Friday, August 05, 2005

Palm A Hero Off On Us?

By all external indications, my body appears to have returned to Miami, driving 1550 miles in three days. My mind, if it still exists, is clearly elsewhere.

But for what it's worth, some ruminations on Rafael Palmeiro, a Miami product, suspended for using steroids to enhance his performance at the great national pastime of baseball. Earlier, Palmeiro had angrily asserted to a Congressional committee that he had never done such a thing nor would he condone it in others.

Rush Limbaugh says that it seems like a Clinton-type situation, where the sins are not so great, but they are compounded by the finger-wagging moralizing against what he was secretly doing. (There are folks who try to put the same thing on Rush himself, but I never remember him as a big anti-drug crusdaer. Nor Bill Bennett as vocally anti-gambling either.)

President Bush says that Palmeiro is a friend and "I believe him" that he did not intentionally introduce steroids into his body. I would like to believe that, too. The recent update - to the effect that this particular steroid is not found in any over-the-counter supplements - makes such credulousness less tenable.

The irony is that until this year steroids were not illegal in baseball. Palmeiro could have said that he indulged in the past but would honor the new restrictions. And even if that was too embarrassing to say and do, wisdom would have dictated that he not try to beat the system now.

Or do you go with the other logic, the one used by Clinton's defenders? Since it's crazy and irresponsible to do this, it must be that he did not do it. Well, yes, wouldn't it be a lovely world if intelligent people never behaved crazily or irresponsibly?

This being a family magazine, we'll forgo the obvious humorous possibilities afforded by Palmeiro's role as pitch-man for Viagra. It would take an Act of Congress to change my position on this moratorium.

One last thought, apropos of nothing: 'Rafael' means Healer-for-God in Hebrew and is the name of the Angel of Healing. If nothing else, Raffy will have to... er, take his medicine.

Terrorist Chic

Rush Limbaugh tore into Anne Applebaum yesterday afternoon for this opinion piece, which appeared in Wednesday's Washington Post. And I don't understand why; it seems right on target to me. The support of the IRA by comfortable Irish-American Catholics, including prominent citizens and political figures (both Democrat and Republican) is a blot on American history. We could perhaps mitigate that blot in some small amount by examining the sorry episode for lessons that would help us understand, and deal with, the latest terrorism chic.

I am one of those melting-pot Americans who is a little bit of a lot of things, but as much or more Irish than anything else. I hold paper on the British too; I can work up a burst of righteous indignation about the famine and the Penal Laws without too much effort. Understanding why, thirty years ago, people like me were raising money in bars in Boston to buy guns for a bunch of thugs in Belfast is not making excuses for the arms-length applauders of the London bombers, it's just trying to learn from experience and introspection. Sometimes I think Limbaugh shouldn't be in such a Rush to criticize.

Faith, the Court, and John Roberts

I've spent a lot of time this week working on a post about John Roberts's Catholicism and why all the discussion I had seen was way off-base from the viewpoints of both Catholic moral theology and constitutional law. I knew what I wanted to say, but was having a harder time than usual making my argument cohere.

Well, I spend too much time on the post. Professor Steven Bainbridge has already published the article I wanted to, but was never going to be able, to write, complete with learned references and his trademark clear thinking. Go read it and I'll work on torture narratives in the lyrics of ABBA or something.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The State vs. The People

Philosophers agree that language is an imperfect representation of reality and we get into trouble when we confuse the two. The word is not the idea.

For the same reason, at least one philosopher rightly observed that "thinking in terms of Law is inevitable for man but it is the obstacle par excellence to the understanding of reality." The letter of the law is not its spirit, and as the Law is the demigod child of both, in its clumsiness it's often an ass.

We also know that a key technique of sophistry, which is entirely unconcerned with the search for truth, is using the limitations of language as a weapon when it suits its purpose. Meaning, that is to say truth, is sacrificed for victory.

