December 31, 2005

Complexity and Silly Predictions

I'm trying to avoid the rash of end-of-year retrospectives and New Year's predictions, with only partial success.

Michael Crichton, who has written some good and some bad books, and grandfathered many films, gave this speech, illustrated, about complexity, predictions gone awry, and feckless meddling in complex systems, such as Yellowstone Park. He has struck a rich vein of human stupidity.

Among other things, YASPE ("Yet Another Skewering of Paul Ehrlich").

RTWT: Read the Whole Thing.

A New Years' Thought From Ben Stein

And my favorite moments now, lying in bed in front of the fire, wind blowing through the palm fronds outside, with the dogs and my wife, napping while the dogs snore and my wife reads her mysteries: and all while far better men and women than we are fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families live in terror back home.

A glorious moment: speaking as valedictorian of my class at Yale Law, '70, talking airily about peace and love and gardens of Eden, and all the while, as I chattered in my bubble, high on something, I am sure, with my coterie of girls watching and oooh-and-ahhing, far better humans than I, with far better claims to human decency than I, with far closer relations to the Almighty, were being held in prison camps and torture chambers in Vietnam.

Now that I think of it, every moment that's great in my life shares the same foundation: we live large thanks to those who serve in difficult, life-threatening places and ways.

And Happy New Year to our troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever.

December 29, 2005

The Grammar Police Nail the Gray Lady

In this piece about the latest twists and turns of the Padilla case, New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau writes:
Ms. Newman said she expected that the Supreme Court might decide at its Jan. 13 conference whether to hear Mr. Padilla's case, which the Bush administration argues is now mute because of the pending criminal charges against him.
It's a sad day when the "newspaper of record's" legal reporter doesn't know the difference between "mute" and "moot." "Mute" just means "silent, unable to speak," while "moot" in this context means "no longer a matter of controversy."

The layers of editors who are supposed to insure accuracy must be on Christmas break.

Ninety days in jail, stayed; one year on unsupervised probation and 50 hours of community service.

December 27, 2005

A Syllabus of Contemporary Conservative Errors

Jeffery Hart, Professor Emeritus at an unlikely place (Dartmouth), has long been one of our important conservative writers.

In this piece, he summarizes the key featues of post-WW II American conservatism, and makes a pointed critique of current political "conservatism."

Among his points are these:
  • Conservation. Although the free market has great merit, we should not make a utopian fetish of it. In particular, the glories of nature are part of the "unbought grace of life." The preservation of the environment should not be the sole province of liberal Democrats.

  • Wilsonianism. This, to Hart, is a dangerous and destructive form of utopia. By implication, Hart, at the very least, would not make the spreading of democracy by force, as in Iraq, a centerpiece of our foreign policy. Perhaps, given what we now think we know about the lack of an imminent threat from Iraq, he would not have had us go in at all.

  • The Republican Party. Although this party was the main home of conservative politics. But Hart observes:
    The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture. It is an example of Machiavelli's observation that institutions can retain the same outward name and aspect while transforming their substance entirely.

  • Religion. Hart distinguishes, in religion, between faddish enthusiasm and "traditional forms of religion--repeat, traditional, or intellectually and institutionally developed, not dependent upon spasms of emotion." The latter is likely to be ephemeral, but the former is one of the bases of Western civilization.
Finally, Hart posits that a knowledge of history is essential to policy, and knowledge of the great books of our tradition is essential to its preservation.

Food for serious thought.

December 26, 2005


Tammy Wynette wrote one of the most famous Country songs, D-I-V-O-R-C-E, rather poignantly singing of a mother's reluctance to tell her son his parents were breaking up.

On Christmas Eve I saw our neighbors across the street. The mother, who lives there, was handing off their kindergarten-age daughter to the divorced father. The parents divorced when the daughter was a baby, after having arranged a child through a surrogate. No, I'm not making this up.

Although no one was crying or seemed particularly unhappy, the moment was very poignant to me. Both parents seem like intelligent, pleasant people. It seems unutterably sad that this child should be divided this way, shipped back and forth.

I don't say this out of pride. I, too, was divorced when a daughter was young, for what seems in retrospect no good reason. At age five, she came to visit me for a month. At one point, she said to me, "I wish there were two."

"Two what?" I asked.

What she meant was, she wished there were two of her, so one could stay with me and another go off with her mother. Very cogent for a five-year-old.

Eventually, I ended up raising her, which was a pleasure, and if anything did, made a man of me. She grew up into a woman I love and am proud of.

Now, though, in my old age, the frequency and ease of divorce seems both sad and symptomatic, and like my neighbors' cleavage, unutterably sad.

Barone On NSA

Michael Barone is one of the most thorough and thoughtful political columnists arounds.

He's given his take on the revelations about the feds' warantless culling of electronic communications. It's one of the more thoughtful commentaries on the issue.

This will likely blow over unless the Dems take over the House or the Senate next year.

December 25, 2005

Ho Bleepin' Ho

Actually, this is my last opportunity to wish those of you who stop by a Merry Christmas.

Have one. And a Happy New Year.

YAFV (Yet Another Fake Victim)

The Boston Globe reports that a UMass Dartmouth student fabricated a story that the Department of Homeland Security had visited him after he checked Mao's Little Red Book out of the library. (HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

I commented on the phenomenon of faked incidents of racial victimization. It appears that if some lefties can't document oppression, they find it necessary to invent it.

The retort, no doubt, will be that it's fake but true, that is, the incident was trumped up, but the threat to civil liberties is real. Mebbe so, but facts can be stubborn things.

December 24, 2005


In November, I made this post, supposedly linking to a photograph showing an Iranian boy being punished for stealing bread by having a car roll over his arm.

Apparently, it wasn't what I thought, but some kind of street show. An odd one, but no weirder than some of Evel Knievel's exploits, whose subtext is the mayhem that would result when he missed.

Oops. I try to avoid promoting urban legends. Especially when they demonize our adversaries. The current Iranian scene is grim enough, without misrepresentations, unjustified alarums and excursions.

The Doc Was On To Something

One of my favorite blogs is The Doctor Is In, written by a Seattle urologist who goes by the name of "Dr. Bob."

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans floods, Dr. Bob wrote a piece about allegations of euthanasia in one New Orleans hospital, Memorial.

At the time, as I recall, there was much discussion in his comments section about whether this report was genuine or something akin to an urban legend. I was a bit skeptical.

It now appears, though, that fire may be causing all that smoke. At least Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti thinks so, because there is an ongoing investigation.

I'm not going to prejudge the investigation. But even the fact that the stories arising out of this event are so plausible leads one to ponder a society that increasingly has a purely instrumental view of life and death.

Ideas, as Richard Weaver argued, have consequences. What if our "enlightenment" is in fact "a covenant with death and a treaty with Hell"?

December 21, 2005

Silent Cal, Where Are You When We Need You?

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

In 1919, the Boston police force went on strike. Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of the Commonwealth, and later President, called out the entire state militia. The strike collapsed, and war veterans were rehired to replace the strikers. Coolidge later made the pronouncement quoted above.

Now the transit workers in New York City are on strike. This strike is not one by a downtrodden and exploited minority, but a strike by a strategically placed group seeking to augment its monopoly rents, mostly at the expense of modestly paid working people who don't own cars and can't telecommute.

The Democrats are increasingly the party of government workers and the "knowledge workers" and "helping professios." Governmetn workers nowadays are overcompensated in many places, because they have the motivation and the clout to dominate the political machinery, about which many are too apathetic even to vote. California, where government unions' dogged defense of their power defeated the Governor's modest reform initiatives last month, is a prime example. Cities such as San Diego face bankruptcy because of unfunded pension liabilities won by public employees through collective bargaining and their motivated intervention in the political process.

Another Coolidge would know what to do. Alas, New York politicians are notable neither for taciturnity nor adherence to principle.

Things being how they are, however, don't look for a total union victory.

NB: For an interesting use of Coolidge's image, read, as I just did, John Derbyshire's novel, Seeing Calvin Coolidge In a Dream.

