"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Diversity and the Democratic Debate

Image result for democratic debate 2015

A quick thought on the Democratic debate tonight. There will be five participants, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, James Webb, and Lincoln Chafee. It is an extraordinarily homogenous group -- all white, all professional politicians, with the partial exception of Jim Webb, who has been a successful author and has exemplary military service.   The one woman, Hillary Clinton, owes all of her professional success to her husband, the former President.

It is also a pretty old field.   O'Malley is the junior at 53.   On election day, Sanders would be 75, Webb 70, Clinton 69, Chafee 63.  

Now contrast that with the Republican field.  

  • Carly Fiorina., a woman who made it to the top in business through her own efforts. 
  • Ben Carson, an African-American brain surgeon.
  • Donald Trump, a multi-billionaire businessman.
  • Ted Cruz, a Hispanic Princeton undergrad/Harvard law grad who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on numerous occasions.
  • Marco Rubio, the Hispanic junior Senator from Florida.
  • Even Jeb Bush, the most conventional white male politician of the group, is married to an Hispanic woman and speaks fluent Spanish.

It's a diverse field, with diverse backgrounds and skill sets  -- women, minorities, people from outside of government.   And Cruz and Rubio would both be only 45 on election day.

That's why the Democrats will try to destroy Fiorina, Carson, Rubio and Cruz.   They desperately want to run against a white male, because they only strategy they have is to paint Republicans as the enemies of women and people of color.   And they desperately don't want to run against new fresh faces who could argue that the Republican Party is the party of the future.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Contenders for 2016


UPDATE:   I'm looking back at this post from 6.5 months ago, and I wanted to update my list.   Here's my list as of today.  My January rankings are in parentheses, my new rankings follow.   The original rankings are from the National Journal.

1. Jeb Bush (10) - 8
2. Marco Rubio (8) - 6
3. Rand Paul (9) - 7
4. Scott Walker (1) - 1
5. Chris Christie (16) - 13
6. Mike Pence (7) - NR
7. Ted Cruz (3) - 5
8. Mike Huckabee (15) - 12
9. Rick Perry (6) - 2
10. John Kasich (5) - 9
11. Mitt Romney (11) - NR
12. Paul Ryan (4) - NR
13. Rick Santorum (12) - 10
14. Bobby Jindal (2) - 4
15. Ben Carson (13) - 11
16. Carly Fiorina (14) - 3
NR - Donald Trump - 14

The big risers here for me are Rick Perry, for taking on the idiocy of Donald Trump; and Carly Fiorina, for taking on the idiocy of Hillary Clinton.  

After six months, to me the big political talent that has emerged (Fiorina) or re-emerged (Perry) on the GOP side is heartening.   Couple them with the continuing strength of Walker, Rubio, Paul, Jeb Bush, Jindal, Kasich, etc., and you've got an extraordinary group that dwarfs the Democratic candidates (Hillary, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden... I mean really?).


It's way too early, but here is a list of sixteen potential GOP Presidential contenders from the National Journal.   Needless to say, anyone from this list would be infinitely better than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton (or Elizabeth Warren for that matter).   My rankings are in parentheses.

1. Jeb Bush (10)
2. Marco Rubio (8)
3. Rand Paul (9)
4. Scott Walker (1)
5. Chris Christie (16)
6. Mike Pence (7)
7. Ted Cruz (3)
8. Mike Huckabee (15)
9. Rick Perry (6)
10. John Kasich (5)
11. Mitt Romney (11)
12. Paul Ryan (4)
13. Rick Santorum (12)
14. Bobby Jindal (2)
15. Ben Carson (13)
16. Carly Fiorina (14)

These are rough, and I might change my mind a hundred times over the next 22 months.   But my basic criteria include... I like governors more than Senators or Congressmen, I like new candidates more than retreads, I like young more than old, I like real conservatives over moderates, and I like proven competence in government and in campaigning over amateur status.   So that means Fiorina and Carson drop (amateurs), Huckabee and Christie drop (not real conservatives), Bush and Romney drop (retreads or family dynasties... yuck), and Cruz and Ryan drop (legislative experience, not executive).  

Young conservative governors who haven't been on the national stage before and have proven themselves in tough campaigns?

That sounds like Scott Walker of Wisconsin to me.   With Bobby Jindal of Louisiana a close second.   Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan are next, but don't have executive experience.  Perry and Kasich come after that because they are a little bit too old for my taste... we need a whole generation (or more) difference between our candidate and Hillary.   Mike Pence might be an interesting candidate too.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Probably the smartest single sentence I've read in many years, from Friedrich Hayek:

“If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.”

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Elizabeth Moss Just Stole the End of Mad Men

Which otherwise hadn't been very good this spring.  

But then...


Those Balls Are Perfect

Haven't posted for awhile, but this seemed like something to share.

By the way, I read a significant part of the Wells report on DeflateGate and... well, let's just say that my opinion of Tom Brady as a football player hasn't changed, but my opinion of him as a person has gone way down. I don't care about the cheating... deflating balls is not as bad as the obvious steroid and HGH usage that goes on in football. But the Wells report shows pretty clearly that he was perfectly willing to let the locker room guys who probably make less than $50k a year take the hit.