In its ruling and application of a recently passed law, in the now-historic Gay Golf Case, the California Supreme Court wrote:

The Legislature has made it abundantly clear that an important goal of the Domestic Partner Act is to create substantial legal equality between domestic partners and spouses...We interpret this language to mean there shall be no discrimination in the treatment of registered domestic partners and spouses.

This in spite of another recently passed direct initiative by The People of California (with 60+% of the vote):

308.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

It's indeed proper to note that the court did not address Proposition 22; it bulldozed over it. Its meaning was plain, designating marriage between men and women as a unique societal institution. This wasn't a problem for the state--they simply erected an institution of equal legal force right alongside it, decreed it equal in substance, and named it something else. It's not marriage. It's exactly the same as marriage but it's not marriage. Get it?

Look, I don't know if the court's interpretation of the legislature's intent is correct or not, or if they "overinterpreted." No matter; the court's final word is now law. I'm not even a fan of the California's initiative process, and I'm not even commenting on the moral rightness or wrongness of gay marriage.

But what I do know is it's time to dispense with our comforting fairy tale that in this nation The People are sovereign.

Sophistry rules.

On Torture and a Full-Orbed View of Human Rights

There exists great outrage about the possibility that some interrogation tactics used at the Guantanamo facility may constitute torture.

Some leftists, perhaps motivated more by the desire to score points than out of any righteous feeling, have drummed on the torture theme with great determination. If one accuses me of being less than charitable, I must ask leave in light of the tremendous lack of left-wing intellectual outcry against massive human rights violations of the worst type by governments that carry leftist premises to their full conclusions.

Nevertheless, to say certain persons never cared much for the fate of brothers who didn't go along with coercive state socialism or those who are snuffed out in the womb or dismembered in the birth canal simply ends the conversation by making the charge of hypocrisy and determining that these individuals have no right to complain or at least have no integrity in so doing.

So, let us assume that the concern with torture is righteous and should be dealt with on its face. There are several problems that arise and do not go away simply because the complainants raise their voices and charge others with stupidity, mercilessness, etc.

First, what is torture? Dictionary definitions include "infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion," "excruciating physical or mental pain; agony," "something causing severe pain or anguish." When individuals are asked, they frequently come up with notions of limbs being amputated, bones broken, sexual organs mutilated, blinded eyes, burnt flesh, etc. If methods like emotional intimidation and sleep deprivation are to be included, then it MUST be admitted that they are down the line on the torture scale and any rational person describing their choice of torture to endure would surely prefer the latter to the former.

Second, is torture (by a state) ever justified? If we agree the primary end of the state is to protect its citizens and maintain the peace, then there are a number of means that may be employed to attain that goal. In the case of secret conspiracies, particularly those knit together by fierce fanaticism, then it will come to pass that the state will at times apprehend members of said conspiracies and have them in their custody. It would be sheer folly (and perhaps negligence of the worst sort) not to attempt to gain information about planned mass murders from these individuals. Serious interrogation tactics will have to be considered as a means of obtaining that information.

In the case of tactics that are universally agreed to constitute torture, a large percentage of us will likely be unable to support the permanent mutilation or even summary executions that would come of them. (Though some would and perhaps an absolute majority if the crisis were great enough and enough innocents had been killed.) However, for a government to be unable to employ even the lesser measures of intimidation on the level of sleep deprivation is to tie that government's hands in such a way as to value the lives of the guilty more than the lives of the innocent.

Now, the answer may come back that we will make up the deficiency with better police work or that these tactics don't work anyway, but I have no idea how we can be expected to trust these answers. Where exactly do we come by these carefully constructed studies on whether these tactics work? If they don't and it is so clear, then why are they being used? Further, why would the prospect of being extradited to regimes that engage in real torture be a potentially useful threat? If better police work is so much more effective than strong interrogation of suspects, then why hasn't that yielded all the answers?

