Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, October 14, 2002

Fisk, Sullivan, and The Fighting Irish

Commenting on the bombing in Bali, and the possibility of an al-Qaeda target list, famed Brit reporter Robert Fisk said:

"Our support for the United States – an infinitely closer alliance than any support from France – makes Britain the most likely candidate for attack after the US. Then there are the small, more vulnerable nations that give quiet assistance to the American military; Belgium, which hosts Nato HQ; Canada, whose special forces have also been operating in Afghanistan; Ireland, which allows US military aircraft to refuel at Shannon."

So, in a burst of Celtic pride, Andrew Sullivan comments:

"Dear Osama. Don't forget to murder the Irish. They've been nice to the Great Satan."

But I rally to the comment of NY Firefighter Michael Moran from last fall, as reported here:

"In the spirit of the Irish people, Osama bin Laden, you can kiss my royal Irish ass."

He added: "I live in Rockaway and this is my face."

And, in the sprit of such bravado, and because I finally read "How the Irish Saved Civilization" just this weekend, I will simply add that Osama may be crazy, but he isn't stupid.

UPDATE: Seriously? Look, the IRA has had connections to Middle Eastern terrorist groups for decades. Connections to al-Qaeda? Seems possible. Hence, the IRA and al-Qaeda teaming up against the British seems plausible. Al-Qaeda embarrassing the IRA by operating against the Irish in Ireland? I doubt even Mr. Fisk is seriously considering this.

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Why Didn't They Tell Me This On Saturday Afternoon?

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We Say Good-Bye to Montana and the Former Hairdresser

God bless you all. Good luck with your Senate race. Now, quit annoying the rest of us.

Some whiz-bang Montana-based news service gives us their thoughts on dirty pool in Montana. And Republican Darling Racicot Speaks!

But the last word should go to the author of LetterFromGreatestCityinWorld. The Divine Ms. E points out that, in the Big Apple, men are men and clothes do NOT make the man. She goes on to wonder whether Montana is "Big Sky" country, or "Big Cry" country, and then gets really nasty. Those poor boys may never recover.

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He's Back, And He Believes!

I want to believe, too. And if it's true that even paranoids have real enemies, shouldn't it follow that even optimists will see brighter days?

UPDATE: Correcting an oversight: the post was at 9:16 Friday, which we guess to be Pacific time. The S&P 500 was about 840; the Nasdaq was about 1200.

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Election Junkies Go Here

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Sure, They Say This Now

But will they still respect it in the morning?

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Last Thoughts on Jimmy and the Nobel Peanuts Prize

OK, my man Drezner says I should get over it. These folks wonder why we care about the opinion of five unelected Norwegian leftys. And I say, hey, the silver lining: I'll bet this really irks that other small time Southern Governor turned big time Presidential loser, Bill Clinton. Look forward to forty years of explanations of how bombing Kosovo from 15,000 feet merits a prize.

UPDATE: Hmm, the Nobel Pizza Prize? Only if it ever goes to Fat Bill. For Jimmy, I stand by my reporting.

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In Which We Propose A Grand Compromise on Copyright Law

AND, a Grand Timesaver! Extend copyright protection by twenty years? It might take me twenty years to make it through all this stuff, although it all looks great.

So, the Grand Compromise: Walt Disney & Co. have already scored a minor miracle by getting their darn Angels into the World Series. Can we just give a World Series trophy to Michael Eisner and the Angels if he gives up the sole rights to the early Mouse? Just One Hope.

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Friday, October 11, 2002

We Get Some Perspective on "Saturday Night" Taylor

Taylor withdraws from Montana Senate race, citing an ad which made him appear to be gay, maybe. A bit of perspective as to how this played in Montana comes from our oft-cited Billings-Gazette. And, from a Democrat who actually thinks this ad was inappropriate:

"State Sen. Ken Toole, D-Helena, and program director for the Montana Human Rights Network, said Thursday morning the ad "is an overt and obvious appeal to the homophobic (voter) that is playing to that stereotypic imagery."

Toole, who has fought for homosexual rights for years in the Montana Legislature, said he had complained to the state Democratic Party.

Toole said the Democratic response was that the image was not intended to imply that Taylor was gay.

"It is hard to believe their advertising firm did not see it," Toole said. "Bottom line is it is obvious and it ought to be pulled.

"Once you play these cards, inject this crap into a campaign - race, gay - nobody controls it," Toole said."

Ted Barlow, reliably left, also sees problems with the ad, as well as with the posturing of both sides.

Other principled Democrats continue to think it over.

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Now, Here Is A Hero

Take the bus, and leave the wrestling with suicide bombers to us. Hmm, maybe that is not as scary as it seems when your key equipment is made of brass.

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Forrester Plays the "Ridicule" Card"

Well, I like it, but he already has my vote. Or will, once I can figure out how to sidestep those arbitrary residency and registration requirements that are impeding my "voter choice".

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Cry Havoc! And Let Slip the Dogs of War!

Or at least, the dogs of Jimmy-bashing. Although overshadowed by subsequent Clinton-bashing, I expect we will see that the old feeling is still out there, following this news. Heck of a headline to wake up to.

UPDATE: OK, maybe something got lost in the translation: perhaps he was awarded the Nobel Peanuts Prize.

Anyway, here is a link to the memorable "National Malaise" speech, in which he does not utter those words, but otherwise succeeds in defining his Presidency. And here is Jay Nordlinger of NRO with a Carter-palooza from last May.

Now, my own personal favorite Carter story, and this is straight from my twisted memory. Interesting chance to see how much is accurate, and how much of a crank I have become:

Way back in 1986, Reagan ordered the bombing of Qadaffi's personal compound in Libya, with the hope of terminating the man who had sponsored numerous terrorist attacks, including a recent attack on US serviceman at a disco in Germany. Qadaffi escaped, but the experience did seem to change his behavior. Regrettably, one of his children was hurt or killed in the attack.

Carter, in criticizing this US attack, said, roughly, if someone hurt my daughter, I would hunt that man to the ends of the earth. This being pre-botox, eyebrows were raised. Hmm, a former President pre-endorsing terrorist retaliation? Or, a former President unaware that some of the Libyan sponsored terrorist attacks had killed American children, so that we were, arguably, hunting Qadaffi to the ends of the earth? The confusion was understandable: Mr. Carter had not made clear that, having hunted the fellow to the ends of the earth, he would next attempt to jaw him to death.

Oh, please, of course you remember that air-raid! The bombers left from England, and France denied us overflight rights. Some wag suggested a possible compromise: extend the air-space vertically, and see if a flight plan could be devised that hopscotched from one American cemetery in France to the next. Just another great moment in Franco - US relations.

UPDATE 2: Oh, the Brothers Judd are steaming.

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Thursday, October 10, 2002

Bush Coasting to a Big Win

These look like veto-proof majorities, although I don't have my calculator. Will the Times hail a bi-partisan triumph?

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Birds of Prey

As part of our ongoing attempt to provide the finest in whatever it is we are providing here, we have a review of a new fall television show from WB called "Birds of Prey". My interest in this derives exclusively from a desire to do a bit of a parental screening - my pre-teen daughter was eager to see this, and I am never sure with "WB" just what bizarre and inappropriate mixture of sex and violence to expect.

So, Birds of Prey: Once upon a time, Batgirl battled crime the old fashioned way, slugging it out alongside the Caped Crusader. However, the Joker gunned her down, leaving her paralyzed. Now, operating from a wheelchair, she continues her fight against evil by operating all sorts of gee-whiz, high-tech equipment from an incredibly well-equipped apartment, or hideaway, or, as they call it, "lair". Must be rent-controlled, whatever it is. Anyway, her cool name is "Oracle", and we can only hope she is having more success than the company of the same name.

Her partner is "Huntress", the illegitimate daughter of Catwoman and Batman. Given her parentage, she has impressive genetic endowments gifting her with extraordinary strength, quickness, and ferocity. She has other impressive endowments as well, which are nicely displayed by her improbably skimpy "fighting" costume. Please. Suitable for fighting a bartender at a disco, maybe, but that is about it.

And, as a newby to this crime fighting team, some out of town chick with pre-cognitive powers shows up to help solve the latest crime wave. A cop duo is also introduced, one a skeptic, one a bit of a believer, so we may see an X-Files thing develop. Can't wait.

So, if you like babes with brains and brawn battling baddies in bustiers (YES, the bad guys too! Something for everyone!) you will TOTALLY DIG this show. Although how you overlooked "Dark Angel" and "Charmed" is a bit of a puzzle - these writers certainly didn't.

