Saturday, November 05, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Joe

You did it to Clinton, too?

(We will assume from here on in that it's the real Joe Trippi corresponding with us [see below]. I'm finding my own search for plausible deniabilities at being taken in by some internet troll redundant and tiresome meself.)

I think Joe Trippi smells a winner in using the Elkridge issue against Michael Steele, and as he's a professional political consultant, I can't blame him for not wanting to let it go. But it's still what Black folks call "tomming" (as in "Uncle Tom").

I don't buy that it's about right and wrong here: it's about partisan advantage, despite Mr. Trippi's protestions, reprinted below.

Unless the (planned?) Elkridge attack ads tell the whole story, as in "Democrats have rented the hall at the all-white Elkridge Country Club, but Michael Steele's lack of concern about the Republicans doing it too makes him unqualified to be the next governor of Maryland," then I think it's race-based demagoguery.

I also find Mr. Trippi's new report of the 1992 campaign rhetoric against Bill Clinton, tying his playing golf at an all-white club with Arkansas' failure to pass civil rights legislation, as misleading and heinous, and sinking him deeper.

Even as an unsympathetic Republican, I would consider linking the two as an insult to my or anyone else's intelligence. And to return to his original quote, I still find Mr. Trippi's use of "obvious", "civil rights" and "discrimination" in reference to Elkridge as partisan, race-baiting claptrap.

(Unless Mr. Trippi's Democrat client condemned his fellow Democrats at the time for doing it, too. Then it would be very cool, fair game, and even highly principled. I might even vote for such a guy meself.)

With that said, Mr. Trippi's latest response appears prominently (unedited, too), as promised:

Tom -- I am really not trying to have a partisan argument about this -- in the 1992 Presidential Primary I ran an advertisement against Bill Clinton for his golfing outing at a restricted all white country club -- the operative language in the spot if I remember it correctly was "While Bill Clinton plays golf at a restricted all white country club, Arkansas remains one of two states that has never passed the civil rights act"

I appreciate your cynical view of me trying to use blurry language -- but I swear I spent maybe 5 minutes on the call with the reporter who said he was on deadline and just blurted out that throwing oreos and calling anyone an Uncle Tom was dispicable and repugnant.

Now on to Elkridge -- Just because Erhlich and other leading Democrats may have used the place doesn't make it right.

Even if every politician in the state used the place that would not make it right.

Now we can have a debate or discussion about why I think its wrong and Steele isn't bothered by it. That obviously is a difference of opinion that reasonable people can have an open discourse about. How much you want to bet that within a year Elkridge opens its doors to an African American member?

(That would be cool.---TVD)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Christianity Today on Baylor's New President

Because Christianity Today's weblog doesn't isolate individual blog topics, I'll reproduce their post in full for your convenience:

Baylor's new president

Those of you who have watched the Battle for Baylor will be interested to learn that the university has a new president. It's John Lilley, who previously led the University of Nevada at Reno and Pennsylvania State University-Erie. He's a Baylor grad, but perhaps not a Baptist. In Erie, he was a ruling elder of the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, a PCUSA church. But the Baylor press release says "While a student at Baylor and USC, Dr. Lilley, a licensed Baptist minister, served as minister of music at two Baptist churches." He told today's press conference that he'll be attending First Baptist.

Weblog doesn't know much about him, but it's worth noting that Hunter Baker, who has written on Baylor fights for Christianity Today, says, "He will be in favor of the faith-learning integration project already underway and will continue on the path to making Baylor a true research university."

Also, it's worth noting that the BaylorFans message board, largely populated by the kinds of people who thought that former Baylor president Robert Sloan was a "fundamentalist" bent on destroying the university, is generally upset with the appointment.

So it sounds like good news. But we'll withhold judgment until we can actually do some reporting on this.

Just to be clear, CT misquoted me slightly. I prefaced the remark above by saying it was based on what I've heard so far from scattered sources. Nevertheless, I've seen the new president's first press conference and thought it was great stuff. The board seems to have unearthed a gem. I liked what John Lilley had to say very much.

Now, let's see what he does about picking a Provost.

The Reform Club Loves Joe Trippi

...and he loves us back, I think. More on that later.

Our hearts were quite atwitter at receiving the already-legendary Joe Trippi's form letters setting the record straight about The Washington Times quoting him out of context (and they did), and then praising blogs in general for their fairmindedness. (BTW, Arnold Schwarzenegger called me today about next Tuesday's election. Well, his pre-recorded voice did, anyway.)

But Joe sent a personalized reply to the post below this one (at least I think it's the real you, Joe), and I'm far more stoked than if it were the real live Arnold, even. He's big, but I consider you a giant.

To business, then:

Without doing a line-by-line fisking, my take was that Joe Trippi had used ambiguous language about the race-sliming of Republican Michael Steele in order to keep alive the demagoguery about a GOP fundraiser at the all-white Elkridge Country Club.

Joe Trippi (?) replies:
"...I am against the Democrats using the place as well..."

That's cool, Joe. Very principled.

But according to (and we can safely assume that's really you, Joe Trippi):

"I said that civil rights and discrimination were obvious issues that mattered and that there was a diference “between stating the obvious and calling someone names” — and used a recent controversy over a fundraiser for Gov. Ehrlich as an example of something that was obviously an issue and not name calling."

This says to me you intend to make Elkridge Country Club a campaign issue.

In my opinion, you used overly clever language ("obvious," and in your rebuttal, "civil rights" and "discrimination") and got bit in the butt when the reporter didn't understand your subtle search for plausible deniability, and by me when you showed your hand about Elkridge.

