JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

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Saturday, April 26, 2003
 
Yasser Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize
Everyone's favorite terrorist-conspiring lawyer (alleged, of course) is back in the news:
Since its founding in 1983, the law school of the City University of New York has taken pride in its zeal to produce lawyers with a social conscience and a left-wing sense of the public interest.

Now these students have taken their training a step too far for the school's administration: they are seeking to honor the only American lawyer ever charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization.

The lawyer, Lynne F. Stewart, 63, was a natural choice to many students at the campus in Queens. Since her arrest last April on charges that she helped an Egyptian sheik to direct terrorist operations from his Minnesota prison cell, Ms. Stewart has become a cause célèbre among many left-leaning lawyers and advocates. The students say the charges against her are groundless and part of an assault on civil liberties.

Members of the graduating class presented their dean last week with a petition signed by more than half of them nominating Ms. Stewart as public interest lawyer of the year.
Students are complaining about censorship -- though the article is unclear as to whether the award has actually been revoked or whether its presentation was merely removed from the graduation ceremony -- while the school is portraying its decision as the politically safe course of action, given the school's dependence on government funding. What neither side addresses, at least in the article, is exactly what Lynne Stewart has done to earn the title "Public Interest Lawyer of the Year." As far as I can tell, all she did in the last year was (a) get arrested for assisting terrorists, and (b) circulating among the nation's law schools, complaining about it.

But if the article is any guide, it seems as if the students were acting inappropriately, abusing their opportunity to award the honor:
Some students are so angry about the dean's decision that they plan to wear tape over their mouths at graduation to signify that their statement of protest has been silenced, said Barry Klopfer, a third-year student.
The honor, presumably, is supposed to be something earned by the recipient, not something given as a "statement of protest." (Against what? And if they're protesting against her arrest, shouldn't they first wait to see whether the arrest was justified?)


(By the way, note the way it's taken for granted that "public interest" and "left-wing" are synonymous. As if there are no libertarian or conservative public interest causes?)

Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
Praise Rick!

The Philadelphia Daily News has found someone who agrees with Senator Santorum.

 
SARS

The most recent datum I have reports that 261 people world-wide have died from SARS. All 261 of these deaths are tragic, however, while watching and reading news reports on SARS and how Canada, the United States, and the Far East is taking precautions to prevent its further spread, let's remember that: at last count 710,760 people die annually from heart disease in the US alone and that every 10 seconds, someone dies from a tobacco related health problem. (Of course, there is some overlap in these two figures.)

So, while thinking about SARS... thinking of the 261 in the world and the 710,760 annually in this country... everybody should also be thinking about hitting the treadmill and, if you smoke, quiting. We might not yet know how to defeat SARS, but we do know how to reduce heart disease and tobacco related deaths.

 
A moment of silence
As we pause to remember those brave Americans who sacrificed their lives during Iraqi Freedom, and as our thoughts also turn to the innocent civilians who were tragically killed, let's make sure not to overlook the real victim in all this suffering.

(I'd Fisk it, but I'm afraid I'd vomit halfway through.)

 
Non-sequitur of the day
Where does the New York Times come up with this stuff? From the Arts section, an article by Alessandra Stanley reviewing Monica Lewinsky's new reality show, Mr. Personality:
The invasion of Iraq reminded viewers how much class determines the makeup of the United States military; the all-volunteer army is disproportionally made up of poorer, less-educated Americans who view the service as a way of lifting themselves up in the world.
1. Say wha? I can't speak for anybody except myself and my acquaintances, and unlike the Times I wouldn't presume to try. But when I watched coverage of the war, I thought about military tactics. I thought about high-tech weaponry. I thought about weapons of mass destruction. I thought about the effects of the war on our relations with other countries in the Middle East and Europe. I don't recall a single moment when I thought, "Boy, our military's makeup is determined by class." And I haven't encountered anybody else who mentioned that, either. Which "viewers" does Stanley refer to?

2. While it's obviously true that some people join the military for the opportunities it provides for them, note Stanley's implication that patriotism plays little or no role in the matter. Why would you join the armed forces? Oh, if you're poor or stupid. Of course. It's not even that Stanley's assumption is wrong; it's the casualness with which she tosses it out, as if it's self-evident, without even a pause to consider other explanations.

3. Stanley is, of course, wrong. The military is not made up disproportionately of less-educated Americans. From a Department of Defense report published in 2000, with emphasis added:
Education Level. The Military Services value and support the education of their members. The emphasis on education was evident in the data for FY 2000. Practically all active duty and Selected Reserve enlisted accessions had a high school diploma or equivalent, well above civilian youth proportions (79 percent of 18-24 year-olds). More important, excluding accessions enlisting in the Army or Army Reserve under the GED+ program (an experimental program of individuals with a GED or no credential who have met special screening criteria for enlisting), 93 percent of NPS active duty and 90 percent of NPS Selected Reserve enlisted recruits were high school diploma graduates.