El Jutespa

It seems that Mexican President Vicente Fox is outraged, just outraged that the House (not the Senate, yet) has voted to build additional walls along the border to prevent illegal border crossings from Mexico to the US, and the outrage is general in our neighbor to the south.

The outrage is apparently not confined to El Presidente:
Many Mexicans, especially those who have spent time working in the U.S., feel the proposal is a slap in the face to those who work hard and contribute to the U.S. economy.

Fernando Robledo, 42, of the western state of Zacatecas, says the proposals could stem migration and disrupt families by breaking cross-border ties.

"When people heard this, it worried everybody, because this will affect everybody in some way, and their families," Robledo said. "They were incredulous. How could they do this, propose something like this?
And there's also outrage that the proposed legislation will make illegal entry a felony, rather than a misdemeanor:
The sense of dread connected with the measures is hardly restricted to Mexico. Immigrant advocacy and aid groups in the United States are worried about provisions of the House bill that upgrade unlawful presence in the United States from a civil offense to a felony.

"It would have a horrific impact on immigrant rights organizing and immigrant communities" in the United States, said Jennifer Allen of the Tucson-based Red de Accion Fronteriza.
There is, of course, a great deal of hypocrisy about this issue. Many businesses thrive on paying the low wages that immigrants from Mexico will accept, which is why many in the GOP have paid lip service to stemming the tide of illegal immigration, but done nothing about it, and why Pres. Bush tries to straddle the issue with his non-amnesty amnesty.

This country has been pretty good at assimilating immigrants, and has in many ways benefitted from immigration. Nor can it be said that most illegal Mexican immigrants are anything but economic refugees, seeking work to support themselves and their families. The particulars of current cross-border immigration--large numbers, no control, domination of the immigration by one ethnic group, the threat of terrorist infilitration--have, however, changed the picture.

A fundamenntal aspect of sovereignty is control of the borders, of who and what enters. That we have lost such control is clear.

Whether the walls are wise or foolish, then, is for this country to decide. How to punish illegal entry is also a sovereign decision. For Mexican politicians, coming from a country that makes a fetish of sovereignty, to howl in outrage at these sovereign decisions, is el jútespa in a big way. For a professional agitator like Jennifer Allen to complain that for this country to punish a violation of its laws should be rejected because it makes her agitation more difficult, is priceless.

December 18, 2005

The March of Dimes Effect

When Franklin Roosevelt was President, and until the polio vaccines became commonplace, polio, or infantile paralysis, was a widely feared disease. Roosevelt himself had been stricken, and except for rare public appearances when he walked with braces with great difficulty, he was wheelchair-bound.

During this period, the “March of Dimes” became one of the country’s largest charities. The considerable funds it raised went for polio research and to assist the many who had been stricken with the disease.

After the vaccines came in, of course, the need for both research and treatment declined, and although one would think that the March of Dimes would ride quietly into the sunset, it was not to be. Instead, the March of Dimes changed its franchise from polio to birth defects, and although reduced in size, the organization lives on past the problem it was set up to solve.

This experience comes to mind when I think of the spate of faked incidents of racial and religious violence. The latest suspected incident came about after, Paul Mirecki, a University of Kansas religion professor, was found to have used anti-Christian expressions in emails about a new course on intelligent design, and forced to resign as department chair. Mirecki claims to have been physically attacked, but his story is strange, and it appears that local law enforcement smells a rat.

It’s too soon to be certain about the Mirecki incident, but there have been numerous cases around the country where people have falsified evidence to make themselves look like the victims of bigotry and violence. The notorious Tawana Brawley case was one of the first and perhaps the most publicized.

Not only have these false alarms been followed by expressions of sympathy and various mass rituals, such as anti-racism rallies, but sometimes, at least, they have caught the attention of individuals and organizations whose charters are to combat racial or religious bigotry. Similarly, whenever there is an incident of alleged police brutality, no matter what the facts are, Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton is sure to show up, and whenever even the slightest whiff of anti-Semitism appears, there comes the Anti-Defamation League. Most recently, Jackson showed up to protest the execution of gang leader and murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams, in spite of the racial character of his crimes and the thousands of death his gang and others have caused since their formation.

The motivations of those who fake hate crimes against themselves are obscure. Sometimes it’s an effort to hide their own failings or transgressions, and sometimes, it seems, a narcissistic desire to be in the limelight, even if as a victim as opposed to a person of accomplishment.

The reaction of the professional opponents of racism and other forms of bigotry, however, is an example of what might be called the “March of Dimes Effect.” It was easy enough for organizations to oppose legal segregation, or open exclusion of disfavored groups from housing, employment, or education. This open sort of discrimination is largely a thing of the past, except in the case of “affirmative action,” which is a horse of another color, and will not detain us here.

There are hate groups around, and no doubt individuals who hold too tightly to stereotypes of one kind or another. But for groups whose charter is to oppose bigotry, either they must find it somewhere to oppose, or change their charters as did the March of Dimes. Even for institutions like universities, whose charter presumably is to educate, the need to assume the liberal pose of moral superiority is strong enough to motivate the ritual chest-beating that seems to follow these incidents, real or fake.

In short, where racism and anti-Semitism don’t exist, for those whose bread and butter depends on being seen to fight these evils, if they don’t exist, it’s necessary to invent them.

Certainly easier than removing the log from their own eye.

December 13, 2005

Moonbats on Parade

By Monday evening, the streets of Point San Quentin Village, a small seaside hamlet of 50 houses on the road leading to the prison, were packed with more than 2,000 people. The blazing white floodlights of the prison lit up the whole scene like a movie set. Some residents had rented their driveways to television satellite trucks for spot prices that ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 for the night. A portrait photographer, attended by a pair of assistants, had set up a street side studio where he was shooting demonstrators who posed in the lotus position against a white backdrop. "This is beautiful, absolutely beautiful," he said. Next to him, a small group of men were clustered around a banner that said "QUEERS AGAINST EXECUTION." A man selling hot chocolate was being pursued by a man with a "SAVE TOOKIE" sign, shouting "You fascist bastard."

The few anti-Tookie activists—a man carrying blow-ups of the victims' autopsy photos, a guy in a sandwich board saying "BELIEVE IN JESUS"—were quickly swarmed by the crowd, with chants of "Tookie is innocent." In places, the air was rich with the telltale sweet aroma of an illegal substance, suggesting the dozens of riot police standing by could have plenty of work—if they wanted it. A man who appeared to be high on something stumbled by with a sign reading: "My 85-year-old father lost his parents to Hitler and he calls the governor Arnold Hitler." Another sign featured a photomontage of Schwarzenegger's face superimposed by two huge crossed syringes and the words "Stop me before I kill again." A speaker from the San Francisco board of supervisors was on stage, calling Schwarzenegger "a roboton of rightwing mediocrity."
From Newsweek.

A radio talk-show host was roughed up when he asked Jesse Jackson the names of the victims.

December 12, 2005

Arnold's Statement Denying Clemency

It's worth reading.

The Wages of Multiculturalism

This is the best piece I've seen so far on the Australian riots.

Apparently, as in France, the police have shrunk from fighting criminal gangs composed of Middle Eastern immigrants, in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, and fearing the crowds of Lebanese that come out to confront them when they make arrests. Fueled by alcohol and resentment, and stirred up by agitators, young Australian "yobbos" retaliated inchoherently and indiscriminately. They may be crude, but at least they aren't dhimmis as the French appear to be.

Michael Ramirez Says It All

No wonder the clueless saps at the LA Times fired Ramírez.

December 8, 2005

Festivus vs. Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa was invented by an unbalanced rogue in LA who took the name of Maulana Ron Karenga (above left).

Festivus was invented by some writers on "Seinfeld."

Both equally artificial and contrived.

Take your pick.

Stanley Crouch on the Tookie Fad

Stanley Crouch, in this column, assesses the weird priorities and racial demagoguery of those who are agitating for clemency for Stan "Tookie" Williams, murderer and founder of the Crips gang, who faces the death penalty on December 13:
The hard fact is that since 1980, street gangs have killed 10,000 people in Los Angeles, which is three times the number of black people lynched throughout the United States between 1877 and 1900, the highest tide of racial murder in the history of the nation.

