Tuesday, July 31, 2007


“I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing. There are others, which, one must suppose, opponents of birth control would prefer.”
-Bertrand Russell

In the past, some wondered that with legal abortion being mandated in all states of the America, if this would not be a self-correcting problem. That only some people, those in favor of abortion, are likely to engage in the activity, and thus by their very actions would tend to produce fewer children to teach and raise with this mindset. This became known as the "Roe Effect" and seems to be coming true. There are simply fewer leftists than there used to be, and they aren't having as many children as those on the right. Here's an example from Blogs for Bush:
In the United States, the percentage of the population under 5 years old is 7%. San Francisco? 5.5%. Manhattan? 4.9%. Key West? 4.7%. Beverly Hills? 3.7%. Malibu? 4.5%. West Hollywood? 1.6%. Vermont? 5.6%. Seattle? 5.9%. Marin County? 5.9%. Santa Monica? 5.4%.

So, as you can see, in our liberal bastions, you liberals just ain't having the number of kids you should have. I haven't been able to find the figures, but I'll bet a lot that in none of these jurisdictions - or anyplace else where liberal Demcorats do real well at election time - is the fertility rate 2.1% - which means each woman having, on average, 2.1 children over their life time. That is mere replacement rate - you don't grow, but you don't decline. if you aren't replacing yourselves, then you haven't got a future.

Now, some other stats - more population under 5 years old:

Salt Lake City? 8.9%. Las Vegas? 7.9%. Kansas City? 8.5%. Norfolk, VA? 9.6%. Palmdale, CA? 10.4%.

Getting the picture? The areas of the country which tend to vote heavily Republican are having kids - a lot more kids than you liberals are even thinking of having (and what is up with West Hollywood? I know there is a large gay community there - but isn't anyone doing heterosexual sex with a purpose out there?).
The point is one that in the past, left leaning outlets such as the New York Times have had articles about in the past: conservatives are out breeding leftists in the country. They're simply not having enough children to replace their ranks as they age and die. The reasons for this are many, as commenters brought up:
Liberals dont have many kids because they're too focused on "what they want" and "how they feel". Kids just get in the way.

Thats why they kill them before birth so they dont have to deal with the RESPONSIBILITY!
Let the good times roll!

I think its interesting to watch satelite TV, and listen to satelite radio (I have Sirius) and see how many programs or DJ's push a liberal agenda. They push for open borders and call it "diversity".

They push for homosexual activity/marriage and present it as a joke so it seems funny and not disturbing.

A few of them still belitle religion and love to make fun of Christains and Catholics.

Of course they worship Al Gore, some of the rock stations I listen to have a whole hour dedicated to bands that sing about "Global Warming". I dont mind songs about "Global Warming", but I dont want to listen to it for a whole hour and feel like i'm trying to get it cramed down my throat.

Some of that was off-topic.
-by zachster

At this time I throw a Monkey Wrench into your most interesting plan (See Mark's comments above)

I am a Christian

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all my Heart

I am a Liberal Democrat.

So, what about those Christians who are Liberal and choose for whatever reason, not to have kids?

My reason, I do not want to add to this over populated planet.

Magnum Serpentine
Born Again
Liberal Democratic Christian.

And Remember, there is absolutly nothing wrong with being Liberal

Also remember that Jesus Christ is neither Liberal or Conservative, and does not favior any political party or political lifestyle.
-by Magnum Serpentine

leftists abort themselves outta existence.

I read a study (Opinion Journal?) that concluded that there were ~12 million aborted democratic voters MISSING from the last election due to the accumulated effects of abortion since Roe. Assumptions included that lefty parents would tend to nurture lefty kids.

if true, social conservatives will paradoxically diminish their own relative voting strength to the extent that abortion is restricted.

from that perspective, left & rightwingers should JOIN forces to restrict abortion.
-by OhioOrrin

There are better models than Salt Lake City, charming as it is. From trips through India, it seems that most of the population is rather religious, often to the point of driving out neighbors who don't follow the correct religgion, and they tend to have a lot of children.

My wife and I are very liberal, and have one child. We have reasons why we choose not to ahve any more right now. Being liberals, we don't think that we need to justify that decision to anyone else. I'm not sure why conservatives are so worried about why some women aren't breeding, and see it as a problem. We do realize that we pay a similar amount in taxes as those with more children while receiving less back, but being liberals, we know we will always be giving money to conservatives.

It seems what you're worried about is that conservative kids will be led astray and become liberals. As long as zealots and bigots remain the voice of the Right, this is a legitimate concern. c'est la vie.
-by someguy

For one who is so quick to criticize the scientific method of any professional polling indicating Democratic advantage, Mark disappoints.

First, as Ricorun points out, none of these cities are distinctly Republican. On the contrary, I would think high birth rates for major urban areas like Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Norfolk would be great for the Democrats, according to your reasoning.

Second, wouldn't it be much easier to provide a survey showing that Republicans have larger families than Democrats do?

Third, even assuming for a moment that Mark's "survey" is accurate, it ignores the reality that young voting-age people are leaving the Republican Party in droves. These people, my generation, will be tilting the political landscape towards liberals long before today's 5-year-olds become eligible to vote.
-by Gar Wood

True - and Oscar Goodman has the long term and loyal support of this Republican; he's our mayor, and we love him (even though I now reside in North Las Vegas). His Democratic party registration is entirely irrelevant to his position as mayor of Las Vegas...he didn't win the mayor's office because he is a Democrat, but because he's Oscar Goodman, mayor of life (if he wants it).

True enough, those particular cities have over-representation of demographics which might tend to vote Democrat - but they are not nearly as likely to vote Democratic as the same demographics in other, more liberal jurisdiction (nature of things - hearing a stronger and more consistent conservative message, they are more likely to be swayed to vote conservative). But if you don't like those examples, how about these:

Washoe County, Nevada; 384,000 people, 7.1% under 5, 81% white, 2004 Republican House candidate - 64% of the vote.

Orange County, California; 2.9 million people, 7.6% under 5, only 1.6% black, 2004 GOP vote 59%.

You can try to slice it up and say that demographics doesn't favor the GOP - but it sure in heck doesn't favor the Democrats, and I contend it does favor the GOP...and if you think those Catholic hispanic voters will remain loyal to a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-Christian Democratic party, then you've got another thing coming.
-by Mark Noonan
This is just one piece of the puzzle that indicates the way the nation is shifting. Take a look at these stats from Opinion Jounral regarding abortion rates in states, based on their voting record in 2004:
High abortion rates
District of Columbia (Gore by 76.2%)
New Jersey (Gore by 15.8%)
New York (Gore by 25.0%)
Maryland (Gore by 16.2%)
California (Gore by 11.7%)
Nevada (Bush by 3.5%)

Low abortion rates
Utah (Bush by 40.5%)
South Dakota (Bush by 22.7%)
Kentucky (Bush by 15.1%)
North Dakota (Bush by 27.6%)
A study by Overbrook Research noted that in their survey the younger the person questioned (especially women) the less likely they were to support abortion. The reason why? Because people who supported abortion were less likely to have children and thus result in young people who are more likely to be influenced by parents who do so.

A USA Today article pointed out that in 2006, Republican congressmen had more kids in their districts than Democratic ones.
GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district.

• Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two.

• Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none.
With the shift in power, these numbers have changed, but the point made is pretty profound: Democrat voters tend not to have traditional families and have fewer kids. Another USA Today article pointed out the difference with census statistics:
It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future — one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default. Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids.
At The Back of the Envelope, Donald looked at this grim statement of history:
Approximately 40 percent of American women under 45 have had at least one abortion. Twenty-five percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, over 40 million abortions have taken place.
He took this block of statistics and plugged it in to the populations of various states, finding out what they likely would have been, had these abortions not happened. The result? President Bush still wins the 2000 election, but by an even narrower electoral college margin. Those killed babies were worth a theoretical 8 electoral college votes.

Those people who are killing their children for convenience, or out of fear, or out of a desire to have fewer children are paying a price beyond the simple murder of an infant, of their own baby. They are seeing their ideology take a hit. Compound that with the inclination to stay single among many on the left and the tendency to have no or fewer children, and they're simply dying out.

