Archive for July, 2003

Quagmire of Foolishness

Saturday, July 5th, 2003

Taranto — you’ll have to scroll down:

Here are some more numbers to put things in perspective. The Des Moines Register dubs Afghanistan a “quagmire” because more than 60 U.S. servicemen have died there. The U.S. Army Web site reports that in that branch of the military alone, 178 people died in accidents in fiscal 2003. The Office of the Secretary of Defense links to a chart (PDF form) of total U.S. mliitary casualties world-wide. In 2000–before the intervention in Afghanistan–they numbered 774, of which more than half were accidental. In 2002, the total casualty figure was up to 1,007, again more than half accidental.

There are hyperlinks in the original.

Libertarian Fuming

Saturday, July 5th, 2003

Via Steyn and Taranto:

There was, of course, an admirably anti-smoking political leadership active in Europe 60 years ago, but after the last week one feels the N-word has perhaps become somewhat devalued. Still, Nanny Bloomberg, New York’s control-freak mayor, is an awfully tempting target. Musing on the Republicans’ antipathy to gay marriage, Nanny told reporters, “I have always thought that people should be allowed to go about their business themselves. I don’t know why any of these platforms should deal with issues like that.”

People should be allowed to go about their business? As the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto remarked, try going into a New York gay bar and asking for a cigarette.

I no longer smoke, but I am passionately pro-smoking. Anything that takes fifty or sixty years to kill you is no big deal. So there!!

But I think it takes a remarkable ability to compartmentalize to be pro gay marriage and anti smoking.

Lileks on the 4th

Friday, July 4th, 2003

That’s it for this long, peculiar week – thanks again, and enjoy your Fourth. Meat! Flags! Gunpowder! Democracy! Vodka! Sexy!

No, James, the three food groups are either Alcohol! Tobacco! Firearms! — or — Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!

Lileks on the Blogosphere

Friday, July 4th, 2003

Imagine a train rumbling through the Dakota Territory at night. A traveler wakes, and lifts the windowshade, and sees moonlight glinting off something alongside the train. Reflections on the river, he thinks, and goes back to sleep. But another observer hears something; he puts his nose to the glass, and alongside the train he sees ten thousand bison thundering alongside.

And then he goes to the other window on the other side of the car, lifts the shade, and sees ten thousand more heading in the other direction. That’s the blogosphere.

James is annoyed that Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt get the blogosphere, but apparently Rush Limbaugh does not.

Today’s Peculiar Institution

Friday, July 4th, 2003

As I get older, I have read some more and appreciate far more, the words of Lincoln. Now this was a very serious and sincere fellow. I link to Scott Johnson’s reprint of the famous 1858 Electric Cord speech.

One of the things that is so interesting is that Senator Stephen Douglas (D-Ill.) defends the big diversity case of the time (Dred Scott), and that Lincoln’s rebuttal is so damning.

…we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England.

According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow.

What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden.

That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent…

Now I ask this question: did the Southerners of 1858 think they were bad people? Did Stephen Douglas think he was doing wrong, or did he think that the “half slave and half free” diversity of the time was a real solution and morally ok? Did Roger B. Taney think he was wrong?

Did Sandra Day O’Connor (Krauthammer article) think she was wrong? Does the modern liberal plantation think it is wrong? Of course not, these elitists, like the kings of old, as Lincoln says, have the very best of intentions. Some people are just not cut out for liberty and its obligations, you know.

Addenda: what other compelling state interests will trump the 14th amendment in the future? what happens when Asian-Americans start going in numbers into law? Stay tuned.

Dismount, David Broder

Thursday, July 3rd, 2003

Normally, he’s the kind of sober and reflective Democrat I like. But consider the questions he asks:

“A decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Do we still have it? Or has this once marginal assemblage of colonies, out on the edge of the known world, become so captivated with its own power that we no longer feel the need to justify our actions to anyone?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Is our belief in equality truly self-evident? How does it jibe with the growing inequality of income and wealth and opportunity in this country? And is the pursuit of happiness, as now understood, wedded to the same sense of duty and responsibility that animated the men in Philadelphia?

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Are we privileged Americans, enjoying all the blessings the vision of the Founders provided, willing to pledge something of equal value to our society and our fellow citizens in our time? Are we worthy of the gift we have been given?

Jeez, I guess only Democrats are true heirs of the Declaration. Get off your high horse, Mr. Broder. I guess I prefer Mac Owens piece in which the Broder comments are included.

