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Monday, October 31, 2005

More Alito Cases

I have to break this up a little, or Blogger gets ill. NPR has a selection of Alito cases at its website. The first one that really interested me was a First Amendment case out of Pennsylvania. You can read Pitt News here (pdf). NPR's summary:
In July 2004, the 3rd Circuit Court ruled that a Pennsylvania law prohibiting student newspapers from running ads for alcohol was unconstitutional. At issue was Act 199, an amendment to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code passed in 1996 that denied student newspapers advertising revenue from alcoholic beverages.

Alito said the law violated the First Amendment rights of the student newspaper, The Pitt News, from the University of Pittsburgh.

Opinion Excerpt: "If government were free to suppress disfavored speech by preventing potential speakers from being paid, there would not be much left of the First Amendment."
True. It's comforting that he takes it seriously. If you doubt what he is saying, consider a corresponding hypothetical: What if the PA legislature had tried to ban college newspapers from accepting ads from women's health clinics offering abortions and birth control, such as Planned Parenthood?

The decision is a good example because Alito wrote it and it is relatively short (17 pages). He writes clearly, analyzes the case carefully, and supports each of his determinations with appropriate precedent. This is consistent with the other decisions of his I have skimmed. So far I am very favorably impressed.

Next up a case on sex discrimination, Sheridan V. Dupont (txt) and Dingo's Fourth Amendment case, Doe V Groody (pdf, 20 pgs). Dingo thinks this case is terrible; a mother and a child were strip-searched during a search. I'll cover those later.

Ann Althouse writes of another mildly controversial decision I'll call Chittister:
This is stunningly well and concisely written and quite correct, though it is not the position the Court ultimately took in Nevada Department of Human Resources v Hibbs. I have a law review article on Hibbs, which you can read in PDF here. Alito took the position Justice Kennedy took in dissent in Hibbs. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion, which purported to apply Boerne and Kimel, but most certainly did not. You can argue that Boerne and Kimel were wrongly decided, but Alito was bound by them and duly and competently applied them. Anyone who tries to say that Alito is hostile to women's rights because of this decision is utterly wrong.
Alito is a very impressive jurist. I appreciate his logic, clarity and careful explication of the principles involved in these cases. I write compliance software for banks, and this sort of writing is a great aid to anyone who is trying to apply court decisions - a very important consideration for a Supreme Court Justice.

H5 Bird Flu Found In Canadian Samples

This doesn't mean it's H5N1, just that some wild birds in Canada are testing positive for H5 influenza. What's sort of irksome is that the Canadian government says it might not be able to complete testing to discover which strain of H5 they are carrying:
A national survey of wild migratory ducks has detected avian influenza. Preliminary results indicate that 28 of the positive reactions in Quebec and five in Manitoba were due to the H5 subtype. The Public Health Agency of Canada has determined that there is no information in these findings suggesting a new threat to human health.

The detection of H5 avian influenza is not unexpected: the virus is commonly seen in migratory bird populations around the world and various types and strains have been detected in North America over the last 30 years, with no impact on human health. The birds tested in this national survey were healthy, and there is no evidence of influenza-related illness among domestic or wild birds in the test areas.

Tests to confirm the H5 type and tests to determine the N type of the virus are ongoing. Definitive findings may not be possible if there is insufficient live virus remaining in the original samples. This analysis, which is being conducted at the National Centre for Foreign Animal Diseases in Winnipeg, will take up to a week.
Seek, and thou shalt find...

Dr. Niman of Recombinomics thinks that it is incredible that they can't tell which strain it is:
They are stalling. They can do a sequence on the HA cleavage site in hours. If the sequence contains RRRKKR then it is H5N1 from Asia. That sequence had never been isolated outside of Asia until the isolates in Europe were collected a few weeks ago.
I know poultry producers are worried about it down here.

Tommy - Squeezing It Out Of Them

I guess Tommy of Striving For Average found the weekend coverage on the Libby indictment uninformative, yet somehow inspirational.

I laughed hard. Good pictures, Tommy!

Patterico On Alito, Alito On O'Connor

Patterico analyzes Alito's dissent in Planned Parenthood V Casey (SC ruling) and Alito's dissent:
Judge Alito’s decision was well-reasoned, restrained, and respectful of precedent. He indicated no policy preference and wrote no memorable, fire-breathing lines in the dissent. He simply tried to apply the law as he understood it, with a proper respect for the difference between legislators (who make laws) and judges (who interpret and apply laws).
The amusing thing is that Alito quoted O'Connor extensively in assessing "undue burden":
A. Justice O’Connor has explained the meaning of the term “undue burden” in several abortion opinions. In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), she wrote that “an ‘undue burden’ has been found for the most part in situations involving absolute obstacles or severe limitations on the abortion decision.” She noted that laws held unconstitutional in prior cases involved statutes that “criminalized all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother,” inhibited ” ‘the vast majority of abortions after the first 12 weeks,’ ” or gave the parents of a pregnant minor an absolute veto power over the abortion decision. Id. (emphasis in original; citations omitted). She suggested that an “undue burden” would not be created by “a state regulation [that] may ‘inhibit’ abortions to some degree.” Id. She also suggested that there is no undue burden unless a measure has the effect of “substantially limiting access.” Id. at 463, 103 S.Ct. at 2509, quoting Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 688, 97 S.Ct. 2010, 2017, 52 L.Ed.2d 675 (1977) (emphasis added in Justice O’Connor’s opinion).

Justice O’Connor reiterated the same analysis in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747, 106 S.Ct. 2169 (1986). She wrote (id. at 828, 106 S.Ct. at 2214 (O’Connor, J., dissenting), quoting Akron, 462 U.S. at 464, 103 S.Ct. at 2510 (O’Connor, J., dissenting)):
An undue burden would generally be found “in situations involving absolute obstacles or severe limitations on the abortion decision,” not wherever a state regulation “may ‘inhibit’ abortions to some degree.”

She also criticized the majority for taking an approach under which “the mere possibility that some women will be less likely to choose to have an abortion by virtue of the presence of a particular state regulation suffices to invalidate it.” Id. 476 U.S. at 829, 106 S.Ct. at 2214 (emphasis added).
Justice O’Connor’s application of the undue burden test in several cases further illustrates the meaning of this test. In Hodgson, 110 S.Ct. at 2950-51, Justice O’Connor found that no undue burden was imposed by a law requiring notice to both parents or judicial authorization before a minor could obtain an abortion. Justice O’Connor reached this conclusion despite statistics adduced by Justice Marshall to show that mandatory parental notice may inhibit a significant percentage of minors from obtaining abortions (id. at 2953-54) (Marshall, J., dissenting) and despite the district court’s finding, noted in Justice Marshall’s dissent, that the judicial bypass option “so daunted” some minors that they felt compelled to carry to term (id. at 2959, quoting 648 F.Supp. at 763).
I know that all this is political. Still, it amuses me to think that a decision relying on O'Connor's legal interpretations in the matter of abortion will be cited as a reason why Alito is unfit to replace her.