We don't know how much information gained through interrogation has prevented terror attacks, but imagine that even one mass murder had been blocked. Weigh that versus the misery of sleep deprivation or fear of dogs experienced by a likely terrorist or terrorist in training and determine for yourself whether these tactics cross the line.

For my part, I hold a high view of human rights. Some leftist is sniggering, but those giggles are supremely undisturbing given their own regrettable view of the disposability of unborn and elderly life and their utter lack of care for the victims of leftist governmental projects gone awry. So, as I state, I hold a high view of human rights. But such a view cannot be a full or fair one unless it likewise considers the stakes for both wrongdoers and their victims, actual and probable. Thus, a view of the situation that obsesses over the difficulties experienced by those who have associated themselves with wanton murderers, while paying little or no attention to what must realistically be done to protect innocent persons can only be an immature one.

If I must choose whom I shall protect with the greater zeal, it will be the innocents.

UPDATE: I removed the incorrect statistical claim wherein I confused attacks blocked by the Patriot Act with the unknown quantity blocked by information gained at Guantanamo. That's the accountability of the blogosphere.

Those Who Deny The Terrorist Threat

In the 1930’s Adolph Hitler made no attempt to conceal his ambitions. Mein Kampf spelled out a dark strategic vision. Yet the West chose to either avert its gaze or deny reality. The prospect of fighting a major war so soon after the horror of World War I catalyzed the rationalizers. Some said Hitler was engaged in mere bravado; others said, he was a reflection of German national sentiment, not imperial ambition.

Whatever the rationalizers said, they stood tremulous in the face of Hitler’s goals. Now the West is engaged in its latest act of denial vis-à-vis radial Islam.

The civil libertarians contend any modification of our laws in order to hunt down and destroy these shadowy killers in our midst represents a threat to the nature of our government and the Constitution. Therefore fighting an all-out war only damages our side.

The second group of deniers might be called “the rationalists” who assume there is a justifiable hatred directed at the West because we invaded Iraq, support Israel, have a degraded popular culture or some other reason which, if only corrected, would lead to peace and harmony.

The third is composed of those who actually hate the West even as they derive the blessings of an open society. Michael Moore serves as an exemplar of this position. In the view of self haters any position which undermines the status of the U.S. and the West is desirable. This is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome.

Each stance, in my judgment, is deeply flawed. The civil libertarians ignore American history which suggests that even though President Lincoln abrogated habeas corpus during the Civil War, it was restored immediately thereafter. And while the U.S. took steps to intern Japanese citizens during World War II in order to prevent espionage activity, restitution occurred once the war was over.

If the Patriot Act helps ferret out those who want to kill Americans, it may be a desirable short term measure even as the civil libertarians speak glibly about the threat to our Constitutional liberties. So far more than 165 violent acts against the U.S. have been thwarted by the Patriot Act according to the Justice Department.

The “rationalists” suffer from post hoc analysis. We invaded Iraq; hence radical Islamic violence has increased. Overlooked in this exegesis are the many violent acts which occurred before the invasion in Iraq, e.g. the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, U.S.S. Cole, the missions in East Africa, etc.

It is as if the rationalists suffer from historical amnesia. After all, they note, “there must be a valid reason for this hatred directed at the West.”

The idea that people hate us for who we are rather than what we do is a condition the rationalists cannot accept. Theirs is what I call the Enlightenment flaw: there must be a rational answer for all events.

Rationalists also contend that only a tiny fraction of the Moslem world shares extremist sentiments. That is true of course, but it glosses over a key fact: radical Islamists may represent an insignificant percentage of Moslems, but every terrorist is a Moslem. Even if one percent of that population which numbers 1.3 billion is extremist, more than a million Moslems can cause a lot of death and destruction.

Last, are the subversives from within who detest America so much they would prefer to see Osama bin Laden as president rather than George Bush. One might assume these people aren’t taken seriously; alas they shouldn’t be taken seriously, but in some circles they have influence.
So filled with hate is this group that they do not even respect the laws that offer their freedom to resist. Herbert Marcuse offered an explanation for the haters when de described America as the land of “repressive tolerance.” I wonder how this group would react to Sharia law. Can you imagine Jeanine Garofolo in a burkha?