In other words, this is a very very very rich guy basically treating little guys as if they were expendable. Not pretty.

Reminds me a little bit of Bill and Hillary... always ready to let the little people hang.    

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISIS Explained

A great, great article by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic that deserves and is getting a lot of attention, explaining ISIS as a medieval/millenarian, apocalyptic brand of ultra-Islam.   Short version:   where Obama and his liberal ilk think ISIS doesn't represent Islam, the reality is... "It's the religion, stupid!"

A brief excerpt:

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.” 
Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent. 
According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.” 
All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

Chilling stuff.


Netanyahu on the reason why he's speaking to Congress.   Very powerful, very impressive.   Makes you wish he could run for President of the U.S.   Sadly, we need him, but Israel needs him more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Calling for a Declaration of War Redux

Only a few days ago, I wrote this after the beheadings of four young Christians in Iraq by ISIS.   Now, after the cowardly murders of cartoonists in Paris, all I can say is this that, if you really want a holy war, my Islamic brothers, we'll be happy to oblige you.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

While I'm On the Subject... Why Isn't Pete Rose In the Hall of Fame Yet?

Just sayin'.


My Hall of Fame Ballot (Updated)


Well, I hit on three of my picks -- the Big Unit, Pedro, and Smoltz -- and missed on Biggio.   Bonds and Clemens remain at less than half the ballots they need to get in.   Meanwhile, every MLB broadcast has ads for Viagra and Cialis.   I guess performance-enhancement is OK everywhere else in society.   Sheesh!

Tim Raines is at 55% and needs a lot of help in the next two years to get in.   Not sure what the voters are seeing that I'm not seeing.   To me Raines was a great player, just a hair behind Rickey Henderson.   Biggio, meanwhile, is Jeff Kent with less power and slightly more longevity.  



Today the players who will enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown next summer will be announced.   There has been a lot of chatter about how the balloting unfairly restricts the electors to voting for only ten candidates.   In my view, that's already too many... there are a lot of names on the list that are nice players, good players, some who had great seasons, some who even had transcendent moments, but who aren't quite up to the standard of getting a plaque next to Babe or Stan or the Yankee Clipper or the Splendid Splinter or Sandy Koufax or Christy Mathewson or the Big Train.   If I had a ballot, there would be six names on it.   Here they are:

1. Barry Bonds.  
2. Roger Clemens

Enough said.   If you have a Baseball Hall of Fame and these guys aren't in it, who were the greatest players in the game over a period of twenty years, then it's a sham.   PEDs?   Everyone with eyes knows that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Famers without the PEDs.   And, in an era where a lot (a lot!) of players were using PEDs, these guys were still better than anyone else.   It's not because they used more... it's because they were just better to begin with.

Anyway, that's my view.

3. Pedro Martinez

The closest thing to Sandy Koufax since, well, Sandy Koufax.   (Also one reason why I'm so excited for the 2015 season to see "Baby Pedro," Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals.)

4. Randy Johnson

The biggest and baddest lefty since Steve Carlton, which means he's in the discussion for biggest and baddest ever.   There are only so many pitchers who you think might throw a no-hitter anytime out.   Randy Johnson was one of them.   Also, a great nickname... the Big Unit.

5. Tim Raines

Best leadoff hitter not named Rickey Henderson.   And, in my view, Rickey Henderson is one of the Top 10 players of all time.

6. John Smoltz

This one is probably the only one I had to think about.   His numbers as a starting pitcher are very similar to Curt Schilling's (who I leave out as not quite good enough), and, like Schilling, he was a legendary playoff pitcher.   But Smoltz then added four plus years of being arguably the best closer in baseball, amassing more than 150 saves.   That puts him in, since it's such a unique achievement.   (Dennis Eckersley is the only player similar and he's in.)

So, who do I leave out?   Schilling to start with.   A record of 216-146 as a starter just isn't good enough.   Sorry.   Same with Mike Mussina.... 270-153 is a very good career, but did anyone really ever say to themselves that Mussina was the best pitcher in baseball?   Or even in the top 5 starters ever in his career?   I never sense that.   So he's not in the Hall.

Then... Craig Biggio.   Sure, he has 3,000 hits.   But, then, he played a long time, and he primarily played at second base, which is not a premium fielding position.   He had some pop and some speed and got on base pretty well and did a lot of things that made him a very good player, and one you'd want to have on your team.   But, again, no one ever said to themselves that Biggio was the best player in the game.   Usually he wasn't the best player on his team.   (And, really, if Biggio gets in, why wouldn't you vote for Jeff Kent... also a second baseman, also wasn't usually the best player on his team, and had more power.)