If Democrats also held functions at Elkridge, then I find damning Michael Steele's defense of the GOP using the facility as disingenuous, and contrary to any spirit of fairmindedness.

That is my point, why I think you got caught up in the race-related cookie jar and why my sympathy at your quote being misused is, sadly, severely diminished.

" for them trying to recruit African American members? Call me when they actually make an African American a member."

A secondary point, and I'll yield it for the sake of discussion. And I don't think your cynicism is misplaced.

But the question remains, Joe Trippi: Will Elkridge be used as campaign fodder against Michael Steele? I find it unfair, and without honor.

The putative Joe Trippi concludes:

"My larger point was that this is actually something that you and I and others can debate without the ugly and repugnant racial slurs and name calling. I believe that the blogosphere is a place that lets us have the conversation -- that is why I stopped by -- because I can promise you one thing -- there are a ton of people who read what the Washington Times reported -- and a ton of emails spreading the falsehood -- and there is no amount of posting on this blog that will undo the damage.


Well, we're willing to help, Joe Trippi. And the door's open anytime for conversation without the ugly and the repugnant, although I'll understand if you're too busy. My admiration for your vision and skill at modern communication was sincere, and you deserve your place in the game.

(If you feel I've mischaracterized anything, your rebuttal will be featured prominently. If not, I hope we've heard the last of Elkridge.)

Squeaky Wheel Time

Hey, Joe Trippi, thanks for stopping by and for the nice words. (If you are Joe Trippi. If you're not Joe Trippi, then my apologies, Joe Trippi.) But Joe Trippi, wherever you may be, I've got a quibble, if I may.

You definitely appear to be taken out of context on the "oreo" thing, but your hand was already in the cookie jar, trying to snatch some political capital out of the GOP fundraiser at the all-white Elkridge Country Club.

According to The Hedgehog Report blog, Democrats have held fundraisers there, too. It seems there's no deeper involvement with the club than renting the hall. Hedgehog also notes that the club has tried to recruit Black members. (I apologize for the second-hand sourcing, but the original links have disappeared.)

Sorry, Joe Trippi. The underlying truth appears to be neither "obvious" nor a question of "civil rights." (I do hope I'm quoting you accurately.)

But it's cool, because it's all in the game, Joe Trippi. Keep going to the race well until it comes up dry. You're a playa, and I mean that sincerely; mad props for your prompt blog damage control alone. Are there any more at home like you? The GOP could use a few hundred.

No wonder you got Howard Dean as far as you did---you're a 21st century animal, a creature of the internet, and I'd hire you in a Vermont minute, Joe Trippi. Respekt.

French Muslim Conditions

Commenter James Elliott quite correctly observes that there was significant French prejudice toward Muslims throughout much of the twentieth century. Since the rise of multiculturalism beginning in the past quarter-century, however, the idea has basically been to allow subcultures, including those of Islam, to flourish with no effort made to assimilate them into the broader society. That policy, along with the aforementioned economic and law-enforcement situation, has worked to isolate and radicalize France's Muslim population.

The important question is, what to do now. It appears to me that economic and criminal-justice reforms are urgently needed in France, not just for Muslims but for all the French, and that the inculcation of a shared French culture must begin forthwith. These measures may very possibly not suffice to create a decent and encouraging environment for French Muslims, but without them, things will only get increasingly worse.

It also seems obvious that the confluence of policies that brought about the current situation in France is something for the United States and other nations strenuously to avoid.

The Trippi Effect

Feeling woozy. Just read Joe Trippi's latest comments on our blog.

Charm . . . offensive . . . working . . . Losing . . .touch . . .with . . .reality.

Need . . . to . . . watch . . . Michael . . . Moore . . . propaganda . . . to . . . stimulate . . . antagonism . . .

necessary . . .

for . . .

blogging . . .

Start . . .

D . . .

V . . .

D . . .

r . . .

Understanding the Living Constitution

Follow this link. It's worth your time. A nice little laugh awaits you with regard to the left-wing love of the Living Constitution.

French Riots—A Wakeup Call

One could have been forgiven, at first, for thinking that the riots in the suburbs of Paris—which have blazed for more than a week but seem to have died down recently—were the work of bored French teenagers. News reports downplayed—cynics will substitute the word suppressed—the fact that the rioters were Muslims. The riots arose as a result of the deaths of two youths being chased by police on Oct. 27; the boys were electrocuted while hiding in an electric power substation.

The riots were severe. Today's AP report notes,

In the troubled region of Seine-Saint-Denis northeast of the capital, arson attacks destroyed 187 vehicles and five buildings, including three sprawling warehouses, said the region's top government official, Prefect Jean-Francois Cordet.

However, Cordet said in a statement that police reported seeing fewer large groups of youths rioting and, "contrary to the previous nights, there were fewer direct clashes with the forces of order."

A commuter train line that links Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport northeast of the capital was still running a scaled-back service Friday after two trains were targeted Wednesday night. The SNCF train authority said one in five trains was running and conductors of night trains were demanding onboard security.

Youths fired buckshot at riot police vehicles in Neuilly-sur-Marne, further east, and a group of 30 to 40 harassed police near a synagogue in Stains where a city bus was torched and a school classroom partially burned, said Cordet.

A bus depot was set on fire to the west of Paris in the town of Trappes, incinerating 27 buses, authorities said.

The unrest was scaled-back from the sometimes ferocious rioting of previous nights. In overnight clashes Wednesday, rioters in three towns fired live bullets at police and firefighters, none of whom were injured.

