Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, April 03, 2004 :::

I didn't know until just now that at 4PM Eastern Time ABC will be broadcasting a Major League Soccer game in which 14 year old Freddy Adu is expected to play.

::: posted by dWj at 1:45 PM

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A couple items of local political interest.
  • First, James Joyce announced a couple days ago that he is retiring as Chicago fire commissioner. So he can spend more time with his family, as they say. There are a couple reasons he might have been told he wants to spend more time with his family. As I at least alluded to, there was a fire downtown last October; as the story broke, it was announced that the building had been safely evacuated with no casualties; an hour after the fire was out, six casualties were found in stairwells of the building. There is some indication that firefighters actually interacted with some of these people, and that the department ignored indications that they were up there. My impression is that mistakes made were not largely Joyce's, but you know that's immaterial. The more recent reason for Daley to suggest to Joyce that he like his family is a flare-up in racial tensions in the fire department — it may or may not be coincidence that Joyce's replacement is black. (Cortez Trotter is far from unqualified, but that he's the first African-American to lead the Chicago fire department has been lost on nobody.) These problems have existed for a long time; ten years ago white firefighters were disciplined when a tape was found of them having a party dressed in blackface and mocking black stereotypes; the rank-and-file elected one of these firefighters the head of its union a few years ago. Recently a lot of racial slurs have been heard on the fire department's radio system; it almost seems to me that some of it was done intentionally to get Joyce in trouble, though the fire department has had a lot of trouble figuring out who has been doing it. (Yes, apparently when the guy trying to put out your house calls for assistance, they can't tell who it is requesting it.)
  • On a more positive note, the Illinois legislature recently defeated a proposal to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, but looks close to passing a proposal to permit them to foreigners in the country legally, to expire when the licensee's permission to be here expires (or in three years if that's sooner; ordinary licenses are for 5). With George Ryan out of government, they will presumably also be required to be able to drive before receiving these licenses.

::: posted by dWj at 12:25 PM

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Friday, April 02, 2004 :::
Audrey's Kidnap Story a Hoax
Police said Friday they are no longer seeking a suspect in the case of the 20-year-old college student who originally claimed she was abducted from her apartment building at knifepoint, after they discovered several inconsistencies in her story.

::: posted by dWj at 2:30 PM

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One of those local interest stories that becomes a water cooler topic for a week:
Two daughters of the Minnesota attorney general were charged with misdemeanors Saturday, accused of striking police officers and kicking out a squad car window when they were arrested outside a Near North Side nightclub where they had been celebrating a birthday.
For what it's worth.

::: posted by dWj at 12:38 PM

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Judge Declares Mistrial in Tyco Case
A judge declared a mistrial Friday in the trial of two former Tyco International executives accused of looting the company of $600 million, citing intense outside pressure placed on one of the jurors.

"It is certainly a shame that this has to be done at this time," state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told jurors after announcing his decision.

I still have some Tyco stock.

Incidentally, I don't think Kozlowski should be found guilty if he didn't break the law. I don't know how radical a position that is these days, but it's heartfelt. (Mind, he should be found guilty if he did.)

::: posted by dWj at 12:32 PM

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Incidentally, Michigan won the Men's NIT last night over Rutgers, which had defeated Iowa State in overtime Tuesday night.

::: posted by dWj at 11:26 AM

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My middle name is Wayne. Dean Wayne Jens. Last night I grabbed a phone book and looked up my names. There is one listing with a last name of Jens. (I'm not in there, but I don't know why not.) There are about 50 with the last name of Wayne, and about 150 with a last name of Dean (plus several Deanes). Jens isn't a terribly common first name, either, in this country, but it is in Scandanavia. So my name is not only invertible, it's actually more plausible when inverted.

::: posted by dWj at 8:12 AM

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It's going negative sooner than ever before, and the mud being slung is particularly disgusting. Blame, of course, the Republican Slime Machine, which will stop at nothing. Just look at how it attacked Richard Clarke -- by sending out operatives to point out Clarke's contradictions. Heavens. Decent people everywhere took to their fainting couches over that one.

Slimy? No. Saying your opponent dates a goat and likes to set cats on fire is a slimy attack. Saying your opponent hangs around schoolyards in a trenchcoat passing out cotton candy -- slime. Saying your opponent belonged to a group that took a vote on assassinating government officials -- that's slime. No, wait a minute, that's truth. John Kerry belonged to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a proposal to kill some senators was discussed and voted down at a VVAW meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in 1971. Granted, Kerry says he quit the group just before that meeting -- but ask yourself whether such a subject ever comes up in your social circle. Perhaps your book club regularly turns to the question of which high government official you plan to kill, but most people don't travel in such, ah, motivated company.
So says Lileks.

