Patterico's Pontifications

5/31/2003

 
KLEINFELD: Check out the most recent How Appealing's 20 Questions -- 20 questions put to an appellate judge. The current installment is an interview of Ninth Circuit judge Andrew Kleinfeld. He was one of the judges in the majority upholding California's Proposition 209, the initiative against racial preferences. Accordingly, he was vilified by the Los Angeles Times as a right-wing nut. Read the whole interview to see what a thoughtful judge Kleinfeld actually is. My favorite quote:

"There is an unfortunate tendency among people who don't think about it too deeply to think that if something is very important, then it must be a matter of constitutional law. That implies that if something is very important, power is transferred from the majoritarian institutions to the courts."

Required reading.


 
TALKING WOMAN IN YOUR COMPUTER: Type in text and listen to a woman say it. And please -- resist your base urge to have her say something dirty.

Warning: the web site imposes a daily limit on how many times you can use the demo.


 
LUFKIN DAILY NEWS DROPS DOWD: This is pretty humorous, I think. The local newspaper in Lufkin, Texas has dropped Maureen Dowd's column, as some guy from that paper explains here. Apparently, Dowd violated one of the fundamental "tents" of the newspaper business. And the Lufkin Daily News is not going to respond to the violation of tents with the sort of "naval gazing" that they do over at the New York Times.

Moral: if you do any naval gazing, take a blanket, 'cause it gets cold at the shore. And remember to take the tents of the newspaper business with you, in case it rains.

Well, this guy's heart is in the right place. Goofs and all, I'd read him over Dowd any day.


5/30/2003

 
CARROLL MEMO: I just re-read the abortion story that caused Times editor John Carroll to send the memo about internal bias I mentioned immediately below. I am struck by the fact that the story, while objectionable for precisely the reasons Carroll mentions, is actually fairly innocuous as Dog Trainer stories go. If this guy thinks this is the worst example of liberal bias he has seen at the Times in recent history, he is delusional.


5/29/2003

 
"HELL FREEZES OVER" IS RIGHT: HELL FREEZES OVER is the title of a post in National Review Online's blog "The Corner." The post quotes in its entirety an amazing memo from Dog Trainer editor John Carroll. The memo critiques a recent article in the Times, which ridiculed a Texas law mandating abortion counseling for women.

What is so eye-catching about the memo is that Carroll actually recognizes the evident liberal bias of the story's author. (Side note: I read the abortion story the day it appeared in the Times, and I noticed all of the things Carroll mentions -- but had neither the time nor the energy to write about it here. It was just another pro-abortion story in a major newspaper; i.e. nothing remotely surprising. My reaction was to complain to my wife and forget about it.) Carroll uses some hard-hitting language in the memo. For example, he notes the reporter's description of the counseling as "so-called counseling" -- a phrase he correctly notes is "loaded with derision." He says: "we are not going to push a liberal agenda in the news pages of the Times." I would add "any more" -- but otherwise I applaud Carroll.

I was so impressed with this memo that I wrote Carroll this morning and congratulated him. I also registered a complaint about the Times's coverage of the Miranda decision (discussed in the post immediately below) -- coverage which is, in my opinion, far worse than the abortion story that Carroll critiques in his memo. I am not holding my breath for a response from Carroll, but if I get one, Patterico readers will be the first to know.


5/28/2003

 
LYING BY OMISSION: Mark Twain once said: "Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it." Today's Los Angeles Dog Trainer (aka Los Angeles Times) pays tribute to Twain's wisdom in its stories about yesterday's Miranda decision.

The decision held that police did not deprive Oliverio Martinez of a constitutional right when they interrogated him without first reading him his Miranda rights. Martinez was riding a bike and was stopped by Oxnard police officers conducting a drug investigation. They frisked him and found a knife. Then there was an altercation, which ended up with Martinez getting shot multiple times. A supervising officer thought Martinez might die, and wanted to get his side of the story. So he followed Martinez to the hospital, and asked Martinez questions about what had happened while Martinez writhed in pain. Martinez was never charged with a crime, but he sued the police department for the shooting -- and for asking him questions without first reading him his Miranda rights.

The parties disputed why Martinez was shot. Police claim Martinez pulled an officer's gun from its holster and pointed it at them, so they shot him. Martinez says he never touched the gun. The police have one fairly major thing favoring their version: in a tape-recorded interview, Martinez admitted he pulled the gun on the officers. As you can learn from reading the opinion itself here, Martinez "admitted that he took the gun from the officer's holster and pointed it at police." (Page 2 of the opinion.)

But you will search our local Dog Trainer in vain for any mention that Martinez admitted pulling the gun on officers. In the main story covering the case, David Savage describes the interrogation -- but never once mentions Martinez' admission.

This omission, which seems merely surprising in Savage's story, becomes shockingly dishonest in the context of the companion piece -- a slavishly favorable portrait of Martinez titled It's 'Just Wrong,' Says the Plaintiff. The sub-head reads: "Oliverio Martinez is blind and paralyzed, and lives in a cramped trailer. He attributes his problems to his shooting by Oxnard police." You can get the flavor of this puff piece from the following quotes:

"Oliverio Martinez hadn't yet heard the news about his case, but that was no surprise. . . . He lives a world away from the marble chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court. He doesn't have a phone, or even a bathroom. With his father, Oliverio Sr., he resides in a dark, cramped trailer about the size of a suburban walk-in closet, a dilapidated tin box outside Camarillo beside the strawberry fields he had worked for the better part of 20 years. . . . Martinez, 35, is blind and paralyzed. His prospects shrank dramatically one November night in 1997 when he was shot five times by Oxnard police. . . . Celebrating his father's birthday, Martinez planned to go out with [his girlfriend] tonight, perhaps for seafood. . . . She will give Martinez's father a shirt and a pair of pants. Martinez will give him the only gift he said he could afford — a hug."

What a great guy, huh? The story makes Martinez sound almost like a saint -- by carefully omitting any hint that maybe he brought this on himself by grabbing a policeman's gun and pointing it at him. This is a fact that the Dog Trainer editors don't want you to know. So, they just don't tell you. The deception is breathtaking.

UPDATE: I thought I'd plumbed the depths of the Times's lies on this issue, but that's because I hadn't read their editorial titled Justice Takes a Beating, which contains the following bald-faced lie: "In the end, the officers got nothing useful from Martinez and never charged him with a crime." Nothing useful -- other than what the Supreme Court described as an admission that he had pulled the officer's gun and pointed it at police!

Incredible.


5/24/2003

 
THE POWER OF THE JUMP: Another installment in our semi-regular series. For the background, visit this earlier post.

Today's installment: a piece titled Tax Cut Is a Victory and a Risk for Bush. The piece is by Ronald Brownstein, a Dog Trainer political writer with a good reputation as a tough, fair, thorough analyst. It opens with a view of the recently passed tax cut as a remarkable accomplishment for Bush -- but one that carries risks as well as opportunities. Fairly high in the piece is this quote from a presidential historian: "It [the tax cut] gives Bush the image of a leader, an impression as someone who cares and someone who is effective -- all of which are good arguments for people to hire you for four more years."

If you read this piece on the Internet, you'd never know that quote was -- you guessed it -- after the jump. You should have seen the physical paper itself; it's hilarious how tiny a space they had to cram the column into so that this quote would not appear on the front page. I can tell you there is no way the Dog Trainer editors were going to allow a quote that favorable to Bush to grace the actual front page.


 
MORE FUN FROM OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: A brutal murderer's death sentence was vacated because there were Gideon Bibles in the sequestered jurors' hotel rooms.


 
BLAIR SAGA CONTINUES: This is just amazing. Howard Kurtz is reporting that Jayson Blair is proposing to write a book called "Burning Down My Master's House" in which he refers to the New York Times as his "slavemaster."

Kurtz says: "Blair casts his story as one of 'a young black man' told he would never succeed 'by everyone from his white second-grade teacher to his editor at the Times, who rose from the fields and got a place in the master's house and then burned it down the only way he knew how.'"

Oh. And here I thought he was just an a**hole who plagiarized and made a bunch of sh*t up.

If the Bob Herberts and William Raspberries of the world had any rationality, they would be condemning this proposal as a huge step backward for blacks. Don't hold your breath.


 
GOOGLE SEARCH UPDATE: I am thrilled to announce that this page was visited by someone who accessed it by running the Google search:

senator+byrd+pompous+idiot

Whoever ran that search: welcome! You are my kind of reader!

I am also proud to state that this blog comes up #2 in that brilliant search. I'll see what I can do to push Patterico to #1. I'm guessing it might help to call Senator Byrd a pompous idiot.