Finally, I have to leave off Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield.   All of them have the numbers (500+ HRs), but it's my judgment that none of them would have reached that threshold without PEDs, and none of them were great players apart from their power (unlike Bonds, who early in his career was a great outfielder).   For similar reasons, I also leave off Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Larry Walker and Mike Piazza.   In the PED era, their numbers are very good, but not good enough.   For Piazza, although he was a catcher, it's also my judgment that the fact that he was a terrible catcher factors in.   His power numbers look like Johnny Bench, but Bench was Yadi Molina before Yadi Molina was born.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

They're All in On the Joke

A Downton Abbey parody starring the folks from Downton Abbey:

My favorite part:   where the telegram comes and Grantham has lost the family fortune, and Lady G says "Not again!"

Girl of the Day - January Jones

Her birthday (today) may account for her first name.   Anyway, she's a terrific 37, and it will be interesting to see what she does after the last season of Mad Men, which starts this spring.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Girl of the Day - Lee Remick

Lee Remick

She would have been 79 on Sunday.   It's hard to imagine there could be a sexier performance by an actress than a young Lee Remick turned in in the great great great Anatomy of a Murder with Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara and others.   Here's a taste:

Calling for a Declaration of War

Here's a chilling headline.   We've seen this sort of thing for months; we're going to see a lot more, I'm afraid:

Four young Christians brutally beheaded by ISIS in Iraq for refusing to convert to Islam, says British Vicar of Baghdad forced to flee

Here's my question:

Under what circumstances will the United States ever declare war and wage war with the intent of defeating this enemy?

ISIS call themselves a state.

They've pledged themselves our enemy.

They are, as we speak, committing genocide.  

If I were President Obama, I'd stop dicking around with these guys and stop dicking around with "authorizations" from Congress or arguments about the scope of my authority as Commander in Chief.   I'd just go to Congress with this headline and wave it on camera and demand a declaration of war against ISIS.   Again, they call themselves a "state."   Well, so be it.   The last two states that declared war on us, Germany and Japan, well... I wonder if the ISIS boys have seen pictures of Dresden or Tokyo ca. 1945.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Update to the Update on the UVA Gang Rape Hoax


Well, although it was somewhat predictable, I didn't think it would happen quite so fast.   The UVA rape story has completely fallen apart.   Here is the nail in the coffin from the Washington Post:

Randall said he met Jackie shortly after arriving at U-Va. in fall 2012 and the two struck up a quick friendship. He said Jackie was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him; he valued her friendship but wasn’t interested in more. 
The three friends said Jackie soon began talking about a handsome junior from chemistry class who had a crush on her and had been asking her out on dates. 
Intrigued, Jackie’s friends got his phone number from her and began exchanging text messages with the mysterious upperclassman. He then raved to them about “this super smart hot” freshman who shared his love of the band Coheed and Cambria, according to the texts, which were provided to The Post. 
“I really like this girl,” the chemistry student wrote in one message. Some of the messages included photographs of a man with a sculpted jaw line and ocean-blue eyes. 
In the text messages, the student wrote that he was jealous that another student had apparently won Jackie’s attention. 
“Get this she said she likes some other 1st year guy who dosnt like her and turned her down but she wont date me cause she likes him,” the chemistry student wrote. “She cant turn my down fro some nerd 1st yr. she said this kid is smart and funny and worth it.” 
Jackie told her three friends that she accepted the upperclassman’s invitation for a dinner date on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. 
Curious about Jackie’s date, the friends said that they tried to find the student on a U-Va. database and social media but failed. Andy, Cindy and Randall all said they never met the student in person. Before Jackie’s date, the friends became suspicious that perhaps they hadn’t really been in contact with the chemistry student at all, they said. 
U-Va. officials told The Post that no student with the name Jackie provided to her friends as her date and attacker in 2012 had ever enrolled at the university. 
Randall provided The Post with pictures that Jackie’s purported date had sent of himself by text message in 2012. The Post identified the person in the pictures and learned that his name does not match the one Jackie gave friends in 2012. In an interview, the man said he was Jackie’s high school classmate but “never really spoke to her.” 
The man said he was never a U-Va. student and is not a member of any fraternity. Additionally, he said that he had not visited Charlottesville in at least six years and that he was in another state participating in an athletic event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012. 
“I have nothing to do with it,” he said. He said it appears that the circulated photos were pulled from social media Web sites.
The WaPo author doesn't use the word "hoax," but he doesn't really have to, does he?   It seems plainly implied by this that "Jackie" made up a fake upperclassman who was interested in her in order to make her freshman crush, Randall (one of the three friends from the Rolling Stone story) jealous.   She even faked his picture using a high school acquaintance's picture, and faked texts to her friends pretending to be him.

The next leap should be obvious... if she just happened to be creating an elaborate hoax on the same night, what are the odds that her rape story has any credibility whatsoever.   I'd say zero.   There's a principle in the law, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.   If a witness will lie about one thing, you can't trust anything she says.

Nor should any of this be too surprising.   Anyone who has any memory of college and any honesty or insight at all should have seen through this from the beginning. Freshman arrive at college often not knowing anyone. This is particularly true at fairly "elite" colleges, because they draw kids from all over the country.