Our commitment to redemption is fundamental to our civilization. But since the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, we have seen the same games run on the black community by the identical kinds of political hustlers who almost never met a criminal or a murderer who was not the real victim of society and should be forgiven all crimes, which, as in the Williams case, shouldn't even be discussed. Look to the bright side. Give the brother a break.

I wouldn't touch that kind of thinking with a garbage man's glove. Yesterday was the anniversary of Colin Ferguson's rampage on the Long Island Rail Road. Maybe he should come out of his mental fog and start writing children's books. Ferguson might join Williams in a nomination for the Nobel Prize and watch the chumps line up in support of clemency for his bloody acts. Who knows? Hope springs eternal.
Amen, Stanley.

December 5, 2005

Kill Tookie?

Radio hosts John & Ken (on LA's KFI-640) have launched a "Kill Tookie" hour. Of course, the PC types are Outraged!, and various Bolsheviks are pimping the cause, too. John & Ken are, as usual, a bit over the top, but they're not wrong on this one.

These were murders, in part racially motivated. Here are chilling photos of the victims. Here's the DA's summary of the trial and the case. Note that Williams referred to his Chinese victims as "Buddaheads" and didn't care about his victim Owens because he was white. Also note that in spite of overwhelming evidence, Williams has never admitted to or publicly repented the crime.

My libertarian side makes me a bit hesitant about the death penalty--a lot of power to give the government--but I believe retribution is one basis for sentencing, and if we are to have a death penalty, someone who killed four people in cold blood for a few bucks deserves to die, even if he wrote some stupid children's books and the usual suspects are braying for clemency. And appeal rights and all, 25 years is too long to wait for the sentence to be carried out.

December 4, 2005

Justice Douglas Invents Marital Privacy (What Roe Is All About – Part III)

About with bladder cancer and the press of work have delayed my pressing on with my discussion of the constitutional law issues surrounding Roe.

This is a difficult subject not only because many people’s views on the underlying moral questions are sharply opposed, but also because the issue for many is salient. I recall the episode on Seinfeld where Elaine terminates a budding romance because her beau opposes abortion. Many opponents think abortion is murder. Proponents think the prohibition of abortion is one step short of reducing women to the status of chattels.

My purpose here is not to bridge this gap, nor to advocate what legislators, if freed from the constitutionalized rule of Roe, should enact, but to discuss the legal theories underlying the main abortion cases. These have assumed an overarching significance because in reality, the debate about the confirmation of Supreme Court appointees such as Samuel Alito has boiled down almost entirely to the question of what he’s said about Roe in the past (he was agin’ it) and what he might do in the future if confirmed (hinted he would at least hesitate to overrule what is now an entrenched precedent).

Recall that in my first post on the subject I began to describe the process by which the Court has interpreted the post-Civil-War Fourteenth Amendment as incorporating most of the Bill of Rights as restrictions on the power of the states.

In my second post, I went on to discuss “substantive due process,” a doctrine the Court has used to overrule certain state laws as violating constitutional due process even when they are not matters of procedure. Although in economic regulation cases this doctrine went out with Roosevelt’s New Deal, in certain non-economic areas it is not dead.

I went on to discuss the “right of privacy,” which originated as a new concept in the law of torts.

These concepts bring us to the key Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). Griswold concerned an obsolete and rarely enforced Connecticut law that prohibited the distribution of birth control devices even to married couples. Opponents maneuvered to create a test case, which found its way to the Supreme Court, based on $ 100 fines imposed upon the plaintiffs.

Fundamental to the outcome was the conviction of all the justices that Connecticut had on its books what dissenting Justice Potter Stewart called “an uncommonly silly law.”

It fell to William O. Douglas, an irascible and determinedly liberal justice, to write the majority opinion.

Douglas reasoned that a right of privacy existed in the Bill of Rights, even though it appears nowhere in the text. Douglas based his conclusion not on the text, but on his belief that
“specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”
Although many liberals now treat the “right of privacy” is a sacred cow that might as well be in the constitutional text, it is a term derived from the law of torts, that Douglas almost mystically discerned in such prohibitions as the rules against unreasonable searches and seizures, and whose method he argued had analogies in “peripheral” rights such as that to send one’s children to a religious school, and not to have one’s membership in an organization such as the NAACP, which Douglas concluded were also derived not from the text but from the policies and philosophy that underlay the First Amendment.

Douglas concluded that marriage lies “within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees,” and ends his brief opinion with a paean to the sacredness of marriage.

Douglas mentions the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but does not analyze the incorporation issues. He simply assumes that incorporation applies.

It fell to Justice Arthur Goldberg, who concurred in the opinion and the judgment, to discuss incorporation. Goldberg had not come around to the view that the entire Bill of Rights was incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment, but agreed with Douglas that incorporation applied to this case, which involved “personal rights that are fundamental,” and he agreed that incorporation “is not confined to the specific terms of the Bill of Rights.”

Goldberg’s concurrence emphasized the Ninth Amendment, which reads
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Although Goldberg is careful not to say that the Bill of Rights is not completely incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment, or that the Ninth Amendment is applied against the states or is an independent source of rights. Goldberg claims simply to be saying that the Ninth Amendment shows that the framers understood that there were fundamental rights beyond those specifically enumerated.

Goldberg’s analysis shows a certain anxiety about the reliability of Douglas’s constitutional aura detector, and attempts to buttress Douglas’s rather cavalier exegesis on a right of privacy nowhere explicitly mentioned in the constitutional text.

Goldberg goes on to reason that the fact that the state asserted that the statute had a “rational basis” was not sufficient to uphold the statute, when narrower means, such as a prohibition on adultery, would be sufficient to vindicate the state’s interest in marital fidelity.

Stewart’s dissent is sharp and reasoned. He points out that the majority nowhere states which of the amendments in the Bill of Rights the Connecticut law infringes. In his brief but pointed dissent, Stewart says
With all deference, I can find no such general right of privacy y in the Bill of Rights, in any other part of the Constitutions, or in any case ever before decided by this Court.

At the oral argument in this case we were told that the Connecticut law does not "conform to current community standards." But it is not the function of this Court to decide cases on the basis of community standards. We are here to decide cases "agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States." It is the essence of judicial duty to subordinate our own personal views, our own ideas of what legislation is wise and what is not. If, as I should surely hope, the law before us does not reflect the standards of the people of Connecticut, the people of Connecticut can freely exercise their true Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights to persuade their elected representatives to repeal it. That is the constitutional way to take this law off the books.
That is the gist of the argument. The Connecticut law was a dead letter. Court intervention was not really needed to protect anyone. The political process and jury nullification would soon have resolved the matter.

For unelected judges to infer the existence of rights not remotely found in the text, was an attack on democracy, and a breach of any reasonable canon of interpretation. The views of the “enlightened,” not even those of the law professoriate, should not, in a republic, become part of the Constitution except through the political process. To allow judges to use a virtual Geiger counter to detect emanations and penumbras, is a source, as we shall see in future installments, of great mischief.

November 27, 2005

Philosophical Insight of the Month

Most of us cannot pronounce Foucault without laughing let alone take him seriously as the provider of an all-encompassing worldview. We are more apt to say "Whatever" than "hegemonic discourse" when someone tries to get us down.
-- John Mark Reynolds

November 25, 2005

Another Reason to Buy a Gun (or Several)

This story, and the accompanying video made from a security camera, shows what appear to be Black Muslims sacking an Oakland liquor store. Apparently they raided two and destroyed coolers and bottles of alcohol.

Like the Korean storekeepers in the L.A. riot, I predict these folks will end up deciding to defend themselves and the businesses they have built with family savings and hard work.

This one incident might be for local law enforcement to handle, but if it's repeated it's a national security problem. In any event, it has to be stopped. And soon.

HT: Michelle Malkin, whose blog is getting better and better.

The 419 Scheme Mutates Again

I got this in my email today:
London, SE5 8SY
United Kingdom.