UPDATE: Oh my gosh, DARK ANGEL was cancelled?!?!

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Democrats Caught Between Iraq and a Soft Base

Money talks, BS walks. So say Mickey, the Brothers Judd ( with a cryptic link), and the WaPo.

So, what does it mean? Evidently, the reliably wily team of Daschle and Gephardt have once again out-maneuvered the "too dumb to speak, too dumb to lead" George Bush. This time, the scheme seems to be for normally enthusiastic Democrats to sit on their wallets now, as a prelude to sitting in their easy-chairs come Election Day. George will never know what hit him!

Now, let me take you back in time to the movie "Cool Hand Luke", and the Mad Magazine parody thereof. There is NO chance of my finding this online, so we will rely on a straight "memory dump".

A classic moment in this movie is when George Kennedy has a fistfight with Paul Newman. Newman is licked, but is too cussed to stay down, so the fight ends in an odd sort of draw.

And how do I remember the MAD Magazine version? The strategy session between Newman and his handler goes something like this:

"First, I am going to tire him out."


"By letting him beat me to a pulp. Them I am going to make him think he killed me."


"By dying."

OK, I have no idea what made me think of that.

UPDATE: OK, seriously. This story will appear tomorrow in the Times, but re-written as an urgent fund-raising appeal. Just One Guess.

UPDATE 2: Hmm, no visible mention of this in the Friday Dead Tree Edition. Darn this "Dark Force" Decoder Ring anyway!

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Maryland Sniper Stuff

Before I forget:

The sniper's actual shooting skill doesn't seem to be that high. It is everything else that seems to be suggest training and planning. Here is an article on that theme.

And, geographic profiling in Wednesday's Times. Will the cool graphic load? Will I find the story online at all? Not yet, although I am staring at the Dead Tree version. Well, here are stories giving local reaction, and the Fed response. And a profiling story including the story of a NY sniper who was caught.

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Deeply Irritating, But Not Totally Wrong

Following the Maryland Sniper case, the InstaPundit links to a chap I will characterize, on my brief reading of his blog, as a concerned civil libertarian. Apparently the police were checking his building following reports of a man with a long gun, and knocked on his door. Since he had been walking around with a handgun that day (all legal), he said yes, I was walking around with a gun, the cops came in, and not much seems to have transpired.

Deeply irritating quote:

"It's not pleasant to have cops come to your door..."

I suppose not. How it ranks relative to having five people (six?) killed, and a schoolkid put in critical condition is, I suppose, for each of us to assess. But I am sorry if this guy is having a bad day.

The author goes on to make some perfectly valid points which I find, in the current context, ludicrous. But that's just me. I seem to have more confidence in the ability of our society to manage short-term trade-offs, and I guess I don't see every slippery slope ending in a mud-bath. I also have this weird idea that, in this special case, a reaction of "Glad I could help, Officer, good luck catching the guy" might be more appropriate than "Hey, Officer, why are you hassling me?". Again, that's just me being quirky, or civic-minded, or blindly trusting, or hopelessly unprotective of my civil liberties, or something.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The NY Times Sound-bites the Iraqi War Opposition

We bite back.

War with Iraq will not bring peace to the Middle East," said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia. "War is easy. But peace is hard. Peace is right, and it is just and it is true."

We can only infer the Congressman's position on motherhood and apple pie.

Representative David E. Bonior, a Michigan Democrat who was one of three lawmakers who traveled recently to Iraq, asked, "By going it alone, what signal do we issue by tossing aside diplomacy?"

I'm guessing now... Seriousness?

Other Democrats clashed with Republicans over the extent of American cooperation with Saddam Hussein in the 1980's, saying previous administrations had provided the Iraqi leader with the foundation of his biological weapons program.

"Sure he has biological weapons," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York. "We gave them to him."

Well, then, maybe it's time to take them back.

Hey, and these were the people who got quoted.

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The Brothers Judd Enjoy a Punk Rock Concert

Who would have imagined?

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Is This Spaghetti Ready Yet?

The blogosphere can play a role in the Maryland sniper case. How? There are a number of different creative processes for generating solution to problems. One such technique is "Throw the spaghetti at the wall, and see what sticks". Let's break that down:

Throw the spaghetti at the wall: Generate ideas, the more the better. One idea will spark another. Some ideas will suggest lines of inquiry. This part of the process can be very difficult, since no one wants to "look stupid", and everyone want to suggest "the right idea". At this point in the process, there are no right ideas! The only bad idea is the idea you keep to yourself. Brainstorming requires an active imagination and a high threshold for later rejection.

See what sticks: Now, so many ideas - which ones make sense? Get facts, do some research, follow some thoughts to see where they lead. Some interesting ideas will fizzle out, maybe some new ones will pop up - that's good!

Action: We don't do idle chit-chat here. By God, people leave here knowing what to do next! Look, five minutes work and you can get the e-mails for many of the reporters at the NY Times. I suspect that to be true for the local papers covering the Maryland sniper situation. So, you have focussed on one or two interesting ideas, you have some research to back it up, and you have some interesting follow-up questions. An intrepid reporter might be able to turn this into a story - make yourself a new best friend! Find some reporter who is desperate to open a new angle, turn them loose with your questions, the story starts shaking and breaking, et voila! Pulitzer Prize for your new buddy, a morning with Katie Couric for you. Try to remember your friends back in the blogosphere.

A longshot? Bit of a lottery ticket, yes. But you can't win if you don't play.

So, lets get started. Diane E from Gotham has a great idea. Why is it great? Because it is a fascinating, "out-there" connection that suggests some ideas. I can think of little things wrong with it, but I can think of one big thing right with it - it gets the ball rolling.

SO, other ideas:

Happy anniversary: The first anniversary of the war in Afghanistan was last Sunday (worth checking). Revenge of al-Qaeda? Obvious questions: Does al-Qaeda have a history of celebrating anniversaries this way? Do reports from Afghanistan suggest that al-Qaeda troops operate as snipers?

Happy St. Patrick's Day: The IRA links with some other terror group, as per the divine Ms. E. Why? Unhappy with the US imposed accord in Ireland? You tell me.

Homegrown: Everybody's first choice. More?

Tamil Tigers: I have NO IDEA if this makes sense. Still, they conducted a campaign of terror for years, and it shouldn't be hard to rule them out.

The War on Drugs comes home: Columbian paramilitary units tied to the drug cartels decide to operate in the Washington area. Hey, the story Diane E. linked to mentions a South American-IRA connection. So, what is the history of terror in Columbia - do they use snipers, target civilians, what? Shouldn't be hard to check.

Dirty Harry: haven't we seen this movie? And now we have the Tarot cards. But I will say this - if I were an operator, I would laugh out loud as I left clues like that.

So, there is a start. More ideas, some research - go, Blogosphere! Someone with a cool comments section and an interest in this case would be an obvious rally point. My nominee is Susanna Cornett, but it might be worth asking her first. Hmm.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan joins in.

UPDATE 2: Lots of coverage of this from local Jum Henley.

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Civility, and The New Fall Television Shows

If the networks can trot out their new televison series, I guess I can go into re-runs. I posted some thoughts on civility a while back, and I recollect that some maor hitter like Asparagirl liked them. Anyway, they're back, with an addendum for the current civility discussion.

The MinuteMan Way!

There have been some questions about what we laughingly call an "editorial policy" around here, so, to set the record straight, here is JustOneRule, and some addendum, presumptiously offered as a guide to bloggers everywhere.

The Rule:

There are no strangers here, as Will Rogers reminds us, just friends we have't met yet.

Simple, huh? But a little supplementation might be helpful, so:

A. "Be nice, and have fun". If you can't manage both, you pretty much have to tip towards "Have Fun". But if are running into this conflict a lot, you might want to look into your heart.

B. "Attack the idea, not the person". I know some wonderful people with some wonderfully daft ideas, so the distinction is worth maintaining. However, it is important to note the limitations to this "Attack the idea" concept. At a cocktail party, many a raving knucklehead who can not seem to grasp your subtle yet irrefutable logic can be silenced by a sharp blow to the solar plexus. Worth remembering, especially if you are wearing your track shoes and the wife remembered the Mace.

C. "Keep your sense of humor". Remember, someday, somebody somewhere will be laughing, or snorting derisively, at one of your posts or opinions. So you may as well laugh at someone else's right now. Carpe diem!

