Did you hear the one about the Dutchman, his wife, and their girfriend? They "married" last Friday in a civil union. This is no joke. The groom states that a goal of the marriage is to "not philander." But if they are led into temptation, the husband and wife and wife can always bring the additional partner in--just as the husband and wife did this time--to make things right with the Lord and all. No one, not even a polygamist, wants to be known as an adulterer.
Just about any mantra used to justify gay "marriage" rationalizes three-way "marriage." "Stop pushing your morality on other people." "Love makes a family." "Who are you to dictate what's a marriage and what's not?" Unfortunately, demonstrating this train of logic to most liberals will probably result in a wave of support for legalized polygamy rather than reflection on the foolishness of homosexual "marriage." One thinks of the admonition to keep an open mind--but not so open that your brains fall out. Perhaps we should be happy that Euroleftists draw the line at interspecies marriage--at least until they meet such a couple and feel an emotional tug to award them their sanction. Who are they to pass judgment on Magnus and his goat lover, anyhow? C'mon people, marriage is about love--not discrimination and speciesism.
Thousands of years of tradition did not happen by accident. When you mess with the past, the present exacts its revenge. We laugh at Medieval doctors bleeding patients and ancient Greeks mocking the heliocentric planetary system. They laugh at us too.
The Senate confirmed John Roberts 78-22 today as the 17th chief justice of the United States. Here's how your senator voted. Here are the sixteen courts that preceeded the Roberts Court. Only two nominees for chief justice failed to receive confirmation. At 50, John Roberts may preside over a court that outlasts all previous courts. Today's vote, though a fait accompli, has historic and present-day importance. Forty-two men have served as president. Only seventeen have served as chief justice. And of those seventeen men, John Roberts inherits the court that is the most likely to inject itself into political questions traditionally answered by voters or their representatives.
Conservatives come to Washington denouncing it as a cesspool, Stan Evans famously quipped. Soon they find Washington more like a hot tub. Evans's witticism precisely describes Tom DeLay.
DeLay deserved to be driven from his House leadership post by fellow Republicans for claiming victory over big government and holding that all the fat had been trimmed from the federal budget. Instead, a Democratic prosecutor in Texas has effectively deposed DeLay by indicting him.
Conservatives should applaud the ends of derailing the biggest congressional obstacle to limited government. Conservatives should not applaud the means. Even if DeLay is convicted of what he is accused of, it won't be clear that he's guilty of anything. Raising money for Republicans from corporations seems politics as usual, not a criminal offense. Might the problem be the law and not the lawbreaker? Alas, a law is a law and a lawmaker should know better. Perhaps more details will emerge placing DeLay's alleged misdeeds on a Dan Rostenkowski, or even a Ted Kennedy, level.
Though the accusations aren't big, the accused is. The indicted Texas congressman stands poised to undermine his party's slated candidates just as he undermined his party's stated principles. The loyalists who stood by DeLay as he made government bigger will not stand by him as he makes the Republican caucus smaller.
It's week four, and NFL games will be played in Mexico City and San Antonio. All picks are against the spread. I urge all FlynnFilers to participate. I defend my crown as follows: PATRIOTS -5.5 over Chargers, JAGUARS -3.5 over Broncos, Texans +9.5 over BENGALS, TITANS +7 over Colts, Eagles +2 over CHIEFS, BUCS -6.5 over Lions, Rams +3 over GIANTS, Bills even over SAINTS, Seahawks +2 over REDSKINS, RAVENS -7.5 over Jets, Vikings +6 over FALCONS, RAIDERS -3 over Cowboys, CARDINALS -2.5 over Niners, and, on Monday Night Football, PANTHERS -7.5 over Packers. The winner will be celebrated on FlynnFiles next Tuesday. Make your picks in the comments section below.
There are nine million "millionaire households" in America. That number is up 700,000 from 2004. TNS Financial Services, the group that conducted the survey, defines "millionaire household" as having a net worth of $1 million excluding the value of the subject's primary residence. By this definition, millionaire households rose eight percent this past year and thirty-three percent the previous year. Don't player hate. Player participate. Or, don't bother at all. People aren't companies. The bottom line isn't always the bottom line.
President Bush wants to federalize natural disaster response. "It may require change of law," the president explained on Monday. "It's very important for us as we look at the lessons of Katrina to think about other scenarios that might require a well-planned, significant federal response--right off the bat--to provide stability." A lesson one might reasonably draw from Katrina is that federal bureaucrats are incompetent to deal with disasters that occur 1,000 miles away. Why would President Bush want to award more power to Washington, DC for it to deal with local problems when Washington, DC failed miserably during Hurricane Katrina? Because President Bush, aside from the obvious power motivation that comes from running one branch of the federal government, is a centralizer who disdains federalism.
Stupid kids? No Child Left Behind. Hijackings on 9/11? Nationalize airport security. Divorce? A $1.5 billion "healthy-marriages" program. In addition to Katrina's lesson in federalism, there is a lesson in federalism offered by George W. Bush's presidency: Don't assume that everyone with an (R) next to their name shares your beliefs. If you do, your party identification will stay constant but your beliefs likely will not.
Week three's winner of the AYRFSF pool is....me. I went 10-4 to vanquish the competition. Key picks included the home dog Packers over the Bucs (hey, they covered), the Patriots in a big game after a loss (do they lose big ones? do they lose consecutive games? no, and no), the Broncos at home on Monday night (home field advantage is never so advantageous as a mile up), the Browns over the Colts (don't you think Romeo Crennel has Indy's offense figured out), and the Dolphins over the Panthers (the Dolphins were the classic letdown week pick as the Panthers came off a big win over the Pats). Now that you know my secrets, you'll be better equipped to beat me. The comments section is your outlet to praise my victory. Thursday's week-four pool is your outlet to be the best by beating the best. Bring it on, ballers and shotcallers.
Bob Dylan is a mysterious character who becomes even more mysterious after watching "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home." Part two of the Martin Scorsese-directed film airs tonight on PBS.
A generation projected their political ideals on Dylan, but an old friend reveals: "Bobby was not really a political person." Villified for going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Dylan admits of his pre-fame days: "I traded in my electric equipment for an acoustic guitar."
A teenage Robert Zimmerman lied to acquaintences that the voice behind a regional hit song was his own. He befriended a folkie with a massive record collection, only to abscond with his favorites while the friend was away. He fabricated stories of growing up in New Mexico, and deceived small-time players in the music industry that he had met several famous musicians.
"He was channelling Woody Guthrie," remembered one folk musician of his early days, while another confessed: "The first time I met him, he was acting--in a way. You can go anywhere you want when you're somebody else." Dylan himself addresses the identity crisis, saying that his name change from Zimmerman to Dylan meant nothing to him because his past meant nothing.
Martin Scorsese's Dylan is Woody Allen's Zelig, a human chameleon who adapts to his surroundings. Folkie? Rock Star? Gospel musician? Protest singer? In the forty-three years since the release of his first album, Bob Dylan has been all of these things. He has created classic albums in five consecutive decades--The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, and Time Out of Mind being but a few--but do we know anything, really anything, about the man behind the songs? Perhaps in a country where we know too much about our cultural icons--the women Marilyn slept with, what Paris looks like when the lights go out, the location of Michael's blemish, the drugs Elvis did--Dylan's mystique is refreshing.
