|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The Denver Post, ahead of the curve as always, has a discussion of what it presumes to be Vice President Cheney's role in "cooking" intelligence reports. This was judged by the paper's editors to be more important than the actual death of two actual sons of an actual former dictator. Aside from the too-knowing discussion of "neocons" in the Administration, lacking only references to Leo Strauss, the reporter spends a great deal of time on Cheney's public appearances promoting the administration's policy, especially the now-infamous March 16th interview on Meet the Press. In it, you may recall, Cheney says that Iraq "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Oh, you don't recall?
One of the coolest things about being in school is the access to LexisNexis, and one of the coolest things about LexisNexis(TM) Academic, is its transcripts of news reports. I'm sure newsrooms all over the country, even those at the Denver Post Washington Bureau, have access to LexisNexis. I'm less sure about their willingness to do basic research before rushing into print to parrot the latest Democratic criticisms. So, to help them out, here are some other quotes (full sentences only, thank you) from that interview:
What do you think he meant? Listening to he show, what would you have thought he meant? I know what Tim Russert thought. Tim Russert went right onto a question about the 2000 campaign. Here's this bombshell, this wild statement, that Saddam had a nuclear weapon, and Tim Russert, the sharpest knife in the interview drawer, goes right on with the script. And that's why you didn't recall this comment until it was brought to you attention. Because you, Tim Russert, and everyone else listening knew exactly what Dick Cheney was talking about. Because in the next two weeks, exactly two broadcasts referred to this as though Cheney was suggesting Saddam already had the bomb - one NPR commentary by Daniel Schorr, and one interview by Paula Zahn. That's it, that's the list. Print journalists were even quieter. Only one article, in the Washington Post, picked up on the comment.
Someone might suggest that I'm being unfair to the Post, that I'm picking on one comment, albeit an extended one, in a much larger article. Well, inasmuch as they're picking on one statement in a very broad case against Saddam, they might want to consider that themselves.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
One of the Palestinians' Oslo obligations, reiterated in the Road Map, is to fix their textbooks so that they recognize Israel, its Jewish character, its right to exist, and Jews' attachment to the land. Here are two quotes from textbooks. See if you can guess which is from an Israeli textbook, and which is from a recently-released Palestinian textbook.
The astonishing thing here is that the Israeli Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace cites the Israeli book as an example of pro-Jewish bias. The Center itself isn't peacenik. It's honest, and it fully understands that the Israeli emphasis is one of degree, where the Arab textbooks are uniformly exclusive. Keep this in mind when Abbas is in Washington, asking President Bush for a timeline for Israeli commitments. This one's 10 years old.
The Center has also produced an extensive survey of Saudi textbooks, textbooks which, by the way, are used in American madrassas funded by the Saudis.
Monday, July 21, 2003
I've been reassessing my reaction to the Seabiscuit epilogue, so unhappy was I with the way it ended. I think I was probably lavishing sympathy on people who didn't really want or need it. Tom Smith eventually was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, in 2001, and probably as a result of the book. But he was a solitary guy, chose to be obscure and taciturn, and probably didn't give a damn whether or not anyone showed up at his funeral. Charlie Woolf never got to enjoy retirement, but he died on the track. And who knows if he could have stood a life without racing, anyway. And Red Pollard did what he wanted to do - race. Laura Hillenbrand has an interview at the end of the paperback re-issue, and she says that she started out with the same feelings that I had. But Pollard did want he wanted, regardless of the cost, and never seemed to regret it. In some ways it was a sad end, but it was one that he chose, and one that his wife chose with him.
In the end, I probably had gotten all the way through the book without learning the central lesson of horse racing - that success is ephemeral, and that the hardest thing in the world is to parlay one success into another. As much as anyone, racing people probably live in the moment. And, after all, their lasting success is that, 65 years later, we're still talking about what they accomplised with this horse.
Woody Paige, Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone
One of the pleasure of working from home is that you occasionally get to see a local columnist make an idiot of himself on national television. Discussing the Kobe Bryant case, Woody Paige, sports columnist for the Denver Post, said on ESPN's "Around the Horn" that the trial should be moved from Eagle County to Denver since, "they're all 90% White Republicans up there, and you've got a black man accused of raping a white woman," that there was no way he could get a fair trial. Paige is wrong on the facts, wrong on principle, and Max Kellerman, the show's moderator, was wrong for not stepping in.
In the first place, Paige might want to do a little homework before seeking to disenfranchise jurors from some other part of his state. The county went for Wayne Allard in 2002's Senate election - by 56 votes out of just under 12000 cast. The county went for Democrat Udall in his House District #2 seat. Obviously, no matter how white the county is, some large percentage of them aren't Democrats. Who knows, they may even suffer from the same liberal guilt that leads Paige to crack wise about the provincials.
Then there's the question about race. Eagle County, whatever it is, is not Forsythe County, Georgia, circa 1935. The notion that a white juror can't think straight about a supposed black-on-white crime is absurd, insulting, and contrary to just about every notion of American jurispridence. These accusations only work one way, so that the only jurors capable of acting impartially in cross-race trials are blacks. There is a legitimate question of how well a county with a small population, and thus a small juror pool, can handle a trial. With only 27,000 registered voters, a fair number of the potential jurors either went to school with or had kids who went to school with the accuser. But that isn't the point he raised. He type-cast an entire county on the basis of assumptions about race a political affiliation which turned out to be wrong.
For Shame. I've sent Mr. Paige an email on the matter, but don't hold your breath waiting for contrition. And don't hold your breath waiting for the Post to take any action on this one.
Turns out the Denver Post has an interesting on-line corrections policy. They correct the story on-line, and then note, at the bottom of the corrected story, that it's been corrected. I realize one of the joys of the electronic age is the obsolescence of white-out and correcting tape, but this is going a bit far.
Wouldn't we all like to be able to do this with our lives? We could go back, make a little notation in a personal diary that, say, Election Day 2002 was a mistake, and we'd like Bill Simon as Governor, after all. We note that our vote on that day has been "corrected," and the Universe totals up the new votes, and voila!, not only is Simon the Governor now, he has been for 6 months. Another notation and, wham!, my car's intact and the city doesn't need to buy a new lightpole. I know Kobe Bryant would give several years' salary for this sort of thing right now.
