The 128th trimester abortion of Terri Schiavo is complete. With the law forbidding saline or vacuums for adults, Florida's courts prescribed starvation and thirst. Like the million or so annual victims of abortion, Terri Schiavo couldn't speak in her defense. Those who did, of course, are fanatics and screwballs. How dare they try to bring a glass of water to a woman dying of thirst? Arrest them! Who, after all, has the right to defend another's life--especially a life not equal to our own? Animal lives, experimented upon by doctors attempting to save people, are more worthy of our protest than Terri Schiavo's life. So too are the lives of murderers and child rapists. Ditto for terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. But a life that makes us feel bad, that bothers us, that inconveniences us--that is a life that should be killed. Isn't that the message of this whole sad affair?
"The pope?" Josef Stalin dismissively asked. "How many divisions has he got?" One of Stalin's successors apparently was more impressed with the power of the Church. Documents out of the late East Germany implicate the late Soviet Union in the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
A new survey reports that 72 percent of college and university faculty describe themselves as liberal while a mere 15 percent describe themselves as conservative. More than four of five support abortion rights, two of three support homosexuality, about nine in ten desire more environmental regulation.
The dangers of such intellectual conformity are evidenced in the intolerance shown to two campus lecturers this week. At Indiana's Earlham College, a student charged the stage and hurled a pie at Weekly Standard editor William Kristol's face. Hecklers disrupted author Ann Coulter's speech to 1,800 people at Kansas University. Having their superficial leftism reinforced in class on a daily basis, radical poseurs short-circuit the wiring in their group brain when confronted with ideas that differ from their own.
A full-scale tournament pool is a little complicated for FlynnFiles. Now that sixty-one teams have been eliminated, the NCAA tournament finally has my attention. Here are my picks:
Michigan State over North Carolina
Illinois over Louisville
Illinois over Michigan State
No point spreads. Make your picks in the comments section below. May the best FlynnFiler win. The winner will be announced to much fanfare on Tuesday.
U2 opened up their world tour in San Diego earlier this week. Here is the set list. They kicked off the show by playing, "City of Blinding Lights," the best song off How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. They ended with "40," the old-school closer with music by U2 and lyrics by God. Best of all, they played "40" in traditional fashion, with Bono departing the stage, then Edge, and then Adam, ending with a solitary Larry banging his drums and a packed arena chanting, "How long to sing this song?" And then Larry exits, leaving the fifth member of U2 to continue the concert indefinitely without the band.
Shouting "science," as opposed to demonstrating the science, is a tactic used by the ignorant or the deceptive to shut up opponents. The problem with scientific opinion is that it's opinion, which isn't very scientific. Scientists often have conflicting opinions (on global warming, how the universe started, evolution, etc.), and not all of the opinions--even the ones labeled "science"--can be right. What's said in science's name isn't always truth. A U.S. scientist declared a "100 percent chance" of a tsunami following the earthquake that occurred earlier this week on the other side of the world. Well, a few days have passed, and, no tsunami. I'm sure being wrong never felt so right for the geologist. I'm mainly glad he was wrong for the same reason--that the absence of a tsunami spared perhaps thousands of people death. His incorrect yet certain assessment pleases me for a lesser reason: it demonstrates that science, too, is fallible.
Johnnie Cochran died today at 67 of a brain tumor. Cochran made his name as a defense lawyer, but started out as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles district attorney's office. Did you know Judge Ito once worked under him? Cochran's list of clients reads as an A-list of celebrities: Michael Jackson, James Brown, Puff Daddy, Todd Bridges (okay, so they weren't all A-listers). Cochran's celebrity eventually outshined that of his clients. Seinfeld famously modeled a character upon him, and his catchphrase, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," stands as the most memorable line from the most memorable trial of our lifetimes. The media dubbed them "the dream team." But of the constellation of star lawyers--F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, Barry Sheck, Alan Dershowitz--employed by O.J. Simpson, none shined as brilliantly in the courtroom as Johnnie Cochran. Now his star shines no more. Johnnie Cochran, rest in peace.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. The Schiavo case proves it.
Better late than never, Jesse Jackson travelled to Florida today to protest the state's denial of food and water to Terri Schiavo. "She is being starved to death," Jackson observed, "she is being dehydrated to death. That's immoral and unnecessary." Echoing these sentiments are Ralph Nader, numerous members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and especially Nat Hentoff, whose piece on the issue is must reading.
While the liberal Jackson takes the "conservative" stance, the conservative Warrior takes the "liberal" stance. "Terry Schiavo's life is not the most important one on the line, here. The life of our Republic is," writes Warrior. "As much as our hearts may be disturbed, our heads and our consciences should be more bothered by how our gov reps, sworn to uphold our Constitution, are showing no informed restraint at all about trampling all over it." Warrior is joined on the Right by Future Freedom Foundation head Jacob Hornberger, radio talker Neal Boortz, and Republican activist Stephen Moore.
While the Schiavo case has all the passion and rancor of the red state/blue state divide, it's ultimately not a red state/blue state issue. The case has created schisms upon schisms, involving such issues as the right to life, federalism, the 14th amendment, the rights of the disabled, the clash between ethics and science, spousal rights, and activist courts. Robert Novak writes in a thoughtful piece on the controversy, "This is an issue truly transcending normal political boundaries." Indeed it is.
Two weeks ago, several hundred Basra University students held a picnic. Then their party got crashed. A gang of militiamen loyal to Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the picnic, beating participants, firing guns, and briefly kidnapping more than a dozen party-goers. "They focused on the women," one witness remembered. "They were beating them viciously." While breaking up the dancing, ice cream, and singing, the fun police allegedly yelled, "There is no secular government! There is only the government of the Mahdi Army!" As if to prove their point, police from the real government looked away.
"They say freedom means they can do what they want. This is not freedom. Freedom does not mean you can transgress traditions," explained Heidar Jabari of Sadr's Shiite group. "There are traditions and rules in an Eastern society that are different from a Western society. Every Iraqi has a right to act against these transgressions."
As new problems arise, old problems dissipate. The resistance seems to have lost its momentum. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is on the run, insurgents kill fewer and fewer Americans, and there's even talk of an "exit strategy" for beleaguered resistance fighters. This is the good news out of Iraq. But even if we pacify Iraq, will it all be worth it if a more Islamized nation emerges?
Changing a form of government doesn't change the culture. Middle Eastern theocracies, kingdoms, and dictatorships have all produced terrorists, religious fanatics, and America-haters. Democracy--if one indeed develops--doesn't magically remove terrorism. Terrorists have sprung from under all sorts of governing systems, including democracy. Rather than the form of government one lives under, the religion one follows serves as the denominator common to most present-day terrorists. To loosely paraphrase an Arkansan, "It's the religion, stupid."
On Sunday, soccer fans chanted "Osama," attempted to burn an American flag, and booed the U.S. national anthem in Mexico City. Seven years ago, a similar outpouring of anti-Americanism occurred during a U.S.-Mexico soccer match--in Los Angeles! Trash rained down upon U.S. players. Fans booed loudly over the national anthem. Spectators unwise enough to wave Old Glory in LA got drenched in beer.
About one in five legal immigrants in America is Mexican. About three in five illegal immigrants in America are Mexican. While open-borders rhetoric gushes with platitudes about immigrants coming to America because they love this country, reality suggests that migrants from nations with strong anti-American streaks often bring the attitudes prevalent in their homelands with them. Anyone doubting this should attend a soccer match the next time Mexico's national team travels to the U.S. to play the home team.
My brother Sean is featured in a Boston Globe article about home ownership among young people. Bedecked in a Cookie Monster t-shirt, Sean occupies a large, above-the-fold picture in the Real Estate section of the Boston Sunday Globe. Titled "Dude, Where's My Rent?," the piece notes that my youngest brother doesn't have a car or cellphone, yet owns two South Boston condominiums. From reading the article, it's clear that Sean isn't the only one born in the 1980s who is in this situation.
Is real estate the new dot-com? In the late 1990s, investment in expensive dot-coms without price-to-earnings ratios was the thing--until the bubble burst. Today, real estate is trendy. Property values in some locales have tripled in less than a decade. Is the real estate bubble about to burst? Or, since property, as opposed to a paper stock certificate, will always have value, does this negate the possibility of a real estate implosion?