Who is Bob Dylan? I don't know. I suspect the nasal-voiced man behind the shades doesn't know either. Perhaps Martin Scorsese will tell us in part two. Don't bet on it, though.
A jury convicted Lynndie England and a cop arrested Cindy Sheehan on Monday. Sheehan, a mother victimized by war, plays a traditional feminine role in relation to war. England, an enlistee who mistreated Iraqi prisoners, plays a less familiar one. Women make war policy (Condi Rice), and protest war policy (Cindy Sheehan). They've played the hero (Jessica Lynch). They've played the goat (Lynndie England). They've even played terrorist. Shortly after the war began, for instance, two women--one pregnant--unleashed a suicide bombing that killed three coalition soldiers.
We've never become used to women in their traditional war role, as the grieving mother, widow, or sister. It's not likely that civilization will be quicker to embrace these new roles--woman as soldier, woman as terrorist, woman as sadistic jailer. Women shooting and getting shot, as prisoner-of-war brutalizer and brutalized, blowing up themselves and other people--all this seems even more unnatural for women than for men. It's only 2005. There's more on the way. At least when it comes to war, for woman to approach equality with man she had to subtract from her traditional station.
Has the Ultimate Warrior self-destructed? That's what a new DVD released by the organization formerly known as the WWF contends. I haven't seen Warrior in about six months, but last time I saw him he was happily married with children, appeared as a physical specimen, and discussed various books that he had read. I didn't ask, but my suspicion is that he has money in his bank account as well. Sorry, but it appears Vince McMahon may have confused his hopes for reality with this vindictive release. Losing a prolonged legal battle will have this effect on you, particularly if you're a vengeful person.
The WWE apparently slammed Warrior on its Raw program Monday night--I don't watch anymore but received a phone call that relayed this info--and its web site includes a petty offer for Warrior to respond to the "uncensored, no-holds-barred thoughts about Warrior" contained in the "Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior" DVD. Ostensibly a fair-minded opportunity to rebut, the WWE's stunt is a rather juvenile and transparent attempt to sell more DVDs--using the hit-piece's target to promote it. Undoubtedly, some dolt in the WWE publicity department finds this incredibly clever. It's not.
Did the WWE miss the sad irony when titling this DVD? The organization has employed a disproportionately high number of people who have literally self-destructed. In the FlynnFiles interview I conducted with Warrior last year, he addressed the string of drug-related deaths of his former co-workers. "Typically, self-destruction happens in stages and each person is given ample opportunity to get their act together," Warrior told me. "S*!#, the autopsies came back and a lot of those guys died from street drugs. Hennig died from a coke overdose. Rick Rude died from [liquid] ecstasy. Davey Boy Smith was doing cocaine and ungodly amounts of growth hormone and all kinds of different steroids."
Davey Boy Smith, Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Miss Elizabeth, and Kerry von Erich--wildly entertaining wrestlers, and one jaw-dropping valet, that I grew up watching--are no longer with us in part, or in total, because of their substance abuse. Warrior, on the other hand, has led a sucessful life outside of wrestling. While wrestling wants him, Warrior doesn't seem to want wrestling. And I guess this jilted-lover syndrome explains a part of the animus toward Warrior from the wrestling community. Warrior did his thing, became one of the most popular wrestlers in history, and then he was gone. Had he overdosed on the road, or continued to appear on national television in underwear into his forties, Warrior would likely be lionized by those who currently villify him. But Warrior went on to new challenges, and that is his real crime in the eyes of many former friends and fans.
Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas is now available in paperback. It hits stores nationwide today. William F. Buckley and Thomas Sowell are among those who praised Intellectual Morons, which received a mention in Time magazine, was reviewed here, here, here, and here, and has been picked up for publication in Turkey. Hopefully, all that will convince you to pick up a paperback copy--if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend or foe.
I speak at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Thursday, September 29. My lecture takes place at 7 p.m. and will be held in Albright Auditorium. The lecture topic is Why the Left Hates America. The event, which is sponsored by Young America's Foundation and the HWSC College Republicans, is free and open to the public. If you live in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, I hope to see you at the event.
"Barry Goldwater long ago assailed Dwight D. Eisenhower for presiding over a 'Dime Store New Deal,'" Robert Novak writes. "That stinging rebuke no longer would be appropriate for today's Republicans. They outdo Democrats on pork and are in the same ballpark on entitlements. Even Katrina and now Rita do not restrain them." Novak reports that House Republicans who called for cuts to offset hurricane relief spending got chastised by the Republican leadership in a "closed-door" meeting last week. And when will the Republican leadership be holding a private meeting to castigate GOP big-spenders?
"[A]bortion rights groups...can always be counted on to say or do something sufficiently extreme that it makes it just that much harder for the rest of us to defend our position out in the public square," confesses pro-abortion writer Amy Sullivan in the Boston Globe. As evidence, Sullivan points to ads that portrayed Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as in-step with abortuary bombers, a ''Screw Abstinence Party" thrown by NARAL's Washington-state affiliate, and the revulsion expressed by Democratic activists at the suggestion by party leaders that they open up their tent to include pro-lifers. Abortion-rights supporters come off as extremists, but is it really their means that give them this reputation?
Pro-abortion Democrats would be wise to heed Sullivan's advice. But they would be better off heeding mine: stop promoting the killing of babies with vacuum cleaners, saline harpoons, and other weapons. Surely this would be good for public relations.
Led Zeppelin was the best-selling act of the 1970s. Were they a proto-metal band? A 12th-century minstrel show? White, English bluesmen? They were all of these things and more. Here are their ten best songs.
10. Whole Lotta Love--Before Stairway to Heaven, this was Led Zeppelin's signature song. After eight albums, this stands as the band's only top-ten single. When fans say John Bonham played tree trunks, you believe it after hearing this song. Led Zeppelin II (buy it here) was actually the band's second album to appear in 1969.
9. Going to California--Copied by Pearl Jam in "Given to Fly," nothing beats the original. GTC appears on the fourth best-selling album (buy it here) of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
8. All of My Love--Led Zeppelin find the synthesizer.
7. Achilles Last Stand--I'm ready to go to battle against some ancient hoplites, how about you? At 10:26, this stands as the third longest Zeppelin song.
4. No Quarter--The riffmaster offers my all-time favorite Zeppelin riff. When people say Led Zeppelin sold their souls to the devil (save JPJ), I don't believe it. When I hear No Quarter, I do. This song is spooky.
3. The Rain Song--At LAV School at Camp Pendleton in 1996, I played this song on the 52-area bar's jukebox non-stop. It's mellow, but not mellow. Crank up the mellotron. Houses of the Holy (buy it here) stands as the creative height of Led Zeppelin.
2. Ten Years Gone--Quiet to loud to quiet to loud. The most underrated Zeppelin song.
1. Stairway to Heaven--At 5:56 you begin to hear something you've never heard before. At 6:42 you hear something better. The Memorial Day top-500 songs countdown that your local classic-rock station does every year always ends the same way: "And she's buying...a stairway to...hea...ven." Sometimes everyone agrees on something for a reason: because it's the best.