The AP story ends with a brief reference to what is behind the riots:

The rioting has grown into a broader challenge for the French state. It has laid bare discontent simmering in suburbs that are heavily populated by poor African Muslim immigrants and their French-born children, many trapped by poverty, crime and poor education.

France's Muslim population, an estimated 5 million, is Western Europe's largest. But rather than being embraced as equal citizens, immigrants and children often complain of police harassment and job discrimination.

The discontent to which the article refers had been "laid bare" long ago, but alas both the French and the rest of the Western governments have been firm about ignoring it. Muslim immigrants in France and the rest of Europe have shown little interest in integrating with their host cultures, as is well known. However, those who have citizenship in their host countries (either by birth or naturalization) have a real grievance against any persons or institutions that have shown prejudice toward them, and fair treatment and equal opportunities for all citizens are necessary elements of a decent society. It has been especially stupid and contemptible for the French and other European governments to have failed to educate these children well and at least attempt to inculcate in them the principles behind their nations' social order. That is one of the sad consequences of the doctrine of multiculturalism.

It is is important to note, however, that European Muslims have been adamant about having it both ways: receiving the better economic opportunities the West offers, while rejecting the culture that fosters those opportunities. As a result, they have received neither. An even bigger factor in the discontent, however, is the current condition of European governments. The European welfare states severely limit economic opportunities, especially for those lowest on the social ladder, and they pay people to be idle. And we all know who loves to employ idle hands. In addition, sympathy for the underprivileged (and a decline in the philosophical belief in freedom of the will) has made European court systems highly reluctant to punish criminals—which means, leaving aside debates about deterrence, that unnumbered dangerous miscreants remain on the streets to terrorize the general population. As the psychologist Theodore Dalrymple noted three years ago in a brilliant and terrifying article in City Journal (Autumn 2002),

The laxisme of the French criminal justice system is now notorious. Judges often make remarks indicating their sympathy for the criminals they are trying (based upon the usual generalizations about how society, not the criminal, is to blame); and the day before I witnessed the scene on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, 8,000 police had marched to protest the release from prison on bail of an infamous career armed robber and suspected murderer before his trial for yet another armed robbery, in the course of which he shot someone in the head. Out on bail before this trial, he then burgled a house. Surprised by the police, he and his accomplices shot two of them dead and seriously wounded a third. He was also under strong suspicion of having committed a quadruple murder a few days previously, in which a couple who owned a restaurant, and two of their employees, were shot dead in front of the owners’ nine-year-old daughter.

As a result of these factors, Europe's Muslim communities have become seething cauldrons of resentment and hate, and criminality is rampant. That is by no means even the slightest exaggeration. Dalyrymple writes,

The official figures for this upsurge, doctored as they no doubt are, are sufficiently alarming. Reported crime in France has risen from 600,000 annually in 1959 to 4 million today, while the population has grown by less than 20 percent (and many think today’s crime number is an underestimate by at least a half). In 2000, one crime was reported for every sixth inhabitant of Paris, and the rate has increased by at least 10 percent a year for the last five years. Reported cases of arson in France have increased 2,500 percent in seven years, from 1,168 in 1993 to 29,192 in 2000; robbery with violence rose by 15.8 percent between 1999 and 2000, and 44.5 percent since 1996 (itself no golden age).

Where does the increase in crime come from? The geographical answer: from the public housing projects that encircle and increasingly besiege every French city or town of any size, Paris especially. In these housing projects lives an immigrant population numbering several million, from North and West Africa mostly, along with their French-born descendants and a smattering of the least successful members of the French working class. From these projects, the excellence of the French public transport system ensures that the most fashionable arrondissements are within easy reach of the most inveterate thief and vandal.

Dalrymple describes the mentality prevalent among young people in these housing projects:

A kind of anti-society has grown up in them—a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, “official,” society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust—greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years—is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them. . . .

Antagonism toward the police might appear understandable, but the conduct of the young inhabitants of the cités toward the firemen who come to rescue them from the fires that they have themselves started gives a dismaying glimpse into the depth of their hatred for mainstream society. They greet the admirable firemen (whose motto is Sauver ou périr, save or perish) with Molotov cocktails and hails of stones when they arrive on their mission of mercy, so that armored vehicles frequently have to protect the fire engines.

Benevolence inflames the anger of the young men of the cités as much as repression, because their rage is inseparable from their being. Ambulance men who take away a young man injured in an incident routinely find themselves surrounded by the man’s “friends,” and jostled, jeered at, and threatened: behavior that, according to one doctor I met, continues right into the hospital, even as the friends demand that their associate should be treated at once, before others.

Dalrymple notes that the problems are likely to become worse, not better, unless the French change their ways of thinking entirely:

Whether France was wise to have permitted the mass immigration of people culturally very different from its own population to solve a temporary labor shortage and to assuage its own abstract liberal conscience is disputable: there are now an estimated 8 or 9 million people of North and West African origin in France, twice the number in 1975—and at least 5 million of them are Muslims. Demographic projections (though projections are not predictions) suggest that their descendants will number 35 million before this century is out, more than a third of the likely total population of France.

Indisputably, however, France has handled the resultant situation in the worst possible way. Unless it assimilates these millions successfully, its future will be grim. But it has separated and isolated immigrants and their descendants geographically into dehumanizing ghettos; it has pursued economic policies to promote unemployment and create dependence among them, with all the inevitable psychological consequences; it has flattered the repellent and worthless culture that they have developed; and it has withdrawn the protection of the law from them, allowing them to create their own lawless order.