South Park did one of their less-funny shows about Steven Speilberg and George Lucas digitally "fixing" their old movies. Lucas basically confined himself to adding new special effects to Star Wars, which sort of distorts the contemporary state-of-the-art for future film historians. But Spielberg has gone back and turned the policemen's guns into flashlights as they search the forest for ET and the kids. Halt! Or I'll tell you to look into one of these flashlights! Policemen have guns, had guns, and always will have guns. It's not pacifist to airbrush in flashlights, it's Orwellian.
The political potential for this sort of thing has already been explored by 1984 and the Kremlin. The Post will argue that this isn't what they're doing, but it is. Because unless I go back and re-read every story for a week, I'm never going to see the correction. Unless I assume that every story is factually flawed, I'm going to read the story and go on. So while the official record is fine, the "facts" that people are carrying around in their heads likely aren't. On top of that, the Post has a responsibility to take its lumps like everyone else, and not try to hide its mistakes under a nest of digits.
For the record, I also emails the Rocky about their policy, but they haven't gotten back to me yet.
NAACP Gun Lawsuit
The NAACP has lost its lawsuit against the gun manufacturers, thank goodness. The judge's decision, as reported by the AP, is a little peculiar. The judge agrees that black suffered more from handgun violence, but that that suffering wasn't different in kind from that suffered by others. There's a princple called "disparate impact," meaning that race-neutral policies can have a greater effect on one race (blacks) than another (anyone else). The judge didn't rely on that, and it sounds like the plaintiffs didn't, either.
At the same time, the judge said that the gun manufacturers, while not criminally negligent, were "careless," what ever that means. He suggested that they might require retailers to limit sales to one buyer. There are about 14 things wrong with this, beginning with the growing legislative move to limit purchases to 1 a month. I can always go to another dealer. How can a manufacturer limit sales by secondary retailers? Illegal guns aren't bought at stores, they're bought on the street. Thank goodness this suit was dismissed, but I'm afraid that there's enough leeway for an appellate court, possibly a State Supreme Court, to make mischief.
I don't want to pick on Jim Spencer. Well, ok, I do. So I will. From now on. For the moment, this is of mostly local interest. But having seen Molly Ivins, MoDo, and Paul Krugman become columnists with national readership and syndication, I've come to believe that pretty much anything is possible. So why wait?
Spencer, as mentioned below, has some writing skills, some limited reasoning ability, and presumably wasn't a total wash-out as a reporter. But as a columnist, he's a waste of space. A fine example is his column on the Nuns Who Hammered. These are three pacifist nuns who broke into a federal facility (housed on private farmland) to sprinkle blood and a few symbolic hammer taps on a nuclear silo. The nuns are all in their 60s, and sending old women to jail for anything short of armed robbery does seem a little silly. If he stopped there, of course, there wouldn't be much of a column. So Spencer needs to boil up sympathy for the nuns based on their politics, which means based on his.
It's quite clear that if these nuns protested abortion, Spencer wouldn't have any sympathy for them at all.
Another day, another Jim Spencer column. With a finely-honed talent for missing the point, liberal sensibilities firmly intact, Jim Spencer's columns are sometimes coherent, occasionally grammatical, and almost always a waste of column-inches. Today, he's decided that the incoming Mayor Hickenlooper needs to remiain a "man of the people," or something. That he shouldn't take himself too seriously, as Mayor Webb has.
This notion, that it's important to look like a common man, to hold onto the "bad hair jokes," reminds me of no one so much as Jimmy Carter. Maybe it translates better at the local level, and it certainly doesn't look like Hickenlooper has any higher ambitions. But Mayor Webb was term-limited out of office. He would almost certainly have won re-election easily had he been able to run, with or without a city building named after him. People eventually judge a mayor by how many jobs get created, and how quickly the streets get plowed. They'll forgive him pretty much anything legal (and many things illegal) if he meets those criteria.
A mayor needs to balance his public persona with what people expect of the office. They've elected a leader, and he needs to act like one, which also sometimes means putting a little fear into the hearts of his political opponents. With no public record to speak of, Hickenlooper was able to get by on his business record, his opponent's slavishness to the unions, and some cute jokes about parking meters and mousse. He'll need to be a mayor now, and to be taken seriously when he calls on that title to get things done.
Sunday, July 20, 2003
I climbed my first Fourteener today, Mt. Bierstadt. Mt. Bierstadt is supposed to be the "easiest" 14er, or mountain over 14,000 ft. in height. Which I guess proves that there's no such thing as an easy 14er. As a pilot, you learn that if you're going to spend more than 30 minutes over 12,500 ft., you need to carry supplemental oxygen, since oxygen deprivation impairs your judgment. Almost the whole hike, starting out at Guanella Pass, is above this altitude. I was pretty much exhausted by the time I got halfway up, but kept at it, boulders and all. With the clouds moving in, we couldn't spend as much time at the summit as I would have liked, but since I'm lugging around way too much extra weight as it is, making it at all was a pleasant surprise.
What a tremendous horse. I wish Laura Hillenbrand hadn't written the epilogue, that life was like a movie, ending at the moment of triumph, lettings the characters fade to sepia, or parley that lightning-in-a-bottle into success. But they couldn't. The jockeys who rode him, Charles Woolf and Red Pollard both suffered, Woolf dying while parading his last mount to the starting gate, Pollard spending his life in obscurity as a jockey, crippled, no place else to go. His trainer went on to become one of the greatest trainers ever, but died in California, unlamented, shunned by the Racing Hall of Fame. His owner seemed to live through his horses, with Seabiscuit as his closest companion. Even the horse died young, at 14.
All of these men found redemption through Seabiscuit. But none was able to succeed beyond him. If the story ended at the Santa Anita Handicap, March 2, 1940, it would be a brilliant tale of success, valor, victory. But that epilogue, and the tragic ends of Team Seabicuit, just leave you feeling hollow.
