance, especially Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.). Representative Davis was the one holding the purple pillow on which Rev. Moon's crown rested during the ceremony.

It's my understanding that what they were doing was recognizing Mr. and Mrs. Moon as parents. They call it true parents, as parents who provide parental guidance or parental direction. That's what it meant to me. It meant nothing more and nothing less.

I'm not one to demand that every organization vocally denounce its fringes every time those fringes act up (especially not during this season of Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11), but I don't think it's naive of me to expect a stronger denial.

Also, I'm worried that if "providing parental guidance" gets you a crown now, my mom's gonna want one.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The kids in third period AP Government and Politics class had a good laugh over this from USA Today:
The latest draft of the [Bush administration's "Greater Middle East"] proposal says ''change should not and cannot be imposed from the outside.''

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Every time I read an article (link via A&L Daily) about Christianity, deism, and the Founding Fathers, I look for reference to the so-called Jefferson Bible, which is the most convincing evidence I've seen of Jefferson's lack of faith.

Jefferson's "cut-and-paste" gospel makes no reference to any supernatural activity (i.e. virgin birth, resurrection, afterlife) and includes only the moral teachings bits.

The line between deism and Christianity is not quite as blurry as many modern Christian supporters of the Founding Fathers may believe.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: When talk at work (at a public library in North Carolina) turns to politics, I get a chance to hear the political opinions of people who aren’t political junkies, that is to say, the opinions of the people who will actually decide the coming election. Getting the political temperature of the man on the street is both refreshing and discouraging. Here’s what people are saying outside the blogosphere:

Scott: High school senior, planning to enlist in the Marines after graduation.

Nick Berg was warned. He was offered a free ride home, and he was the only one in his hotel who rejected offers of military guard. They told him that if he went out in the city by himself, something would happen, and something happened.

Afghanistan was justified, because they attacked our country, but Iraq was just going too far, I think. That’s my opinion.

Julie: housewife, two young kids.

My husband thinks that we should just carpet bomb a city or two, and that would fix everything. I don’t think that makes any sense.

I don’t understand why we went there, what made us think that we could win this war like another war. We can’t win with the military, because these people have been raised that the way to get to heaven, they purpose for life, is to kill an infidel. It’s a war of opinion, and no matter how many troops or bombs we put in there, it’ll just be a waste of money. It’s their whole culture, and we can’t fight that the way we’re fighting things now.

Those people who were tortured, they were violated, and they’re going to feel like that for the rest of their lives. No amount of money is going to fix that. If Bush thinks he’s getting reelected, he’s wrong. No one’s going to reelect him after something like the torture pictures.

Cheryl: librarian.
I don’t really keep up with things, but when I saw what they did to Nicholas Berg, I . . . just an emotional reaction, I want them to use a bomb. One of the really big, long ones. The Sea of Iraq.

Mary: librarian.
I sympathize with the Iraqi people, but what I want is for those Iraqi clerics, the religious leaders over there, to stand up and condemn terrorism. Until they do that . . . well, they really need to stand up, because they’re the ones in control over there.

Helen Rittelmeyer: I took the AP test in Comparative Government yesterday, and to study for it, I've been watching Prime Minister's questions on C-SPAN2.

"Question time" on May 5, for the first twenty-five minutes, was filled mostly with questions on weighty issues like the war in Iraq, health care, and education reform.

Then came Bob Blizzard (Waveney), who had something even more important to talk about:
Now that there are record numbers of teachers in our schools and an unprecedentedly high level of pupil achievement, may we think about those who ensure that our children can cross the road safely to get to school? Will my right honorable Friend pay tribute to school safety crossing patrol officers, who do such valuable work in looking after our children? Is he aware that some of them are little better off than they would have been had they stayed on benefits, which could be rectified if they received a higher level of earnings disregard? Will he look into that so that our lollipop men and women can be rightly rewarded?

At least Blizzard could be understood, which is more than I can say for some of the Scottish MP's whose accents render their quesitons incomprehensible to American ears.

Video available at C-SPAN.org.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: The education crisis in Zimbabwe is, apparently, now over.

That's good, because it was getting pretty silly, and uncomfortably familiar.

The story is that the government ordered 45 private schools to be shut down and their principals and teachers arrested because they had raised their fees without government approval. (Law in Zimbabwe requires that any private school fee increase greater than 10% be approved by the government.) School leaders, however, claim that the Education Ministry is slow to grant permission for hikes.

The frighteningly familiar part is this: the government of Zimbabwe says that fee hikes at the schools were racist. The only reason for the private schools raising the price of education, they say, was to keep black students out. That's why they ordered the schools closed. To stop the racists.