British MP George Galloway implored the crowd to "stand against the war criminals, Tony Blair and George Bush." "Let George Bush go" to Iraq, declared International ANSWER spokesman Brian Becker. "Let his children go. Let them see if the Iraqi people greet them as liberators, or as imperialist occupiers." Johnson-era attorney general Ramsey Clark told those gathered that the war in Iraq was built on "deliberate lies," and that Haiti's Aristide would make a much better president of the United States than George Bush. "Abu Ghraib shows the heart of American respect for human dignity," Clark said.
Tens of thousands marched on the White House Saturday, making the event one of the largest protests since commencement of the war in Iraq. I spent the day talking with anti-war protestors outside the White House, on the Mall, and in the streets of Washington, DC.
The words of those on the listening side of the podium echoed the words of those on the speaking side. "It was clear that Bush doesn't care because it was mainly poor people who were put out of their homes," opined Pennsylvania activist Lorie Polansky about the president's reaction to Hurricane Katrina. "It was none of his friends." "Bush does whatever helps his big contributors," Jonathan Steed told me. "There's no accountability on his part. He just does whatever they tell him to do." "Basically," a first-time marcher explained to me, "the Republicans are greedy, racist pigs."
While the stated reason for the gathering is the war in Iraq, those gathered cited many issues--the Florida election controversy, SUVs, corporate influence in politics, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina--that motivate them. "Bush Is a National Disaster," "9/11--Truth Now (Hint: It Was an Inside Job)," and "There's No Liberty Without PRIVACY, My Constitutional Right" were a few of the disparate signs held up by protestors. The usual suspects peopled the ranks of the International ANSWER/United for Peace and Justice-organized event. But a greater percentage of enthusiastic neophytes turned out than could be seen at past protests, which had been dwindling in numbers since early 2003. Talking with activists, and seeing more of them in the streets, provided testimony to the effectiveness of Cindy Sheehan's campaign against the war, which has clearly reenergized the anti-war Left.
Unlike the larger, prewar protests, today's event benefits--one would think--from a public dissatisfied with, and in opposition to, the war. Amid the colorful political theater of imitation George Bushes, the radical cheerleaders, and thirteen-foot high protestors on stilts, the event conveyed a grayer, more effective message than previous events. Rows of military-issue leather boots, graveyard crosses, families of soldiers serving in the war, and a chain of 8 1/2 by 11 pictures of the more than 1,900 Americans who have died in the war--longer than seven football fields shouted a demonstrator--imparted the point that Americans are dying in a far-off land in a war based on since-discredited presumptions. It's unclear if this serious point will reach the public through the distractions of inflammatory banners, Communist literature tables, and out-there speaker rhetoric. Though the war is unpopular with a majority of Americans, the anti-war movement is unpopular with a larger majority of Americans.
Speakers and protestors hoped for an end to the war in Iraq and the impeachment of George W. Bush. Protest veterans were not so optimistic. "I don't think it will have an influence," said Matt Geiger of the event. "I'm here because there's no place else to vent your frustration."
Twenty-five years ago today, John Bonham got drunk. Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, John Bonham didn't wake up. Thus ended one of the greatest rock bands. Stop by FlynnFiles on Sunday for a special tribute to Led Zeppelin on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their expiration.
Leavander Johnson was the IBF lightweight champion on Saturday. Today he is dead. Boxing killed him. He lost a championship bout with Jesus Chavez, protesting the 11th-round stoppage by referee Tony Weeks. Johnson soon collapsed in his dressing room and underwent brain surgery. He never regained consciousness, but fought through his malady until his organs began shutting down on Thursday afternoon. He was 35, and the father of four children.
Johnson is the biggest name to die in the ring in my lifetime as a boxing fan. In addition to being a champion, Johnson sported a 34-5-2 record. Included in those 34 wins is a knockout of Sharmba Mitchell, a world-class fighter. Twenty-three years ago, Duk Koo Kim died after suffering a 14th-round knockout at the hands of Ray Mancini. Like the Johnson-Chavez fight, the Kim-Mancini contest was for the lightweight championship. Although other big-name fighters have killed other boxers--fellow Boxing Hall-of-Famer Barry McGuigan killed an opponent earlier in 1982--Mancini is generally the fighter that casual fans associate with ring deaths. The fallout from Duk Koo Kim's death was enormous. Technical Knockouts (TKOs) come quicker, fight doctors are more apt to stop fights, pre- and post-fight medical evaluations are now quite rigorous, and, most importantly, Kim's death led directly to the abolition of the 15-round fight. What came as a blessing for fighters came as a curse for fight fans.
There are no pinch hitters, timeouts, or substitutions in boxing. There is no halftime. In the last decade, more than 75 boxers have died as a result of injuries suffered in the ring. Most of the fallen come from the lighter weight classes, where the action is non-stop.
It's called the fight game, but boxing is no game. When we think heroism in sport, we think of Willis Reed limping onto the court from Madison Square Garden's tunnel, Curt Schilling's bloody-sock win over the Yankees, or Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg. These performances qualify as heroic, but do they belong in the same sentence as Muhammed Ali ready to answer the bell for the 14th round in Manilla, Diego Corrales's twice-up-from-the-canvas TKO of Luis Castillo, or the Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti trilogy? The question answers itself, but in case it doesn't for you: they don't. Unfortunately, what makes boxing barbaric also makes it the greatest of all sports. At its height, boxing is better than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and the World Series rolled into one. At its depths, and Leavander Johnson's death qualifies, boxing is more horrendous than all other sports combined.
Duk Koo Kim wrote "kill or be killed" on his hotel-room mirror prior to his fatal bout with Ray Mancini. The day before Johnson lost his title to Chavez, he told a reporter: "they would have to kill me before I lost it." Athletes often speak in such terms. When boxers do, they tell the truth.
Week three of the NFL season has arrived, and all of the cyberspace nation of FlynnFiles guns for the AYRFSF co-champions, Tarbash and Wayne Gro. Picks are against the spread, which is non-negotiable. Home teams are in caps. It's a bye week for the Texans, Redskins, Ravens, and Lions. Here are my picks: JETS -2.5 over Jaguars, RAMS -6.5 over Titans, EAGLES -8 over Raiders, Bengals -3 over BEARS, VIKINGS -4 over Saints, DOLPHINS +3 over Panthers, Browns +13.5 over COLTS, Falcons +3 over BILLS, PACKERS +3.5 over Bucs, SEAHAWKS -6 over Cardinals, Patriots +3 over STEELERS, Cowboys -6.5 over NINERS, CHARGERS -6 over Giants, and, in the Monday-night matchup, BRONCOS -3 over Chiefs. Make your picks in the comments section below. The winner will be the subject of a FlynnFiles national holiday on Tuesday.
The fat lady has sung. With Senate uber-liberal Pat Leahy coming out in favor of confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and two of his Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues--Wisconsin Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold-- following his lead, President Bush's first choice for the Supreme Court seems assured to suceed his former boss, William Rehnquist. What made Roberts palatable to three committee liberals makes him discomforting to scores of conservatives. If Roberts had a Constitutionalist record, or had made Constitutionalist statements to the committee, that indicated where he might come down on affirmative action, abortion, gay marriage, and other issues bound to come before the court, Leahy would be stridently against and conservatives would be confidently for.