Friday, July 18, 2003
It looks as though DIA is going to help Frontier expand, while keeping the gate open for United, if it ever gets its act together. I'm happy to see Frontier expand, but I'd prefer that they get some of United's gates. If United ever gets back on its feet, then we can shell out the money to expand. There's no doubt that part of Frontier's expansion is coming at United's expense, and I'm worried that we're liable to end up with a great deal of excess gate capacity, and excess maintenance cost.
As to the question of why this matters to people who don't live in Denver, consider your own airport. If it's in a major market, chances are it's in the same position: a hub for a major carrier, with other major, minor, and regional carriers scattered around the outlying gates. All the major carriers are in trouble, and almost all the major airports seem to be stuck with these long-term, inflexible plans. The net effect here is to subsidize a failing whale, while stifling the nimbler, more agile, smaller competition that makes a market system work. Replicated all over the country, such arrangements could end up making air travel even more expensive and inconvenient than it is now.
I don't care much for our State Attorney General. But his staff is terrific. I called yesterday afternoon to see if I could get an electronic copy of his brief opposing the new redistricting plan for the state. They emailed it to me this morning. No questions, no problems, just a courteous phone call and a brief, business-like email with an attachment. I'm reading the thing now. Hopefully, I'll have something to say about it.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Why Perspective is Important
Remember the Tet Offensive? That was the VC's ill-fated attack on the US in Vietnam. It destroyed them as a fighting force, but they took a lot of US soldiers with them, at one point penetrating the American Embassy compound in Saigon. Well, if the Iraqi forces show any sort of regional or national coordination, as Gen. Abazaid seems to think is possible, we could face the same type of thing. We needn't have Vietnam-scale casualties to have a severe effect on the home front's morale. Which is why it's so important to keep perspective now. We'll be in Iraq for a while, and most of the Iraqis want us there, helping to fix the place up. We need to keep our collective eye on the ball, and remember that any coordinated attack is going to hurt them much more than it hurts us.
Soy. Soy is the resucer of kosher cookery in the 21st century. For those of you who don't know, one of the rules of kosher food is that you can't mix milk and meat. There's some dispute over what constitutes "milk" and what constitutes "meat," but even in a religion as legalistic and Judaism, there's widespread agreement that beef and chicken are meat, and that milk is milk. Now I love Indian food (Indian as in the Raj, not Indian as in badly bruised Buffalo), but a lot of the recipes call for milk to thicken the gravy or sauce. Soy milk is made from soybeans, not from cowstuff, and it's pareve, meaning it's neither milk nor meat.
And it works! Sunday night, I made a spicy chicken that needed a curry. You sautee onions, put in the curry and the chicken, and then add the milk, cooking for about another 15 minutes. The thing worked like a dream, yielding a chicken that absorbed the curry taste, and a pasty sauce-like gravy. Now I know what people back in the 50's felt like when they discovered margarine.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
In other signs of the coming apocalypse, the Denver Post's Sunday lead editorial attacks Governor Owens for saying he'd sign legislation outlawing the use of race in state college admissions. Charles Krauthammer has claimed that the Court's ruling in Grutter just throws the issue back to the states. The Post, often wrong but never in doubt, mistakenly and explicitly claims that the Court "settled the issue" with their ruling. Of course they did no such thing, legally, but it's pretty clear that defenders of quotas will try to spin it that way. The ruling, far from just failing to act, will make it positively harder for defenders of individual rights to get rid of this leech.
The democracy movement in Hong Kong has claimed its first two victims, reports the Telegraph, but this has more to do with displeasing Peking that with displeasing the people of Hong Kong. The puppet masters send inspectors to the colony, not to figure out what lamebrain set of the demos, but to find out who's organizing them. Look, prominent officials resigned over SARS, too, but nobody thinks this is going to usher in a golden age of multiparty pluralism. The sad part is, there probably is no next step for the democracy movement. The business community in Hong Kong has never defended civil rights with any vigor, and while they generated opposition to Article 23, they're likely to put the brakes on anything that actually smacks of real rebellion. It's too bad. I'm always ready to root for guys who are ready to fight for themselves.
Also on Hewitt's show, the Smart Guys went at it over the Nevada Supreme Court's rape of that state's constitution last week. Sad to say, the very earnest Erwin Chemerinsky seemed to have the better of it, over John Eastman. I'm afraid that this does look a lot like a federalism issue, and that Eastman's novel legal theory - that republicanism demands overturning the decision - just doesn't sound persuasive. I'm also not a big fan of Novel Legal Theories in general. They give us things like the tobacco settlement and Erin Brockovich and Samuel Hirsch suing McDonald's and the cities suing the gun manufacturer. Of course, it's not any more novel than what the Nevada 6 did last week, but there's another remedy.
The citizens of Nevada need to recall these guys. I know, with the Sinking of the Grey Davis out in California, it could start to look like Recall Madness, but maybe it's time. This decision makes the Florida Supreme Court look like a gang of strict constructionists. Nevada citizens, if they value democracy, need to exercise their oversight role and ditch these guys. The Nevada Legislature, with a majority in favor of the tax increase, probably doesn't have the principles to do it. The Nevada Governor, no Andrew "Let them enforce it" Jackson he, brought the suit which brought so much trouble in the first place. No, the citizens of Nevada need to get circulate a recall petition, bring these dogs to heel, and stop the madness.
Last night, Hugh Hewitt, feeling pressure from the All-Star Game, read a short story from Joseph Epstein's new collection, Fabulous Small Jews. It was an unusual thing to do, but refreshing, and if Hewitt's delivery was a little flat, the story wasn't. I have Epstein's older short story collection, The Goldin Boys. I tried reading it a few years ago, wasn't really in the mood, and gave it up. His essays are first-rate, and so accessable. I'm giving it another chance now, and the stories are really pretty good.
Epstein, by the way, has another essay, masquerading as a book review, over at the Weekly Standard. It's about Jerry Nachman's new book about cutting-edge, Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. I'm not nearly old enough to remember these guys in their first run, but I got a taste of Tom Lehrer from my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kessenger, and my parents made sure I heard enough of the rest to appreciate them. I do remember that Mort Sahl had a radio show when I was growing up in DC. And we listened to a Lily Tomlin/Shelley Berman sketch so often I memorized most of it before losing the tape. "Information Cannot Argue With a Closed Mind."