These three groups may always be present in nations that promote self examination and allow protest. But when one considers the nature of the present threat, these groups can jeopardize national security or undermine our defense. The West should value its freedom, but first it should fight for survival, notwithstanding all the doubting in our midst.

Jacoby's First Law of Politics

Jeff Jacoby reminds us that Jacoby's First Law of Politics is directly relevant to the GOP/pork business:

Whenever One of Our Guys Achieves Significant Political Power, He Stops Being One of Our Guys.

So true, Jeff. Thanks for the wisdom.

Taxpayers Porked Again

Jeff Jacoby has written an excellent column on the highway bill Congress just passed. The bill really is a scandal, and Republicans are entirely to blame, as Jacoby notes:

At $286.4 billion, the highway bill just passed by Congress is the most expensive public works legislation in US history. In addition to funding the interstate highway system and other federal transportation programs, it sets a new record for pork-barrel spending, earmarking $24 billion for a staggering 6,376 pet projects, spread among virtually every congressional district in the land. The enormous bill -- 1,752 pages long -- wasn't made available for public inspection until just before it was brought to a vote, and so, as The New York Times noted, ''it is safe to bet that none of the lawmakers, not even the main authors, had read the entire package."

That didn't stop them from voting for it all but unanimously -- 412 to 8 in the House, 91 to 4 in the Senate.

Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill, too, of course, but Republicans have continuously presented themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility. They have once again proven the absurdity of that posture.

It is especially revealing and contemptible that the bill's authors did not make it public until the vote was about to take place. No need to hear from the taxpayers before deciding how to spend our money. Perhaps there would have been less support for "highway" projects meant to benefit no one but the constituencies of particular legislators, such as the following:

Meander through the bill's endless line items and you find a remarkable variety of ''highway" projects, many of which have nothing to do with highways: Horse riding facilities in Virginia ($600,000). A snowmobile trail in Vermont ($5.9 million). Parking for New York's Harlem Hospital ($8 million). A bicycle and pedestrian trail in Tennessee ($532,000). A daycare center and adjoining park-and-ride facility in Illinois ($1.25 million). Dust control mitigation for rural Arkansas ($3 million). The National Packard Museum in Ohio ($2.75 million). A historical trolley project in Washington ($200,000). And on and on and on.

John McCain (R-AZ) was one of the few who voted against the bill, as Jacoby notes:

Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the four who voted no, called the bill a ''monstrosity" and wondered whether it will ever be possible to restore fiscal sanity to Congress. If ''the combination of war, record deficits, and the largest public debt in the country's history" can't break lawmakers' addiction to overspending, he asked, what can? ''It would seem that this Congress can weather any storm thrown at it, as long as we have our pork life-saver to cling to."

McCain is a Republican, and it might surprise younger readers to learn that spending discipline was once a basic Republican principle. Hard to believe in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending presidential administration in 40 years -- but true. Once upon a time Republicans actually described themselves with pride as fiscal conservatives. That was one of the reasons they opposed the promiscuous use of pork-barrel earmarks, which are typically used to bypass legislative standards, reward political favorites, and assert congressional control over state and local affairs.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Lord Acton said. And those whose power is not absolute, I would add, will find ways to augment it. Fiscally, the Republicans have just pushed us farther down the highway to hell, once again.

Michael Barone: Blogger

My goodness, the meister of American Politik has opened up his own blogshop under the auspices of U.S. News and World Report. Color me impressed.

Raises a question. Will the ranks of the independent blog operators survive as more than a footnote once blogging becomes the norm for the big-league commentators? I think so, primarily because blogs expose the talents of those who would ordinarily never have a platform beyond their immediate circle? Look at Ed Morrissey. The guy is a superb writer/commentator/aggregator of info. He has a large readership. Where was he ten years ago? Frustrated, probably.