Roberts's outstanding performance before the committee will hurt Bush's next nominee. Roberts raised the bar. The next nominee will not only have to outshine Senators (which is not hard), but will have to outperform Roberts (which is hard). But Roberts's graceful evasiveness will have sharpened the inquisitory techniques of Senate Democrats, as well. They'll all be out for blood next time, just as presidential hopeful Joe Biden was out for blood this time. By declining to fillibuster Roberts, and in fact providing many of his confirmation votes, Democrats will have awarded themselves a free pass to obstruct the next nominee. And it may matter little who that next nominee is, for they will likely sit on the court of Robert Bork, Clement Haynesworth, and Harrold Carswell, and not the court of Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, and Anthony Kennedy.
"Why don't you leave now," Murray Rothbard exhorted Young Americans for Freedom libertarians 36 years ago, "and let the 'F' in YAF stand then for what it has secretly stood for all along--'fascism'?" Tell us what you really think, Murray. Don't hold back.
Rothbard's tirade, revisited today by LewRockwell.com, demonstrates the libertarian penchant for imprudence from the brilliant. It also shows that the fissures on the Right today are nothing new. "So what kind of a free market position is one that favors the outlawry of marijuana?," asked Rothbard, "And what of the state monopoly military-industrial complex that the system has spawned?" Rothbard colorfully points to differences between conservatives and libertarians in their attitudes toward civil liberties, the draft, the war, and the police.
In addition to highlighting the libertarian tendency toward injudiciousness and the durability of the Right's internal debates, Rothbard's analysis reveals a more depressing thought borne out of what he doesn't say. Rothbard quibbles with conservatives--of the man and strawman variety--over such issues as military spending and space exploration, but does not outright charge his opponents with desiring to make government bigger than the Great Society behemoth. There's no debate about medicare, federal education spending, nationalization of airline security, farm subsidies, federal disaster insurance, and nation-building because both Rothbard and his stated enemies--"the fusionists, those misleaders" and "the frank theocrats, the worshippers of monarchy, the hawkers after a New Inquisition"--didn't dream of supporting such nonsense. From the privileged vantagepoint of the future, it is easy to see that past libertarian/conservative disagreements belie agreements. The 2005 conservative no longer takes this common ground for granted among others speaking in his name.
Rothbard's dichotomy of Right ultraists and Right accomodationists demonstrates how far we've come, and in what direction--left. Any purist of 2005 would happily settle for the government as envisioned by the pragmatists of 1969. Any pragmatist of 2005 would have been called a liberal in 1969.
The South Pole's ice cap is getting smaller and smaller--on Mars.
Michael Oakeshott, Joe Sobran writes in a column deserving of your attention, is "a subtle corrective to the impulse to demand, on all occasions, that government Do Something." But government is not only generally limited in its power to right wrongs, government in most cases would be better off doing nothing. For in acting, it compounds the collective injury and gives false hope that it can eliminate all sorts of evil, e.g., poverty, human nature, and hurricanes, to name but a few.
In another essay, Sobran quotes Oakeshott on the false god of the state: "To some people, 'government' appears as a vast reservoir of power which inspires them to dream of what use might be made of it. They have favorite projects, of various dimensions, which they sincerely believe are for the benefit of mankind, and to capture this source of power, if necessary to increase it, and to use it for imposing their favorite projects upon their fellows is what they understand as the adventure of governing men. They are, thus, disposed to recognize government as an instrument of passion: the art of politics is to inflame and direct desire."
Oakeshott then contrasts the fantasist's view of government with the conservative's: "the man of [conservative] disposition understands it to be the business of a government not to inflame passion and give it new objects to feed upon, but to inject into the activities of already too passionate men an ingredient of moderation, to restrain, to deflate, to pacify, and to reconcile; not to stoke the fires of desire, but to damp them down. And all this, not because passion is vice and moderation virtue, but because moderation is indispensable if passionate men are to escape being locked in an encounter of mutual frustration." The former position breeds demagogues; the latter, one hopes, statesmen.
To place Oakeshott's words in the context of current events, it is reckless to tell people that the government can stop hurricanes and foolish for government to try.
An answer to why the modern impulse toward government solutions can be found in Rationalism in Politics, in which Oakshott describes how "a beneficient and infallible technique replaced a beneficient and infallible God." In other words, man deposed God and installed himself in His place. Man proved an unworthy successor. The "rationalist," as Oakeshott terms those who put faith in political answers to all problems, "cannot imagine...politics which do not consist in solving problems, or a political problem of which there is no 'rational' solution at all. Such a problem must be conterfeit. And the 'rational' solution of any problem is, in its nature, the perfect solution." Thereby debate is curtailed (Why listen to any but the scientifically derived political solution?) and the quest for the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.
Government should "do something" about the common defense, adjudicating disputes, coining money, awarding patents, and other roles for which it is well suited and authorized. Regarding most of the modern state's pursuits, politicians would be better off reading Oakeshott and doing nothing.
Nevada's Harry Reid, leader of the Senate Democrats, announced Tuesday that he will vote "no" on John Roberts's nomination as chief justice of the Supreme Court. "I'm not too sure," Reid said of Roberts, "if his heart is as big as his head." Doesn't that speak volumes in a sentence? Emotion over logic, feeling over thinking, heart over mind.
Wayne Gro and Tarbash share the honors as co-champions of week two's AYRFSF pool. Both victors went 10-5-1, with the Chargers-Broncos contest ending in a push. Road teams ruled in week two. The visiting Rams, Jaguars, Steelers, Browns, Chiefs, Redskins, and yes, Giants all covered. Tarbash picked all these road winners, and Wayne Gro got five of seven correct. Winners, testify. Losers, congratulate.
Intellectual Morons comes out in paperback in one week. Twenty-five, shiny author copies appeared in my mail yesterday, and they look sharp. Three Rivers Press is the publisher. Proudly atop the cover is Thomas Sowell's 2004-end comment that Intellectual Morons was "one of this year's best books." If you haven't picked up Intellectual Morons yet, order Amazon to send the new paperback to your door. While you're at it, order a copy of Why the Left Hates America too.
North Korea demands that the United States provide it with a nuclear-power plant, and then in return, North Korea will abandon its efforts to build nuclear weapons. Somebody in the White House should show President Bush Raiders of the Lost Ark so that he understands that this sort of deal never works out in the end.
People who aren't responsible for the money they have aren't responsible about the money that they spend. Observe the consumer habits of ne'er-do-wells who "find" other people's credit cards, gamblers who hit the weekend motherlode, trust-fund millionaires, or welfare recipients on the first day of the month. Do they pay their bills, put money in the bank, or buy groceries? Or, do they buy rounds, $200 sneakers, and PlayStation2 games? Too often it's the latter set of choices. So it is no great shock that the $2,000 "emergency" debit cards issued by FEMA and the Red Cross have been used at several Houston gentlemen's (sorry for the euphemism) clubs, including establishments called Caligula XXI and Baby Dolls. Others bought Louis Vuitton bags and expensive high-heeled shoes with their cards. You got looted.
President Clinton wants President Bush to push for tax hikes to pay for Hurricane Katrina recovery spending. President Bush is presumably content to expand deficits to pay for the increased spending. Conservatives want Congress and President Bush to offset spending increases with spending cuts--or better yet, not to make the massive Hurricane Katrina expenditures at alll and cut additional spending while they're at it.