Perhaps the riots will serve as a wakeup call to France and other Western governments, finally convincing them that the creation of alien, oppressed subcultures within their national borders is a recipe for social catastrophe.

But perhaps not. Given their actions so far, the Western governments seem to be extremely slow learners in this regard.

Missus Steed Misdeed

Day 12 without electricity here in Miami, and a mind trapped inside a dank, dark environment is a terrible thing.

That intro might shed some light (only metaphorically, I'm sad to say) on why I spent much of yesterday pondering the Steed case.

Steed is the Utah judge being removed from the bench because he has three wives. His lawyer is arguing that the statute against polygamy is rarely enforced and in any case it is a victimless crime.

That argument might sway me if we were talking about a one-time lapse such as engaging the services of a prostitute in a jurisdiction that proscribes that activity by law. But to maintain a long-term modus vivendi that is illegal strikes me as utterly contradictory to the notion of judging one's fellow citizens on their compliance with the law.

Incidentally, I have no problem with individual jurisdictions permitting polygamy, a practice that has no immoral element whether judged by reason or Revelation. However, this judge's particular case is completely anti-Biblical: he is married to three sisters in violation of Leviticus 18:18.

This Headline Is No Joke

Kudos to P. David Hornik for this must-read update on the security situation in Israel after the unilateral gift of Gaza to... the terrorists.

What an absolute nightmare!

The Sun Rises In the West

Man bites dog. Water flows uphill. George W. Bush vetoes some pork. Hungry children wait patiently for the insurance salesman to leave. And the latest: A jury—in New Jersey no less—gets it right.

No, really. Merck has just been vindicated completely in the second Vioxx case, without nuance, qualification, or conditional subparagraphs attendant upon article A, clause 4, section f(ii), subsection d(5)(j)(14)(b). And so at least for today, America will not take from the children and give to the lawyers.

Charting A New Course

My editor-in-chief, the great R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., was on the short guest list for Charles and Camilla's state dinner at the White House the other night. The published menu included this gem: chartreuse ice cream. It was an eye chart-reuse moment before I could absorb the words.

Will one of you sophisticates please help out a Miami rube: what the bleep is chartreuse ice cream?

Scouting for General Laughin' Yet

Intrepid and plucky Reform Clubber Jay Homnick, who post-Hurricane Rita is thinking of moving to Baghdad to take advantage of the superior muncipal services, has managed through who knows what combination of hook, crook, and Coleman gasoline generator, to write another article for the American Spectator. He counsels our leaders to use humor, and tells three really bad jokes.

I'm gratified to see he has kept his sense of humor; stuck in a house in Miami with no electricity for the foreseeable future, he's gonna need it.

Joe Frickin' TRIPPI Blogged Here

Knock me over with a feather. Just so nobody misses it, you can go down to the post about Maryland Democrats and Lt. Governor Michael Steele. Trippi appears to have been the victim of some pretty aggressively interpretive reportage. First, Newsweek, now Joe Trippi.

Howard Dean, are we gonna have to write something questionable about you to get you to visit the Reform Club?!!!

Baylor Resolution: New President

I made no secret that I would have liked to have seen Robert Sloan return to the Baylor presidency to finish what he started, but it looks like the board has replaced the interim with a completely new candidate or is just about to do so.

The new president will be John Lilley, who is currently president of the University of Nevada-Reno. Based on what I've heard in scattered information, he will be in favor of the faith-learning integration project already underway and will continue on the path to making Baylor a true research university.

He is an older man, in his mid to late 60's, I think, and may well be a transitional figure. Some wonder whether Union University's David Dockery will eventually become president of Baylor.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Maryland Democrats Wake Up and Smell the Black Coffee

Update: Sincere thanks to Mr. Joseph P. Trippi for stopping by our comments section and giving us the opportunity to correct an error made by the Washington Times and relayed by us. Mr. Trippi does not condone the use of racial epithets and confectionary missiles in political debate. The Washington Times has issued a correction. We do likewise, apologize for the misunderstanding, and are genuinely happy to learn that the Maryland Democratic Party's roster of jerks has one fewer member than previously thought.

However, I cannot accept Mr. Trippi's associated charge that the Washington Times's error was the result of a conservative political agenda. The Times reporter seems to have made an honest, if sloppy, editing error, and his editors were quick to correct the record. This behavior compares quite favorably with the New York Times, which cannot after weeks of controversy manage to adequately correct factual misstatements appearing on its Op-Ed page, despite a clear stated policy and the apparently sincere efforts of both Gail Collins and Byron Calame.

In a followup to Tom's post of yesterday, highlighting the idiotic and offensive statements of a number of Maryland Democrats in defense of a series of racial insults and battery-by-Nabisco directed at Republican Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Michael Steele, I'm happy to report that the state party seems to have a few members whose elevators still travel to the top floor. In particular, Senate candidate and former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume distanced himself from remarks made by his spokesman, Joe Trippi (yes, that Joe Trippi), who had characterized pelting Mr. Steele with Oreo cookies as an example of "pointing out the obvious."

Martin O'Malley (who is also running in the Senate primary and may therefore find himself on the wrong end of a Trippi-launched Rice Krispies Treat barrage before next spring), intoned "If there are criticisms to be leveled, they should be leveled on issues." I agree, Mayor O'Malley. Let's get down to issues. An examination of the fortunes of the black Baltimore underclass under the forty-year leadership of the Democratic Party would bring to light a number of issues that might fairly be addressed. Pass the milk.