They are thus often understandably anxious to fit in, and the way to do that often includes telling tall tales to new friends to make themselves look cooler, hipper, smarter, more accomplished, more dramatic.

Sometimes it's relatively innocuous. Kids lie about their high school GPAs or their SAT scores. Kids lie about their achievements in high school sports. Sometimes they lie, weirdly, but understandably, to make themselves look more worldly. They tell stories about what they did when they were "wasted." They tell stories about illegal things they did.

And, yes, very very often they tell stories about sex.

Again, most of the time this fabulism is innocuous and sometimes, if the storyteller is a good one, a raconteur, it can even be charming.

But in a college culture that increasingly puts a premium on being a victim -- of racism or of rape are the two prime examples -- sometimes these stories require the manufacturing of a villain. And then they're not innocuous; then they cross over into an accusation that can ruin a young person's life. 

This young girl in the UVA story has an excuse... she's young and desperate and possibly a little mentally ill.  

But what's the excuse of the adults at the Rolling Stone for publishing her fable as fact?

And what's the excuse of the adults in the UVA administration and even the U.S. Senate for believing it so easily?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Update on the UVA Story/Hoax

It appears that the UVA story is officially falling apart.   Here is a letter published today by Rolling Stone:

To Our Readers: 
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university's failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations. 
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie's account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.  
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story. 
Will Dana
Managing Editor

Let me put you some knowledge via parsing.   Note how they now use the verb "claimed."   The purported rape victim, Jackie, now "claimed" that a man (a boy named "Drew") orchestrated the attack.   She now "claimed" that other boys participated in the gang rape.   Then they say unequivocally that "our trust in her was misplaced."   My interpretation?   They've figured out through re-reporting the story that it was a hoax.   They don't say what "discrepancies" or "new information" caused them to come to this conclusion.   But I'll bet they have some pretty damning stuff.

Here's what I think happened to cause this extraordinary mea culpa.   I think a lawyer for the fraternity or the boys or the university came to them with hard evidence that the girl was lying.   I think they then said that they were prepared to file a multi-million dollar libel suit against Rolling Stone if they didn't retract it.   Note here that these aren't public figures.   These are young college aged men with a lifetime of earning potential in front of them as graduates of an elite university.  The privileges that attach to false statements about public figures so long as they aren't malicious don't apply to libel of non-public figures.   So the chances of making out a claim for libel are significantly greater.   And the damages to these young men could be very high indeed.   Frankly, a class action on behalf of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of members of UVA fraternities against Rolling Stone wouldn't be out of the question.  

So... when you read "we are taking this seriously and apologize," you should interpret that as "please please please don't sue us."

Anyway, that's what I now think.   If they stood by the story at all, they would say so.   But they don't.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The UVA Story

By now you may have heard of the sensationalist Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at UVA.   The article, in a nutshell, has as its centerpiece and lede the story of "Jackie," a freshman, who was asked on a date to a fraternity party, then, in what we are led to believe was a premeditated conspiracy, violently gang-raped and sodomized by seven pledges for three hours while two upperclassmen looked on and issued instructions.   The article then goes on to describe the university's handling of the incident in highly unflattering terms, essentially accusing UVA of sweeping it under the rug to protect its reputation.   The article has -- as undoubtedly was intended -- caused a furor at UVA, which has now shut down all of its fraternities for the remainder of the first semester pending an investigation.  

The article has since been criticized forcefully by various commentators as being shoddy journalism.   The author took the victim's word for every detail, never sought out the accused boys, apparently didn't interview the other alleged witnesses, etc.   Moreover, the article has some details -- the three-hour rape allegedly took place over the shards of glass from a shattered coffee table -- that strain credulity.   In short, it seems like a rush job.   That shouldn't be surprising -- the article was published in mid-November, based on interviews over the summer, a time in which the Left in America was desperately hawking a war on women and, particularly, war on young women angle as a way of juicing turnout for the midterms.   This was a story that might have been "too good to check."

But, that being said, I don't know and no one can know how much of the story is true.   If true, then it's horrific and nine boys need to go to jail for a long, long time.   If false, then it's equally horrific, and the girl who made up a sensationalist rape story to slander those boys also needs to go to jail.   The likelihood is that the truth is somewhere in between... something sexual happened, likely fueled by alcohol, possibly involving a boy or boys going too far and a girl possibly doing things she regretted or else being forced to do things she didn't want to do.   It may have shaded to the side of an embarrassment; it may have shaded to the side of criminal conduct.   I don't know.   No one knows. 