Party conservative Tom DeLay says there is nothing left to cut. Movement conservatives disagree. Michelle Malkin points to the $3 million federal subsidy for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which seeks to bring baseball to poor children. RedState objects to $7.1 million for a Georgia museum on infantry. The new Porkbusters site lists scores of local projects funded by federal pork starting with Alaska's $315,000,000 "bridge to nowhere" and concluding with West Virginia's "$200,000 for streetscape improvements in Berkeley Springs." The Porkbusters site is a work in progress, so I encourage readers to add pork projects that you are aware of to their list. My own addition to the very long list compiled by Porkbusters is the $23 million allocated to relocate a government building to allow the Washington Nationals the space to build their new stadium. A multimillion-dollar pork project in the city where I live--who would have thought it?
Bad times are fleeting. Government programs launched to alleviate them are forever. Among the many pernicious effects of Hurricane Katrina may be the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act.
"I think that's one of the interesting issues that Congress needs to take a look at," says President Bush of the 1878 legislation. Speaking in similarly coded and as easily decoded language, Senator John Warner last week declared: "I believe the time has come that we reflect on the Posse Comitatus Act." Why? Who wants to deploy the Army to their town? Repealing the Posse Comitatus Act gives the federal government more power at the expense of the states--and the residents therein. As if it's not bad enough that presidents send troops to Lebanon or Somalia without Congressional approval, presidents will now be able to invade Michigan. And what effect will all this have on the armed forces? Instead of training to kill the enemy, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines will now prepare for additional, amorphous missions. Quelling riots? Policing? Hurricane relief? Drug enforcement? Anti-poverty efforts? When the government uses the military for domestic purposes, the military either ceases to act as the military or it acts as the military. Neither is a pleasing option.
Part of being a free citizen is doing what you want so long as it presents no harm. When I served in the Marines, the appropriate response to the orders of fellow Marines of a superior rank was "Yes, sir." Now that I have made the transition from part-time to full-time citizen, the appropriate response is "Get lost." There are other appropriate responses, some not printable, but all suggesting the same sentiment: I am a citizen of a free country, not a banana republic. Don't tell me what to do.
We have gone from a citizenry jealous of its liberties to a citizenry generous of its liberties. Some call this progress.
Michael Schiavo is writing a book. This is about as surprising as seeing the sun this morning. Terri Schiavo proved to be Michael Schiavo's lottery ticket. First, he won a specious $1 million medical-malpractice lawsuit and spent a huge chunk of the proceeds to end rather than improve Terri Schiavo's life. Now, he's cashing in on his wife's death by writing a book. Terri Schiavo's medical condition, and her subsequent but not consequent death, overstuffed Michael Schiavo's wallet. Gratitude takes many forms. Denial of food and water is not one of them. Michael Schiavo is ghoulish.
I support the "armies of compassion." I just don't support instituting a draft for the armies of compassion. My attitude toward President Bush's "armies of compassion" is a lot like to my attitude toward President Bush's regular army: voluntary sacrifice is laudable, but forced sacrifice is condemnable. In fact, more of the latter leads to less of the former. When so much is being taken, who wants to give? And "give" we will. Some estimates place President Bush's Hurricane Katrina recovery package at $200 billion. That's more than $2,000 conscripted for the "armies of compassion" from every tax return that owes the IRS. The taxpayers will sacrifice. The tax spenders will not. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid holds, "I'm not into finding where we can cut yet." "My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay claims. "But nobody has been able to come up with any yet." Nobody? Many of the taxpayers forced to pay more will be hard pressed to come up with the money. But those taxpayers will find ways to cut their budget to fund theirs. For there are no conscientious objectors to the federal government's armies of compassion.
Republican House Leader Tom DeLay has declared "victory" in the war on government spending. President Bush's 2006 budget outlays stand at $2.6 trillion. Shortly after Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, both houses of Congress approved, and President Clinton signed, a $1.6 trillion budget. "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good," Congressman DeLay maintains. If a $1 trillion increase in federal spending means "victory," then you're not playing for my team.
Week two of the NFL season is here. Home teams are in caps. All picks are against the spread. Here are my picks: Ravens -3.5 over TITANS, TEXANS +6 over Steelers, COLTS -9 over Jaguars, BEARS +2 over Lions, BENGALS -3 over Vikings, Niners +13.5 over EAGLES, BUCS -2.5 over Bills, Patriots -3 over PANTHERS, SEAHAWKS -1 over Falcons, CARDINALS even over Rams, Dolphins +6 over JETS, PACKERS -6.5 over Browns, BRONCOS -3 over Chargers, RAIDERS +1.5 over Chiefs, and, in the Monday-night games--plural, you read it right--Giants -3 over SAINTS (I hate to be so technical, but the Saints are the home team even though they play at Giants Stadium), and COWBOYS -6 over Redskins. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. Make your picks in the comments section below.
In response to Senator John Kyl's concerns about the trend of judges citing foreign laws to alter U.S. law, John Roberts outlined two problems with the use of international law to shape U.S. law. "If we're relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge," Roberts noted. "And yet he's playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country."
Roberts's second problem stemmed from the arbitrary nature of citing foreign law. "Domestic precedent can confine and shape the discretion of the judges," he observed. "Foreign law, you can find anything you want. If you don't find it in the decisions of France or Italy, it's in the decisions of Somalia or Japan or Indonesia or wherever. As somebody said in another context, looking at foreign law for support is like looking out over a crowd and picking out your friends. You can find them. They're there." Roberts scornfully noted that this "allows the judge to incorporate his or her own personal preferences, cloak them with the authority of precedent--because they're finding precedent in foreign law--and use that to determine the meaning of the Constitution."
In other words, don't expect to read Chief Justice John Roberts cite the "overwhelming weight of international opinion," as Justice Anthony Kennedy recently did.
Constitutionalists who believe John Roberts a net gain from the man he replaced got a reality check on Tuesday. "I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception and availability of that," Roberts opined. "The court, since Griswold, has grounded the privacy right discussed in that case in the liberty interest protected under the due process clause."
Roberts's interrogator, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, responded by saying he was "delighted" by Roberts's answer. Why shouldn't he be? Griswold was the 1965 case that found a right to privacy that appears nowhere in the Constitution. In addition to its immediate effect of prohibiting states from restricting the sales of condoms and other contraceptive devices, Griswold made possible the grounds used in the Roe v. Wade case to block states from forbidding almost all abortions. While Roberts spoke freely about Griswold v. Connecticut, he refused to comment on Roe v. Wade. On the former case, he takes the liberal position. On the latter case, he takes none. But leave it to wishful conservatives to project their fantasies upon Roberts in regard to Roe and erase his stated opinions with regard to Griswold.
Senate liberals are obsessed with abortion. All other issues combined don't matter as much as that one issue: the right of a woman to kill her unborn child. Arlen Specter queried: "Would you think that Roe might be a super-duper precedent?" Joe Biden asked, "Do you think there's a liberty right of privacy that extends to women in the Constitution?" Diane Feinstein questioned: "[I]n its decision in Casey, the court specifically affirmed the doctrine of stare decisis, as it applies to Roe.... In doing so, the court unambiguously concluded that Roe has in no sense proven unworkable. Do you agree with this conclusion?" And on it went.