Given that most officers are required to possess at least a baccalaureate college degree upon or soon after commissioning and that colleges and universities are among the Services’ main commissioning sources (i.e., Service academies and ROTC), the academic standing of officers is not surprising. The fact that 96 percent of active duty officer accessions and 97 percent of the officer corps (both excluding those with unknown education credentials) were degree holders (approximately 16 and 44 percent advanced degrees) is in keeping with policy and the professional status and expectations of officers. Likewise, 86 percent of Reserve Component officer accessions and 88 percent of the total Reserve Component officer corps held at least a bachelor’s degree, with 24 and 30 percent possessing advanced degrees, respectively.
It's certainly true that there are few Ivy League graduates serving in the military, But there are millions of Americans who don't graduate from high school, and most Americans are not college graduates. (See the census for more detailed data.) Is the Times deliberately attempting to demean the military? I doubt it. But they have a stereotypical vision of what members of the military must be like, and it's so ingrained that they don't even realize it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
Quote of the day
From the National Review's Jonah Goldberg:
To say that I was French-bashing before French-bashing was cool would be like saying "I was using verbs before everyone else." French-bashing is eternal.
'Nuff said.

 
Where's Zogby when you need him?
When even Salon -- no friend to the Bush administration, to say the least -- reports that Iraqi Shiites are grateful to the U.S., you really have to wonder why the New York Times is so very desperate to portray Iraq as an anti-American hotbed? (Samples: "As Baghdad Awaits Aid, Feeling Grows Against U.S." and "But even in the Shiite south, one feels as much menace as gratitude. ... Those Americans who contend that Iraqis hail us as liberators should try traveling around Iraq. I grew a mustache to look more like an Iraqi so hostile locals wouldn't throw rocks at my car.")

Ferry Biedermann reports, in Salon:
From all parts of Iraq the pilgrims have been streaming toward Karbala for almost a week -- openly, proudly and, despite the mournful occasion, joyously. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein there is a clear mass popular expression of the relief of the people that the dictator is no longer in power. "Thank you, Bush!" many of the pilgrims shout, as they give the thumbs-up to the U.S.A. The religious holiday is turning into a huge festival of liberation.
And
A little farther down the road, a student from Al Durra, near Baghdad, is walking toward Karbala with two female relatives, clad in black. "The road is safe," he says, "and we have the Americans to thank for it. They are our friends. They even said we could leave our weapons at home because they will defend us."
and
Not that all Shiites are now 100 percent positive about the U.S. presence. Outside the mosque of Ali in Najaf, a group of men from Nasariyeh is eating lunch in a hurry before moving on to Karbala. "The American soldiers touch our women when they frisk them," some complain. "They look into our homes with binoculars and they show pictures from Playboy to our children," others chime in.

Still, even this relatively disenchanted group does not want to see the Americans gone just yet. "The war has barely ended, Saddam Hussein has not been found yet, and the country has to be helped on its feet," one of them explains. Another man, who had been complaining about the frisking of women, concedes, "We wouldn't mind the women being frisked if is being done by female soldiers." This reflects the attitude of the large majority of the people on the road. There may be some complaints, but by and large people regard the Americans as friendly and they want the troops to stay and finish the job.
The "Yankee go home" demonstrations, according to Biedermann, represent political maneuvering by Shiite leaders more than true anti-American sentiment. Of course, I don't discount the possibility that U.S. screwups in post-war Iraq could lead to widespread anti-Americanism, but the eagerness of the Times to interpret every chanting Iraqi as an America-hater seems more an example of wishful thinking than reporting.

 
You make the call
Incompetence, or bias? Reading this Atlanta Journal-Constitution hackjob about ex-Red Cross head Bernadine Healy, it's hard to say. Actually, "both" appears to be the most likely answer. It seems that the Red Cross paid Healy a lot of money as she left her position as head of the organization, and the AJC tries to turn it into a scandal. Why? Because the reporter didn't understand deferred compensation, and didn't bother to find out what it meant. Lynxx Pherrett explains.

Come to think of it, didn't we see a similar "scandal" with regard to Dick Cheney and Halliburton recently, when it was revealed that he was receiving deferred compensation from his former company? There seems to be a pattern here. (Well, it's only two cases, which probably isn't enough to call it a pattern. So sue me.) Some in the media don't seem to grasp that deferred compensation is not a gift to a former employee, but rather payment already earned. I suspect that bias plays a role, though -- not partisan bias, but bias against high salaries for corporate executives, particularly in the post-Enron era. There's a journalistic instinct to assume something must be wrong.

Monday, April 21, 2003
 
Blogging history
In case you were wondering, Mickey Kaus's use of the coinage "Euromoronic" appears to be the first usage ever on the internet, according to Google.