Anyway, Epstein points out that by making fun, often of conservatives but just as often of liberals, these comedians somehow took the starch out of a lot of social conventions, and paved the way for the changes in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the equivalent would be having a group of guys stand up and make fun, real fun, of PC, but you couldn't get that sort of thing on the air.
In a bold move, sure to provide campaign footage for a Senate or gubernatorial run, outgoing (faster, please) Mayor Webb ripped up a letter from United Airlines demanding relief as part of its reorganization. The problem is, they seem to be willing to sue to stick the city with all sorts of long-term obligations, without reaffirming their lease. Still, Webb's theatrics might mean something if he had also made the DIA vendors re-bid to get contract extensions. As it is, only at the end of the article are we reminded that United is trying to stick the city with a new concourse, at the same time they're holding onto unused gates in order to throttle rival Frontier.
On a lighter note, the difficulties that Ohio State and its star player, Maurice Clarett, find themselves in, prompted this memory from a James Thurber memoir, The Thurber Album. Thurber, himself an OSU alum, wrote, concerning a track star whose professor had gotten the better of him in class:
One last item about the Post. They've included a report of a report that raises technical questions about missile defense. Change a few words, and this article could have been, probably was, written 15 years ago when I was working on countermeasures. The reports questions boost-phase intercept and reiterates that technical problems haven't been solved, ignoring all the obvious and impressive progress we've made in 20 years. Fifteen years ago, remember, we'd never "hit a bullet with a bullet," but now we have, many times. These kinds of reports, Science By Press Conference, are almost always politically-driven, and almost always deeply flawed. Like Tom Daschle, they're just raising questions. The country would be better served if they helped provide some answers.
The Post also has an extended report on the Muslim anti-Semitic violence in France, and more aggressive attempts by the French to combat it. The French have historically insisted on radical assimilation, something which the Muslim immigrant population there has resisted, but which the Jews, given Europe's history, have eagerly embraced. Buried in the report is this quote from a French Jewish woman, whose husband, a university professor, was the victim of a gang attack:
"Reduced to being Jews." These exact words could have been spoken 70 years ago as Hitler took power. Unlike some, I wouldn't read this as an attempt to escape from their Jewish identity. It's more of a reference to Europe's history, where, for about 1000 years, Jews were seen as somehow incomplete as human beings.
The Washington Post's lead editorial this morning provides some surprising common sense from the major media. For the duration of the Iraq Situation, the Post has been more reasonable and tempered than their brethren at the Times, one reason why the Times has become an object of scrutiny and derision. The editors stop short of actually condemning the Democrats for their behavior over the Niger issue, but they do put it in perspective: even if untrue, - and this is still far from certain - the Niger report was one part of a much larger argument for going to war.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
I should, by now, know better than to rely on a newpaper article describing a study. The bad news is that "other race," i.e., neither "black" nor "white," is labeled "Hispanic hispanic," and is growing as a percentage of all hispanics. I honestly have no idea what this means, or where it comes from. Maybe it's a result of being told to identify as hispanic, maybe it's a result of wanting to shed old racial identities, maybe it comes from the large number of racial mixing categories that, thankfully, we don't have here. I'm reading the study now, so we'll see where it leads.
This Washington Post article on Hispanics and race has gotten virtually no play in the blogosphere. I think it's more important than that, especially in light of the Grutter decision. While its main thrust is a discussion of how Hispanics of different complexions are doing in this country, the main point is that there's no such race as "hispanic." Protestations from La Raza to the contrary, this report in no way supports their basic contention; instead, it deeply undermines it. The whole question of how hispanics deal with race is a complex one, but if properly handled, it can go a long way towards pushing us back towards sanity on this issue.
Monday, July 14, 2003
A win over the Andrew Wilkies of the world is one thing. We can't forget that institutions matter. Oxfam is British-based food-aid NGO. Feeding starving people is nice, a good thing to do. (Letting in genetically-modified grains, or donating to these guys, so that the people in question could feed themselves would be better, but then all those staffers at Oxfam might have to find real jobs.) For some reason, Oxfam Belgium seems to think that putting Israeli fruit farmers out of business is somehow going to further this end.
Belgium has just passed a change to their notorious war-crimes legislation, requiring plaintiffs to actually be Belgian residents or citizen before presuming to conscript the Belgian courts into their pet causes. Belgium is the home to NATO headquarters, EU headquarters, and a sense of bigoted self-righteousness that has developed primarily from being a highway for German troops on their way to Paris. Created as a buffer to prevent Franco-German wars, Belgium has apparently decided that "neutrality" equates with "moral superiority." Oxfam Belgium has apparently decided that "moral superiority" equates with "greater brutality." Belgium, having been saved twice from becoming part of Greater Brutality, would probably think differently if there were actually a price to be paid for this moral blurriness. Sadly, Oxfam Belgium's sole export seems to be hatred and anti-Semitism, which most Americans have the sense to boycott already.
Today is the 178th anniversary of the founding of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society at Room 7 West Lawn at the University of Virginia. Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant had the privilege of serving the Society in a number of capacities, and found the Hall, as we know it, to be a tremendously broadening intellectual experience, and a fine introduction to the politics that pervade virtually every organization with more than two members.
Friday, July 11, 2003
A finance project that's starting to look like the tail-end of a James Cameron Production. Homework that hasn't been done in days. An office slowly succumbing to the demands of entropy. Ah, leave it to the New York Times Corrections page to get the day started right. Almost always, tucked in among the misspelled, mis-stated, or just plan forgetten names, there's something sure to cheer up the faint of heart. This morning, there are two, one fun, one pretty damn serious.
First, the ridiculous. Some reporter and his editor actually thought that there had been 3 billion heart-burn prescriptions written last year. This is actually the number of pills taken. I eat a lot of spicy food, but that's enough prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in the country to have 10 of them. I don't know what passes for the FDA over in India, and I'm sure there's a thriving export market for these kinds of pills, but even then.
