Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Colorado Senate Race

Andy Busch writes a comprehensive piece about the Senate race in Colorado. I disagree with Busch that Allard has run a good campaign; Busch is trying to put the best light on things. Although I hope he is right that Allard still has a chance, I’m worried about this one. The White House must think an Allard win is possible since the President is scheduled to be in Colorado on the 28th, this Monday. And here is a report on the amount of money each side has raised, totalling nine million; Allard has raised a few hundred thousand more than Strickland.

Chechen Leader a Wahhabi Muslim?

According to this report, Movsar Barayev, the Chechen commanding the terrorists who took over the Moscow theatre is a Wahhabi Muslim. I had no idea that there were any Chechen Wahhabis. What does this mean? The Russians stormed the theatre yesterday, freed the hostages--although about 60 died--and killed the terrorists, including Barayev .

Iraq War Only Weeks Away

Jim Hoagland writes in the Washington Post that the war is only eight weeks away. His sources are very good, worth reading.

Belafonte a Racist

Here is Andrew Sullivan in Salon on Belafonte. Although the whole thing is worth reading, here is a good paragraph.
"But this attempt to reduce Colin Powell, an accomplished soldier and respected diplomat who wields more influence than any African-American in history, to
a crude caricature of a racial stereotype should be called what it is. It’s racism. And what does Belafonte get from peddling in such bigotry? He gets an evening devoted to lionizing him Thursday night by a group that considers itself progressive: the Africare annual dinner. As an extra twist, this demagogue has the power to demand that Condi Rice, the most powerful African-American woman in the history of American government, be disinvited as a condition of his appearance." Clarence Page also beats up on Belafonte.

Minnesota law re ballot vacancies

The talking heads are right -- Minnesota statute sec. 204B.41 provides for the preparation of supplemental ballots when a vacancy in nomination occurs through the death or catastrophic illness of a candidate after the 16th day before the general election but not during the three calendar days before the election.
Significantly, absentee ballots mailed before the preparation of supplemental ballots "shall be counted in the same manner as if the vacancy had not occurred."

More on MN and vacancies

Various TV talking heads are reporting that Minnesota permits replacement of a party’s nominee on the ballot up to 4 days before the election. I wonder whether any state has a more lenient rule -- and how do they cope with the ballots? "Just write in Walter Mondale."?

Minnesota vacancy

First, my best wishes go out to the Wellstone family and his campaign.

Yet, morbidly, let me see if I understand Professor Eastman’s post and what he thinks will happen.

Here, a vacancy has occurred in the last year of a Senator’s term. The election will go forward with Wellstone and Coleman on the ballot, right? If Coleman wins, we have essentially the Carnahan situation, where the office is filled by gubernatorial appointment -- how soon thereafter is an election held? Six years? If Coleman wins, he wins, and serves a regular six year term. Right?

Minnesota Law on filling Senate vacancy

Given the impact of Senator Wellstone’s unfortunate and untimely death on the balance in the U.S. Senate, both currently and beyond November 5, there will undoubtedly be questions about how Senate vacancies are filled according to Minnesota law.

Minnesota Statute sec. 204D.28, subsect. 11, provides that the Governor may fill vacancies with a temporary appointment, who holds office only until a successor is elected at a special election or, in the case such as this when the vacancy occurs in the year before the term was set to expire, only until an individual is elected for the regular six-year term, in which case the newly-elected Senator will take office immediately for the remainder of the unexpired term.

More on Wellstone’s Death

It looks like both his wife and daughter were on the plane with him. They have two sons, not on the plane, and are alive.

Senator Wellstone Dies in a Plane Crash

CNN just reported that Senator Wellstone and seven other people on the plane died in a crash.

Another great apology

This apology appeared on "Secrecy News" an email news service to which I subscribe, written by Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. (It is a very interesting service if you want to stay on top of the classification debate, FOIAs or other disclosure issues in the defense/intelligence area). Let this be a lesson to you all.