But what about the 60's, could those children not turn against their parents, rebel, reject the ideology they were raised with? Certainly, they could. They could on both sides, and evidence suggests that children today tend to be more conservative than their parents. There's a difference today, however. First, there's no draft to push kids away from the establishment. Second, the Baby Boom took place in a time when almost everyone followed the traditional model of family and had many children following the World War. Leftists and conservatives both had families and kids, which they aren't doing now.

The effect of changing sides and radicalizing was increased by an unchecked influence of academic radicalism and the media being controlled by people who leaned more left. That's simply not true any more: the radicalism and lean is still there, but it's checked by new influences on the right.

Putting it simply: if things keep going the way they are, radical leftist thought - experiencing a boom right now - is doomed to wane and fade away as they deliberately cause their own extinction.
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"Memo to Schmulevich: Next time, Buy your own copy of the Koran. Put it in a frame and cover it with elephant dung. Exhibit in trendy museum. Become the toast of New York."

Burning Cross
Eugene Volokh takes a stab at examining the principal of hate as a motivation bringing greater punishment for other crimes. He gives five examples to explain this:
  1. A man, angry at a Muslim, steals a book from the library, throws it in a toilet, and dumps feces on it.
  2. A man, angry at the United States, burns the flag flying out front of a government building.
  3. An artist, angry at the Christian church and deeds in the past it was responsible for, creates a cross and covers it with feces in a public housing project, refusing to leave when ordered.
  4. A minister, angry at the Episcopal church's decision to admit gay ministers enters the home of an Episcopal Bishop and refuses to leave when asked to
  5. A state decides that any crime undertaken with hate or perceived hate as the motivation is upgraded to a more serious crime with a greater penalty.
Now, each of these examples has a crime, a motivation that can be interpreted as "hate," and a proposed higher penalty than usual because of the motivation. In other words, because the motivation of the criminal is believed to be hateful, the ordinary crime (theft, tresspassing, etc) is punished more severely than usual. Of the examples given, the first is real, it happened, and the man is being prosecuted not simply for theft and destruction of private property, but a hate crime for his treatment of the Koran. In essence, he's being charged with blasphemy. Eugene Volkh analyzes this development:
It seems to me that this sort of use of the hate crime statutes is at least very dangerous to free speech, and may well be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, people sometimes act in illegal — often mildly illegal — ways when engaged in protest. It's right to punish them for such actions. But it seems to me that they shouldn't be punished more (potentially much more, as when a misdemeanor is turned into a felony) because they were motivated by disapproval of a religion, a religious practice, a sexual orientation, and the like, or were motivated by a desire to offend people based on these criteria.

Such additional punishment is not, it seems to me, primarily punishment for the crime (since that would have been covered by the unenhanced punishment), or even for the discriminatory selection of a crime's target. Rather, it is punishment for the ideology that motivated the crime. And it will deter even speakers who have that ideology but have no plans to commit any crimes: Even such speakers may face substantial extra punishment if they recklessly — or, if the law is broadened, even grossly negligently — damage some property in the course of their speech (see example 2 above, though you can similarly adapt the other examples), refuse in the heat of the moment to comply with a command to leave property (see examples 3 and 4), or do something that may be misinterpreted as intentional misconduct.
I can't help but agree: he's being charged with having the wrong ideology, not with a greater criminal act. Commenters discussed this:
The point of most hate crime laws is the moral superiority and power it enables one class of people to lord over others. It doesn't especially matter what the details are; as long as the promulgators can make a show of their superior virtue, the laws are just fine as far as they're concerned, so why change them?
-by ras

It seems to me that if the additional element of hate raises the level of a crime from a misdemeanor to a felony, it raises Blakely issues: the penality which can be imposed is increased beyond that which is permitted by the law applicable to the crime committed. But, using the Blakely analysis, this suggests that what is charged is effectively a wholly new crime, e.g., assault with intent to hate, and with respect to that new crime, hate is an essential element. If that is so, then it would seem the law in question raises first amendment concerns.
-by JohnEMack

There's no way around the irrationality of hate crime laws. All the state is doing is tacking on extra punishment for thought crimes. And do we really want the government to define something as abstract as a hate crime? Please. Just punish them for violating someone else's life and/or property.
-by somebody

Surely you could envision a circumstance (like the first one) where the crime committed on the books looks less culpable than the crime actually committed, and thus is worthy of more punishment. The mere destruction of a random book is bad, but not quite as a bad as targeting a Muslim holy book in a way that seems to convey threat or aggression towards Muslims. That is, the person who destroys a book with this in mind is perhaps more culpable, i.e., more wicked, than the average book destroy. While First Amendment concerns are certainly valid here, as they are everywhere, you would agree that there is some speech that is low in value such that it does not receive protection. I posit that speech that comes from the commission of a crime (a crime that is content-neutral and wholly unrelated to speech suppression) is of little value.

Wait, would a content-based, but viewpoint neutral, ban on destroying all reglious texts be constitutional or would the First Amendment have a problem with that? Because if so, then I might have to rethink my post.
-by Jay Atkins

Isn't there an argument (long shot, maybe) that the 14th Amendment which guarantees us "equal protection" under the law modifies the First Amendment (having come after) and allows for infringing on speech when connected with criminal conduct in order to "protect" people on the basis of protected classes?

Moreover, I don't think EV is fairly characterizing hate crimes...they are not crimes accidentally committed while engaging in protest. They usually have nothing to do with protest. They are crimes fueled by hatred for a certain class. Does not this hatred show an increased mens rea? Is not a book damager with hate in his heart more culpable than the book damager who is stealing the Qur'an for a essay he is writing?
-by Paulie

If I were a Supreme Court justice, I would draw the hate crimes / free speech line as follows:

If the crime component and the speech component are inseparable, then the speech is unprotected and the crime can be considered a hate crime. For example, you can't beat a black man in order to make a point.

If the crime component is merely incidental to the speech component, and not integral to it, then the speech is protected and cannot justify a harsher prosecution. Putting Korans in toilets and pooping on them isn't inherently illegal; the fact that it's a stolen Koran isn't an aspect of the point being made by the act.

Like all lines, especially speech lines, it's not exact. But I think it preserves the ability to take motive into account when it's relevant, while minimally chilling speech. It should be pretty obvious to people whether the speech itself is inherently illegal.
-by randal

randal: I don't know if that answers EV, because "beating a black man to make a point" would be punished (no one is arguing that). The question is does it deserving of MORE punishment simply because it was trying to make the point. That is, is the addition of a message (i.e., speech) render the crime more culpable. EV doesn't think so.
-by Paulie

It's as logical as commerce clause jurisdiction. As long as there is a nexus to something the state can legitimate punish, it seems like it's open season.

As long as have church-arson and domestic violence cases where the prosecution has to prove that that the church sold goods that crossed state lines (or the guy beat his wife with a stick that crossed state lines) because, technically, it's a commerce statute and the federal government cannot directly prohibit church burning or personal violence.

If we're willing to treat powers expansively and limits this narrowly, it would seem a very logical step to have blasphemy cases where the government similarly has to prove some technicality that puts the case in its jurisdiction, but everyone understands that it's a technicallity, one that every now and then causes the government to lose a case, but doesn't result in anyone taking the idea that the government can't prohibit the conduct directly very seriously or as something other than a minor annoyance.

What's the difference?
-by ReaderY

Thorley sez: 'if the offender was a student, expel him'
Let's say the 'offender' did hate Muslims, but instead of a book in a toilet, he let out his feelings by presenting a paper in a class (in, say, comparative religion, international relations or sensitivity training) in which he alleged that Mohammad was a child molester (correctly sourced to the writings of a mainstream scholar, eg, Ibn Warriq).

I predict that Muslim students would be equally offended. Would that be a hate crime? If not, should be be expelled because some students were upset?
-by Harry Eagar

I really do not quite understand the point of your argument, given that you are using the New York hate crime law as the basis for promoting your belief that the federal hate crime law under consideration by the Senate would be rejected. True, the New York law (unlike the proposed federal law) includes crimes against the destruction of property, but if you actually bothered to read the New York law, it becomes apparent that Shmulevich has relatively little to worry about with regard to the hate crimes law. Why? Because the law requires that the defendant intentionally select an individual (person) with respect to commission of the crime; in fact, it is quite clear that for a hate crime to have occurred it must be the victim's property that is attacked and destroyed (or otherwise harmed). Stealing a book from Pace University is not a crime against a person. In fact, in precisely ZERO of your proposed slippery slope examples do you refer to a single instance in which an individual person has been targeted.