In any case, Barone is in the game and looking good with both short posts and the longer essay style stuff. I particularly liked this one:

There are two postings in on Ted Kennedy's changing responses to recess appointments today and during years when we had Democratic administrations.
Surprise: he is against them now and was for them then. You could probably easily find similar inconsistent statements by Republicans. All of which only illustrates my First Rule of Life: All process arguments are insincere, including this one. My Second Rule of Life, if you're interested is: Never eat in a Chinese restaurant next door to an animal shelter. I am still working on my Third Rule. Suggestions welcome.

Third rule is, "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."

A Little UN Humor

The real story on John Bolton's recess appointment.

And a candid look at his first day on the job.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wisdom from Dorothy Sayers on End of Life Issues

I read Dorothy Sayers's excellent 1927 murder mystery Unnatural Death recently, and noticed the following interesting passage, in which readers may find insights into some recent controversies:

[Detective Lord Peter Wimsey said,] "Supposin' somebody knows someone who's very ill and can't last long anyhow. And they're in awful pain and all that, and kept under morphia—practically dead to the world, you know. And suppose that by dyin' straight away they could make something happen which [someone else] really wanted to happen and which couldn't happen if they lived on a little longer (I can't explain exactly how, because I don't want to give personal details and so on)—you get the idea? Well, supposin' somebody who knew all that was just to give 'em a little push off so to speak—hurry matters on—why should that be a very dreadful crime? . . . [D]o you honestly think it's very bad? I know you'd call it a sin, of course, but why is it so very dreadful? It doesn't do the person any harm, does it?"

"We can't answer that," said [priest] Mr. Tredgold, "without knowing the ways of God with the soul. In those last weeks or hours of pain and unconsciousness, the soul may be undergoing some mecessary part of its pilgrimage on earth. It isn't our business to cut it short. Who are we to take life and death into our hands?"

It is easy to see how a disbelief in the soul and an afterlife would remove one of the important factors Tredgold cites as making it wrong to cut off the life even of a person in very bad condition.

Tredgold cites an additional problem: "I think . . . that the sin—I won't use that word—the damage to Society, the wrongness of the thing lies much more in the harm it does the killer than in anything it can do to the person who is killed. Especially, of course, if the killing is to the killer's own advantage. . . . That puts it at once on a different plane from just hastening a person's death out of pity. Sin is in the intention, not the deed. That is the difference between divine law and human law. It is bad for a human being to get to feel that he has any right whatever to dispose of another person's life to his own advantage."

Wimsey and Tredgold go on to observe that the ability to justify one murder makes it easier for an individual to justify others: Tredgold says, "Society is never safe from the man who has committed murder with impunity."

The conversation revolves around the likely effect on the individual murderer, because, of course, that is the subject of a murder mystery. (It is important to note that the characters are not referring to socially approved killings such as capital punishment and war, which are a matter for separate arguments.) At the time Unnatural Death was written, however, the eugenics movement was making very public claims about the positive social value of killing some types of persons. From our current perspective, after nearly a century of pro-eugenics arguments and policies, it is easy to see the greater significance of the situation Sayers describes: the effect on individuals when society accepts claims about the positive value of killing people who strike us as inconvenient.

Kim Jong IL and Eleven Aces in a Round!

According to a North Korean website (reported by Reuters), the magnificent leader posted eleven holes in one in a single round of golf. Who says Tiger Woods is number one in the world???

Church-State and Postmodernism

For those of you with access to services like JSTOR and Hein Online, I'd like to announce the publication of my article "Competing Orthodoxies in the Public Square" in the Journal of Law and Religion.

The basic thesis is that all of us, including the Court, are moving into a more postmodern way of looking at religion versus the alternatives (like say, Marxism, feminism, or various race-centrisms), and thus a strict separationist view is untenable because it singles out religion without treating functional equivalents the same way. As proof of the phenomenon at work, I discuss the movement of free exercise cases into the free speech realm.

