30 / April
30 / April
Evicted Tenet

Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet came off as a self-centered whiner on 60 Minutes. His interviewer didn't do much better. Tenet is known as the guy who called evidence of Iraqi WMD a "slam dunk." He's mad about this. It's not that he didn't say it, you see, it's that he was taken out of context. Tenet claims that he told the president that he could improve the weak case for Iraqi WMD and make it a "slam dunk" case. Is Tenet's version supposed to make him look any better?

Rather than focus on his own costly errors, he ranted over how "despicable" it was that someone high up leaked the "slam dunk" information. "Men of honor don't do this," he told 60 Minutes. But neither do men of honor volunteer to craft a "slam dunk" case when the evidence doesn't rate it. He admits failing to vet the president's 2003 state of the union address with its infamous sixteen words implying an Iraqi pursuit of uranium from Niger. He admits he got Iraq wrong, but lamely defends: "Intelligence, my business, is not always about the truth." In Tenet's world, intelligence is about "estimates" and "guesses" about "analysis." What about actual boots-on-the-ground intelligence? It doesn't seem to occur to Tenet that his eschewal of eyes-on intelligence in favor of "analysis" is the main reason for American intelligence's blunder in bombing a Sudanese aspirin factory, failure to avert 9/11, and promotion of WMD falsehoods in Iraq. All this happened on Tenet's watch. The emotional Tenet dubs the speculation that Bush's Medal of Freedom award to him muted his criticism the "most outrageous thing I have ever heard." He's certainly not mute now.

Tenet's most interesting remarks involved his revelation that the Iraq hawks began drumming up war against Saddam Hussein on 9/12. Tenet recalled bumping into Richard Perle on the day after 9/11 at the White House, where the then Defense Department adviser launched into a diatribe about making Iraq pay for 9/11. "What the hell is he talking about?," Tenet thought. An appropriate reaction, but, with Tenet running U.S. intelligence when it made it's most significant mistake in its history, his holier-than-thou criticism of his former comrades leads me to ask the same question about him.

27 / April
27 / April
The EU Dictatorship

The Polish prime minister believes that teachers who push homosexual propaganda should be fired. What homosexuality has to do with math, science, history, and other appropriate classroom subjects, I do not know. The EU, however, is aghast, and has dispatched investigators to examine "the emerging climate of racist, xenophobic and homophobic intolerance in Poland." Might the investigation itself be racist and xenophobic? The Poles aren't like the French, the Germans, or the Dutch with regard to homosexuality. The French, the Germans, and the Dutch want the Poles not to be like Poles, but to be like the French, the Germans, and the Dutch. And isn't that what the EU boils down to? A thuggish, centralizing, culturally imperialist body seeking to achieve through political machinations what its domineering member states failed to do through conquest?

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who Is the Scariest Democrat of Them All?

Eight candidates for the Democratic nomination for president debated in South Carolina Thursday. They all frighten me. Alas, so do most of the Republicans. On the Right, we are supposed to fear a President Hillary Clinton or a President Barack Obama. Believe me, I do. But I wonder if we should fear a Candidate Clinton or a Candidate Obama as much as we should fear a Candidate Edwards or a Candidate Gore. Democrats with a southern accent--Hillary's affected one doesn't count--fare better in general elections than those without. Northern liberals do well in presidential primaries, but do terrible in presidential elections. The scariest Democrat of them all is the one who can win.

Democrats have moved left and north the last sixty years. The relocation has been a disaster. It's moved the party away from the nation. The result is that the dynamics inside the party are profoundly different than the dynamics outside the party. This is less true for Republicans--the GOP has candidates all over the board on the major issues of the day--and was less true for pre-McGovern Democrats.

Since 1952, Democrats have won just five of fifteen presidential contests. Only once, in 1964, in those fifteen elections did a Democratic nominee win a majority of votes. That's a pretty pathetic record at the national level because the party has become regionally and ideologically narrow. In those fifteen elections, Democrats have nominated northerners--who tended to be more liberal--eight times. The result? Democrats lost seven of those eight contests. In contrast, when the Democrats nominated southerners--who tended to be more mainstream, politically and culturally--they boasted a respectable 4-3 record.