It is quite easy to refer to extreme instances of what could be questionably unconstitutional conduct that may inhibit free speech, yet you have given no definite example above in which the law has been violated. Any decent lawyer could get these charges thrown out with ease. Furthermore, you seem to disregard the nature of a hate crime, in that the object of the crime is not solely and specifically harm upon the victim, but to silence the victim for his/her membership in an unpopular class. In fact, there is a strong basis for arguing that the recognition of hate crime statutes is due to the act of violating the victim's free speech rights, namely, the right to identify with a particular group or class of individuals.

For example, let me come up with an "example" where, for instance, a couple of guys go to a gay bar with the intent to "send a message" to the "queers" in the community that their kind is "not welcome." They pick their victim, who is playing pool at the bar, ask him to come home with them, and later proceed to slash his throat, bludgeon his body with an ax handle, set him on top of a pile of tires, and then light his corpse on fire. Well, that "scenario" actually happened to Billy Jack Gaither of Sylacauga, Alabama.

The purpose of the hate crime is not only to attack the victim, but to intimidate everyone else, who like the victim, is a member of an unpopular group. The hate crime is not only meant to silence the victim, but to silence the group and to rob them of their identity. It is meant to make them live their lives in fear and to "know their place" by using the victim as the example of what could and will happen to them. So please, do not preach to me about some random instance where an individual has been charged with a hate crime, prior to trial, where that charge will likely get thrown out. Please tell me you have something more substantial than your perceived slippery slope argument of impending doom.
-by Michaelw552

552: You say that hate crimes intimidate and "silence the victim" and the group. To make sure the victim knows their place by using the victim as an example of what could happen to you.

Isn't this exactly what's happening by prosecuting Schmulevich? The Muslims were obviously not intimidated, but anyone else contemplating a protest of the Koran will be.

By turning a misdemeanor into a felony based on what was in Schmulevich's mind, the state is prosecuting his non-state-sanctioned thoughts. In this '1984' world, all thoughts are equal but some thoughts are more equal than others. (To paraphrase another Orwell classic).
-by calmom
Hate Crime Law MapThe origin of "hate crimes" legislation seems to trace back to cross burning Klansmen in the past. In an effort to find a way to punish these people and prevent their activities, legislators came up with laws that made it criminal to do certain acts which were in themselves not illegal if those acts were motivated by racial hatred or an intent to intimidate.

Here's the critical thing: the mere act of burning two pieces of wood you own in the shape of a lower-case "t" on your property is not intimidating in and of its self. The reason it becomes intimidating is because of the KKK's intents, public stances, and clear actions in the past. The burning cross became a symbol of this evil, a very public and frightening demonstration of this malice and hatred. Let me illustrate this with an event in the 1980's in Portland, Oregon.

A black family reported that a cross was burning in their yard, and told the media who showed up rapidly that they thought they saw policemen set it up. The news was on fire with this story, but it turned out that the family its self set up the cross, and were caught putting up another one to get more attention. What was initially perceived as quite intimidating and frightening became merely pathetic and reprehensible as an attention-gathering and police-bashing stunt. It wasn't the burning wood that was at issue here, it was the intent behind it.

So we have the basis of hate crimes legislation: to criminalize and punish intent and motivation. Instead of the crime being something that has actually taken place, an act that can be proven and documented, we have a crime against something that takes place in the minds and souls of the persons involved.

In the case of the defaced Koran, we have a group of people who are offended and outraged by the incident - Muslims - but no one who has been intimidated or frightened by it. So the line is pushed further, as the young man who did this act is being charged with having carried out a hate crime.

This brings up some basic problems with hate crimes as a concept. The reasons hate crimes laws are so problematic are multiple, and troubling for the future of law and culture:

1) Can we trust the judgment of lawmakers in such subjective areas?

In other words, deciding what is a hate crime is a nebulous thing, it is difficult to define, and almost inevitably will result in an ever-expanding definition, based not on absolute standards of legal definition, but on the perceptions of culture. Here's what I mean, from a comment on Eugene Volokh's blog:
Prof. Volokh may find these scenarios hard to distinguish, but surely the average university administrator, at UCLA or elsewhere, doesn't find these sorts of cases hard to distinguish. If someone is insulting Christianity, it isn't a crime at all, because Christianity is oppressive. If someone is insulting Judaism, it's best not to make a fuss. If someone is insulting Islam, that's a crime, because Muslims are victims of the Bush administration and of white males generally. This seems to me like a perfectly usable set of "neutral principles," and I think Prof. Volokh is being a little disingenuous in suggesting that these cases are difficult. The principles I have sketched render the behavior of university administrators entirely predictable, which is the goal of social science, no?
-by wm13
For the relativist and multiculturalist, what is hate crime and what is not is based on power struggles and perceptions of oppression and the oppressed. For the Muslim, this will be a strict observance of Sharia law. For each distinct group, they will choose what they interpret human thought and motivation based upon in a completely subjective manner - it's little more than guesswork which might have decent evidence, but is still outside the capacity of human measurement.

2) Is the motivation, the ideology of a person comitting a crime sufficient cause for greater punishment?

Even presuming we can manage to understand and know with any degree of certainty what someone was motivated by and intended, is that a proper legal reason for punishment, or for increasing the severity of a crime?

We have a principle in law where people who commit crimes with previous, calculated intent is worse than a crime committed in the heat of passion. Killing someone in a rage because you caught them in bed with your spouse is different than buying a life insurance plan then poisoning someone over six months to collect on the money. This indicates that there is at least a principle in jurisprudence that one's motivation can impact punishment and degree of crime.

The difference is this is done not because of an attempt to criminalize a certain point of view or intent, however. Hate for your spouse or greed is not what is being punished or examined here. The punishment should be viewed as lesser for a crime of passion, not greater for a crime of intent - a murderer who kills in a sudden, justified rage (the rage, not the deed is justified) is less a threat to society and less culpable than someone who kills out of deliberate planning and intent.

So the principle that we punish people for their intent and ideas is not an extant legal principle to build upon. This is an entirely new idea, more akin to the "thought crimes" of George Orwell's 1984. Is it proper for judges and lawmakers to, even assuming they can properly and reliably define and determine such, punish people more severely based on their intent?

3) is the damage to society that hate toward certain groups causes sufficient to justify greater punishment?

Instead of a principle of law where we decide something is illegal because it violates an absolute, objective standard of ethical behavior, modern law is based on two concepts: precedent and damage to society. Precedent is the weight of law over the years, decisions built on decisions which influence later ones. When a judge rules on a certain kind of case, this goes into the body of law and is considered later on by other judges when a similar case comes up. Societal damage is the principle that certain actions have an impact beyond simply the individuals directly involved, that it damages society and the state, that it harms everyone instead of just the victim. When you do something that is racially hateful, all people of that ethnic group are affected to some degree, as is society as a whole by your actions, so the theory goes.

Without an absolute standard of law to anchor it to, the law shifts and moves like a liquid, directed only by the channels and gravity of cultural trends and previous decisions. Putting aside whether this is a better or worse way to consider law, is the societal damage done by hate crimes sufficient to justify greater punishment of the criminal? Can we determine the damage done to all members of a group that was hated to a legal degree sufficient to codify this into law? Ought we do so, or is this legal principle one that is flawed or improper?

4) Is it the jurisdiction or duty of government to prevent intimidation of other peoples, and if so, to what degree?

The final problem hate crimes brings up is the most critical. Is it the duty of the state to protect people from intimidation, offense, or discomfort? Each of these is real, each of these is something people would prefer not to experience, but are any of them proper areas of power and action by the government?

In other words, is it any business of the government whether or not I feel intimidated or threatened, and if so, how great or reasonable does this have to be before it is the government's business? If I go into an interview, I'm intimidated by the interviewer - particularly if they have a board of people who all work you at once. That's undeniably uncomfortable, but clearly not so much so that legal action ought to be taken. If I walk down an ally and see six guys in matching outfits with tattoos all over them walking toward me, I tend to be intimidated. Is that something the police ought to stop? Where's the line, if any?