Here's what I do know.    The case presents the collision of two undeniable facts of human nature:
1. Young men unconstrained by older men (mentors, fathers, neighbors, sergeants and officers and, most importantly, the fathers of available young girls) will sometimes commit sexual mis- and malfeasances, up to and including gang rape.  
2. Human beings, including young women, have a propensity to create fictions in which they take the roles of heroic victims of malevolent larger forces as a way of getting sympathetic attention.
Sadly, lack of constraints on sexual behavior of adolescents and abundance of rewards for victimhood narratives are both features (not bugs) of the contemporary college campus. 
Indeed, this story can perhaps be understood best as a crisis in the ideology of the university, which since the 1960s has been committed to two conflicting ideas, sexual libertinism on the one hand and feminism, which in its contemporary evolution has become increasingly prudish toward male sexuality, on the other.  
And all of it in the context of what has become an enormous business, extracting, in the case of UVA, upwards of $50,000 a year from the out-of-state students it tries very hard to attract.    Counting tuition, room, board, fees, books, etc., the revenue from UVA's 14,000 or so undergraduates is something like half a billion dollars a year.   That's a big business.   Forget about "reputation"... what UVA is struggling to protect is a very, very valuable brand.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quote of the Day - Victor Davis Hanson

From his piece today in NRO:

Eric Holder – with his jet-setting to sporting events on the public dime, spouting inflammatory racialist rhetoric, politicizing the Justice Department, selectively enforcing settled law, and being held in contempt of Congress for withholding subpoenaed documents — managed what one might have thought impossible: He has made Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell seem a minor rogue in comparison.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Obama as Failed ConLaw Professor

Arguably, the two great sea changes of the Obama Administration will end up being the legalization of gay marriage and the quasi-legalization of five million or more illegal immigrants.   Both could fundamentally change the character of the American civilization, by devaluing marriage, on the one hand, and by devaluing our Anglo-Saxon heritage, on the other.   Both involve Constitutional questions -- does the Equal Protection Clause demand equal treatment under state marriage laws?   And, can the President unilaterally choose not to enforce immigration laws as a matter of "prosecutorial discretion"?   When President Obama ran for office in 2008 he stated that he did not favor gay marriage.   Later he said he evolved.   When President Obama ran again for office in 2012 he stated that he did not have the authority to unilaterally grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.   Now, it must be supposed, he has "evolved" again.

Putting aside the arguments for or against the propositions, isn't it noteworthy that Obama, whose main credential when he first ran for President was that he had at one point been a Constitutional Law professor, now essentially admits that, on both of these somewhat important Constitutional Law questions, he had been wrong for the bulk of his Presidency and, hence, for the first two-plus decades of his career as a lawyer?

Either he must not have been a very good Constitutional Law scholar or else, perhaps, he just thinks that the Constitution matters less than whatever political expediency demands.  

Quote of the Day - Detroit!

From Kevin Williamson of NRO:

The Democrats, if they had any remaining intellectual honesty, would hold their convention in Detroit. Democratic leadership, Democratic unions and the Democratic policies that empower them, Democrat-dominated school bureaucracies, Democrat-style law enforcement, Democratic levels of taxation and spending, the politics of protest and grievance in the classical Democratic mode — all of these have made Detroit what it is today: an unwholesome slop-pail of woe and degradation that does not seem to belong in North America, a craptastical crater groaning with misery, a city-shaped void in what once was the industrial soul of the nation. If you want to see the end point of Barack Obama’s shining path, visit Detroit.

Notes on Obama's Remarks on the "Tragic Events" in Ferguson

The real problem with Obama's remarks on Ferguson last night was that he gave them at all. He
should have said, and should have long ago instructed his DOJ to say nothing more than "this is a local law enforcement matter and it would be inappropriate for us to comment."

But naturally, Obama being Obama, he had to thrust himself into the situation. That's what he does. Everything has to be about him; everything is an opportunity for him to descend from on high to tell us how reasonable he is.

A couple of notes, then -- rather than a full-scale fisking -- on Obama's remarks:
"There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction."
Why is it an understandable reaction, Mr. President?   What about the evidence suggests that the grand jury got its decision wrong?   And if they didn't get it wrong, why is an irrational reaction contrary to the evidence "understandable"?  
"I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur....  As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community."   
Very odd.   St. Louis is a Democratic city and always has been.   It has a Democratic mayor, a Democratic D.A., and Missouri has a Democratic governor.   Why would Obama slander them by assuming that they need his admonition to "show care and restraint" to not work "against the community"?  
"Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is in too many parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country." 
Wrong.   There is no evidence, other than Officer Wilson's skin color (white) and Michael Brown's skin color (black), that racial discrimination or distrust between law enforcement and "communities of color" had anything to do with this incident.   If there is, Mr. President, tell us.   But the evidence I've heard suggests that this was a garden-variety encounter between a police officer who happened to be white and a criminal who happened to be black, the criminal resisted arrest and assaulted the police officer, and the police officer defended himself.   It has no meaning other than this... sometimes criminals get shot by policemen when they violently resist arrest.   To suggest otherwise is to slander Officer Wilson as a racist when there is no evidence to support that suggestion.

Obama's comments continued in the same vein... we need to talk, talk, talk, talk about the larger issue of racial discrimination in policing.   Again, it's strange that the communities where the issues seem to arise are all Democrat enclaves -- Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore.   One might suggest a "national conversation" on why Democratic governance in our major cities has been so horrible for poor black people.   But no matter.   The important thing is that Obama gets to sound concerned.  