College graduates earned an average of $51,000 in 2003, while those with just a high school diploma took in $28,000. Among college graduates, men made roughly $25,000 more than women. If statistical disparities prove sexism, what are we to make of racial disparities that show black and Asian women with college degrees out-earning their white and Hispanic peers?
College-educated black and Asian women earn significantly more money than similarly educated white and Hispanic women. The Census Bureau reports that white women with bachelor's degrees earned an average of $37,800 in 2003, with Hispanic women with bachelor's degrees taking in roughly the same amount. Asian women made about $6,000 more, while black women made about $3,000 more.
Numerous acts that ruled the charts in the 1980s are back with new music. Support FlynnFiles by buying their new releases here. Bruce Springsteen returns one month from today with Devils & Dust. Billy Idol's Devil's Playground is his first release in more than a decade. Judas Priest's Angel of Retribution features the band's reunion with metal god Rob Halford. The original Duran Duran has reunited as well, but their album Astronaut strangely has no reference to Satan in the title and thus has sold just over 200,000 copies. U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is doing better, debuting at number one in fifteen countries and selling over three million copies stateside. If you buy one of these CDs, certainly tell us about it in the comments section.
The Passion of the Christ, in its recut version, plays in theaters today. Last year, the film became one of the most successful box-office draws in history despite an "R" rating, no marquee names, a paltry advertising budget, and the dialogue spoken in foreign tongues. Upon seeing The Passion of the Christ last Good Friday, my immediate reaction was that the film succeeded because "The twelve hours before Christ's death contain violence, betrayal, love, redemption, and other ingredients for a blockbuster movie." Although Christ's Passion is read in churches across America today, Good Friday is not a holy day of obligation. Skip church in favor of the movies.
If you have the power to save a condemned innocent but look away, does this make you complicit in murder? Thousands of years ago, Pontius Pilate faced a dilemma: spare a man and anger the locals, or allow an execution of a "just" man and please the governed. Rather than undermine his precarious standing, the Roman governor chose the latter. "What is truth?" Pontius Pilate says to Jesus Christ. In these few words, Pilate reveals himself as the world's first postmodernist. Truth is not what matters, but power. Pilate refuses to exercise his power in order to maintain his power. He concedes the justice of sparing Jesus, but refuses to do so. Instead, he passes the buck to the mob. "And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, taking water washed his hands before the people, saying: I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Look you to it." No figure from Christ's Passion strikes us as so contemporary as the politician Pilate.
I'm feeling a bit like Russell Zisky and his cohorts in Stripes after they slept through final inspection. VH1's Celebrity Fit Club has passed, and nary a word from FlynnFiles on the erratic, drugged-out, and wildly entertaining behavior of Daniel Baldwin. My apologies to the readership. Must-see television is a disheveled Danny Baldwin on painkillers and a cocaine hangover telling the show's panel: "This is as good as it gets." But it wasn't. Even better was the show's concerned physician, Dr. Katz, explaining to Baldwin that he hoped his weight loss wasn't coming through unhealthy methods. After arriving late and in a stupor, Baldwin no-showed the next week on Celebrity Fit Club's finale. The show promised a "shocking" update, only to deliver a post-production interview with Baldwin in which he confessed to abusing hard drugs while on the show. I haven't been so "shocked" since irrefutable, videotape evidence settled the raging controversy over Paris Hilton's virginity.
Legally, Michael Schiavo is Terri Schiavo's husband. But while married to her he has had a series of girlfriends and has fathered two children with the woman he currently cohabitates with. Less serious issues have inspired men to run from their commitments, so I'm not prepared to proclaim Michael Schiavo an evil guy for ignoring that "'til death do us part" portion of his vow. I am prepared to say that he's not Terri Schiavo's husband in any sense (save perhaps the legal one). Schiavo has a common law wife at home and a more traditional wife wasting away on a hospital bed. The interests of the two women conflict. Saying you love your two wives is like saying you love your two countries; at a certain point you play Benedict Arnold to one.
"Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst." And his executioners wouldn't give him water either.
If you're a college student, I invite you to the Campus Leadership Program's National Activism Conference on the weekend of April 1-3 at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Michelle Malkin, Morton Blackwell, Reginald Jones, and Warrior will be among the speakers. There will be training sessions on launching a campus newspaper, hosting a speaker at your college, and becoming a more effective activist, as well as a book discussion on Frederic Bastiat's The Law. If you don't know, I'm also the director of the Campus Leadership Program in addition to my work as an author and as editor of FlynnFiles. This conference is an excellent opportunity for young conservatives to meet other like-minded students and hear from some of the best speakers around. For a limited time, lodging is available. To reserve your place, sign up here.
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A high school student gunned down nine people Monday before ending his own life. Did you notice?
The mass-murder played backup to Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, and Terri Schiavo on the cable newscasts. My cursory survey of the newspaper boxes outside my condo suggests that the killings didn't make it above the fold in most major dailies. The Red Lake massacre couldn't be read within the window of the dispensers carrying the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, and Washington Times. Only the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer, of the newspapers I saw, devoted above-the-fold coverage to the slayings. The number of deaths at Red Lake certainly compares to Columbine, but the level of news coverage does not. Why?
Columbine is a wealthy, white suburb a few miles outside Denver. Red Lake is in an Indian reservation midway between Minneapolis and Winnipeg. Does race, economics, and geography have something to do with the disproportionate coverage for the approximate events?
Columbine followed on the heels of school shootings in Paducah, Kentucky, Springfield, Oregon, and several other communities. Could it be that the American public has become desensitized to children killing other children?
In April of 1999, Democrats still had the gun-control issue on the table. Partly because the killings of fourteen people at a suburban school served those political interests, Columbine remained in the headlines and served as the focal point of a Michael Moore film. Gun control as an issue, as evidenced by a few thousand people showing up to the most recent Million Mom March, is if not dead then sleeping. It's a loser for Democrats. Does the paucity of media coverage on the Red Lake tragedy have anything to do with the fact that multiple-victim public shootings are no longer so closely tied to political crusades?
Let me break it down for you:
10. Liberals are against the death penalty for Scott Peterson. Liberals are for the death penalty for Terri Schiavo.
9. For liberals, there's no such thing as states' rights on abortion, juvenile executions, prayer in school, prohibiting contraceptives, and the drinking age. When it comes to starving disabled people to death, though, liberals sound like Jefferson Davis on states' rights.
8. Liberals sued the state of Florida in federal court in 1999, arguing that the electric chair is "cruel and unusual punishment." Liberals now want the state of Florida to starve a woman to death, and decry efforts to sue in federal court to stop this.
7. Liberals hoped to better the lives of Christopher Reeve and other disabled people by killing human emrbyos with taxdollars. Liberals want to better the life of Terri Schiavo by killing her and saving taxdollars.
6. When a twentysomething woman bludgeons two people with a pick-ax and then mutilates their corpses with the same murder instrument, liberals call George W. Bush a murderer for not sparing her from the gas chamber. When a twentysomething woman becomes disabled, liberals castigate George W. Bush for trying to spare her from death.
5. In 1990, it took Florida 19 minutes to kill convicted murderer Jesse Joseph Tafero. In 2005, it will take Florida days, if not weeks, to kill Terri Schiavo. Want to guess which case bothers liberals and which doesn't?
3. In 1999, a Florida court decided to honor Elian Gonzalez's mother's wishes that her son stay with relatives in Florida. Liberals disagreed with the Florida court, and sent armed federal agents to send the boy back to Cuba. Now that a Florida court has issued a ruling in a family dispute more to their liking, liberals are saying that a new federal law--granting federal courts the right to overturn (or not overturn) the Schiavo decision--will "undermine over 200 years of jurisprudence."
2. Legislative attempts to encourage the able-bodied to work rather than collect food stamps are likened to starving poor people by liberals. Actually starving someone to death, on the other hand, is okay with them.
1. For liberals, the 14th Amendment bans religious displays in public places and mandates that state governments provide services to illegal aliens. Heaven forbid that some Republican interpret it to mean that a state can't "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
We gave our blood. Where's our oil? The most common slogan upon placards at major anti-war protests is "No Blood for Oil." The record-high cost of gasoline two years after the launch of the Iraq war exposes this Marxist canard. The U.S. neither went into Iraq seeking profit, nor left with booty.