It is illegal to make threats against someone's life or person, but only if these threats are reasonable and actually threatening. If I call you up and threaten to rip your extra arms off, or beat your wings to tatters, that's not particularly threatening - as far as I know no one reading this blog has either wings or spare arms. If I threaten to blow up your car with a bomb, that's a bit more plausible, if a bit improbable, and could possibly result in criminal action. If I pick you up off the ground and threaten to use a tire iron to cave in your skull while waving it around, then you've got a definite criminal case.

Is the mere act of burning a cross sufficiently intimidating and threatening to be properly considered a criminal act? How about flushing a copy of the Koran?

Unless these and other questions can be answered, the government has no business implementing laws or policy no matter how well-meaning they are. We cannot responsibly and properly create law or policy without first thinking through these ideas and what they mean or are for. Without examining and considering these issues more carefully, we ought not take action because law, once in place, is very difficult to remove and can have long term consequences we've not considered or cannot know.

I apologize for the length of this article, it might end up the basis of an essay one day, but the points brought up by the commenters and Eugene Volokh helped solidify various thoughts and concerns I've had about Hate Crimes bills for quite some time.
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"I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I'm gonna send you over. The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you.

If they hang you, I'll... always remember you."
-Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon)

Today, San Francisco is most closely associated with homosexuals, hippies, drugs, the 9th Circuit Court and Nancy Pelosi. That has not always been the case, however. In the past, up to around 1970, San Francisco was associated with Alcatraz, the docks, fogs, tough guys, and writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

These hard boiled mystery writers set their stories of lies, clues, and the mean streets of crime in California, often in San Francisco its self. These were the days when people thought of California as the place where the gold rush was, the port cities, the rough days of the past. This was before the freeways, and in those days, San Francisco was one of the roughest cities in the country. The UK Guardian has this story byEloise Millar who took a trip to California to find this hard boiled past.
Hammett holds a special place in my heart. Firstly, as much as anyone is, he's the "father" of the hardboiled school of detective fiction, a wise-cracking genre that I can't get enough of. As Raymond Chandler said, Hammett, with his taut prose and gritty settings, was the man who took "murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it in the alley". Without Sam Spade, that lovely blond Satan, it's unlikely that we'd have been graced with the likes of Nero Wolfe or Philip Marlowe and it's unlikely, too, that we'd have all those edgy film noir comments to whoop over ("When you're slapped you'll take it and you'll like it!" being one of my personal favourites).
Dashiell Hammet was the real deal, he worked for Pinkerton's, he fought in two wars, he was a genuine tough guy and detective, and he wrote what he knew. He created the hard boiled private detective in fiction, and Phillip Marlowe perfected it. The last remnants of this California are seen in old movies and caricatured in specialty cafes and diners. Commenters discussed this side of California:
Glad you enjoyed your trip - Vesuvio's, City Lights and John's Grill were on my sightseeing list in San Francisco too! How were the chops?

Have you been to Baltimore? Apparently the Pinkerton's building there boasts a nice (Maltese?) falcon sculpture.

Oh - and Newton Thornburg's Cutter and Bone (the source of the Jeff Bridges movie Cutter's Way) also makes good use of Californian locations.
-by ChrisWeigand

I'm a great fan of Hammett, but alas a tour of California will have to wait till next year.

I've just spent my holiday money on tickets for a literary tour of Narnia, which I bought from a bloke in the pub.
-by Shatterface

Unfortunately Eloise, i am an unemployable drunk, too poor and lacking any desire to travel to California and be with you, as i am unable to fly due to an irrational fear of falling 30,000 feet to my death.

These two strikes mean i may never get to tramp the ghost trail of hardboiled dick fiction with you, and i must be content to soar to the skies in my imagination only. But i am with you in spirit Millar, thinking of you as i type, on my third bottle of Absynthe and tequila, searching the virtual cosmos for Love, seeking only to meet my soul mate.

Jordison performed a few interesting dances with a certain linguistic aplomb and eloquence, for the Guardian bungs funding the road trip with his - possibly fictional - girlfriend; who seemed a somewhat incidental appendage in his deposits here, trapped in the car whilst sam went sniffing round loony bins and drinking with goulish alcoholics in premier suicide dives in spots across the broad and vast lands in which you are now his hack replacement.

I am not a Hammet devotee, much more the Chandler fan myself. He used to write on small yellow sheets you know Millar, to force himself to write in a way where every word jumped off the page. His thinking being that by reducing the size of the visual field on which to create, thus this literate goal would be effected.

And whilst being a native of that proud and great nation you are now in, Raymond spend his later childhood years and youth in London, with a dream of becoming a poet. But alas, the citadel of Bloomsbury was not welcoming of a colonial chap, as the minor talent of gatekeeper and self appointed most boring git of that era, Alfred E Houseman, was too stuck up to consider letting anyone other than toffie minded drones who constituted that depressingly weak poetical era, into the gang of lite-weight Edwardian verse-smiths who have left nothing of note for us; proving my contention that the ailing state of British poetry, has been in terminal decline for over a century.

And when his talent was outed - by this time a chronic alcoholic - Chandie was a washed up sham of a man whose gift had been dissolved in a lake of hard liquor, his genius gone, increasingly absent on the page after the love of his life Cissy, died and he descended into the hell of full time boozing.

Critically plauded by Auden and his mob, he came to London in a completely delusional state; ironically, being welcomed with open arms by the inheritors of the Bloomsbury set, who soon discovered what a shambolic handful Chandie had become, and a conspiracy of silence gathered to persuade him to piss of back to Cali.

Stephen Spender's missus playing the role of mother hen bitching about him behind his back, not having the bottle to tell him straight he was unwelcome and why didn't he do everyone a favour and just do one.

The usual British way of subterfuge and pretence; the literary protaganists preffering instead to enact a pantamine of byzantium proportion, rather than just tell the mentally unwell bum to sling his hook, and get it over with.

The reasons for this ignoble human trait are clear. The underhanded way in which a nation collectively behaves, sublimated into the wordy bores who have no real bottle when it comes to the crucial point when an honest address would save a lot of time and remove at a stroke the underhanded and longwinded theatrics, and instil in others a respect for the straight talk of these privelaged actory bores thinking they are Sir Larry and Johnnie G, rather than leave the lingering aftertaste of a shoddy and bitter set of events as the shabby memorial legacy of his time in London's literay salons.

Good luck with your quest Eloise. Only you can tramp the path the gods of Litearcy have prepared. Fear not the hobos and bums of Frisco, but face the day proud, carrying the trace of true Brythonic myth and bowl the bores over with your fresh English roseness, like Fergie did..
-by OvidYeats

We here in the SF area have a dynamic literary community. Hammett, of course, is a patron saint, and the city itself has been the backdrop for many a noir film (viz Dark Passage). Even beyond the Dave Eggers hegemony, it's a vibrant set of locales ranging from Marin County through the city and down the peninsula to San Jose, Big Sur, and of course on to LA. I'm a New Yorker by birth, and sometimes pine away for that city's cultural scene, particularly after finishing a Bennington MFA in January and enjoying the Vermont sojourn of Gotham literati, but the West Coast does offer much besides the Hollywood fare, as you so skillfully illustrate.
-by BayAreaWriter

I'm off there in about 3 weeks time! I've been thinking about what to read in preparation or what to take with me, and Hammett sounds ideal, as I love Raymond Chandler.

Any other recommendations from anyone else? I'm not particularly interested in the Beats but if someone can convince me they are worth reading I'll consider it.

And any other places I should be visiting or worth making the effort to see? Would love to hear any recommendations...
-by Carefree

Oh, and Carefree - the Beats - give them a go. I listened to an audio of Kerouac's Big Sur whilst driving down Highway 1 and it was very (almost unbearably) touching.

And regards sights/places to go - really don't miss Vesuvio, there's all sorts of characters and misfits propping up the bar. (If you go there in the day you'll probably see a ginger-haired man with a black beret, black sunglasses and black Kerouac t-shirt. Have a chat with him - I think he's the Vesuvio mascot and he's really good fun.) Cafe Tieste is unmissable too - they have opera singers and various other acts in warbling at the weekend and it's (reportedly) the place where Coppola wrote the script for The Godfather.
-by EloiseMillar

Is it a crime to confess to not really loving Hammett's writing? I get his importance, understand it, appreciate it, acknowledge it. You don't just have to look at the Chandler quote to see how important he was. Look at the films and radio adaptations of his work. What is it, three versions of the Falcon for the screen? Even the radio version sparkles. And Red Harvest - how many times has that been filmed, officially and unoffically (wasn't the Kurosawa version an unoffical borrowing, kinda like Visconti's borrowing of Cain's Postman?)? (FWIW, I think archive.org has some of the Thin Man radio serial available for free download.)