D. "Don't come between a person and their tirade". There are therapeutic rants all over the blogosphere, sometimes even sneaking into otherwise serious posts. You sort of spoil the fun by dissecting these rants in a spirit other than the one in which they were offered, and you know how we feel about "Having Fun". Any exceptions? Sure: for otherwise responsible journalists, or anyone who attempts to seriously defend their own fevered ravings, anything goes.

E. "E is for e-mail: privacy, please". If you send me something with a juicy, red-hot, smoking gun, career ending quote, you know I will be tempted to post it. However, I will respect your privacy and would be ever so grateful if you could reciprocate.

Simple rules, really. And other than (E), don't hold me to them: a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Nice weekend, all.

Now, a bit of an addendum with respect to public figures: look, I'll boo at Yankee Stadium, but not at a Little League game. Your fellow bloggers are putting their blog up one post at a time, just like the rest of us - try to respect the effort, if you can't respect the output. OK, some fellow bloggers are so big they look like cross-over public figures, but still, 99.9% of us are not even big enough to be the flea that bites the flea that bites Paul Krugman.

That said, this is the internet - five minutes after Al Gore invented it, Rush Limbaugh invented the "flame". So, don't pretend you don't know the neighborhood.

Clear? I doubt it. Excellent!

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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Does Anyone Remember This?

Remember the three people jailed for killing a baby that may have never existed? Down in Alabama? Bob Herbert of the NY Times wrote about it over the summer, and, we learn from this story, NBC Dateline had a story about a month ago. Well, there is good news for the accused, as shown here.

if I could get into my archives, I expect I would find a post in which I wondered whether Bob Herbert had presented us with all the material information. It seemed to be such a bizzare, unmotivated prosecution that I wondered what he might have left out. For example, Herbert had, I recall, left out the potentially inflammatory fact that one of the three had also been convicted as an accessory in the abuse of a minor. That is the "unrelated charge" referred to in this story.

Well, I may never know what I wrote, or whether there really is more to this. The closest I found to a story speculating about the prosecutor's motive was this BBC piece. Bob Herbert pretty much left it to his readers to assume that law-folk in Alabama are racist and stupid. Maybe he is right in this case.

Anyway, this result looks like mixed news - Medell Banks can withdraw his guilty plea, but the local prosecutor is eager for a new trial, for reasons which still elude us. Unless, of course, he really believes a murder took place. Anyway, a triumph for Bob Herbert and concerned citizens everywhere. Which I think included me.

UPDATE: Yes, I have tucked a new motto under the optimistically-named "Archive" link.

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Bush For President

Fine, the speech was measured, sober, serious - did you think it was going to be delivered by Jerry Seinfeld? We can't rely on the mainstream media to cover this properly, so here we go, selective excerpter at the ready:

"Thank you for that very gracious and warm Cincinnati welcome. I'm honored to be here tonight. I appreciate you all coming."

Right, we are going to skip HUGE chunks now. Lots of stuff we have already heard, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Saddams a bad guy, hold on:

" Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror."

If Al Gore is in the audience, please slink out now. Good-bye, Al.

So, George, why act now, having waited all this time?

"...there's a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact they would be eager, to use biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Hmm, so you say. Care to offer any supporting authority?

"As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, "Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril."

Oh, man, a reaction shot of Ted Kennedy spraying scotch out his nose in disbelief would be priceless! Well, maybe at a State of the Union.

So, what is the Next Step?

"The time of denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end."

Also ruled out were dickering, dilly-dallying, dodging, and dancing around the issues.

"Saddam Hussein must disarm himself, or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."

I heard that, but it all sounds so dangerous. Could we go back to the "Wait and see" scenario?

"There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait, and that's an option. In my view, it's the riskiest of all options, because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I'm convinced that is a hope against all evidence."

You don't like the idea of just waiting this out, do you George?

"... through its inaction, the United States would resign itself to a future of fear.

That is not the America I know. That is not the America I serve. We refuse to live in fear."

Well, good news news for real estate brokers here. Do you have any other good news?

"The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power, just as the lives of Afghanistan's citizens improved after the Taliban...

America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity.

People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery, prosperity to squalor, self-government to the rule of terror and torture.

America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomen, Shia, Sunnis and others will be lifted, the long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.

Iraq is a land rich in culture and resources and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time.

If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq, at peace with its neighbors."

Yes, there was a time when America was a beacon of hope to the world. Didn't the French give us the Statute of Liberty, a copy of which we saw at Tianenmen Square? Nice to see someone remembers. I know the Brothers Judd do.

And he concludes with more for friends of freedom:

"We did not ask for this present challenge, but we accept it. Like other generations of Americans, we will meet the responsibility of defending human liberty against violence and aggression. By our resolve, we will give strength to others. By our courage, we will give hope to others. And by our actions, we will secure the peace and lead the world to a better day.

May God bless America.

Stand and applaud. Hear, hear!

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Andrew Sullivan Shows (Again) His Tin Ear

Why is Sullivan taken seriously as a political commentator of the American scene? Read his latest faux pas, describing "Baghdad Jim" McDermott:

"Here he is, marching in front of a poster that has the word "terrorist" plastered over President Bush's face. Nice to know that his kowtowing to Baghdad's tyranny is also reflected in a complete moral equivalence about the difference between Saddam and Bush. This is one face of the anti-war left. And it's depraved."

Please. First, McDermott is not making any attempt to represent the "Loyal Opposition", or the "Responsible, Anti-War Left". How could he be, with comments like this:

"This president is trying to bring to himself all the power to become an emperor — to create Empire America."


"One of the dilemmas we've had since 9/11 is that this country has been continuously terrorized by the government. Every week they announce a new threat. 'Today is a code orange.' 'Today is a code red.' "


"And what we are dealing with right now in this country is whether we are having a kind of bloodless, silent coup or not."

A coup, his detractors point out, that seems to include sizeable majorities in the House and Senate, as well as noted plotters Gephardt and Lieberman.

No, Andrew has, perhaps unsurprisingly, missed the point again. Completely.

McVarmint does not represent any sort of responsible opposition, nor do his view reflect the views of what may one day emerge as sensible opposition. This is simply his loyal attempt to bail out the Democrat party with a "double-play" - Democrat leadership, queried about McVarmint, no longer need to defend him - they can simply plead an "insanity" defense. This segues nicely to their attempt to re-focus on domestic issues, since they will then explain that folks like "Baghdad Jim" illustrate the need for expanded mental health care benefits.

Andrew, as usual , misses all of this. What, don't they have crazies in England?

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Daschle For President!

The InstaPundit linked to this transcript of "Meet The Russert", and whoa! Daschle grapples with Tiny Tim, and demonstrates yet again why it is impossible to run for the Presidency as Senate Majority Leader. Reading the transcript without the video is a bit puzzling. I can only imagine that something had spilled on the floor, and, lacking anything else to mop it up with, Russert used Daschle. Iraq and the farm bill were highlights.

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Monday, October 07, 2002

Here Is Your Outrage

Back to the swamps of Jersey. From Newsday, the Long Island newspaper that is my new go-to source for Jersey news:

When asked whether it was fair for Lautenberg to replace Torricelli on the ballot, 54 percent in the Quinnipiac poll said no, but only 30 percent said they would not vote for Lautenberg because of the switch."

And, Battling Doug Forrester wants to take it to Old Man Lautenberg by proposing 21 debates in what is roughly 30 days. If Lautenberg dies of a heart attack, is Forrester guilty of murder? These Jersey Courts can be hard to predict.

Meanwhile, Forrester is working with a combination of audacity and ridicule:

"For my sake, it would be better to beat the pants off of Frank Lautenberg in the polls"


"If we come to Nov. 5 and we find out that I'm ahead, I hope that's the final date," Forrester said, his hands on his hips. "The Democrats may change it so I'll be running against Barbra Streisand in December."

This may turn into "Die Hard", people.

UPDATE: OK, I am worried about Lautenberg's health and this whole debate thing. Here is the juicy excerpt from the story above, if you are slacking off and not following every link:


The two candidates ran into each other Saturday at the Old Bridge Town Center, in Middlesex County. Forrester challenged Lautenberg to 21 debates in 21 counties. Lautenberg responded by saying, "I thought you didn't want me to be a candidate," but later told reporters he would debate "Any place, any time."

The Forrester campaign quickly sent out a press release announcing Lautenberg's acceptance of the 21-debate offer, but Lautenberg spokesperson Tom Shea said no schedule has been set.