Before we get serious, visit the Corrections page yourself, and just imagine a world where life imitated the Times. Record books would show mysterious gaps. What? No-one won the Tour de France in 1990? Or else bets settled by Guiness one night would have the opposite result the next. People usually look in the new phone book for their own names, expecting all the basic info to be there and be right. Now, who knows? I can't get people to spell "Sharf" right when I'm standing in front of them spelling it for them. How would things be when the spelling actually does change day to day? Half the world - literally - can't keep their food from burning a hole in their throats. Perfectly good marketing dollars go to waste on sports teams that don't exist. Science fiction from the 1950s that regularly featured parallel universes, only slightly different from our own, wouldn't even qualify as fiction.
Now, for the malign. The Catholic Church has gotten good and beat up, and rightly so, for priests that can't keep their hands off their young charges, and for moving these guys around from parish to parish, hoping for rehabilitation. So when someone makes a charge, a specific charge, about this happening to a particular priest in a known parish, you'd think the paper would call up the local clerical authorities for a response. Not only didn't they do so, but the guy who made the charge has now retracted it. I don't know if they could have cleared up the mess before it made it into print, but surely the Camden Diocese deserved the chance to go on the record about it.
Paul Childs Update
The Denver Post reports on a peaceful demo in support of Paul Childs and his family. Some moron distributed a leaflet calling for violence, and about the only thing he did was unleash a posse who wanted to lynch him. Even the Rev. Martin is chagrined to see his remarks taken out of context, and it appears that the racial angle is indeed of less interest than I had feared. Of course Johnnie Cochran, that itinerant attorney who travels from city to city looking for rights to wrong, hasn't actually shown up yet. But if the basic message he gets is that a civil suit is fine, as long as he doesn't try to destroy the city in the process, this is all to the good.
So far, though, the responsible focus has been entirely on rule of engagement, with footnotes and middle-of-the-story paragraphs mentioning the hiring practices that put this schlub on the force to begin with.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
I knew this wasn't going to go well for the Asians. All the evidence is that the policeman who shot Paul Childs, James Turney, was a lousy cop, with a prior shooting, ethical, um, issues, and test scores that could only have gotten him on the force with the help of the University of Michigan Law School's point system. Which is essentially what happened. About 35 other applicants had better scores, but he checked the box that counted most - Asian - and leapfrogged right over them to the bottom of his class. His mother being Asian had nothing to do with anything. But it put a bad cop on the street, because some judge named Hoag decided that the department needed more "diversity."
Even when Asians benefit from affirmative action, they get shafted. And now a city that's basically dealt pretty well with racial issues recently is in for it. Most of the Alliance of Ministers don't seem inclined to take a racial angle on the shooting. But their family minister, Paul Martin, has called on an old friend to represent them - Johnnie Cochran. ("If he's got a knife, don't take his life.") Remember the old Star Trek where the glowing child's pinwheel shows up and the Klingons and Humans start butchering each other because the thing feeds off of hatred? Maybe young Johnnie Cochran saw that episode and it sounded like a living to him. Beware, Hollywood. You never know which character is going to end up being the role model for an impressionable youth. We may be worried about all the refugees from California that the mountains were supposed to protect us against, but at least they stay here long enough to have a stake in the place.
In a strange twist, outgoing (faster, please) Mayor Wellington Webb is a good friend of (and recipient of campaign cash from) Cochran and his wife. Mrs. Cochran is a vendor at DIA, last seen getting a no-rebid extension on her lease, costing a city with a $33 million deficit about $4 million dollars for 4-6 years. I'm sure that whatever salary Mrs. Cochran gets paid from her company goes back into the collective coffers of Cochran, Inc. Which means that we, as taxpayers, are not only funding Webb's next campaign, but also Cochran's lawsuit against against the city.
This isn't necessarily out of the ordinary - politicans do favors for friends who turn around and finance their campaigns all the time. It doesn't mean they're bought, or that they can't be bought out for a better price. But it is the kind of thing that Common Cause might spend their time on, rather than explaining to me why I'm missing a good chance to shut up. It also wouldn't be quite so bad if the extensions hadn't been justified on the basis of benefiting small, local, minority ownership. Mrs. Cochran isn't small, middle-class, or local. Hell, she may be white for all I know. The more we learn about this deal, the more it stinks, and the more it's going to cost. And the way out is sometimes the best time for politicans to do favors. Just remember all those upstanding citizens who received White House-embossed Get Out of Jail Free cards on January 20, 2001.
I now have two reading joys in the morning: Lileks, and the New York Times corrections. The Corrections, though, are always at least a day behind, since they were written at the end of yesterday, describing something wrong at least a day prior to that. Still, it gives one a sense of calm confidence in the world to see the Old Grey Lady slowly coming apart at the editorial seams, like that scene at the end of the animated Metropolis where the whole city collapses to the strains of Ray Charles and "It's a Wonderful World." Today, they've got four corrections from business stories. I honestly can't believe that anyone who's serious about business in New York even read the Times business section any more, with a WSJ one stand over.
Still, this morning's headliner is a real attention-grabber:
Well, of course. The Crime of the Century was the Lindbergh kidnapping, 1932. (Strangely, though, there are several contenders for Trial of the Century - Bruno Hauptman for the aforementioned Crime, The Monkey Trials, Sacco and Vanzetti. The Game of the Century happens every year.) Still, they don't say which century, but slavery was spread out over a few, so take your pick.
The Times did get the text of the speech right, apparently, and it was a terrific speech. Hugh Hewitt played the whole thing on his show a few days ago. It wasn't groveling or pathetic like the Apology Tour Bill Clinton led a few years back. It was dignified, spoke of the crimes of slavery but also of how much progress our country has made since then, and both prodded and encouraged the African countries to do the same. Paraphrasing: if freedom doesn't belong to one race in America, neither does it belong only to America. A great piece of work, and whoever wrote it should get a promotion and a raise.