But Hammett's books and short stories ... they just don't work for me. I think maybe it's cause he's on the cusp of things. Making the breakthrough, but others came after him and polished it better (esp Chandler). There's something c19th about a lot of his writing that doesn't work for me. It's like he was reaching for something "better" than dic fic (if I understand the bio details correctly, that's the writer's block that troubled him to the end - he wanted to escape his genre and be a "real" writer, but couldn't be what he wasn't).

Whereas I can reread Chandler multiple times, I find I get easily bored rereading Hammett, and rarely bother. Nightamre Town I think was where it struck me how little I really like Hammett's writing. I'd probably read Chandler's shopping list, if it was published, but those Hammett stories just took an effort to get from page the first to page the last.

Maybe it's cause I'm not actually totally big on dic fic. I read some. Wide but shallow might be a way of describing my forays into the dic fic forest. Loren D Estlemman is about the only contemporary crime writer I'd rush out and buy (his Amos Walker stuff only). I kinda prefer where dic fic has been taken off the main track. Like Malcolm Pryce in his Aberystwyth trilogy. Or Steve Aylett in whatever you'd call his Beerlight books (sci-fi cyperpunk dic fic?). Or even Martin Scott (Martin Millar as was) in his Thraxas fantasy dic fic stuff.

Even the sweet romanticism of Damon Runyon, who's ever so kinda sorta dic fic, only without the dics and just the crims (Runyon is another author whose shopping list I'd read, if it was available - he wrote words that sang, even if a lot of his stories are soppy and silly). As much as Hammett, Runyon brought a language of the streets into print, like none before him. A tad more cynicism and Runyon coulda cast a bigger shadow.

I can see how, as Ross MacDonald put it, those who followed "came out from under Hammett's black mask." He's clearly an important writer. But ...

His relationship with Lillian Hellman is what really intrigues me about Hammett (I know, author bio, a real cop out, but hey, in this one, it's worth it). There's something about that pairing that's ... tragic, in a beuatiful sense.
-by fmk

Eloise, nice post - I went to San Francisco for my honeymoon and made the terrible error of drunk book shopping in City Lights - $500 later....

the rest of the honeymoon was done on budget, although on the upside we had plenty to read.

For the person who was heading to San Francisco - the Cinema Cafe is an excellent place to eat, hang out, drink cocktails with wierd soviet names and its not pricey. Ameoba records has the best selection of cult dvds I've ever seen and some great rare vinyl plus the usual suspects.

As to Hammett and Chandler - I constantly change my mind. I think half the problem with Chandler is that he has been so pastiched that it's hard to come to him fresh, although I might have to reread (incidently the best homage to Chandler is Philip Kerr's Berlin Trilogy which gets the rhythms right while creating a brooding atmosphere of its own). I'm currently on the side of Hammett - I love the Continental Op but I agree he can be less immediately gripping. To whoever was into the biography bit - there's a very good biography of Hammett and Chandler although I'm not sure who wrote it now.

Finally Cutter and Bone is excellent and I recommend reading Pelecanos to anyone who hasn't. As for other books set in San Francisco, I have to say nothing immediately springs to mind (I have to admit to hating the beats) but I personally love David Thompson's Suspects which reimagines the lives of a host of film noir characters. It initally seems like something of a joke but the plot turns out to be excellent. Also Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is wonderful, albeit set in Conneticut not San Francisco, I just like recommending it.
-by emilyanne

John Fante's novel, Ask the Dust, is dark and great, and everyone I know who's read it is surprised that it could be this good and overlooked. Amazon's American site carries it along with readers' reviews, but for the full flavor, buy it at City Lights Books when you're in San Francisco.

To Eloise's excellent recommendations I'll add two. Just three blocks north of Vesuvio's is Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store, where the food is ordinary but the scene is great. It's small, packed, noisy, authentic. If you want to experience it at a quieter time, go during the day.

A brisk walk up and down steep hills - you might want to take a bus or a taxi - will get you to Swan Oyster Depot, a gorgeous small fish market that serves customers lunch at a long marble counter. Swan isn't a secret: lines of people wait outside for one of the dozen or so seats at the counter. So go early or late, if you can, and ask the guys what's good that day. They couldn't be nicer or represent in a better way the wonderful Italian-American families who have contributed to San Francisco for generations. In fact, The Economist has reviewed Swan

-by JeffMag

I thought that you might be interested to know that my private detective, A.B.Fox, claims that his Great-Grandfather worked with Dashiell Hammett at Pinkerton's Detective Agency. As you will be aware a fox's eyesight is especially good in low light and it has a very good sense of smell. That is the reason that they often find employment within the surveillance industries.

A.B. says that his Great-Grandfather gets a mention in "The Maltese Falcon". In the story a fox operative gets hit over the head by a blackjack - when Sam Spade confronts the villains he says "Sorry I got up on my hind legs, boys, but you fellas tryin' to rope me made me nervous. Miles gettin' bumped off upset me, and then you birds crackin' foxy, but it's all right now, now that I know what it's all about.
-by homeward
Some of the comments go into greater literati sort of analysis of books than they warrant or would please the authors, but there's some biographical information on Hammett and Chandler you might find interesting. It is sad to me to see what happened to San Francisco, I know Hammett and Chandler would be dismayed.

Still, tatters and historical glimpses of what was once there can be found, and the city has a certain charm, despite its incredibly poor drivers and whacky residents. If you've not read either of these writers, I heartily recommend either one. Start with the Maltese Falcon - the movie version was very good, although they miscast Brigid O'Shaughnessy and left out one of the most critical monologues in the book.

For Chandler I recommend starting with Lady in the Lake, leave The Long Goodbye for later, when you're more comfortable with the prose and the setting. That's one of the the best works of crime fiction ever written, but it's a bit overwhelming for a first read. The movie versions of these books took a few more liberties with the story, so you won't be quite as familiar with the stories as you might think. Were I a billionaire, I'd put out a few of these books in more faithful versions.
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Quote of the Day

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet."
-James Oppenheim
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Monday, July 30, 2007


“We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out”
-Winston Churchill

Bin Nuken
The British intelligence services a few years back had intelligence on Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts, which would have allowed us to pick him up. They refused to pass the information on to the United States at the time, however, because they could not get assurances from the administration that he would not be tortured for information - at least as they were defining torture. Here's the story, courtesy the UK Guardian:
The plan was for MI6 to hand the CIA vital information about Bin Laden. Ministers including Robin Cook, the then foreign secretary, gave their approval on condition that the CIA gave assurances he would be treated humanely. The plot is revealed in a 75-page report by parliament's intelligence and security committee on rendition, the practice of flying detainees to places where they may be tortured.

The report criticises the Bush administration's approval of practices which would be illegal if carried out by British agents. It shows that in 1998, the year Bin Laden was indicted in the US, Britain insisted that the policy of treating prisoners humanely should include him. But the CIA never gave the assurances.
This is pretty important stuff, but there's only one flaw here. This happened in 1998, when President Clinton was in office. George Bush was governor of Texas and had absolutely nothing to do with US policy, torture, the government's treatment of Osama Bin Laden, or CIA practices in questioning him, humane or otherwise. The story goes on to point this out:
"In 1998, SIS [MI6] believed that it might be able to obtain actionable intelligence that might enable the CIA to capture Osama bin Laden," the committee says in its report. It adds: "Given that this might have resulted in him being rendered from Afghanistan to the US, SIS sought ministerial approval. This was given provided that the CIA gave assurances regarding humane treatment."
The Clinton administration had made it policy to use coercive techniques to get information from terrorists while he was in office, the same techniques now in use by the US under President Bush. In fact, I suspect they've been in place for the last ten presidents. And it's been working, as we know. The problem is, the Guardian article sort of implies that President Bush was to blame, that the present administration's policy on coercive questioning is torture and was the reason this information was not offered. Amazed that then Governor Bush had that kind of time-transcending power, Ace noted that this was apparently a shared presidency, unknown to everyone:
Clinton apparently just handled the domestic stuff -- school uniforms, raising taxes, putting objects into interns.
Ace of Spades HQ commenters pointed out other little-known ways in history that Bush has done evil deeds:
Bush's torture at Guantanamo is what caused Castro to throw his lot in with the Soviets which, in turn, led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
-by Caspera

Bush's aggressive stance with Iran led directly to the hostage crisis in '79. Google it.
-by Digital Brownshirt

George Bush built that wall of Persian corpses for me at Thermopylae.
-by King Leonidas

Asteroids? Ha! It was Bush who tortured and murdered us into extinction.
-the Dinosaurs

George Bush invented African AND European slavery.
-by Mike

That other George chopped down my cherry tree and I got blamed for it.