"They're not hemmed in by the truth," Shea said. "We will debate, but nothing's been scheduled yet."

Forrester accused Lautenberg of "fast back-pedaling," then quipped that it might be for the best.

"I'm afraid that after they see the first debate, they're going to switch (Lautenberg) for someone else," Forrester said.

Well, Old Man Lautenberg will have better days. Still a month to go, unless he drops out.

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Here Is A Guy Who Totally Does Not Get It

We have observed comments about civility in political discourse at the Hegemon, Ted Barlow, and Atrios, all of whom link to a broader discussion. However, for a new concept of "clueless", go here.

There. Have I done my bit to lower the tone? My work is done.

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Money Talks! Finally.

Yes, please, let me have some coffee and your cash to go with that toast.

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Back to the Central Park Jogger

Jim Dwyer of the NY Times deserves major plaudits for his work on this case. He continues to dig up astonishing new information, as shown in the Saturday Times.

The soundbite is, perhaps as a sign of good writing, is right there in the opening paragraph. Hmm, I should remember that trick:

"The man who has claimed sole responsibility for the rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park in 1989 has also told investigators that he committed an identical crime two days earlier in the same area of the park. The man, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and serial rapist, maintains that he acted entirely by himself in both attacks."

Well, if you have been following the case, you know that this calls into question the "good faith" of the Police investigation. Up until now, apologists for the NYPD and the DA could argue, look, it is possible, after the fact, that the five kids who were convicted of these crimes on the strength of their confessions were, in fact, not gulty of this. However, since three other people were also beaten by a gang of youths that night, it was not unreasonable for the police to suspect them in this beating as well. General lesson for the rest of us: if you commit three assaults, don't confess to four.

Now, we learn that the cops knew about a rapist operating in the same area of Central Park. Mr. Dwyer describes it as an "identical crime" - we learn later that the victim was beaten about the head so severely that she was hospitalized for at least two nights.

In what we can only describe as an uncharacteristic understatement, a defense attorney for one of the boys said this:

""No law enforcement officer gave us any information that there was a prior crime connected to our case, or might have been connected to it," said Michael P. Joseph, who represented Antron McCray. "It would have been helpful."

Yes, I imagine it would have been. Did the police handling the Central Park Jogger case know about this other rape:

"For reasons that are not clear, investigators say, there is no sign that the information about the April 17 rape was turned over to the detectives handling the attack on the jogger."

Inconceivable? Well, Mr. Dwyer offers this bit of bureaucratic cover-up:

"Those two rapes, on April 17 and April 19, were the second and third of the year in the Central Park precinct. The investigation into the April 17 attack was handled by the sex crimes unit of the Police Department. Detectives from another unit, Manhattan North Homicide, oversaw the investigation into the attack on the jogger, because her condition was so grave that officials originally expected that she would not survive."

Well, that covers it. The Sex Cimes people handled the first rape, Homicide handled the second, and never the twain shall meet. However, and we suspect Mr. Dwyer knows this, in the very early phases of this high profile case, both the Sex Crimes unit and the North Homicide unit were involved. North Homicide had bettter success rounding up suspects and eliciting their cooperation, so they took over the case. But there was a time, if only the first day, when Sex Crimes worked this. My source for this, for late arrvals, is "Unequal Verdicts - The Central Park Jogger Trials" by Timothy Sullivan.

What happened? Just a guess, but at some point someone from Sex Crimes must have mentioned this other rape to someone at North Homicide. Probable response from a very proud Homicide cop: we have a theory of the case, we have five suspects, we have confessions, why do you want to mess us up with unfounded speculation? Aren't there some perverts for you to chase, or something?

So, will the rape convictions be vacated at the October hearing? Well, I had already predicted that, so yeah, I think this reinforces that opinion. Will the judge set aside the other convictions? This evidence does not really speak to that. It might leave one thinking that, if one part of the confession is false, it all is. On the other hand, over-confessing is a common phenomenon: a scared kid, guilty of three crimes, confesses to four. A certain psychological momentum develops. In any case, the other three assaults were committed by gangs of youths, and there was, at one time, a cooperating gang member who put these guys there. However, if the judge is angry enough, I expect he can set everything aside.

But the other convictions may not matter. In terms of criminal penalties, the real punishment was for the rape. The five convicted youths were sentenced to 5 to 10 years for rape and robbery; among the plea bargains, a 17 year old (adult, we presume) got 1 year for assault; a 15 year old juvenile believed to be the ringleader got 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years for robbery.

So, if the five men can show that the prosecution was unreasonable and in bad faith, the damages at a civil suit could be significant. Prior to this latest development, my belief was that the City had a reasonable "good faith" defense. Now, it looks like it's time to open the checkbook. Although, given the spate of new information, my very first reaction is looking pretty sensible too: maybe we should wait and see what else the investigation reveals.

UPDATE: NO, I cannot link to my own archives, this is Blogger! The moving hand writes, and having writ, moves on, or some such. Anyway, check out JeraLyn at TalkLeft for some comments. And now, right now the Blogger editor is not working either! Better and better!

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Too Damn Funny

Caution - Dark Genius at work. The Right should tremble, because his power is growing!

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Sunday, October 06, 2002

Did We Mention We Don't Like the Diamondbacks?

We didn't like them. But after this story about the radio "shock-jock", we really don't. So, the Cards got mad, and beat them at the BoB - excellent!

Now as to this DJ jerk: K J Lopez is on this, but has there been a blogosphere rally? One sponsor has dropped them already - we need sponsor lists, pressure points - Go, Arizona Bloggers, Go! My personal fantasy: John McCain gets involved and asks the FCC to update him on this stations's compliance. Chilling effect on free speech? Go for it. And Jean Carnahan from Missouri is a widow, too - what does she say about this?

But please, someone get Big John to say the following: "I am going to kick this DJ's ass until I wear out my boots or his butt - and I just bought new boots."

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Saturday, October 05, 2002

A Pure Indulgence Of My Dark Heart

Never have so many provided so much mirth to so few. We have lit the "Torch" again, and are contemplating the following:

Ted Barlow: Well, it's the issue that everyone is talking about. To me, it seems pretty clear. Deadlines are deadlines, and rules are rules. When candidates miss them, especially after disgracing themselves by violating the laws they're sworn to uphold, they shouldn't be on the ballot. There is no legal argument to support these candidates, just vague appeals to "the will of the people." That's why I join with principled, consistent conservative commentators to insist that Katherine Harris be removed from the ballot in Florida."

Jeff Cooper: "The New Jersey Ballot : Ted Barlow [above] is back... with an amusingly pointed observation about the New Jersey ballot controversy..."

Josh Marshall: "(Where these gun-slingers for the rule of law were when Mitt Romney got a pass, and rightly so, on his Massachusetts residency requirement I just don't know.)"

Daily Kos: [Referring to Josh Marshall's piece]: The Mitt Romney angle is brilliant, and I'm kicking myself for not have thought of it myself....

At the time, I criticized Democrats for trying to get Romney off the ticket. Look it up here if you don't believe me. I made the same arguments in the Kathleen Harris case."

First, this is an impressive roster. Ted Barlow is new to me, but the other three are consistently smart and interesting. My problem is entirely one of disappointed expectations. Three of these folks provided no links to anything about Harris or Romney. Sure, there's "google", but how about a bit of help, since you seem to be so knowledgable about these cases, and expect me to be as well?

The Daily Kos did provide some story links, and some very revealing links to his own archives. Perhaps we will find clarion calls for voter choice - solve these disputes at the polling place, not the courthouse! Hmm. Don't take my word for it, look for yourself, but in each case, the entire Daily Kos sentiment seems to be, these lawsuits might be a tactical mistake. The only discernible principle is power - lawsuits in the case of Harris and Romney don't make sense because they won't help elect Democrats. Admirably consistent, but it is not clear how a Republican ought to apply this to the Torricelli Debacle.

All four seem to endorse the notion that someone who did not articulate a view on Harris, Romney, or both, should not comment on Torricelli, or perhaps, should not be taken seriously if they do.