"The item entitled "UFO Cult Resurfaces" in the previous edition of
Secrecy News included regrettable errors of commission and omission,
such as these:

"Proponents of UFO-related declassification are not literally a "cult,"
and it was gratuitously insulting to use that term; there are at
least some historically or otherwise significant documents that
remain classified (e.g. records on Project Moondust) that could be
considered UFO-related; there is nothing intrinsically disreputable
in the investigation of peripheral phenomena; and under the Freedom
of Information Act, anyone is free to ask for anything, as they
should be.

"But the fact remains that the interests of those focused on UFOs are
not the same as those concerned with the larger problem of public
access to government information. Though UFO disclosure advocates
have acquired the internet domain name "," it does
not accurately represent their narrow goals. (For a more faithful
match between domain name and content, see, the
online network of freedom of information advocates.)

Project Moondust?

Time for an Apology?

In what may be my favorite story of the day, a group of Los Angeles Barbers are seeking an apology from Jesse Jackson for, well, for his demanding an apology from the makers of the film Barbershop. The barbers claim that the movie, which notably includes an expletive directed at the Reverend Jackson, is not offensive. They also claim that Jackson’s statement has hurt their business, and that if he doesn’t apologize, they are going to file a defamation suit. While I have serious concerns about the merit of such a suit, I must say that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Carnahan’s Last Stand

Last night during a Missouri Senate debate, Jean Carnahan wagged her finger at challenger Jim Talent, accusing him of accusing her of being unpatriotic. Talent responded by saying that it was not her patriotism but her positions that he questioned.

While I did not see the debate, the press accounts makes it sound like this was a "planned wag." If so, this was a remarkably bad calculation by the campaign. A finger wag has a school-marmish condescension to it that is not likely to sit well with voters. It also brings to mind someone who wagged his finger while being less than truthful (thank you once again, Mr. Clinton).

The biggest problem for Carnahan, however, is that she wagged her finger about a serious issue which she has treated with anything but seriousness. After all, it was just last week that she was quoted as saying “I’m the number one target of the White House. They can’t get Osama bin Laden, so they’re going to get me." So, after denigrating the armed forces in Afghanistan and making light of what is probably the most serious issue to voters, she thought that it would be good to lecture others on patriotism.

Both the comment and the wag are symptoms of the same disease: Carnahan’s campaign is faltering, and she in response is flailing. As reported here yesterday, even the DNC Chairman has publicly recognized that Carnahan is in trouble. The wag may simply be the last straw.

Spying for Hezbollah

What struck me about these twelve Israelis who were arrested for spying is that they were Arabs. I didn’t know that there were Arab officers in the Israeli military. I wonder if there are Jewish officers in the military of Arab states? I also didn’t know that Hezbollah operated as a professional intelligence service.

War Only Weeks Away?

This is a thoughtful (and short) analysis of American power, character, and--really-- geopolitics. It is from the London Times.

The Stupidest State

Dave Barry is angry that Florida (his state) is 47th on the list; he can’t believe that there are three stupider. Amusing.

Muhammad’s License Plate and 9/11

John Muhammad got his NJ license plates on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. There was also a bomb scare (phoned in) minutes after the transaction.

Like a Duck in a Noose

This is an attempt to figure out what was meant by the phrase "like a duck in a noose" that was read by the Montogomery County police chief on Wednesday night at the direction of the sniper. It is, apparently, a reference to an old fable. ABC News claims it is from a Cherokee Indian story. It may still be worth figuring it out. Why do I sense that this is not yet over?

North Korean Nukes

This is an excellent article by Henry Sokolski on the North Korean nuke problem, how we got here, and what not to do again.

Some Facts on the Two Arrested in Sniper Attacks

Here are some bare-bones facts from CNN on how these guys were caught, and then a timeline on who was killed from ABC News, and the dates. Note that Muhammad was briefly stopped by cops on October 8 (the shootings started Oct 3), but he was not suspected of anything (he was in Baltimore, his vehicle tags were from New Jersey, his driver’s license from the state of Washington); yet, later, the notes made from that encounter helped cops get him.

The Meaning of the Moscow Theatre Attack for the U.S.

This is a very good article from National Review Online detailing the connections between Chechen so called "rebels" and terrorists, why this attack on the 600 people in the theatre is a true horror (akin to 9/11), and why it "may portend the shape of looming evil." I would like to hear from readers on this issue.