So, what are we to make of all this history? Looking back, Bill Clinton was a lot scarier than Michael Dukakis. But this is only because the former won and the latter lost. Before Election Day, the prospect of a Dukakis presidency should have scared conservatives more than the prospect of a Clinton presidency because Dukakis was well to the left of Clinton. Unfortunately, we don't have the benefit of hindsight when we pick a president. We do have the benefit of history. History tells us that the more radical a candidate comes off, the less likely it is that that candidate will win. In other words, the Democrats may be digging their own graves by serving up the candidate that Republicans fear the most and the Republicans may have misplaced anxiety. Give us a New York liberal for a candidate and, if history is any guide, we won't have a New York liberal for a president. The thing about history, though, is that it's always being made.

25 / April
25 / April
Worth Repeating #54

"The family is inherently an obstacle to schemes for central control of social processes. Therefore the anointed necessarily find themselves repeatedly on a collision course with the family. It is not a matter of any subjective animus on their part against families. The anointed may in fact be willing to shower government largess upon families, as they do on other social entities. But the preservation of the family as an autonomous decision-making unit is incompatible with the third-party decision making that is at the heart of the vision of the anointed."
--Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed, 1995

24 / April
24 / April
Boris Yeltsin, RIP

Emerging from the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin supposedly responded to a question of what the delegates had given America: "A republic, if you can keep it." Boris Yeltsin might have been wise to have said something similar to his fellow countrymen. He, more than anyone else, gave Russia a republic. But they couldn't keep it. Shame on them, not on him. Boris Yeltsin made a U-turn on more than seventy years of murder, repression, and imperialism, yet his obituaries depict him as a bafoon at best and a villain at worst. The Associated Press account insults by claiming that "many of [Russia's] citizens will remember him mostly for presiding over the country's steep decline." Perhaps some, particularly state officials of the Soviet regime, will. But many others will remember him for being unlike the seven tyrants who preceeded him and the one wannabe tyrant who succeeded him. How should Boris Yeltsin be remembered? As the only Russian leader who wasn't a murderer, tyrant, and oppressor, as uniquely possessing the right ideas about freedom and democracy, and as a courageous leader who stood up to Communist bullies when they tried to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Like most bullies, they folded when their bluffs were called. It's too bad Yeltsin's ideas were more interlude than inaugural. But at least he wasn't Stalin, or Lenin, or Gorbachev for that matter. Yeltsin buried that regime. For that Russians, and the ancestors of the victims of Soviet imperialism, should be thankful. Boris Yeltsin, rest in peace.

23 / April
23 / April
'Everything Not Forbidden Is Compulsory'

Twenty-five years ago, Kennesaw, Georgia mandated that each of its households retain a firearm. This, rather than the freedom to bear arms (or not), is the flip-side of gun control. The conservative position here is the moderate position. It neither bans nor mandates.

Intrusiveness aside, Kennesaw's experiment to mandate guns has been more successful than experiments to ban guns. Its crime rate, never terribly high to begin with, declined after instituting the ordinance. How did this happen? When it is assumed that everyone has a gun, the criminal element hesitates to use their guns. When it is assumed that nobody has a gun, the criminal element does not hesitate to use their guns. But freedom is a better argument than utility (see, Mussolini made the trains run on time).

There is a bumpersticker slogan that captures the liberal busybody in a few words: Everything Not Forbidden Is Compulsory. I thought of this when reminded of this local ordinance mandating gun ownership. Liberals should be grateful that conservatives are not like them. Conservatives, generally, don't seek to mandate gun ownership; they seek merely to allow it. Conservative jurists don't seek to outlaw abortion; they seek merely to allow states to outlaw it, allow it, or whatever.

In Washington, DC they ban guns and the crime rate is high. In Kennesaw, Georgia they mandate guns and the crime rate is low. For utilitarians, the result is most significant. For people who value freedom, the means are.

20 / April
20 / April
Pardon Me, Do You Speak Abortionese?