 
A modest proposal?
How to reduce crime in two easy steps:
  1. Allow prison inmates to kill each other.
  2. Okay, there actually isn't a second step. The first one should really do it.
It might be a little harsh, but don't blame me -- it's not my idea. It's Jonathan Turley's proposal. Although, for some reason, he views it as social justice on par with Brown vs. Board of Education.
Modern prison policy is based on a concept of re-creating a microcosm of a healthy, albeit controlled, society in a prison. An inmate must be compelled to comply with the standards dictated by society if there is to be any hope of breaking the common cycle of recidivism.
Good idea! And if they don't, we'll just... put them in prison?
Segregation policies may reduce racial violence, but only by accommodating racist tastes -- a dangerous form of appeasement.

If it is true, as one California prison official testified, that you "cannot house a Japanese inmate with a Chinese inmate [because] they will kill each other," then it is time that they are forced to live according to a new code. It would certainly be better that they meet in a controlled prison environment than on a crowded street.

[...]

The solution is not easy, but we must regain control of the prisons and compel prisoners to live according to our core values.
Uh, not to point out the obvious, but if they were willing to do that, they wouldn't be in prison in the first place.
It is always tempting to avoid racial tension by yielding to racial separation. However, although there may be costs to desegregation, we have learned that the costs of embracing the conveniences of racial segregation are much higher.
I'd guess this was satire, only Turley is so earnest about this that I think he's really serious. Apparently he believes that people in prison would just learn not to be criminals if we had them hold hands in a circle and sing songs to each other. Maybe if we piped Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" line into their cells twenty-four hours a day, they'd all become Nobel peace laureates. (Or, they'd all kill themselves to stop the pain. Thus eliminating recidivism altogether.)

I hate to keep ripping off that Charles Krauthammer piece I referenced yesterday, but it's just so good, so go read it. Turley's column perfectly illustrates the naive stupidity Krauthammer describes. He has a vision of the perfect society, and he thinks he can achieve it if only he can engage in a little minor social engineering. He has no real idea how to accomplish this, but he thinks it should be done. No matter what the costs.

Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
Breaking up is hard to do
Should Iraq continue to exist? Most treat it as a given that the United States must build a stable, multiethnic Iraq. Indeed, the first President Bush allowed Saddam Hussein to remain in power in 1991 in large part because he was worried that Iraq would break up if he didn't, and he feared the consequences. But back then, the U.S. wasn't trying to remake the middle east; now, we are. So, given that, maybe we should let Iraq break up, according to Ralph Peters.
The key lesson of Yugoslavia was that no amount of diplomatic pressure, bribes in aid or peacekeeping forces can vanquish the desire of the oppressed to reclaim their independence and identity. Attempts to force such groups to continue to play together like nice children simply prolong the conflict and intensify the bloodshed.

We are far too quick to follow Europe's example and resist the popular will we should be supporting. If the United States does not stand for self-determination, who shall?

[...]

As we try to help the Iraqis rebuild their state, we should spare no reasonable effort to demonstrate to all parties concerned the advantages of remaining together. But we must stop short of bullying them -- and well short of folly.

Even as we aim for a democratic, rule-of-law Iraq, we must consider alternatives if we are to avoid being bushwhacked by the guerrilla forces of history.
There are many potential problems if this happens, but there are also some benefits, the most unambiguous being a free and independent Kurdistan, already versed in democracy, and (unlike some other Iraqis) staunchly pro-American. A stable, full-size, democratic Iraq that's an American ally would obviously be an even greater asset, but that may not be an option. The point isn't that we should break up Iraq, but that if it's going to happen, we should let it happen.

 
Proving a point
The old cliche is that liberals think conservatives are evil, and conservatives think liberals are stupid. The neatness of that divide has been tested in recent years, as the attacks on George Bush illustrate -- he's not just mean-spirited; he's a simpleton, too. Still, the basic cliche holds, as Charles Krauthammer humorously explained last year.

And you couldn't ask for a better example than Colman McCarthy to demonstrate why conservatives think liberals are dumb. McCarthy wonders why, in analyzing the war, the cable news networks utilized retired military officers, rather than "such groups as Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee." Here's a guess: could it be because the news shows were covering a war, and the former actually know something about war?

You have to admire McCarthy for his consistency, if nothing else; most anti-war people claimed that although they felt the war in Iraq was illegitimate, they supported at least a limited response to 9/11 in Afghanistan. McCarthy, though, argued that our response to 9/11 ought to be, "We forgive you. Please forgive us." You'd swear he was an Ann Coulter caricature of a leftist, if only he didn't exist. So when Charles Krauthammer writes:
Liberals tend to be nice, and they believe -- here is where they go stupid -- that most everybody else is nice too. Deep down, that is. Sure, you've got your multiple felon and your occasional war criminal, but they're undoubtedly depraved 'cause they're deprived. If only we could get social conditions right -- eliminate poverty, teach anger management, restore the ozone, arrest John Ashcroft -- everyone would be holding hands smiley-faced, rocking back and forth to "We Shall Overcome."

Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything.
Just remember that he's talking about Colman McCarthy.