The problem with the Times making a mistake like that is that it immediately turns off all the people who claim to care so much about Africa, and who might be impressed with a speech like that. You know, the NEA Members who think we elected Ray Bolger in 2000. They take one look at the subhead and write off the whole article, figuring that Bush is just embarassing himself and the country in front of the natives. Instead, they should read the whole thing, and learn something about how a President should act when he's on tour.
I haven't seen the videotape, but I'm told that he was sort of winking while he said this, and then, eventually, claimed he was quite serious, that his mother was a history teacher in Sacramento, and that this is what she taught. I think baseball managers sometimes take an impish joy in being opaque and stirring up trouble.
That said, let's take him at his word and assume he meant what he said. People are comparing this to Al Campanis, who made some boneheaded comment on Nightline about blacks not having buoyancy, and lacking the leadership skills to be managers. But the better comparison is to Jimmy the Greek. I know Jimmy was drunk, but what he said was that the slaveowners "bred their big black men to their big black women." As I recall, he wasn't making fun of anyone, and wasn't actually deriding anyone.
I don't take offense at what Baker said. I wear sunscreen, and Mary Schmich was talking to a mostly white crowd that day. What bothers me is that there are some topics I can't talk about, no matter how far backwards I bend over to avoid giving offense.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
One of the big stories here recently has been the story of a mentally-handicapped teenage boy, who was wielding a knife, and threatening his mother. The cops showed up and shot and killed him. Evidently, they were within official procedures for this sort of thing, but several officers on the scene had tasers at their disposal, and these weren't used. Also, the 9-1-1 operator didn't seem to allow the boy's sister, who called in the problem, to explain his handicap.
At first, it seemed as though the racial angle was going to dominate this story, with certain firebrands showing up on TV, threatening "explosions" and asking if a white kid who didn't know any better and who was chasing his mother around the table with a knife, would have been confronted with the same suspicions. It turns out that this particular officer also shot and killed a deaf black teenager in another incident last year. Previously, I didn't know the race of the officer. Therein lies enough irony even for Mr. Berlusconi.
It turns out the officer is half-asian. What the other half is, I don't know, but I assume his father is white. According to the Denver Post, he had been denied positions on 4 other police forces, and was the last of 158 trainees admitted to his class. He was only admitted because of a court-ordered "diversity" plan, and clearly had no business carrying a weaponand a badge. What's ironic is that it's usually the Asians who get the short end of the stick under affirmative action. Here's a case where one benefits, and he screws is up.
The mistake, the carelessness, the death of this young man, have nothing to do with the officer's Asian mother. But they do show what happens when race trumps qualifications. Jayson Blair's lack of character is unrelated to his skin color. But his skin color helped put him in a position to do tremendous damage to a great paper's credibility.
The good news is that the alliance of black ministers has proposed a variety of measures, none of which has anything to do with race. The bad news is that they also have requested a civil rights investigation, the mere prosecution of which could make the police more passive and embolden criminals. This is just what happened in Cincinnati after the riots, and crime rates have risen far faster than the national average there. Since Denver has suffered from gang violence in the past, seems to be undergoing a resurgence of such violence now, and since most gangs are ethnic, Denver may be particularly vulnerable to this dynamic.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
More friends coming out for a visit. Actually, I'm the side-dish. Vic's sister is in a nursing home, and he and Anne come out every few months to help her go over the top and get out for some fresh air. Last week, it was a friend out here on a business conference, learning about Iraq and the Middle East. We went to the Rockies game, the one with fireworks and man-eating escalators, and even for someone like me, spoiled by twenty-odd years of DC fireworks-on-the-Mall, they were pretty good. Certainly far superior to the New Year's Eve set they did.
A few years ago, NYE 2000 -> 2001, Denver did a really nice set of fireworks downtown, but then September 11th happened, and suddenly, for the following New Year's, setting off gunpowder in a thickly-populated downtown didn't seem like such a good idea. They revived them this past New Year's, with a special 10:00 matinee for the families, but the show was weak. Denver's not a town with a whole lot of communal traditions, unless you count the police chasing down the Mexicans cruising along Federal on Cinco de Mayo. I'd like to see the New Year's fireworks develop into one, but they'll have to improve the show, or people will stop coming.
Best line on ESPN News: "Why does Lloyd McClendon keep running out and yelling at umpires?" "Well, at least we know it isn't the heat."
Ward Connerly's Brother-in-Arms
If Charles Krauthammer and Ward Connerly are right, and the next step in the Quota Wars is a state-by-state legislative fight, then it looks like it might start here in Colorado. Governor Owens has announced that he'd like to sign legislation removing race as a factor in state college admissions. (John Andrews, the reliable if fire-eating State Senate leader, wants to extend this to all government activities, but let's just get a bill passed, John.) It looks like the legislative leaders will cooperate, and we may get a bill this year.
It's ironic that Owens made the announcement at a reception for the Brazilian Ambassador. Brazil traditionally had a social awareness of race, with some loose classifications, but no official government rankings. They have only just instituted affirmative action, and in a country where the vast majority of people are mixed-race, it's causing confusion and exacerbating tensions it was supposed to have assuaged.
More problematic may be the state's Democrats. Attorney General Salazar. who's clearly running for Governor 3 years from now, will probably oppose it, either with a suit of his own, or by filing an amicus brief in someone else's case. He's done this before, with the redistricting bill, but there he had to fight on procedural grounds. Here, he'd probably have to argue that "diversity," as a "compelling state interest" not only permits, but compels the universities to take race into account.
But leave it to State Senator Ken Gordon, sadly, my own state senator, to show everything that's wrong with the Democrats on this issue:
Of course, Ken, you can't see why anyone would oppose you on this. So sure you are of how right you are, you can't imagine anyone disagreeing. And no, Ken, nobody ever said that SATs were the only measure of a student's worth. Just not skin color. There are grades, teach recommendations, extracurriculars, although, Ken, apparently not religious extracurriculars, huh? That smarmy little jab at the end, taking a shot at the Governor's religiosity, is so typical.