Jean Carnahan: McAuliffe’s #1 Worry

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe conceded in the New York Times today that his number 1 worry was whether Jean Carnahan of Missouri could hold her seat against challenger Jim Talent. The article, which includes so many quotes from McAuliffe that you might confuse it for a press release from the DNC, also makes clear what has been obvious for some time: the DNC’s highest priority is defeating Jeb Bush in Florida in order to send a message to the President.

Sniper Arrests?

Things are not yet clear. Are these the snipers? Although one cop is reported to have said "we got our guys," nothing is clear yet. But, I must say, the fact that at least one of the guys is a Muslim and is noted by some to have anti-American sentiments, is not irrelevant. The media is hardly able to mutter such sentiments and possibilities. This would not be the case, I bet, if these guys were some white supremicist nuts. Both the facts of the case and how it is unfolding in the press are worth watching the next many days. Here is a piece from a Seattle paper. And the report from FOX News.

Bush’s Popularity

Gallup reports that Bush continues to be very popular, a week and a half before the election. Note some of the figures reported and see which issue is more likely to have an effect on the elections. Which party would better handle terrorism: GOP 52%, Dem 23%. Which party would be better handling health care: Dem 52%, GOP 29%. Mac Owens argues that, like Lincoln, Bush continues to be understimated. Advantage Bush.

No Time to Sleep

Senator John McCain writes an op-ed in the Washington Post today contrasting the failed accommodationism of Clinton’s policy in North Korea with the Bush policy in Iraq. He argues that America needs to sustain credibility in the international arena, and that Pyongyang will be watching to see if we carry through with our ultimatums against Iraq. The article is worth a read. Readers of this column will note that this article comes the same week that media guru Marshall Wittmann begins his tenure as McCain’s Communications Director.

"We Got Our Guys"

Washington, DC--John Allen Muhammed (aka John Williams) and 17-year-old stepson Lee Malvo are in custody on suspicion that they may be responsible for the sniper killings. MSNBC reports that a member of the Montgomery County police said after the arrest "we got our guys."

Muhammed is a gulf war veteran who is reported to have made anti-American statements, and to have expressed support for the September 11 bombers. The police appear to have gotten the vital tip from the sniper himself. In a phone conversation with the officers involved in the case, an individual believed to be the sniper said that he was serious, and that they should "check with the people in Montgomery." The police found a shooting which occurred at a Montgomery, Alabama liquor store in which the shooter used the same caliber rifle as was used in the DC area shootings. The police were then able to identify Malvo based on a fingerprint found at the convenience store.

Federal officers in Bellingham, Washington (near Tacoma) have collected potential evidence, including a tree trunk from a Duplex where the suspects lived while Malvo went to high school in the area. The tree is believed to have been used as a target, and may contain potential ballistics evidence.

Appeal to Immigrants in Sniper Case

Maryland authorities appealed for witnesses to the shootings, especially
immigrants, to call them with information, and the U.S. government promised not
to target illegal immigrants who offer help to investigators. This is a new development, isn’t it?

Iraqis Linked to OK City Bombing?

This is intriguing. The story might be worth paying attention to.

Chechens Take Hundreds Hostage

AP reports that about 20 Chechens have taken over a Moscow theatre with about 700 people inside. They threatened to blow them all up (including themselves) unless Russia got out of Chechnya.

Rove the Captain

The elections are upon us and every pundit is worried because there is no general issue that reveals itself. (Will the elections be decided on a penny issue like the cost of prescription drugs, or a nickel issue like social security, etc.) Yet, it is now starting to be admitted that 1) Demos will not take back the House, and 2) they will be pretty lucky if they keep the Senate. In short, conventional wisdom is about to fall. So where do you look to figure it all out? Study polling data until the last minute? Push some more paper around pretending that you are a general while not wearing any boots? No, look to those whose minds are focused and who have some responsibility to look after the whole field of battle. Look to those who wear boots and who don’t ride horses only for pleasure. Find the great captain and you will find that he is not calculating from bits and pieces of unconnected information. Find him in the heat of battle surveying all before him. Look to his insights and his daemon and don’t ask him to explain the penny and nickel questions. He will have a plan and that plan has evolved from his eye and brain and soul and it will encompass the whole theatre of operations and it will be accurate. And that plan will reveal itself as an insight; not perfectly clear to anyone but himself. Look to Karl Rove. He may be such a captain.