For myself, I think that 580% inflation in Zimbabwe is a much better explanation, and most teachers and students at the 45 private schools agree.

Making accusations of racial discrimination for political purposes? Who does Mugabe think he is, Tom DeLay?

The New York Times has given this story only a couple of blurbs in its daily World Briefing (right next to, no joke, a story about the death of Max, the South African crime-fighting gorilla), maybe because we get enough of this problem at home. Complaints that high college tuition is what keeps economically disadvantaged students from going to college continue, and so do the accusations of racism in the education system, accusations that lead to affirmative action policies and silly essays claiming that affirmative action in university admissions allows white students at Ivy League schools to "understand themselves to be there on merit because they didn't get there at the expense of black people." (On behalf of all the white students admitted to Ivy League schools this year, then, thank you. I, for one, was really worried that I had stolen those points on my perfect SAT scores from the black kid next to me, and that all those A's I got were simply to perpetuate teachers' racial stereotypes. It's a load off my mind.) People in America and Zimbabwe both seem to see schools as being either diverse or racist, when, in fact, schools that are true meritocracies (America, in a perfect world) or admit purely on ability to pay (Zimbabwe) are sometimes neither. In any case, saying that a private school discriminates against poor people is like accusing Harvard of discriminating against stupid people.

Maybe Zimbabwe should just do what Rwanda has done and outlaw ethnicity altogether. Maybe America should do the same.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Brian Weatherson over at Crooked Timber responds to this New York Times quote about Massachusetts and the death penalty . . .
One of the major recommendations is raising the bar for a death penalty sentence from the normal legal standard of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” to a finding of “no doubt about the defendant’s guilt.”

. . . by explaining that, finally, philosophers might be good for something:
When you deliberately omit a qualifying phrase, it is clear you mean to include things that don’t satisfy the qualifier. E.g.

A: Are there any enrolled students in X’s seminar?
B: There are no students in X’s seminar.

In this case, B’s claim clearly means there are no students, enrolled or not enrolled, in X’s seminar. So when Massachusetts deliberately drops the qualifier ‘reasonable’ from the standards, they clearly mean to say that the standard of guilt is that there are no doubts, reasonable or unreasonable, about the defendent’s guilt.

And that’s where the philosophers come in. We may not have many practical uses, but we can come up with unreasonable doubts at the drop of a hat. Are you sure the defendent intentionally killed the victim? Well, are you sure there are such things as intentions at all? Indeed, are you sure that other people exist? Are you sure you’re not a brain in a vat? Or being deceived by an evil demon? On the most plausible young earth creationist story I know, the earth was created as is when I woke up this morning, which would seem to tell against the guilt of all those accused of crimes before today.

One commenter put it best, saying that the new standard of proof is "like the famous amplifier volume control that goes all the way up to 11."

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: David Brooks gets in on the sex-as-economics analysis act that's, clearly, been around for a while.

Helen Rittelmeyer: The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Rumsfeld v. Padilla only just last week, but already other countries are learning from our example.

Thailand, specifically through Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasah Phuangketkeow, is defending the military action (dare we call it a massacre?) against Muslims in the southern provinces by saying, "We expressed regret for the high death toll, but it was an action that had to be taken given the fact that the operation took place in such a swift manner."

General Sunthorn Kraikwan might as well have been citing Ex Parte Quirin when he said, "The militants had a clear intention to stock up firearms for their separatist operations. This is a serious matter. It's a threat to national security." A threat to national security from teenagers and young men, the overwhelming majority of which were armed with only machetes, and some thirty of which were inside the Pattani mosque when they were killed by rocket-propelled grenades.

The Thais are defending the killing of, among others, an entire Muslim village soccer team, by saying that they were "Islamic militants" with "ties to Al Qaeda," but have not offered any evidence to prove this claim. Replace "Islamic militants" with "enemy combatants," and, hey, is there an echo in here?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Captain: I'll let you have the last word on that, but I simply have to disagree that the 416-3 vote in the house is indicative of what you believe it to be indicative of. After all, Kristof wasn't talking about the House, or even government; he was speaking about a very narrow sector of the public.

I would agree with you that political discrimination against Christians is hardly a problem. But I do agree with what seemed to be to be Kristof's general point--among many, especially the left, there is an unreasonable intolerance and spite toward Christian America. That doesn't have to manifest itself as political discrimination to be true.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer:
"Conservative Christians" by definition are those who "try to impose their Ten Commandment plaques, sexual mores, and creationism on society." If they didn't, they wouldn't be conservative Christians, not as the term is understood today.