Here's the dissent in the terrifying machine-gun case, courtesy Dingo. It's all about the Commerce Clause and Lopez - scroll down to the end to find his dissent.

NARAL is having a cow, but I find their arguments (pdf 3pgs ) unconvincing. They cite three cases. The second I have discussed above, but NARAL omits to quote the actual reasoning for his dissent so that you do not get the idea that he was quoting O'Connor. In the third they don't like the reasons why he supported abortion rights.
Alito also voted to strike down part of an anti‐choice state law, but the decision was based on administrative law not reproductive‐rights law. In Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women v. Knoll,10 Alito was part of a 2‐1 majority that invalidated two requirements of an anti‐choice Pennsylvania law which made it more difficult for low‐income women to receive funding for medically necessary abortion services. First, the court invalidated a requirement that a low‐income woman who is the victim of rape or incest report the crime to police, including the identity of the offender, in order to receive funding for her abortion. Second, the court invalidated a requirement that the fatal danger to a low‐income woman seeking an abortion as a result of a life‐endangering pregnancy must be certified by two doctors in order for her to receive funding for her care.
This I have to find, because it seems quite consistent with Alito's legal reasoning for writing the dissent in Planned Parenthood V Casey.

The first is similar - Alito concurred with the majority, but they don't like his legal reasoning for doing so:
In Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer,3 Alito specifically refused to join the court’s majority opinion, distancing himself from the legal reasoning that would have struck down the statute by applying Roe v. Wade4 and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.5 Alito makes clear that his concurrence is compelled solely by the Supreme Court’s decision in Stenberg v. Carhart,6 which found a nearly identical Nebraska law unconstitutional. Alito explains that Stenberg “dictates” the result in Farmer,7 but, by writing separately, Alito appears to believe that Roe and Casey did not require the same result. The health exception is a fundamental tenet of Roe v. Wade, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to revisit the constitutional requirement for the health exception this fall. Should Alito replace Sandra Day O’Connor, a fundamental right will likely be lost by next summer.
They seem to be complaining about which precedent he thought most important. Are you following me? The three cases forming the basis for their disapproval of Alito consist of two "pro-choice" concurrences and one dissent heavily based on O'Connor's own writings. On this basis, they have a flaming red banner across their website with the words "Stop Anti-Choice Alito". This is the letter they want you to send:
As your constituent, I am urging you to oppose the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

In choosing Samuel Alito, President Bush has caved to the demands of his right wing. Alito's record indicates a clear willingness to continue dismantling our constitutional freedoms. The American public deserves a nominee who can be counted on to uphold our rights - not take them away.
Personally, I'm concerned with a nominee who will enforce the actual wording of the Constitution. I think the American public is really concerned with someone who wouldn't agree with Raich and Kelo.

Sam Alito It Is

Well, that didn't take long. Sam Alito is the nominee for the Supreme Court, and he's "ethnically insensitive", and really, it's all about the war anyway, not to mention the Libby indictment:
"The Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
"It's a pretty predictable move from a politically crippled president," said Democratic consultant Jim Jordan. "Toss out a judicial extremist to pacify his base and provoke a fight that he hopes changes the subject away from indictments and Iraq and Katrina and a soft economy."
Ann Althouse thinks Sam Alito is a better pick than Roberts:
He has the impressive educational background followed by a stellar career before becoming a judge, but he also has a much longer record as a judge -- 15 years to Roberts's 2. I am glad to see Bush not shy away from a person with a real judicial record. The fear of putting up a nominee with actual cases to peruse puts too many fine candidates off limits. To see Roberts as the ideal nominee is to prefer a judicial mystery, someone who is hard to know and hard to attack. With Alito, we can read his cases. It will be important to recognize that an inferior court judge is profoundly limited compared to a Supreme Court justice, but the judicial record is still highly valuable.
Ann provides links and summaries of cases. Carl of No Oil For Pacifists is stuck on wide-eyed MoDo shock, complete with addled quotes. It's pretty funny.

ScotusBlog has a couple decent posts. Democratic Underground partially agrees with The Anchoress,: Miers was a fake-out ploy by the evil BusHitler team (okay, the Anchoress didn't come up with the evil BusHitler stuff).
42. Why didn't Harriet Myers get an up, or down, vote?
Just wondering...

Response to Reply #42
47. Um, she was a fake-out? Now we get the real nominee. Scalia-like.

Just a guess.
Their screams of agony are pitiful. They mourn Miers:
60. I don't think Meirs was a fake-out...

... I think Bush really wanted her. When the right wigged out, the Dems sat there laughing and singing "Ha ha, hoist by your own petard!" Jeez - this after Reid recommended her! Talk about short-sighted! Yeah, let's have some fun so that Bush has a rough time over Meirs.

So Meirs, with no support, pulled out, and now we get Alito.

Who is laughing now?
The only way to get your nominee onto the SCOTUS is to win the Presidency and have a majority in the Senate. Until that happens, the progressive wing needs to learn how to cut losses, not recreate Custer's last stand. Over and over again.
and call for a filibuster:
1. Start the filibuster now
Refer to the nomination as "dead in the water". No point in even discussing the nomination. No point in even delving into the personal/professional history of Alito. It's all moot. He won't serve on the Supreme Court, so there's no need to even discuss the issue. Start the filibuster now.

I am listing some decisions etc over at this post, which I will keep updating. Dingo (who hates him) has some links to decisions as well here.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Join The Marines

Soldier's Angel - Holly Aho is coordinating the Marine segment of blogs raising funds for Project Valour-IT. From November 2nd to the 11th (Veteran's Day), the drive is to raise funds for voice-activated laptops for the use of soldiers who have lost the use of an arm or hand through amputation or injury.

You can donate either by mail or by PayPal. See the donations page. Mine is going in by mail with a dedication to Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr of the Marines, who wrote these words in a letter he left on his laptop:
Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.
As Holly points out, she is not one of the big blogs, so a joint effort is required. But that's okay - the Marines are known for doing a lot with a little.