 
RAPPIN IN CONGRESS: Check out this page of the Congressional Record. Halfway down the middle column you can read the introduction and lyrics to a rap song written by some Congressman. Excerpts of this idiot's opus (titled "Shock and Awe") include:

Brains fried
Glands crisp dried
Ears toasted
Thighs roasted
Blood and skin
For savage sausage
Barbecue ageing sages
Too old to flee

Do I have to tell you that this guy is a Democrat?

You think this guy has been using the poem generator (described and used by Patterico here)?


5/22/2003

 
MORE ON IRAQ NUKES: The Los Angeles Dog Trainer has an excellent opinion piece this morning titled We Still Face the Menace of Iraq's Hidden Horrors. Regular readers of Patterico know that this is the biggest underreported story of the war. Here is a taste of today's piece:

"Each day brings new stories of looting at sensitive weapons sites in Iraq, disappearing documents and under-resourced search teams, incapable of protecting even the sites we know about. Consider the sprawling Tuwaitha nuclear complex south of Baghdad, the main repository of Iraq's known nuclear material and equipment. Coalition troops have been neither willing nor able to keep looters out. As a result, documents and equipment that could have provided evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions have disappeared.

"Tuwaitha houses at least 13 metric tons of natural uranium and 1.8 metric tons of low- enriched uranium, as well as significant quantities of cesium, strontium and cobalt. These last three nuclear isotopes would be ideal for use in a 'dirty bomb.' And further processing of Iraq's partially enriched uranium, in neighboring Iran for example, could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to fuel up to three nuclear weapons.

"In April, the New York Times reported that U.S. weapons experts searching an ammunition complex near Karbala found manuals and packaging for two drying ovens imported from Germany, but no ovens. These ovens, said the Times, could be used to process viruses and bacteria for germ weapons. The Times also reported that the team found 11 buried containers with sophisticated lab equipment and seven canisters of cesium in a warehouse. Taken together, these items sketch a suspicious picture that will remain forever incomplete because of looting."

Read the whole thing.


 
EARTH FROM MARS: There's a neat photograph of Earth from Mars in this story from space.com. The Earth appears as a half-globe, with clouds and the South American land mass visible. Check it out.

In surfing after reading this article, I stumbled upon a space.com article from September 2001 titled Experts Pick: Top 10 Space Science Photos. Some of the photos you have seen before, some you haven't. It's all worth a look.


 
"INSIDIOUS SID": Michael Isikoff reminds me why I have no respect for Sidney Blumenthal.


5/21/2003

 
IF ONLY THERE WERE MORE OF THIS: Incredibly, the Associated Press reports that some Palestinians protested Palestinian militants for provoking Israeli military attacks!!

The timing of the most recent terrorist attacks in Israel has reinforced the obvious conclusion that the terrorists are not (contrary to the hand-wringing statements of many liberals) responding primarily to the desperate circumstances of the Palestinians' lives, or to humiliation by Israel. That is clearly not the motivation. If it were, you would routinely see more suicide attacks right after Israel worsened the Palestinians' living conditions (usually due to some military crackdown). To the contrary, military incursions generally result in fewer terrorist attacks. What really scares the militants is the possibility of peace. The second that peace discussions seem like they might get serious, that's when you start seeing stuff blow up.

If more Palestinians would realize that terrorism causes crackdowns, not the other way around, they might see that it is the terrorists and militants who are directly responsible for the Palestinians' own lives being so miserable. I think that is the kind of attitude adjustment necessary to make it politically palatable for someone like Abbas to truly go after the terrorists. (Of course, getting rid of Arafat and his baby wipes wouldn't hurt.)

While I'm not going to get too excited by one isolated protest, it nevertheless was refreshing to see.


5/20/2003

 
SCHEER STUPIDITY: Well, another idiotic Robert Scheer column has appeared. However, I will not be debunking it, because Glenn Reynolds has done it so well that anything I said would be superfluous. The bottom line is that Sneer has fallen hook, line, and sinker for a BBC report on the Jessica Lynch rescue that has been shown inaccurate six ways from Sunday. Scheer accepts it blindly because it is critical of Bush.

My only problem with Reynolds's analysis is his apparently unthinking agreement with an observation that allows that Sneer may be "fundamentally a good guy and a good journalist." Reynolds is more on target when he calls Scheer an "idiot" and says that Scheer's column is an "excuse to foam at the mouth in classically over-the-top Scheer fashion." Amen to that, brother!


 
SUPREMES TAKE INTERESTING CASES: Decisions to watch for next term:

What if a cop takes your confession before reading you your rights, and then reads you your rights and takes your confession again -- all in a deliberate effort to get you to waive your rights on the theory that "I already confessed"? The practice is denounced in this editorial in the New York Shams (formerly New York Times) as "a form of investigative trickery" which is "coercive and unconstitutional." We'll see next term whether the Supremes agree with the Shams.

Also, USA Today reports here: "The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether states that offer scholarships or other aid to needy students may refuse to provide money for instruction at religious schools."


 
MORE THAN JUST CUTE: As a prosecutor, maybe I take this stuff a little too seriously. But I don't think so. I am really offended by what I read in this story: a town in Northern California making it a crime to obey the Patriot Act. "Starting this month, a new city ordinance would impose a fine of $57 on any city department head who voluntarily complies with investigations or arrests under the aegis of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism bill passed after Sept. 11." The people who passed this seem to understand that the ordinance is "mostly symbolic, since federal law trumps any local ordinance." But they seem mighty proud of having taking "civic disobedience" to a new level.

Before you liberals start reflexively cheering, stop and think. My objection has nothing to do with whether I like the Patriot Act. It is that it is deeply offensive to pass a criminal statute as a symbolic gesture -- one which cannot be enforced. Want to pass a resolution denouncing the Patriot Act? Fine. You're an idiot and I'll vote you out of office. But I won't get upset the same way I would with a phony criminal statute.

What if some yokels in Mississippi passed a law that made it illegal to perform an abortion, with the punishment being death? "Hee-yuk. Clearlah weah jus jokin," said local official Cletus Q. Tuethliss. "Fed'ral law says it's ok ta kill them babies, so this heah is mos'ly a like symbolic type thang."


5/19/2003

 
KMIEC GOES NUCLEAR: Doug Kmiec explains the nuclear option in today's Dog Trainer.


 
BYE ARI: The Clinton News Network is reporting that Ari Fleischer will step down in July. I don't have anything against him, but I don't particularly like the guy. So I won't miss him much.


 
VOLOKH HAS TEXT: Fans of The Volokh Conspiracy who use a news aggregator (I use AmphetaDesk) will be pleased to see that he has added text to his XML feed, so now the content of the posts shows up on your aggregator. Nice change, professor!

If you haven't checked out the Conspiracy, you should. It's one of my few permanent links on the left.


 
DOG TRAINER HEADLINE WRITERS ANGLE FOR SPOT ON LENO'S WRITING STAFF: Those zany headline writers at the Los Angeles Dog Trainer have done it again, with the hilariously titled Hunger Gnaws at Ethiopia.

Get it? "Gnaws"? It's funny because people are starving!

I chuckled less at the subhead: "Aid workers struggle to stave off a crisis after drought leaves millions of people needing food." Well, they can't all be gems.


 
GOTTA LOVE THAT IRONY: "I can't say anything other than the fact that I feel a range of emotions including guilt, shame, sadness, betrayal, freedom and appreciation for those who have stood by me, been tough on me, and have taken the time to understand that there is a deeper story and not to believe everything they read in the newspapers." -- Jayson Blair in a Newsweek piece. Emphasis mine; unintentional irony Blair's.


 
HERBERT UPDATE: I notice this morning that Slate's well-known Today's Papers feature has joined Patterico in criticizing Bob Herbert's incredibly misleading column on the Jayson Blair issue. Today's Papers actually calls Herbert "full of it." And so he is -- but it's rare to see such forthright criticism from such an influential source.

Make no mistake: Bob Herbert works for the New York Times. He knows that his column today is a fraud, because he knows damn well what Howell Raines said. Herbert just forgot (or doesn't care) that you know it too.


5/18/2003

 
RASPBERRY HERBERT: As I noted the other day, William Raspberry was so anxious to deny that the Jayson Blair incident had anything to do with diversity, he was deaf to the admissions straight from the horse's ass's mouth. Well, add Bob Herbert to this parade of morons. The basic point of Herbert's piece -- which bears the Orwellian title Truth, Lies and Subtext -- is summed up in this actual quote, which I am not making up: "Listen up: the race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting."