As opposed to the force of the decision, which is significant, the text of Anthony Kennedy's dry Gonzales v. Cahart opinion is noteworthy only in that it refers to the victim of a partial-birth abortion as "a child." In abortionese, a fetus is a child only when outside of the mother. But, if the baby fetus is being forcibly held in the birth canal, even if all but the baby's fetus's head, is outside, then the baby is merely a fetus. Justice Kennedy, apparently, made a faux pas in his use of English instead of abortionese, a tongue in which abortions become "medical miscarriages," babies "fetuses," abortionists "women's health providers," and terminating life a "reproductive" right. (And I suppose I have committed my own faux pas in my use of the possessive to refer to the fetus's head; it's the woman's body, not the fetus's, right?)

And Kennedy didn't just offend on that memorable "baby" count. He had the gall to call a partial-birth abortion by its name. Why? "A description of the prohibited abortion procedure demonstrates the rationale for the congressional enactment," Kennedy explains. "The Act proscribes a method of abortion in which a fetus is killed just inches before completion of the birth process." Put another way, a child is partially delivered and then aborted, i.e., a partial-birth abortion has occured.

Kennedy's indelicate use of language incensed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a fluent speaker of high abortionese. Surrounding partial-birth abortion with scare-quotes, the Clinton apointee sniffs that the term is "neither recognized in the medical literature nor used by physicians who perform second-trimester abortions." But the truth is, as Justice Thomas pointed out in his dissent in the initial Stenberg v. Carhart case, "When the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1995 was introduced in Congress, the term 'dilation and extraction' did not appear in any medical dictionary." "Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician-gynecologists and surgeons who perform abortions not by the titles of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label 'abortion doctor,'" Ginsburg notes of Kennedy's opinion in disbelief. "A fetus is described as an 'unborn child,' and as a 'baby,'; second-trimester, previability abortions are referred to as 'late-term,'; and the reasoned medical judgments of highly trained doctors are dismissed as 'preferences' motivated by 'mere convenience.'" It's not that Kennedy mislabelled anything that has angered Ginsburg; it's that he's got it right.

Using appropriate terms, rather ones cleansed of any meaning, is crucial in the abortion debate. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps more so than anyone on the court, recognizes the importance of language. Unfortunately, this leads her to misuse and abuse the English language.

19 / April
19 / April
Partial-Birth Abortion Can Never Save a Woman's Life

A partial-birth abortion can never be used to save the life of the mother for the rather obvious reasons that it involves giving birth to a near-term infant, detaining the baby unnaturally in the birth canal, and using cutting tools. Simply inducing delivery, without all the dramatics involved in this form of abortion, would be much safer. Ruth Bader Ginsberg's dissent in Gonzales v. Cahart repeats the canard that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban puts women's health in jeopardy. It doesn't, and if you read her words carefully you understand that she's really saying that other abortion procedures, such as a late-term abortion inside the womb, threaten the woman's health. In her words, partial-birth abortion is "safer than alternative procedures." But isn't child birth an "alternative" procedure? Partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary but is deemed a safer alternative--for the mother, not her child--than competing late-term abortion procedures. It is misleading, for abortion proponents, to seize on the law's rejection of a "health" exception as if partial-birth abortions are ever medically necessary. They're not.

Justice Clarence Thomas recognized this in 2000's Stenberg v. Carhart, the case the struck down state partial-birth abortion prohibitions. The justice wrote: "Today’s majority and Justice O’Connor twist Roe and Casey to apply to the situation in which a woman desires--for whatever reason--an abortion and wishes to obtain the abortion by some particular method. In other words, the majority and Justice O’Connor fail to distinguish between cases in which health concerns require a woman to obtain an abortion and cases in which health concerns cause a woman who desires an abortion (for whatever reason) to prefer one method over another."

Crazy v. Evil

Mass-murderer Cho Seung-Hui was crazy. If the medical diagnosis doesn't convince you, then this picture will. Wednesday in Baghdad bombers laid waste to 183 human beings. We don't know who they are, but my sense is that the people who planted and detonated those bombs are evil and not crazy. The latter condition is helpful to mush-heads who never want to blame an individual for the atrocities that he causes. The former condition troubles those suffering from it's-nobody's-fault disorder (INFD). Evil exists. Foolishness does too. One form of foolishness is to deny the existence of evil. The insane befuddle many sufferers of INFD as well. One of INFD's cousin afflictions is LRWHS, known formally as let's-reason-with-him syndrome. Reason, alas, doesn't work with the unreasonable. To believe that it does is a form of unreason.