Mullah Ginsburg

Thursday, July 3rd, 2003

sounds better than Mullah Kennedy or O’Connor. Kind of an ethnic juxtaposition, get it? But seriously, isn’t there something creepily remeniscent of the way Iran works in the Texas case. Jonathon Cohn:

To many, the most troubling aspect of the Supreme Court’s decision is the conclusion that public morality is an insufficient basis to sustain a law. Texas had argued that preserving the majority’s sense of morality was a legitimate state interest, but the Court disagreed. According to the dissent, the consequence of this holding is “the end of all morals legislation.”

At least at first blush, there appears to be something to this concern. Criminal statutes prohibiting bestiality, adult incest, and polygamy have been enacted for no reason other than to promote the majority’s moral views. If morality is an insufficient reason to sustain a law, then the constitutionality of these statutes has been called into question.

Moreover, the Court attempt to distinguish such laws by suggesting that they prohibit behavior for which “consent might not be easily refused” should convince no one. These laws have nothing to do with consent. Take the prohibition on bestiality, for example. Society does not care about animals’ consent. If it did, we would all be forced to be vegetarians because, presumably, animals do not consent to being killed and eaten. In any event, what is the reason to uphold a law protecting consent, if not to preserve public morality? We value consent not because it has been etched in stone tablets and delivered to us from above, but simply because we have made a collective moral judgment that consent is desirable.

Nonetheless, the dissent is ultimately incorrect in its conclusion that the Court’s decision means the end of morals legislation. Paradoxically enough, the decision confirms that morality is a viable basis for law. The Court’s decision was all about morality, the justices’ morality. There is no other way to explain the result. As noted above, the Constitution’s text and this country’s history and traditions do not recognize a right to homosexual sodomy. And Supreme Court precedent is equally unsupportive, as less than 20 years ago the Court reached the opposite conclusion to the one it formed last week. Finding no basis for its decision in the Constitution, history, or precedent, the Court majority had no choice but to rely on its own collective moral judgment.

Scrappy Republicans

Tuesday, July 1st, 2003

When I was a boy, there was no such thing. Republicans were guys who owned a Cadillac dealership, or wore check pants and belonged to the country club. I didn’t like the idea.

But now there’s all the talk from the paleocons about the neocons being Jews, and there’s a funny way in which that’s true. It’s the scappiness. (Of course a lot of neocons come from Catholic backgrounds as well, and the same thing is at work.)

Sepaking from my personal family experience, Jews, like Catholics, like to argue. If offense is taken during an argument, you’ll get over it. PLU (people like us), FHB (family hold back), and similar euphemisms are strange and foreign. Screw Piping Rock, the LACC, or the Westchester Country Club if they can’t take a joke.

I’m at home with Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, James Lileks, Andrew Sullivan, Bill Bennett, Bill Kristol, Hugh Hewitt, and similar Catholics, Jews and hangers-on. That’s why I am happy being a Republican today, when it would have given me the creeps two score years ago.

The wonder of this is Rush Limbaugh. In many ways he’s a tailor-made Protestant Republican straight out of Cape Giradeau, Missouri. He should have been the guy who wanted to join the country club in the worst way.

But he didn’t turn out that way. Being fat, divorced three times, fired six times, college-dropout. This is a guy whose restlessness and search for his individual voice and achievement totally dominated his desire for tradtional success. Hence he was able to become the pivotal voice for the transition of the Republican Party to its current prominence.

The scrappy ones take chances — they put themselves out there. That is a key element in the current attraction to the Republican Party by temperamentally dissident intellectuals.

The New, New Normal

Tuesday, July 1st, 2003

So we’re back in pre 9-11. That, to me, is the meaning of Michigan, Texas, and the textbook follies.

Funniest bit on Michigan is John Bloom.

This is a clarifying moment, and clarifying moments are good. By 6-3, SCOTUS is activist, and allied with the traditional liberal elite thinking. Fair enough. In a post 9-11 world, we ought to be able to deal with pre 9-11 social engineering and repeal of common sense. I wonder what Karl Rove has in mind.

As much as I respect Andrew Sullivan, I do think that Texas = Roe analogy is correct, and this is a precursor to gay marriage. Probably the second greatest beneficiaries of this ruling are bigamists. If anyone can get the legal sanction of marriage, why must it be serial, not parallel? Why can’t a brother, age 55, marry his sister, age 52, to enjoy the health care and inheritance benefits?