Just A Quick Check

I'm trying to figure out if Blogger just doesn't like the words "Project Valour" in a post heading or if it won't let me post any new posts.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Anchoress, Unchained

The Anchoress authors one of the best essays I have seen on our current cultural morass:
Believing that the rest of us, now disillusioned, are no longer clinging to romantic ideals of honor, or truth or nobility, these always-restless First Children, devoted to deconstruction, believe they are about to take down the presidency, the churches, the “old” government and even the “old” media. They expect to put into place something “brand new.” But believe me when I tell you what they are building is older than dirt. And up from it. Which is why they will need their fortresses. Castro lives in one, too.

They’ve been practicing all of this, by the way, perfecting the Art of the Painless Coup so thoroughly that most ordinary folks do not even realize what has occur(r)ed.

Over the past 40 years these hyperactive First Children have been pulling off small scale coups with varying levels of success. They managed to deconstruct the academies, so that education is less a broadening of knowledge than a narrowing of perspective. They have deconstructed the liturgy to insist that a pantomime in clownface is a vast improvement over 2000 year-old sacrament and liturgy. They have deconstructed government by constructing something so huge and unweildly that nothing coming out of it is reliable or dependable, and almost no one is accountable, either. They have deconstructed the press to the point where the truth of a story is less important than how it may be framed and spun. They have deconstructed the idea of fascism to mean “those democracies in Israel and America” rather than the freedom-suppressing regimes which surround them.
That's just a taste. Read it.

Three Blasts Hit New Delhi

Turkish Press:
Powerful explosions ripped through crowded market areas in New Delhi moments apart, killing at least 16 people as shoppers in the Indian capital were gearing up for a major Hindu holiday.

More than 60 people were reported injured by the blasts, which hit the popular Paharganj bazaar area popular with locals and Western budget tourists as well as the Gole and Sarojini Nagar markets.
The Press Trust of India said at least 16 people had been killed and more than 60 people were wounded. Local television channels said at least 25 people were dead.

The blasts came a little more than two weeks after the US embassy in New Delhi issued a public warning about possible terrorist attacks in the Indian capital and other cities, including suicide bombings.
Reports from the scene said that many children had been injured. The Hindu festival is Diwali.

NY Times VS Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr

What can one say about the NY Times? I used to read it. I read it through college. I read it after. I don't read it any more, because I can never tell whether I am getting news or what the NY Times editorial board feels the news ought to be.

A case in point (and a glaring one) is the NY Times' version of Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr's life and death. Corporal Starr left a letter on his laptop, knowing that it would be his last words if he were killed. He was killed.
Consider it his epitaph, if you will.

The NY Times felt the need to edit his epitaph, and his uncle wrote to Michelle Malkin to set the record straight, who did, writing:
Last night, I received a letter from Corporal Starr's uncle, Timothy Lickness. He wanted you to know the rest of the story--and the parts of Corporal Starr's letter that the Times failed to include.
And here's what they didn't include, according to Corporal Starr's uncle:
Yesterday's New York Times on-line edition carried the story of the 2000 Iraq US military death[s]. It grabbed my attention as the picture they used with the headline was that of my nephew, Cpl Jeffrey B. Starr, USMC.

Unfortunately they did not tell Jeffrey's story. Jeffrey believed in what he was doing. He [was] willing put his life on the line for this cause. Just before he left for his third tour of duty in Iraq I asked him what he thought about going back the third time. He said: "If we (Americans) don't do this (free the Iraqi people from tyranny) who will? No one else can."

Several months after Jeffrey was killed his laptop computer was returned to his parents who found a letter in it that was addressed to his girlfriend and was intended to be found only if he did not return alive. It is a most poignant letter and filled with personal feelings he had for his girlfriend. But of importance to the rest of us was his expression of how he felt about putting his life at risk for this cause. He said it with grace and maturity.

He wrote: "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

What Jeffrey said is important. Americans need to understand that most of those who are or have been there understand what's going on. It would honor Jeffrey's memory if you would publish the rest of his story.
So what did the NY Times tell of Jeffrey's story? This:
Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. "I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."

His father, Brian Starr, had been preparing a basement apartment in his home for Corporal Starr to live in after leaving the Marines. Now Mr. Starr plans to turn it into a memorial of sorts, to display Corporal Starr's war ribbons and the neatly folded flag that once draped his coffin. Perhaps he will also install a pool table there to remind people of his son's fun-loving side.

Mr. Starr, an accountant, said he remained convinced that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. But he said he would also like firsthand confirmation that the war, and Corporal Starr's death, were not in vain.

"I'm hoping, my wife is hoping, that we can visit Ramadi," he said, fighting back tears. "And feel safe. And feel like Jeff died for something."
The NY Times should have used the entire quote, or none of it. They edited Corporal Starr's epitaph, which is something you just don't do. It's disrespectful. They made it seem like he knew he would die in Iraq by omitting the fiirst sentence "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq." And then they omitted why he thought it was worthwhile to die doing what he was doing.

They did it because that's what fitted with their article, but that's not what Corporal Starr thought, and that's not the message Corporal Starr was trying to leave, knowing that these would be his last words to his family. What he wanted them to know was this:
I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.
Yes, it is. It's one giant mark too. It's the mark that the NY Times doesn't want you to see, because those words contain a challenge to us all and contradict the impression their entire story is trying to convey.

Read their article and see what you think about the story they were trying to tell and their use of Corporal Starr's death to do it. They start the article with the picture and they end the article with his father's words, and now, knowing that Corporal Starr thought he was dying for freedom - for the freedom of Iraqis, knowing that Corporal Starr wrote that he had no regrets in dying for something as important as freedom, knowing that he thought this was the mark he was leaving on the world, knowing that - you can understand why his uncle wrote to Michelle Malkin to set the record straight.

And really, now that you know, you can see that what Corporal Starr's father wants is what Corporal Starr wanted, instead of a pathetic and hopeless statement of a bereaved father. You can see why President Bush's statement "the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission" might mean something to many of our military men and women.

You don't rub out the portion of a person's epitaph you don't like, and this is what the NY Times tried to do. They tried to fit Corporal Starr into the message they wanted to tell, and in doing so they spit on Corporal Starr's grave. What right do they have to do this? Now you know why the armed services despise the media.

Long ago the NY Times stopped believing it should report the news and started believing that it should shape a nation. That was when it became a thick, wordy tabloid with pretensions of grandeur instead of the "paper of record". IMO, Corporal Starr's mark will have a more lasting effect on the United States than the NY Times' attempts to form our collective consciousness.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Freak-Out Friday: DU About Carl Rove

DU Thread on the news that Carl Rove will not be indicted today:
30. Lump of coal for Fitzmas
Rove could molest John Roberts kids at half time of the Super Bowl and would somehow escape prosecution on some technicality. I am so disappointed -- assuming the news reports are accurate. Sure, he may still be under investigation, but if Fitz had the goods on Rove the indictment would be announced today. This really sucks.
You may have wondered what could cause DU to get religion....
16. Patience, grasshoppers.
Rove's turn will come.