Confirmation hearings now resemble political campaigns, where judges are expected to make promises in exchange for votes. But like all good candidates, the nominee seeks to appear all things to all people. So he, as John Roberts did Monday, shuts his mouth. Why should he open it? To please the Senate liberals, any judge who doesn't believe the Constitution contains a right to abortion has to lie. Either he lies now by saying he believes Roe v. Wade based on sound jurisprudence, or he lies later by agreeing that the Constitution says what it plainly does not. Either way, the process, like politics itself, can have the effect of making honest men dishonest. Better say nothing, the nominee reasons, and so he does.
But why save this silent approach for hearings? Nominees would be wise to stay silent on all strictly political questions as judges. Political questions, after all, are for the polis to speak on, not nine robed lawyers. John Roberts's ability to stay silent on issues where his voice--the judicial voice--does not speak authoritatively will largely determine his success or failure in staying loyal to the Constitution, federalism, and republican government.
Abortion, sodomy, capital punishment, medical marijuana, euthanasia, and other hot-button topics are for voters, not judges, to decide. When you politicize the judiciary--when you transform political questions decided by electorates into legal ones decided by judges--you necessarily politicize judicial confirmation hearings. The C-SPAN-circus the we regretfully watch is a natural outcome of this unhealthy development. How to change the ugly tone, the evasions, and the fanaticism? The judiciary must cease acting as a superlegislature and start acting as a judiciary.
Week one of the NFL season is in the books, and ASDF is the first champion of the FlynnFiles AYRFSF '05 pool. ASDF picked eleven of sixteen winners, despite failing to make a pick in the Vikings-Bucs contest. He made up for this by picking both the Saints and the Panthers to win (cry foul if you must). ASDF took the homedogs in the Falcons and Dolphins, and made gutsy picks of the visiting Cowboys, Colts, and Bengals. Losers: offer congratulations in the comments section. Winner, ASDF: share your mastery and unusual techniques with the readership, and claim the accolades that you so richly deserve.
"We ought to bring in the legislature from another state--maybe Wisconsin or Minnesota--to handle our money," political consultant James Carville once suggested about his home state of Louisiana. "In return, we'll handle the cooking and entertainment for them." Some ideas make too much sense to be tried. Knowing that good-government types won't be imported to run the Pelican State, which Louisiana politicians should get their hands on the $62 billion in federal aid?
John Roberts began filling in his empty canvass before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Constitutionalists liked what they heard. "Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around," Roberts told the committee. "Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them.... I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat." The baseball rulebook isn't a "living document." Neither is the Constitution.
There is no right to privacy in the Constitution, and if there were such a right, a right to an abortion would not logically follow. Strange that so many senators wholly base their confirmation vote on whether a potential judge will affirm a non sequitur abortion right falsely inferred from a right that nobody can find in the Constitution.
Do you get the feeling that you're watching repeats when you turn on the news? Gasoline costs $3.07 per gallon. American might gets a black-eye halfway round the world in
Iran Iraq. The stock market stagnates. Global warming is the new acid rain. America pursues a foreign policy based on the freedoms and human rights of other nations. President Carter's Bush's approval rating lays below 40 percent. I may not be reporting this on my CB radio, but is a blog all that different? It's the 1970s again, only the music is a lot worse.
"All FDNY, get the f*** out!," commanders ordered firefighters in the North Tower shortly after the South Tower collapsed. "We're not f***ing coming out!," the firemen answered. The heroes and the villains of September 11, 2001 number too many to list. Four years later, we can remember but not revise history. A year ago, I read the 9/11 Report. My reaction can be read in part one, part two, part three, and part four. Pray for the souls of the departed.
C-SPAN2 will reair the Great Books to Read in College panel that I moderated at Young America's Foundation's National Conservative Student Conference in August. The rebroadcast will occur at 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 11. Jonah Goldberg called the panel "a serious, humane and highly intellectual discussion about books and their importance." About my take on the history of conservative books, he added, "Flynn...got just about everything exactly right. I also think he was basically right that conservative books have gotten a lot worse in the last decade." I agree with him. I think Jonah got just about everything exactly right about me getting just about everything exactly right. I also think he was basically right in saying that I was basically right that conservative books have gotten a lot worse in the last decade. (My apologies for the silliness of these last few lines. I promise to refrain for the next two sentences.) The panelists--Regnery's Marjory Ross, Spence's Mitch Muncy, and Doubleday's Adam Bellow--recommended some great books for the assembled students, while I outlined the paradox of greater opportunities for conservative authors corresponding with a declining product for conservative readers. Sit-in on the discussion at 4 p.m. Sunday on C-SPAN2 to understand why Jonah Goldberg said that the panel "made me very proud of conservatism as a movement." Chiggity-check it out.
Would you donate to a private charity if it handled a disaster as poorly as all levels of government handled Hurricane Katrina? About the only way that charity could get money out of you would be through force. The government has got you figured out.
The federal government is neither All State nor the Red Cross. But it likes to act as if it is from time to time. Specifically, when tragedies hit politicians enjoy playing savior. It's beneficial for election season, you see. The $52 billion federal relief package for Hurricane Katrina approved by Congress will cast politicians of both parties in a charitable light, but it's not charity. There's already a word for giving away other people's money without their consent. Doling out large sums of other people's money also correlates with a lack of concern about how that money is spent. The 9/11 relief package went to loans for day-care centers and golf courses in Georgia and Dunkin Donuts franchises in Pennsylvania. Who knows what unrelated purposes this enormous sum of taxdollars will subsidize?
The precedent set by this income distrution scheme is dangerous. After witnessing the post-evacuation-order spectacle of able-bodied citizens blaming their city government for failing to taxi them out of New Orleans, and then the city and state government blaming the federal government for failing to save the city they themselves refused to save, the federal government has in effect validated these take-no-responsibility complaints. The buck, in effect, has been passed to (or grabbed by) the federal government. But the federal government is the least eqipped level of government to deal with local disasters--even local disasters of a huge magnitude. The embrace of responsibilities smartly not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution will surely compound the effects of future disasters, natural and otherwise.
If 9/11 inspired a $20 billion federal subsidy to affected areas, and Hurricane Katrina inspires a projected $100 billion federal subsidy to affected areas, what will be the federal pricetag for future catastrophes? The one-upsmanship embraced by political figures, motivated by the fawning media attention acts of "public" charity generate, will certainly continue. Like education, health care, and other domains forbidden to the federal government in the 10th Amendment, disaster insurance is now yet another federal endeavor that will not go away. The toothpaste just doesn't go back in the tube as easily as it comes out.
New Orleans looters last week helped themselves to DVDs, flat-screen televisions, and cartons of cigarettes. Washington, DC looters on Thursday helped themselves to $52 billion. They'll be taking more, they assure us. The New Orleans looting is chump change compared to the DC variety. Shoot the looters, commanded a multitude of voices in the wake of Katrina. Can't these same voices muster even a weak call for taxpayers to withhold support from the elected looters who will transfer more than $1,000 per tax return to federal schemes in the name of hurricane relief?
The DC looters have the gall to label their acts "charity." The Big Easy looters were at least honest enough to concede their smash-and-grabs constituted theft.