Blogger Debra Heine is more succinct than I was.   She writes:
Obama punted last night. He could have told the mob that their rage wasn't justifiable - that justice had taken place and they should go home and focus on raising good kids who don't rob convenience stores and attack cops.

Fisking Eric Holder's Statement on the "Tragedy" of Michael Brown

Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General, had this to say last night after a St. Louis County grand jury concluded that no probable cause existed to charge Officer Darren Wilson with a crime in the shooting death of a young black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri:

While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing.
Why?  We just last week had the President issue an executive order saying that the federal government will not enforce U.S. immigration law to deport illegal immigrants.   One of the justifications given was that the federal government simply lacks the resources to prosecute illegal immigration, even though being in the U.S. without legal work permits or visas is an actual crime that we know has been committed.   On what basis does the Justice Department spend resources we supposedly don't have to investigate an unfortunate local police incident that a local grand jury has concluded was not criminal? 
Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now. Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.  
Again, why?   What evidence other than the fact that Officer Wilson is white and Mr. Brown was black exists to think there was any kind of civil rights violation or, indeed, that race had anything at all to do with the event, at least from Wilson's side?   And, absent any such evidence of racial animus by Officer Wilson, isn't the fact that the weight of the federal government is being brought to bear on him itself suggestive that it is his civil rights that are being violated on the basis of his race?
Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy. 
WTF?   I do not think that word means what Mr. Holder thinks it means.   In drama a tragedy depicts the downfall of a central, heroic character, either because of a personal character flaw that, despite his other noble attributes, leads to his ruin (Shakespearean tragedy); or because of fate (Greek tragedy).   The death of Michael Brown is, sadly, not tragic, but pathetic.   A thug who had just robbed a convenience store assaults a police officer and, refusing to submit to legal authority, is shot by the officer in self-defense.   His personal character flaw was not ambition (Macbeth) or jealousy (Othello), but stupidity.  
This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve.
Man, am I tired of the cliche call for a "national conversation" on race!   What Ferguson needed in the aftermath of this incident was a lot less conversation by civil rights hucksters looking to make themselves relevant, national political figures trying to gin up the black vote, and media piranhas having a feeding frenzy on Michael Brown's carcass.   If it had been treated like the local event it was, none of this would have happened.   Instead, the riots in Ferguson are real-life Hunger Games, a made-for-TV spectacle.  
While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust. The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. 

Wait, again, WTF?   What does "fairness in the criminal justice system" have to do with this incident?   Brown never got into the criminal justice system.   Would it have been "unfair" if he had been arrested peacably by Wilson for the convenience store robbery he had just committed?   How so?   Would it have been "unfair" if, after initially assaulting Wilson, he had submitted to arrest for that crime?   Would it have been "unfair" if he had been convicted of either of those crimes?  

Or maybe... would it have been "unfair" if, instead of Wilson shooting Brown, Brown had seized his gun and killed Wilson?  

Again, this word "fairness" does not mean what I think you think it means, Mr. Holder.
In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.
Isn't it funny how these allegedly unconstitutional policing patterns are supposedly occurring right under the noses of a city government that has been run by liberal Democrats for my entire lifetime?   (Full disclosure, the Regular Guy grew up in South St. Louis County.)
Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence.
Wouldn't an appropriate thing for the Attorney General to say sound something like this... "There will be disagreement with the grand jury's decision... but that disagreement would not be rational and would not be supported by the evidence.   The grand jury that, under the direction of a Democratic D.A., reviewed that evidence, concluded that Brown had assaulted Wilson, then, even after being shot, continued to charge him.   Wilson acted in self-defense, which is every American's right, black or white.   Wilson's actions were particularly appropriate because he is a law enforcement officer and had a right to expect that his commands to Brown to stop and submit to arrest would be obeyed.   Instead, Brown charged him aggressively, 'like a football player,' as one witness stated."

Also, wouldn't it be appropriate for a law enforcement official to note that committing acts of violence in response to a decision by a lawfully constituted grand jury would be crimes, and that any perpetrators of such violence should expect to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?
Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting. 
Honor his memory?   Look, Brown's parents have suffered a loss.   Even if Brown himself was a kid who behaved very very badly in this episode, a parent can't be expected to do anything other than grieve.   And his parents are saying the right things.   But Holder is not Brown's parent, he is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.   He should know better than to talk about "honoring" Brown's memory.   Brown was not an honorable person.   He was a young man who had just robbed a convenience store and assaulted its owner, then assaulted a police officer.   What about that was honorable?
In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.
And there you have it.   The chief law enforcement officer of the United States concludes that the conduct of law enforcement officers must be preemptively chastised.   Moral equivalence between the rioters and the police is assumed.  

Well, at least we know whose side he's on.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Scandal of Ivy League Quotas

Glenn Reynolds has a column up highlighting the scandal of the Ivy League's reverse quota system, in which high-achieving Asian students are admitted in much smaller numbers than their achievements would merit.   Everyone has known about this for the longest time, but now apparently some Asian families are fed up enough to challenge the practice in court.   Good for them.  