Hey, Bob, listen up: you are an idiot. Or (more likely) you are just a liar.

Let me say this for what? the fourth time? THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ADMITTED TO STAFFERS THAT HIS COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY CAUSED HIM TO GIVE BLAIR "ONE CHANCE TOO MANY." OKAY???!!!

Here's the real issue: reporters like Herbert will lie to you about politically correct topics -- even in the rare situation as this, when the contradictory facts are widely reported and right in your face. So tell me: when (as is generally the case) we have to rely on these same reporters for the facts themselves -- why in the world should you trust them?


 
HMMMM: I enjoyed this critique of our very own Los Angeles Dog Trainer, by Hugh Hewitt in the Weekly Standard. It makes a valid point: "There is more diversity at a militia meeting than at a party of Los Angeles Times columnists. What happens when a newspaper becomes an echo chamber? Obvious errors and over-the-top biases go undetected. That's what happened in New York. It is happening in Los Angeles as well."

Unfortunately, it undercuts Hewitt's credibility when he criticizes Steve Lopez for stating the wrong number of United States aircraft carriers -- and then a correction at the end of the column says that Hewitt himself did the same.

He's still right.


 
WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME CAPSULE GOES: Patterico says: when you create a time capsule, don't lose it.


5/17/2003

 
IRAQ, POST-WAR: Not sure what to think about how it's going. As I wrote on April 9, it's not going to be a smooth path. Bremer sounds serious about de-Baathification. That's good, since up until now the Bushies didn't seem to be paying attention to this issue. At the same time, Iraqi self-rule looks to be further off on the horizon than initially hoped. Not so sure about that. If delaying self-rule helps restore order, it's probably okay for now; but the longer it's delayed, the more we look like an occupying force.

UPDATE: This article is not encouraging.


5/16/2003

 
SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN CASABLANCA: Read about it here. The papers are just writing the reports now. They haven't quite decided whether the bombers committed suicide or died trying to escape.


 
SHUT UP BILL AND HILLARY: It's hard to disagree with that sentiment, even when it is expressed by Susan Estrogen.


 
A RASPBERRY TO RASPBERRY: Memo to Washington Post columnists: it's okay to read the New York Times -- really. When you are writing about a scandal involving the New York Times, it might even be a good idea. Why do I say this? Take a look at the following ignorant quotes from William Raspberry's latest piece:

"Was Blair hired -- and were the negative signals about him ignored -- because he is black? I don't know. Maybe no one does."

Gee, Bill -- maybe no one does. And maybe Howell Raines does. But how would you know that? You would have to have read the story in the New York Times. Or, alternatively, you could have read Patterico's posts (here, here, and most recently here).

Raspberry then notes that Blair was a good schmoozer. "But Blair is black, and for too many of my colleagues that fact trumps everything else. If his credentials weren't checked, if he was promoted beyond his level of competence, if he ended up lying and stealing to support the image he worked to sell, and if his bosses believed the lies longer than they should have -- don't you see? . . . It's because of affirmative action."

Yep. I do see. Because I read the quote, straight from Howell Raines's mouth. My question is, Bill: why didn't you??

Mr. Raspberry, next time you want to open your word-hole and start pontificating on some topic, do your readers a favor and do a little better research.

Unbelievable.


 
THE ANSWER: Richard "Intrepid Reader" Wolfe solves my question about spam e-mail headers:

"You got questions, we got answers...

"Spam subject headers often contain nonsense strings in an
attempt to fool spam filters. The nonsense strings are generated
one per email at the time of the spam-blast, so that each of the
(perhaps millions) of emails has a unique subject line.

"In the earliest days of the fight against spam, an easy way for
an ISP to keep spam from flooding its users' email boxes (and
thus its servers) was to simply compare subject lines of all
incoming emails to each other. For example, if AOL noticed that
five thousand different users all got emails with the exact same
subject line over a period of just a few seconds, it could
reasonably assume that this was spam, and refuse any future
emails with this same subject line. As it can take several hours
to send out millions of emails, they could effectively block a
large amount of that particular spam-blast.

"This is no longer a particularly effective way of masking spam,
it's just one of the first, and you still see it used a lot. In
fact, it's actually hurting spammers in some cases. My
particular spam-blocker of choice, SpamAssassin, 'reads' every
one of my incoming emails and assigns it a grade based on a
variety of criteria, junking ones that it deems likely to be
spam. The presence of a gibberish string in the subject line is
a strike against the email."

Thanks Richard! I will have to check out SpamAssassin. I currently use Mail Washer, but I am always looking for a new and better solution to the ever-increasing spam problem.


5/15/2003

 
LUNAR ECLIPSE: Make sure to watch the lunar eclipse tonight. "The action begins when the moon enters the outer portion of Earth's shadow, known as the penumbra, and then slowly moves into the darker umbra on its way to a total eclipse."

With all the penumbras and shadows floating around (not to mention the emanations), you just might get a glimpse of our constitutional right to privacy in there somewhere.

(If you don't get what I mean, go here, do a Ctrl-F, type in "penumbras" and hit enter. Voila! There it is -- the source of our right to privacy.)


 
MORE JAYSON BLAIR AND DIVERSITY: Check out this Washington Post op-ed titled "Don't Blame Diversity" by Terry M. Neal, the chief political correspondent for washingtonpost.com. Typical of the quotes from the piece: "But why can't Blair just be one severely troubled guy who did outrageous things? Why are some people using him as an example of the evils of commitment to diversity?"

Obviously, when Mr. Neal was doing his current events reading yesterday, he did not read the New York Times. Less forgivably, he did not read Patterico. Had he read either, he would know that Howell Raines himself is blaming diversity.

Nobody is saying that Blair's race is the only factor at work here. At least I'm not. But to argue that affirmative action is not a legitimate topic here, when Raines himself admits it is, is simply political correctness run amok -- in other words, the same sort of mindset that caused the problem in the first place.


 
THE BROKEN CLOCK HYPOTHESIS: A broken clock is right twice a day, goes the old saying. And Robert Scheer gets it right occasionally too. Despite my stated goal of mocking every column he writes, I don't have much of a problem with today's piece, in which Mr. Sneer criticizes the Bush administration's research into "usable" nukes at the same time that our main team looking for WMD in Iraq has given up. I don't sign on to all the language, but I think Scheer has it mostly right this time.

Where's the fun in that?


 
CUTESY EDITORIAL ALERT: This will be a semi-regular feature on this site -- with the emphasis, I hope, on "semi." The Los Angeles Dog Trainer sometimes runs a cutesy editorial as their third editorial. For example, there was one on the topic of "disclaimers" a few weeks back that was enough to turn a coroner's stomach. Another one of these idiocies appears in today's Dog Trainer, with the title: Writing Real Good.

It has to be the same guy who writes all of these things. Where did they find this guy? And when are they going to put him -- and us -- out of our misery?


 
THANK YOU HOWELL: You just know Eason Jordan (the CNN exec who revealed how CNN had been hiding the truth about Saddam for years) has sent a case of scotch to Howell Raines as a thank-you for taking the spotlight off him.


 
WE GOT QUESTIONS: Usually Patterico has all the answers, but sometimes he decides to seek guidance on arcane matters from amongst his vast readership. My question: why do subject headings in spam e-mail often contain nonsense words together with normal ones? Like: "I've been waiting for your response Patterico igfihgooiwsfg" -- that sort of thing.

I will post the first authentic-sounding answer here.


5/14/2003

 
FASCINATING: Lest anyone posit that people are injecting race into the Jayson Blair story where it doesn't belong, let them read this New York Times story about the town-hall-style meeting held by Howell Raines at the Times yesterday. The money quote from Raines: "Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter. . . I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities. . . . Does that mean I personally favored Jayson? Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Duh.


 
DUMB COLUMN OF THE DAY: The award goes to Jack Shafer of Slate, for his silly column titled Defending Howell Raines: He didn't catch Jayson Blair. You didn't either. You know, he's right. How could I have missed all the signs? They were all right there under someone else's nose!

(And that nose belonged to Howell Raines.)

But here's the quote I want to talk about: "So hate Raines as much as you want, and denounce the Times to your heart's content, and demand as much genuflecting from the paper's editors as you desire. Just remember the last time you were conned."

Okay, I'll play along and tell you the story of the last time I was conned, because I think there is a parallel. Several years ago, a lady on the street appeared to be in trouble. Her car had broken down, she said, and she needed money. She was very sincere about wanting to pay me back, and went to great lengths to write down my name, address, and telephone number. She only needed about $5 but I gave her $20. When I gave her the money I noticed that, despite her nice clothes, she had very rough hands. That gave me pause, but I felt committed, and gave her the money. Then I made myself believe that I knew all along it might be a con. (And of course it was.)