::: posted by Steven at 1:39 AM

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Mark Steyn lists ten pieces of good news about Iraq. My favorite five:
3) Attacks on the Iraqi oil pipelines have fallen by 75% since last autumn, and crude oil production in British-controlled southern Iraq is at 127% of the target set immediately after the war.

4) The pre-war potable water supply - 12.9 million litres - has been doubled.

5) The historic marshlands of southern Iraq, environmentally devastated by Saddam, are being restored, and tens of thousands of marsh Arabs have returned to their ancient homeland.

6) Public healthcare funding in Iraq is more than 25 times higher than it was a year ago and child immunisation rates have improved by 25%.

8) School attendance in Iraq is 10% higher than a year ago.

10) The interim Iraqi constitution is the most liberal in the Arab world.
I guess I included a bonus factoid. Go read them all, and the rest of the column. Don't miss this:
Iraq's new town councils are up and running and covering 90% of the population.
You already saw that on the evening news, though, didn't you?

::: posted by Steven at 1:37 AM

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Thursday, April 01, 2004 :::
Good call:
The Cato Institute today announced that the winner of the second biennial Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is internationally recognized economist and property rights activist Hernando de Soto.

::: posted by Steven at 10:29 PM

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David Gelernter has an excellent column in The Weekly Standard in which he discusses the "small-scale holocaust" that was going on in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and how stopping it was a good deed, if not a moral imperative. He states, inter alia:

I don't claim that Saddam resembles Hitler; I do claim that the world's indifference to Saddam resembles its indifference to Hitler.

One of the problems of history is that it is not a very good laboratory. Just as we cannot say what would have happened if Hussein had not been removed, we cannot say what would have happened if Hitler had been removed a few years earlier, before he was able to build up Germany's military strength to the fearsome level he did. Thought experiment: Imagine Churchill becoming Prime Minister a few years before he actually did and managing to build a military coalition strong enough to remove Hitler, on the grounds that he failed to obey the rearmament treaty restrictions placed on Germany after the Great War and was developing some really fearsome weapons. Fair enough, you say, -- this analogy has been beaten to death.

But can you envision Neville Chamberlain, elected in the populist anti-war backlash of 1935, et al. going around for years afterwards condemning this as a thoughtless act of violence responsible for many deaths and accomplishing nothing? I can. And really no one would have known any better. Preemption is dangerous in that you never know what would have happened if you had waited. Waiting is dangerous for the same reason. Gelernter argues persuasively that there's enough evidence this time for us to know the war in Iraq was morally just. And he doesn't even go into all those treaty violations.

::: posted by Eric at 6:34 PM

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Why America won't cut and run.
It matters that Bush is not a Clintonian president, shaping and reshaping policy according to the public's mood swings. More important, though, we Americans are a different people.
The Chicago Tribune requires registration.

::: posted by dWj at 2:40 PM

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Oklahoma State3-1 against
UConn5-1 against

So say I. I also say that "GTech" sounds like it trades on the Nasdaq system.

::: posted by dWj at 12:52 PM

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Speaking of credible,
Ryanair, Europe’s No.1 low fares airline, today (1 April) announced their decision to put kids first with a fantastic “kids fly free offer” available on


We urge all kids to book quickly on as we expect to be “blown away” by the demand for this offer and space on the nose of each aircraft is limited to a first come, first served basis”

*Offer available 1 April only – booking terms and conditions on
Apparently the Telegraph has an ad with a picture of a kid hanging onto a plane as it comes in to land, but I can't find it on-line.

::: posted by dWj at 9:38 AM

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The most credible advantage of the agreement to the President's case was the agreement that Rice would be the only advisor to testify. This makes the "one-off" theory, to be put forth in the future, much more plausible than if they had requested other advisors to testify. Simply having her testify without the agreement might have left the door open to creating a stronger precedent than what will be created now.

Mind, I still don't get why her testifying earlier in private didn't have the same effect as testifying in public.