Response to Reply #16
23. Yah....Thats what they all say.....(but I pray your right)
On the other hand, jubilation has erupted over the news that Libby has resigned.

And only DU could leap from the news that the Iranian president called for the destruction of Israel to this:
3. our president is stupider than your president, na, na, na, na. . . ..

13. US/Iran/China
This GOP has an agenda, a massive global destructive agenda...I truely believe that the GOP wants WWIII. In order to fullfill biblical prophecy they have to take action and put certian things in motion in order to make those prophecies come to light. If they dont then nothing in the biblical prophecies would ever happen.

With that in mind, I heard something rather disturbing today. Instead of disarming US nuclear weapons, there is actually a build up. This is due inpart to a possible confritation with China that the GOP is instigating somehow...Anyone else here this or something along those lines??

18. Are british and US sources the only ones saying this so far?
I mean we know how it works now people. How do we know the leaders of Iran have even actually said this?

20. Alrighty then
The game goes on. Anyone else think that anyone with a penis should be banned from being a world leader for about a century?
Yup. In 20 easy steps, DU can get from Iran developing nuclear power and calling for the destruction of Israel to a call to ban male presidents. Don't try this at home, folks! These are trained reality-denial acrobats - you might suffer a severe cognitive dislocation if you tried to duplicate the feat. Just enjoy the show in the safety of your own homes.

Sam Alito For The Supreme Court?

Orrin Kerr, writing at Volokh, speculates that the next nominee will be Sam Alito:
I've seen some speculation around the blogosphere that Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit may be tapped by President Bush to fill the O'Connor slot, perhaps as early as tomorrow. ... While Alito is well-known for his early dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, generally speaking he hasn't approached the job of appellate judge with an ideological edge. Second, Judge Alito is one of the most likable people you'll ever meet. He comes off as modest, quiet, and very thoughtful, but he also has a sharp sense of humor. If picked, I think he will be (and should be) a popular choice in the Senate.
Very much in the Roberts model, and that, I think, is what the Bush administration will be looking for. Nominating a federal judge lowers the bar for confirmation scrutiny

Alito is a theorist of the law. See his memo on FRAP 32.1 (pdf). He is a Democrat's worse nightmare, really. Princeton, Yale, DC Court of Appeals. The hysterical-uterus lobby (such as NARAL) will hate him. He dissented on a decision striking a Pennsylvania law that required married women to inform their husbands before getting an abortion. See US News from July regarding Alito:
"Sam Alito is in my mind the strongest candidate on the list," says Pepperdine law Prof. Douglas Kmiec. "I know them all . . . but I think Sam is a standout because he's a judge's judge. He approaches cases with impartiality and open-mindedness."
In 1997, Alito authored the majority opinion upholding a city's right to stage a holiday display that included a Nativity scene and a menorah because the city also included secular symbols and a banner emphasizing the importance of diversity. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito was the sole dissenter on the Third Circuit, which struck a Pennsylvania law that required women seeking abortions to consult their husbands. He argued that many of the potential reasons for an abortion, such as "economic constraints, future plans, or the husbands' previously expressed opposition . . . may be obviated by discussion prior to abortion." The case went on to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's decision 6 to 3.
In Saxe v. State College Area School District, Alito, writing for the panel, argued that the school does not have the right to punish students for vulgar language or harassment when it doesn't disrupt the school day. "Sam struck that down as a violation of free speech," Kmiec says. "That's not a conservative outcome."
So you say, buddy. Most conservatives I know are die-hard on free speech. It's the liberal theorists who want to end the pernicious effects of the First Amendment.

Radio Free Europe?

I can't work up any interest in the whole Plame thing. I don't care. I don't care if the whole administration is indicted - I just cannot see why talking about a woman being in the CIA who talked about it herself at parties is relevant to anything or a crime. The Anchoress and Dingo are following the whole thing, so, if you are interested....

But this - this matters! SC&A cover Radio Free Europe's sponsorship of an essay contest with themes like:
“A World without America”, “A Mirage Named Zionism”, “The Wishes of a Palestinian Student”, and “The Intifada”
According to SC&A, US taxpayers provided part of the funding. See Dr. Sanity's post on the conference itself.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred also have Dr. Sanity On The Couch. It's a nice change - an interview of a sane person conducted by a sane person.

But shouldn't we be asking some hard questions about just what Radio Free Europe is trying to promote? Free Europe's mission statement:
The mission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is to promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas.

From Central Europe to the Pacific, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from Russia to Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, countries are struggling to overcome autocratic institutions, violations of human rights, centralized economies, ethnic and religious hostilities, regional conflicts, and controlled media.

Stability -- based on democracy and free-market economies -- throughout this region is essential to global peace.Based on the conviction that the first requirement of democracy is a well informed citizenry, and building on nearly a half century of surrogate broadcasting to this region:

1.RFE/RL provides objective news, analysis, and discussion of domestic and regional issues crucial to successful democratic and free-market transformations.

2.RFE/RL strengthens civil societies by projecting democratic values.

3.RFE/RL combats ethnic and religious intolerance and promotes mutual understanding among peoples.

4.RFE/RL provides a model for local media, assists in training to enhance media professionalism and independence, and develops partnerships with local media outlets.

5.RFE/RL fosters closer ties between the countries of the region and the world's established democracies.
I think they have a methodology problem.... Today I found this article regarding Iranian attitudes towards Israel on their website:
According to state radio, in his 21 October sermon at the Tehran Friday prayers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Qods Day is especially important this year for several reasons, one of which is that some Islamic states are normalizing their relations with Israel -- he described this as "the conspiracy instigated by the Americans, the Zionists, and some of their allies." Khamenei discouraged this normalization process and suggested that countries do this just to please the United States.

Khamenei is not the only Iranian official to speak out recently against normalized relations with Israel. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told his cabinet in Tehran on 24 October that Israel's effort to normalize relations with Muslim countries is a "new Zionist plot," state radio reported. Ahmadinejad said that "Muslim nations will not let it do so on international Qods Day." Two days later, Ahmadinejad told a conference on "A World Without Zionism" in Tehran that any government that normalizes its ties with Israel will encounter the wrath of the Islamic umma (community), the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and state television reported.
Israel can't win. If it tries to make peace, it is a Zionist plot. If it builds a wall, it is a Zionist plot. If it fights back, it is engaging in "state-sponsored terrorism".

H5N1 Detected In Iraq?