She took advantage of a belief I had about myself: that I was a generous person who would help someone genuinely in need. In applying that belief I used bad judgment. Rather than analyze the situation for what it was, I did a dumb thing because it made me feel good about myself. I got conned, but it was my fault too. Because I understand that about myself, it won't happen again.

I think Jayson Blair took advantage of a belief Howell Raines had about himself: that he was a good guy who helped out minorities. After all, this is the guy who felt so strongly about affirmative action that he said about affirmative action in his newsroom: "This campaign has made our staff better and, more importantly, more diverse." In applying his belief about himself, he used bad judgment. Rather than analyze the situation for what it was, he did a dumb thing, because it made him feel good about himself. He got conned -- but it was his fault too.

Does he understand that about himself? And will it happen again?


 
FOR THE GRAMMAR NUTS: Here is an interesting story about a supposed error on the PSAT.

The disputed question: "Toni Morrison's genius enables her to create novels that arise from and express the injustices African Americans have endured." Is there something grammatically wrong with this sentence?

The PSAT folks (properly, in my view) initially said no. Some nut says yes. He has raised sufficient questions to cause the testers to throw the question out. The supposed problem: "Many grammar manuals insist that a pronoun such as 'her' should refer only to a noun, not, as in the case of the possessive 'Toni Morrison's,' an adjective." To which I say: what-ever.

My favorite line in the article requires you to know that the nut with the complaint is named Keegan, and that if you accept his nutty hypothesis, you should have answered "A." Here's the line: "Keegan's success has given him some satisfaction -- oh, wait. . . Keegan's success has given the teacher some satisfaction that students kept from National Merit status only because of their 'A' answer may now make the cut."

Cute.


5/13/2003

 
IGNORANT WEEKLY STANDARD EDITORIAL: This Weekly Standard editorial has several wrong-headed suggestions and comments regarding the confirmation process. The editorial writer should be reading Lawrence Solum's blog, which I commended to you the other day.

The editorial rejects a rule change as a possibility, stating that "no changes in Senate rules can be made except by a two-thirds vote--an even bigger hill to climb [than cloture]." Solum explains why this is wrong here. Republicans can solve the problem without getting 2/3 of Senators to approve a rule change. I think this is worth spending some time on so that all readers understand it.

The explanation is under Solum's heading "A Dramatic Moment." After hypothesizing a vote on a rule change -- which would itself be filibustered -- Solum says: "And then something truly historic happens. At some point, a Senator rises to make a point of order. Let's not worry yet exactly what point of order. The point of order triggers a ruling from the Chair--something to the effect that Rule 22 itself can be modified by a simple majority, despite the text of the rule. Another Senator rises--asking for a vote to overrule the chair, but the chair's ruling is sustained. It only takes a simple majority to sustain the Chair's ruling on the point of order. Now the way has been paved to go back to the nomination, close debate, and confirm Estrada and Owen."

Whether this would be wise is a different issue. But that is how it would work -- and Republicans would need only a majority.

Another misguided quote in the Weekly Standard editorial: "Not incidentally, the Senate Republican leadership could force the Democrats to conduct a real filibuster--marathon, stay-up-all-night sessions like those of yesteryear. That might fix the process real quick." And it might not, as Solum explains here. The bottom line is in an analysis, quoted by Solum, by Stan Bach of the Congressional Research Service: "The Senators participating in the filibuster need only ensure that at least one of their number always is present on the floor to speak. The proponents of the question, however, need to ensure that a majority of the Senate is present or at least available to respond to a quorum call or roll call vote." This rule always works to the disadvantage of the party opposing the filibuster. That's why you don't see "real" filibusters any more.

Hope that clears up some of the contours of the debate.


5/12/2003

 
BLATANT LIE OF THE DAY: From Tom Daschle, who told a whopper today about Miguel Estrada:

The Blatant Lie: "If he just fills out his job application, there would be no filibuster . . . He refuses to do it. You wouldn't hire somebody that wouldn't fill out their job application. It's unprecedented that he would deny us the right to the information that so many of his predecessors have provided."

The Truth: As I explained on February 23, "[n]o judicial nominee in history has been asked for all the memos they wrote for the Justice Department, though 67 previous nominees worked for DoJ."

This is almost as good as the blatant lie that Chuckie S. [Schumer] told about Estrada, as documented in my post of February 26: "We are not keeping it [the Estrada nomination] from going to the floor for a vote."


 
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm sorry we don't have enough soldiers to help you." -- U.S. Army Maj. Jack Nales explaining what he tells Iraqis looking for protection from rampant violent crime.


 
GIVING UP: Apparently the U.S. may be giving up on finding WMD in Iraq. "The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants."


5/11/2003

 
MORE SEARCH ENGINE FUN: Only one new notable search: someone's Yahoo! search on the term naked+male+athletes apparently led them to visit Patterico's site, although I have no idea how. I paged through the first 320 or so results in the search (not visiting the actual pages themselves) and got tired of looking at descriptions of sites devoted to a certain topic -- initials G.P. and rhymes with the phrase "hay corn." (If I actually type those words together into a post I hate to think the sort of hits I'll start getting.)

"Laci+decapitated" continues to be a popular search.


5/10/2003

 
ESTRADA TO WITHDRAW NAME: This story says: "Miguel Estrada has 'raised the possibility' with the White House of withdrawing his name from the appeals court nomination, financial news network CNBC reported, citing unidentified people close to Estrada."

When I read something like this, I assume the White House is behind it. It looks like the first stages of capitulation. Which really, really upsets me.


 
INCREDIBLE: You may or may not have followed the story about the New York Times reporter who was fired for plagiarism. This article in the Times chronicles his history of deception. I actually recognized a couple of stories that he apparently screwed up -- both about the D.C. sniper.

The first article, "attributed entirely to the accounts of five unidentified law enforcement sources, reported that the United States attorney for Maryland, under pressure from the White House, had forced investigators to end their interrogation of Mr. Muhammad perhaps just as he was ready to confess." Turns out that "Mr. Muhammad was not, as Mr. Blair reported, 'explaining the roots of his anger' when the interrogation was interrupted. Rather, they said, the discussion touched on minor matters, like arranging for a shower and meal."

"On Dec. 22, another article about the sniper case by Mr. Blair appeared on the front page. Citing unidentified law enforcement officials once again, his article explained why 'all the evidence' pointed to Mr. Muhammad's teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, as the triggerman. And once again his reporting drew strong criticism, this time from a prosecutor who called a news conference to denounce it."


 
EXTRA! EXTRA! NYT EDITORIAL NOT COMPLETELY HONEST: Okay, maybe it's not that surprising. The editorial gives a hint to where it's going with the title: The Reality of the Judicial 'Crisis'. The editorial argues: "The reason [Bush's judicial] nominees have met with resistance is not Democratic intransigence or a flawed rule." Oh, okay. So what is the problem? "It is that many are far-right ideologues whose views offend most Americans. . . . The only 'crisis' at hand is that the White House is having trouble getting its most politically extreme nominees confirmed."

Here's the part I like: "What kind of nominees are Senate Democrats balking at? One, an Arkansas anti-abortion activist, has written that women should be subordinate to men. Another argued, as a Justice Department lawyer, that Bob Jones University should keep its tax-exempt status even though it discriminated against blacks."

Interesting that these people are not named. But Democrats are "balking at" two judges in particular: Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen. These are the only two nominees being filibustered by Democrats (currently). So these thumbnail descriptions of the "kinds of nominees [that] Senate Democrats are balking at" must be of Estrada and Owen, right? Wrong! The descriptions are of James Leon Holmes and Carolyn B. Kuhl. See, if they had to give a thumbnail description of Estrada, the editorial would read like this:

"What kinds of nominees are Senate Democrats balking at? Well, one was rated 'unanimously well-qualified' (the highest possible rating) by the American Bar Association. He was Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He also graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor on the Law Review. He was a law clerk to a respected judge on the federal Court of Appeals, and then to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He has been an Assistant U.S. Attorney, an Assistant to the Solicitor General, and a partner at a major law firm. He has argued over a dozen cases in the United States Supreme Court, and has been praised as a brilliant lawyer by many prominent Democrats from the Clinton-era Justice Department. But, uh . . . he won't release his memos when he worked at the Justice Department! There! True, no previous nominee who worked at the Justice Department has ever been required to divulge all his memos, as the Democrats are demanding with Estrada. But, but. . . oh, never mind."