::: posted by dWj at 9:20 AM

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004 :::
Eric, Volokh reproduces a fairly cynical comment on the matter:
As one of my colleagues [Bill Cohen] says in faculty meetings, whenever this gambit is tried: "This won't set a precedent -- and anyway, we've done it before."
That said, future commissions will certainly cite this as precedent despite the agreement, but future dissenters may reference the agreement in response. How well that works will depend a great deal on the future commissions and dissenters.

::: posted by Steven at 11:47 PM

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Dean, I don't see how the "brokered agreement" argument is credible. Essentially, all of the key figures have stated that they consider Rice's testimony to be a one-off thing that will not create a precedent. Their opinions, however, are nonbinding on future committees. Since there was no subpoena, though, the only precedent that is created is the precedent that the President can allow the testimony of a National Security Advisor under oath before a committee established by Congress. This precedent has been created, no matter what the parties involved claim. Further, it is exactly the same precedent that would have been established had Rice gone to testify under oath in the first place.

The other component of the "brokered agreement" is that the Committee will not subpoena Rice or any other member of the administration. This part of the agreement (1) implies that they have the right to subpoena Rice and other members of the administration, which undermines the administration's argument that they do not, and (2) makes it clear that the administration does not want other members of the administration called to testify under oath, raising the question: Why? Because they have something to hide? Or because the believe that such subpoenas would violate separation of powers? If the latter, what of their constitutional argument that such subpoenas would be invalid? Don't they believe this? Or are they just afraid to fight this issue publically? If the latter, why did they hold out so long on the Rice testimony?

It still doesn't make any sense to me outside the alternatives I discussed below.

::: posted by Eric at 10:18 PM

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Eric, I think the Bush administration's argument is now that the creation of a precedent would have threatened the separation of powers, but that the brokered agreement does much to prevent the establishment of such a precedent.

::: posted by dWj at 10:11 PM

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To those who criticize ``teaching to the test,'' Romer responds: That is what flight schools do. Because we take flying seriously.
George Will talks with Roy Romer, now superintendent of L.A. schools. Teaching to the test is a problem if the tests are bad. If the tests are good, providing poor schools with discipline is certainly a good thing.
The school district's dramatic improvement in elementary school scores is the result of [a list of things, including] — Romer calls this ``the real culture-changer'' — diagnostic measurement every 10 weeks that returns results in 24 hours, revealing what homework is needed, and shaping classroom instruction for each child during the subsequent 10 weeks.
I've been a supporter of this in theory, but didn't know someone had put it into practice. It seems to me like something that would be much more difficult than what we conventionally do; I'm glad to hear it sounds practical.

::: posted by dWj at 9:57 PM

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Steven Jens wrote, just below, on the Rice testimony story:

I might be wrong, but I don't think there was all that much political damage in the end. And this may have been a negotiating tactic -- by pretending that this was a big concession, the administration might be hoping to avoid giving up something else. If Eric was alienated by the ultimate concession -- I assume he counts as one of Bush's core supporters -- I'd like a better understanding of why.

This I will provide:

  1. I can't see how it was a "negotiating tactic". What else could they possibly be hoping to avoid giving up? Perhaps they were trying to keep the press busy on a non-story for several days, keeping them away from real issues. That's all I can think of.

  2. I don't know if I'm one of Bush's core supporters. I voted for him in 2000 and may do so again. Nevertheless, this affair has made me examine two disturbing alternatives:

    1. Let's say that the Bush administration really believed the the principle of separation of powers and that's why they didn't want Rice to testify. Their considered belief was that a National Security Advisor should never be testify under oath before a committee established by Congress. While I disagree with this argument for largely irrelevant reasons, I can respect it. They believe that the administration should have one public face and that internal discussions should not be made public -- and that making such discussions public at the request of an organ of the legislative branch compromises the ability of the executive branch to formulate policy effectively. If this is true, though, then why and how did they change their minds?

      1. Have they all of a sudden decided that separation of powers is an unimportant doctrine -- just in the span of a few days reversed a strongly held view on political philosophy? That's very disturbing and does not speak well of the administration's understanding of political philsophy or constitutional law.

      2. Or have they decided that they should violate their principles on the grounds of political expediency? That's worse!

    2. Alternatively, we can examine the possibility that their motives for initially trying to prevent Rice's testimony were not philosophical, but political. They didn't want her to testify, but they have now backed down under mounting political and media pressure. So, what possible political motives could they have had for wanting to prevent Rice from testifying under oath? They can't believe that she'll look bad on TV, because they send her around to every talk show on Earth. So, they must be afraid of what she'll say to the commission. Does this imply that what she would say under oath would differ from what she has already told the commission in her earlier testimony, which was not under oath? Or that her testimony will be contradictory to other administration testimony? Or simply that her testimony will not reflect well on the administration? None of these alternatives is good.