The 'Rare,' 'Late-Term' 'Procedure' That Dare Not Speak Its Name

"The term 'partial-birth abortion' is neither recognized in the medical literature nor used by physicians who perform second-trimester abortions," reads the first endnote in Ruth Bader Ginsberg's dissent from Gonzales v. Cahart. Should this surprise us? Practitioners of criminal deeds often employ euphemisms to mask the true nature of their work. Partial-birth abortion, five years after Congress outlawed it, is finally criminal as far as the courts are concerned.

The New York Times speaks of "a controversial abortion procedure" and "the prohibited procedure." That the law in question is called the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act ensures at least one precise reference to "the controversial abortion procedure." CBSNews.com refuses to call a partial birth abortion a partial birth abortion: "In covering the story, CBSNews.com has decided to go with this phrasing whenever possible: 'what the law calls a partial birth abortion.'" CNN is worse. They refer to "a type of late-term abortion" (which type?), "a rarely performed type of abortion carried out in the middle-to-late second trimester" (can you get more specific?), and "the procedure" (what procedure?) Not until paragraph fourteen does CNN.com inform: "Doctors call this type of late-term abortion an 'intact dilation and evacuation.' Abortion foes term it a 'partial-birth abortion.'" Even this crumb to accuracy is inaccurate. Many doctors don't rely on euphemisms and acronyms to obfuscate the truth. Some call it what it is: a partial-birth abortion.

What does "dilation and evacuation" tell you? Not much. What, exactly, is being "evacuated"? Why is partial-birth abortion a more apt description? Because that is what the "procedure" is: a doctor partially delivers a fully-developed child, holds the baby's head in the birth canal, stabs a hole in the base of the child's neck with scissors, collapses its skull with a suction, and then, and only then, allows the child--now dead--to enter the world outside the womb, or put another way, to "evacuate" the womb. Any faithful description of this "procedure" is going to be gruesome because the procedure itself is gruesome. There is no getting around that.

Perhaps "partial-birth abortion" is not strong enough. "Baby murder" and "infanticide" seem more accurate. But I'll settle for "partial-birth abortion."

18 / April
18 / April
Worth Repeating #53

"By the time the facts of the socialist experiments are generally acknowledged, they have been nibbled to death by partial explanations and incomplete omissions, until they have become emotionally, morally, and politically distanced--mere curiosities of the historical past. Did Stalin kill twenty or thirty or fifty million of his own countrymen to create the socialist future in the U.S.S.R.? Did Mao kill twenty or thirty or fifty million during his Great Leaps and Cultural Revolutions. How many millions of dead people can dance on the head of the socialist pin?"
--Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation, 1989

17 / April
17 / April
Virginia Tech Shootings

The murders of more than thirty people at Virginia Tech is shocking, horrible, and sad. There's not much more to it than that, but political beings will insist that there is. It's pretty ghoulish, but characteristic of ideologues, to bypass the human element in such tragedies and push the cause. Political debate about such a major event is inevitable, but can't it wait until the funerals have been said? The politicization started before I had even heard of this terrible news late Monday. The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence chimed in: "I think after today, what we're doing and what we want the American people to do is start asking our elected officials, 'What are we going to do about this?'" The chairman of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence declared, "The Congress just called for a moment of silence. Indeed a moment of silence is appropriate for such a devastating tragedy with such pain for families and students. But we also want a moment of noise." ABC News reported that a "Lapse of Federal Law Allows Sale of Large Ammo Clips." Most people look at the Virginia Tech murders and think "tragedy." A few people look at them and think "opportunity." Gross.

16 / April
16 / April
Global Warming Demonstrators Demonstrate How Cold It Is

Remember when leftists always seemed to make entertaining political theatre? Think Abbie Hoffman showering the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with dollar bills as the traders chased the paper. Environmentalists picked this weekend as the time for demonstrations for state action on global warming. Bad timing. What they demonstrated was that it's not that warm at all, at least in my part of the globe. Throughout the northeast, sleet, snow, and freezing rain pounded the same streets the bundled-up picketers pounded. This was street theatre of the comedic variety, unintentionally so of course. Anecdotal evidence doesn't prove or disprove a theory. Here's hoping environmentalists take this lesson to heart when the mercury hits sixty sometime next December.