 
THE REAL NOOKYOOLUR OPTION: The Dog Trainer is reporting that the Bush administration is taking major steps towards developing a new generation of smaller nookyoolur weapons, apparently with an eye towards actually using them.

Is there really a good argument for this, in the face of the obvious arguments against it?


 
PRISON RAPE: I have never been a fan of prison rape, and I have never been amused by prison rape jokes. I was appalled when the Attorney General of California, Democrat Bill Lockyer, made a joke about prison rape. As I mentioned just the other day, prison rape (indeed, any rape of a man) is not even considered rape by the FBI's report "Crime in the United States" yet prison rape is "possibly the largest category of forcible rapes."

Many people think it's not that big a deal because they figure prisoners deserve it. But think about it for half a second. Who do you think the victims are? The tough guys in the prison? Or the weak ones? Do you want your tax dollars supporting the notion that the meanest, toughest prisoners should be able to get their jollies by terrorizing the weakest and most helpless prisoners?

I have just learned from a recent piece by National Review contributor Rich Lowry that a "right-left coalition" has been "pushing federal prison-rape legislation" which Lowry describes as follows:

"The bill is mild. It requires that the Justice Department gather statistics on rape, and that prison officials from states where the incidence of rape significantly exceeds the national average explain themselves in Washington. It creates a National Prison Rape Reduction Commission, the recommendations of which the attorney general is free to reject or accept."

Sounds sensible to me.


 
AND NOW, THE REAL NUCLEAR OPTION: The Washington Post continues to have the best reporting on the huge and mostly unreported scandal of looted nuclear sites in Iraq -- which I have previously discussed in posts from May 4 and April 22.

This article reports that seven nuclear sites have been looted: "Seven nuclear facilities in Iraq have been damaged or effectively destroyed by the looting that began in the first days of April, when U.S. ground forces thrust into Baghdad, according to U.S. investigators and others with detailed knowledge of their work. The Bush administration fears that technical documents, sensitive equipment and possibly radiation sources have been scattered."

Although it is not clear exactly what has been lost, it is clear that it is not insignificant, as "it is well documented that looters roamed unrestrained among stores of chemical elements and scientific files that would speed development, in the wrong hands, of a nuclear or radiological bomb. Many of the files, and some of the containers that held radioactive sources, are missing."

Since I was a child, I have always considered nuclear terrorism inevitable. I had hoped that it would not occur in my lifetime. Now, because of Bush's unbelievably reckless failure to guard these sites, I am not so sure.


 
THE NUCLEAR OPTION: In the filibuster wars, that is. If you are looking for a clear, well thought-out explanation of the mechanics (and consequences) of eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations, look here -- at Professor Lawrence Solum's blog. His ultimate conclusion is that, wherever the confirmation wars started, the immediate battle has been started by our friend Chuckie S. (Schumer) -- and has created a "high stakes game of chicken" between parties so angry that they may lack the "instinct to pull away just before the collision becomes inevitable." Definitely check it out if you have any interest in the battle over Estrada and Owen.


5/09/2003

 
MONKEY TYPING EXPERIMENT: A bunch of monkeys are put in a room with a computer and keyboard. What is the result? If you guessed literature resembling Shakespeare, then you may be a fan of 19th-century scientist Thomas Huxley -- but maybe you haven't been hanging out with real monkeys lately.

Some researchers tried it. They actually left a computer in a monkey enclosure in an English zoo. The results are described here. In terms of the literary output, basically, the monkeys pressed the "S" key a lot. "Later, the letters A, J, L and M crept in."

It didn't start out that auspiciously, though. Actually, according to one researcher, the first thing that happened was that "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell out of [the computer] . . . Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard."

Heh heh. Monkeys.


 
MORE STRANGE BENNETT LOGIC: As I have said, I don't like Bill Bennett. But it turns out I don't like a lot of his critics, either. It's telling (though not surprising) that a Dog Trainer staff writer expresses such open delight in this gambling issue. (I admit to having been amused myself, but I don't pretend to be impartial.) No doubt echoing the sentiments of her fellow reporters, she says (in a comment typical of the tone of the whole piece): "It is just too delicious."

But I was confused by a passage further down, where the gleeful writer interviews a columnist for New York Magazine named Randy Cohen:

"Gambling is not a vice," he [Cohen] said. "Bennett's moral problem is not his gambling, his moral problem is hypocrisy."

Gotcha. It's the hypocrisy, not the gambling. I'll keep reading . . .

"In answering this, the obvious charge, Bennett and his supporters have been quick to point out that he has never addressed the morality of gambling in any of his books or many speaking engagements. But according to Cohen, the fact that Bennett never publicly denied gambling or included it in his long list of moral shortcomings is a laughable defense. 'I'd like to see a mass murderer try that one in court -- "I never said I wasn't killing a lot of people, your honor."'"

Gotcha. Because it wouldn't be hypocritical, but mass murder is bad. So it's the gambling, not the hypocrisy.

I will repeat that the moral is not to moralize in such a way that annoys liberals, because if you have a skeleton in your closet -- or even a doggie bone -- they will not hide their glee in your downfall.


 
DOG TRAINER EDITORIAL WRITERS TAKE NOTE: I know you consider yourselves very knowledgeable about everything under the sun, including the qualifications of President Bush's judicial nominees. But you lose a little credibility when you can't even get their names right. It's "Priscilla Owen," not "Patricia Owen."

(P.S. Everything else in your editorial is wrong too.)

Thanks to How Appealing for noticing.


5/08/2003

 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO "HOW APPEALING": If you haven't checked out How Appealing, click on the permanent link at the left margin. This amazing site just turned one year old, and in that one year has become an indispensable tool for judges, lawyers, students, law clerks, and citizens interesting in the workings of the appellate courts in this country -- which (given their power) should be everybody. How this guy maintains such a comprehensive, well-written site and manages to hold down a day job is utterly beyond me.


 
BLINDED BY BUSH HATRED: That is the title of this op-ed in the Washington Post. The author says: "Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway -- is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie." This from a senior editor at the New Republic!

This reminds me. I hesitate to broach the subject, and could be opening myself up for a Secret Service investigation, but -- we are historically due for another serious assassination attempt. Everyone has seen the stats: beginning in 1840 with William Henry Harrison, presidents elected in a year ending in a zero (which happens every twenty years) tended to die in office -- often due to getting shot. In fact, the first president to buck this trend was Ronald Reagan, who survived a serious assassination attempt. Since it is tough to imagine G.W. Bush dying from natural causes any time soon, one has to wonder -- especially given the widespread irrational hatred of the man.


 
TWINS!!!!: I am thrilled to announce that my sister Marianne had twins tonight: Andrew (4 pounds 6 ounces) and Ellie (weight unclear, but a little less). Both are happy and healthy. Welcome to the world, Andrew and Ellie!

UPDATE: Andrew (Andrew Clark Goen) was 4 pounds 6 ounces, and Ellie (Elizabeth Carolyn Goen) was 3 pounds 14 ounces. (They were delivered 5 weeks by C-section due to worries about Marianne's high blood pressure; hence the low birth weights. They are under observation but should be fine.)


 
MORE ON DEBAATHIFICATION: Regular readers will no doubt remember that I have previously expressed worry (most recently in this April 14 post) that United States Government officials have not gotten it through their thick skulls that it is critical to get rid of all Baath party members in positions of power in Iraq, at every level.

Well, nothing has really changed in the last three weeks. This New York Times story says: "Despite Bush administration statements that it would dismantle Mr. Hussein's police state, senior Baath Party officials are working openly in many Iraqi cities, especially here in the capital where power is still up for grabs." Worse, we are not just allowing this, but facilitating it: "many members of the Baath Party are insinuating themselves into leading positions under the American administration."

What I am about to say, I don't say lightly. After all, I warned readers -- not just once but many times -- not to be too critical of America's inability to correct 20+ years of problems overnight. But when you put the failure to de-Baath together with the huge scandal (that is still getting almost no media attention) over the inattention to known nuclear sites in Iraq, a very good case can be made that the Bush adminstration is screwing up the post-war situation unforgivably.


 
THE POWER OF THE JUMP: "The Power of the Jump" will be a semi-regular feature on this site. The "jump" is the place in a newspaper story where the story moves from page A1 to, say, page A23. Numerous studies show that the overwhelming majority of readers do not bother to follow the story past the jump line. Although you don't see it when you read newpapers on the internet, most people read newpapers in the print form -- and savvy editors use the power of the jump to their advantage. The Los Angeles Dog Trainer in particular habitually buries inconvenient facts on the back pages -- a practice Dog Trainer editors have raised to an art form.