My goodness. Well, folks are free to set their own standards for judging the consistency of another, just as we are free to set our own standards in judging the intellectual coherence of another. To help gauge the intellectual coherence of this particular "where were you on Harris and/or Romney" argument, let me offer the following defense:

As to Harris, I paid very little attention. My impression was that she was one of several Republicans qualifying for a Primary in a safe Republican district, and that, whether she or another Republican won would have roughly zero impact on the tussle for control of the House. Having read through the linked story from Daily Kos, it is still not clear to me whether that is the situation, but we do see a principled Dem in the last paragraph:

"Jan Schneider, one of four Democrats seeking the seat that most experts assume Harris will win easily, said she is consulting a lawyer about the situation but doesn't know whether she'll take legal action.

``for someone who purports to comply with the letter of the law, this doesn't sound like it,'' Schneider said. ``I think the voters deserve a race on the issues - for this to be decided on a technicality might be unfortunate.''

Well, good for her. Anyway, yes, guilty as charged: I don't obsess about Florida, I don't care about Harris, and I made a judgement that this story was amusing but inconsequential. Here's a blog that refers to the same "automatic resignation" statute mentioned in the news story, but you know what? I still don't care.

And Romney, prospective Governor of Massachusetts? Well, can he affect the Red Sox? If yes, then I guess I'm interested. But since my Yankees had the Boys from Beantown under control all summer, I could care less about this state race, and anyone who thinks I am going to immerse myself in the minutia of Massachusetts residency requirements should be kind enough to send me some of whatever they are smoking.

So again, you got me - a race of no national import that is out of my area, and I don't care. Grab your heart medicine.

Now, given my deplorable lack of intellectual curiousity and consistency, how dare I comment on Torricelli? Well, I am from New Jersey originally, I read the NY Times, which couldn't keep this story off the front page, and the story has great significance for the control of the Senate. Please, is anyone seriously suggesting that these three stories are remotely comparable in news-worthiness? Hey, like lots of folks, I blog about what interests me. Check the Times, see how much ink they splashed on Harris and Romney.

I will grant the following: it might be fair to ask someone what conclusion they might reach in applying whatever principles they appled to "Torricelli" to the other cases. Bit of a retro-spective consistency check. But to make the clear suggestion that, if you did not have a contemporaneous interest in these minor cases, you are somehow disqualifed from commenting on this major case - silly.

So, gentleman: it's an amusing chant. "Harris and Romney, Harris and Romney". I hope that none of you are pretending that chanting is a substitute for reasoned argument.

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Start Spreading the Word... They're Leaving Today...

The Yanks don't want to be a part of it, evidently. "It" being the now-irrelevant baseball playoffs. Well, we still have a rooting interest: Donnie Moore was an Angel pitcher who gave up a key home run back in 1986, when the Red Sox stunned the Angels with a dramatic comeback. Several years later Moore committed suicide, citing this homerun as a reason. His daughter (now 30, with kids) never goes to Angels games or watches them because she remembers Angels fans as being rotten to her Dad. Hey, that's good enough for me - I just hope the Angels are trounced at home so their fans can be humiliated on national television watching some other team boogie down at the Angel's ballpark.

OK, in other baseball news, I am now at liberty to reveal the background of some Very Big Talks. The network broadcasters, and of course the fans, have a compelling interest in competitve playoff series. Frankly, after losing two of the first three games to the now-hated Angels, Mr. Steinbrenner of the Yankees was concerned that the Boys from the Bronx were not providing an adequate level of competition. He approached the Commissioner with a seemingly novel idea: Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez of the once-hated Red Sox were finished for the season - why not let them play a couple of games with the Yanks? Balance things out a bit, help the fans. The Commissioner loved this idea, drew up the papers, and everything was ready to go for Game 4 in Anaheim. Incredibly, for a Democratic state, no judge could be found to issue the appropriate waivers and court orders. So, despite the blow to baseball fans everywhere, the non-competitive Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. Rumors that the Yankees are resuming their efforts to secure a stadium in New Jersey, where judges are visionary and accomodative, can not be confirmed.

Final Comment: Yes, a link to some archived posts would be kind of helpful. However, we don't do archive links at Blogger. The moving hand writes, and having writ, moves on, or some such. I imagine it is one more problem they are working on. Jeralyn at TalkLeft has some coverage of this too.

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Shocker in Central Park

Is this inexplicable, or inexcusable? Keystone Kops, or cover-up? My flash reaction: this is an appalling breach of the public trust. If I were the judge reviewing this case, the NYPD would know the wrath of a righteous man. I don't know quite what I would do, but the NYPD would sure know that I had done it.

UPDATE: TalkLeft has more. Frankly, I admire her restraint. I'm still not sure why I'm not using bad language, and I am impressed that she is not.

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Disenfranchised? How Do You Even Keep a Straight face?

In an earlier post on the Torricelli Debacle, I noted that:

"181,468 registered Democrats voted for Torricelli in an uncontested Primary on June 4. These votes, and their choice, have been set aside by the National Democratic leadership, who pressured Torricelli to resign and petitioned the NJ Supreme Court to strike him from the ballot."

Oh, please, says a Puzzled Reader, these are loyal Democrats. It was time to douse the Torch, and they knew it. Do you seriously think they feel disenfranchised, or is this just idle rhetoric?

Well, in response, first, I find the crack about "idle rhetoric" deeply insensitive. This is a blog, and it would be fair to characterize all of the rhetoric here as idle, a fact of which I am glumly aware.

But to the main point, Yes, I think that there are Democrat voters who feel disenfranchised. Not all of them, naturally. But I am a strangely empathetic guy. By relaxing slightly and listening to old Sinatra albums, I have been able to "channel" a Torricelli supporter. You may find his thoughts interestings:

I am furious that my man Bob was forced out of the race by those weasels in Washington and their toadies in Trenton. I backed Bob in the '96 Primary, the '96 election, the 2002 Primary, and I damn well would have voted for him in November if these gutless wonders had given me a chance. What happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? The Republicans get a little smear campaign going, my man has a few bad weeks, and the top Democrats fold up like a cheap suitcase. What happened to fighting for your principles, to standing up to your opponents, to trusting the voters to see the truth? Was it over when Clinton had scandals? Was it over when the other Clinton had scandals? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No, No, and NO!

I'll tell you what, I don't want to hear any of this "count every vote" crap. I voted for Torricelli - did my vote count? Those Democrat jokers went to court to get his name taken off the ballot. Hey, Mr. "Count every vote" Democrat, I'll give you something to count all right - how many fingers am I holding up? Yeah, one, that's right, the same one you help up to me after I voted for Torricelli. Hey, you want something to count, come here and count the knuckles on this knuckle sandwich. Then maybe we can count how many teeth are on the floor, yeah, "Count every tooth", that's my new policy, hey, damn right I'm talking to you, weasel, that's right, yeah, I want some, you got some...."

Oh, sorry, that got a bit too authentic at the end there. And there is no place for violence in American politics. However, I left that in to properly reflect the depth of feeling among some imaginary Torricelli supporters. And yes, I do feel that they have been disenfranchised, and denied the chance to see their man stand, fight, and vindicate himself.

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Friday, October 04, 2002

Your People's Court

Hey, great news from the land of fruits and nuts! A jury found a woman who smoked, and got cancer - what were the odds? Let's see, she's 64, so she must have been born around 1938. Started smoking at 17, so call it 1955. And I am not even going to look up the date of the Surgeon General's report linking cigarettes to disease, but it was the early 60's. Of course, as a casual Hemingway reader, I know that cigarettes were referred to as "coffin nails" even before then, but so what. Hmm, is that a pun on "coughin' "? Ernie, we hardly knew ye.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because when faced with a choice between the Surgeon General and the cigarette companies, she chose to believe the cigarette manufacturers, who were very reassuring on the connection between smoking and health. And they lied! Well, it was a more trusting era then, so a jury has awarded her $28 Billion dollars. Might be enough for some reading lessons, and maybe some self-restraint.

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"Old Man" Lautenberg - Not a Blogger

Nor, evidently, a blog reader, or he wouldn't have said this:

If we had the court loaded with more Bush appointments, we would have more of these Enron and WorldCom people going scot-free."

Oh, old-timer, keep up. Enron exec Andy Fastow did the perp walk just Wednesday, and someone in NJ might find these headlines interesting. Hmm, preferential treatment of valued corporate insiders who then rewarded the firm with transactions generating millions of dollars in fees, much of which flowed into the bonus pool? Who the heck was running Goldman Sachs while these outrages occurred? If you guesed "Jon Corzine, head of Goldman Sachs from 1994 to 1999, currently both a Democrat and the junior senator from NJ", very good. And now, since you are so smart, can you tell me why Lautenberg would want to make this some sort of signature issue? These guys desperately need a stafff that doesn't moonlight for Jon Stewart.