Monday, July 07, 2003
The Next Axis
Tomorrow's Washington Post has a report about the defeat of Article 23, and the next steps for Hong Kong. The report suggests that pro-Peking politicians want to preserve their dominance by ditching Tung, while the democrats want to force the government to adopt elections. Peking is really between a rock and a hard place here. I can't believe there's a snowball's chance in Hell that they'll allow Hong Kong free elections, not with the failure of Article 23 which supposed to help act as a political firebreak between Hong Kong and the mainland.
At the same time, they really think that the economy was the main reason for the demonstrations, one of the classic misunderestimations of peoples' desire for political influence, aside from just speech. And by refusing a democratic process, the only outlet people will have is massive street demos, all too easily organized with a free press. Let's hope that Chris Patten's last noble act before becoming a shill for "Europe" still has a chance to bear fruit.
I'm probably the last Zionist in the world to read Michael Oren's Six Days of War, and thanks to this and other overwhelming obligations, it's taking me longer to read the book than it did to fight the war. I'll try to post a complete review when I'm done, but one observation is in place now. Oren notes the British Ambassador's reaction to the Israeli mood following the war. Unlike the Arabs, there was no celebrating in the streets, just a Cincinnatus-like desire to get back to life, and buoyed spirits. Like the Arabs of today, the intellectuals of the day saw the fatal weaknesses in their societies that the war exposed, and many of them proposed democracy as the answer. And then, as now, the leaders of the Arab world denied any systemic problems, and tried to keep their peoples' animus focused on Israel. Plus ca change...
Mark Steyn's column on California has this intersting tidbit: without California, the country added 4500 jobs last month. This might not seem like much, except that the 21500 jobs that California cost the economy shows up as .2% in the unemployment rate.
But you can't just take a saw and cut California off from the rest of the country. Losses in tech jobs, to take one very personal example, affect the tech sector in the rest of the country, too. Grey Davis is on the verge of dragging the whole US economy back from recovery.
There's a concept in accounting called EBIT, Earnings Before Interest and Taxes. This might seem like a dodge, but it turns out to be a very useful measure of a company's performance. Maybe we should institute a new concept: EBC, Economy Before California.
The New York Times Corrections page is a never-ending source of amusement and bemusement. Here's today's gem:
Given that the Democrats' entire argument-from-principle (you can't do that!), as opposed to their argument-from-interest (you can't do that to us!) rests on the once-a-decade notion, this is more than a simple mistake. It turns a tricycle into an unbalanced bicycle. Speaking of which, maybe it's time the Times started over again, with the training wheels.
Friday, July 04, 2003
Ah, it wouldn't be the 4th without one of the papers running a story about campaign finance. Turns out our mayor-elect actually had to spend money to get elected. Naturally, the Voice of the Muzzle, also known as Common Cause, is shocked to see that the front-runner out-raised the lagging candidate. People who have so little understanding of human behavior have no business holding forth on things like modifying the First Amendment. There's no quote from CC about the Auditor's race, where Dennis Gallagher was outspent 2-1, by amost $200K, yet still won pretty easily. Funny that.
Back to Hickenlooper. We all knew he was a Democrat, a social liberal but someone with business sense. So, it's a little disappointing that his inaugural ball will be a dress-down fundraiser for the teachers' union. This is exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of from Mares.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
I love this poem. I knew it growing up, and then, with September 11, and our re-assumption of our historic mission, thought of it again. It's not great poetry, but I like it, so I'm putting it here.
Everyone complains about urban sprawl, but nobody does anything about it. Well, sure, as long as we all want our lawns and ur privacy, and not to live on top of each other, and have our walls peel paint everytime the kid downstairs gets a drumset for his birthday, we're going to have to drive. And as long as companies want to be able to move offices, and people want not to be indentured servants, we can't guarantee that we'll live near our jobs. Home Depot may be the size of Coors Field, but as long as they only have 3 registers open at a time, we'll all have to live within a mile of one if we don't want to order take-out. I honestly have no idea what the solution is. It may be one of those great Unsolvable Problems, some Godel-esque question we'll still be running simulations of on our laptops in our cars as we wait for the relief helicopters to arrive.
Another great imponderable is Dell Customer Service. They can't give you a price if you want on-site service, they send you through a voice-mail maze that Theseus and Ariadne couldn't find their way out of. But once that puppy hits the mail, watch out! I went down to Airborne to mail the thing out on Monday. It was back on Wednesday. They received, fixed, and returned the package in a few hours.
What do the two have to do with each other? Well, driving out to Airborne took me through old, original Aurora. Old, original Aurora wasn't much, but it was built for people, not cars, had a little character, and a few of the old art deco buildings that are so warm and friendly. Now, along with original Englewood, original Arvada, and original Broomfield, it's been buried by sprawl, strip malls, and 6-lane surface streets, and done what all buried living things do, decayed and deteriorated.
Roads can be streams, or they can be sewers, and Aurora had the misfortune to lie on one of the great flowing cesspools of urban America, Colfax Avenue. Poor Colfax was Speaker of the US House back in the late 1800s during the great expansion, and God only knows what he did to deserve having this named after him. Colfax is one of the streets where the decent, 1940s and 1950s hotels got crowded out by the cheap rent-by-the-hour joints and went to seed along with the liquor stores. I got out of the car to take a picture of a McDonald's that has to be 40 years old. The car driving by me into the lot slowed down, and the driver gave me a look like I was collecting evidence from a crime scene he was a suspect at.
These places can be saved, if anyone cares. Rosslyn, across the river from Georgetown, is a heartless, soulless auto-oriented suburbs, better than the used car lots and pawn shops it replaced, but only because office buildings don't attract rats and gunplay. If you have to live in an apartment before you move out to the burbs, there's no reason the neighborhood can't have coffee shops and bookstores worth walking to, and safe to walk to.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
United Airlines has been one of the most predatory, poorly-run, customer-hostile airlines for years. For an industry that seems to thrive on ticket agents and flight attendants whose only power in their lives is their power over yours, that's saying something. Now, that United is reaping the bitter harvest of Chapter 11, they still haven't figured it out, only now it's equally clear that neither has the Denver city government.