Dear Friend,

My name is Dr.Jang Chung, The Credit officer HSBC Bank plc. I am a member of Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (ICEP), Switzerland. ICEP is charged with the responsibility of finding bank accounts in Switzerland belonging to non-Swiss indigenes, which have remained dormant since World War Two. It mayinterest you to know that in July of 1997, the SwissBanker's Association published a list of dormant accounts originally opened by non-Swiss citizens.These accounts had been dormant since the end of World War II (May 9, 1945).

Most belonged to Holocaust victims. The continuing efforts of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons(ICEP) have since resulted in the discovery of additional dormant accounts -54,000 in December, 1999. The published lists contain all types of dormant accounts, including interest-bearing savings accounts, securities accounts, safe deposit boxes, custody accounts, and non-interest-bearing transaction accounts. Numbered accounts are also included. Interest is paid on accounts that were interest bearing when established.The Claims Resolution Tribunal (CRT) handles processing of all claims on accounts due to non-Swiss citizens.

A dormant account of ORDNER ADELE with a credit balance of US$ 21,000,000 US dollar plus accumulated interest was recently discovered by me.The beneficiary was murdered during the holocaust era, Leaving no WILL and no possible records
for trace of heirs. The Claims Resolution Tribunal has been mandated to report all unclaimed funds for permanent closure of accounts and transfer of existing credit balance into the treasury of Switzerland government as provided by the law for management of assets of deceased beneficiaries who died interstate(living no wills). Being a top executive at ICEP, I have all secret details and necessary contacts for claim of the funds without any hitch. The funds will be lifted (packaged as consignment)to a Finance firm in Holland-The Netherlands, being a safe haven for funds and we can share the funds and use same in investment of our choice. Everything is set to lift the
funds to the Netherlands.This will make the funds untraceable. Thus,safer than a bank transfer which can be traced.

Due to the sensitive nature of my job, I need a foreigner to HELP claim the funds. All that is required is for you to provide me with your details for processing of the necessary documents.Hence you should send your full names, address, and telephone/fax numbers.I will pay all required fees to ensure that the fund is lifted and deposited with a Finance firm in Holland-The Netherlands. They will assist you in the clearance of the funds and the banking of the funds as well.

My share will be 60% and your share is 40% of the total amount. THERE IS NO RISK INVOLVED. You can find additional information about unclaimed funds through the internet at the following websites:

The Holocaust Claims Processing Office has put funds in Escrow awaiting submission of valid claims for necessary disbursement. I find myself priviledged to have this information and this is a great opportunity for a life time of success which will be of mutual benefits to us.

You should reply immediately so that we can commence.

My Regards ,

Suha Arafat, move over.

BTW, here's the official skinny on the "419 scheme."

After Us, Deluge or Renaissance?

John Derbyshire is one of my favorite commentators. He writes about politics, mathematics, and culture, and even has written a novel about a Chinese immigrant obsessed with Calvin Coolidge, no less. (Haven't read it, but will get around to it). Derbyshire's website even features a pretty good guide to the pronunciation of Chinese.

His Thanksgiving column, although on the surface an expression of thankfulness, iterates on a common theme, the Untergang des Abendlandes, or Decline of the West.

Derbyshire goes on at some length about his excitement, from childhood until now, at the progress of space exploration (he prefers the robotic kind).
There followed, through the succeeding decades, images of Mercury and Venus, of the great gas giants and their astonishing moons, of the lesser bodies. If the New Horizons mission reaches Pluto intact, my entire adult life will have been encompassed by this most marvelous of all scientific adventures -- the exploration of the solar system. I wouldn't have missed it for... well, for worlds.
Space exploration is a proxy for Derbyshire's gratitude at living when and where he has. He's about two years younger than I, and I must agree. We missed the slaughters of World Wars I and II, and are in late middle age as the world we know that treated us so well threatens to unravel.
That prompts other reflections about life in these past few decades, and in the next few. The sum total of those reflections is that I have been living in a golden age that will soon end. Born between VE Day and VJ Day, I missed all the greatest horrors of the 20th century. If granted a normal lifespan, I shall miss the horrors of the 21st, too. If my parents' generation was the greatest, mine has been the luckiest. For that, in this Thanksgiving season, I give sincere and heartfelt thanks.

It is not just space exploration I am thankful for, but I see that bold adventure as symbolic of the age now slipping away. It was a manifestation of our civilization's confidence. Look at what we can do! See where our ever-questing curiosity can take us! -- supported and funded, of course, by a proud and efficient public culture, in which enterprise and government deliver results.
All of this, Derbyshire fears, is slipping away.

He points to France as the harbinger of a decline of the West, due to "taxation, regulation, and litigation." Government, larger than ever, no longer works very well. Terrorism threatens to get much worse, with nuclear weapons smuggled into our cities. Western Europeans, rather than showing confidence in their civilization, wallow in guilt and self-deprecation, and things aren't likely to get better:
I can't believe my kids will have that kind of luck. The welfare state, which provided my education, no longer works -- not for them, not for anybody. (I sometimes marvel at how well it did work to lift up the deserving poor in the years after WWII. Don't laugh; it really did.) I shall have to beggar myself to put the little Derbs through college, and they will likely still end up with huge debts. There will be no 9-to-5 jobs for them to go to after graduation, quite possibly no jobs at all other than in government work, which by that time will occupy a Soviet-sized slice of the national economy.

The concept that lay beneath and supported our collective consciousness until recently, the concept that white Europeans, their civilization and their bourgeois culture, were the apex of human achievement, will have been shamed, mocked, and badgered out of existence— along, of course, with that civilization and that culture. Religion, which, following the lead of my Anglican education, I have always regarded as an occasional source of comfort and inspiration that should on no account be taken too seriously, will have become very serious indeed, with religious fanatics committing murder on the grand scale all over the world. Nuclear weapons, throughout my lifetime kept safe under guard in just a handful of reasonably well-ordered nations, will be traded for cash in third-world bazaars and smuggled into American cities ready for the day of judgement. (Perhaps they already have been.) Clever new viruses will mutate, escape from labs, or be released...
My diagnosis is somewhat different from Derbyshire's, and at times I indulge in cockeyed optimism, but it's hard to quarrel with much of what Derb says.

The critical expression of the loss of cultural self-confidence that Derbyshire notes is, for me, the decline in population throughout Europe, and in Japan. Although there are economic factors, such as the shortage and resultant high cost of places to raise a family, and in America, the price-fixing of universities, which have become gatekeepers to the meritocracy, even if they are arguably obsolete as purveyors of knowledge and skills--consider this, for example--a society, which, for whatever reasons, ceases to reproduce itself is likely to be supplanted by those who do. Social reproduction presupposes a functioning family system, which in turn requires some domestication of male sexuality. This domestication, in turn, has often been promoted by religious belief of one kind or another.

In Europe especially, these have vanished in a couple of generations, to be replaced by a welfare state that enables idleness and hedonism, whose taxes burden those who work, marry, and try to raise their children. The sad collapse of Republican fiscal discipline suggests that "tax and tax and spend and spend and elect and elect" (or perhaps, "borrow and borrow and spend and spend . . .") is a recurrent pattern in modern democracies.

Meanwhile, the non-breeding ex-Christian Europeans are being replaced by immigrants from the Muslim and African worlds, who are not encouraged or permitted to become part of their new nations, and many of whom do not want to. Between the seductions of Muslim preaching and the pyrotechnics of burning cars, what is left of the European tradition is imperiled by the newcomers to what is in their tradition the dar al-harb, or "house of war," as contrasted with the Islamic world, the dar as-salaam, or "house of peace."

To all this we can add terrorism, which could get much, much worse, as Derbyshire fears; environmental problems, whose extent is debatable but whose realityundeniableible; and most of all, the rise of a sensibility that does not value, but despises, Western civilization. See this specimen as an example (HT: Michelle Malkin.)

So Derbyshire might be right. There is cause for some pessimism. I hope my girls don't face what he fears. And yet, perhaps these fears are a kind of perverse comfort for an older generation regretting its aging and coming passage from the scene. I am reminded of Cavafy's poem:
Why don't the worthy orators come as always
to make their speeches, to have their say?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today;
and they get bored with eloquence and orations.