Alright, it's not the O.E.D., or even American Heritage, but I draw the definition from reality: Kristof was complaining about the hostility of the Left towards "conservative Christians," and while I don't know exactly which Christians Mr. Kristof means to include in that, the ones who "try to impose, etc." are the only ones against whom I see any hostility. If you include Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian who tries to lead others to voluntarily accept the word of God, then Kristof would be talking about a problem that doesn't exist. Prejudice against those Christians just does not exist in the mainstream, despite what Cristina Odone has to say (full quote: "The chattering classes - educated men and women who are comfortably off, rise with the 'quality' media and retire after some dinner-party philosophising - pride themselves on being tolerant, sensible and humane. Yet they share one prejudice that turns them into rabid persecutors: Christians." I think "rabid persecutors" is rather strong language).

There's plenty of evidence that that particular intolerance is nonexistent and that my definition of "conservative Christian," in the context of Kristof's article, is valid: the day after the Ninth Circuit released its ruling on the Newdow Pledge of Allegiance, the Senate voted unanimously to affirm the wording as it stands now, with "under God." The House passed a similar resolution the next day with a vote of 416 to three. To three. Also, organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes exist in public schools with, in my experience, no complaint from the Left.

You say that "Christians can evangelize all they like on their own time and dime," and that's all that I, and many others, ask.

And, I think, something the Left is more than willing to grant.

Christians can evangelize all they like on their own time and dime, and any liberal who truly believes in free speech will say the same.

I stand by what I said, that liberals don't mind Right-Wing Christians making use of their free speech and free exercise rights to evangelize. Well, they might mind insomuch as they don't like it, would really rather not hear it, disagree with it, find it irritating during supper, or get a good laugh out of it if they're particularly cynical, but that doesn't mean that they are going to use inappropriate means to try and put a stop to it (more than I can say for the Right's attitude towards homosexuality, if I may bring that up one more time already), or, as Kristof alleges, that they "blithely dismiss conservative Christians as 'Jesus freaks' or 'fanatics.'"

I think the Captain is mistaken, then, when he says:
Kristof gets it wrong, though, when he narrowly defines the stigmatized group as "right-wing" or "conservative Christians," because it seems to me he's speaking of all Christians in general.

I would challenge you to find evidence of mainstream liberalism discriminating against Christians in general, rather than just those on the far Right. Kristof offers the one about Ted Turner, but it's very important to note that Turner later apologized. Besides: 1) The "Christianity is a religion for losers" comment dates from over a decade ago, 1989 to be precise, 2) The Ash Wednesday remark is a greater sign of Mr. Turner's anti-Catholic bias than anti-Christian bias, since Catholics were a distinct minority in the South when he was growing up, and the Ash Wednesday thing was one custom that definitely set them apart from everyone else, 3) Mr. Turner is hardly an oracle of prevailing liberal wisdom, and 4) It was shortly after and partly because Jane Fonda found Jesus that she left him, so perhaps we can forgive Mr. Turner a little animosity.

The other example of anti-Christian bias Kristof cites, the t-shirt saying "So Many Right-Wing Christians . . . So Few Lions," specifically singles out Right-Wing Christians for its humor.

Kristof says secular America views right-wing Christians with contempt, which leads to intolerance and stereotyping against Christian conservatives in general. First of all, disagreement and intolerance are two different things, and while I've seen a lot of the former, I've yet to see any of the latter directed at conservative Christians by the Left. The Left certainly hasn't gone so far as to tell right-wing Christians that they're going to writhe in eternal hellfire. At least, as far as I know.

That the tone of debate in this country is sensationalistic and dumbed-down is no news. It certainly isn't confined to this particular battle in the culture war, so I don't think we can blame either side of this particular debate for it. It's a larger societal ill, bigger than the both of them.

You say that "To be a Christian means to be an evangelical," and you reference Matthew 28:19, but that introduces the theological argument of whether you can be a good Christian without following every word of the Bible, to the letter. I don't really want to open that can of worms, but I will say that I know many Christians who are not actively evangelical, but still serious about their faith.

As for the complaint of evangelicals being the subject of mockery, I'll mock anybody. Trouble comes when they don't have a sense of humor about it, or when I'm just not funny, and my jokes are stupid. But I certainly don't discriminate among Islam, Christianity or Judaism, although I will admit that I have a greater tendency to mock those who take themselves too seriously.