    This is the sort of thing that can alienate supporters. Either the Bush administration has weak principles, poorly thought-out ideas on constitutional law, or something to hide. Maybe more than one.

::: posted by Eric at 9:35 PM

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Thanks for the link to the entire Chronicle story. First a comment in response to this -- perhaps the author was thinking of privacy. Conservatives have generally failed to see very much of a "right to privacy" in the US Constitution, except in its small, specific manifestations such as search and seizure, etc. I have always regarded this, though, as fidelity to the notion that the public has a right to be governed under the rule of law, i.e. we should apply the law as it is written. Depends on your point of view.

I think Mr. Wolfe has a problem with his point of view. He is surprised, first of all, at the sympathy liberals have with the views of a Nazi. We should remember that Nazism was a left-wing phenomenon, although I would hesitate to call it a "liberal" phenomenon. The Nazis were self-described socialists who pursued radical policies expanding state power over individual freedom and instituting wholesale societal changes in the name of transforming human society. This has always sounded very left-wing to me and I have sometimes debated those who have placed Nazism on the right; they usually claim that fascism in general was a right-wing phenomenon because of its traditional support of religion and toleration for a heavily-regulated, corporatist form of capitalism. I still don't see it. But I digress.

I think Wolfe's main problem is that he is a liberal who cannot see the broad sweep of politics in this country from an unbiased viewpoint. I realize that this is a serious accusation to make against a professor of political science. Some examples:

  • "Jesus's call to love your enemy is perfectly appropriate for religion, but it is incompatible with the life-or-death stakes politics always involves." Let us remember that these words are written by a liberal. While Wolfe is accusing conservatives of regarding politics as a battle fought to the death -- or at least destruction -- of your enemy, Wolfe himself is arguing that "love your enemy" is incompatible with his own understanding of politics. Why am I reminded of Governor Dean's remark "George Bush is not my neighbor"? I think Wolfe both misunderstands politics ("life-or-death" shows he cares about politics a little too much) and Christ (whose teachings are not supposed to stop at any bright line in human endeavor).

  • "War is the most violent form that politics takes ... ." International politics, perhaps. Certainly not domestic politics.

  • "[C]onservative talk-show hosts like Bill O'Reilly fight for their ideas with much more aggressive self-certainty than, say, a hopeless liberal like Alan Wolfe." Well, I won't defend Ann Coulter, who, it seemed to me, lost her mind -- though not her writing ability -- sometime in September 2001. But two conservatives arguing forcefully is pretty poor anecdotal evidence that conservatives argue more aggressively than liberals. Especially when the liberal who is making this point is doing so in the middle of a vast ad hominem attack on conservatives in which he suggests conservatives are adherents to what is basically a Nazi philosophy, something which they themselves fail to understand because they are not familiar with political philosophers. Consider this: "Schmitt's German version of conservatism, which shared so much with Nazism, has no direct links with American thought. Yet residues of his ideas can nonetheless be detected in the ways in which conservatives today fight for their objectives." How's that for slander? Instead of saying that some conservatives have adopted political tactics that bear a similarity to political arguments made by a Nazi philosopher, which could be as true about conservatives as it could be about liberals, he asserts that conservatives are tainted with a "residue" of ideas that "shared so much with Nazism". How can there be a "residue" of something that was not "direct[ly] link[ed]"?

  • "Liberals insist that there exists something called society independent of the state ... ." I submit that the conservative viewpoint is not given by an obscure Nazi philosopher but rather best summed up by Margaret Thatcher: "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families."

  • "Conservatives are not bothered by injustice because they recognize that politics means maximizing your side's advantages, not giving them away. If unity can be achieved only by repressing dissent, even at risk of violating the rule of law, that is how conservatives will achieve it." I'm not sure this even deserves a response. I wonder what kind of a definition of "injustice" the fellow is using. Certainly none I'm aware of. Then again, if he believes that Christ's teachings are "perfectly appropriate for religion" but not generally applicable outside of "religion" than he probably has a different view of injustice than I do. For instance, I doubt he regards socialism as a crime against humanity -- but more on that in some future post.