'And You're Working For No One But Me'

Income taxes are due, at the post office at least, tomorrow at midnight. But the average American will have to work another two weeks to pay off next year's taxes. In other words, Americans work 120 days for the taxman, and the rest of the year for themselves and their families. Tax Freedom Day falls on April 30 this year.

Though federal tax rates have declined in the George W. Bush years (after increasing under his two predecessors), state and local officials have, in the words of Andrea True, cried more, more, more. State and local taxes are at a 25-year high. The greedy fingers of state and local tax collectors grab 11 percent (PDF) of the national income. My home state of Massachusetts, thankfully, no longer fits its insult-nickname, Taxachusetts. It ranks in the middle of the pack for taxation. Its neighbor Vermont unfortunately does not lend itself to such a pithy sobriquet. At 14.1 percent, Vermont's take as a percentage of resident income is the worst in the nation. The Green Mountain State is a place where rich New Yorkers and Bay Staters go to die after they've made their fortunes. The confiscation does not oppress those spending a fortune as it does those trying to make a fortune. Next door, New Hampshire, with neither an income nor a sales tax, boasts the second lowest tax take at 8 percent. Only Alaska ranks higher.

One way of looking at income taxes, at least on the federal level, is to conclude that it could be worse. During World War II, for instance, the federal government imposed a draconian 94 percent rate on top earners. The 35 percent rate for top earners that exists now is less than the 40 percent rate that prevailed under Clinton. Since 1913, the annual federal income tax has generally been higher than it is today.

Another way of looking at federal income taxes is to see that the historic norm, in the United States at least, is no income tax. In other words, throughout most of U.S. history Americans paid no direct tax to the federal government. Such taxes were illegal, requiring an amendment to the Constitution to impose them. Save for an income tax introduced during the Civil War, and another one signed into law by Grover Cleveland in 1894 (and quickly struck down by the Supreme Court), no such tax existed prior to 1913.

It took the sixteenth amendment to allow the federal government to collect an income tax, but it doesn't require a constitutional amendment to repeal the income tax, to cut it, to flatten it, or whatever your curative of choice is. Combatting the evils of the confiscatory income tax is one instance in which putting the toothpaste back into the tube is not so difficult--in theory at least.

12 / April
12 / April
Innocent #6, #13, #45

Remember Ray Donovan? He was Ronald Reagan's secretary of labor, hounded by politics-by-other-means prosecutors who accused him of corruption. He beat the bad rap and then famously asked, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" The vindicated trio of Duke lacrosse players are probably asking themselves the same question right now. They needn't. Apart from a few crazies, that camera-chasing lunatic Wendy Murphy being one, no one really believed that these guys were guilty.

And I'm not sure that Murphy even believed their guilt--of the rape at least. For those suffering from prosecutorial blindness, the Duke Three (Or should they go down in history as the Durham Boys!) were guilty of being defendants. Too many in the legal system are more interested in winning a case than in reaching justice. Wendy Murphy and Mike Nifong strike me as two of the too many who have fallen into that trap. In fairness, nearly all defense attorneys, I suspect, fall into an inverse trap. They are advocates, after all, and should I ever find myself in a legal predicament, I'd like an advocate too. But a prosecutor acting as an advocate is a bit much. Like most Americans, Lenin's maxim that it's better to execute 100 innocent men than to let one guilty man go free, seems, well, a bit foreign. That's not the American way, which is perhaps why prosecutorial zeal, and not zeal from the lawyers on the other side of the aisle, is so distasteful to my palate.

The lacrosse players suffered greater handicaps than being mere defendants. The politically-correct villain categories the trio fell into unleashed a perfect storm that blew justice aside. It was men vs. a lone woman, rich vs. poor, gown vs. town, jocks vs. a stripper, and white vs. black. The trio found themselves, yes, on the wrong side of each category, particularly in the mind of a politician prosecutor in Durham, North Carolina. Even Tawana Brawley's hoax was not as seductive of the politically-correct prejudices as this case was.