Here is the gist of  Reynolds' piece, which makes the persuasive point that the quotas against Asians are the descendants of 1920s and 1930s quotas against Jews:
Decades ago, the Ivy League colleges thought they had a problem: too many Jews. These recent immigrants, from a culture that prized education and academic achievement, had an unfortunate characteristic: They worked harder, studied longer and cared more about school. In short, they had all the attributes required for success in the Ivy League.... 
But while the quotas for Jews are gone, the Ivy League now, by all accounts, has quotas for Asian students. They are seen as people who study too hard, boring grinds who aren't much fun — and, of course, their parents aren't as rich and connected. And though the numbers of highly qualified Asian applicants have grown dramatically, the number of Asians admitted stays pretty much the same every year.  
Now the Asian students are suing. In a lawsuit against Harvard, they are claiming that Harvard demands higher qualifications from Asian students than from others, and that it uses "racial classifications to engage in the same brand of invidious discrimination against Asian Americans that it formerly used to limit the number of Jewish students in its student body." 
These claims are almost certainly correct. Discrimination against Asian students — and not just by Harvard, but throughout higher education — has been an open secret for years. Asian students, we're told, face a "bamboo ceiling" as a result.

The data supporting this "bamboo ceiling" in the Ivy League is damning.   In fact, I think it would be hard to survive summary judgment in a class action case against the 8 Ivy League schools alleging that they have conspired to deprive Asian students equal opportunity.   Consider this chart:

That convergence of the lines to me screams out that there has been an unwritten agreement (read: conspiracy) to limit the enrollment of Asian students.

Look, the moral bankrupcty of affirmative action as currently practiced in America ought to be evident whenever any individual is discriminated against (or discriminated in favor of) because of the color of their skin.   It's not morally less suspect to discriminate against a suburban white eighteen year-old in favor of a black or Hispanic eighteen year-old.   But it sadly seems more persuasive when a racial minority (Asians) is discriminated against in favor of another racial minority (blacks).  

The answer to past discrimination is not more discrimination.   That way lies tribal warfare.   God help us if we don't realize that, and soon.

Girl of the Day - It's A Gray Day In Milwaukee Edition

It's a gray day in Milwaukee.   Sunshine would be nice.   But you'll need an umbrella:

Or maybe a hat:

A nice sundress can provide some protection too:

Oh, to hell with it... just use sunscreen!


The Right Thing in the Wrong Way

One aspect of the genius of our Constitution is that it requires that, if our rulers -- the tripartite structure of the executive, legislative and judicial branches -- choose to do something, they must use a prescribed method to create a law.   The President may propose legislation, but the Congress must pass it, and then the President must sign it into law, and, if challenged, the Judiciary must declare the law to be Constitutional.  

In other words, they cannot just do what they think is right, they have to do it in the right way.

The problem with President Obama's executive order legalizing 5 million illegal immigrants is not that it necessarily is a bad thing to do per se.   I tend to agree with this sentiment from Walter Russell Mead:

I cannot help but sympathize with the President’s intentions. Through a combination of bad policy (such as the Reagan amnesty), poor enforcement of our border controls, and the existence of a large underground economy, millions of foreigners have been living, working, marrying, and having children among us for decades outside of the law. As a human problem, this demands a response. The development of a class of illegal alien workers who lack the full and equal protection of the law is an affront to the ideal of human equality and undermines the well-being of the legal workers who have to compete with underpaid illegals in the marketplace. The children of such people who are born in the United States have committed no crime and both common decency and our own laws demand that such people receive education, health care, and the basic services that government provides. President Obama did not create the tangled morass of the failed American system of managing and regulating immigration, and both as President of the United States and as a human being under the judgment of a just God he has unavoidable obligations to seek a humane solution to the problems we face. The solution he chose may be a poor one, and it exposes both the nation and future immigrants to more trouble, but the situation is real and no perfect solution to a problem this messy exists.
I think a lot of Republicans actually also agree with this.   Very few among us have a taste for massive deportation.   As I wrote two years ago:
Conservatives have talked, correctly, about cutting off illegal immigration by building a fence along the border, and by increasing enforcement along the border with Mexico. Conservatives have talked, correctly, that the winking acceptance of illegal immigration weakens the rule of law and respect for the law. All of this is true. But, with regard to 10-12 million illegal immigrants already here, what conservatives have not said is what they would do. Are we really going to deport 10-12 million people? How would we do that logistically? How would we do it without massive civil unrest and potential violence? How would we do it without -- and this is blunt -- a massive fascistic police state replete with concentration camps and cattle cars and barbed wire and machine guns, etc.? It's not going to happen, and conservatives who dream of deportation are chasing a fool's errand. More to the point, deporting millions of immigrants who came here because we did wink at the laws because we did want cheap labor would be immoral. Conservatives can't say we believe every life is precious, which it is, and then say that 10-12 million people who are living among us can be subjected to what could only be a massive cruelty.    
The upshot: conservatives need to get out front of a reasonable amnesty plan for illegal immigrants who can demonstrate that they've been here for X number of years, along with a reasonable timetable for them to gain full citizenship. They can't move in front of legal immigrants in the line, but they ought to be able to get there in a generation. 
Needless to say, this must be coupled with serious border enforcement, and serious entitlement reform, and serious economic reform so that new Americans can be legal and productive citizens.
That being said, the problem with Obama's executive order is that it does the right thing in the wrong way, one that is patently unconstitutional, as Obama himself had previously recognized many times.   The Constitution clearly gives Congress, and Congress alone, the power to adopt "uniform Rules of Naturalization."   The President cannot simply declare a  category of non-citizens to be citizens; nor can the President, who swears to uphold and enforce the laws as written by the Congress, simply declare that he won't enforce existing immigration laws; nor can the President declare whole categories of duly-defined crimes as being not criminal; nor can the President say that a whole category of crimes for which the penalty is deportation will not be prosecuted.   He can argue with Congress, he can seek to persuade the American people to elect a new Congress, but he can't, having failed to persuade either Congress or the American people, simply act alone.   If he does so, he is acting unlawfully -- he becomes a tyrant.  