Captain: Libertaria writes:

"Conservative Christians" by definition are those who "try to impose their Ten Commandment plaques, sexual mores and creationism on society." If they didn't, they wouldn't be conservative Christians, not as the term is understood today. (There are those who are both conservative and Christian who do not fit this description, but that's like the difference between having a girl as a friend and having a girlfriend; being conservative and Christian is not the same as being a "conservative Christian," and if this becomes the heart of the argument, then we just need to clear up our semantics.)

And what dictionary did you pull that out of, exactly? The semantics need to be cleared because your semantics are unclear. This disclaimer would be much more useful at the beginning of the diatribe, as I was beginning to become offended.

I also think you're wrong about Kristof being mistaken when he says "Saying that one will tolerate evangelicals who do not evangelize - well, that's like Christians saying they have nothing against gays who remain celibate."

Perhaps Kristof isn't being clear, either, but rereading the piece, it doesn't seem to me that he's talking about the brand of Christian who believes that the law should be used to enforce the more particular tenets of the Ten Commandments--although that's certainly a large chunk of the group of whom he writes. (In the same paragraph, he obliquely references Roy Moore, the judge who refused to take down the Ten Commandments statue).

But that particular paragraph is about a much larger group--evangelicals. You don't have to be conservative to be an evangelical, but chances are, if you're an evangelical, you are a conservative. To be an evangelical means to follow the Great Commission: "Go, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matt. 28:19). I describe myself as an evangelical.

You say that "Christians can evangelize all they like on their own time and dime," and that's all that I, and many others, ask. Many do wish to evangelize through the government, and I don't commend that, but that's not what Kristof is talking about. Kristof is writing about social evangelicals--those who believe that dissemination of the Gospels is a personal mission, which, if you believe Matthew 28:19 is.

And that's the heart of Kristof's analogy: To be a Christian means to be an evangelical, and if you challenge that, you're challenging the entire foundation of the religion itself. It is something that deserves not to be dismissed.

Kristof gets it wrong, though, when he narrowly defines the stigmatized group as "right-wing" or "conservative Christians," because it seems to me he's speaking of all Christians in general. Look at his examples:

On the other hand, the left seems more contemptuous than ever of evangelicals. Sensitive liberals who avoid expressions like "ghetto blaster," because that might be racially offensive, blithely dismiss conservative Christians as "Jesus freaks" or "fanatics."

Take Ted Turner. He has called Christianity a "religion for losers" and once ridiculed CNN employees observing Ash Wednesday as "Jesus freaks." Later, he apologized.

Can you be a liberal "Jesus freak?" Surely, and you would still be on that particular end of the culture war Kristof describes.

I think his underlying point is right, by the way. Can you really in good conscience write that conservative Christians "deserve to be mocked?" This isn't the Middle Ages, anymore, Christians don't have a hegemonistic control over America. At some times, in some places, it's actually quite hard to be a Christian. At some times, in some places, it's actually quite hard to be a Muslim, Jew, or atheist. But it's not right to mock Muslims (even if you're in Iran) and it's not right to mock Christians (even if you're in America, or, hell, the Vatican). If you accept one and not the other, I do not understand.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Nicholas Kristof's op-ed piece today ("Hug an Evangelical") charges that conservative Christians are "among the last groups it's still acceptable to mock." Perhaps, I might say, because they deserve it.

Kristof says:
There's also an odd lack of intellectual curiousity within the secular left about the Christian right. After 9/11, intellectuals rushed out to buy books about Islam. But on many campuses, it's easier to find poeple tho can discuss the Upanishads than the "Left Behind" books about Jesus' Second Coming - which, with more than 40 million copies, are the best-selling American novels of our age.

The comparison between sacred Hindu texts and a faddish series of pop novels is hard to swallow, first of all, but, more importantly, the larger point about diminished interest in Christianity may be untrue. Yale University's Directed Studies, a freshman humanities program, includes substantial readings from Aquinas, Augustine, and the Bible. In my (admittedly limited) experience, in fact, the agnostic students I know at Yale read more Aquinas than any of the Bible Belt preachers I've met.

Christianity, clearly, is being taken as seriously as it always has. It's simply right-wing Christians, the ones who take all their wisdom from selectively chosen Bible passages, who consider the Bible (and therefore themselves?) to be infallible, who think that without the Ten Commandments no one would know that killing is wrong, who think the cute guys on Queer as Folk are going to Hell, that are the subject of mockery. It's almost hard to imagine why.