Undue In-Flu-Ence

I am watching the coverage of the HHS/DHS influenza pandemic plan with a mixture of interest and foreboding. As usual, the mainstream media coverage of a medical risk issue is histrionic and completely devoid of context; I see that several particularly unhelpful infobites are becoming set in concrete and passed from story to story like some, but not all, influenzas pass from person to person.

First, it is unfortunate that planning for a hypothetical influenza pandemic has become conflated in the popular imagination with the H5N1 avian influenza strain. There is no reason to believe that this strain is any more likely to be the precursor of the next pandemic than a couple of dozen others. And there's nothing to be gained from leading people, especially in North America, to believe they are at risk from existing avian flu. People who have no contact with live birds are looking askance at frozen Butterball turkeys, for crying out loud.

It would be a very bad thing were H5N1 avian influenza to appear in the United States, but it would mainly be a bad thing for poultry farmers and consumers. The health risk would be confined to the effect of increased chicken and turkey prices on nutrition; the conditions under which poultry is raised and processed in this country are so vastly different than conditions in Asia, both in terms of veterinary oversight and simple hygiene, that it is unlikely that disease would spread even to those in closest contact with the potential domestic reservoir.

Second, the constant repetition of "three pandemics this century" neither provides the context of how bad these pandemics were in relation to an ordinary flu season, nor explains the relevant changes medicine and culture have undergone in the intervening years. Of course, there is renewed interest in the history of the 1918 influenza epidemic, which killed somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 Americans in less than eight months, and then apparently disappeared. Comparisons are made between this event and a potential pandemic today, without the following clarifications:
  • no one in 1918 knew that this epidemic, or influenza in general, was caused by a virus, much less which virus, and obviously there were no vaccines or antivirals for any influenza strain;
  • the antibiotics to treat the secondary baterial infections which cause the majority of influenza deaths were unknown;
  • tools to track geographic spread were crude to nonexistent;
  • the mechanism by which the virus mutated into its suddenly lethal form -- the transmission of a moderately virulent strain from Kansas to Europe via troop movements, its incubation in the crowded and filthy war zones of Europe, and its retransmission from there to multiple destinations, again accompanying troop deployments -- was almost certainly a unique confluence of historical events;
  • some evidence exists that the extreme virulence of the 1918 influenza was greatly exacerbated by the high prevalence of tuberculosis in the general population, a condition that no longer exists in the United States (although this would certainly be an important factor in a global influenza pandemic).
The other two epidemics that are lumped with 1918 are the 1957 outbreak of Asian flu, and the 1968 Hong Kong flu. In both these cases, the virus was identified about six months before the first cases were observed in the United States, vaccine preparation was possible, community based public health surveillance was on alert, and consequently the death toll was much, much lower. In 1957 there were about 70,000 deaths, and in 1968 fewer than 35,000. The deaths were, as is usual in ordinary influenza years and in contrast to 1918, concentrated in the over-65 population. The total deaths were higher than usual but nothing like the mortality in 1918.

So why is the press treating the next pandemic as 1918 redux, rather than the less scary, but more plausible, recent history of novel flu strains? I'm open to suggestions less cynical than the ones that immediately come to mind.

A Skoche More on Newsweek and Reform Club

I mentioned the other day that Reform Club made the Newsweek Blogwatch, but I didn't give specifics for those interested.

It's the Nov. 7, 2005 issue and appears on page 18.

Alito Filibuster Plans

AP reports that two senators from the Group of Fourteen that agreed on a compromise to ensure that Bush judicial nominations would not be filibustered, have decided to oppose any attempt to filibuster the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court. After meeting with Judge Alito, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) said that they would vote against a filibuster. They took their case to other members of the Group of Fourteen at a meeting Thursday.

Democrats urged Republicans to hold off on making a decision whether to support a potential filibuster, according to AP: "But the group's Democrats were urging them to withhold judgment, saying Alito has been the nominee only since Monday."

Another member of the group, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), said that the likely Senate opponents of the Alito nomination have yet to discuss filibuster plans openly and he wished that the other side would keep quiet about it also.

AP notes that the defection of even two members of the group "would virtually ensure that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., would win a filibuster showdown."

Alito worked on gaining support from Senate Democrats yesterday, as AP reports:

Nelson said Alito had assured him "that he wants to go to the bench without a political agenda, that he is not bringing a hammer and chisel to hammer away and chisel away on existing law."

[Illinois Democrat senator Dick] Durbin said the judge told him he saw a right to privacy in the Constitution, one of the building blocks of the court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision.

Alito said that when it came to his dissent on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses, that "he spent more time worrying over it and working on that dissent than any he had written as a judge," Durbin recounted.

As with Chief Justice Roberts, the strategy for Alito appears to be for his side to emphasize every potential ambiguity in his record, to make him more palatable to Democrats. The opposition's search for a naked dead woman in his bedroom closet will continue, of course.

Lucknow, Lucky Forever

Wherefore art thou slime mold?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Light Fades, Darkness Falls

When Black GOP congressman J.C. Watts was considering retirement, he received the following note:

"Dear Congressman Watts, thank you for your years of service to the United States House of Representatives. Many people are proud you have been dedicated to an opportunity few people of African-American descent have in this land. If you can, please remain as a pioneer on the Republican side until others come to assist you. I am glad I stayed in my seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus December 1, 1955. I did not know at that time people would rally as they did. I was pleased about their support, but it has sometimes been lonely.

"Through the years my life has had peaks and valleys, but I have never been sorry about my decision. The Lord has always provided.

"I would also like you to keep your seat and not think of your mantle as heavy, but think that you are chosen to prepare the way.

"Peace and prosperity, Rosa Parks."