I thought I'd join before I got drafted. Remember all those threats about George W. Bush's secret plan to reinstitute the draft after his reelection? Well, it's 139 days since election day and--guess what!--no draft. John Hawkins of RightWingNews is calling on liberals to apologize for their election-season scare-tactics.
Under the Influenza. How about that flu epidemic ready to pounce on America all because of George W. Bush? Like the warnings of the coming draft, discussion of the looming influenza epidemic died with the election.
Machiavelli said, "one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived." The ideologically-induced gullibility of present-day partisans demonstrates the wisdom of the Florentine's maxim.
If only Mark McGwire had started a band instead of the All-Star Game, he would have been a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Unlike the one in Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame in Cleveland doesn't discriminate against users of performance-enhancing drugs.
A few words on the inductees: Back when Saturday Night Live was cutting edge, they had Percy Sledge on as a musical guest. He wasn't current, just cool. Buddy Guy is an awesome name. It's like Bud Dude or Pal Homie. The O'Jays came up with "The Love Train," a song that has inspired myriad interpretations. U2 are like The Beatles or Madonna (apologies for saying Madonna and The Beatles in the same sentence) in that they reinvent themselves every few years. They were New Wave, hyperpolitical, Eurotrash, and even not U2 when they were The Passengers. And The Pretenders, like The Who and The Grateful Dead, stand among rock's elite in sacrificing multiple members to the rock god, drugs.
The Pretenders may be the most underrated band ever. "Talk of the Town," "Back on the Chain Gang," "Never Do That," "2000 Miles," and "Night in My Veins" are some of the best songs you've ever heard. Chrissie Hynde attended Kent State amidst the deadly shootings in 1970, worked in Malcolm McLaren's "Sex" fashion boutique, lost two band members to heroin and cocaine, had Ray Davies' kid, and married Jim Kerr from Simple Minds. That's pretty rock n roll. I got a chance to see The Pretenders a few years back. Upon entering DC's 9:30 Club, an obnoxious PETA display greeted me. During the concert, some angry lesbians accosted my wife and I for attempting to make our way from the front of the packed club past them to the bathroom in the back. I suffered their temporary screams, for I knew they would be fat and ugly for much longer. Despite the unpleasantness, The Pretenders rocked.
Do you not own a Pretenders album? How about getting their debut Pretenders or the follow-up Pretenders II? For an overview rather than a cropped snapshot of their music, try The Pretenders Greatest Hits.
And if The Pretenders aren't your thing, try picking up a CD from one of the other acts that made it into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. This week I'll be featuring a disc from each of the inductees under the "Recommended Listening" links on the right side of the page. Some other selections by those acts are featured above in this post. In just a few clicks, you can support FlynnFiles and pick up some great music. What are you waiting for?
Two years ago tonight, I delivered a speech to 400 students at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Following my remarks, I learned that the campaign in Iraq had begun. I watched President Bush's speech from a Days Inn in rural Minnesota, and hoped with everyone else that the targeted bombs had hit an alleged meeting between Hussein and his top henchmen. They didn't, and nine months passed before Americans caught up to the Iraqi dictator.
"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly--yet, our purpose is sure," President George W. Bush announced that night. "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities." The war's "purpose," removing the "weapons of mass murder" that threatened our nation, turned out to be based on a false premise.
The administration played the "Music Man" in selling the war. Officials advertised stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Hussein's pursuit uranium from Niger in the work-up to conflict, and Iraqi "connections" to 9/11. When the Music Man sales pitch fell apart, the White House went into Obi-Wan Kenobi mode. "These are not the droids you are looking for," administration figures intoned. The war wasn't about WMD. It was really about spreading democracy, Hussein's abuse of the UN's Oil for Food program, and cleverly drawing terrorists into an Iraq-sized mousetrap.
If winning a war were a justification for war, then we should invade every country on the face of the earth. What country, after all, could defeat us? But neither winning a war, nor making life better for foreigners satisfies the traditional litmus test: does the action promote the just interests of the United States? Iraq fails this test. There are many reasons why the war wasn't in the just interests of the United States. Here are a few:
1. The United States is not a means to some other country's end.
2. The Iraq war diverted men and resources from fighting al Qaeda to fighting a dictator who brutalized his own people but lacked the capability to do much else. Killing and capturing the perpetrators of 9/11 should play second fiddle to no venture.
3. President Bush's axis of evil has become more of an axis, if less evil, in bringing former enemies--Iraq and Iran--closer as a result of the war.
4. The central rationale for invading Iraq was a falsehood. The Bush administration, although not its fanatical backers, has admitted that U.S. intelligence was wrong about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The war has produced benefits--Saddam Hussein in jail, Iraqi elections--but the war was neither sold as an act of law enforcement, nor as a nation-building exercise. It was sold as a war to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction posed to American cities. No weapons, no threat.
5. America has lost more than 1,500 of its best and brightest. Thousands more have been maimed.
6. America will have expended hundreds of billions of dollars on a country that Paul Wolfowitz explained would "finance its own reconstruction" and Ari Fleischer assured us would "shoulder much of the burden" for reconstruction. Aren't conservatives supposed to be against big-government--at home and abroad?
7. Despite dismissing Iraq war opponents as "isolationists," the war's proponents within the administration have isolated the United States from the world. Never in our history have we been more hated or had fewer friends than now. Who are the real isolationists?
8. By preempting a non-existent threat, the U.S. damaged its credibility. When a real threat emerges, the Iraq intelligence debacle may propel American lawmakers and foreign friends to see the situation through a boy-who-cried-wolf lens, thus impeding necessary action.
9. Estimates of Iraqi dead vary. Whether it's 16,000 or 100,000, the human toll of war (just like the human toll of not going to war) should be considered when evaluating the justice of a campaign.
10. Iraq creates a dangerous precedent. Up until this point, America's major foreign wars--the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War--all featured the U.S. spurred to war because of some act (real or perceived) of aggression by the enemy nation. Have we crossed the Rubicon?
A court sentenced Terry Schiavo to death today. A Florida judge found the 41-year-old woman guilty of being disabled. Schiavo's defenders even admit the charge against her, so no formal trial was held, no appeals will be heard, and orders staying the sentence have been ignored. She will be the sixtieth person executed by the state of Florida since the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976. Critics protesting the "cruel and unusual" nature of the execution--starvation and thirst--have been ignored. Sure, liberals have been silent about this, but it's not because they are selective in their opposition to cruel and unusual punishment. It's just that since the Supreme Court shot down a Florida case that would have outlawed the electric chair, liberals have been too frustrated to speak out regarding these matters. Arguments decrying the arbitrariness of imposing capital punishment upon Schiavo, who needs just food and water to survive, but sparing Christopher Reeve, who needed machines to live, have fallen on deaf ears too. After all, if the state believes it's okay to execute some people for their disabilities but to keep others alive through research that involves taking human life, who are we to yell "hypocrite"? Although the execution began this afternoon, it's likely to last several days. If you're one of those bleeding-heart types who prays for the guilty, don't forget to say a prayer for all of Ms. Schiavo's victims too.
"If a player answers 'no' he simply will not be believed. If he answers 'yes', he risks public scorn and endless government investigations." No truer words were spoken at Thursday's hearings on steroids in baseball than these remarks by Mark McGwire. Seeing no benefit in answering "yes" or "no," McGwire opted for silence. But even his fellow sluggers who emphatically denied using steroids, like Rafael Palmeiro, had their reputations smeared merely by getting called before the committee.
The hearings accomplished what the chairman of the committee, Virginian Tom Davis, hoped for: to get his face on the evening newscasts and cable talk shows. His gain came at the expense of the reputations of several ballplayers, who may or may not have used steroids. The stated goal of the hearings, to uncover information regarding steroids in baseball, was a complete failure. We know nothing more about steroids in baseball than we did yesterday. No player admitted using steroids who had previously denied it.