No Chickenhawk

Steven Vincent was an eyewitness to the 9-11 attacks who went to Iraq to write about the war on terror from a different ground zero. His work was published at the New York Times and NRO, as well as several other outlets. He was also the author of the book In the Red Zone published by the Spence company.

Mr. Vincent has been found dead in Iraq, a victim of violence. Michelle Malkin has the round-up.

Short-Term Church Missions

[Our friend Greg McConnell, a reporter based in the Midwest, kindly sent us the following message. You may visit the web link below to see photos from the trip Greg mentions.]

While the popularity of short-term mission trips has been skyrocketing, many Christians aren't convinced that this is a positive development. Recently, Christianity Today examined whether or not short-term mission trips are even good stewardship ( At the heart of the debate is a study by Kurt Ver Beek, professor of sociology and third-world development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which essentially concludes that most short-term mission trips don't accomplish much.

I think that this is a healthy discussion, and accountability on such matters is very important.
Besides, Ver Beek doesn't seem to have a vendetta against short-term missions; he wants to understand them and, if possible, improve the system.

On a personal note, I went on a short-term mission trip to Costa Rica this past June
( I suspect that most anyone who goes on a short-term mission trip will tell you it was good stewardship, and I am no exception. However, I honestly do think that special relationships were formed with the Costa Ricans who hosted us. Only time will tell if this partnership lasts to bear long-term fruit.—Greg McConnell

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Taps for Mr. Scott

"Jimmy" Doohan died on July 20 at age 85.

I found this letter in Los Angeles' other paper, The Daily News, today and thought it worth passing on before it's gone forever.

I met Doohan 30 years ago, at the bar of a New York hotel where he was the guest of honor at a "Star Trek" convention. We were chatting over beers when another Trekkie asked him for his autograph. I vaguely noticed something odd in the way he held his pen, but it was the Trekkie who shrieked, "Jeez, Scotty, what happened to your middle finger?"

"Oh, that," he said. "In the war, I was under fire, diving for a foxhole, and I was so glad I made it, I gave the enemy the finger...and they shot it off!" He told it like it was a joke. I was stunned to read in his obituary that this took place during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and that he was shot six times. What a modest, as well as charming, man.

Henry C. Parke
Van Nuys

Beamed up safely. Posted by Picasa

A man of duty, honor and good cheer, not only in fiction, but in fact. Rest in peace, Mr. Doohan. Well done.

So Much For Marriage and Self-Government

The "widely respected" (by the Los Angeles Times) California Supreme Court ruled yesterday that businesses offering discounts or other benefits to married couples must offer the same to registered domestic partners, most of whom are homosexuals. The sages argued that "A business that extends benefits to spouses it denies to registered domestic partners engages in impermissible marital status discrimination."

Got that? California law does not recognize homosexual marriage, and so it is the law---The People---that engages in "marital status discrimination." Put aside the issue of freedom of contract. Put aside the issue of what marriage means. Put aside the likely attendant effects that would follow upon a change in the fundamental definition of marriage. Ignore the implications of the evolution of marriage over the millenia in virtually all human societies in terms of the social function of marriage as an institution. Ignore the effects of weakening incentives for marriage. Put aside the opportunities for rampant fraud, as roommates, third cousins twice removed, and others register as "couples" so as to obtain insurance discounts, easier real estate credit, ad infinitum. Focus instead upon the deeper implication of this ruling: In the view of the sophisticates, self-government simply is unacceptable if it yields outcomes inconsistent with the demands of those interests favored by the modern high priests of political correctitude. So much for the separation of church and state.

The silver lining is that two initiatives proscribing homosexual marriage in California are likely to appear on the ballot this fall. The black-robed Solomons have improved the prospects for voter approval, in a blue state.

The Photo Fisking of Juan Cole (HT: Instapundit)

Juan Cole was mentioned as an authority in a comment to this weblog recently. Here's an interesting photo essay in his honor.