Look, for many of us, perhaps most of us, the difference between an executive order doing X and a duly-enacted law doing X may seem trivial.   More's the pity.   If we had a better education system, one that taught civics, one that read history, one that understood Plato and Aristotle and Montesqui and the Founders, we might realize that the distance between what may seem to be a benign and even benevolent tyranny and a malevolent dictatorship is just a matter of perhaps having a different kind of man or a different moment.   And we would care more when a President crosses the line toward tyranny, whatever his excuse.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Girl of the Day - Scarlett Johansson

After becoming an icon in the popular culture, she appears to have decided to use her talent in some interesting ways in recent movies like Under the Skin, Chef, Don Jon, and Lucy.   It will be fascinating to watch her try to thread the needle that so many actresses can't thread as she moves into her 30s and older roles.  

But, anyway, who am I kidding?

8 Scarlett Johansson Plastic Surgery

A Thought Experiment on Grubergate

Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online recently offered this observation on what has become known as Grubergate:
In a lot of ways, this spectacle represents not just everything’s that’s wrong with the Obama administration, it’s everything wrong with liberalism and a lot that’s wrong with America itself.  You’ve got this guy who is pretending to be an objective independent analyst, who’s got huge amounts of skin in the game in terms of money he can make off of consulting fees, but also of the prestige being involved and the speeches he could do which haven’t been tallied into these numbers — anyway, it’s millions of dollars – being touted around through a transmission belt of liberal journalists, who all are all pretending to be objective analysts too, quoting each other, reaffirming each other, all with the help of the White House which went along with this soup to nuts – a process which this guy says was all about lies and misleading the American people. And then when caught about it, the same administration tries to dismiss him as if he was just some sort of random White House intruder. The whole thing stinks.

Let's play a thought experiment.  

Imagine there is a University of Chicago economist.   They tend to be somewhat more free market oriented than the Harvard-MIT ilk represented by Gruber.   And imagine there's a Republican President.   A policy is proposed to ratchet back the minimum wage from wherever it ends up at the end of Obama's administration-by-fiat to $5 for teenagers 17 and under who are enrolled full-time in high school.   The policy is touted as a way to permit young people without any skills, particularly poor inner city youths,to gain work experience.   The University of Chicago economist presents "objective" testimony about his studies of the proposal to Congress suggesting that the proposal will have wonderful positive effects on inner city youths.  The President and his Administration make a year-long effort in speeches and other events to "sell" the program to the communities it would affect the most, relatively poor African-American and Hispanic communities in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York, St. Louis, Baltimore, D.C., Oakland, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit.   In their speeches they laud the U of C economist's credentials and expertise, arguing that objective economic "science" supports their proposal.  

Imagine it passes.  

Now imagine that the "research" the U of C economist presented was not just wrong, but consciously misleading.   And imagine that, in a light-hearted but revealing moment at an academic conference, he referred to the communities to whom the program was sold as being "stupid" or "ignorant."

Now imagine too that the same U of C economist was secretly being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Republican President's Department of Commerce, and then also getting millions more from private employers (say, McDonalds) who supported the idea because it will allow them much lower labor costs and higher profits.  

Do you think that the media would think that was a news story?  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

From a George Will column about Wisconsin's school choice program, and the federal government's attempts to harass religious schools:

The bigger government becomes, the bolder it becomes in bullying people with legal complexities, confident that its nastiness will rarely be noticed because there is simply too much government to monitor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More on Grubergate

A terrific piece on the Jonathan Gruber Obamacare lies from Jake Tapper, one of the few journalists left who can reasonably be described as objective:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Girl of the Day - Megyn Kelly

megyn kelly

She's fallen in the honey pot at FoxNews, of course, but I suspect she would have made it big in anything she did.   A smart cookie, even if you ignore the obvious.   She turns 44 today.