She obviously reasoned that it would be good for Black folks to have friends and influence on both sides of the aisle, instead of just one.

DRUDGE links to a story about the attacks Black gubernatorial candidate Michael Steele can expect from Black Democrats.
Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican.

Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an "Uncle Tom" and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log.

Operatives for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) also obtained a copy of his credit report -- the only Republican candidate so targeted.

But black Democrats say there is nothing wrong with "pointing out the obvious."

"There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names," said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

R.I.P., Rosa Parks. You were not only brave but wise. Your successors are craven and foolish. But that is pointing out the obvious.

Not So Fast

No doubt about it: I am a cynic among cynics, even amidst the rarified cynicism of the Reform Club atmosphere. Nonetheless, the argument that the Dem memo on Alito and the Mob implies only ineffectiveness on the part of Alito the prosecutor, and not friendliness toward those Italians whose professional pursuits are encased in euphemism is---how can I say this gently?---a lot of blarney. Why even discuss such an issue if "competence" is the focus; except for the Chief Justice (and even for him a minor matter), administrative skills are far below sea level on the importance priority list for Court Justices. No, it is obvious that the central purpose of this memo was to imply a certain degree of corruption on the part of Alito, a corruption perhaps tribal rather than financial in its orientation. That this could not be said directly also is obvious, but what is equally true is that the intellectual corruption of the Democratic Left is so consuming that the adverse political effects of such amateurish "arguments" remain obscured by the Pavlovian impulse to sling mud. And so please forgive me, but I stand by my earlier argument to the effect that this memo was a (draft) attempt to shower wet manure on Alito; that it was dumb and certain to backfire implies stupidity rather than an absence of malice.

That Big Spicy Italian Meatball

For whatever it's worth, I am amazed---truly---at the political stupidity of the Dems, the latest manifestation of which is this (draft?) memo arguing or suggesting that Alito as prosecutor went easy on the gangsters because they're all part of that big happy Italian spicy meatball family. Or something. I just cannot believe that anyone with more IQ points than teeth thought that this would be a winning argument. Am I missing something? Or was politics more fun when the disingenuousness was subtle? And all those Democratic Senators from the Northeast who have lots of Italian constituents? How fast will they be able to backpedal away from this?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oh, Please Let It Stop: Sekulow and Apparent Financial Stewardship Issues

Nothing burns me like hearing that leaders of various Christian ministries are living the big life in big houses with fast cars and swimming pools all paid for by the donations of regular folks.

These men and women get a television or radio show and start taking large salaries or get houses and cars subsidized. The justification is that they'd be making much more in the secular world.

My response: Guess what, good Christian? You are supposedly engaging in a ministry and that entails certain sacrifices. More is expected of you and you are supposed to expect less for yourself.

The latest article in the series of disappointments focuses on Jay Sekulow:

But there is another side to Jay Sekulow, one that, until now, has been obscured from the public. It is the Jay Sekulow who, through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle -- complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

That less-known side of Sekulow was revealed in several interviews with former associates of his and in hundreds of pages of court and tax documents reviewed by Legal Times. Critics say Sekulow's lifestyle is at odds with his role as the head of a charitable organization that solicits small donations for legal work in God's name.

For example, in 2001 one of Sekulow's nonprofit organizations paid a total of $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife. The same nonprofit also subsidized a third home he uses in North Carolina.

At various times in recent years, Sekulow's wife, brother, sister-in-law, and two sons have been on the boards or payrolls of organizations under his control or have received generous payments as contractors. Sekulow's brother Gary is the chief financial officer of both nonprofit organizations that fund his activities, a fact that detractors say diminishes accountability for his spending.

In his defense, he points out that he could be billing $750 an hour at a private firm. If the money is what you value, then go get it in the private sector. Stop the direct mailings and the big appeals to people struggling the pay the mortgage. They don't know too little goes to cover the cases, while too much goes into your residence.

But You Already Had Your Fifteen Minutes . . . TRC and Newsweek

When The Reform Club was a bit younger, I noticed the excellent comments to our posts by a fellow calling himself "TVD" and urged him to reveal himself. He did and I asked Tom Van Dyke, legal headhunter, game show champion, and musician to join our act.

Tom came on board and is the original source for our now stupendously well-circulated line claiming that to be "miered" is to be "unscrupulously torpedoed by an ally." He hasn't gotten the credit because the media powers that be refuse to give him any additional time after his stints as champion of Joker's Wild and Win Ben Stein's Money (a show that will be remembered for unleashing the amazing half talent Jimmy Kimmel upon the world).

Gwinnett County budget-meister Jay Vinicki (a very longtime personal friend of an entire lifespan) called me to say that The Reform Club is once again in the mass media as part of Newsweek's Blog Watch. Color me impressed.

Thanks, Mr. Van Dyke. Great things may lie ahead. I can remember when we were thrilled to be mentioned at NRO's The Corner. (Actually, we'd be thrilled to see that again. Do it, Goldberg. Do it, Ramesh.)

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I dispute (and disputed) the definition of being "miered." In my book, Ms. Harriet was not torpedoed and it was not unscrupulous. The cannon were all fired from above the surface of the water and war was fairly declared. The result was a good one.

Still, the turn of phrase was brilliant and there is NO argument about that.

More Unpleasant Guests

Apropos Dr. London's post below, Paris is in its fifth straight night of rioting. Occasional TRC commenter Pastorius
has been on top of it, at his provocative blog CUANAS (Christians United Against the New Anti-Semitism.) Bookmark him.