This appears to be the first report of H5N1 confirmed in birds in northern Iraq. One would hope that the US military will be monitoring the situation. Iran has been issuing public denials for a month or two that bird flu is killing its birds, and Turkey has confirmed H5N1. So this would not be a surprise, but it is potentially a severe problem:
Veterinary authorities in Erbil have confirmed the first case of avian flu in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Turkey. The head of the Erbil veterinary laboratory, Ilham Butros, told journalists that preliminary positive analysis done locally on suspect birds had been confirmed by a dedicated bird-flu testing lab in Egypt. Iraq on Thursday announced a ban on poultry imports from 20 countries, amid fears that the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, found in neighbouring Turkey, might endanger the country.
Wars have historically been associated with epidemics. Soldiers have historically died in large numbers from them. The 1918-1919 pandemic wreaked havoc in the military.

David French On Academic Freedom

There is an excellent FrontPage Magazine article by David French of FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) today. At the bottom you can read his testimony to the Pennsylvania House regarding academic freedom. This is one issue that should be of equal concern to everyone who cares at all about the First Amendment's protection of Free Speech. As David French writes:
It has become a common tactic for defenders of the academic status quo to equate scrutiny with “McCarthyism” and criticism with censorship. For example, at Brooklyn College, the local professors’ union went so far as to declare that press stories about academic misconduct (such as punishing students who dissented from a professor’s radical views) were part of an effort to “intimidate” the school’s faculty. The union also asked the school’s chancellor to condemn the New York Sun for its attempts to investigate and report faculty wrongdoing. In other words, a group of public officials (and public university professors are public officials) was calling on another public official to condemn the free press for investigating potential unlawful acts of the local government.

Brooklyn College’s faculty is not alone in confusing criticism for censorship and equating oppression with academic freedom. In the June 8, 2005, issue of Al-Ahram, Joseph Massad, the Columbia University professor at the center of a firestorm of controversy regarding the treatment of pro-Israeli students in Columbia’s Middle East Languages and Culture Department, wrote to decry “the campaign of the last three years . . . to attack U.S. universities as the last bastion where a measure of freedom of thought is still protected.” And what was one of the prime movers in this alleged campaign against academic freedom? Once again, it was the free press – specifically the New York Times, a paper that Massad accused of disseminating “Israeli propaganda” as “objective truth.”

In the distorted world of university censorship, actual violations of the law (such as Brooklyn College’s absurd punishment of dissenting students) represent legitimate exercises of academic freedom, while free speech (such as the New York Sun investigation) is the equivalent of “intimidation” that has a “chilling effect” on academic expression.
He's not exaggerating, either. Everyone should read FIRE at least once a week. The organization was founded to defend freedom of thought and speech on American campuses, and it is doing that. Usually it does so by publicizing bad behavior and abuses, but on occasion it will assist in court cases. For example, FIRE has just filed a brief to the Supreme Court asking that the SC hear the appeal of the Hosty V Carter of the Seventh Circuit's decision.

Winning the battle in higher education will determine whether our society as a whole will continue to be free. As it stands now, on campuses across the country, the students have less freedom than the Jehovah's Witnesses in public schools did, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, in 1943 in West Virginia. Justice Jackson wrote for the majority in WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION v. BARNETTE, 319 U.S. 624 (1943):
If official power exists to coerce acceptance of any patriotic creed, what it shall contain cannot be decided by courts, but must be largely discretionary with the ordaining authority, whose power to prescribe would no doubt include power to amend. Hence validity of the asserted power to force an American citizen publicly to profess any statement of belief or to engage in any ceremony of assent to one presents questions of power that must be considered independently of any idea we may have as to the utility of the ceremony in question.
Without promise of a limiting Bill of Rights it is [319 U.S. 624, 637] doubtful if our Constitution could have mustered enough strength to enable its ratification. To enforce those rights today is not to choose weak government over strong government. It is only to adhere as a means of strength to individual freedom of mind in preference to officially disciplined uniformity for which history indicates a disappointing and disastrous end.
We can have intellectual individualism [319 U.S. 624, 642] and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
This understanding of the Constitution and what rights it preserves for each individual is at stake. Right now, Justice Jackson's view is losing the battle. We can already see the consequences of losing this battle in the unversities, because the next general of "petty officialdom" and indeed federal justices has emerged from our universities with no respect for individual rights at all.

It's time to take these institutions back and reestablish the idea that individuals also have the right to dissent.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Iran Steps In It

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred note that the Europeans suddenly woke up:
The recent vile and hate spewed from the mouth of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who declared that 'Israel must be wiped off the map,' may have had unintended consequences.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday he has "never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to ... wipe out another country," Blair said at the close of a European Union summit outside London.

"Their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards terrorism, their attitude on the nuclear weapons issue, it isn't acceptable. ... Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?"
I can. The Nazis had a research program aimed at developing nuclear power while Japan was working on bioweapons. One reason why there is bad blood between Japan and China is that Japan used Chinese as test subjects for their bioweapons program. Fortunately, we won the war against the Axis and nuked Japan, which I don't feel was wrong. It was tragic, but the least tragic of all possible outcomes.

If Israeli has to act preemptively against Iran, Israel will. I will support them for doing so. I hold no illusions that these types of regimes don't mean exactly what they say they mean, because I do remember!

As for religion? My belief is that you act so as to minimize harm. In most cases, that requires non-violent tactics. Unfortunately, there have been, are, and will be regimes headed by people, now and in the past, who believe mass murder is a necessary and appropriate political strategy. Nothing I can do will change that. It is best that they not get the chance to accomplish their objectives.

Who's On Base?

Jonah Goldberg at National Review is pushing Maureen Mahoney if the next nominee has to be a woman. It probably does, given the realities in the Senate.

I think the senators aren't going to be happy with ANY pick. Now they know they will get flak from every political position.

Ann Althouse on the subject:
"The President needs a brawl."
So said Fred Barnes on Fox News just now, responding to a question about whether Bush could afford a brawl in Congress right now, which is what will happen if Bush nominates someone openly committed to conservative jurisprudence for the Supreme Court, now that Miers has gone down. The conservatives are claiming a glorious victory right now, and they want the spoils. They want their nominee this time. They've proven -- they will claim, with justification -- that pleasing them is more important than pleasing the Democrats.
Fred Barnes might be right. I think the average individual just doesn't want more decisions like Kelo. They just want a reasonable, non-ideological person who thinks the words in the Constitution mean something.

Take Howard of Oraculations, who has had some experience with the law. Americans have a bias toward freedom and controlling the power of the government, which is supposed to be the purpose of the Constitution. Americans broadly distrust governments unleashed by the law, from city hall right to the Feds. They do so for good reason.