It is fair enough for Kristof to say that criticism of the Christian Right does not have the tone it should have, and that it too often degenerates into name-calling and mockery (see above paragraph for an example):
Of course, it's fair to criticize the Christian right's policies. Regular readers know I do so all the time, for religion is much too important an influence on policy to be a taboo. For example, while we're on the subject of gay marriage, one question for fundamentalist Christians is this: What's your basis for opposing lesbianism?

Granted, the Bible denounces male homosexuality, although it strikes me as inconsistent not to execute people who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2) and not to crack down on those who get haircuts (Leviticus 19:27) or wear clothes with more than one kind of thread (Leviticus 19:19).

But there's no clear objection in the Bible to lesbianism at all. And since some fundamentalists have argued that AIDS is God's punishment for gay men, it's worth noting that lesbians are at less risk of AIDS than straight women. So if God is smiting gay men for their sin, is he rewarding lesbians for their holiness?

Those kinds of pointed questions are fair, but sneering is not.

I'll accept that religious conservatives should be allowed their opinions, and allowed to voice them where and when they can. But to ask that we take them seriously is simply too much.

Not to say that religion is ridiculous, certainly, simply that so much of the Christian Right's rhetoric sounds absurd to sensible ears. Take Jon Stewart's response to a clip in which Mel Gibson complains of the attacks he has suffered for The Passion:
Making a pro-Jesus movie in America. You're really going out on a limb there, Mel. Somewhere Salman Rushdie is playing the world's smallest sitar just for you.

And this from P.J. O'Rourke on the perils of seriousness:
Seriousness lends force to bad arguments. If a person is earnest enough about what he says, he must have some point. There's a movement in some of our school systems to give creationists equal time in science class. Man was plopped down on earth the week before last, one rib short on the left, and because silly people are serious about this so are we.

Okay, so neither of those humor bits are on the same level as, say, F.A. Hayek (although, to be fair, Hayek here is talking about socialism and economic planning, not the religious right):
We are not concerned here with the question whether it would be desirable to have such a complete ethical code. It may merely be pointed out that up to the present the growth of civilization has been accompanied by a steady diminution of the sphere in which individual actions are bound by fixed rules. The rules of which our common moral code consists have progressively become fewer and more general in character. From the primitive man, who was bound by an elaborate ritual in almost every one of him daily activities, who was limited by innumerable taboos, and who could scarcely conceive of doing things in a way different from his fellows, morals have more and more tended to become merely limits circumscribing the sphere within which the individual could behave as he liked.

But dealing with Christian radicals by calmly quoting scripture back at them is almost giving them too much credit. It is not "a crude stereotype," as Kristof says, that conservative Christians are "led by hypocritical blowhards who try to impose their Ten Commandment plaques, sexual mores and creationism on society." "Conservative Christians" by definition are those who "try to impose their Ten Commandment plaques, sexual mores and creationism on society." If they didn't, they wouldn't be conservative Christians, not as the term is understood today. (There are those who are both conservative and Christian who do not fit this description, but that's like the difference between having a girl as a friend and having a girlfriend; being conservative and Christian is not the same as being a "conservative Christian," and if this becomes the heart of the argument, then we just need to clear up our semantics.)

Also, Kristof, I think, misunderstands one of the Left's major complaints about the Christian Right:
Saying that one will tolerate evangelicals who do not evangelize - well, that's like Christians saying they have nothing against gays who remain celibate.

Christians can evangelize all they like on their own time and dime, and any liberal who truly believes in free speech will say the same. It's when they start to use the government to enforce their own personal rules of conduct that the libertarian in me becomes upset. It isn't that they evangelize, it's that they use the state to do it.

To end this quote-heavy post on one from the unassailable Puritan himself, John Milton:
Is it just or reasonable, that most voices against the main end of government should enslave the less number that would be free? More just it is, doubtless, if it come to force, that a less number compel a
greater to retain, which can be no wrong to them, their liberty, than that a greater number, for the pleasure of their baseness, compel a less most injuriously to be their fellow slaves. They who seek nothing but their own liberty, have always the right to win it, whenever they have the power, be the voices never so numerous that oppose it.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: There has been much speculation (here, here, here, and elsewhere) as to whether democracy is at all compatible with Middle Eastern Islam. In Tuesday's primetime press conference, Bush got it wrong:

It's a legacy that really is based upon our deep belief that people want to be free and that free societies are peaceful societies.

Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that.

I reject that. Because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

. . .

I believe so strongly in the power of freedom.

You know why I do? Because I've seen freedom work right here in our own country. I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that freedom is not "the deepest need of every human soul," and it has absolutely nothing to do with skin color.