  • Here's where the paranoia and lack of perspective enter, though: "Still, if Schmitt is right, conservatives win nearly all of their political battles with liberals because they are the only force in America that is truly political." He is arguing from a perspective in which he believes that conservatives win almost all political battles. How far left is this fellow anyway? If this is his premise, he'd better stick with "rethinking" Marxism. This article is based on the self-perception that he is a victim of political opponents who utilize Nazi tactics for self-gain and almost always win. Note that he does not argue that Marxism is wrong, or that the collapse of communism invalidated Marxism, but rather than Marxism needs "rethinking". That should place him well on the ideological spectrum. It also explains his perception that "society" is in the thrall of powerful interests that use any tactics necessary to maximize their interests. The fellow is a Marxist, disappointed that Marxism has not taken root in the US.

  • "From the 2000 presidential election to Congressional redistricting in Texas to the methods used to pass Medicare reform, conservatives like Tom DeLay and Karl Rove have indeed triumphed because they have left the impression that nothing will stop them." I think conservatives looked on Al Gore, the Florida Supreme Court, et al., as acting like nothing would stop them -- stop them from disregarding the rule of law. As it happens, the US Supreme Court stopped them, by a 7-2 vote, and by a 5-4 vote told them not to start again. I submit the Colorado redistricting as counterevidence to the Texas redistricting. Were the methods used to pass Medicare "reform" any different from parliamentary tactics used in legislatures everywhere since the dawn of deliberative democracy?

  • "There is, for liberals, always something as important, if not more important, than victory, whether it be procedural integrity, historical precedent, or consequences for future generations." Tell that to the proponents of Roe v. Wade. And how on Earth does he associate "historical precedent" with the left? That's odd even for a Marxist.

  • "Liberal to its very core, the United States ... " -- so, now conservatism is un-American? Indeed, "To the degree that conservatives bring to this country something like Schmitt's friend-enemy distinction, they stand against not only liberals but America's historic liberal heritage."

Finally, in his last paragraph, Wolfe implies that pluralism is "good." Well, I will agree that a system in which people can voice differing opinions is good, but I am guilty of one of the charges he makes against conservatives: I believe in right and wrong. Generally, pluralism means the coexistence of some ideas that are "right" with some ideas that are "wrong". Things would certainly be better without the "wrong" ideas, but since we have no good way of agreeing on which ideas are which, pluralism is a necessary evil.

He asserts that disagreement is "virtuous". I disagree. There is no virtue in disagreeing with someone. If I claim that 2+2=5, I disagree with most people on Earth, but does that make me or my claim virtuous? Disagreement is an unfortunate consequence of the human condition. We should not idolize it. We cannot eliminate it, nor should we try. I've met a lot of people who believe that disagreement is important, that it is better to nominate a bad candidate in an election than let a good one run unopposed. I don't see it.

Wolfe ends his piece implying that government should be limited. Well, it's always good to end with a comment everyone can agree with. It helps dampen passions and suppress disagreement.

You know, when I compare the length of my blog entries to others in this and other blogs, I can't help but feel that I'm missing the point. And wonder whether anyone but the Brothers Jens will get this far.

::: posted by Eric at 8:21 PM

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A 20-year-old University of Wisconsin student who disappeared early Saturday has been found alive, and police are searching for a suspect in what's being called an abduction.

::: posted by dWj at 2:59 PM

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My impression of the Rice testimony flap was closer to Eric's than to my brother's. David Gergen certainly expressed the view, hours before it was announced that she was testifying, that the White House was in a hole and should stop digging. In this case I'm not upset at the administration for caving, but my impression of other people's impression is that it looks like the administration has been dragged kicking and screaming into being up front and honest, and I don't see what they've gained in exchange for creating this appearance.

::: posted by dWj at 2:07 PM

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MSN on international outsourcing:
A study released today by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) says that outsourcing white-collar jobs has thrown some Americans out of work, but predicts that the trend will ultimately lower inflation, create jobs and boost productivity in the United States.


Savings from outsourcing allowed companies to create 90,000 new jobs in 2003, with more than one in 10 of them in Silicon Valley or elsewhere in California, researchers said. The report predicts that in 2008, outsourcing will create 317,000 jobs -- 34,000 in California.

Meanwhile, Fed governor Ben Bernanke, tackling an issue that has resonated in the U.S. presidential campaign, said there has been undue focus on the movement of U.S. jobs abroad.