Oriana Fallaci’s Book

I’m just starting to pay attention to Fallaci’s new book, The Rage and the Pride, which is getting an interesting reception in Europe. She is being villified and attacked and threatened for criticizing Islam. Italian women are fascinating, no? As the Poet said, "Those girls of Italy, take heed of them." (All’s Well, II,i,22)

No! Lamar! Go for the JUGULAR

Lamar Alexander, candidate, wrist wrestling champion, and master of dirty handshake tricks.

Killer Handshake Story

Seinfeld Election

Walter Shapiro writes in USA Today that this is the "Seinfeld election." He means that it is about nothing. There are no issues, no movement, everything is so evenly balanced, etc. Then he says that he is starting to worry that he is missing something big. Indeed, reporters may be missing something big when they are reading tea leaves, looking for a nuance here and a revealing and worried eye there.
What could they be missing? Two things: The popularity of President Bush and the low voter turnout from those who would normally vote Democratic. As a practical matter the latter point is becoming very significant. The reports over the last week--and never hesitate to read between the lines in such reports--indicate that the Democratic turnout will be underwhelming. No black-Hispanic alliance or enthusiasm in Texas, for example, no anti-business sentiment resulting from corporate corruption, no anti-Republican hatred from rank and file union members, no real worry about the economy (or at least holding GOP responsible for its sluggishness)... You get the point. No issue is making Demos enthusiastic, and they need to be fired up to come and vote in a non-presidential lection. Now only the big things start counting. Now let’s pay attention to the Senate races in Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota. The House will stay in GOP hands.

Gun Control in England

Here are the consequences of banning guns in England; the left calls their ban the "gold standard" of gun control. Only the bad guys have them and crime is rising. The article is from Reason.

Domestic Issues the Key?

USA Today runs a lengthy article that maintains, one way or the other, that of the twenty one House races and seven for the Senate that seem to be toss-ups, domestic issues will determine the winner. One sage is quoted saying that "What’s going to swing the vote is jobs, prescription drugs, education, and Social Security." I hope this guy has tenure.

Presidential Greatness?

This is a talk Sid Milkis gave at one of the Ashbrook Teachers Institute (seminar for high schools teachers) last summer. It is pretty good, for an academic! You can listen to all three seminars (on the Founding, Lincoln, and the Presidency) by going here. Profs who taught the seminars were: Lucas Morel, Mac Owens, John Moser, David Tucker, Christopher Flannery, and Gordon Lloyd.

Is Saddam Crumbling?

Andrew Sullivan has a few good paragraphs reflecting on the demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad and asks whether we could have another Ceausescu on our hands.

Sniping at Snipers II

Living just off the Beltway and across the street from an elementary school, with my own private police officer parked in front of our house every day, I know I shouldn’t make light of the sniper business. (On the other hand, I recall from childhood my upper crust British aunt who rode out the Blitz in London in 1940, describing how put out they were when the Luftwaffe’s nightly raid arrived early and interrupted the dessert course. Where is that spirit today? I’m afraid it died with Churchill, who, recall, opposed evacuatng England’s children to Canada. . .)

So when I heard the sniper’s message this afternoon that "your children aren’t safe any time, any place," my first thought was: "Isn’t that the motto of the Children’s Defense Fund, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ralph Nader, and both Clintons??"


That wacky Harry Belafonte just can’t stop! For someone who made it big on "The Banana Boat Song" I’m not sure I’d be using those slavery metaphors quite so recklessly. Check out this Belafonte fan site for a collection of notes to Harry from people who believed they could reach him via the Web.

Let me add that Condolezza Rice was my undergraduate advisor at Stanford. She was a fiercy formidable person as an Assistant Professor of Political Science. I do not think Mr. Belafonte and the lemmings at Africare have thought this thing through.