The congressmen hid behind their favorite ploy--"We're doing this for the children"--to justify the hearings. In addition to the baseball stars, the committee called parents whose sons had used steroids and died. The interest in "the children" was particularly demagogic, not just because the cause of death in the two cases discussed involved suicide rather than steroids, but because one of the suicide cases was a twenty-four-year-old man. Steroids didn't kill their sons. Their sons killed their sons. By invoking the two tragedies, congressmen sought to provoke crying instead of thinking. It's only when emotion overcomes thought, after all, that we forget how ridiculous it is for a House Committee on Government Reform to hold hearings on baseball.
The Constitution forbids bills of attainder--official acts which punish or attaint individuals without a trial. Today's kangaroo court attainted several ballplayers, who no matter their guilt or innocence will forever wear the scarlet "S" placed upon them by this mob of elected rogues.
The U.S. Commerce Department released figures Wednesday on 2004's trade deficit. At $666 billion, it is the largest trade imbalance in the history of the United States and 25 percent higher than last year's number. Not only is the $666 billion amount the largest in history, but as a percentage of the gross domestic product--5.7 percent--the figure is a record high as well. Though nations can still increase wealth while maintaining trade deficits, the means by which to do this--exports--have remained stagnant in the new century. Trade deficits are less an indicator of economic health than the direction of geopolitical power. The current imbalance nevertheless represents bad news for Americans on both fronts.
In his first term, George W. Bush transformed a $127 million surplus into a $520 billion deficit. Bush's profligate spending requests, rather than his tax cut, is the primary cause. Large deficits contribute to higher inflation, a larger national debt, and, contrary to the fiction believed by some conservatives, entrenched big-government. A theory popular in conservative circles holds that deficits handcuff Congress's ability to increase government spending. In practice, the response to ballooning deficits in the 1980s and '90s weren't cuts in government spending, but tax increases by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. If past performance is any indicator of future results, the consequence of George W. Bush's reckless spending policies will, unfortunately, be a large tax increase.
"Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple," Congressman Ron Paul writes. "Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers. The federal government still consumes more of the private economy than it ever has except during World War II, despite the administrationís anti-tax rhetoric.... The economic situation today is reminiscent of the 1970s. The economic malaise of that era resulted from the profligacy of the 1960s, when Congress wildly expanded the welfare state and fought an expensive war in southeast Asia.... If the federal government wonít stop spending, borrowing, printing, and taxing, we may find ourselves in far worse shape than 30 years ago."
A group of survivors and relatives of victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami are suing (who else?) the United States government. The group, which includes dozens of Europeans, alleges that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center failed to provide adequate notice for the natural disaster. But as its name implies, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is in the Pacific, not the Indian, Ocean. If you're unfamiliar with geography, the United States of America is about as far from the Indian Ocean as anyplace in the world. Although U.S. taxpayers bankroll the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, more than a dozen foreign countries benefit from the service it provides. Since the Indian Ocean is thousands of miles from our shores, the United States funds no similar center for that part of the world. If Thailand, India, and other nations surrounding the Indian Ocean aren't to blame for their failure to build a regional tsunami warning center, what makes the United States--a nation halfway round the world--complicit?
While we're on the subject of stupid lawsuits, the family of Rachel Corrie, who made the really bad decision of attempting block a bulldozer, is suing the manufacturer of the machine that ran her over. Corrie died while protesting the Israeli government's destruction of a Palestinian settlement. A dumbfounded spokeswoman for Caterpillar explained: "more than 2 million Caterpillar machines and engines are at work in virtually every region of the world each day. We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of that equipment." One can debate the negligence of Corrie, the bulldozer operator, or both. But Caterpillar?
Just think: if Harvard President Larry Summers had compared 9/11 victims to Nazis and apologized for terrorists, academics would be equating criticism of him with censorship. But since he wondered aloud about cognitive differences between the sexes, they want him fired. Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences, the same crew that reiterates its ban on the Reserve Officer Training Corps every few years, issued a "no confidence" vote on Harvard President Larry Summers yesterday. William F. Buckley's quip that he'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in a Boston phonebook than by the faculty of Harvard has never rung more true.
A group of academics have taken it upon themselves to rewrite the Bible, seven percent of it to be precise. In the New International Version of the Bible, "When God created Man" becomes "When God created human beings," and "saints" become "God's chosen people." Examining the translations on contemporary hot-button issues--homosexuality, cross dressing, and the roles of men and women--Today's New International Version doesn't seem to stray far from the text of the King James Bible. And other "translations" have done a lot worse. "Thereís nothing wrong with remaining single, like me," St. Paul explains in the Good as New Bible. "But if you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated." While the changes of Today's New International Version are objectionable, the alterations in Good as New are downright blasphemous. What term better describes the act of objecting to God's word and replacing it with your own own take, which you then pawn off as God's?
"It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners," San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled today. No rational reason? How about the fact that a majority of California voters decided to uphold traditional marriage in 1996? Does the irrationality of making sin sacrament count? Is it rational for the state to encourage unhealthy behavior? What of the irrationality of referring to "x" as "y," when "x" is "x" and not "y"? And then there's that bit regarding consummation? How, again, do gays consummate their "marriages"?
Mel Gibson re-released The Passion of the Christ this weekend to dismal theater attendance. The recut version of the film deletes much of the gore and violence that bothered critics in its first run. Look for the film to do better as Easter approaches, but starting from a $240,000 weekend gross--down from its take of $84 million in last year's opening weekend--it will have to do a lot better to solidify the film as an annual Lenten tradition.
What explains the collapse? Unlike last year, Mel Gibson doesn't have the benefit of unglued scribes and talking heads providing free publicity. Controversy just isn't as controversial the second time around. With the theatrical release occuring just a year ago to more than a half-billion dollars in international ticket sales, and the DVD selling (buy it here) nearly 20 million copies stateside, the hunger for the film may be largely satiated for now. Gibson listening to his critics may be an overlooked reason for the film's poor showing this weekend. The same people who mocked Gibson for pouring his fortune into the sure-loser The Passion of the Christ, harped on the violence in the film. But the critics weren't representative of the film-goers flooding movie theaters. To his artistic credit and financial benefit, Gibson didn't listen to the naysayers then. So why did he recut the movie to assuage those same critics now?
FlynnFiles has been fighting a long battle with spambots. I spend several hours every week deleting inappropriate comments. You may have noticed that certain words--ones commonly used in spam--have been banned in the comments section. When unsophisticated spammers fail to mask their comments with multiple ISP addresses, I blacklist the ISP address. In one instance, I tracked down a company issuing spam messages and engaged their representative in an animated conversation. I even issued a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. All of this, and the spam still comes.
To further combat spam, I've decided to close comments for posts that have been on the blog for more than a month. You'll still be able to read archived posts and the comments they elicited from the readership, but you won't be able to comment. I've already closed comments for May '04. You'll be able to comment on June '04 posts for just a few more days. So, to encourage visits to the site's back pages, I'm highlighting some worthy posts from when the readership was less than a tenth of what it is now. Last June, William F. Buckley made news by ceding control of National Review and admitting in hindsight that going to war in Iraq was a mistake. President Bush earned praise for turning over governance to the Iraqis, while his enemies earned scorn for their fanaticism. FlynnFiles exponentially expanded its readership in June through my interview with the Ultimate Warrior. The death of Ronald Reagan stood as the month's biggest story, with posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And my piece comparing the chart success of The Knack in 1979 to Velvet Revolver in 2004 is definitely still worth reading. June's threads will be closed for comments in a few days, so speak now or forever hold your peace.
Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Earthlings knowing of the existence of Pluto. No word yet on how long the Plutonese have known of us.
Relations between the Plutonese and the Earthlings have never been worse. Many Earthlings have begun to question whether we should even recognize Pluto as a fellow planet. It's an escaped moon of Neptune or an oversized asteroid, Earth men argue. In short, Pluto's too small to be a planet. But couldn't the Jupiterians say the same thing about us? A few years back, rumors circulated around the International Astronomical Union regarding internal debates to reclassify Pluto as a "minor planet" or a Kuiper Belt object. The group never reclassified the distant world, but, as the Plutonese rightly point out, what's an international body doing making decisions traditionally left to galaxian authorities? When we cast off our Earthocentric perspective, we realize that we're not so different from the Plutonese.