David Butler's book, "Bottom-line Call Center Management," examining the job that employs 7% of the American work force, hits print just as the topic becomes a political hot potato.

"What CEOs don't tell reporters is that outsourcing is still experimental and the experiment may not be working," said Butler, who heads the international economic development doctoral program at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. "Overseas call centers can cost more in customer goodwill than they save in staff salaries."

Many corporate executives who outsourced call centers to Asia confided to Butler that they are plotting quiet moves back to U.S. soil. They don't want to lose face by admitting errors. But they don't want to lose American clients who resent having customer service calls answered on the other side of the world.
Meanwhile, Hot Topic is reported to enjoy a competitive advantange over other fashion retailers by virtue of its buying American, and thus receiving inventory more quickly after placing the order; other retailers are seeing inventory go out of style while it's still crossing the ocean.

There will continue to be jobs for Americans, and more if we don't handicap our economy by forgoing opportunity to do things more efficiently than international competitors. Sometimes that will mean doing things ourselves; sometimes it will mean hiring someone else to them for us. If the people with money at stake are making the decisions, more likely than not they will make the right ones.

::: posted by dWj at 1:58 PM

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Eric and everyone else: the URL Jacob Levy gave for that Chronicle of Higher Education piece -- the piece by the liberal who seemed to be switching liberals and conservatives -- was fenced off, but points to a free version, which I might read later, but not now. At any rate, there's your context.

::: posted by Steven at 10:29 AM

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Regarding Eric's most recent entry, I'll start by mentioning that I don't disagree that the NRA is a civil rights organization, but I don't think of them as such -- I think of them as more of a consumer safety group. Not because of their lobbying to allow consumers to protect themselves, but because of the gun-safety programs they run, and the clear safety-conciousness and responsibility-approaching-paranoia of their members. When I refer to someone as "not NRA material", I'm generally referring to someone behaving irresponsibly with a gun, not to someone who wants to confiscate guns. I think the average supporter of gun control would be surprised that a typical NRA-affiliated gun-club member adheres to the following three rules:
  1. Keep the gun pointed away from all people, and anything else the shooting of which would be considered disastrous (the ceiling is considered okay, even though one generally would prefer not to shoot the ceiling)
  2. Keep the gun unloaded until you plan to fire it
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you plan to fire it
Rule 2 is obviously loosened for guns kept for self-defence. But at the gun club, anyway, one is expected to adhere to all three rules, even though any one of them should suffice.

Regarding "evaluating policies by whether they advance ... conservative causes," I have to admit that my current position on gay marriage is "whatever helps elect Republicans". The reason I want Republicans elected, though, is that I think they're usually more likely to advance human welfare than Democrats.

Regarding "boundaries on the political", I am certainly uncomfortable with the notion that the individual has no refuge. It was along these lines that I developed my belief that my brother were appalled by antitrust laws, rather than merely judging them unwise (incidentally, I was reminded within the last hour of an anti-trust merger-prevention I tentatively supported: the attempt by to buy Ingram). I suspect that the author was thinking of something along the lines of privacy.

::: posted by Steven at 9:26 AM

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A couple of days ago, Dean Esmay wrote:
My own prediction for Joe and others is that Bush will allow Rice to testify, and fairly soon.

Because he planned to all along, you see. He's just waited for the clamor to make him do it to grow to a loud enough racket.

It's breathtaking to watch. There hasn't been a President this canny or able to outmaneuver his opponents since Lyndon Johnson. Bush waits for his opponents to work themselves into a fever pitch, an absolute froth, over something utterly trivial. Then he quietly gives them what they want, they crow in triumph that they "embarassed him into" doing what they demanded--then they look stupid.
RtWT, if only for the Bugs Bunny references.

Eric sees this as "the Republican leadership fighting an unpopular battle over a weak principle, waiting until all the press criticism is over and they have sustained the maximum political damage, and then giving up, thereby alienating their core supporters in the end." Maybe that's true, but it looks reversed to me. I might be wrong, but I don't think there was all that much political damage in the end. And this may have been a negotiating tactic -- by pretending that this was a big concession, the administration might be hoping to avoid giving up something else. If Eric was alienated by the ultimate concession -- I assume he counts as one of Bush's core supporters -- I'd like a better understanding of why.

::: posted by Steven at 9:15 AM

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004 :::
Regarding the strange diatribe against conservatives quoted below --

I agree that the two sides seem mostly flipped. Then again, people look at me funny when I refer to the National Rifle Association as "a civil rights organization."