Could the Gulf Coast reap an economic boon from Hurricane Katrina? "[O]ver the next 12 months, there will be lots of job creation which is good for the economy," believes economist Anthony Chan of J.P. Morgan. "On a personal level, the loss of life is tragic," contends the University of South Carolina's Doug Woodward. "But looking at the economic impact, our research shows that hurricanes tend to become god-given work projects."
These economists have fallen for the broken-window fallacy, as Walter Williams outlines in his latest column. The fallacy, debunked by Frederic Bastiat more than 150 years ago, holds that economies benefit from destruction, such as how the vandalized window of a shopkeeper benefits the glazier and thus, supposedly, the overall economy. "What's unseen is what the shopkeeper would have done with the money had the vandal not broken his window," Williams writes in summary of Bastiat. "He might have employed the tailor by purchasing a suit. The vandal's breaking his window produced at least two unseen effects. First, it shifted unemployment from the glazier who now has a job to the tailor who doesn't. Second, it reduced the shopkeeper's wealth. Had it not been for the vandalism, the shopkeeper would have had a window and a suit; now he has just a window." So no, unfortunately, there is no economic silver lining to Hurricane Katrina. The money that individuals, businesses, and governments will spend to rebuild the area, would have been spent on something else had the hurricane never happened--and the property would stand undamaged today.
I don't want to start another East Coast-West Coast type rap war, but did you see Master P dis Kanye West on CNN Headline News last night? By "dis" I mean disagree with, not disrespect (word to ya mutha). Master P, who grew up in the Big Easy's Caliope housing projects, seemed put off by West's attention-grabbing stunt. "Nobody should get publicity out of this," the dirt-poor to super-rich Master P held. Even West's tirade against George W. Bush bothered Master P. "We're going to need President Bush," the New Orleans-based rapper/actor/basketball player/businessman extraordinaire admitted. For his part, the New Orleans American Dream is putting his money where his mouth is by helping to launch the Katrina relief effort Team Rescue One, which I hereby declare the official FlynnFiles charity for Hurricane Katrina. Although all of us will "donate" more to the involuntary charity (my apologies for the oxymoron) fund the government has set up, I challenge all you cash-money millionaires to drop some coin into Team Rescue One today. As inappropriate it is for the federal government to turn itself into an ill-equipped Red Cross or March of Dimes for every tragedy, it is equally inappropriate for citizens to turn away from their fellow citizens when they need help. And let's face it, folks in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana really need our help. So are you 'bout it, 'bout it, or what?
The NFL season is upon us. Though the Super Bowl lies five months in the future, FlynnFiles readers are making their picks known now. Do your best Jimmy the Greek and tell the readership who will play, and who will win, Super Bowl XL, the supersized Super Bowl from Detroit, that tropical winter getaway nestled betwixt the white-sand beaches of Lakes Erie and Huron. I will be watching from my living room instead, and I will be watching the New England Patriots defeat the Minnesota Vikings. What game will you be watching on February 5, 2006?
"Anywhere from two to 2,000 people near the plant were reported to have been killed by causes ranging from the initial blast to lethal radiation," Time magazine reported immediately following 1986's nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine in the USSR. Five years later, USA Today contended that up to 10,000 people had died. About a decade after that, the BBC pointed to an estimate of 15,000 deaths. This week, a UN commission of 100 scientists placed the death toll at 56. Environmentalists, anti-Communists, and media sensationalists all had motive to inflate the enormity of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. No nuclear power plants have been built in Europe or North America since. The event gave a black eye to Mikhail Gorbachev's government, reinforcing the point that, despite the youthful makeover at the top, this was the same old Soviet Union. And, like the fabrications surrounding the current tragedy, Chernobyl myths sold newspapers. The lesson? Don't believe everything you read--unless I write it.
The NFL is back, and so is the FlynnFiles football pool. So make sure your picks are posted in the comments section before the NFL's 86th season kicks off at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. FlynnFiles has expanded its readership since last season, so I strongly encourage newcomers to participate and welcome back the veterans. The more combatants the merrier. All picks are against the spread. Home teams are listed in caps. My picks are as follows: PATRIOTS -7.5 over Raiders, DOLPHINS +4.5 over Broncos, Bengals -3.5 over BROWNS, Texans +5 over BILLS, STEELERS -7 over Titans, REDSKINS -6 over Bears, PANTHERS -7 over Saints, VIKINGS -6 over Bucs, JAGUARS -3 over Seahawks, Jets +3 over CHIEFS, GIANTS -2 over Cardinals, Rams -5.5 over NINERS, LIONS -3 over Packers, CHARGERS -4.5 over Cowboys, Colts -3 over RAVENS, and, in the Monday night matchup, FALCONS +2 over Eagles. Make your picks in the comments section below. The winner will be announced next week to great fanfare.
Politicians who preach faith in government sow disappointment then disillusionment. Government can no more erase the suffering of natural disasters than it can create an oasis of freedom in a desert of oppression. Worshippers at the temple of the state--from both sides of the political spectrum--have recently been left disappointed and disillusioned by the failure of programs and policies to live up to their promise. There are more powerful forces than government. Hurricane winds and centuries of tradition are two that come to mind.
The greatest player to ever lace up a pair of football cleats retired Monday. Jerry Rice, owner of three Super Bowl rings, vanquisher of Father Time, and holder of 38 NFL records, called it quits rather than serve as the fourth receiver for the Denver Broncos this season. Just how good was (is?) Rice? His 208 touchdowns are 42 more than Emmitt Smith's second place; his 22,895 receiving yards are about 8,000 yards more than nearest competitor Tim Brown; he broke Steve Largent's touchdown reception mark in 1992, leaving him twelve more seasons to pad his record. Rice's most impressive feat is 23,540 yards from scrimmage, which he obtained despite essentially having but one way--through the air--to rack up those yards. Is Jerry Rice the best ever? While ESPN.com's experts put him second to Jim Brown, their readers give him more votes than Brown and Joe Montana combined. With the experts and fans at a standstill, my deciding vote breaks the deadlock: Jerry Rice is the greatest football player ever.
William Rehnquist, Supreme Court justice for 33 years, chief justice for 19 years, died Saturday night a month short of his eighty-first birthday. Rehnquist sought to bring the court from an age when justices read their own whim into law into an age when justices read the law as the law reads. Whether the Court enters this age or not will determine if Rehnquist is regarded as an aberration or a truly transitional figure. No matter his replacement, Chief Justice Rehnquist will be missed. Read his sensible Roe v. Wade dissent here, and consider how lonely Rehnquist's voice of common sense was three decades ago.
Last week I caught a Kanye West trainwreck on MTV2. Sway, MTV's genial rap expert who usually wears an interesting turban/headpiece, looked on in stunned silence as West recounted youthful homophobia and other off-topic meanderings. As the interview's ramblings continued, West was interrupted off-camera, presumably by a press aide horrified by what he saw. The emotive West waved him off and rambled on about his gay cousin. Sway's blank stare belied the gears turning in his head: "Am I witnessing this?" TV hadn't viewed such an incoherent rant since Fiona Apple cited Maya Angelou at 1997's Video Music Awards. So it was with disbelief that I glimped West on the cover of Time magazine a week back. "Hip-hop's class act," Time decreed. If West is "the smartest man in pop music," as Time proclaimed on its cover, then our culture is worse off than even the most dour pessimist imagined.