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.
What if our children end up having to muddle through, and disaster does not strike, or at least remains limited to certain times and places?

Unlike Derbyshire, I think our best hope is probably a religious revival of some kind in the West. We've dipped into and exhausted the moral capital left to us by past generations. Skeptic that I am, I nevertheless believe that our best chance is to seek renewed strength from the old sources, or at least new variants of the old sources.

If we believe Pitirim Sorokin, a new cycle of religious revival may be upon us. Perhaps we can still explore the solar system and restore social discipline and confidence in our own culture.

Neither Derb nor I will live to see more than, perhaps, the very beginning of these events. For our children's sake, I hope the glass is half full.

November 14, 2005

Karl Heinrich the Parrot

I always thought Brazil was the true home of the parrot joke.

Here's a German one:

Ein Einbrecher steigt in ein Haus ein und steht im Schlafzimmer.
Da hört er eine Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet mit seiner Taschenlampe überall im Zimmer herum, sieht aber nichts.
Er kommt in die Küche und hört wieder die Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet wieder herum, sieht aber wieder nichts.
Er kommt ins Wohnzimmer und hört WIEDER die Stimme:
“Ich seh dich und Jesus sieht dich auch.”
Er leuchtet im Zimmer herum und sieht einen Papagei in seinem Käfig sitzen.
Der Einbrecher fragt den Papagei:
“Sag mal, wie heißt du denn?”
Der Papagei Antwortet:
Da sagt der Einbrecher:
“Karl-Heinrich ist aber ein scheiß Name für einen Papagei!”
Da sagt der Papagei:
“Ja, und Jesus ist ein scheiß Name für einen Rottweiler…”
A burglar broke into a house and stood in the bedroom.
He heard a voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined his flashlight around and saw nothing.
He went into the kitchen and again heard the voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined the light, but saw nothing.
He went into the living room and again heard the voice:
"I see you and Jesus sees you too."
He shined the light around and saw a parrot sitting on its perch.
The burglar asked the parrot:
"Tell me, what's your name?"
The parrot answered:
"Karl Heinrich."
Then the burglar said:
"But Karl Heinrich is a shitty name for a parrot!"
Then the parrot said:
"Yes, and Jesus is a shitty name for a rottweiler . . ."

Bilingual Education for Dogs

I had a secretary whose father was German. She majored in German, acquired a second husband and a rottweiler. It seems that she and her husband (who isn't German) decided to train the dog in German. Fearsome but affectionate, the hound helped raise innumerable very cute daughters whom she cranked out at regular intervals.

I decided to learn some German a few years ago, probably because I dropped it in college, or my parents spoke it when they didn't want us to understand, or something. Anyway, I got hold of Pimsleur method German CD's and learned enough to fake it, and read Grimm's Märchen or Bernhard Schlink novels with a dictionary.

So, in my old age, I acquired a rat terrier named Charlie, or "Karl Heinrich" in German. Took der Hund to obedience classes, and soon realized that if a dog could learn a few dozen words of English, he could learn the equivalent few dozen words in German. So we have a bilingual dog. "Sitz, mein Hund!" and "Das is nicht für dem Hunden" are as easy for a smart dog like himself to understand as "Sit!" and "Don't eat that!"

I highly recommend bilingual education for dogs. Maybe even trilingual. Does anyone out there have a polyglot basset hound?

November 10, 2005

Is "Intelligent Design" Science?

I've argued that whatever one things of Intelligent Design, it's not science, mostly based on the concept of "falsifiability" developed by Karl Popper.

This article goes into some detail on the same subject. It's always nice to link to people who agree with you.

Tyranny and Gun Registration

This very important article on Nazi policy on gun ownership--using the registration records to confiscate weapons, among other things--shows that legal ownership of weapos is a cornerstone of liberty.

Even two centuries after the Minutemen.

November 7, 2005

A Historical Reminder for Jacques Chirac

This picture shows the demolition of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis a few years back.

Pruitt-Igoe is eerily reminiscent of the Stalinesque "Red Belt" high-rises surrounding Paris, whence have come the arsonists and thugs responsible for the current rioting (Interior Minister Sarkozy's racaille).

There was so much crime and other social pathology in Pruitt-Igoe that the city fathers concluded that emptying and exploding the place, once highly touted as a solution to all kinds of problems, was the best solution.

Perhaps France should consider something similar.

November 1, 2005

Thank God For My Bladder Cancer

Cathy Seipp has lung cancer.

I was lamenting having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.

Horror and Shame

These photos show what was done to an 8-year-old Iranian boy caught stealing bread.

Warning--these photos are graphic and horrible.

Homo homini lupus. Man is the wolf of man.

October 31, 2005

It's Alito

Seems to be a good choice. We'll look at his opinions.

He certainly showed charm, and I think he will do well under fire from Schumer, Kennedy and the boys. They'll show their flag, but I predict confirmation.

October 30, 2005

Another Reason to Like Alex Kozinski

This post on 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, my favorite candidate for the Supreme Court, quotes extensively some writing on gun ownership.

In essence, Kozinski argues against reading certain provisions of the Bill of Rights in a way that expands individual freedom, and others in a way that favors state control. Further, he argues that the possession of weapons by the populace affords some protection against tyranny and genocide.

The guy is conservative in many ways, but really committed to liberty.

UPDATE: There's a movement afoot to send email to with something in the title to the effect of "Nominate Alex Kozinski to the Supreme Court." Can't hurt.

Here and here and here, for example.

UPDATE 2: Welcome, Instapundit readers. Corrected typo in "nominate."

October 23, 2005

Some Bird-Flu Reassurance

The threat of a pandemic like 1918's had been widely touted, on this blog among others.

Here's an analysis that's a bit reassuring. Basically, the idea is that flu viruses evolve very quickly, and unless there are crowded conditions in the host population (as in the trenches in World War I, or modern chicken ranches, a virus that kills its host too quickly and too often is likely to die out, in favor of strains that let the host fly or walk around and infect other hosts.

So absent really crowded conditions, a highly lethal strain would only last for awhile. Evolution favors strains that stay in their hosts longer and don't kill them.

A hopeful thought. Bears thinking about.

October 16, 2005

The Clams of Yesteryear

Rick Lee posted this photo of the Jersey side entrance to the Holland Tunnel, which leads to lower Manhattan.

He thus evoked memories of childhood trips from our "farm" in Pennsylvania, in the hills just west of the Delaware River at Upper Black Eddy, back to New York on summer Sundays. Sometimes we'd buy gas on the Jersey side, where it was cheaper (do you believe 23.9 cents a gallon?), and cross through the tunnel. The smell of the city heat and a slight sour smell of garbage was distinctive.

More often, we'd take the ferry at Hoboken. Before the ferry was "Kelly's Clam House," later just the "Clam Broth House," pictured above. The place had been around since Prohibition, and had hexagonal tiles on the floor, which was covered in sawdust and clamshells. Every night, someone would sweep up the whole mess until they could start over the next day. There were multiple doors, all the way down the block. Like Philippe's famous French dip restaurant in L.A. My father said it was because from time to time the Revenooers would padlock one set of doors, and the next day the owners would open another set of doors.

An early childhood memory was eating a whole pot of steamed clams, and sometimes a fine rare roast beef sandwich, too. Then the ferry across the river and the trip home, where, of course, I always insisted on eating something, no matter how much I had devoured in New Jersey.
PS. The pots of clams at Kelly's were far bigger than this niggardly bowl.

Claire's Meme

The beautiful and talented Danielaphant has given us responses to Claire's meme. I will join her.

1. Mr. Epstein.
2. Daddy.
3. "Hey, David!"

1. My eyes.
2. My chin.
3. My calves.

1. My yellow teeth.
2. My pot belly.
3. My flat ass.

1. "Smart-assed New York Jew." -- Randy Newman
2. Preppy (Andover).
3. Collector of irrelevant facts, jes' lahk m' Dad.