Take our moons, for instance. Unlike the seven other planets in the solar system, Earth and Pluto have but one moon. No other planets compare so closely in size to their moons as both the Earth and Pluto do. Peculiarly, Pluto and its moon Charon have synchronous orbits. Just as we see only one side of our moon (which is actually larger than Pluto) from Earth, the Plutonese see only one side of Charon. Lifeforms on Charon, assuming they exist (and have eyeballs), see but one side of Pluto too.
Being that the sun is like the hub of the solar system, Pluto's distance invites hick stereotypes. Not only does that bristle the locals, but Pluto's puny size--the Earth's circumference is almost six times greater--and its weakness in retaining its atmosphere give the Plutonese a major insecurity complex. Think Robert Plant with gym socks stuffed in his pants or Rudy Giuliani in the combover days, and you have the psychological makeup of your average Plutonese--only wearing the hayseed uniform of one-strap overalls. And like other rural folk (in Appalachia, the Nevada high-desert, or beyond), Pluto's major problem is meth--methane ice that is. Their planet is covered with it.
Seeking to shake its stereotype as an outpost of rubes and yahoos, the Plutonese every 200 years or so--kind of like the modernization attempts of Ataturk or Peter the Great--make a jailbreak towards the Sun in an attempt to be seen as more urbane. This lasts about twenty years, and then they resign themselves to their station as the ninth and last of the Sun's planets--until they try this all over again a couple of Earth-centuries later. The Neptunese, furious about this Plutonese encroachment upon their traditional orbital position about the Sun, recaptured their modest spot among the planets in 1999 after twenty years as the furthest planet from the Sun.
Perhaps some of the Earthling-Plutonese conflict is due to the lack of intercultural exchange. No spacecraft from either planet has ever visited the other. Unmanned craft from Earth have traveled to seven distant planets, but have gracelessly snubbed Pluto. But soon--after the Pluto-bound spacecraft New Horizons launches next year--all of this will change. And with a little luck, the frayed relationship will change too. The alternative--an intergalactic war that would surely ensnare the Time Lords, Vultan's Hawk Men, and the Cylons--is too horrific to contemplate.
Jacob Hornberger asks a good question: "Why not end Social Security rather than simply reform or save it?" President Bush speaks of "keeping the promise of Social Security" and "strengthening Social Security." Though his modest plan goes in the right direction, his rhetoric goes the wrong way. And since his plan stands a less than even chance of becoming law, we'll likely be left with just his "me-too" rhetoric--a bipartisan consensus that Social Security is worth saving. "What better example of socialism is there than Social Security," Hornberger wonders, "especially given its core feature--the coercive redistribution of wealth from young to old, from poor to rich, and from blacks to whites?" Why, again, should I want to save this?
Neoconservative stands as one of the most widely used but least defined words of the Bush presidency. As of late, neoconservatives have been primarily associated with a more adventurous use of American military might to promote democracy, particularly in the Middle East. But several of the most prominent neoconservatives have questioned the wisdom of Bush's Iraq campaign specifically, and the administration's Middle Eastern policies generally.
In his Claremont Review of Books essay "Leo Strauss and American Foreign Policy," Thomas West writes: "the attempt to build democracy in a place where the minimal preconditions of democracy are not present may well cause more harm than good. How many civilians will the American forces have to kill before it becomes clear that that well-intentioned goal is indefinitely out of reach?" If West is cautious about the Iraq venture, Francis Fukuyama is downright hostile. The campaign so infuriated the End of History and the Last Man author that he announced last year that he wouldn't be voting for Bush. "The Bush administration went into Iraq with enormous illusions about how easy the post-war situation would be: it thought the reconstruction would be self-financing, that Americans could draw on a lasting well of gratitude for liberating Iraq, and that we could occupy the country with a small force structure and even draw US forces down significantly within a few months," Fukuyama wrote last summer.
Daniel Pipes is the latest neoconservative to outline his reservations. While welcoming recent developments in the region, Pipes admits that he does so warily. He gives six reasons for caution:
1. "Yes, Mahmoud Abbas wishes to end the armed struggle against Israel but his call for a greater jihad against the 'Zionist enemy' points to his intending another form of war to destroy Israel." 2. "The Iraqi elections are bringing Ibrahim Jaafari, a pro-Iranian Islamist, to power." 3. "Likewise, the Saudi elections proved a boon for the Islamist candidates." 4. "Mubarak's promise is purely cosmetic; but should real presidential elections one day come to Egypt, Islamists will probably prevail there too." 5. "Removing Syrian control in Lebanon could well lead to Hezbollah, a terrorist group, becoming the dominant power there." 6. "Eliminating the hideous Assad dynasty could well bring in its wake an Islamist government in Damascus."
"Note a pattern?" asks Pipes. "Other than the sui generis Palestinian case, one main danger threatens to undo the good news: that a too-quick removal of tyranny unleashes Islamist ideologues and opens their way to power."
In baseball it's called hot-dogging.
A House committee headed by Tom Davis of Virginia, who hopes to someday succeed his benefactor John Warner in the Senate, issued subpoenas to past and present baseball stars on Wednesday. The House Government Reform Committee ordered Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, and others to testify about steroids in baseball. This spectacle, generated by media whores in Congress, has nothing to do with government reform--save the value it serves in demonstrating the need for it, starting with this committee.
The star-power of the players will give committee members a publicity rub. The House demagogues will gain the appearance of having combatted a great evil, or at least one that gets a lot of media coverage. The players, even by having their names mixed up in the hearings, will be attainted. The legitimate federal investigation into Balco will be undermined by the congressional grandstanding as well. As Jayson Stark of ESPN.com asserts, "when the United States Congress stages an event in which guilty-until-proven-innocent will, essentially, be the central theme, it makes us a little uncomfortable."
Steroids has corrupted baseball. Now it has corrupted a House committee too.
"All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections, for those elections to be free and fair," George W. Bush said to an applauding audience at Fort McNair on Tuesday. He continued: "The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power." Is it just Syrian occupation that taints an election, or any foreign occupation? No doubt Europeans, Arabs, and other non-Americans hearing Bush's words asked themselves that question.
It's difficult to envision last month's Iraqi election happening without U.S. occupation. It's equally difficult to envision a credible election in Lebanon with Syrian occupation. One can debate the effects, but the intents of Syrian and American occupation differ: the former seeks to dominate, the latter seeks to liberate. That said: given that we currently occupy two Muslim countries and have military outposts in several more, will President Bush's words have the effect of shaming Syria into vacating their neighbor or of solidifying Arab perceptions of U.S. hypocrisy?
Dan Rather retires from the anchor chair at CBS evening news tonight. Good riddance. His departure has been largely devoid of the glowing tributes and worshipful retrospectives that accompanied Tom Brokaw's goodbye. Instead, the conversation has focused on declining viewership for network news, CBS's third-place position in a three-way race, and Rather's ideologically-fueled gullibility in falling for a Bush-bashing hoax last year. The first two phenomenon are linked to the third. Dan Rather is a political hack disguised as a newsman. Because viewers want news when they turn on the news, they turn off Dan Rather. Visions of him adding the prefix "so-called" when saying "Christian Coalition" and highlighting non-existent Republican budget cuts persuaded me long ago to avoid Rather's newscasts when possible. Rather's liberal bias has been thoroughly documented, examples of which can be found here, here, here, and especially here. It's this partisan zeal that eroded his credibility and his viewership.
Dan Rather is the human symbol of the network news. The world has passed him by just as it has passed by the CBS, ABC, and NBC newscasts. The big three no longer have the market cornered. There's cable news, talk radio, and the Internet, for starters, that have emerged. For the networks, this meant an inevitable ratings decline. For Dan Rather, this meant an inevitable credibility decline. Network news anchors can't get away with inaccuracies and bias on March 9, 2005 the way they could get away with it on March 9, 1981. Dan Rather, as evidenced by the George W. Bush Memogate fiasco, never understood this. He continued, as network news has in general, oblivious to the changes in the media industry. And this is why he's leaving his anchor chair before he wanted to.