-by Gorge Washington

40 years in the desert?

He just wouldn't stop and ask for directions.

Damn that George Bush!
-by The Jews

George Bush is the reason I always had that one tear on my cheek.
-by Iron Eyes Cody

I wasn't even dangerous until George Bush manufactured me in the labs of the CDC when he was acting President after Warren G. Harding died.
-by Hepatitis C

George Bush conspired with the sun to kill me.
-by Icarus

That whole "202 votes in Duval County, cast in alphabetical order" thing?

Totally Bush's idea. I argued people would find out, but that devil said "that's the beauty of it Lyndon, they'll know but they can't do anything about it. Totally rub their noses in it! YEEEHAA"!
-by Lyndon Baines Johnson

Sympathy for the Devil? George Bush really wrote it as an autobiographical ode to himself. We just took the credit.
-by Mick&Keith
This isn't the first time people have made the case that President Bush was up to no good long before he was actually in office. They claim that he lied and cooked the intelligence to make it look like Iraq had WMD, when that was what the intelligence said - and Democrat leaders argued - in 1998.

All fun aside, commenter (and former blogger) Seixon pointed this unfortunate fact (for the UK Guardian) out:
Ace, what the Guardian wrote is false and not supported by the report they are quoting. I’m specifically referring to, “It shows that in 1998, the year Bin Laden was indicted in the US, Britain insisted that the policy of treating prisoners humanely should include him. But the CIA never gave the assurances.”
I read through the report, it never states this. Here’s what the report actually states:

40. In 1998, SIS believed that it might be able to obtain actionable intelligence that might enable the CIA to capture Osama Bin Laden. Given that this might have resulted in him being rendered from Afghanistan to the U.S., SIS sought Ministerial approval. This was given, provided that the CIA gave assurances regarding humane treatment. In the event, insufficient intelligence was obtained and therefore the operation could not proceed.

The operation didn’t proceed due to lack of intelligence, not due to lack of assurances from the CIA.

I have no doubt that the CIA was doing under Clinton what it has been doing under Bush, but the Guardian has goofed here and you need to be aware of it.
This is doubly embarrassing for the paper. Not only is the report misleading when it seems to indict President Bush when it was actually when Bill Clinton was president, but the report doesn't actually say that the threat of "inhumane treatment" was the impediment at all. This is a double whammy: lousy research and deliberately misleading reporting.

It is true that the British Government is a bit less tough than it once was - they abolished the death penalty in the 50's and make concerned clucking noises about doing tamer stuff to Muslim terrorists than they did to Irish terrorists in the recent past - but that's not what the problem was in this case.
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"I could have sworn in the last election cycle Republicans were hammered by those saintly Democrats for this sort of thing."

John's Fast Pork
Congressman John Murtha (D-Penn) is one of the worst leaders the United States suffers from. He barely escaped prosecution under the ABSCAM FBI investigation by turning state's evidence against his fellow congressmen. He's delighted in attacking the military and undermining the Iraq war for political gain, and was a leading voice condemning the soldiers and the military for the Haditha incident, presuming evil.

Most recently, he's been up to some tricks using Earmarks. Breifly, Congressman Murtha had a fellow representative offer up an earmark for his district so his name wouldn't be on it. This isn't unique to Congressman Murtha, it's an old trick in congress to swap deals so it seems less self serving. The problem, beyond earmarks in general, is that the project funding he got went to a project the congressmen couldn't even confirm existed yet.
Anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) challenged the earmark on the House floor Tuesday, asking if the “mysterious” Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure even existed because he and his staff couldn’t find a website for it. Flake’s challenge failed, 98-326.

In response to Flake, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), who chairs the spending subcommittee responsible for the project, admitted he didn’t know whether it existed.

“At this time, I do not know,” Visclosky said. “But if it does not exist, the monies could not go to it.”

Republicans have since seized on that admission as evidence that Democrats are not serious about providing true earmark transparency as they agreed to do just weeks ago, after a standoff with House GOP leaders.
Is it real, does CICI exist? Mary Katherine Ham went on a quest to find this center, shooting a video of her search. She found... well watch the video.

Welcome Back. Congressman Murtha has a long ways to go before he matches Senator Byrd's (D-WV) record of naming things after himself, but he's clearly doing his best. With your money. Politico had an article talking about this mystery earmark, asking
What's a paltry one million dollars to a member of Congress?

Well, apparently not enough to know if an organization about to receive that big block of cash actually exists.
Commenters there responded to this story:
And for this I wrote a check for $68,000 to the IRS this year? Well the surprise will be on them, my account doesn't exist either.
-by Right-minded Frank

WTF? Oh well, what's a million bucks to a lobbyist from K street? Nothing but chump change. Speaking of chump change, I sure do wish these chumps in congress would change. We cant even blame a party here, as this ridiculous bill got clear bipartisan support!
-by A Port-o-san named Frank

The "Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure" doesn't exist...yet. Give it a few days and a couple of phone calls. It will magically appear, be "critical" for some reason or other, and of course, tremendously underfunded.
-by UniVision

How hard does this research have to be? Turns out it's a research division within Concurrent Technologes Corporation: http://www.ctc.com/ If I can do that research in something like 5 minutes, why can't Foxitico?
-by TheNekkidTruth

A pox on both there houses. They set the rules and then they break them with no consequences. But we are ultimately responsible as we vote the SOB's in. I have always said we get exactly the government we deserve.
-by Rich B

Ya see, we need to be out of Iraq so we can reduce the size of the military so we can raid the DoD Budget for $$$ for pork. Is that so hard to understand?
-by Frank

Mr. Doyle's close relationship with Mr. Murtha, head of the powerful House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, is apparent in the center's inner workings. Its board chairman is Edward J. Sheehan Jr., chief financial officer of Concurrent Technologies Corp., a technology consulting organization that grew from Murtha earmarks in the 1980s. CTC received more than $83 million in government contracts last year. It has contributed more than $56,000 to Mr. Murtha's campaigns since 2002. Mr. Sheehan has contributed $6,500 to Mr. Murtha in that time period. He's given $3,250 to Mr. Doyle since 2004. from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette July 14th.
-by Ryan

Federal Budget $2,900,000,000,000 per year $ 7,945,205,479 per day $ 331,050,228 per hour $ 5,517,503 per minute $ 91,958 per second So what's a $1m? A little less than 11-seconds of the budget...
-by We're Not Going To Take It
Overall the comments were filled with calls for taxpayer revolt and frustration with the thievery of congress. At least when you were able to wade through the sadly deluded Ron Paul supporters who are quite vocal on every website and equally confused. They specialize in off- and barely on-topic comments that monomaniacally direct everything toward Ron Paul's glories. I'm fine with a lot of what Congressman Paul calls for and what he says about the constitution (not all of it, sometimes he's just way off base), but he's not the guy to get the job done and he personally is using earmarks for unconstitutional projects in his home state. If he wants to lead, he should do it by example first. If he wants to condemn others, he should not do the same thing himself.