Today's Dog Trainer has a nice example. The headline of this fair and balanced story reads: Insurer Uses Its Muscle on 2 Bills. The sub-head: "Measures opposed by activists and regulators advance. Firm has been a big campaign donor." And the first sentence: "A Los Angeles insurance company that has contributed millions of dollars to California politicians over the years is trying to use its influence with lawmakers to overturn regulatory and court decisions that threaten its financial interests."

So that's the background: clearly, the reporter and editors see this as a story about the corrupting influence of campaign contributions. Who is it that's accepting these contributions?? Well, the article contains a very interesting quote from an activist, who asked: "Why are we here doing this? . . .Is this bill really about good policy or is this bill about helping an insurance company that has given $1 million to the Democratic Party since 2001?" (Emphasis mine.)

By now you have no doubt guessed that this quote, from an activist who primarily accuses Democrats of being corrupted by large donations, comes after the jump. The actual jump comes just before the previous paragraph, just before the word "room." Interesting, eh?

By the way, everybody at the newspapers is acutely aware of this syndrome. I recently spoke to a Dog Trainer reporter and expressed my concern that the story he was writing would bury the relevant facts on the back pages. I told him that it was my impression that most readers do not follow stories past the jump. He forthrightly replied: "That's what all the studies show."

Don't tell me that reporters and editors with an agenda don't try to take advantage of this fact.


5/07/2003

 
DON'T YOU KNOW THAT THE BYRD IS THE WORD: Robert Byrd has denounced the President's "flamboyant showmanship."

You ever watch Robert Byrd give a speech?


 
GOING NUCLEAR: All readers should be aware that Senate Republicans are considering the "nuclear" option of breaking judicial filibusters by simply declaring that a majority vote is sufficient. Believe it or not, this could probably work under Senate rules, and would be virtually impossible to challenge in court. Read about it here.

Of course, as you read about this bold plan, you should also be aware that the Senate Republicans don't have the guts to carry it out.


 
MORE ON RACIAL PROFILING: I can report from personal experience a perfect example of ridiculous "racial profiling" claims based on the always-dangerous combination of statistics and lack of common sense.

First, some necessary background: a federal statute criminalizes re-entry into the country by illegal aliens who were deported due to criminal convictions. It is an open secret that the U.S. Attorney's Offices near the Mexican border do not enforce this statute as written, but rather have fairly restrictive policy guidelines that result in only a fraction of offenders being prosecuted. Without these guidelines, the precise contours of which are considered confidential by the Government, federal prosecutors in San Diego and Los Angeles could do nothing but illegal re-entry cases and still be short-staffed.

Nevertheless, when I clerked for a federal district judge in downtown Los Angeles, I noticed that every single Mexican illegal charged under this statute was filing discovery motions in a bid to show that the Government was selectively prosecuting Mexicans for this offense! Their evidence? Most of the prosecutions were of Mexicans! "Where are the illegal re-entry prosecutions for Canadian illegals, or British or French illegals?" shouted the federal public defenders.

Notice that rationality plays no role in this debate. Never mind that re-entering the country is much easier when the country directly borders the U.S. Never mind that illegal immigration from the one other country directly bordering the U.S. (Canada) is (due to economic reasons) statistically insignificant compared to illegal Mexican immigration in the U.S. as a whole. Even if that last point were not true, never mind that the Los Angeles area has millions of illegal Mexican immigrants and virtually no illegal Canadian immigrants. Los Angeles is near Mexico and far from Canada. All of these incredibly obvious points appeared completely lost on the defense lawyers.

Now imagine that the Assistant United States Attorneys could be prosecuted as felons for their racial profiling of Mexican illegals, based on the overwhelming statistical evidence showing their obvious bias against Mexicans. You should start to see the problem I'm talking about.


 
MINORITY CRIME REVISITED: A reader writes to question my assertion made in an earlier post that "minorities are disproportionately lawbreakers." This reader says:

"Perhaps, but it's hard (impossible?) to determine this, if lawbreaking by non-minorities is not being detected or officially recorded. My daughter, who was recently a teenager, used to observe that drug use was quite prevalent among white (and non-white) middle and upper class teenagers who attended private schools. They hardly ever are stopped or arrested. When I warned her once about curfew laws, she assured me that those laws are only for gang members and minorities. She and her friends were never stopped for curfew violations. On a similar note, drug use in the entertainment and recording industries is legendary. But how many famous actors or musicians (other than Robert Downey) ever get arrested for drug use? I also periodically see anecdotes about corporate executives and people in high finance who apparently use drugs with impunity. Do we really know that minorities use illegal drugs disproportionately more than non-minorities? We know that they are arrested and convicted more often. But the 'popular wisdom' is that they are the only ones being pursued for it. Do we know otherwise?"

I think this is a good point, but one that is much more relevant to certain crimes (narcotics and theft offenses, for example). I agree that rich white people taking cocaine or defrauding people are much less likely to be arrested than poor blacks doing cocaine on the street or shoplifting steaks from the grocery. I think this is an issue of resources/laziness: the latter category of offenses is out in the open. For example (unless you are Winona Ryder) little investigative work is necessary to pursue a shoplifting case; the same cannot be said for much corporate fraud.

However, the observation has less force when applied to violent street crime: robberies, serious assaults, rapes, and murders. For those types of crimes, there are studies that survey victims and their families regarding the race/ethnicity of the perpetrator. By focusing on reported crimes rather than arrests, the studies control for variables such as law enforcement's possible focus on minority lawbreakers in effecting arrests.

For example, I believe such an approach forms part of the method used in the FBI report Crime in the United States for 2001 (the most recent report I could find). This report is not perfect. Its reportage of rapes admittedly excludes possibly the largest category of forcible rapes: prison rape. Also, its data do not translate perfectly to this discussion because the tables appear to lump Hispanics into the "white" racial category. Perhaps most annoying is the clunkiness of the .pdf interface. It is difficult to navigate your way around in it.

Due to the clunkiness, I will cite only one example: murder. This table shows that in 2001, of known murder offenders, 5521 (50.3 percent) were black and 5174 (47.2 percent) were "white" -- a term that includes Hispanics. This data is consistent with similar studies I have been reading about for years.

This is not to pick on minorities. Rather, I mean only to offer some support for the claim I made in an earlier post. My overarching point remains that criminalizing "racial profiling" by law enforcement raises the distinct possibility of some very unfair prosecutions based on statistics that have a benign interpretation -- but one that may not sell to a jury.


 
A CHILL WIND IS BLOWING IN THIS NATION: More suppression of speech. Clarence Thomas is being called "unworthy" of giving a commencement speech at the University of Georgia Law School, by ever-so-worthy law professor . . . uh, well, I can't remember his name. They probably give it somewhere in the story.


 
MORALIZING: Jonah Goldberg makes a wonderful point in his latest column, re liberals overjoyed at the downfall of Bill Bennett because they consider him a "moralizer":

"Everyone moralizes. The suggestion that liberals aren't moralizers is so preposterous it makes it hard for me to take any of them seriously when they wax indignant about 'moralizers.' Almost every day, they tell us what is moral or immoral to think and to say about race, taxes, abortion — you name it. They explain it would be immoral for me to spend more of my own money on my own children when that money could be spent by government on other peoples' children. In short, they think moralizing is fine. They just want to have a monopoly on the franchise."


 
GOOD POINT: The Shark Blog notes that the recently captured Iraqi microbiologist Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash had been made a part of Saddam's inner circle in 2001. The blog sensibly asks whether that fact is consistent with Saddam's having lacked a biological weapons program. "Are we to believe that she was in charge of a strategic yogurt initiative?"


5/06/2003

 
FUN WITH STATISTICS: Here's a fun site by a guy who failed high school statistics. This genius has computed the average age at death of rock stars (36.9) compared to the average age at death of most Americans (75.8). Quite a startling discrepancy, eh? He even lets you know that he is not stacking the deck: "NOTE: This is EVERY death of a Rock star we've found. This is NOT a 'RIGGED' list to produce FALSE numbers, but an HONEST observation."

Problem: it's an honest observation by a guy who is not very bright. Most rational people would look at this data and reach the following conclusion: "Not surprising. Rock-and-rollers haven't been around that long, so the older ones haven't died yet." The conclusion reached by this genius? "The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened." Heh heh.

Still, some fun stats for the more morbid rock-and-roll fans among you.