1. Outliving my family.
2. Being penniless.
3. Paralysis.

1. Coffee.
2. The blogosphere.
3. Hugs from my children.

1. Long-sleeved tee.
2. Sweat pants.
3. The last pair of clean underwear in the house.

1. Showboat.
2. My Fair Lady.
3. The Threepenny Opera.

1. Amazing Grace.
2. Nashville's Gone Hollywood.
3. The Wreck of the Old 97.

1. Sweet talk and good lies.
2. Sarcasm.
3. Food.

1. A Lauren Bacall voice.
2. Hands.
3. Artistic tattoos.

1. Riding zee bike.
2. Singing in a chorus.
3. Learning languages.

1. A clean bill of health after my cancer operation.
2. A nice quiet home office.
3. A massage (not from the Swedish Prime Minister).;

1. Retiree.
2. HIgh school teacher.
3. 419 scamster.

1. Huahine, Polynesia (OK, so I've been there before).
2. Georgia (in the Caucasus).
3. Glacier National Park.

1. Tommy.
2. Mike.
3. Susie.

1. Ride the Paris-Brest-Paris randonée.
2. Sing "September Song" to a live audience.
3. Watch my two young daughters graduate.

1. I cry at silly movies.
2. I like gossip.
3. I'm crazy about little kids.

1. I belch, fart, and scratch.
2. I'd just as soon not talk or write about personal stuff.
3. I hate changing my clothes.

1. Lauren Graham.
2. Sigourney Weaver.
3. Heather Myles.

What Roe Is All About (Incorporation and Privacy)


Remember that we ended the Introduction with a discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment's ban on the states acting against the newly-minted ex-slave citizens, or any citizens by
  1. Denying them the privileges and immunities of citizens;

  2. Depriving them of life liberty or property without due process of law; or

  3. Denying them the equal protection of the laws.
All of this sounded good, and to the Radical Republicans who enacted the fourteenth Amendment, had a clear intent of protecting the ex-slaves.

Within a few years, however, interest in affording much protection to the ex-slaves waned, and with the compromise arising out of the disputed 1876 election, Rutherford Hayes was allowed to carry Florida in exchange for a promise, largely kept, to end Reconstruction and give the white South a largely free hand with respect to the Negroes, who were largely relegated once again to a condition of subordination. By 1896, the Supreme Court held in Plessy v. Ferguson that a state could enforce racial segregation in railroad cars, provided the facilities provided to each race were equal.

In other areas, however, the Supreme Court found that certain rights of individuals and of corporations (fictitious legal "persons") under the federal constitution applied, under the Fourteenth Amendment, also to the states. The key case for this principle is Lochner v. New York. Lochner held unconstitutional a law of New York that forbade employers from making bakers work more than 60 hours in a week. The court held that a "freedom of contract" that the Fourteenth Amendment imposed upon the states trumped the states' inherent police power, and made it unconstitutional for a state to regulate the hours of work of bakers, even though restrictions on the hours of work of miners and others by other states had been upheld on health and safety grounds. The Supreme Court held that no such restriction on the work of bakers was justified by such health considerations.

This doctrine in Lochner has been labeled "substantive due process." In other words, it is not a case of a right being taken away without proper notice and procedures ("procedural due process"), but the content of the law itself the Court found offensive to the Constitution. In the economic sphere, substantive due process survived little more than 30 years. It was tossed out during the New Deal, when government regulation of the economy, in the face of the Great Depression, once again became fashionable.

But Lochner is most emphatically not dead in non-economic spheres. Increasingly, the court has held, whether or not the focus is the Fourteenth Amendment's original one of race that the rights enumerated in the first ten amendments, much, if not all, of the "Bill of Rights" now applies to the states because the Fourteenth Amendment makes it so. Reams of paper have been covered with arguments as to which aspects of the Bill of Rights are "incorporated" or applied to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment.


The other abstract concept needed to understand the legal arguments about Roe is the "right of privacy."

In American jurisprudence, the concept of a "right of privacy" is generally traced back to an article by later Supreme Court Justice Brandeis and his law partner Samuel Warren in the Harvard Law Review. Brandeis and Warren wrote not about highfalutin' constitutional law, but about the law of torts, a tort being a civil wrong not arising out of a contract, for which suit may be brought. Brandeis and Warren argue that there is ample justification for the common law, as it does from time to time, to create a new tort, whereby damages and more rarely, an injunction, could be obtained for unauthorized publication of private facts, even if truthful. The article does not address the question of whether the constitution itself contains (or does not contain) an implied right of privacy.

Brandeis and Warren's "privacy" deals more with protection against the likes of paparazzi than against state legislation:
Of the desirability -- indeed of the necessity -- of some such protection, there can, it is believed, be no doubt. The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency. Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle. The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury.
As we shall see, it is this concept of privacy, brought into the constitutional law and imposed on the states through the Fourteenth Amendment "incorporation" doctrine, that provided the initial rationale for Roe.

Whether "privacy" can be found in the Bill of Rights, whether "incorporation" applies a right of privacy to the states, and whether abortion is within the scope of any such right of privacy, are all questions which must wait for further posts.

What Roe Is All About (Introduction)

I haven't blogged the Harriet Miers issue, except for an initial impression, because I know little more about her than I knew when the appointment was first announced.

Behind the Miers controversy, of course, lies above all the endless battle about Roe v. Wade, the case in which the Supreme Court found that the Constitution forbids the states from making it a crime to interrupt a pregnancy, especially in its early stages. I thought to write at some length about these Constitutional issues, which have not been much discussed in the blogosphere, except by lawprofs and the like.

Let me start by saying that if I were a legislator, I'd vote in agreement with what most Americans believe. It would be a mistake to forbid all abortions, but abortion should be regulated, especially in the later stages of pregnancy when a premature birth might result in a baby capable of survival. I don't think abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is the same as murder. That's a theological or philosophical debate to which I don't have much to contribute, but to discuss the Constitutional aspects of the issue, it's best to lay at least that much on the table.

The result I advocate would probably be the law in most states if the Supreme Court had never been involved in the issue, and the noise of the controversy would be far less loud. Why? Because the political process would have taken effect, and changing public attitudes would be reflected in law. No doubt Utah and a few Bible Belt states would outlaw abortion entirely, and others would restrict it. Others, like California, have put a "right of privacy" into their constitutions that was intended, among other things, to limit the state's ability to interfere with abortion. As Justice Ginsburg long ago observed, the effect of the Roe decision was to cut short the political conflict. The debate has now metastasized into a debate not only about constitutional law, but about the role of the Supreme Court and how justices should be selected.

Our Constitution gives the federal government limited powers, and the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, places specific restrictions on the feds' ability to do things like promulgate a state religion and tell newspapers what to print. Originally, these restrictions did not limit the powers of state governments, which were sovereign. After the Civil War, a Congress purged of rebels passed three constitutional amendments. One, the fourteenth, was designed to insure that freed slaves became full citizens, and thus provided that persons born or naturalized in this country were citizens of the states where they reside. It also did other post-war things, such as invalidate the Confederate debt, that are rarely spoken of today.

The language of the fourteenth amendment relevant to our discussion is this:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
For the first time, the constitution limited what the states could do. The idea was to protect the freed slaves. As we shall see, that ideas has stretched quite a bit beyond that intention since.

What were the "privileges and immunities" so protected, what were the protected "life, liberty, [and] property" and what was "equal protection of the laws"? The language is general, and when language is general, lawyers prance, preen and saunter. Where this legal horsing around has led our constitutional law, is a subject we will take up in the next post.

October 15, 2005

Million Man Horror Show

This account begins to detail the utter moral and political depravity of what passes for leadership in the African-American community.

It's a true horror show. The liberal élites like it, of course, because they can wear their "anti-racist" credentials on their sleeves and still revel quietly in their superiority.

The same psychological mechanism as affirmative action.


This blog has not followed the '70s feminist slogan, “The personal is the political.”

Guy that I am, I've focused on politics, society, the magnificence of French engineering, and Tuvan throat-singing.