Betsy Newmark nominates Michael McConnell for the next try. Dream on. The Senate will never go for it.

Beth of MVRWC has some interesting links on the subject, including a link to possible nominees at Confirm Them.

Sigmund Carl and Alfred is very disturbed:
The right wing has tasted blood, and they like it. They will attempt to influence the selection of the next Republican candidate. They will probably be successful- and hand the election over to the Democrats because moderates- who are the majority of voters in this country, will shun a candidate chosen because he or she met a litmus test rather than by virtue of merit.

The Democrats, reveling in a self induced bit of moronic euphria, are only too happy to see a Bush policy fail. They do not realize that this kind of political terror will affect them as well. The Michael Moore's and MoveOn.Org's of this world are empowered. Their next litmus test might involve demonizing religion and religious people.
I think most people who have been voting Republican don't want candidates chosen by litmus tests but candidates chosen FOR merit. I am not sure that this is the way to make this happen, though.

France Says No Bird Flu On Reunion

Reuters here:
France's health minister said on Thursday that tests on a man on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion showed he was not infected with the potentially deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

"This is not a virus of the H5N1 strain, so it is not bird flu," Health Minister Xavier Bertrand told a news conference.

Authorities said on Wednesday that three people recently returned to La Reunion from a holiday in Thailand were believed to have caught the virus after a visit to a Thai bird park.

Samples were sent to Paris for further analysis. The results of the tests on the two other suspects are due on Friday, Bertrand said.
Actually, there are strains of bird flu other than H5 out there, including H7 and H9. And there are H5 variants. I have a silent running bet with myself that H9 will go human before H5, although the H9 will pick up genes from the H5 to do it. We'll see! They both have similar natural selection pressures.

All three suspected cases on Reunion were treated with Tamiflu, and it appears to have worked so that is a positive sign. The H5N1 strain that is running across Europe and now probably down to Africa ought to be susceptible to amantadine for the time being.

China also announced no cases of human bird flu, ignoring the consistent reports of human bodies after eating sick fowl. The two kids got sick in a village that was having an outbreak of bird flu.

Anne Applebaum, Clarified

Ilona of True Grit does not fisk. She clarifies and elucidates, throwing a rational light on some irrational matters. This quote from Anne Applebaum's column "Silver Flu Bullets":
Finally, Americans and their leaders will have to get over their love affair with intelligent design . Polls show that most don't believe in evolution. But it is actually impossible to talk logically about bird flu, or any other rapidly evolving and constantly changing virus, without using the language of evolution -- specific words such as "mutant," "recombination," "genome" and "selection." Without that language, a sensible popular or political discussion, let alone a scientific discussion, is impossible: We're stuck talking about the virus "jumping" from birds to humans, as if it were a magic bug with a mind of its own. We're stuck thinking that a virus is a hex that can be lifted with a single lucky charm, not something that will change over time.
Does not look well in this rational light:
The world according to the lockstep Left has George Bush in charge of the climate and the wolves of the Christian Right devouring our very minds....

Just one problem with Applebaum's point, and it is tied up with that useful Logical Fallacy, equivocation. Not all definitions of the word 'evolution' or 'evolutionary' are describing the same process or idea. There was a little bit of a switch in the middle, which illustrates a common misunderstanding. There is 'Evolution' as an origins and speciation theory, and there is evolution as in the 'mutation' of life forms within their species (microevolution)... and you know what we are talking about in the bird flu, and in viruses? Yes, you do because you are smart.

So why is an intelligent, well-paid ( paid more than me, anyway) writer for a prestigious news outlet not able to get the basic science right? Bias, mainly. That blindered, prejudicial outrage that parades as modern enlightenment.
I recommend Ilona's entire post highly. The column was, at a minimum, silly, but the above passage was among the silliest, most meaningless, and utterly baseless. Does Applebaum believe that the government leaders don't believe in the science of viral evolution? Surely not, because she knows that the US government launched an effort to form an international coalition to deal with it and pushed the issue at the UN.

There is and has been valid scientific criticism of the idea that the genes that form the basis of living things on the planet had the time to evolve by natural selection. No one in the medical community denies that variation, mutation and natural selection are occurring now.

As for my own criticism - I disagree with some of the scientific and economic assertions Applebaum is making - it will have to wait a bit. I am fighting with a giant workload, and the job should be done thoroughly.

Miers Withdraws, The Anchoress Looks Smart

Well, since Miers withdrew I imagine a lot of people are going to be pretty happy. I don't think her withdrawal letter was exactly candid:
As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy.
Personally, I'm disappointed. I was looking forward with great anticipation to Feinstein's questioning of her:
"Who are you as a non-mother and a non-wife?" and "I'm trying to get a sense of you as a woman...." was what I wanted to hear. After all, female candidates should be treated exactly the same as male candidates, right?

The Anchoress is looking like a pretty hot political analyst. The question that remains is what candidate can be nominated in Miers' place, given that the senators have made it clear that they won't support any conservative candidate. This bids to be very interesting. If The Anchoress is correct, Bush will now nominate a person he should have nominated in the first place - one with impeccable judicial credentials. If so, the Senate will writhe.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Fight Of The Day

In the spirit of theocratic coffee cups, I have decided to post about the weirdest events I run into that involve people worrying too much or trying to control other people. Are we a nation of control freaks?

Today there are two entries and a followup to the Evil Theocratic Empire of Coffee cups, provided by the Barking Dingo himself.

Our first control freak entry is Dingo's post about the Fitzgerald hysteria - it's funny, but I think he has a good point when he writes about immediate gratification:
Indict Patrick Fitzgerald!

That is right! You heard me! Indict the bastard for etxreme anit-American behavior! Enough of this "responsible and dignified" investigation. Does the man not know he is being anti-American by not letting us already know who will be indicted, what they will be convicted of and whose "girlfriend" they will be once they report to Leavenworth prison?
Our second entry comes from Michele Agnew, as if you needed a good reason to visit her blog. It's about a Catholic school principal who is forbidding all the students in his high school to have blogs. No, really - go read it. At one point he says he is taking the step to protect students from online sexual predators, but then he is also quoted as saying that it's about "teaching common civility, courtesy and respect."

I think the bloggers of the world were just insulted....

Yellow Alert On Bird Flu


According to a Reunion island newspaper the preliminary tests were positive for H5N1 and the only known contact with birds was that they drove across the bird park in an air-conditioned bus. On the other hand, the man is supposed to be Thai, so maybe he caught it when circulating. But what's worse is that two more people are reported (in some accounts) as testing positive in the preliminary tests. The Thai gentleman was reported to have a severe headache, so he may have the neurological version. (Some strains of H5N1 have picked up a gene sequence that is associated with neurological disease.)