Ultimately the problems are these: the people voting for this project didn't even know if it existed or not. When checked into more closely, it turns out it was a proposed division in a business (Concurrent Technologies Corporation) that gets lots of Murtha-directed earmark dollars, and didn't even do anything. The company didn't care to talk about it. The official PR department wasn't interested in any interviews. It's a corporate shell: a division in a company without any actual structure or work that is created for funds, but that doesn't actually do anything. Actually it looks like CTC doesn't actually do anything either, from their website:
As a nonprofit organization, CTC conducts impartial, in-depth assessments and delivers reliable, unbiased solutions that emphasize increased quality, enhanced effectiveness, and rapid technology transition and deployment.
Well, it does do something, it donates money to the Murtha campaign and gets millions of taxpayer dollars in earmarked funds. CTC looks to me like a corporation created to suck grants and earmarks from congress, then give congressmen no-work jobs when they retire. It reminds me a lot of how the Sopranos ran things, nonexistent businesses and "jobs" that consist of a paycheck and someone else clocking them in.

There have been several recent projects that have been proposed by various congressmen that seem like they aren't really federal projects, but certainly would be better served by private funds. Every single Senator that exists is a millionaire or more. If they want to create the Woodstock Memorial Museum, they can pony up the money out of their deep pockets. If you don't think its worth supporting personally, then how can you have the audacity to demand others support it?
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“I'm not a leftist; I'm where the righteous ought to be.”
-M. M. Coady

Senator Clinton
There was a portion of the much-hyped but ultimately shallow and unseemly You Tube debates last week that didn't get a lot of attention. John Hawkins at Right Wing News mentioned it along with several other quotes from the debate, but a critical point was missed. Here's the relevant portion of the transcript:
QUESTION: Hi. My name is Rob Porter, and I'm from Irvine, California.

I have a question for Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, how would you define the word "liberal?"

And would you use this word to describe yourself?

Thank you.


CLINTON: You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual.

Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head and it's been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century.

I prefer the word "progressive," which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.

I consider myself a modern progressive, someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family.

So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.

COOPER: So you wouldn't use the word "liberal," you'd say "progressive."
Senator Clinton actually answers this quite well, I think, in one sense. Yes, she doesn't want to admit openly she's a liberal - although calling yourself "progressive" is the same thing in code thinner than onionskin. The important part is the first part of her answer.

She properly describes a classic liberal, where the name originally came from. Classically, a liberal stood for someone who loved liberty, and viewed that liberty as freedom from oppression and government tyranny. A lover of rights, someone like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin, a man like Patrick Henry who thought life without liberty was unworthy of continuing.

Senator Clinton then goes on to distinguish herself from this sort of liberal, clearly stating that she is not that kind of person. She eschews Thomas Jefferson, she distances herself from the founding fathers. She is also correct that the modern movement that calls its self liberalism has nothing to do with the original meaning of the word, and that it stands more for big government, higher taxes, and fewer individual rights.

Where it all falls apart is when she claims she's not one of them, that she's a progressive. The problem is, "progressive" is just another word for modern liberal. She's trying to distance herself from the negative baggage of the word "liberal" while clinging to its elements and essence. That's why the word "progressive" came into use, because liberal was considered such an ugly word. It doesn't mean anything different, it's just a new word to hide the same old ideas behind.

In truth, though, Senator Clinton goes beyond that point, as I've noted in the past. Consider a few quotes from the woman, these are all from Hillary Clinton:
“We have to change the tax system and we’ve got to get back to having those with the most contribute to this country.”

"The unfettered free market has been the most radically destructive force in American life in the last generation."

"We can’t afford to have that money [social security funds] go to the private sector. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better than the private sector will spend it."

“We [politicians] work better when you [labor] work for us!”

"I mean, you've got a conservative and right-wing press presence with really nothing on the other end of the political spectrum."

"Too many people have made too much money."

“We have to build a political consensus. And that requires people to give up a little bit of their own turf in order to create this common ground. The same with energy. You know, we can’t keep talking about our dependence on foreign oil and the need to deal with global warming and the challenge that it poses to our climate and to God’s creation and just let business as usual go on, and that means something has to be taken away from some people."
This is not merely someone who wants to implement changes in the nation that are more leaning toward the left. Senator Clinton does not merely want to raise taxes and increase government spending. This moves even further to the left, echoing many of the ideas of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. This is open, and blatant Marxism; she wants to take from the few and give to the many, she believes that riches are not the property of the ones that have earned them, and that it is wrong for some to have more than others. She believes that the state is the source of good and right, that the state is who should be in charge. She condemns the free market as evil, that people should not control their own retirement funds, and bizarrely that there is no left leaning press in existence.

That's not simply leaning toward the left. That's falling over the line.
Karl Marx"The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to Socialism."
"My object in life is to ... destroy capitalism."
"The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
-Karl Marx
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Quote of the Day

And hope is brightest when it dawns from fears:
The rose is sweetest washed with morning dew,
And love us loveliest when embalmed in tears.
-Sir Walter Scott (Love and the Rose)
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Saturday, July 28, 2007


"But in today's Washington, loyalty to the team
displaces loyalty to the truth."

Kool Aid Man
One of the complaints some athletes will suffer from is that they aren't "team players," that they are too self-focused, too interested in personal glory and statistical gain rather than working with everyone on the team for a win. This kind of athlete tends to have good numbers, but their team doesn't do as well. They hit home runs, but they are solo home runs. They don't hit sacrifice flies, bunts, or hit and runs, because while those all help the team and move the team toward wins, they hurt individual stats. Such a player is bad for the team, because they aren't assisting the rest of the players in their game, and aren't helping the team win.

In business, this concept can be true as well, when a team works together well, they produce faster, work for the same goals, increase morale and productivity, and tend to result in a better work environment. Businesses regularly have "team building" seminars, speeches, and even weekend camps where some motivational speaker or consultant has the workers play games, do skits and engage in various other activities intended to build team spirit and help people work together. This is intended to keep the people working together instead of competing, slacking off while one or a few do all the work, or simply fighting amongst each other.

In this kind of context, the team player is helpful, it is someone who works well with others, sacrifices their own ambitions and gain for a shared goal, and is willing to work with the rest for common ideas. As a result, more gets done, and everyone benefits. In politics however, this concept comes up too, the team player, the guy who works with the political party to advance the shared cause.

G. Gordon Liddy always struck me has that kind of guy, the kind of man that's useful to a leader: someone who will do what he's told, without hesitation, no matter what it was. In the movie Lethal Weapon, Gary Bussey plays that kind of character. He's the lieutenant of the main bad guy, a tough guy named Mr Joshua who proves his loyalty and character by holding a lighter under his arm until the flesh begins to cook, simply because he's been ordered to by his general. He doesn't question, he doesn't hesitate, he doesn't complain. The demonstration is meant to show that these are men of their word: if they say they'll do something, you can rely on it to happen, no matter how awful.

And there's the rub: no matter how awful. in 2005 columnist David Brooks wrote an article about Tom DeLay's resignation from the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States congress. In it he contrasts the leadership style of two different consecutive Republican leaders in congress: Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. Gingrich he points out was an idealist, he was interested in furthering goals and getting policy change implemented. DeLay was a pragmatist, he was interested in getting more Republicans elected. One was trying to get things done he believed were right, the other was trying to increase power for his team. Tom DeLay was a team player:
DeLay was never the ruthless tyrant news media reports made him out to be. He's actually a modest, decent and considerate man. But he is willing to sacrifice all else for the team.

Social conservatism helped the team, so DeLay exploited it. Money from lobbyists could help the team, so DeLay merged K Street and his operations. If federal spending could help the team buy votes, DeLay was willing. Over the past four years, according to a Heritage Foundation study, spending on veterans' benefits has gone up 51 percent; spending on the Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Departments is up 86 percent; spending on community and regional development is up 71 percent.

Small-government beliefs were fine for the campaign trail, but when it came to actual governing, the spending just splurged out in a shapeless ooze, guided by no sensible set of priorities other than the idea that voters who get money may vote for incumbents.
TeamIt is this desire for power, this push for the team's success that is a virtue in some settings like baseball that is a vice in politics. The political sphere is not about power, it is not about dominance, and it is not about winning. Politics is about service, and that takes a different sort of attitude.

It's not that being part of a team is bad in politics, it's that focusing on that team's success is the problem. In Baseball, a team player is a guy that advances the team's chances of winning. In politics, if your goal is winning, the people you allegedly serve lose. For the Republican Party, cementing their hold on Washington while gaining new seats in congress became the goal, abandoning the things they were elected to do, the things they campaigned on.