At the risk of alienating some of the hardcore Bushies, I confess that I like Teresa Heinz Kerry. She's unscripted, bold, and outspoken--maybe, judging from comments she made at a Washington state fundraiser, a little too outspoken. "Two brothers own 80 percent of the [election] machines used in the United States," Heinz Kerry complained, tellingly, on Saturday night. According to a Seattle Post-Intelligencier columnist, she labeled the election-machine company owners "hard-right" Republicans. She also noted that it is "very easy to hack into the mother machines." In other words, she believes her husband may have been cheated out of the Oval Office.
Seven weeks ago, I introduced readers to several memorable characters charging Republicans with a massive election-day conspiracy to steal the presidency. "I think they stole Ohio," one activist theorized. "I think the exit polls were correct." A Lincoln, Massachusetts woman, citing the pro-Kerry views of friends and neighbors, believed vote fraud denied John Kerry the presidency too: "I believe that the Republican party has consistently used fraud to get into office and to stay in office." It's mildly disturbing that a woman who harbors the same views as these fringe types was a hundred-thousand or so votes from becoming the First Lady. On the other hand, politics would be so much more interesting with Teresa Heinz Kerry in the White House.
Buried beneath coverage of pro- and anti-Syria demonstrations in Lebanon, the Pillow Fight Club rally in Tel Aviv, and the bare-breasted protest of Prince Charles in New Zealand is yesterday's march in Pakistan decrying the acquittal of five accused gang-rapists. Mukhtar Mai, the woman leading the protest, was raped by a group of men in 2002 on orders from village elders. The directed sexual attack came in response to allegations that Mai's twelve-year-old brother had sex with a woman of higher social status.
The case of Mukhtar Mai is extreme, even for Pakistan, but it represents a pattern. "Human rights groups estimate that anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of women are victims of domestic violence," the 2000 State Department report on human rights notes about Pakistan. Marital rape is legal, the literacy rate for women stands about half of the rate for men, several hundred "honor killings" occur annually, and rape victims occassionally find themselves jailed for "adultery." The judiciary system halves the value of female testimony in certain cases. Dowry killings and, among one Muslim sect of 100,000, female genital mutilation persist.
How do feminists, immersed in doctrines of cultural relativism, reconcile the mantra "all cultures are equal" with reality in South Asia? How does the Bush administration, which asked for and received $600 million in foreign aid for Pakistan, mesh its Carteresque rhetoric on human rights with its ally's abominable cultural and legal practices?
Tens of thousands of Lebanese rallied today in Beirut in a pro-Syria demonstration. This follows on the heels of several anti-Syria rallies in the wake of the murder of former president Rafik Hariri. One would be foolish to interpret the former to mean a Lebanese desire for foreign occupation, just as one would be foolish to interpret the latter to mean that Lebanon will soon be a free and democratic country. It's too soon to tell what the future holds for Lebanon, once a mecca for cosmopolitans but as of late a mecca for occupying armies, terrorists, and sectarian violence. A few demonstrations does not a democracy make.
Andrew Sullivan complains that in a recent column on an allegedly new strain of HIV, Washington Post writer Richard Cohen "made several factual claims that I know no solid evidence for," among which was Cohen's claim that "a portion of the gay population--maybe 20 percent, [gay writer Charles] Kaiser estimates--conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless but just plain disgusting." Sullivan demands, "Can he provide any data backing this up?"
Leaving aside whether you think ten, twenty, or one-hundred percent of homosexual activity is "just plain disgusting," what data would convince Andrew Sullivan? Just four years ago, even gay writers were weirded out by the disclosure that Sullivan, an HIV-positive homosexual, advertised for anonymous "bareback" sex on seedy websites. It's not Cohen's admittedly guesstimated statistics that bother Sullivan, but any suggestion that the sexual practices of some gay men are reckless and gross.
"The bald statement 'unprotected sex is reckless' is erroneous," Sullivan writes of Cohen's pedestrian assertion. "If two men are HIV-negative and in a monogamous relationship, unprotected sex, i.e. what human beings have always called 'sex,' is not reckless. It's responsible and way more intimate and pleasurable than the alternative." Full-blown AIDS, which thousands of men following this line of reasoning have come down with, isn't very pleasurable.
The story I broke last week regarding John Kerry's authorship of a resolution honoring W.E.B. Du Bois has received a good deal of attention. In his Sunday column, Robert Novak included information from my piece in bringing the issue to a broader audience. Ditto for NewsMax, which began its article on the topic: "John Kerry is asking the U.S. Senate to pay homage to the memory of a notorious Communist and rabid anti-American." Numerous blogs and message boards have chimed in too, here, here, and here. Kerry's office has promoted the resolution, but thus far it has but three sponsors and, unlike the corresponding House proposal, has been stalled by opposition. Hopefully, House and Senate boosters of W.E.B. Du Bois will come to their senses and quietly drop their scheme to honor a Stalinist. A resolution honoring a man who renounced his citizenship, occassionally preached racial separatism, and joined the Communist Party is politically stupid and morally evil.
The ends justify the means. This is the unspoken philosophy that guides a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Start out with a whim, and then construct a chain of reasoning to justify it legally. If nothing in our Constitution butresses the argument, inject clauses into the Constitution that aren't there ("right to privacy") or cite the laws and moods prevalent in foreign lands ("overwhelming weight of international opinion"). Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion overturning state death-penalty laws for juveniles employed both underhanded tactics.
Instead of liberals dictating to states that they can't execute juvenile murderers, what if conservatives dictated to states that they must allow juvenile executions? Instead of liberals dictating to states that they can't outlaw abortion, what if conservatives dictated to states that they must ban abortion? Instead of liberals dictating to localities that they can't have prayer in school, what if conservatives dictated to localities that they must have prayer in school?
But conservative jurists aren't doing this. Overturning Roe v. Wade, for instance, wouldn't ban abortion in any state. It would simply allow states to make state law on abortion. In other words, there is nothing extreme about the position of Justices Scalia, Thomas, or Rehnquist. Their course is moderate and sensible. It embraces the Constitution, federalism, and self-government. It's not the mirror image of the ends-justifies-the-means position of High Court liberals. It doesn't impose conservative positions on the states, rather it allows states to chart their own course.
There are a number of good proposals to safeguard the republic from judicial tyranny. One method is to prevent jurists who've discarded the Constitution from interpreting the Constitution. Senators can do this by blocking nominees. Citizens can do this by expressing outrage through voice and vote. It may be difficult for conservatives to influence judicial nominees when liberals are in power. It shouldn't be difficult to influence judicial nominees when self-described conservatives are in power. Unfortunately, the track record shows that it is. Republicans have controlled the executive branch (the branch that nominates judges) for twenty-four of the last thirty-six years, yet we're still stuck with the Anthony Kennedys and David Souters of the world. To avoid more of the same, conservatives must hold a more vigilant watch over the judges that George W. Bush may select to fill Supreme Court vacancies than they have over the president's liberal spending, immigration, and campaign finance policies.
Last May, when readers of this site were few, I wrote about the unfortunate disappearance of used bookstores. The Internet, it seems, is a leading cause of their deaths. The Internet provides the benefit of allowing readers to find exactly what they're looking for. Used bookstores allow readers to find what they aren't looking for. It's because of this that I prefer used bookstores to Internet shopping, and lament the advent of the latter because of the deleterious effects on the former.
While dying, used bookstores are thankfully not extinct. Just off the circle in downtown Gettysburg is the Book Cellar; just off Dupont Circle in Washington, DC is Second Story Books. Near the Burren, Sligo Pub, and the Joshua Tree in Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts is McIntyre and Moore Booksellers. In the middle of nowhere in Frederick, Maryland is Wonder Book, named one of the ten best used bookstores in USA Today. Legendary shops I've yet to visit include Powell's in Portland, Oregon, Strand in Manhattan, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris, where aspiring writers and prolific readers are allowed to stay the night.
Though recently out-of-business shops probably outnumber active shops, used bookstores are out there--if you can find them. I want to find them, as do, I'd guess, a good number of FlynnFiles readers. In the longterm, I'd also like to map them. This would be a good service to travellers and bibliophiles. Will you help me in mapping out good used bookstores in America (and beyond?)? Do you frequent any used bookstores? Where are they? What are their names? Are they any good? Let the readership know, and aid my project, by providing intelligence on used bookstores in the comments section below.