Take, for example, Liang Qichao and Chinese democracy:

Democracy was introduced to China almost single-handedly by an exiled Chinese writer named Liang Qichao. In 1895, he was involved in protests in Beijing calling for increased participation in government by the Chinese people. It was the first protest of its kind in modern Chinese history. Escaping to Japan after the government crackdown on anti-Qing protesters, he translated and commented on the works of Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Hume, Bentham and many more western political philosophers. He published his essays in a series of journals that easily found an audience among Chinese intelligentsia hungering for an explanation of why China, once a formidable empire of its own, was now on the verge of being dismembered by foreign powers. In interpreting Western democracy through the prism of his strongly Confucian background, Liang shaped the ideas of democracy that would be used throughout the next century.

Unlike the Western theorists he studied, Liang felt that there was no difference between the individual interests and public interests; individual citizens were granted rights in order to better strengthen the state. There was no need for individual rights in the Western sense, whose purpose was to protect the individual from the government.

Clearly, the individualistic democratic spirit that Bush considers universal and obvious was anything but, even to a man who translated and studied the works of Locke and Rousseau and is considered the father of democracy in China.

Also, the longevity of absolute monarchy (and, for that matter, a powerful Catholic church) in Europe and the difficulty most countries had in getting real democracy off the ground (I'm looking at you, France) suggests, at least to me, that the real trouble wasn't the corruption of opportunistic "reformers" but simply that most people don't have the particular passion for liberty that Bush, Patriot Act notwithstanding, does.

At the risk of waxing too philosophical, I'd say that "the deepest need of every human soul" is not always freedom, but sometimes comfort, and democracy is not always comfortable, as anyone who has seen Robert Byrd on CSPAN can tell you. This is not to say that no one puts freedom as their first priority, only that not everyone does. Sometimes cultural influence can be the deciding factor.

When a person analyzes a foreign culture, he has to tread a fine line between gullibly believing every cultural stereotype and callously thinking that foreigners can’t possibly be all that different from himself. No, not every single Chinese person is obsessed with “family honor” and Confucian ideals, but there are deep and fundamental differences between East and West, and underestimating those differences is, among other things, profoundly disrespectful.

Democracy in the Middle East isn’t impossible, but Bush doesn’t seem to realize just how fundamental the change he’s proposing is. Even if we are able to perfectly recreate in Iraq the kind of freedom-loving atmosphere we have in the United States, it still wouldn't guarantee a successfull democracy, as experiments like "The Wave" prove.

Saying that everyone in the world, deep down, agrees with your political philosophy, even if it's one as great as democracy, is, frankly, either naïveté or hubris.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Captain: Here is part of Ashcroft's testimony before the Commission:

The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this wall. Government buttressed this wall. And before September 11, government was blinded by this wall.

In 1995, the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required. The 1995 Guidelines and the procedures developed around them imposed draconian barriers to communications between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. The wall "effectively excluded" prosecutors from intelligence investigations. The wall left intelligence agents afraid to talk with criminal prosecutors or agents. In 1995, the Justice Department designed a system destined to fail.

In the days before September 11, the wall specifically impeded the investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. After the FBI arrested Moussaoui, agents became suspicious of his interest in commercial aircraft and sought approval for a criminal warrant to search his computer. The warrant was rejected because FBI officials feared breaching the wall.

When the CIA finally told the FBI that al-Midhar and al-Hazmi were in the country in late August, agents in New York searched for the suspects. But because of the wall, FBI Headquarters refused to allow criminal investigators who knew the most about the most recent al Qaeda attack to join the hunt for the suspected terrorists.

At that time, a frustrated FBI investigator wrote Headquarters, quote, "Whatever has happened to this — someday someone will die — and wall or not — the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain 'problems'. Let's hope the National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decision then, especially since the biggest threat to us, UBL, is getting the most protection."

FBI Headquarters responded, quote: "We are all frustrated with this issue ... These are the rules. NSLU does not make them up."

But somebody did make these rules. Someone built this wall.

The basic architecture for the wall in the 1995 Guidelines was contained in a classified memorandum entitled "Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations." The memorandum ordered FBI Director Louis Freeh and others, quote: "We believe that it is prudent to establish a set of instructions that will more clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued, criminal investigations. These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation."

This memorandum established a wall separating the criminal and intelligence investigations following the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the largest international terrorism attack on American soil prior to September 11. Although you understand the debilitating impact of the wall, I cannot imagine that the Commission knew about this memorandum, so I have declassified it for you and the public to review. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that its author is a member of this Commission. . . .