UPDATE: OK, not one damn "Blogger" link is going to work. Back to the news services.

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The Torch: It's a Mousetrap, But Who Is the Mouse?

My personal news blackout continues, so stop me if you have heard this before, but here comes another bold prediction:

Forrester will withdraw his petition to the Court and ask everyone to take all reasonable steps to get Lautenberg on the ballot ASAP.


Mainly, because it's brilliant - people like a fighter, and Forrester is already being quoted in today's Times as saying:

"I've already beaten six opponents in this race, including Mr. Torricelli. If I have a seventh, so be it. We'll beat him, too."

And imagine the headscratching as the Times Editorial Board tries to dismiss this as a cheap ploy designed to mask a weak case. Well, they will say that, but the voters will feel differently. Especially when Forrester starts with his new slogan "I'll fight for New Jersey, and I'll never quit on you." Hmm, let Old Man Lautenberg, 78, explain why he retired in 2000. Old, bored, what?

But some of you wonder if I have more reasons. Here are a few:

-- It's the principled thing to do. No, really. The Democrat voters of New Jersey have been disenfranchised by the National Democratic leadership, and they should have a chance to express themselves at the polls. 181,468 registered Democrats voted for Torricelli in an uncontested Primary on June 4. These votes, and their choice, have been set aside by the National Democratic leadership, who pressured Torricelli to resign and petitioned the NJ Supreme Court to strike him from the ballot. If the voters of NJ do not mind this sort of disenfranchisement, so be it. If Democrats generally accept this as a model of participatory democracy, hey, it's your party. I would personally be grateful if Democrat partisans could drop the "count every vote, respect the people" mantra that is, within the Democrat Party, evidently BS. But look, that is probably too much to ask for. As for the principled Republican position, We don't need to hide behind a court - Let the people be heard!

-- Legally, the Republican case is not strong. The NJ Supremes offered up a laughably weak opinion - maybe the fax machine from Tom Daschle's office got jammed, or something. But eventually, they will provide something that reads like a court opinion, rather than a Saturday Night Live skit. At that point the fundamental logic - that the court does have equitable powers, and the authority to do this - will come clear.

-- Politically, the Republican case is stupid. A replay of Florida 2000 will energize Democrats who have been lulled to sleep by their "leaders" uninspiring effort on the war. And did I notice, while carefully ignoring the annoying caveats and analysis, a good headline on Unemployment? Let sleeping dogs lie.

SO, Forrester will do the right thing, the citizenry will applaud, the NY Times will choke (which is all I really want, anyway), and Forrester swoops to a big win in November. The people will be heard!

UPDATE: OK, in my quest for the Current Conventional Wisdom, I find Jonah Goldberg and Robert Levy, both at NRO. Jonah explains what a real democratic Republic would look like. Mr. Levy points to "US Supremes - out! Let the voters decide". Oh, and Ramesh says "Start the Debates". Flickers for me, but so far, the "MinuteMan Plan" is looking like wet leaves and no match. So far....

UPDATE 2: Hmm, a bit of lighter fluid and a spark from Mickey!

UPDATE 3: I respond to questions about "Disenfranchised". It gets a bit raw, so if you are accustomed to reading this blog aloud to your children, please be advised.

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A Quick Guess on the Torch

OK, I have been too busy to read or think this morning (Hey, tell us something new!). However, in a rare display of intellectual courage, I will boldly predict the "Emerging Righty Position" on the Torricelli Debacle:

The Dems have behaved shamelessly. Man, do I have a scorcher coming on this subject! However, proper recourse is to be found at the ballot box. Beyond that, the US Supremes would have to be insane to put themselves in a position of appearing to have selected a Republican President and then a Republican Senate.

Therefore, huffing and puffing from the real Supremes, but the decision of the NJ Supremes ultimately stands, supplemented by a coherent opinion. Let the voters decide.

As to the Dems - hey, the ref swallowed his whistle. Great play.

UPDATE: An Alert Reader is curious. "Huffing and puffing from the real Supremes", you said, but I feel that you are holding back. Care to share?

Well, only because you asked. So, what I REALLY think, unburdened as I am by a law degree or any such encumbrance:

The US Supreme Court is not insane, and will not be seen as having picked a Republican President and then a Republican Senate. Beyond that, the NJ SC position, through reliance on their equitable powers, is tenable, although the opionion is laughable. Therefore, we will see something like the following unfold:

The Real Supreme Court will request a full and formal opinion from Diana Ross and the NJ Supremes. Will they get snarky? The request might read like this:

"Dear Victims of Alien Abduction:

We read with amusement your recent opinion re Forrester et al, but still think "Doonesbury" is a better comic strip.

Could you please submit an opinion that reads like something other than a Saturday Night Live skit, and send it to Washington? If you could take the time to touch on a few of the following points, we would be deeply appreciative:

Regarding the two party system, and the $800,000 new-ballot expenses to be borne by the Democrat Party: we would love to belive that all parties are treated fairly and equally in NJ. Can you provide your thoughts on whether there is one set of rules for "the many with the money", and another set of rules for everyone else?

And, while on the subject of rules, perhaps you could present your thinking on "Rules and Roles". There must be great news on the crime front in NJ, if you guys and gals have enough free time to double as Election Board Supervisors. However, one worries. Perhaps the legislators, having gone through all their boring hearings and what-not, and the governor, having been obliged to read and actually sign their legislation, ought to be allowed a bit of involvement in setting the rules for elections? Perhaps you could provide a bit of clarification as to whether any of their rules would actually be upheld, or is the entire process that has been established by the other two branches of government (the ELECTED branches, BTW) arbitrary and irrelevant to the conduct of a fair election?

Just asking.


Your friends in DC."

OK, the Supremes have questions. If Scalia is in the mood for a snack, they might schedule oral arguments so that he can feast on a few of these lawyers.

However, the entire purpose of the exercise will be to frighten and humilate the NJ Supremes, and any other legal buccaneers who might be paying attention. After much breathing of fire, the US Supremes will accept a dramatically re-worded opinion that arrives at the same conclusion. Lautenberg on, Torricelli off, let the voters pass judgement on this.

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Clothes Make the Judge

Any of us can readily picture a British judge. The robes and wigs are meant to invoke a centuries-old legal tradition, thereby giving added weight to their least pronouncement. Although it has been under-reported during the "Torriceli Debacle", the NJ Supreme Court also has traditional garb meant to convey their dignity and authority, as seen in this photo where the "Trenton Seven" grapple with yet another vexing issue.

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Thursday, October 03, 2002

Life Imitates Life

While the Security Council sat helplessly inside, a gunman fired shots at the UN. He was overpowered by the U.S. Government, in the person of U.S. Secret Service Agents.

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Know Your Demographic, Sports Fans

OK, the Angels won last night. But that is not what I want to talk about. When I watch "60 Minutes", I expect ads for Metamucil and Geritol. When I watch sports on TV, I expect ads for cars, beer, and trucks. So, what the heck was I seeing last night during the ballgame? Let me emphasize, the manly, beer-drinking, truck-driving ball game?

Viewers saw a long and, actually, quite interesting advertisement describing some of the symptoms and diagnostic issues surrounding bi-polar disorder. This, we learn, is a mental disorder easily mistaken for depression (in the down cycle - talk to your doctor.) Whoa. Why are they telling me this?

OK, I could see the connection if a Boston Red Sox crowd had tuned in. They probably haven't invented medication strong enough to help with that. But c'mon, this is the Yankees! We don't have a problem that can't be solved by winning, or spending! And then it hits me - hello! The opponent is the Angels, the Anaheim Angels, from Southern California! Got it. Chill, dude, it will be over soon.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

The NJ Supreme Court Rules Unanimously

Election laws? Oh, whatever! Nominate whoever, whenever, and do try to let us know.

The seven justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a seven-page order that replacing Torricelli two weeks after a Sept. 16 state deadline for ballot changes was "in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system."

May I make a prediction about "Submerging Issues 2002"? - Hi, we're the Democrats, and we are opposed to corporate cheats who abuse tax and accounting loopholes to advance their own financial interest. Please do not, however, ask for our position on political cheats who abuse legal loopholes to advance their own political power.