In French. A rough translation in English.

Another news article saying two more out of the group of 19 may be positive for H5N1. They should test the whole group - these ones were only tested because they showed flu symptoms. The timing is a bit late for onset. The trip was from the 12th through the 19th.

If confirmed, this really is not such a surprise if you have been following the Indonesian news. They have way too many clusters there for this not to be transmitting from one person to another, and the recent reports out of Thailand are also of some clusters.

Most of those later in the clusters in Indonesia seem to survive, though. The guess is that the index cases are getting full bore infections and that the infections caught from human contact may be pretty mild. However, this may not last.

The WHO's nonsense about no human to human transmission is just about to end, as is tourism to Indonesia and Thailand. You can see why this type of news would be highly controversial and why these countries aren't testing the general population. Everyone always knew that it would end with cases being diagnosed in the west, which is why Bush was pleading for full disclosure.

Condi As No One Has Ever Seen Her

Florida Cracker has the story of the Condi photo before Photoshopping and after as printed in USA Today. I thought the triangular pupils in the USA Today version were really cool:

Maybe not quite realistic, but cool.

The Anchoress mourns the noble art of journalism.

Determined Stupidity VS Knowledge

Anne Applebaum writes about bird flu. It's frighteningly ignorant and political. She will be duly fisked later when I have time to do it properly.

For something a bit more rational, try Wharton:
Life Science Insights' Lundstrom notes that the process of developing vaccines is more predictable, cheaper and faster than it is for other drugs. "Is this a real revolution, or simply the case of companies making lemonade out of lemons?" he asks.

On the other hand, Lundstrom supports Danzon's point that the traditional view of vaccines as a bulk-order commodity is changing. "I think it's almost a misnomer to call some of the new products vaccines. They are patented, targeted treatments and can create hybrid pricing," he says. As an example, he points to Wyeth's childhood vaccination, Prevnar, that has proven itself superior in clinical trials and commands $50 to $60 a dose from insurers, compared to competitors' $10 a dose.

Insurers, he predicts, will increasingly be willing to support new, high-priced vaccines if they are proven to keep long-term costs down. "Vaccines are a very efficient way to treat illness. Prevention has significant economic advantages. We're at a point in the market where developing vaccines is attractive; [this hasn't been true] in the recent past. I don't think you can underestimate the role that payers increasingly play in determining what's valuable in the market. And I do think that this is really a different market."

If insurers step up, companies will be eager to invest in vaccine research and development and manufacturing plants, suggests Danzon. "There is a tremendous amount of R&D activity in vaccines now both in big pharma companies and in the biotech industry. I think if there's good reimbursement and reasonable prices, the problem of innovation will take care of itself."
It's a good article and you will probably learn something from it.

A Human Case Of Bird Flu On Reunion?

Just breaking news: Daily Telegraph (only English article I could find):
A 43-year-old Frenchman recently returned to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion from a trip to Thailand is feared to be infected with the potentially lethal bird flu virus, according to preliminary tests, authorities said.
A doctor at the Bellepierre hospital in the island's main city of Saint Denis which is treating the man and keeping him under quarantine said he was believed to have been exposed to the virus during a trip to a bird park in Thailand during a vacation taken October 12-19.
What's not in this article (see CurEvents.com) is that they are also testing two other people who were on the same trip who are showing flu symptoms, and that the nose swab was inconclusive but that the throat swab tested positive. That corresponds well with the autopsy data that show that the virus clears early from the upper respiratory tract.

Furthermore, there have been recent human clusters in both Indonesia and Thailand. Commentary at Recombinomics.

Bird Flu - A Sobering Look At Non-Asian Events

The press coverage of bird flu lately has been sensationalist and not particularly informative.

Basically the risks split into two categories. The first is that wild birds are carrying a very pathogenic strain of H5N1 into Europe and now down into the ME and Africa. There this strain too will become endemic and will tend to affect poultry. Eventually this strain will arrive in the Americas, either from migrating birds or from an imported bird. The new outbreaks in places like China, Thailand and perhaps Indonesia show that the Qinghai strain is crossing back down through Asia. H5N1 will do great damage to poultry producers and inflict large economic losses. Russia has done everything it can to stamp out outbreaks but is losing the battle and new outbreaks are being reported in China almost every day.

The second is this spreading of H5N1 offers new possibilities for the virus to recombine with other strains and pick up bits of genetic information that make it very good at infecting humans, thus producing a human to human strain. The strain of bird flu designated H9N2 in Israel and the surrounding countries have matches that could produce precisely this result. See Dr. Niman's commentary:
A search of the Los Alamos flu database using a 10 nucleotide probe representing the S227N polymorphism identified 42 exact matches. All were in HA and all isolated after 1998 were in the Middle East in chickens, turkeys, geese, and an ostrich.

H9N2 has become endemic in Israel and millions of migratory birds will be passing through the area in the upcoming days. Thus, the potential for dual infections by H9N2 and H5N1 is high. The 10 nucleotides of identity offers an opportunity for homologous recombination that would create the S227N polymorphism and increase the efficiency of H5N1 human transmission.

Efforts to limit the exposure of H9N2 infected birds to H5N1 infected wild birds should be aggressively pursued.
Birds that might carry this strain would travel further south into Africa. The Gulf States are aware of the danger and have instituted measures, some draconian, to try to stop H5N1 from moving into their poultry. But they can't stop the virus from infecting wild birds, so.... For a more detailed explanation of the potential for recombination and acquisition of the S227N polymorphism, see this CurEvents.com thread.

So, the summary is basically this. First, in less than a month Europe's belief that it was not facing a significant threat from this virus has been rudely disrupted. Second, the vector of the virus is headed into large swaths of territory involving poorer countries and far more vulnerable people. Third, the virus will go human to human sooner or later. It is too virulent and infects too many mammals for that not to happen. Fourth, for that to happen would not require a grand leap of mutation - it could easily happen as a very normal and expected consequence of cross-infection in birds.

As for where the virus has been reported or bird-dieoffs have been reported, see Dr. Niman's map. The squares are unconfirmed suspect dead birds; the circles are confirmed cases. Both Iran and Yemen have denied bird die-offs as a result of the virus. I don't think most people find that credible:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Style Of The Day

Sigmund Carl and Alfred posted a really penetrating critique of today's politics inspired by the death of Rosa Parks. As he observes:
Those of you with kind words for Rosa Parks do not realize there could never be another Rosa Parks. She was a non violent, self effacing heroine, who spurned media attention for many years. Nowadays, the likes of Cindy Sheehan would sweep Rosa Parks off out of public consciousness. There are a hundred Rosa Parks out there, today, standing up for and doing the right thing, with dignity and resolve. Are they on your radar screen? Do you know their names? Do you care?
The people (and politicians) of quality do tend to get lost in the yawp and squawp of today's political clamor. It's not a style of politics designed to move the country ahead.