 
GOOGLE SEARCH CONTEST: Following up on the last post, I should note that I have received no entries in my contest (announced in an April 29 post) for goofiest Google entry that pulls up Patterico's Pontifications as #1.

However -- in an illustration of the concept that reality often surpasses art, allow me to present to you some actual recent searches, done by actual people who visited this site as a result of their search:

Google search Scott+laci+Peterson+naked: Patterico's Pontifications is on the fourth page of this search.

Google search spitting+while+talking: Patterico's Pontifications is entry #6 on the first page of this search.

Google search homosexual+childbirth+photos: Patterico's Pontifications is the last entry on the first page of this search.

Yahoo! search court+transcripts+of+adultery+cases+and+incest+cases: Patterico's Pontifications is entry 30 in this search.

Yahoo! search southwest+naked+gay+pilots: Patterico's Pontifications is entry 7 on the first page of this search.

And the grand prize winner is this Google search, conducted by someone who apparently really has it in for William Saletan of Slate: saletan+incest++-porn+-xxx+-personals: Patterico's Pontifications is entry 12 on the first page of this search.

My thanks to Senator Rick Santorum for helping me introduce an international gaggle of perverts to my blog.


 
LACI DECAPITATED: Some of you may have read my post from April 28, in which I proclaimed my refusal to simply write the words "Laci" and "decapitated" numerous times just to get hits on Google from people putting in the search terms "Laci" and decapitated." That post apparently had the unintended consequence of making this site #1 on Google for searches using the terms "Laci" and "decapitated." "Laci + decapitated" continues to be a popular search, so I am probably getting a lot of visitors looking for information on whether Laci was decapitated -- only to find that I refuse to write about whether Laci was decapitated. (Unless the subject of Laci's decapitation occurs naturally.) I apologize for any confusion.

Still no word on whether Laci actually was decapitated.


 
THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOD: Screeds like this one (by Robert Sneer) or this one (by Nicholas Kristof) annoy me. Sneer says: "If, in the end, Iraq is not shown to have had truly threatening weapons, it will be Bush who stands exposed as one who didn't know how to tell the truth." Kristof says: "Let's fervently hope that tomorrow we find an Iraqi superdome filled with 500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax, and proof of close ties with Al Qaeda. Those are the things that President Bush or his aides suggested Iraq might have, and I don't want to believe that top administration officials tried to win support for the war with a campaign of wholesale deceit."

Why must it be "deceit"? What if the President knew what we all knew: Saddam provably had this stuff in 1998, nations in similar positions in the past (like South Africa) had proven that they had disposed of such weapons, and Saddam showed no interest in providing that sort of proof. I suspect that, while Bush had access to the specifics of intelligence, the basic picture was about what I just described. Isn't that enough? And if we find no WMD, why does that indicate "deceit"? "Intelligence" is, as I have pointed out before, stuff that some guys in another country are telling you. You don't know it's true; you make your best judgment. Bush did. He may have been wrong or he may have been right, but he doesn't know everything -- and if he's wrong that doesn't make him a liar.

I think this attitude is symptomatic of a larger issue: people often assume that the Government is all-knowing (and all-powerful). Government is the capital-T "They" in the "they" that people always talk about with reverence and awe: "if they can put a man on the moon . . ." My experience and observations tell me that Government is full of people -- i.e. beings that (while often smart) make mistakes.

I can't find a link for my favorite recent example of this, but here's the story. An Iraqi government building is on fire. An AP reporter drives up to an Army sergeant and haughtily demands of him: "Why aren't you putting out the fire?" He responds, disgusted: "What do you expect me to do? Piss on it?"


5/05/2003

 
TARANTO V. SHARPTON, ADVANTAGE SHARPTON: I hate to report that James Taranto, who runs a pretty good blog called Best of the Web at the Wall Street Journal Online, has been shown up by none other than Al Sharpton. Taranto said today that in the recent Democratic debate, "Sharpton was more goofy than demagogic. For example, he complained that there's no right to vote in the Constitution and said he wanted to establish one. Apparently he's never heard of Article I, Section 2 or the 15th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, 24th and 26th amendments."

Well, James, I have heard of all of these constitutional provisions -- and none of them establishes a constitutional right to vote. For example, we commonly speak of the 19th Amendment as giving women the "right to vote," or the 15th giving slaves the "right to vote" -- but we are wrong to do so. The 15th Amendment prevents the Government from depriving citizens of the right to vote on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The 19th Amendment prevents the Government from depriving citizens of the right to vote "on account of sex." But nothing in the Constitution prevents the Government from depriving everyone equally of the right to vote. You can read the Constitution as long and hard as you like, but you won't find a provision anywhere in it that confers upon ordinary citizens something called the "right to vote."

The Supreme Court pointed this out famously with respect to presidential elections, in a decision you might have heard of called Bush v. Gore. The Court said in that opinion: "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College." (Emphasis mine.) In other words, if a state legislature chooses to select Electoral College members through a means other than a statewide election, that is fine and dandy with the Federal Constitution.

An interesting discussion of the issue by a Columbia law professor can be found here. The professor is co-author of a constitutional law book with Laurence Tribe. You won't be surprised to learn that he thinks this is a real problem, one that needs to be fixed with a constitutional amendment.

I still like "Best of the Web," but Taranto has to eat a little crow here.


 
DENNIS MILLER ON NORMAN MAILER: Well, not literally -- calm down, Senator Santorum. This is just a piece in a newspaper. It is for folks who were interested in my post from Wednesday on that truly bizarre opinion piece by Norman Mailer -- you know, the one where he said we went to war because white guys suck at sports. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal today has this Dennis Miller rant on that Mailer piece.

It's classic Miller, filled with lines like this: "And as Mr. Mailer's prostate gradually supplants his ego as the largest gland in his body, he's going to have to realize, as is the case with all young lions who inevitably morph into Bert Lahr, that his alleged profundities are now being perceived as the early predictors of dementia."


 
BIZARRE: What in the world is a sensible piece like this doing in the Washington Post? The piece is a brilliant analysis of the issues involved in so-called "racial profiling."

The bottom line is this: "If the rates of stops or arrests for minorities are disproportionate to their share of a population, critics conclude that the police must be singling civilians out on the basis of race, not behavior." As the writer points out: "Such an analysis would make sense only if lawbreaking were spread evenly across the population. It is not." So simple, so true, and yet so rare to see in print.

One thing mentioned in the article, but perhaps not emphasized as the chilling (in more ways than one) phenomenon it is: criminalizing racial profiling. Turns out racial profiling has actually been made a felony in New Jersey! Given how quickly people leap to the conclusion that police racially profile, this is simply incredible. If I were a New Jersey cop, I would quit my job the second this law took effect -- not because I would be a racial profiler, but because I wouldn't be.

It's this simple: minorities are disproportionately lawbreakers (I'm not a racist, folks -- this is undeniable fact). Accordingly, even if you do your job in a completely race-neutral way, you will inevitably end up stopping/searching/arresting a disproportionate number of minorities. BINGO! It's time for your trial on felony charges! Now you get to explain why your statistics look so bad -- and the true reason will be: that minorities are disproportionately lawbreakers! Good luck presenting that defense to a jury! You will be convicted in five minutes, and the jurors will walk out of the courtroom shaking their heads at the nerve of you and your defense lawyer.

The piece concludes: "Sept. 11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Hani Hanjour and Ziad Jarrah were all stopped for speeding in 2001 -- Jarrah in Maryland just two days before the attacks. When the next cohort of Islamic terrorists have their inevitable brushes with the police, you can be sure that no matter how nervous or agitated their behavior, under the anti-profiling regime, they'll be told to get on their way."


5/04/2003

 
POEM GENERATOR: Here is a poem generator. Enter a URL and it will generate a modern-looking free-form poem from words on the web page. I put in the Patterico's Pontifications URL a few times and generated several poems. I copied the lines I liked best, tweaked them a little, and strung them together to form this poem:

In this
the fabulous country of data
The pilot literally
crashes the very positive,
the reaction to terror.
VINDICATION. Through it
Saddam and I walk away
one in our view. From Saudi Arabia
and glorious centrality
and his constitutional prerogative to
see that
a constitution is made:
a list of the pickled mind, as
a steel cable stretched across the sentence.
War has a certain duration.
But our war might just
wait for other public ministers . . .
who said
their
boys overseas were
for these weapons?
A sufficient retort:
Where is the deadline to earn the
war He thinks should happen?


 
LOOTING OF WMD REVISITED: On April 22, I posted this comment about the looting of "potentially sensitive" sites in Iraq that might have had important information on the location of WMD.