Other "Submerging Issues": can we please, please stop hearing about how Bush and Ashcroft are scary on the subject of civil rights? The NJ Supreme Court has just decided that a state with a Democrat Governor, a Democrat legislature, and two Democrat Senators can re-write the election laws for the benefit of the Democrat candidates. A bit of a rough go for the minority parties, such as the Greens, the Libertarians, and, in this state, the Republicans. Democrats respect the law, and respect the rights of minority groups? Save it.

And yes, there's more. The NY Times bleats happily that

"... legal wrangling over ballot access cannot be allowed to obscure the central issue, which is one of democracy. The guiding principle should be the voters' basic right to a genuine election."

Is there any chance whatsoever that a voters "basic right to a genuine election" could be extended to include greater free speech rights, over at the Times? If we don't need these confusing election laws, perhaps we could dispense with the confusing McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform". Such friends of freedom!

I can only think of the classic Mae West line from "My Little Chickadee". In a tense courtroom scene, a judge is angered by Ms. West's flippant attitude. Pounding his gavel, he thunders "Young lady, are you trying to show contempt for this court?". "No, your honor", she replies cooly, "I'm trying to hide it".

UPDATE: The Man Sans Q has deeper thoughts, to offset my darker ones. He mentions the First Amendment; some relevant commentary seems to be here.

UPDATE 2: The NJ Supreme Court can't be this stupid by accident. The truth is out there.

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The One Minute Torricelli

Bob "The Torch" Torricelli was lawfully nominated by the Democratic Party as their candidate to contest a seat for the US Senate this November 5. "Lawfully nominated"? Yes, perhaps surprisingly, there are rules governing this sort of thing. These rules allow for an orderly distribution of ballots and prevent frivolous candidates (see the UPDATE) from appearing on what might become an overcrowded ballot.

Four parties complied with these rules and nominated candidates: the Democrats, the Republicans, the Greens, and the Libertarians. Within 51 days of the election, parties are not allowed to change their nominee except in the event of unusual hardship, such as death.

Bob Torricelli, the Democratic candidate, faced death in the polls due to long-standing ethics problems. He has announced his withdrawal from the race. Is it too late for the Democrats to put a new candidate on the ballot? Surely, voters are entitled to a choice?

The voters have four lawful choices, as noted. If Torricelli declines to campaign vigorously, shame on him; if the Democrats now regret their choice of nominee, well, better luck next time. But the Democrats are in the NJ Supreme Court arguing that voters are being denied a choice because of the State's election laws, with which all four parties have complied, and which the other three parties expect to see enforced.

The voters have four choices, including Bob Torricelli. Any pretense to the contrary is posturing; any notion that the Democrats are somehow entitled to present a fifth choice does not seem to be legal. Of course, that is what the Court will decide. But the notion that voter choice is being restricted by the Republicans, or the Courts, or the law, or anything other than the decisions of the Democratic Party, is absurd.

UPDATE: Did I say "absurd"? I meant to say that the Democratic position was "in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system."

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The Buck Stops in New Jersey

So says the Man. But which exit?

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Here Comes a Perp Walk

Hey, it's NOT Torricelli!

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Putting Principle Before Party

We are still on Torricelli, and it is always fun watching a Democrat with principle struggle with his party's total absence of same. Normally, the object of blame when the Democrats run afoul of boring old election laws is Jeb Bush. But for something new, let's amuse ourselves with Josh Marshall:

"A few days back New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Douglas Forrester called on Bob Torricelli to resign. Now Torricelli's in effect done that and Forrester says it's not fair and that no new, clean Democrat should be allowed to take his place on the ballot. He's complaining..."

Hmmm. Josh is a responsible newsie, so I have no doubt that he can produce a Forrester quote that says something like, "I want Torricelli to resign, and then I want the Democratic Party, the Democratic Governor, and the NJ Supreme Court to shred our state's election laws in order to allow the Democrats to replace him".

No, I am intrigued by something else - what are the limits to Forrester's great power? Can he successfully call on Daschle to resign? How cool would it be if Forrester could make Saddam Hussein step aside? And what kind of a December Holiday season might we expect if Forrester calls for "Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men"? I have no doubt that you share my excitement.

Well, just a thought. Let's press on with Josh:

"...Election law -- as we saw in Florida two years ago -- is the most vexed kind of law in a democratic society since it sets such powerful interests against each other -- the rule of law and democracy. In a democratic society, the presumption in favor of putting significant questions before voters should almost always prevail. If New Jersey law is crystal clear on this point, and it specifically bars any means of putting another name on the ballot, then so be it. But if there's a legal way to do it, then it should happen.

This is the advantage Democrats do have and should have in this case. In a democratic polity, the absence of black letter law to the contrary, the interests of democracy -- having real elections -- always trump procedural squabbling."

Cheers! Democracy, ho! And just a picky aside - do minority parties have rights? Josh's flexibility on the interpretation and enforcement of election law would be much more appealing if this were not a Democrat controlled state juggling the law for the benefit of a Democrat. Surely the right of minority parties to a fair election held under pre-agreed rules is also important?

I mean, why do we close the polls at certain hours? Or have voter registration requirements? Or have people petition to put a candidate, or in California, an issue, on the ballot? Maybe we should just let the party in power tell us, hopefully before the election, what we are voting on, where to vote, who can vote, and so on. Just so the people can be heard. All these rules, and laws, and procedures seem to be such an impediment to Democracy.

Josh's big finish:

The rather shabby truth here is that Republicans understand that Forrester could only get elected in a state like New Jersey not simply if he were facing a bad candidate but essentially no candidate.

Well, the rather shabby truth is that the Republicans faced a lawfully chosen opponent, Torricelli - a bad candidate, perhaps, although the Dems didn't seem to think so a few month ago. But no candidate?

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Coments on the Torricelli Debacle

Sorry, you may have to do some homework to follow all this. A lot of discussion is swirling around different legal strategies that Torricelli might employ to get off the ballot and get Lautenberg on. So, I hope to provide summaries, links, and comments.

First, "Nuclear Autumn": the idea is that the Democrats can use election law to threaten to delay the election unless Lautenberg is put on the ballot. The Times described this:

"Democratic leaders also say privately that if the courts keep Mr. Lautenberg off the ballot, and Mr. Torricelli resigns from his Senate seat within 30 days of the election, Mr. McGreevey could appoint a successor and the election could be postponed. While such a move would open Mr. McGreevey up to fierce criticism from Republicans, the prospect could compel Republicans to drop their court fight."

Some wit described this as the "nuclear option", and here we are. Well, it has eventually occurred to Mickey Kaus, and others, that this is a nuclear warhead without a missile - if the Democrats show this sort of disregard for democracy, they will blow up only themselves in a public relations disaster. Cancelling elections that are not going your way? Great idea.

Now, this next bit is absurdly complicated. Dave Kopel of NRO had a piece outlining the election law issues. A question - if Torricelli resigns within thirty days of the election, what happens?

The statute in question is here:

If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this state in the United States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within thirty days next preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this state shall deem it advisable to call a special election therefore, which he is authorized hereby to do.

The governor of this state may make a temporary appointment of a senator of the United States from this state whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of any cause other than the expiration of the term; and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the board of state canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election.

So, it seems that, if a vacancy occurs more than thirty days before the election, the seat will be filled at the next election. If the seat is vacated "close to" the election, i.e., within thirty days, then it will be filled at the next regularly scheduled general election, unless a special election is called.

So, a simple scenario: Torricelli resigns within thirty days of the election. McGreevey appoints his succssor, who would serve until the next general election in Novermber 2003 (elections are annual nightmares in NJ).

Wrong! says Kopel - the US Constitution trumps the NJ State Law - Senate terms are for six years, and NJ can't change that.

Right!, say others, with ghastly perma-links - scroll down like crazy, then really scroll down: The Seventeenth Amendment to the US Constitution applies, and it says that States may make reasonable provisions to fill vacant seats. Is the NJ provision reasonable? Lots of states have similar language.

But wait!, says Eugene Volokh: there are a lot of sensible scenarios where this statute makes no sense. Suppose, for example, Torricelli were not a candidate, but simply the retiring incumbent. Two (or more) candidates are campaigning for the seat in an election scheduled for Nov. 5. The Democrat is trailing in the polls on October 25. No problem - Torricelli resigns, the Democratic Governor appoints a successor who serves until November 2003, and the Democrats try again then. Is that really what the statute is saying?

Good point! So, to help resolve this seeming paradox, and in what surely represents hard times all around, I have some simple, clear, and free legal advice for everyone: statutes are generally the beginning of the story, not the end.