Richard Cohen Does It Again

What has been sorely lacking on the left has been the type of internal debate that tends to rage among conservatives. Naturally, those in the Republican power structure at the time get frustrated by criticism like this, but it strengthens the agenda and tends to build commitment.

Bucking the trend on the left, Richard Cohen continues his sudden campaign to rescue traditional liberalism with his column "Ceding Idealism To The GOP":
About six months after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, George H.W. Bush's national security adviser Brent Scowcroft went to Beijing and met with China's ``paramount leader,'' Deng Xiaoping. Scowcroft said he communicated the president's unhappiness over the massacre, to which Deng essentially said, mind your own business. ``And I said, `You're right. It is none of our business,''' Scowcroft tells Jeffrey Goldberg in the current New Yorker. This raises an obvious question: How many have to die before it is our business?
JFK and FDR were Democrats, of course, and the party has always been associated with internationalism -- everything from the League of Nations to the United Nations. Somehow, though, that moralism -- that urge to do good abroad -- has drifted over to the GOP. It is Republicans, particularly neocons, who talk the language of moralism in foreign policy and who, weapons of mass destruction aside, wanted to take out Saddam Hussein because he was a beast. It mattered to them that he killed and tortured his own people. It says something about the Democratic left that it cheered Michael Moore's infantile ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' even though the film made no mention of Saddam's depredations, not even his gassing of Kurdish villages. Moore's morality stops at the water's edge.
Read it. Richard Cohen is not the only person to stare at modern Democrats in shock, wondering how the party of JFK could have adopted such a feckless and reckless esteem for dictatorial regimes while abandoning JFK's principles of responsibility. The United States can't heal all the world's ills, but it doesn't have to be project an amoralistic and self-referential standard for interacting with other countries.

The world is currently dealing with the ongoing tragedy in Darfur, and the world has not acted strongly to stop the slaughter. Consciences on both the right and the left are pained. Surely the left and the right can speak with one voice over this issue?

Cotillion Tuesday For You And Me

It's Tuesday and the Cotillion is in swing. The babes are armed with thought and dangerous! This is no bag of Halloween candy - it's a full-course blogging meal.

Florida Cracker Made It Through Wilma

Florida Cracker had holes in the roof and trees on the cars. Chainsaws abound - but they are all right.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Dire Threat Of Theocratic Coffee Cups

Stop laughing! First read the DU thread - over 290 posts!

It seems that Starbucks has quotes on its cups. 63 different quotes. And now one of them is truly terrifying:
"You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your real purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny."
The horror, the horror. Demands for a boycott. The Dominion has reared its ugly head!
2. The end of my Starbucks days I know in the grand scheme it is not much money for them, but I spend about $35 per week there, $140 per month, $1,700 per year. (Maybe I need to drink less coffee.)

But that will end immediately. Oh, double that with my wife. Their little sayings on their cups just cost the local Starbucks $3,400 next year.

126. Nominated because this Religious Theocracy must be STOPPED
But some demur:
179. That is your perogative.
I, on the other hand, will now go out of my way to shop at Starbucks. That's what is great about living in America.

92. if I can't get a non-christian cup then I won't be going there either ...

211. that makes you just as ridiculous as the guy who wouldn't use the cup that said gay on it. There is nothing wrong with free speech even if it has the word *gasp* "God" in it.
And my personal favorite:
63. The comments are insulting and exclusive to any who don't believe in god.

Since I'm one of them, I have a problem with the arrogance of the "good Rev", and Starbucks for giving him a platform from which to look down on us.

Like we don't get enough derision just for existing, now people who shell out ridiculous amounts of money for hot, bitter, dirty water (apologies to Will Durst) will be reading this crap and internalizing it - and I know a LOT of liberals go there. We don't need them to look down on us, too.
You just can't make this stuff up. A good number of the DU posters are puzzled by the outrage, but their remonstrances might be fanning flames such as this:
85. I'm sure it's offensive to both types.
Racists and creationists.
I'm even MORE offended now that I know what this is in response to.
Starbucks is like the Kansas Board of Education.
Both cater to those who view science as an affront to religion.

105. I understand where you're coming from.

And I certainly do not deny the theocratic takeover of this country.

I do realize the fallacy of believing science is anti-religion, but not all religious people believe such a thing.

But the millions of people who read this story are totally outnumbered by the many millions of people who didn't. Like I said, most people will simply not care about some stupid quote on a coffee cup. DUers have to realize that the general public is not nearly as informed and up-to-date as we are. They don't obsess about every small detail of world events like we do (not that it's a bad thing, necessarily), and therefore they will not embark on some anti-science, anti-infidel crusade.
So I leave you to contemplate the danger to all that you hold dear. Try not to stay up all night worrying about theocracy and the Dominion. Now that the enemy - one quote among 63 on coffee cups - has become clear just go picket Starbucks.

Bernanke To Replace Greenspan

Update: Greenspan's official statement as released by the FRB in its entirety:
"The President has made a distinguished appointment in Ben Bernanke. Ben comes with superb academic credentials and important insights into the ways our economy functions. I have no doubt that he will be a credit to the nation as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board."
End update.

This does not sound controversial. Bernanke was appointed to the Fed's Board of Governors in 2002. Here's an interview with him:
Bernanke: Yes, that was a theme of my very first speech as a governor. I suggested that, from a policy perspective, there are two ways to approach bubbles: One is interest rate policy, the other is micro-regulatory policy. Micro-regulatory policy is the much better approach, in my view.
Rolnick: What do you think of the idea that bank regulators and the federal government should make a commitment that uninsured depositors in large banks will always face some risk? Under such a commitment, markets would price uninsured deposits accordingly, and the price signal could be used by regulators to help evaluate bank risk.

Bernanke: A number of people have suggested that we rely on uninsured, subordinated debt to provide a market signal about the quality of the bank. I think that's a very interesting idea, and I note that market signals play some role in current bank supervision and would continue to do so under the proposed reforms to the Basel capital standards. I would be reluctant to put all of our eggs in that basket, however, because banks are inherently somewhat opaque institutions, and it's not evident that the market signal would be completely informative about the state of the financial institution. So I would supplement market signals with capital requirements and various forms of direct supervision.
This is pretty significant. The Red Alert I posted on Saturday looks like it comes from this man's thinking, and what he is proposing would vastly expand the Fed's ability to tinker with the economy, I suspect.

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