Now, it's all over. Anyone wondering why the case ever became a case in the first place might skip over the pertinent facts of any rape case and examine the pertinent facts of this rape case: rich, white, males, Duke, lacrosse; poor, black, female, community college, stripper. Justice is blind, and so is Mike Nifong.

10 / April
10 / April
In Search of the Climate-Controlled Planet

It's April 10, and splotches of ice and frost remain an eyesore, to me at least, on my property. They've been here continuously since February. Just when I think the snow and ice will disappear for good, along comes another snowfall. Supposedly, flakes will be falling again this week. The shady spots, even when the mercury climbs to sixty, harbor patches of squatting frost that not only are unwelcome on my property, but don't belong in Spring. Wrong place, wrong time. The depressing sight is enough to make one doubt global warming, or welcome its arrival.

MIT professor of meteorology Richard S. Lindzen doesn't reject the key tenets of the global-warming theory. He believes the Earth is getting warmer, and states that mankind probably has something to do with this trend. Nevertheless, Lindzen contends that some perspective is in order. His ideas are likely to offend his fellow believers in global warming. Deviations from orthodoxy within this religion for the irreligious are not treated with the tolerance and civility that one would expect from people who use the words "tolerance" and "civility" as spasmodically as Hank the Angry Dwarf used the words "f---" and "s---."

Climate change, Lindzen notes, is the norm. It's nothing to panic over. Far from catastrophic, Lindzen speculates that a warmer globe could be a better globe. "The current alarm rests on the false assumption not only that we live in a perfect world, temperaturewise, but also that our warming forecasts for the year 2040 are somehow more reliable than the weatherman's forecast for next week," the professor observes. Indeed, it is a strange phenomenon in which people regularly and (sometimes) rightly doubt the local weatherman but blindly trust the divinations of activists regarding weather patterns for the next century. It's not just that environmentalists are often wrong, but that their certainty in their prognostications results in harmful consequences. On the quick-fixes for global warming, Lindzen holds, "The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem."

I'm an agnostic on man-caused global warming. The more I'm told the debate is closed on this issue, the more I believe the question is open. Agnosticism makes one enlightened in the eyes of the "enlightened" when related to God. But skepticism over any tenet in the modern faith of environmentalism makes one a rube, a yahoo, a trodlodyte. Should I feel like a a rube, a yahoo, a trodlodyte for not exhibiting a millenialist's reaction to every storm, heat wave, and minor drought? Next time I'll pick and choose my agnosticism more carefully.

We live, increasingly, in a climate-controlled world. We eat, sleep, and work indoors, largely immune from the weather outside. The Earth has no air conditioner, no matter how much those accustomed to air conditioners wonder why it should not. There's a sun that emits solar flares, volcanoes that spew dust into the atmosphere, shifting plates that affect ocean currents, and other phenomena outside of man's control that affect the weather. Man likes to think he controls everything and can cure anything. He can't. The weather generally falls into the category of things man can't direct. Insurance companies still call hurricanes, earthquakes, and snow storms "acts of God," not "acts of man," right?

Some people just have to order, direct, and manage everything--even when they can't. These same people often wish to save the world. Environmentalism, at least in its aspirations to fight global warming, offers both of these salves--control and deliverance. That's a powerful combination. Mere evidence won't shake its grip.

To borrow an overused weather cliche, the silver lining in this cloud is that it is getting warmer. Every week for the next few months, the average temperature will rise a degree or so. Sometime in late August, the heat will seem unbearable. I'll long for the frost on my lawn. When that occurs, the thermometer will drop a degree or so every week for the succeeding few months. Then the pattern will repeat. The lesson? The weather changes. Get used to it.