Events have led me to make an exception. This is personal.

About three weeks ago, I went to the men's room at work, and suddenly my urine was bright-red bloody. It ain't supposed to be that way. Of course, my family MD's staff wouldn't give me an appointment until the next week. Thinking it might be an infection, and if so, it might be a good idea to get started on an antibiotic, I went to the emergency room. I picked Hoag, a bigger hospital than our nearby ER, also because Nancy had had a nasty experience with the small ER that same day.

They were very nice and seemed competent, allowed as how it was probably an infection or a kidney stone, took a CT scan, gave me an antibiotic, and said I should see a urologist. I asked my MD biking friend Meredith for a referral, and went to the urology group. My MD was a seemingly very young Iranian-American fellow, who announced that the standard procedure was to send a tiny camera up the urethra to send a TV image of the inside of the bladder to see what was happening, and set me up with an appointment for this delightful experience about a week later.

There I was on my back, with a tube up my virile member—yes, it hurts a bit going in, though less than you might think—looking at TV. We look at everything on a monitor nowadays. Dr. Tebbyani said, “There it is! A tumor.” On the screen was something resembling a sea anemone. After the mildly nasty post-exam events, the good doctor announced that they would schedule me for surgery, and using the same means of entry, snip out the cancer and cauterize the margin. That would probably be it, except that I would need to undergo the camera procedure every three months for a couple of years. Worst case, of course, the thing would have metastasized and I'd soon be dead, but except in my half-empty-glass mind, this outcome was unlikely.

After what seemed an interminable wait, I had the surgery last Thursday, on Yom Kippur. If the Dr. was Muslim, I didn't want to think about whether he would be fasting at the time (it's Ramadan), as I was required to do. The anesthesiologist, apparently Japanese-American (white bread Orange County's long gone, I guess), asked me whether I wanted to be awake or out during the procedure. I allowed as how I did not need to watch a doctor thread an electric knife through my pecker, and putting me out would be just fine.

Nancy drove me to the hospital, after I had mistakenly taken two, not one, tranquilizers. I joshed with the nurses, they stuck me with a needle, put in an IV, and before I knew it I was in the recovery room, joshing with the nurses, who didn't want to let me go home because I was still woozy from the two tranks or the anesthesia.

Eventually, they did kick me out, and home I went. I promptly slept for 18 hours, waking every hour or so.

The aftermath was not as bad as I thought it would be. I anticipated pretty constant pain, but it only hurt for a few minutes after I peed. They've given me pretty good drugs and I'm gradually getting better, although I suspect I'm not quite as strong as I think yet. One of the drugs is from the old Azo dyes and makes your urine bright orange. Believe me, it's a lot better than bright red.

In any case, I was able to see Katharine debut as Brigitta in The Sound of Music and enjoy it, and am able (now that cable is back) to blog.

So perhaps this is all a non-event.

There was a time, however, when people wouldn't mention the word “cancer.” They'd say “C” and doctors would hide the diagnosis from their patients. Now they might say “tumor” but people are pretty open. Of course, in my youth they couldn't remove a bladder cancer without an abdominal incision (talk about nasty, painful experiences).

The word still makes one aware of mortality, and of what's important in life (my family, more than anything), and how little time we have to stay, and all that. All that philosophical stuff, ya know. But I'll divagate on that some other time. Today, just the facts.

The Best Reporting from Iraq

Is by Michael Yon.

He's very specific, tells what he sees, mostly from the military side. Although he likes the Marines, he doesn't seem to have an ax to grind. This in itself makes him an exception.

But more than that, his reporting seems real.

October 12, 2005

The Plane, Bashar, The Plane!

Apparently the Syrian Interior Minister has has swallowed the barrel of his pistol. (In the old movies, it was usually his Luger). The UN investigation into the death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was coming too close.

Although there doesn't seem to be much of a visible Syrian opposition, if I were Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad, I'd be warming up my jet for a trip to Paris or London. London, I guess. The French didn't like Syria messing with Lebanon, which they still fantasize is theirs. Bashar can go back to opthalmology.

Someone else can steal from the Syrians for awhile.

October 8, 2005

Another Triumph of French Engineering

October 9, 2005

MOSCOW, Oct. 8 (Agence France-Presse) - A European satellite that was to have helped scientists understand global warming by scanning the thickness of polar ice sheets crashed into the Arctic Ocean on Saturday after its Russian launcher failed, officials said.

The $170 million Cryosat satellite blasted off from the northwestern Plesetsk cosmodrome atop a Russian-built Rockot launch vehicle, a converted Soviet-era SS-19 ballistic missile, but failed to achieve orbit, Vyacheslav Davidenko, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The European Space Agency official in charge of the project, Pascal Gilles, said engineers and scientists had worked five to six years on the satellite. The space agency was expected to make an announcement on Monday on what steps it would take regarding the Cryosat, which was the first of six "Earth Explorer" satellites designed to explore key environmental problems.

October 3, 2005

Street Games

I can't claim to have been a street kid.

Protected Jewish nerd is more like it. I got my strength from lugging books on unlikely subjects from the 96th Street Library to 89th--and back. But I did escape to street life every now and then, between doses of Milton and Schopenhauer (well, not really, but close, for a 9-year-old).

This is a "Spaldeen," a fine rubber ball that you could buy at the cornder candy or cigar store and use to play Chinese handball (using the sidewalk squares and a windowless wall, or stickball (using parked cars as bases).

Rougher and maybe more fun were Ringalevio and Johnny on the Pony. You can get the idea of the latter here:

Harriet Who?

President Bush has nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Harriet who?

Just as when Dick Cheney was guiding the search for a Vice Presidential running-mate for Bush, Miers was vetting the potential nominees for the court.

I like the fact that she's not a sitting judge, and I believe the President is entitled to some deference in his nominations, but this choice smacks of cronyism. Does service on the Texas Lottery Commission qualify one for the Supreme Court?

She's not young (59 or 60, depending on whom you read), so she may not be on the court for that long. She was picked partly because she's female, so I guess now we have a female seat on the Court, just as there used to be a "Jewish seat," not a good development.

I wonder what nickname W. has given this woman?

Given how jaundiced I am about the political scene at the moment, look forward to more ethnomusicology posts. Pythagorean tuning, anyone?

UPDATE: NZBear has a tally page on bloggers' opinions on this nomination. To enable his search engine to find this post, I am adding: "I am neutral on the Miers nomination."

October 2, 2005

I Drift Off Into Throat-Singing And Other Curiosities

Enough politics for the moment. Between the feckless Democrats, caught between the reflexive leftism of their activists and the fact that they are no longer the party of government, and the Republicans, who seem unable to lead and bereft of principles, I'd just as soon take a break.

So I drifted (my daughter wonders how) into a consideration of Central Asian throat-singing, which got some press when the redoubtable Richard Feynman took an interest in the small Central Asian country of Tuva. There seem to be traditions of throat-singing in much of Central Asia, and indications that something similar (but not quite the same) among the Inuit.

Apparently, the technique is periodically rediscovered, for the website has links to Xhosa (South Africa) and cowboy versions of the art, which involves the production of a deep tone in the throat and one or more harmonic tones in the mouth at the same time. Thus, one singer can produce more than one note. The singers could accompany themselves on their ponies without carrying musical instruments.

Whether this technique, to us, is more than an ethnomusicological curiosity, is in question, but curious it is. Check out the videos and MP3s. If you like it, you can get on-line lessons, and as the ads in the back of the comic books used to say, amaze your friends.

September 30, 2005

Manufacturing Atrocity

This site has analysis and film showing how certain scenes of violence in Palestine are outright fabrications.

My favorite is the helicopter footage of the funeral procession where the corpse falls off the bier several times--and climbs back in!

Journalism today is so often a fetid flow of foul floodwaters, à la New Orleans. Amazing stuff.

September 21, 2005

Zey Kann Mir Der Tokhes Kushn

Here's the story.

Pack of dhimmis.

With apologies to Yivo.

And it goes double for this guy.