Today, the Democratic Party is doing the same thing, the leadership is so focused on power and gaining more seats, in crushing the opposition and retaining control that they have abandoned what the new congressmen who took over for the Republicans campaigned on. The goals of reducing corruption, greater ethics, lower spending, deficit control, and more transparent government were abandoned almost immediately for the true goals of Democratic leadership: power, and more of it.

David Brooks contrasts this with the desire and love for the truth and points out that while politics is a team sport, the goal is not winning it is service to the people. The reason this is contrasted with the truth is the underlying ethical principle that these men are working under.

There are three basic ethical categories that people live by. No one person consistently and unswervingly chooses one of these, but everyone has a category that they tend to most often and most loyally make ethical decisions by - choose the right and wrong behind why they do things.

Ethical Idealism
Right and wrong govern why you make decisions, your first concern is "is this right." Ethical Idealism is the belief that you must follow a certain code in decision making that governs how and why you make your choices. When faced with a dilemma, the first concern for an Ethical Idealist is what the right thing to do is, what the ethical choice will be. When faced with a situation where there is no clear ethical choice, the idealist then attempts to decide what will lead to the most ethical outcome, what will best advance the cause of right and good.

Ethical Opportunism
Decisions are made based on how well they serve you at the moment. Opportunism is taking advantage of each momentary choice and chance, leaping at opportunities as they present themselves. For this system, there is no right and wrong, there is simply what best pleases or assists you each step of the way. The goals may be long term, or short, lofty or mean, but what decides right and wrong is how well each decision pleases and benefits you.

Ethical Pragmatism
Decisions are made by how well they succeeded in achieving one's goals. For the Ethical Pragmatist, right and wrong are decided by the end result: did it work? Then it must have been the right thing to do. The steps taken along the path toward the fulfillment of the goal are sanctified by the end results, this is where the "end justifies the means" ideal is found. No matter how repugnant or distasteful your actions were, if they succeeded in accomplishing what you set out to do, then they are acceptable, even right.

Ethical Opportunism is the least mature model to follow, Freud would consider it id-based, controlled by momentary urges and selfish, immediate gain. It is the philosophy of the child which has no concerns other than the self and the present. This ideology is what leads young actresses to steal cars and speed while under the influence of drugs: because its fun and who cares what you think, anyway?

Ethical PragmatismEthical Pragmatism is more mature, but is still juvenile. It concerns its self with long-term goals and is not driven by the immediate, but is still only concerned with the self. When your decisions are made to move toward a future goal with no concern for the present or how it affects people around you, this is not a mature view of life. It might seem mature and lofty, because sacrifice is involved and striving toward a better future, but the sacrifices are rarely done by the individual, and the future goals suffer through the deeds of the present. This is the ideology of realpolitik: you have a goal of defeating an enemy, and in the process are willing to ignore evils and horrors to get to that end. It is the kind of philosophy that lets you undermine and demolish major efforts or institutions because in the end it will somehow all work out, and your goals were noble.

Ethical Idealism of the three is the most mature. This is the life of an adult, deciding not just what benefits me, not just how this advances some goal, but whether it is a good thing to do in and of its self. Is this right, is this what I ought to do in any given situation. The sacrifices paid in this ideology are usually self sacrifice. The prices paid are usually paid by the person doing what they believe is right. Whether this is truly beneficial depends on the basis for right and wrong that the person is following - Wahhabis believe that their insane radical religion is right and terrorism is the correct choice just as Mother Theresa believed that working with the undercaste and lepers in India was the right thing to do. Ethical idealism is following through on the virtue of integrity.

Team players like too many politicians are ethical pragmatists, they are concerned with the goal of winning more power, and whatever you do that advances that end is thereby the right thing to do. The result is often more power, temporarily. Just ask the GOP leadership how well that turned out for them. Or the Democratic Leadership of Wright and Rostenkowski before them.

This way of life does not stop with congressmen, however. The news media follows the same pattern when it skips or buries coverage of an event because it does not advance their end goals. This is where the Drum Principle comes from: abandon your stated principles if adhering to them will help who you consider the enemy (President Bush), because the higher goal is defeating him at all costs. Even if those costs are honor, dignity, and the truth.

And here's where David Brooks' statement about the truth comes in. When you abandon the truth for your final goal, you've abandoned everything worth fighting for. Ethical Pragmatism is what led President Nixon to order men to break into the Democratic Party National Headquarters even though he was certain to win. Because the end goal justified the act. He believed so much was at stake that he had to win, and in that process, it didn't matter what was done, as long as they got to that win. And the truth suffered for it.

For men like Kevin Drum who believe that you should keep quiet about the evils of radial Islam, ignore the noble deeds and progress in Iraq, ignore the horrors of terrorism, downplay the pernicious deeds of the Iranian government, and oppose any initiative by President Bush, the truth is something that gets in the way. Sure, its true that terrorism is something we have a duty to fight. Sure, its true that radical Islam stands for everything Drum opposes. Sure, Iran is violating Iraqi sovereignty, feeding terrorism, killing American soldiers, and working on nuclear weapons to use on its neighbors. But the goal is to defeat President Bush, so it doesn't matter how true any of that is.

This kind of decision making infects all strata of life. Moviemakers refuse to consider any movies that promote the ideals of patriotism, fighting terrorism, and showing the honor and glory of the young men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. To do so would not serve their end goal: the defeat of President Bush, the return to power of Democrats, and the repudiation of their enemies on the right. So we get Syriana and the bad guys are almost never, ever Islamic terrorists. Even books where they are end up with movies with someone else as the bad guy.

Arguments today are based more on the team than the truth. All too often, people make decisions not out of a careful examination of the facts, not from an understanding of both sides or what is true. They decide based on who is for and against it, what the team says.

Take stem cell research. Not only do you have people who otherwise are well-informed and intelligent insisting that opposition to embryonic stem cell research translates into opposition not only to all stem cell research of any kind, but science in general. What's worse, is that often when you pin them down as to why they hold a position you get an answer that goes something like this:
"Well, James Dobson is against it, so I know it must be good."
I'm not making this up, I've seen it more than once. This kind of argument by opposition is rampant. For gun registration? Well Michael Moore is for it so I must be against it. How about abortion? Well, the Pope is opposed to it, so I must be for it. This is mindless team playing, who cares what the facts are, my team is on this side, so I must be.

Mary, quite contraryThis isn't new, of course. People have done this for thousands of years, it's part of human nature. Choosing something based upon a leader or in opposition to someone hated is easier, it doesn't require you to think or understand. It saves you time and energy, and besides it's scary to go against the team. Those who stand alone based on principle and careful examination of the facts are often castigated, attacked, even hated. You must be arrogant to think you're better than all of us! Who are you to say what's right and wrong? You are hurting the team by doing that!

A truly thoughtful leftist will find some good in Ann Coulter's work, just as a truly thoughtful conservative will find fault in it. No one person holds the entirety of truth and right, and no person is entirely wrong and mistaken, either. But then, to know and act on that, it all comes down, once more, to your basic understanding of truth and ethics.

If you believe that truth is relative, that it shifts and changes based on the mood of the society, or your personal beliefs, or the "metanarrative" you grew up under (your culture, your experiences, your gender, your ethnic background, etc), then you have no basis to stand on to make any such ethical decisions. There isn't any truth, ultimately. There is only opinion, and you're better off as an Ethical Opportunist, grabbing what best pleases and benefits you at any given moment.

Playing for the team when there's no objective, absolute truth only makes sense: join a gang and their power will protect and help you. Because when there's no truth, there's only the power to enforce your opinions on everyone else. And to do that, you're better off with the team that has the power to do so.

In Jonestown Guyana, a cult of religious fanatics drank cyanide-laced kool aid because their charismatic leader told them to. It was the team play: everyone was doing it, because it advanced the shared goal. In Germany in 1940, the team play was to attend the rallies, burn the books, and burn the Jewish businesses. In Russia 1920 and France 1800, the team play was to turn in anyone who didn't go along with the revolution, to shout the party slogans, and to wear the patriotic colors.

The problem with statism and patriotism isn't the love of country, the flying of flags, and the support of the government. It's why you do it and what you're trying to accomplish. If all you want is for the home team to win, that's where the horrors start. It's not playing for the team that's the problem. It's doing so without a higher cause, a greater truth.

*Hat tip to Tim Worstall for his reprint of the David Brooks column I quoted.
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