Accurate Bombing and Civilian Casualties

This article from the Christian Science Monitor makes clear that a mere technical problem becomes a moral issue when we are at war with a tyrant. In the Gulf War we meant to hit, and did hit, the Amiriyah bunker and we killed over 400 civilians. And it was Saddam’s doing. He is willing to sacrifice his own people.

Note this paragraph:
"The Pentagon targeted Amiriyah because it picked up electronic
signals coming from the site, and spy satellites could see a lot of
people and vehicles moving in and out of the bunker. It fit the profile of
a military command center, says Charles Heyman, the
London-based editor of Jane’s World Armies. The Pentagon didn’t find
out until much later, says Mr. Heyman, that the Iraqis had put an
aerial antenna on top of the bunker. The antenna was connected by
cable to a communications center safely 300 yards away."

And in the next war we can be certain that Saddam will do similar things, and then his propaganda machine will roar.

Collapse of the Universe

I want to be brief, yet this needs to be brought to your attention. I have to run off to my Churchill seminar. It has been determined by two dogged physics professors that the universe will stop expanding and collapse in the near future. The universe, it would seem, will disappear in somewhere between ten and twenty billion years. This is rough news. And my father still wonders why I didn’t study something serious, like physics. Well, off to my Churchill seminar; I need to figure out the structure of the War of the Spanish Succession.

European Humor

Jonah Goldberg on NRO brought this irresistable bit of silliness to my attention and I can’t resist bringing it to yours. It is a lengthy chart indicating what each European country thinks of its neighbors. For example, the Poles think that the Hungarian are SDD (short, dark and dirty) and NRE (not really European). Unfortunately, the chart isn’t comprehensive enough. For example, it is not possible to figure out from the chart what the Hungarians think of the French: TWS (the women are sexy) and TMTS (the men are too sexy) and THBWD (they have better wines, dammit) and DLAF (done like a Frenchman). Of course, if Goldberg weren’t so pro-European, he might have elaborated on some of this. What we need is some European (i.e., ethnic) humor: What’s the first thing a Slovak does when he wants to make scrambles eggs? (asks the Hungarian).... Well, you get the drift. A nice place to be from.

Urbane Urban Warfare

The New York Times runs a story today on how the U.S. has refined our war plans to fight in cities. We are no longer talking of razing cities, and have taken into account--with more seriousness than ever before--Sun Tzu’s warning: "The worst policy is to attack cities." So we are relying more than ever on intelligence, tight coordination, rapid movement, and selective targeting. The Defense Department has published a massive document (150 pages), called a "Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations," on the subject. Worth having a look.

GOP Ahead in Texas

This morning’s Dallas Morning News runs a story (and polls) showing that the Republican candidates for Governor and U.S. Senator are ahead (by 10 to 15 points) and that there is no such thing as a black-Hispanic coalition that the Demos have been counting on. Low turnout will clearly be a problem for Dems. The base is not energized. This seems to be a national problem for them.

McCall: How to Finish Third in New York

As previously noted, Clinton and Democratic officials have appealed to N.Y. gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall to do something, anything to resurrect his flagging campaign(see posting below). McCall seems to have decided that the best way to do this is to accuse Governor Pataki of a lack of leadership for failing to require ballistic fingerprinting of rifles before the sniper began his rampage. Now here’s an idea that’s sure to lose McCall several points among upstate voters by antagonizing hunters. It also has the virtue of offending downstate voters by appearing to use recent tragic events for brazen political purposes. If McCall keeps this up, a third place showing may actually start to look good.

NY Dems: National Humiliation

The New York Post reports that Democratic party officials have informed former President Clinton that the NY Democratic Party faces the potential "national humiliation" of a 3rd place finish by Carl McCall in the governor’s race. McCall has fallen behind both Republican incumbent Pataki and Independent candidate Tom Golisano. Such a loss could be more than symbolic: a third place finish would drop Democratic candidates names to the 3rd spot on NY ballots for the next four years.

Death And Taxes

The Chicago Sun-Times offers perhaps the most depressing news of the day: "The Internal Revenue Service employees manual has instructions for collecting taxes after a nuclear war." Somehow we all knew that the only living things to survive a nuclear holocaust would be tax collectors and roaches.