I said: "I hope that, at the very least, we secured all the sites where we believed the weapons themselves might have been. I am less concerned that we can't find WMD than I am that we may have created a situation where we let WMD get looted."

We learn today in this story in the Washington Post that: "A specially trained Defense Department team, dispatched after a month of official indecision to survey a major Iraqi radioactive waste repository, today found the site heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing. . . . The discovery at the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility was the second since the end of the war in which a known nuclear cache was plundered extensively enough that authorities could not rule out the possibility that deadly materials had been stolen."

This is hardly a site that was previously unknown to have nuclear material. This is the same facility bombed by Israel in 1981 and by the United States in 1991.

In theory, the Iraq war should have made us safer from weapons of mass destruction. As it has been executed, it appears to be making us far more vulnerable to these weapons. God (or perhaps Allah) only knows where potentially looted material such as this will end up. The failure to immediately secure sites that were previously known to have WMD -- nuclear material, no less! -- is a huge scandal, in my opinion. And one that is getting almost zero attention (even from Democrats!) in the euphoria over our victory.


5/03/2003

 
HMMMMMMMM AGAIN: That "senior Bush administration official" is at it again, suggesting that Saddam may have destroyed his WMD before the war. The official "suggested that the sanctions and UN inspections probably prompted Mr. Hussein to dispose of much of his stockpile."


 
CAMPAIGN FINANCE AGAIN: If you really care what the useless campaign finance decision says, the New York Times characterizes the holding in this way:

Constitutional: a ban on advertisements that attack or support candidates.

Unconstitutional: a ban on using soft money for other purposes, like increasing party registration or getting out the vote.

And if you simply must read the decision for yourself, you can do so here.

Later I will have a post on why this is all completely ridiculous.


 
THOSE RECORD COMPANIES: The New York Times reports here about some extremely aggressive steps being researched by the record companies to address the issue of illegal music downloading. Many of the proposed steps include loading the trading networks with computer programs designed to disrupt the computers of downloaders.

Some of the more interesting approaches being considered include a program called "freeze" which "locks up a computer system for a certain duration — minutes or possibly even hours — risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted. It also displays a warning about downloading pirated music."

"Another program under development, called 'silence,' scans a computer's hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. One of the executives briefed on the silence program said that it did not work properly and was being reworked because it was deleting legitimate music files, too." Whoops!

The record companies have worked hard to earn the hatred that helped spur the illegal downloading phenomenon. I am happy to see that they are now working hard to win back the trust and respect of consumers -- by unleashing computer viruses on them.


 
GOOD POINT: I don't know if you've seen the latest ads for Las Vegas with the slogan: "What happens here stays here." But I am wondering what the casino employees who leaked documents about Bill Bennett (as described in my post here) think of the new ad campaign.

(Courtesy of a reader of The Corner.)


 
CAMPAIGN FINANCE DECISION: If you're looking to Patterico for clarity on the campaign finance decision, look no further. Not because I can provide it, but because nobody can. So stop wasting your time.

A friend e-mails with articles from MSNBC emphasizing what has been struck down, and notes that the Dog Trainer has emphasized the parts that were upheld. The bottom line is that nobody really knows. The media can't even agree on whether the decision is 1500 pages, 1600 pages, or 1700 pages.

I am not even going to provide links to any of these articles, because you shouldn't waste your time. Here's all you need to know:

1. The only potential importance of a lower-court decision in a case as politically charged as this one lies in the factual findings. In this case, the three judges could not agree at all on the factual findings, which were not even based on live testimony. For these reasons, the members of the U.S. Supreme Court will not give this decision any deference whatsoever. Nor should they.

2. The decision is 1500-1700+ pages long. As a result, very few will actually read it.

The only reason anyone should actually get their hands dirty with this mess is if they have to seek or give actual practical advice on what the law is before the next election. We run-of-the-mill citizens should just wait for the Supreme Court decision.


 
WHOM DO YOU TRUST?: This article in the Weekly Standard, titled "Bad Reporting in Baghdad," says that reporters in Baghdad have been exaggerating the amount of hostility to America in Iraq, and underreporting the gratitude of the Iraqi people. The article backs up its contentions with specifics, and makes a pretty convincing case.

I would like to see responses from the reporters accused of distortion. But I'm sure they consider themselves above that. They would likely simply sneer that the article appeared in the Weekly Standard, and they and their newsroom buddies would consider that a sufficient retort.


 
IT TAKES ALL KINDS: The world is filled with interesting people, including a guy with a web page containing over 50 pictures of various food items balanced on the head of a rabbit. (Not at the same time.)


 
SAD: Regardless of your opinion of the whole Israeli/Palestinian deal, a picture like this is very sad. (It is also graphic, so skip it if you can't take that sort of thing.) It is hard to look at a picture of a two-year old child who has been shot in the head, especially if you are a parent.


5/02/2003

 
EXPLANATION OF TERM DOG TRAINER: My wife says I need to explain what the term Dog Trainer means. It's a term I use frequently on this site. It originated with Harry Shearer, and refers to the Los Angeles Times. I think you already understood that, but the wife says maybe not.


 
HEH: I do not like Bill Bennett, so I was amused to read this Newsweek story about his high-stakes gambling habit. Apparently Virtuous Bill has been dropping millions of smackeroos at the high-dollar slots in Vegas over a period of several years.

Bennett claims he has broken even over the years. "You don’t see what I walk away with," Bennett says. "They [the casinos] don’t want you to see it." Yeah, because the casinos are always trying to portray themselves as places where nobody ever wins.

"I view it as drinking," Bennett says. "If you can’t handle it, don’t do it." (I notice the comparison is made to drinking alcohol -- not to, say, chain-smoking or binge-eating. I wonder why?)

"A casino source, hearing of Bennett’s claim to breaking even on slots over 10 years, just laughed." I am laughing, too, especially when I read this quote from "a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours." This source says "There’s a term in the trade for his kind of gambler. We call them losers."


 
GREAT MINDS: A WSJ editorial echoes Patterico's observation from last night regarding the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia.


 
KEEP THOSE BLINDERS ON: William Saletan of Slate is the latest guy to ignore the recent evidence of a link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam's regime. His piece here makes no mention of that evidence, which I mentioned here on Sunday -- five days ago. As I noted Tuesday, Robert Scheer has been doing the same. (In fact, Saletan's piece looks almost cribbed from Scheer's diatribe.)

Now, I do not say the evidence is necessarily genuine -- remember, I speculated it could be fake. But guys, let's at least stop pretending the evidence doesn't even exist.


 
PUT ON YOUR THINKING TOUQUE: Quiz. Quiz for John. This USA Today story says:

"Zacarias Moussaoui wants Attorney General John Ashcroft to answer a multiple choice quiz about the government's theory of his role as a terrorist conspirator. Several of 17 handwritten pleadings released Thursday by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema have a version of the quiz, which asks Ashcroft to check one of four boxes.

"The choices are:

"20th hijacker.
5th plane pilot missing in action.
I, Ashcroft don't know.
Let's kill him anyway."

The pleadings go on to say: "1st prize: 1st class seat at Zacarias Moussaoui execution," adding, "Only joking, it is not going to happen."

That Zacarias! Such a kidder.


 
THIS IS UNSETTLING AS WELL: This New York Times story about the President's sort-of-declaration-of-victory has a curious quote from an unnamed "senior administration official" concerning the hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The official said that the White House was now "learning something important on how the Iraqis did this. . . What you are likely to see is not large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction but all of the elements, the precursors, the capacity to put them together quickly. He [Saddam] couldn't put them together as long as the inspections were going on" before the war.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


 
THIS IS UNSETTLING: A paper from the Great White North reports: "Islamic extremists killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl because he had discovered dangerous secrets about their ties to the Pakistani intelligence community, according to an investigation by a respected French writer." Specifically, the writer believes that "Pearl was about to complete an article revealing that the al-Qaida terror network was close to acquiring nuclear weapons from supporters inside Pakistan's scientific establishment." (Emphasis mine.) Read about it here.


 
BUSH THE BOLD: Hard to read my post from last night about the Bush aircraft carrier landing (which quotes an e-mail suggesting that Bush was being brave for the sake of the troops) and not think of this Onion story titled "Bush Bravely Leads 3rd Infantry Into Battle." Here's a quote:

"'The Joint Chiefs of Staff kept telling him, "Mr. President, we beg you—stay here in Washington, where it's safe." But George was having none of it,' said Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry. 'He was adamant that if our boys overseas were going to risk their lives for liberty, he was going to do the same. And, by God, he proved himself a man of his word.'"

Heh heh.


Home