English is too constricting for the universal message of Intellectual Morons. A foreign book company has bought the rights to publish Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas in Turkish. Two years ago, a South Korean publisher similarly bought the Korean rights to Why the Left Hates America. It's a pretty cool to know my books will travel to places I've never been.
"The creed of Edmund Burke," John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge explain in The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (buy it here), "might be crudely reduced to six principles: a deep suspicion of the power of the state; a preference for liberty over equality; patriotism; a belief in established institutions and hierarchies; skepticism about the idea of progress; and elitism."
"To simplify a little," the British duo assert, "the exceptionalism of modern American conservatism lies in its exaggeration of the first three of Burke's principles and contradiction of the last three." This sounds about right, both the description of traditional conservatism and the unfortunate rejection of many of Burke's principles by American conservatives. While The Right Nation gets many of these theoretical questions right, it fails miserably in getting many of the facts right.
The reader strangely learns that Sam Rayburn "held the speakership of the U.S. Congress" and that "Bill Clinton oversaw the most dramatic increase in killing of any president." As if the factual inaccuracy of the latter statement weren't bad enough, its ignorance of federalism--governors, not presidents, oversee most executions--causes the reader to question the authors' expertise in their subject matter, America.
On less black-and-white questions, Micklethwait and Wooldridge put their judgment into question. In the bizarro universe of the authors, John Kerry becomes a "moderate," "All of the biggest women's organizations [in America] are left-of-center," and former California Governor Pete Wilson committed a "colossal political blunder in supporting Proposition 187." Wilson, of course, was dead in the polls until he hitched his wagon to the proposal forbidding certain state services to illegal aliens. The "colossal political blunder" almost single-handedly reelected Wilson.
Writing for a European audience, the authors play to Continental stereotypes about Americans. "In most of the civilized world," sniff the authors, "support for the death penalty is the prerogative of the lunatic fringe." They lament how Bush administration programs "refuse to promote comdom use." The Republican "party platform goes out of its way to define marriage in a way that rules out gay unions," The Right Nation argues, ignoring the obvious reality that until very recently 100 percent of the human race would have defined marriage in the exact same manner.
You learn little about American conservatism reading The Right Nation. You learn a lot about why Americans aren't impressed by Europeans who look down at us from below.
Earlier this week, I officially began research on a third book. I have a rule about books: I will only write a book that I would want to read. I have a second rule about books: I will only write a book that other people would want to read too. With this in mind, I hope to do with this third project what I believe I've done successfully with Why the Left Hates America and Intellectual Morons: write a topical book that appeals to a mass audience while still having lasting value. Since I'm still at the early stages, I hope you understand my preference for keeping the topic of the book top-secret. Who knows, after all, if my current conception of the next book will match the reality of the finished product? A lot will happen between now and some distant publication date. So until that date arrives, I encourage you to continue to get your fix on Flynn Files. And if you haven't read Why the Left Hates America or Intellectual Morons, what are you waiting for?
More than 1,500 brave Americans have lost their lives in Iraq. Roughly ninety percent of these deaths have occurred since George W. Bush gave his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech. Declaring that major combat operations have ceased doesn't make it so, particularly when the enemy doesn't cooperate.
This grim milestone, reached Thursday, comes on the heels of some good news. The enemy killed just fifty-eight Americans in February, the lowest death toll in six months. While the American casualty count decreased, terrorists inside Iraq may have actually increased the number of Iraqis they killed, as the horrific car-bombing in Hillah anecdotally suggests. By shifting emphasis from killing U.S. servicemen to killing the locals, the terrorists have abandoned any pretense of "liberating" Iraq from the Americans. The insurgents and terrorists want power, and whether it's Americans ruling Iraq or Iraqis ruling Iraq the governing power should expect more blood.
"Change will not come by disdaining or dismantling the federal role of education." "The rate of homeownership amongst minorities is below 50 percent. And that's not right, and this country needs to do something about it." "I proposed doubling the budget for the National Endowment for Democracy to $80 million."
George W. Bush talks like a liberal. He governs like one too. In The Bush Betrayal (buy it here), James Bovard painstakingly documents George W. Bush's addiction to big government. In doing so, Bovard introduced a welcome perspective--a right-leaning one--into the cottage industry of books criticizing the president.
Bovard devotes chapters to Bush's prescription drug plan, the Farm Bill, and nationalizing airport security, but does his best work in scrutinizing the No Child Left Behind Act and Americorps. Bovard exposes NCLB as a plan plagiarized from the Democrats, throwing billions of dollars at education and dictating to communities how to teach their children. Similarly, Americorps, inherited from President Bush's predecessor, stands as a Democratic program that earned Republican enthusiasm from the Oval Office. Foolishly linking Americorps volunteerism to the war on terrorism, President Bush expanded funding for the program that pays young people to "volunteer." Bovard tells how one Americorps volunteer organized a "Pink Prom" for gay youth, while another lobbied the government of Idaho to rename a highway in honor of Sacajawea.
Bovard delivers compelling information, but too often presents it in an over-the-top style. Lines designed to discredit the Bush administration--"Bush's dictatorial power" or "Ashcroft's mildly deranged statements"--succeed only in discrediting the author. Bush's tax cuts, prudent judicial nominees, and successful defense of the homeland since 9/11 hardly get mentioned. Nowhere does Bovard let his passion get the better of his judgment moreso than in his discussion of the draft, which Bovard seems to think stands a good chance of returning. "Americans may soon suffer a major dose of military slavery in order to pay for Bush's world liberation crusade," he writes. To paraphrase Hamlet's mother, methinks Bovard doth protest too much. Bush isn't a dictator, Ashcroft's utterances haven't been crazy, and the draft isn't coming back anytime soon. Why exaggerate when reality is bad enough?
"There may be more Americans reciting the Pledge of Allegiance now than before Bush became president--but fewer Americans concerned about government trampling their rights," Bovard concludes. "There may be more Americans with U.S. flag decals on their autos--but fewer Americans who support the right of people to publicly oppose government policies. There are more Americans who revere the president--but fewer Americans who recall the Founding Fathers' warnings about the corrupting nature of political power."
Justice Anthony Kennedy is a much greater threat to our republic than any other Kennedy I'm familiar with. His opinion handed down yesterday in Roper v. Simmons, abolishing the laws of twenty states that allowed capital punishment for juveniles, proves this. Whether you disapprove of capital punishment for teenage murderers isn't the issue. The two real issues concern a). whether you believe in the democratic process; b). whether you believe in federalism. Consider the following aspects of Kennedy's opinion:
1. In 1988's Stanford v. Kentucky, Justice Kennedy ruled with the majority of the court that the Constitution allows juvenile executions. In 2005's Roper v. Simmons, Justice Kennedy ruled with the majority of the court that the Constitution outlaws juvenile executions. Justice Kennedy overturned not only the laws of twenty states in Roper v. Simmons, but he overturned Justice Kennedy as well.
2. Kennedy opined as he did yesterday, he said, because "a national consensus has developed against execution of [juvenile] offenders since Stanford." First: No it hasn't. A few states have outlawed juvenile executions since 1988, but that hardly indicates a consensus. Second: Since when does the Supreme Court rule based on consensus, rather than law? Based on this "national consensus" test, will the court now rule that states can't allow gay marriage or partial-birth abortion? After all, recent legislation, referenda, and polls all indicate greater disapproval of partial-birth abortion and gay marriage than the death penalty for juvenile murderers. Third: A national consensus is irrelevant to overturning state law. Fourth: If a consensus against executing teenage murderers has indeed developed, why not allow that consensus to express itself through the democratic process? When a court usurps the democratic process to achieve certain ends on behalf of the "national consensus," this is a tacit admission that rhetoric about a "national consensus" is dishonest.
3. As discussed here yesterday, Justice Kennedy and his cohorts purport to understand the Constitution better than the people who wrote it. Before, during, and after ratification of the Constitution, various states--governed in part by the same delegates who drafted the document setting up the structure of the federal government--hung teenagers. If executing juveniles is an affront to the Constitution, why didn't any Founding Father decry the unconstitutionality of such actions?