September 20, 2005

The Corpse In the Apartment

The delightfully acerb Mark Steyn here expatiates on the enervating effect of too much welfare and too much government on Europe in general and Germany in particular. His column is a riff on the story of the Frenchman who kept his dead mother in his apartment for years to collect her check--a kind of Bates Welfare Motel.
That's the perfect summation of Europe: welfare addiction over demographic reality.

Think of Germany as that flat in Marseilles, and Mr Schröder's government as the stiff, and the country's many state benefits as that French bloke's dead mum's benefits. Germany is dying, demographically and economically.

* * * *

Old obdurate Leftists can argue about which system is "better", but at a certain point it becomes irrelevant: by 2050, there will be more and wealthier Americans, and fewer and poorer Europeans. In the 14th century, it took the Black Death to wipe out a third of Europe's population. In the course of the 21st century, Germany's population will fall by over 50 per cent to some 38 million or lower - killed not by disease or war but by the Eutopia to which Mr Schröder and his electorate are wedded.
Tough stuff, but it has the whiff of truth.

September 18, 2005

The Fleshpots of N'Djamena

Yet another piece has appeared on the fecklessness, nay, malevolence, of the UN confirms the uselessness of the UN bureaucracy. It is truly the Cartel of Tyrants.

It might be unwise to withdraw from the UN completely, both because some of the specialized agencies are useful and because without our heel-dragging, it could get worse.

However, the UN complains that it is outgrowing its HQ, and wants to embark on an outrageously expensive rebuilding program, that Donald Trump says he could match for a fraction of the cost. Why not take advantage of this crisis to announce that we are denouncing the Headquarters Agreement, and let the UN move to some other location, say, N'Djamena in Chad, maximum average temperature 90 to 105. How many nephews of Third World dictators would want to head there, where there's no Bloomie's?

Such a move would be a boost for the Chadian economy, and deter the time-servers who find the Apple just too attractive.

Meanwhile we can do something more sensible in the area of international organization--a league of English-speaking nations, or an association of democracies, and let the UN sink even further into the slough.

UPDATE: This site covers the U.N. with the right mix of accuracy and skepticism.

September 17, 2005

The Next Big One

Consider this:
  1. As many as one billion deaths.

  2. A sick child comes to a school at 8:30. By 3:00 pm everyone in the school is dead.

  3. Dogs devouring corpses in the streets of major cities.

  4. Complete paralysis of urban systems, travel, and trade.

  5. Total panic.
This is not a movie. This is what could happen if bird flu mutates to become infectious in humans.

Read this book. It happened less than a century ago.

I don't think we're prepared. Twenty million doses of an unproven vaccine is not enough.

This is a real, substantial risk. There are things that can be done. Do them.


Wifebear, of whom I have more than passing knowledge, accepted one of those blogosphere challenges.

Although she charitably tagged only
1. Any
2. One
3. Who
4. Hasn't
5. Done
6. This
7. Yet
I have risen to the bait.

7 things I plan (or would like) to do before I die:

1. Ride the Paris-Brest-Paris randonée.
2. Learn one or more of the following--Japanese, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Cantonese, Georgian, Hungarian.
3. Learn to dance the tango argentino.
4. Visit some new places (Chichen Itzá, Georgia [in the Caucasus], Glacier Park).
5. Sing "September Song" well enough to perform it before an audience.
6. Attend my daughters' graduations and walk them down the aisle.
7. Get some help for my unbelief, or become reconciled to it.

7 things I can do:

1. Try a case to a jury.
2. Speak Portuguese and Spanish, mutter in and read French, Italian, and German.
3. Talk to four-year-olds like people.
4. Ride a century (100 miles on a bicycle).
5. Sketch.
6. Sing baritone in a chorus.
7. Bake bread from scratch.

7 things I can't do:

1. Any but the simplest task with hand tools.
2. Tolerate TV as background noise.
3. Stay up late two days in a row.
4. Climb mountains, bungee jump, sky-dive, hang-glide.
5. Suffer fools gladly.
6. Balance a checkbook.
7. Use a hula hoop.

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1. Strong hands and long fingers: touch.
2. Wit.
3. Resemblance to Maillol figures.

4. A sardonic take on life, concealing a generous spirit.
5. Hair, usually dark, sometimes reddish.
6. Voice, usually on the deep side.
7. Feeds me.

7 things I say all the time:

1. "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy."
2. "Karl Heinrich, sitz!" (to Charlie the bilingual dog).

3. "What's for dinner?"
4. "Let me check on that and I'll call you back."
5. "Where's my . . ." (fill in the blank).
6. "I apologize, Your Honor."
7. "May I see the dessert menu?"

7 celebrity crushes:

1. Sigourney Weaver2. Tonya Harding
3. Liv Tyler4. Heather Myles
5. Goldie Hawn6. Lauren Graham
7. Lauren Bacall

7 people I'd like to see do this:

1. Homer Simpson
2. My daughter Zoë
3. My sister Phoebe
4. Condi Rice
5. Anne Coulter
6. My bro-in-law Dan
7. My cuz-in-law Ronnie

What's Playin' At The Roxy?

What's playin' at the Roxy?
I'll tell ya what's playin' at the Roxy--
Story about a Minnesota man
So in love wit' a Mississippi girl
That he sacrifices everything
And moves all the way to Biloxi.
That's what's playin' at the Roxy!
George Bush has announced a $200 million program to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. This at a time of national deficit and in the face of reasoned questioning of the wisdom of building in these locations and even more, the implied federal guarantee of a bailout when the inevitable disaster strikes.

Why? I suspect three causes:
  1. A reaction to the Hive's attacks--partly but only partly deserved--on Bush's and the federal response to Katrina.

  2. Genuine compassion for those affected by the disaster.

  3. The impulse to do something big, to which this Administration is no stranger.
The cat is out of this particular bag, and only someone like me, an obscure blogger whose political career is in the past, is likely to question the concept. Nevertheless, here goes:
  1. This is a time of huge federal deficits, and the undisciplined dispensing of federal pork. To add $200M to this amount, even spread over more than one budget year, seems risky. The country is overextended: there is a federal deficit, a trade deficit, a war (however just) whose popularity is slipping, potential energy problems, a looming pandemic, out-of-control illegal immigration, and a continuing terrorist threats. To take on another huge project without looking at our limitations may be visionary, but it may also be foolhardy.

  2. There is a substantial "moral risk" in such a program. The message is the feds will override the risks of building in particular locations. As a result, fewer will take into account the risks of such construction by thinking again, building more robustly, buying insurance, or building elsewhere if the actuaries won't allow insurance to be issued. In short, are we rewarding folly, and encouraging renewed folly?

  3. Precedent. I can just see Jesse Jackson saying that the gummint has chosen to help the black poor of New Orleans, but is neglecting the black poor of Detroit, Brooklyn, and South Central L.A. The problems of the Gulf Coast run the risk of being federalized, nationwide.

  4. Incompetence. There's little sign, other than the resignation of the hapless Michael Brown, that the deficiencies of the federal apparatus have been cured. Much of the 200 mil may be stolen, wasted, or applied inefficiently. For example, buying thousands of mobile homes seems almost like seeding tornadoes.
I know this sounds Grinchy, and worthy of my nom-de-plume, Grumpy Old Man. But I do fear the federal largesse will be wasted, à  la the bridge to nowhere in Alaska, the Harley Staggers Express, and other classic boondoggles.

I also wonder what should be rebuilt. The French Quarter and the Garden District are national treasures and weren't flooded much, and as long as the Corps of Engineers keeps the Mississippi from following its natural course near Morgan City, the port is essential to the economy. The Ninth Ward, though, was a vulnerable slum, and the areas near Lake Pontchartrain pleasant but unremarkable, still-vulnerable petty-bourgeois suburbs. New Orleans was horribly run, and its population was in decline for that and other reasons. There are substantial environmental questions--erosion of the alluvial barrier islands and wetlands, toxic pollution, continued flood risk. How much thinking is going into what to rebuild, where and how?

Folly is everywhere, but nowhere more so than in gummint. I hope we are smarter, braver, and luckier with this reconstruction than we deserve to be.