Hollywood Screamers

Cathy Seipp has a wonderful piece up at National Review Online about Hollywood prima donnas who revel in verbal abuse. The last bit is worth filing away for future use:

Screaming actors, it seems, can be easier to deal with, perhaps because they are not always famous for their brains. Many years ago, I read a story about how Roger Moore (a nonscreamer) took a younger actor aside and suggested he stop attacking everyone on the set. “I'm not in this business to win a popularity contest,” the screamer fumed. “I just want to be a good actor.”

“Well, you've failed at being a good actor,” Moore replied reasonably. “Why not try for the popularity contest?”

I always liked Roger Moore. My father and I used to watch him play The Saint on late night reruns.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Reform Club: Reviewing the Bidding

Reform Club has hit the summer vacation slump in posting, but don't worry, we'll be back stronger than ever in the days to come. For now, lets review what we're offering to the blogosphere:

1. The prose stylings of S.T. Karnick, one of the best all-around writers in the fields of political and cultural commentary. S.T. has written for every significant publication in those areas and has expanded his portfolio to the Christianity Today family of magazines in the last year. He is the former founding editor of American Outlook and current editor of several Heartland newspapers. Karnick is also the first books and culture editor for the forthcoming Crux magazine.

2. Two top economists in the persons of Benjamin Zycher and Alan Reynolds. Both bring a free-market libertarian flavor to their posts. Zycher's work can be found at Tech Central Station. Reynolds writes for the Wall St. Journal and Reynolds and Zycher operate in the think tanks of the Cato Institute and Pacific Research Institute, respectively.

3. Master of wordplay Jay Homnick writes for Reform Club when he isn't busy with one of the most intensive freelance schedules in the business. His work regularly appears at American Spectator and Jewish World Review. He is also a working ghostwriter who never reveals his clients (hear that prospective clients?).

4. Hunter Baker is the junior member of the Reform Club and is an MPA/JD working on a Ph.D. in Religion and Politics at Baylor University. Baker is the former director of public policy at Georgia Family Council and maintains significant contacts throughout the community of cultural conservatives. His work has appeared at National Review Online, American Spectator, Christianity Today, and the Journal of Law and Religion.

5. New additions include Herb London, Kathy Hutchins, and Tom Van Dyke.

London is the head of the well-respected Hudson Institute, which was founded by Cold War intellectual Herman Kahn. He is also an astute cultural analyst and scholar (New York University). If that weren't enough, London once ran for Governor of New York as the most successful third party candidate in state history for the Conservative party.

Kathy Hutchins is an economist by training who combines acerbic wit with the riches of Catholic social thought. Prior to leaving full-time work to care for her family, Kathy worked for the Hudson Institute. Though we lured her away, she still blogs individually at Gathering Goat Eggs.

Tom Van Dyke is a former champion of both Joker's Wild (all-time champion) and Win Ben Stein's Money (where he did, in fact, win Ben's money). When he's not showing off his abilities with trivia, he's working on a new recording contract. Tom should be posting in the very near future.

In short, it's as interesting and varied a line-up as you'll find in any daily magazine of political analysis, economic reporting, and cultural commentary. We don't easily fit into a regular blog category. We're not a God blog, though we have strong theists of both Jewish and Christian stripes. We're not a pure politics blog. We're not an entertainment blog. We're not an economics blog. We're not a law blog. We're not an academia blog. We're not a war blog. You will, however, find elements of all of the above on a regular basis. Bookmark us and visit regularly.

Lawyers Loving Lawyers, Hating Doctors

I have to admit some serious prejudices with this post. I am married to an OB-GYN. We tied the knot while she was in medical school, so I know what residency was like and how hard it is to be a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist. During residency there were hundred hour weeks. If you look at her compensation during that time, it was probably sometimes less than minimum wage.