Instapundit links to Mitch Berg's take on said author, Jamie Gorelick:

John Ashcroft shredded the 9/11 commission yesterday, all but dragging Jamie Gorelick from behind the rostrum by her hair and yelling "This woman wrote part of the policy that erected the wall between intelligence and prosecution", even declassifying one of Gorelick's memos (read: "smoking gun") which called for, as Ashcroft put it, "Draconian barriers" between the two parts of government most responsible for fighting the war before it became a military war.

So what did the media report? If anything, variations on "Ashcroft on the defensive", and "The FBI blew it".

Never - not in one account I've read so far, and I've read a bunch - did they read "One of the inquisitors on the 9/11 commission was a key architect of the system that made the FBI and CIA's job completely impossible." Not one example of "This commission's work is fatally compromised" - as they would if Gorelick had been a Republican, and the President a Democrat.

Well, what a mess. Instapundit also collects the blogosphere's take on Gorelick's presence on the Commission.

Captain: The Wall Street Journal has this article about the Jersey Girls, a foursome of 9/11 widows who spend their time lambasting the current administration:

A fair number of the Americans not working in the media may, on the other hand, by now be experiencing Jersey Girls Fatigue--or taking a hard look at the pronouncements of the widows. Statements like that of Monica Gabrielle, for example (not one of the Jersey Girls, though an activist of similar persuasion), who declared that she could discern no attempt to lessen the casualties on Sept. 11. What can one make of such a description of the day that saw firefighters by the hundreds lose their lives in valiant attempts to bring people to safety from the burning floors of the World Trade Center--that saw deeds like that of Morgan Stanley's security chief, Rick Rescorla, who escorted 2,700 employees safely out of the South Tower, before he finally lost his own life?

But the best known and most quoted pronouncement of all had come in the form of a question put by the leader of the Jersey Girls. "We simply wanted to know," Ms. Breitweiser said, by way of explaining the group's position, "why our husbands were killed. Why they went to work one day and didn't come back."

The answer, seared into the nation's heart, is that, like some 3,000 others who perished that day, those husbands didn't come home because a cadre of Islamist fanatics wanted to kill as many of the hated American infidels in their tall towers and places of government as they could, and they did so. Clearly, this must be a truth also known to those widows who asked the question--though in no way one would notice.

At another point in the article:

Others who had lost family to the terrorists' assault commanded little to no interest from TV interviewers. Debra Burlingame--lifelong Democrat, sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, captain of American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, did manage to land an interview after Ms. Rice's appearance. When she had finished airing her views critical of the accusatory tone and tactics of the Jersey Girls, her interviewer, ABC congressional reporter Linda Douglass marveled, "This is the first time I've heard this point of view."

We talked about the pathetic job that the 9/11 Commission is doing in Social Justice Club. I may be mistaken, but I think the general consensus is that the issue at hand is not who's to blame, but what the holes were in our security that allowed this to happen and fix them. Instead, the issue has been so inflamed by the media and the members of the commission itself that it's a foregone conclusion.

Captain: What would the economic system of anarchy be except Capitalism? Wouldn't that be the freest market imaginable?

Helen Rittelmeyer: North Carolina's PBS station, UNC-TV, decided on Monday to pull this documentary of Emma Goldman, the woman who became "the Queen of the Anarchists" by lecturing against capitalism, getting thrown in jail, and defending Leon Czolgosz, the man who assassinated President William McKinley.

The reason for the cancellation? Not Goldman's politics, but her breasts.

This from the Raleigh News & Observer:

UNC-TV decided to pull a documentary on Goldman's life because of a scene re-creation showing Goldman's lover, Alexander Berkman, undoing the front of her chemise. The documentary, part of the long-running "American Experience" series, was supposed to air at 9 p.m. Monday.

I suppose we can forgive UNC-TV for being skittish in a post-Janet-Jackson world, but cancelling a documentary about a controversial political activist because of "a flashed nipple" is pretty absurd. One wonders what Goldman herself would have thought.

To give a flavor of Goldman's politics, here are some excerpts from her interview with Nellie Bly in 1893, when Goldman was twenty-five:

"We are all egotists. There are some that, if asked why they are Anarchists, will say, 'for the good of the people.' It is not true, and I do not say it. I am an Anarchist because I am a egotist. It pains me to see others suffer. I cannot bear it. I never hurt a man in my life, and I don't think I could. So, because what others suffer makes me suffer, I am an Anarchist and give my life for the cause, for only through it can be ended all suffering and want and unhappiness."

"I kept myself in poverty buying books. I have a library of nearly three hundred volumes, and so long as I had something to read I did not mind hunger or shabby clothes."