A Challenge The West Must Confront

While American forces are on the battlefield in Iraq to thwart the influence of radical Islamists, the West seems to be engaged in a form of preemptive surrender.

Targeted assassinations in the Netherlands have intimidated Dutch leaders.

The British in one provincial government are voluntarily covering porcine images fearing some offense against Muslims in their midst.

American military leaders were engaged in a thorough examination of allegations about urine splattered Korans in the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Four people died in Alexandria, Egypt when a stage play deemed offensive to Muslims was recorded and distributed on a DVD. Five thousand Muslim rioters rampaged through two predominately Christian neighborhoods.

Although the French government was primarily concerned about Muslim garb in this ostensibly Christian nation, it banned all religious displays so that Muslims would not consider themselves targeted.

The willingness of radical Islamists to employ violence in response to real or perceived grievances is a tactic that has intimidated many leaders worldwide. There is scarcely a Western leader – I cannot think of one – who has been critical of Islam’s violent Koranic characteristics.

By contrast, when a soi disant artist plastered elephant dung on a portrait of Madonna in the Brooklyn Museum most establishment figures defended the artist’s right of expression. I can only imagine what would happen if a likeness of Prophet Mohammed were treated in similar fashion.

Where, for example, are the demonstrations of the movie industry over the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim extremist? It is instructive that these same film makers are still aggrieved over the stifling tactics of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950’s, but cannot marshal indignation when one of their brethren is murdered for a film about Islamic women. This can only be described as the silence of intimidation.

For Muslim extremists a willingness, alas an eagerness, to die offers them a distinct public advantage over Westerners who put a justifiable premium on life. As one Muslim critic asked of his detractors in Europe: “Are there causes for which you would die?” In secular societies the answer is increasingly “no”.

Many American students who don’t know that the American Revolution preceded the French Revolution and wear Che Guevara tee shirts with pride would never consider a disparaging word about Islam. They have been trained in incapacity and assume that any form of discrimination is wrong.

The West contends that the separation of church and state is an overarching characteristic of stable societies. For Islam, there is only Sharia, religious law, which transcends governmental decisions. As a consequence, Islamists have great difficulty with the secularization of the laws. Allah is not merely a focus of worship, but the inspiration for all legal and governmental matters.

As Hegel noted, the state is secure when citizens can engage in the renunciation of appetites in behalf of the law. In the West, law is abiding because the law abides. But what emerges when religious fervor doesn’t permit limitation? What happens to Western permissiveness when a sub-culture refuses to embrace the secular dimensions of the law?

The answers are already apparent. Islam is treated as special, a state of religion different from the others. Western authorities avert their gaze from the horrors in their midst. They refuse to consider the necessary steps for stability such as forced deportation. They are confused by religious zealotry at the very moment they have lost their own religious impulses.

We have come to tolerate an intolerant, totalistic sub-culture that prospers in liberal societies that offer ideological cover. Now we must experiment with techniques to control the enemy from within. Thusfar, the score card is not in our favor. Can this condition be reversed? Will the West come to appreciate the threat to their democracies? The future of the West depends on answers to these questions.

Proud to be a Baylor Bear

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has released its most recent guide to choosing colleges and Baylor made their top ten list of colleges that emphasize American values:

6. Baylor University, Waco, Texas - This Baptist school, with a solid teaching tradition and a newly beefed-up faculty, is a place where conservative students can get a solid liberal arts education. It has one of the best core curricula of any school. Students are required to follow a structured curriculum and to demonstrate a proficiency in a foreign language. General education requirements make up more than half of a student's course load.

College Democrats and Republicans coexist on the Baylor campus, along with a flourishing chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, a popular political group that has chapters on campuses throughout the state.

Baylor's enrollment has been booming lately. This year's record is likely to be eclipsed significantly by next year's group. Interested parties should remember to thank one Robert Sloan.

Christian Socialist, Meet Christian Libertarian

Jim Wallis gets a lot of mileage out of being the evangelical with a social conscience. In other words, he votes Democrat most of the time. Certain other top-drawer evangelicals swing that way, too, reflecting what I think is usually fear of being labeled a member of the "ignorant" and "non-compassionate" right. The question is, how correct is Wallis in his inclination to lean left? Is he more biblically-correct in his pro-life, but economically statist positions?

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute does a nice job of addressing the question in his latest for American Spectator. Here's a representative clip from the review of one of Wallis' books:

WALLIS PRESENTS HIS VISION as a fourth option to conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. In his view it "follows from the prophetic religious tradition." In sum, "it is traditional or conservative on issues of family values, sexual integrity, and personal responsibility, while being very progressive, populist, or even radical on issues like poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist."

One can make good prudential policy arguments on behalf of all of these positions. But while God says much about people's relationship to him and each other, he says very little about when people should coerce each other -- that is, what government should do. And this failure to distinguish personal moral imperatives from prudential political concerns places him squarely where he does not want to be: standing between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

Perhaps no where is this more evident than Wallis's reflexive rejection of "tax cuts for the rich." However, the money is not a "public good" to be spent either on government projects or gifts for the wealthy. Rather, the money has been collected from the very people to whom it is being returned. In fact, the rich pay the vast majority of income taxes: for instance, the top one percent pay more than a third of revenues. So any fair tax cut means that the rich will receive more than will the poor. One can justify progressive taxation and social spending, but one must make the argument, rather than simply denounce "tax cuts for the rich."

Similarly flawed is Wallis's discussion of poverty, both domestic and international. No faithful Christian can ignore the enormity of the problem of poverty. But a requirement that one help the poor does not authorize one to force others to help the poor. You will search Scripture long and hard to find such an authorization.