"George Bush doesn't care about black people," West told a nationwide audience via NBC's Friday-night fundraiser. "They're saying black families are looting and white families are just looking for food...they're giving the [Army] permission to shoot us." NBC didn't put the disjointed Mr. West on the air to inspire millions to change the channel. The sound they and their Gulf Coast beneficiaries were looking for was cha-ching, not click.
Should residents living on fault lines, mountainsides, and wetlands bear the financial burden of rebuilding after earthquakes, avalanches, and floods? Or, should this be every citizen's burden to bear through federal tax dollars? We know how Davy Crocket would answer this question. Another congressman, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, has caught flak for raising a cautionary flag about the manner in which New Orleans is rebuilt. "Maybe some parts of the city shouldn't be rebuilt," echoes RightWingNews. "Call that insensitive if you like, but a few tough questions today could end up saving 50 billion dollars and thousands of lives a few years down the road..." Are the House Speaker's comments, coming just a few days after a hurricane submerged New Orleans in water, insensitive? Or, is rebuilding parts of New Orleans neither prudent nor your responsibility?
At the risk of giving away the ending, Broken Flowers is a movie without an ending. Its protaganist, played by Bill Murray, is similarly a blank slate. Going with the film's "mystery" theme, the viewer is supposed to supply the answer to who, exactly, the leading man is. We know he's an aging Don Juan. His name, Don Johnston, and the black-and-white Don Juan movie playing on his televison, let the slower viewers pick up on this. Following in the fill-in-the-blank pattern, the dialogue is ever ambiguous--always leaving room for interpretation. When Murray goes on the road in search of a son he may have spawned twenty years earlier, his inquiries about any children his former girlfriends now have elicit answers that aren't answers. One now married old-flame responds that she never had children with her current husband, while the unforgettable "Lolita" (teenage daughter of Sharon Stone's character), when asked if she has any brothers or sisters, brattily responds: Why? Do you think I need some?
Though another Oscar nomination has been discussed for Murray, it shouldn't be in the cards this time--as his numerous supporting actresses steal scene after scene from him. It's Lost in Translation redux for Murray, who just turns the volume down in Broken Flowers on his earlier, already understated, Oscar-nominated role. Murray was better as this character the first time around.
Despite great acting, clever scenes, and the constant sense that the film's potential will be fulfilled around the next corner, Broken Flowers never delivers. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch is too clever by half. His attempts to impose deconstructionism on film grows old quick and is really a mask for laziness. If you're the painter, why not paint the whole canvass? Jarmusch offers a half-empty canvass and hands you the brush. Unfortunately, I paid $9.50 to watch Broken Flowers but received not a dime to write it.
The New York State Athletic Commission has lifted its medical suspension of Evander Holyfield. This means that Holyfield, while still banned in New York, can now fight elsewhere. And fight he will. Most likely, the Real Deal will take on journeyman Frank Wood in Italy next month.
Evander Holyfield is 42 years old. He is 2-5-2 since 1999. His last significant win came against Hasim Rahman in 2002. Late last year, the former heavyweight and crusierweight champion lost a lopsided unanimous decision to Larry Donald, hardly a household name. There is no quit in Evander Holyfield. This served him well in the ring--in his 15-round battle against Dwight Muhammad Qawi and in his epic trilogy against Riddick Bowe. This doesn't serve him well for a life outside the ring. Arguably the two greatest fighters in history--Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson--suffered through severe neorological problems after their prolonged boxing careers ended. If Holyfield desires more evidence of boxing's dangers he need only have a conversation with his in-ring nemesis Riddick Bowe. The one thing Evander Holyfield was incapable of doing in the ring he needs to now do outside of it: quit.
As much as I'd have liked for New York's ban to stay in force, I know that the Empire State's commission essentially rigged the rules to implement that ban in the first place. Head trauma and other health problems, not "diminished skills and poor performance," serve as legal impediments to a fight license. Despite fitting the disqualifying criteria outlined by the New York State Athletic Commission, Mike Tyson and Hector Camacho don't seem to have Holyfield's problems obtaining a license.
"Itís clear that Holyfield is being singled out," writes Ring Magazine's William Dettloff. "Why? Itís simple: People love the guy."
The mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat. The governor of Louisiana is a Democrat. Both houses of the state legislature are controlled by Democrats. Despite these facts, I have not heard a single Republican blame the disastrous situation in New Orleans on the opposition party.
The president of the United States is a Republican. His adversaries are having a field day casting stones at him. Robert Kennedy blamed President George W. Bush and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour for the tragedy, singling out their opposition to the Kyoto Treaty. The victims of Hurricane Katrina, Kennedy notes, "reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged." "In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent," Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal writes. "The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge." Liberal bloggers point to a perceived aloofness emanating from the president. "I just wish that the president gave a damn about what's happenend," reads the Daily Kos.
Why do Democrats play politics with Hurricane Katrina while Republicans shy away from blaming anyone save Mother Nature? Perhaps it is because people of Sidney Blumenthal's ilk are a few rungs lower on the decency ladder. Another explanation seems more relevant. Liberal Democrats see every problem as government caused and government solved. Conservative Republicans see government as limited in its benefits and as one among many spheres that constitute society. That liberals would politicize a natural disaster of the type that predates even politics shows the limitations on their outlook.
There are people in New Orleans who have had neither access to food nor, ironically, drinking water for several days. Who wouldn't raid a 7-11 if in a similar position? There are people in New Orleans who haven't had electricity for several days and won't have electricity for several months, yet have raided department stores in search of flat-screen televisions. Who would do this if in a similar position? A bad person. Looting adds insult to injury. It victimizes the victim a second time. It takes advantage of an already dredful situation. It's hard to imagine a more lawless situation than the packs setting upon Big Easy homes and businesses--until one learns the sad reality that some policemen have joined the roving brigands. The law-abiding citizens of New Orleans have awoken from one nightmare only to face another.
The man who coined the phrase "supply-side economics" is dead. Jude Wanniski served as an advisor to Ronald Reagan from 1978 to 1981, helping to shape the 40th president's tax policy that ultimately resulted in lowering top rates from 70 percent to 28 percent. Wanniski wrote editorials for the Wall Street Journal from 1972 until 1978, when an appalled Dow Jones executive caught him handing out campaign literature for supply-side convert Jeffrey Bell, who unseated Senator Clifford Case in the Republican primary but lost the general election to Bill Bradley. In addition to Reagan and Bell, other political figures influenced by Wanniski include tax-cutters Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, and, indirectly at least, George W. Bush. It was this latter figure's foreign policy which caused Wanniski to cast his vote for the Democratic nominee in 2004. A born maverick, Wanniski controversially urged Republicans to reach out to Louis Farrakhan and claimed in The Way the World Works that 1930's Smoot-Hawley Act caused 1929's Stock Market Crash. Occassional lapses in common sense are dwarfed by Wanniski's big idea--that tax cuts give individuals greater incentive to pursue entrepreneurial projects--which became government policy, sparked the longest period of peacetime economic growth in U.S. history until that time, and gave the Republican Party the only principle that currently unites all its diverse factions. How curious, then, that Wanniski, who bequeathed this cornerstone of contemporary Republican platforms, would pass away alienated from the Grand Old Party.