In private practice, the money is much better, but there is the constant need to practice defensive rather than optimum medicine and of course, the hours continue to be brutal. After my wife scaled-back to spend more time with our first child, she was still averaging more than 40 hours a week. People who don't live this life can't imagine what an enemy the beeper is and what it feels like to see your spouse called out of bed at 2 a.m. on countless occasions.

The difficulty of having kids and managing a medical career actually prompted us to get out of medicine for a couple of years. My wife felt called back into it after helping a neighbor through a serious health crisis and acting as his advocate with the local medical establishment. This is a calling and a very challenging one.

I mentioned the items above simply to lay the groundwork for my outrage that the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated a law putting caps on pain and suffering damages. They invalidated the law under the rational basis level of scrutiny, which means such a cap is totally irrational as a method of lowering overall costs, ensuring quality care (like keeping physicians in the state), and dealing with skyrocketing medical malpractive insurance rates.

The first impulse is to say that we should simply go ahead and nationalize the practice of medicine and get rid of this headache. We'll accept our physician bureaucracy pay and go on with life. The second impulse seems more appropriate. Let's nationalize the practice of law and take the profit out of this parasitism. After all, the practice of law depends entirely on the existence of a government with a monopoly on the use of coercive force. There's a good case to be made that all the servants of the law should be public servants.

This is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I'd like to see the fatcats who've never held someone's life in their hands sweat a little.

Oh, couple more things. Is it at all worrisome that the two richest men in Texas are trial lawyers who made their money in tort actions? Second, should hospitals start putting up a sign that says, "Cutting into people's bodies with metal instruments is an inherently dangerous business, but the alternative is that you go back to the guy shaking a gourd full of seeds."

UPDATE: Something I forgot to mention. The Wisconsin Court said the statute limiting malpractice pain and suffering damages failed rational basis scrutiny. My constitutional law prof. (a wonderful New York liberal Jewish lady) used to say that to fail rational basis scrutiny a statute would have to declare something on the level of everyone must wear a green shoe on their left foot on odd days of the month. Is a limit on pain and suffering damages irrational like that or is the bar just taking care of itself?

Sunday, July 31, 2005

As The Jay Flies (3)

As earlier noted, I was privileged on Friday to behold the Liberty Bell. Although I was born in New York City (so were both my parents and my father's mother), I managed to reach the age of 47 before this very first visit.

What I found most fascinating was that when the original crack appeared it did not prevent the bell from ringing. In an effort to repair the crack, they tried some process that held only temporarily. When it rebroke, it was considerably more damaged and no longer functioned. Sometimes, if it ain't all that broke, it's still better not to fix it.

I was reminded of the Jewish law against repairing vessels that were used in the Holy Temple, because of the principle that "there can be no poverty in a place of wealth". However, this applies only if the original break caused it to be unusable. In that case, the item can be utilized only as the result of the repair, which renders it a specimen of "poverty" that is inappropriate in a place of generous munificence. This creates a counterintuitive premise: "If it is broke, don't fix it."

The Talmud adds a story that relates directly to the Liberty Bell. It reports that there was an oboe that had been crafted in the days of Moses and was preserved through all the generations, eventually being used in Solomon's Temple (built 440 years after the passing of Moses). Later, it developed a crack but still made nice music. They tried to repair the crack with some gluey substance but the music was not as sweet. So they just scraped it off and went back to using it, crack and all.

As The Jay Flies (2)

Aah, depression: now there is a subject I would love to write about, if I could only lift my hand...

Actually, I plan to write an article on the subject soon. It would deal with different Biblical models of depression: Moses, Elijah and Jonah. Maybe if you guys would put in a good word for me, we could coax Karnick into publishing it in Crux.

In the meantime, I'm still busy recording the exciting doings of Washington, D.C. If perchance you overlooked my latest offering, perhaps this link will fill your appetite - that is, if you don't mind the nitrates.

As to my peregrinations, I have moved beyond Washington to Philadelphia and am sorry to report that the Liberty Bell is still cracked. About which, more on a separate post.