Emerging Democratic Majority?

Todd Lindberg considers a book by Judis and Teixeira that claims that there is an emerging Democratic majority out there and there is no excuse for the Demo activists for not taking it all over and winning.

Anti-terror Political Strategy Needed

Fareed Zakaria claims that our military strategy against terrorists is going well, but we don’t have a political strategy worthy of the name. It’s a short piece, not fully persuasive, but worth considering. I’d like to hear more on this.

Suicide Bombing in Israel

Fourteen killed today.

Yet Another Shooting

A man was shot this morning in Montgomery County, MD. It is not yet clear that it is the same killer.

Another Possible Sniper Shooting

MSNBC is reporting another shooting, which occurred at approximately 6am this morning in Montgomery County Maryland. Initial reports suggest that the victim, who was shot in the chest and rushed to the hospital, may have been a bus driver. For those of you in the DC area, get ready for a tough commute, as the police have shut down the Beltway and Connecticut Avenue into DC from Maryland to search vehicles. This comes the day after Ashland, Virginia police revealed that a note found at the site of Saturday’s shooting in the Richmond, Virginia area was in fact left by the sniper.

No Homework, Public Shame

A frustrated mother placed a sign around her son’s neck, put him on a street corner for all to see. The sign read: "I didn’t do my homework," and then something like, honk if you think this punishment is right. The police were called in. Tough times, these.

Missouri Senate Race

This is worth a careful read. It is from the Kansas City Star. The Democratic Governor of Missouri claims that if Carnahan loses--this is a special election in which she would have to give up her seat the next day--he will get his lawyers together "to see what appropriate action should be taken." Why am I not surprised by this third-world-understanding of what constitutional government is all about?

Davis vs. Simon into the Last Innings?

Bill Whalen argues that the California gubernatorial race isn’t over yet. Television ads, low turnout, and new revelations about Gray Davis’ corruption are factors that haven’t yet fully worked themselves out (yet). I would emphasize the possibility of low voter turnout in a state that is predominantly Democratic; this has to help Simon. It also shows that the Democratic base is not motivated to vote.

French Sniper?

I am throwing this for what it’s worth. There is a French master marksman gone AWOL and he is in North America when last heard from. ABC News reports that there is speculation that there might be a connection with the sniper shootings.

Non-Militant Islamists

An article from the San Francisco Chronicle describing the rejection of violence by some former islamic militants. This has been going on for a while but has not been reported much in our press. The article describes a situation that will call for very careful thinking and action on our part.

Holden Up the Senate?

The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri Democrats are "mum" as to whether they would try to delay the seating of Jim Talent as Senator if he defeats Carnahan in the November election. While ordinarily a candidate would be seated in January, the Missouri election is to fill a seat to which Carnahan was temporarily appointed, and therefore federal law provides that the seat should be filled immediately upon certification of the result by the governor. Governor Holden (D), whose duty it is under federal law to certify the successful candidate’s election to the Senate, stated that if Talent is elected "we’ll get our attorneys (together) to see what appropriate action should be taken. We will move as expeditiously as we can with the facts that we have." Of course, there is simply no need to consult with lawyers unless you are wishing to delay certification. There is only one reasonable inference from this statement: if it makes a difference in the composition of the Senate, Holden is going to stall.

When Holden talks to his lawyers, perhaps they will tell him about a "writ of mandamus"--an extraordinary writ which courts may use to force officials to perform the functions of their office. These writs may be issued very quickly--within a day--and unfortunately for Governor Holden’s plans for delay, the petition will not be filed before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The Problem with Pragmatism

Edward Lazarus writes an interesting albeit incomplete article on Findlaw critiquing the law and economics movement’s reliance on the presumption of human rationality. Lazarus questions the movement not only based on recent Nobel winning scholarship (the prize was in economics, and not in peace, so it actually means something) that suggests that men act from both rational and irrational impulses, but also based on his assessment of how law and economics scholars like Judge Richard Posner have imposed their views in the place of existing law. This is a very powerful critique, and is one with which Posner would not disagree (other than in the conclusion that this is somehow wrong).