I think Bandow has hit the nail on the head. It's refreshing to read such a well-informed bit of reasoning on church and state. I've often hoped someone would address these issues raised by the Wallis position and am glad to see Doug Bandow gets the job done so in such measured fashion. The entire review is worth reading.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Miami After Dark

When I heard that Scooter might be going to jail to protect George, my natural reaction was: "Is Rizzuto really that loyal to Steinbrenner?" This caused my children to remind me once again that I am out of touch. Well, as Charlie Chan would say: "Indubitably."

Touch is not all I'm out of; I'm still out of power: who will speak for the powerless?

But a pal from ten miles north got his power back and generously stopped by to hook up his generator to my refrigerator, television, computer and a few light bulbs, so I finally have a few minutes to spend on line catching up with all the excitement. (I promised the neighbors to shut down the generator at 1 a.m., it being an awfully noisy contraption.)

Oh, and Tom, thanks for the plug about my dictated column. It's true, I shot the serif - but I did not shoot the deputy, or the intern for that matter.

And, my man Karnick, did I call the Sox thing or what? Cinderella finally gets to marry the ballplayer formerly known as Prince.

Thanks, buddies, for holding up your end of holding down the fort while I try to hold out hope and hold in my frustration.

Media Medea

Brother Jay Homnick, still without electrizical power in post-hurricane Miami, dictated every serif and comma of this piece of brilliance to a friendly but nettled intern over the phone, where it now appears on American Spectator Online.

Timely and sage (as is his custom), it chronicles how the torpedoing of the Miers nomination marks a coming-of-age for the righty blogosphere, from gadflies to kingmakers (or at least holders of veto power). We're here, we're queer (in our own way), get used to it.

The title refers to Greek tragedy and the MSM, and the article throws some baseball into the pot to create a lively stew. Taste it for yerself.

(It occurs to me that since Jay has no access to the internet, this would be a great time to talk about him behind his back. Hehe.)

Alito Prediction

The good Samuel Alito (who reminds me of Sandy Stern from the Scott Turow novels) will win confirmation without as much difficulty as many expect.

The O'Connor seat is not the crucial seat. Even if we have Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts, the other team has Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Mr. "Sweet Mystery of Life" Kennedy. This seat is not the one that changes the balance. It makes the middle depend almost entirely on Kennedy, that's all.

Where it's going to get ugly is if a Republican gets a chance to nominate Stevens' replacement.

Alito Nomination

Well, we're definitely going to have the War Over Judicial Philosophy that the hardliners on the Right were hoping for before the Miers nomination. Alito's position on issues likely to come before the Court is fairly clear, and his resume is impressive. It seems likely that he would be much like former Chief Justice Rehnquist on the Court, and that is a prospect that Democrats cannot enjoy, given that Alito has been nominated to replace Justice O'Connor, a rather waffly Rightist vote.

Initial opposition from Senate Democrats, however, was not as intense as one might have expected. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) said, "The Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people." Fair enough. Teddy Kennedy (MA) said, "Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength." That may sound fairly harsh, but it's nothing when compared with the tirade he engaged in upon the nomination of Judge Bork to the Court two decades ago. Of course, there's still time for Teddy to ratchet up the rhetoric. . . .

The interim president of Planned Parenthood, a group that lobbies for universal, legal access to abortions, called the nomination "outrageous," which was only to be expected. Alito's position on abortion, however, has been more nuanced than the Planned Parenthood president's statement suggests. In 2000, he voted to strike down a New Jersey law banning late-term abortions, as unconstitutional. His reasoning in the case, however, appears to have been based on a simple attempt to follow the Supreme Court's Roe and post-Roe precedents in abortion cases. That does not quite tell us how he would vote if given a chance to affect the Court's position on those issues.

It will be an interesting debate.

Now That's More Like It

Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. Whew. Now why couldn't Bush have just done that in the first place, and saved us all three weeks of unnecessary mudwrestling?

Since Alito is the un-Miers, oozing qualifications out every pore and with a fifteen year history on the federal bench to deconstruct, there will be more confusing information to digest than when you were trying to decide which flat screen TV to buy. We'll try to hold our own in what will be a crowded field, which I expect will be headed by Bench Memos, Volokh, the Right Coast, Althouse, and Southern Appeal.

What a great time this is to be a blogger.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Google Traffic Deluxe: I Discover Michael Been!

Several years back I caught a film on cable starring Willem Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, and Dana Delaney. I didn't see all of it, but what I did see was nearly hypnotic in its effect on me. Over the years I hoped I might run into it again, but I didn't know the title and didn't think about looking for it.

Recently, though, I found the film late at night. The title is Light Sleeper. It's a 1992 movie directed by Paul Schrader. Dafoe is fabulous as a drug dealer who has kicked his own addiction and is now looking to escape the essentially destructive life he's led. Five stars.

What got me this time around -- more than the story -- was the music, particularly a number by Michael Been titled "To Feel This Way." I had to do some digging to figure out the title of the song and the artist, but I did and ended up ordering the entire CD, On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, of which it is a part. Wonderful, melancholy stuff. I just want to lay on the floor and listen to it, particularly the track that arrested me in the first place. Hits all the right mood notes, especially regret.

I also discovered (S.T. Karnick is somewhere going "No, DUH.") that Been was the main man behind the Christian band, The Call. I purchased some of their stuff which I don't like quite as well as the Been solo album. It's still good. One of the cuts was apparently used by the Al Gore 2000 campaign! Also found out Bono is a fan of the band.

We'll see if any other TRC types knew these interesting secrets before I did.