Frontier Airlines, which has made money and expanded, even as other airlines are turning pilots and stewardesses into fast-food flippers and flight instructors, needs more gates, and is suggesting that they'll probably look elsewhere to expand. United is insisting that it is too using all those gates, yes even those over there with the mice and the spider webs and the rusted wheels on the mobile walkways. There's tumbleweed blowing through the far end of Concourse B, but we've just stepped out for lunch. Meanwhile, the lame-duck City Council has just told vendors they get no-rebid lease extensions, all the while charging infield box-seat prices for parking and landing. But they, "want to do what's fair to Frontier and United."
Fair? What would be fair, were a private company running this show, would be the put the CEOs of Frontier and United in a mud-wrestling pit and have them fight it out for who wants the gates more. This is also known as an "auction." The new mayor, so far, hasn't said anything, but this is a lot of money, and long-term money, we're talking about here.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Two thoughts. First, it's obvious that the Chinese are mindful of the role that outside forces, in particular the Church and American labor unions, played in bringing down Communism in the USSR and Europe. Sadly, I doubt that today's AFL-CIO is capable of the same vigorous, principled action. Secondly, Britain has something called the Official Secrets Act. It lead to the censorship of a book, Spycatcher, back in the 80s, and the absurd sight of grown men reading books in the tube with brown paper covers. But in the hands of a liberal democracy, with strong institutions and sense of liberty, the Act hasn't led to any sort of political repression. I wouldn't make the same bet about this law.
Chinese Industrial Espionage
I first saw this a couple of weeks ago. A local businessman is suspected of giving high-speed cameras to the Chinese military. It seems to me this is not an isolated phenomenon. Does anyone know of other cases (other than Wen Ho Lee) around the country? Curiously, the article doesn't mention whether or not Mr. Yu is a citizen of the US. China still has the camera, but it seems to me there's a big difference between spying for one's country and spying against one's country.
Evidently, the US Bureau of Prisons has been operating an "honor system" for convicted felons, whereby they're allowed to travel, unescorted, by plane, from one Federal lockup to another. "David Nelson? We'll need a DNA sample and a note from the Governor. Mr. Leyden, what a lovely orange outfit you're wearing. Please, have and extra bag of beer nuts." Remember, this is the guy for whom the "Prison Area - Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers" signs were created.
Now you would think that if you're going to allow convicted felons, unescorted, on airplanes, you'd at least have a guy waiting at the other end with a car, a pair of handcuffs and sign saying "Sideshow Bob," but no. In the case in question, the felon was supposed to turn himself in down at Florence, to make his own way down to the prison. Yes, he was responsible for getting himself from DIA to the prison. How? Do they give the guy his wallet, and new suit, and his driver's license back, too? And think of the drop-off charges. Greyhound doesn't even go to Florence (I checked), but if it did:
The BOP says that this is all "more efficient." When it works, sure. But the temptations for guilty men to go play Richard Kimble for six months probably reduce the profit margin on this kind of operation. In the Other Laws That Don't Work the Way We'd Advertised Department, Mr. Leyden went and bought himself a gun. And I always thought that bit about only outlaws having guns was just a slogan.
The Post also notes our efforts to get ourselves immunity from unfair war crimes accusations. The French and the rest of Old Europe are deeply invested in the ICC, which, like the Belgian War Crimes Law, smacks of arrogance beyond its borders. Our response thus far has been to use carrots to obtain bilateral treaties with states, preventing them from turning in our soldiers for alleged war crimes. The article details some of the pressures that the new NATO members are under, including economic pressure by the French, to cave in to the ICC. (Some countries have waivers, meaning that they don't need to sign the bilateral treaties to keep getting military aid - among them existing NATO countries, the Anglosphere, Israel, and - Egypt??)
We have a very good record of dealing with these issues ourselves, and if we're going to be asked to do all the heavy lifting, it only seems fair that we be allowed to do it without having our soldiers become sitting ducks. It's vitally important that this effort succeed. The ICC will be around, and our country's advance hasn't occurred in a straight line. There may be times when a future administration feels pressured to allow the ICC a role in policing the US military, and the closer we can come to killing this thing in its crib, the better off we'll be. Otherwise, these treaties are just a rearguard action. Some major diplomatic confrontation with the EU is in the future, and if things go the wrong way, this could certainly be one of their crowbars.
The Great Texas House Border Wars are back. Gov. Rick Perry has called the legislature back for a special session. When we last left this saga, the Republicans were trying to pass a redistricting bill, something that the Democrats had failed to do when they controlled the legislature. With a 2/3 majority required for a quorum, and the Republicans just shy of a 2/3 majority in each house, the Democrats couldn't win a vote, but they could and did deny a quorum. Now, with a special session, the Dems have decided to focus on the Senate, where they only need to hold 12 members in line, instead of 51. Still, some of those Democrats, presumably ones without higher ambition, seem willing to play ball for their votes.
I don't want to pick on the Post too much here, but it's not until the very end of the article that we are reminded that 1) the last redistricting plan was imposed by a judge, 2) the Democrats made gerrymandering these districts a cornerstone of their state political policy through the 1980 and 1990 cycles, and 3) Republicans "say" that a 17-15 Democrat majority isn't representative, without telling us the percentage of votes cast for each party in the 2002 House races. It turns out that the Republicans got 56% of the vote statewide in 2002. Amazingly, the Greens ran candidates in 5 districts and picked up just over 10000 votes, and I hadn't realized there was anything green in Texas.
Naturally, the Post editorial is opposed to the plan, but spends more time on whether or not House Speaker Tom Craddick called Homeland Security to track down a plane flown by one of the AWOL Democrats. They fault the Homeland Security IG for investigating the role of Homeland Security, as though the department's IG had any right at all to go investigating the Texas Legislature. This call took up 40 minutes of some minor official's time. It's a shame that the Post can't get as worked up over Sheila Jackson Lee and her attachment to Government cars.
In a rare show of sanity, the Denver City Council voted against a restaurant smoking ban this evening, 7 - 5. The Nanny State suffers a setback. One of the arguments, though, is that such a ban would have put Denver restaurants at a disadvantage vis-a-vis their competition in other local cities. Hopefully, we'll never get that level of coordination.