Courts will often look at legislative history, legislative intent, and past precedent in interpreting a statute - I mean, hello! We all know this, but, given the excitment, has anyone actually had time to do this? Absent research into those points, staring at this statute is intriguing, but not definitive.

So, a possible interpretation, based on wild surmise - the legislature seems to have two objectives:

(1) they want offices to be filled by election, rather than by appointment.

(2) elections should be properly scheduled. A vacancy could occur "too close" to an already scheduled election. If a seat became vacant a week before an already scheduled election, the process of selecting candidates, preparing ballots, and having a sensible campaign would be impractical. Hence, the thirty day window.

So, as to the "Volokh paradox" - what is the law when the election, as in the current case, is already scheduled? Well, the legislature seems to like prompt elections. Are there serious problems with proceeding with an election where the candidates have been campaigning and the ballots are set? No. So, the legislative intent would be that this portion of the statute does not apply. If there is no precedent on this point, and no legislative history, the NJ Supreme court may let stand a statute that clearly could, in easily imagined circumstances, be abused by the party in power.
Notice that it is not the withdrawal of a candidate that creates a vacancy; it is the withdrawal of the incumbent. If Torricelli the incumbent chooses to resign, fine, a vacancy occurs. If Torricelli the candidate chooses to withdraw from the race, well, State election law offers guidance there. But, since he has not died or experienced unusual circumstances other than hideous poll numbers, special relief does not seem to be appropriate.

Is this interpretation correct? Further research is needed,and I won't be doing it. I am not familiar with whether these legal research tools kick out every relevant precedent and the legislative history when they deliver the statute, so it is possible that these points have already been looked at, and dismissed. In which case, I am a little embarrassed, and a lot surprised. But my guess is that when the plain language if the statute is puzzling, other sources will be used to provide guidance.

And, a ray of light for Democrats: a reasonable interpretation of this statute is that the State needs thirty days to prepare for an election. So, what is magical about the "51 day" rule that guides the candidate selection process? OK, the only magic is that it is what the legislature wrote, but clearly they contemplated special circumstances in which 30 days was enough. The Republican response? What is special about a candidate trailing in the polls?

UPDATE: Was it obvious when I requested more research into "legislative history, legislative intent, and past precedent" that I was including, in legislative history, other relevant statutes? Having done more research, Eugene Volokh drops this on us:

"In fact, another statute, N.J. Stat. 19:27-4, seems to recognize that vacancies that happen right before a seat is about to be filled in a normal election should generally be taken care of through the normal electoral calendar:

When any vacancy happens in the representation of this State in the United States Senate or in the House of Representatives, the Governor shall issue a writ of election to fill the same unless the term of service of the person whose office shall become vacant will expire within six months next after the happening of the vacancy and except as hereinafter provided.

So if Torricelli resigns within 30 days before the November 2002 election, the Governor wouldn't even have the power to call a special election (note that 19:27-4 was enacted after 19:3-26, so if the two conflict, 19:27-4 prevails)."

Well, well. Look, politically this strategy is a loser. And legally, it may be dead as well.

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Angels in the Bullpen

How about that game last night? The Yankees went back and forth with the Angels until, with some late inning heroics, the Yankees win. Just another day of New York Yankee Playoff Baseball!

But enough about he Yankees, what about me? Yesterday, people questioned my commitment, and my heart. Did I have what it took to watch Playoff Baseball? How would I hold up to playoff pressure?

Well, we admit to a bit of a head-loll in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Yankees trailing 5-4. When I came to, my lucky Yankees cap was gone, and Soriano was on first with two out. How did he get there? A walk, after being down 0-2? Jeter draws another walk, and now Jason Giambi strides to the plate. New pitcher! The Angels have, in their bullpen, Troy Percival, one of the top, top closers in the game. And he stays in the bullpen! Oh, we were burying Mike Scioscia, Angels manager, even before Giambi got the game-tying single. You need four outs to win, bring in Percival! We were brutal.

And, as Bernie Williams strode to the plate with two men on and the score tied, we turned our wrath on the announcers, who gave us this: “Here comes Bernie Williams, who is often overlooked in this Yankees lineup”.

The crowd went nuts, and instantly delivered an American Express commercial:

“Hi, you may not know me. Although I bat clean-up and play centerfield for the most successful ball club in history, have four World Series rings, am a regular at the All-Star game, have earned one batting title and was in the hunt for a second this year, I am often overlooked by national television announcers. My name? Bernie Williams”.

Oh, do these announcers practice “stupid”, or does it come naturally? We got all that out even before “Bernie goes Boom”, for the 8-5 lead. Mariano in, the Angels out, Yankees up 1-0. I found my lucky Yankees cap, with the tinfoil lining intact. And please, how about a laugher? Does every game have to be done the hard way?

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Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Vote For [Insert Name Here]

We are back to New Jersey, and the passing of the Torch. Yesterday I suggested that principled Democrats should get behind an organized write-in campaign, such as was recently perpetrated, pardon me, executed, in Washington, DC. This would show respect for the law and offer voters a choice. Just to show that, if you read enough news, you will find something you like, I offer these bits from the Times:

"First of all, it's simply not legal for them to try to put someone on the ballot in less than 51 days," said Ginny Wolfe, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "That's simply the law, and I suspect that the people in New Jersey are simply tired of laws being ignored."

That's what I'm saying! Laws are made merely to frustrate well-intentioned Democrats.

"The laws of the State of New Jersey do not contain a `We-think-we're-going-to-lose-so-we-get-to-pick-someone-new' clause," Mr. Forrester said at a news conference after Mr. Torricelli announced his withdrawal.

Yeah, yeah, more legalistic Republican whining. They would have exactly that clause if anyone had thought of it, so why not put one in there now? Where's the good stuff?

"...law professors at Rutgers University differed on the legality of a party changing candidates so close to Election Day.

"I'm inclined to think that the Republicans are right; I don't think they can replace him at this point," said Frank Askin, who runs the Rutgers Law School's Constitutional Law clinic in Newark. "I think the Democratic option is to take a page from the mayor of the District of Columbia's playbook and run a big write-in campaign, get behind another candidate and print two million stickers with his name on it."

Exactly. But wait...

"...Richard J. Perr, who teaches courses on election and political campaign law at the Rutgers Law School in Camden, said that a trend in court rulings favoring expanding voter choice at election time would probably allow Democrats to prevail.

"The state statute says you can substitute a name on the ballot within 51 days of the election," Mr. Perr said. "However the statute then stops, and doesn't say what happens if you are closer than 51 days. So what it will come down to is a battle over the common law and practices of the state."

Which is to say, don't bore me with your common sense or "intent of the legislature" nonsense. We want to change candidates, and we will, and these laws are just a bunch of confusing obstacles desgned to frustrate the will of the voters. And anyway, did you ever see Michael Jordan whistled for travelling? Exactly.

So away we go. Another thoughtful debate on "will of the people" versus "rule of law".

UPDATE: The Man, the Torch, the Tribute. Employees must wash hands afterwards.

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October Baseball

The baseball playoffs are underway, and it is time for some predictions.

First, we should review the scouting reports. Having done so, I can say this flatly - The MinuteMan simply does not have the stamina or the mental toughness required to spectate at this level. He will make mental mistakes, such as flooping down in front of the tube after dinner, only to learn that he has missed an afternoon game. He will make physical errors, such as clicking over to "Buffy, the Vampire-Slayer" during a beak in the action. Fifteen minutes later, when Significant Action is occurring in the game, he will still be looking for the remote and studying Ms. Gellar's significant action. The MinuteMan will fail to follow double switches, and lose track of how many lefties and righties are available in the bullpen. Most damaging of all however, is a conclusion we simply cannot escape - he is a quitter! If a game looks like a rout, he will go to bed rather than sit through endless pitching changes and beer commercials. No, people, when it comes to post-season play, this guy has earned his nickname - Mr. August.

And what about the teams? Beats me. But I will say this: I will not live to see another playoff and World Series as emotionally fraught and exciting as in 2001. Or, put differently, if we see the defensive plays such as Jeter made against Oakland, or the ninth innning home runs against Arizona, the excitment will cause my heart to fail.

Last guess: The Yankees beat Anaheim, Oakland, and Atlanta to win it all. And I'll close with a bit of a soundbite from the Yankee General Manager, speaking on SportsRadio WFAN: "People say that the Yankee payroll is so high. But our guys are playing seven months each season and the other teams only play six. Adjust for that, and we are not out of line."

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