While Lazarus seems disturbed by the replacement of administrative judgments with the law-and-economics-influenced assumptions of judges, he does not reach the underlying problem of pragmatism--the results oriented jurisprudence which judges like Posner use to assert their view of the proper results in priority over the statutory text. Accordingly, for Posner, jurisprudence is not limited to interpretation of statutes, or even to filling in the "gaps" in statutes. Rather, if the legislature reaches an inefficient result, he believes that it is the role of the judge to fix it, even if such a result is in direct conflict with the statute.

If Lazarus thought more deeply about his critique, he would find that it is tied up in the larger problem of pragmatism. But critiquing pragmatism would require him to engage pragmatic liberal judges--judges like Justice Breyer, who subscribes to the theory that judges may impose their vision of the best result, but doesn’t use anything like law and economics to moor his decisionmaking. It will be interesting to see if Lazarus is capable of being evenhanded enough to make the larger pragmatic critique, or whether the rant against law and economics is simply opposition to the imposition of one set of assumptions or preferences based on nothing more than his own subjective preferences.

NASCAR Politics

The Charlotte Observer reports that Senator John Edwards (D-NC)--a potential presidential contender in 2004--sponsored a race car in Iowa in his ongoing campaign to raise his flagging name recognition among voters. New Hampshire’s State Democratic Party Chairwoman suggested that a similar strategy could be successful in NH, which hosts two NASCAR weekends per year. First, am I the only one who finds it ironic that a trial lawyer is sponsoring a sport which involves automobile accidents? More importantly, does this suggest a new trend in campaign advertising? It’s enough to make someone long for the good old days, when race cars were sponsored by beer and Viagra.

Caution: Wide Left Turns

For those of you with the common sense to have missed Mary McGrory’s column on Sunday, I offer the following recap of what has to be the most morally bankrupt and confused ruminations I’ve read in some time. The title of the piece speaks volumes: "Unequal Opportunity for Tyrants," a title which is supposed to reflect her thesis that the White House is inconsistent in its treatment of Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.

The article begins inauspiciously enough by referring to the "warlords" in the White House, whom she refers to as being "as clueless as the frustrated police pursuing the shooter who has been rampaging through Washington’s suburbs . . . ." For this sentence alone, Ms. McGrory earns the moral equivocation award of the week. How on earth can anyone believe that ousting brutal dictators and using military force against terrorist cells is the same as the petty tyranny of warlords? It is not long before the metaphor has left her, and she is claiming that Bush has done "a credible imitation of Alexander the Great conquering the known world" until North Korea entered the world stage with its recent statements regarding a nuclear weapons program. First, a little piece of writing advice for Ms. McGrory: try to pick consistent allegations. Being a warlord is not even remotely similar in scale with being a world conqueror like Alexander the Great. Second, try to make allegations that you can support with even a scintilla of credible evidence. I know that this one is tough, but readers have been known to expect it. To date, Bush has responded militarily only in Afghanistan, has suggested action in Iraq to respond to violations of UN resolutions, and has suggested that the U.S. does not rule out the possibility of essentially defensive military actions against regimes that aid and abet those who took hostile actions against the U.S. This is hardly the stuff of either a warlord or a world conqueror. By contrast, Clinton utilized force in more places during his tenure in office--but I seem to have missed Ms. McGrory’s denunciation of what must have been for her a dreadful tyranny.

Ms. McGrory then makes the case for why Kim Jong Il is a very bad man. On this point we agree. Her suggestion from here, however, is that his being arguably worse than Hussein demonstrates some sort of bias or hypocrisy on the part of the White House, because the White House has chosen to pursue Iraq but not North Korea. But it is quite apparent that what she wants is not equal treatment for tyrants, but equal appeasement of tyrants. Indeed, to support her view on appeasement of Iraq, she offers proof from the Wellstone campaign that the public really doesn’t want the war, given that Wellstone has not paid a price for voting against the war. Yes, and he is running in Minnesota, where he was able to make the calculation that the Iraq vote would not hurt him politically. Were he running in, say, South Dakota, or Missouri, or Colorado, however, he would be packing his Washington bags to move home by now.