"In our free schools every child would have a chance to learn and pursue that for which it has ability. Can you imagine the number of children to-day, children of poor parents, who are born with ability for music or painting, or letters, whose abilities lie dormant for the lack of means and the necessity to work for their daily bread as soon as they are out of their cradles."

"Take the woman who marries for a home and for fine clothes. She goes to the man with a lie on her lips. Still she will not let her skirts touch the poor unfortunate upon the street who deceives no man, but is to him just what she appears! Do away with marriage. Let there be nothing but volutary affection and there ceases to exist the prostitute wife and the prostitute street woman."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Captain: Instapundit links to this article about anti-free-speech legislation in the Great White North.

'Canada is a pleasantly authoritarian country," Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said a few years ago. An example of what he means is Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the "Bible as Hate Literature" bill, or simply "the chill bill." It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups. The bill has a loophole for religious opposition to homosexuality, but few scholars think it will offer protection, given the strength of the gay lobby and the trend toward censorship in Canada. Law Prof. David Bernstein, in his new book You Can't Say That! wrote that "it has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex." Or traditional Jewish or Muslim opposition, too.

Since Canada has no First Amendment, anti-bias laws generally trump free speech and freedom of religion. A recent flurry of cases has mostly gone against free expression. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission ruled that a newspaper ad listing biblical passages that oppose homosexuality was a human-rights offense. The commission ordered the paper and Hugh Owens, the man who placed the ad, to pay $1,500 each to three gay men who objected to it. In another case, a British Columbia court upheld the one-month suspension, without pay, of a high school teacher who wrote letters to a local paper arguing that homosexuality is not a fixed orientation but a condition that can and should be treated. The teacher, Chris Kempling, was not accused of discrimination, merely of expressing thoughts that the state defines as improper.

The article goes on to talk about the threat this poses to serious discussion of the moral questions about homosexuality, especially in Canadian churches. In some places, such litigation already occurs.

Captain: I love this story about Davy Crockett.

One day in the House, a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The speaker was just about to put the question when Rep. David Crockett arose:
"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living.

"I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member on this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett said: "Several years ago, I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some members of Congress when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless. . . . The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done. A bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We rushed it through.

"The next summer, when riding one day in a part of my district. I saw a man in a field plowing. I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but rather coldly.

" 'You are Colonel Crockett. I shall not vote for you again.' "

"I begged him tell me what was the matter."

"'Well Colonel, you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. You voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by fire in Georgetown.

" 'Certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing treasury,' I replied."

"'It is not the amount, Colonel, it is the principle. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man. . . . You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'

" 'You have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.'

"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday. . . . You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men--men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people."

Friday, April 09, 2004

Dynamic Uno: Here's a nice story: Iraq's Olympic teams, which haven't won an medal in any Olympic event since 1960, are being revived with the rallying cry, "Iraq is back!" Awesome. I think this really puts things in perspective when you consider that Iraqi Olympic athletes used to be brutally tortured by Uday Hussein, and now they're optimistic and competitive. Even with the bad news coming from Iraq, we really can't ignore the numerous pieces of good news and or forget the ways Iraq is better off without Saddam and his sons. The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government also looks at how Iraq has come along a year after the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad.

On a related note, Amir Taheri (link via Betsy's Page) reminds us to stay strong in Iraq and holds that the attempts at an insurgency in Iraq are failing.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Captain: Here's an interesting story I plucked from the splendiferous Volokh Conspiracy:

Virginia Ormanian burned through most of her retirement savings playing slot machines in Detroit casinos last year -- something she should not have been allowed to do.

The 49-year-old gambling addict had voluntarily banned herself in August 2002 from the casinos through a state program that was supposed to keep her out.

"I was counting on the casinos to honor their contract," Ormanian said. "I had to get my life back together."

Now Ormanian and Norma Astourian are suing the casinos for breach of contract. They claim the gambling companies didn't enforce the rules of the "dissociated persons" list on which they placed themselves. . . .

A suit filed by Ormanian and Astourian against the Michigan Gaming Control Board was dismissed.

[David O. Stewart, a Washington, D.C., lawyer, who has defended gambling companies in self-exclusion and similar lawsuits, and advises the American Gaming Association,] said no plaintiff has yet to win such a lawsuit, but a verdict against the casinos could have repercussions . . . .

I'm no whiz-kid lawyer, but I think the solution's pretty simple. If the contract stipulated that the woman should not go into a casino as her part of the agreement, she's in breach of contract. If not, and it just says that the casino is responsible for keeping her out, then the casino is in breach of contract.

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