05 / April
05 / April
Not Blinded by Science

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project, has gone public with a belief controversial among scientists. The one-time atheist Collins recalls an epiphany: "I had to admit that the science I loved so much was powerless to answer questions such as 'What is the meaning of life?' 'Why am I here?' 'Why does mathematics work, anyway?' 'If the universe had a beginning, who created it?' 'Why are the physical constants in the universe so finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex life forms?' 'Why do humans have a moral sense?' 'What happens after we die?'" This Easter weekend, 2000 or so years in the future from the first Easter weekend, it's important to reflect on the limits, and uses and misuses of reason. Some make a faith of reason. Others use reason to justify matters of faith. It's perhaps best to leave these two concepts the masters of their own spheres lest either corrupt the other.

Iceberg, Left Ahead!

Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president. He posts a double-digit lead over his competitors in almost all the national polls. Yet, the former mayor of New York made his career by out-lefting the Democrats. Here's Giuliani supporting the fringe position of government financing of abortion. Here's gun-grabber Rudy suing the gun companies for, among other things, "manufacturing many more firearms than can be bought for the legitimate purpose of hunting and law enforcement." Here's Giuliani arguing for even more porous borders. Thank goodness for YouTube. When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York nearly fifteen years ago, he was regarded among conservatives as the posterchild RINO, squish, country-club Republican, Rockefeller Republican (pick your favored insult). Now, many of those same conservatives want to make him president. His popularity shows, in microcosm, the leftward swing of the Republican Party in the Bush years. It also demonstrates the degree to which means have become ends for conservatives, many of whom would rather elect a Republican than elect a Republican who will institute conservative policies.

04 / April
04 / April
Worth Repeating #52

"And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."
--Matthew, 28:16-20

03 / April
03 / April
Cover Up

Have you heard Pearl Jam's "Love Reign O'er Me"? It's an awesome cover. It's pretty faithful to the original, even down to Eddie Vedder's Daltreyesque, guttural screams. It's acceptable to copy-cat in redoing a song, but it's generally bad form to copy-cat every note . Hey, it works here. There's no formula for doing a cover song right. Some find success in deviating from the original, making someone else's song one's own. Johnny Cash resusitated his career by doing this. He breathes new life into Sting's I Hung My Head, U2's One, and Nine Inch Nails' Hurt. It's almost unfair to dub them "cover" songs. Let's call them "interpretations" or "treatments." Guns n Roses' live version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door is--apostasy!--better than the original. So is The Beatles' slightly sped-up, rockin' version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles You Really Got a Hold on Me. John's scratchy, late-in-the-recording-session voice is in full effect here and it rocks. I love the late Joe Strummer's Redemption Song (and the touching video accompanying it). Tori Amos brings something fresh to Smells Like Teen Spirit and I Don't Like Mondays. Van Halen did some memorable covers, of which Pretty Woman really stands out. But all these songs were great before they hit the recycling bin. Giving an overlooked song recognition, as Quiet Riot's Cum On Feel the Noize, Dropkick Murphys' Shipping Out to Boston, and Tracey Ulmann's They Don't Know certainly did, is perhaps the dream of all would-be cover artists. The worst cover songs of all time? Madonna's American Pie, Guns n Roses' Sympathy for the Devil, and any version of any Beatles' song done by Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees are bad beyond words.

02 / April
02 / April
Listening to Eight-Track Disco in a Camaro Is More In Fashion Than E.R.A.

If Middle East troubles, escalating gas prices, and an unpopular president doesn't provoke a '70s deja vu, then perhaps the return of the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been reborn as the Women's Equality Act, will. "Elections have consequences," Barbara Boxer proclaimed at a news conference touting the amendment's return, "and isn't it true those consequences are good right now?" Well, no, not from my perspective. But who could gainsay the first half of Boxer's comment. Elections most certainly do have consequences. The consequence of ERA's return, I predict, will be increased fundraising from interested parties on both sides, not an actual change in the Constitution. And if it does change the Constitution, judges, not women, will be the beneficiaries. "All amendments generate litigation, but the ERA's purpose is to generate litigation," George Will writes. "It is a device to get courts to impose social policies that supporters of the policies cannot persuade legislatures to enact. ERA--now WEA--supporters, being politically lazy, prefer the shortcut of litigation to the patient politics necessary to pass legislation." Some ideas are so bad that they deserve a second act, if only for entertainment purposes. Twelve years out of the majority, and the freshest idea that Senators Boxer and Kennedy can come up with is this lame, retread amendment?