4. Justice Kennedy's opinon cited the laws of other nations to bolster his case. "The overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty is not controlling here, but provides respected and significant confirmation for the Courtís determination that the penalty is disproportionate punishment for offenders under 18," Kennedy wrote. "It does not lessen fidelity to the Constitution or pride in its origins to acknowledge that the express affirmation of certain fundamental rights by other nations and peoples underscores the centrality of those same rights within our own heritage of freedom." Kennedy uses international opinion as a euphemism for European opinion. European opinion, it's worth noting, also regards free speech as anathema to a tolerant society. More importantly, laws in other countries have absolutely no bearing on the constitutionality of laws in certain states within the U.S.
Until recently, America's wars tended to be declared, infrequent, and fairly painful. In America's Splendid Little Wars: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements, 1975-2000 (buy it here), Peter Huchthausen explores the undeclared, frequent, and less bloody (and thus, largely unchronicled) skirmishes that have characterized American military efforts between the fall of Saigon and 9/11. Huchthausen masterfully presents thumbnail histories of the SS Mayaguez incident (1975), the botched attempt to rescue Americans in Iran (1980), the disastrous peacekeeping mission in Lebanon (1982-1984), Grenada (1983), airstrikes on Libya (1985), the invasion of Panama (1989), the Gulf War (1991), and humanitarian interventions in Somalia (1991-1994), Bosnia (1991-1999), and Kosovo (1999).
Unintended consequences, both positive and negative, are a common thread through the recent "splendid little wars." Grenada and Panama, intended to rescue Americans trapped amid an internecine Marxist war and to apprehend a narco-dictator, respectively, happily resulted in free and democratic governments replacing thuggish regimes. Clinton-era airstrikes in Kosovo, designed to alleviate the suffering of the Albanians, "worsened the plight of the Albanians on the ground, for as soon as the bombing began, the Serbs' ruthless purge of the Albanians intensified."
While Americans could brag of an undefeated military record until Vietnam, the results of America's splendid little wars have been mixed. If there's a trend in these conflicts, it's that military engagements with concrete rather than abstract objectives tend to turn out well. Think of the differences between the two campaigns in Iraq. The allied forces achieved the concrete mission--liberating Kuwait and defending Saudi Arabia--of the former war. The evolving (and broader) mission--from removing the WMD threat to nation-building--of the latter war has resulted in more setbacks than in the Gulf War. The amorphously defined mission in Somalia mutated from a humanitarian intervention to an experiment in nation-building, and the eighteen-month U.S. presence in Lebanon, where "The original mission of deterrence and peace-keeping had given way completely," both resulted in embarrassing withdrawals with nothing to show for the ventures save dead Americans. The attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran provides a counterexample to this trend. The mission had a clearly defined aim in America's interest, yet still failed.
On occassion, American military interventions peculiarly find greater popularity among the invaded than the invaders. Huchthausen points to a CBS poll among Panamanians showing a 92% approval rating for America's 1989 invasion. Upon Ronald Reagan's trip to Grenada one year after the American invasion, "an estimated one hundred thousand Grenadians turned out--nearly the entire population--to cheer his speech." Though popular, neither campaign received anything near that level of domestic support.
America's Splendid Little Wars is a splendid little book. The slim volume, to paraphrase Joe Friday, provides just the facts. It is history--overlooked history--devoid of spin. In other words, it's more news story than op-ed. Isn't that what good history is?
W.E.B. Du Bois declared in 1920, "Absolutely segregate the races and sections of the world." Thirteen years later, the NAACP would eject him from the organization he helped found because of such statements as "I fight Segregation with Segregation." After traveling to Nazi Germany in 1937, he returned to America with largely glowing reports, penning an article called "The German Case Against the Jews" that excused anti-Semitism in the Third Reich by labeling it "a reasoned prejudice." At mid-century Du Bois propagandized that North Korea was attacked to launch the Korean War, that "Harry Truman ranks with Adolf Hitler as one of the greatest killers of our day," and that Stalin was a "great" and "courageous" man. In the early 1960s, Du Bois renounced his American citizenship and formally joined the Communist Party, declaring communism "the only way of human life." Why, in 2005, would John Kerry push the United States Senate to honor this man? Read my Human Events article that broke this story today to learn more about the extremist John Kerry seeks to honor.
Do today's Supreme Court justices know the Constitution better than the men who wrote it?
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down state death-penalty laws for juveniles. The court threw out the capital sentences of seventy murderers, including plaintiff Christopher Simmons, who at seventeen abducted a woman, tied her up, and hurled her from a bridge. For this crime, a Missouri jury unanimously sentenced Simmons to death. Unwise? Perhaps. Unconstitutional? No.
The year the Constitution was drafted, Virginia exectuted a twelve-year-old boy. Seven years after Virginia ratified the Constitution, the Commonwealth hung a thirteen-year-old arsonist. Other states--governed by delegates to the Constitutional Convention--similarly executed teenagers both before and after the ratification of the Constitution. Why didn't any of the authors of the Constitution object to this violation of it when they lived?
If state legislators wish to rewrite capital punishment laws to exclude teenagers, they have every right to do so because they are the elected representitives of the people. In repealing the laws of nineteen states, the Supreme Court usurped a power granted not only to no court, but a power not even granted to Congress.
I appear tonight on the 700 Club, discussing left-wing bias and intolerance on the college campuses. In addition to book-writing and blogging, I work for the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership Program, which actually does something about the lack of intellectual balance on college campuses. A few of the students in the piece are active in our programs. The 700 Club is aired on ABC's Family Channel at 11 p.m. (eastern). If you miss seeing the segment when it runs, CBN News has a print piece related to the visual piece that airs today.
The antithesis of Imperial Hubris is found in The Case for Democracy (buy it here), a book George W. Bush says is "part of my presidential DNA." The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror splits the world into "free societies" and "fear societies, with nothing in between."
Sharansky's case rests on a number of ahistorical claims. He writes, "sixty years ago, most people would have considered the claim that Germany could become a thriving liberal democracy absolutely preposterous," amid similar statements about Japan. But both Japan and Germany--unlike the Arab world and much of Africa--had previous experience in self-government, with the latter country electing a tyrant who butchered minority groups and terrorized an entire continent. Sharansky appears similarly oblivious to problems in contemporary Russia. Acknowledging a less than ideal situation in the land of his birth, Sharansky nevertheless labels Russia a free country in the service of his argument that democracy is for export. Certainly Russia is freer now than twenty years ago, but is a country without a free press (and ruled by a KGB strongman) truly free?
"There are twenty-two Arab states and not one of them is democractic, even by the weakest of definitions. Moreover, there has never been an Arab democracy," Sharansky admits. Still, Sharansky believes democracy is not beyond the "reach" of any Middle Eastern nation. Why? "The source of my confidence that freedom truly is for everyone is not only that democracy has spread around the world...my confidence also comes from living in a world of fear, studying it, and fighting it." In other words, we are to discard present reality and past experience and put our faith in progress.
The Case for Democracy is strongest when it meanders from its argument to its author's autobiography. Sharansky courageously stood up to totalitarianism in the Soviet Union, spending years as a political prisoner before Reagan-administration pressure compelled the evil empire to allow his emigration. From the bulwark of tyranny Sharasky travelled to an outpost of self-government. Within Israel Sharansky saw evidence of the lack of moral clarity in the world, pointing out: "the only democracy in the Middle East is perceived as the greatest violator of human rights."
Amid Hallmark-card slogans like "the democracy that hates you is less dangerous than the dictator who loves you" and "Nondemocratic societies have always been powder kegs ready to explode," Sharansky offers bits of wisdom. Expressing skepticism for the prospects for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the author opines that quick "elections are just as likely to weaken the efforts to build democracy as they are to strengthen them." Unlike observers who've jumped the gun on Iraq, Sharansky recognizes that elections don't equal democracy (a word that seems to go beyond simple majority rule in Sharansky's lexicon). Alas, recklessness outweighs prudence, with no quip as reckless as Sharansky's marching orders that "The free world should not wait for dictatorial regimes to consent to reform." The people called for the Shah's removal. We got Ayatollah Khomeni. The people called for the beheading of Louis XVI. We got Robespierre and Danton. Who knows what unintended tyrants Sharansky's revolutions could bring?
"I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free. I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the world." After reading The Case for Democracy, I am convinced that Natan Sharansky believes this. Less clear are the reasons why he believes what he does.