Leaving aside this homage to appeasement, McGrory’s argument fails to make a none-too-subtle distinction: it is not inconsistent to take less costly action to stop a rising power, and not to take more costly action to stop a more developed power. By her reasoning, America would have been helpless to have responded to any tyranny in the world during the Cold War unless we were willing to attack the U.S.S.R. and China at the same time.

For the final paragraph, McGrory simply loses it. For those who suffer from high blood pressure, I don’t recommend it. For all others, I reprint it in full:

But as we barrel down the road to war with Iraq, maybe we ought to quiz our unilateralist president about why it is necessary for us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq while North Korea gets the striped-pants treatment. Is it because North Korea has a million men under arms? Is it because Kim Jong Il never threatened to kill Bush’s father, or because he has no oil, or is not a Muslim? Maybe we should ask the advocates who dreamed for 10 years of invading Iraq. Do Richard Perle, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz believe in equal opportunity for tyrants? Their leader seems to be pointing the other way.

There are so many problems here, it is difficult to begin. How many countries must join the U.S. before it is no longer a unilateral action? Perhaps Ms. McGrory should look up the meaning of the word unilateral before she misuses it so badly again. The other accusations--in particular the anti-Muslim bias argument--are the sort of shameless race-baiting that could earn her a position in the Cynthia McKinney campaign. The President has done an admirable job of trying to restrain religious or nationalistic animosity by referring to those who committed terrorist acts as betraying their religion, and the accusation is therefore the worst sort of demagoguery.

If this is the best that the left has to offer, then they better get ready for a sharp right turn by the voting public.

"Phoney War" is Over?

David Warren argues that, with the North Korean nukes revelation, Bali bombing, etc., it looks as though this period of "phoney war" is coming to an end. There are many fuses lit, and things will get ever more serious.

Carter and Carterism

This is George Will on Carter and North Korean nukes. It nails Carter and what Will calls these "recurrent episodes of Carterism."

World Series Notes

As was done last year, Fox Sports is beginning its World Series game broadcasts with a scene of a fighter plane lifting off from an aircraft carrier, with the reminder, "You’re watching Fox Sports!" No other network would make such an unalloyed display of patriotism, let alone make sport of the brave work of our fighting men and women in the same way they often do themselves. (My favorite graffiti written on bombs in the first Gulf War was: "Give war a chance.")

It has been said since September 11 that the wave of patriotism that swept the country would have a half life. Although this is true, one notes from the first two World Series games that the crowd is still deeply serious and moved by the ritual recital of the Star Spangled Banner. It was only a few years ago that some idiot team thought it a good ideas to have Roseanne Barr sing the Star Spangled Banner before a game. It is easy to predict that that sort of frivolity will not soon happen again, if ever.

Go Angels!

No House Majority for Democrats

Stu Rothenberg runs through a dozen House races that are open (no incumbents).
The seats Demos are likely to lose include Michigan’s 10th (formerly Bonior’s seat) and Ohio’s 3rd. Worth a look, few Demo gains expected, if any.

Clinton’s Heart

I saw a brief interview with Clinton on Saturday (I think) in which he was asked about being inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. He said that he was honored and that such matters go beyond color of one’s skin. So far so good. Then he quoted (he said) Martin Luther King, Jr. to the effect that what matters is not the color of one’s skin, but the content of one’s heart. Of course, King said "content of our character" not heart. Clinton intentionally misquoted it; he just couldn’t bring himself to say character. Amazing, but not surprising.

Gov. Gray Davis Corruption List?

This is a fullsome list of Davis’ contributors and what they have gotten in return for the big bucks contributed. Does anyone know if the Simon campaign has used any of this stuff? The sheer volume and brazeness of it amazes me.

Silly Times

Today’s New York Times Sunday Magazine has a cover story from lefty economist Paul Krugman (forget a link; like most Krugman pieces, it isn’t worth reading) bemoaning the decline of the middle class and the growing ranks of the super rich. This same issue of the magazine, perhaps coincidentally, contains the twice-a-year special section on luxury real estate--the kind of stuff we call "real estate porn" around our house. Who says the Times has no sense of humor or irony?