I'd like to comment on this one line: "Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes." What, praytell, are those conservative causes? In my experience, they are generally causes that conservatives perceive as important to human welfare and the greater good. A conservative arguing for school vouchers to fund parochial education, for instance, is undoubtedly trying to advance a "conservative cause". However, his motivation generally goes deeper, to a desire to improve education, help children, and perhaps even try to save a few souls (which, after all, if you believe that souls can be saved, you must admit should be just about the highest priority around). Saying that someone's cause is invalid because it is a "cause" is nonsensical.

I saw the egregious Senator Schumer on TV a brief while ago. He said that liberals believed in great principles, while conservatives just wanted power. Why do they want power?, he was asked. Because, he said, they were afraid liberals were going to ruin the country. While saving the country may technically stop short of being a "principle", it's significantly more than a power grab for power's sake.

I'll also comment on this one from the article quoted below: "Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them." To me, this seems almost a contradiction in terms. Conservatism is, in its very nature, opposed to radicalism, change, or irrational, emotional appeals. While I agree to a point with Chesterton, who wrote "He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative", the notion of conservatives inflaming passions is really alien to me. (I recall an article in the National Review, published during the aftermath of the 2000 election recount mess. Conservatives had taken to the streets to protest. The writer -- I can't remember who -- asked whether anyone had informed them that conservatives do *not* conduct street protests. It just isn't done!)

OK, one more: "Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency -- conservatives always find cases of emergency -- the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged." This, of course, depends on your notion of rights. Liberals in general wish to restrict the right to bear arms (think gun control), freedom of thought (think hate crimes), the right to own property (think socialism and confiscatory tax rates -- "tax the rich!"), and, increasingly, the right to practice religion in public. The "emergency" of the "appearance" of corruption led a mostly liberal coalition to restrict the freedom to donate money to political campaigns in the 70s and again in the nearer past. What rights have conservatives sought to curtail? Especially on the grounds of an "emergency"? I can't really think of any. Any help? Nixon's price controls, maybe? I wouldn't consider him awfully conservative, and even a moderate conservative like William Safire submits that Nixon is in purgatory because of the price controls. I suppose if you view abortion as a "right" then conservatives have sought to curtail it -- but not on the grounds of an "emergency".

I haven't read the full, original article, but this excerpt appears to be devoid of specifics to back up the sweeping generalizations made. I don't know if conservatives treat liberals in general as "unworthy of recognition", but the author of this piece is definitely unworthy of further publication.

::: posted by Eric at 9:33 PM

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Regarding Condoleezza Rice's testimony, I suspect that this is probably simply a traditional case of the Republican leadership fighting an unpopular battle over a weak principle, waiting until all the press criticism is over and they have sustained the maximum political damage, and then giving up, thereby alienating their core supporters in the end. They did it with Trent Lott, if you recall.

I understand the principle that Presidential advisors should not be forced to testify before Congressional committees. This isn't really a Congressional committee, though, is it? Couldn't she simply have agreed to go, and testify under oath, but refuse to answer any questions covering her private discussions with the President or official (private) advice?

What I really didn't understand was the idea I read about that had her testifying privately but then releasing a transcript. Was that really proposed by any of the parties involved?

My guess, in the end, is that her testimony will add very little to what is known. I don't see how she could know crucial information that others do not.

::: posted by Eric at 9:12 PM

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Candace Parker won a slam dunk contest in which she was competing against the boys.

I have to admit, I made a point of watching Naperville Central in the state tournament on TV, and I wasn't particularly struck by her performance. Will be interesting to see how she does at Tennessee.

::: posted by dWj at 2:06 PM

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.

Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization's plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.

::: posted by Steven at 12:36 PM

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According to the Corner, they agreed that she can testify publicly after they got an agreement that this not be treated as precedent-setting in the future. That's what they were really worried about -- CBS isn't going to insist that administration officials have a traditional duty to appear on 60 Minutes, just because they have in the past. Or, if they do insist on it, they're at least easier to brush off than a federal panel.

::: posted by Steven at 12:34 PM

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And now she will testify publicly. Which is what was recommended of the White House, but they now have to explain why it was such an important principle before but isn't now. Was it sort of marginally important, and not worth this cost?

::: posted by dWj at 12:14 PM

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I don't understand, really, either side of the Rice testimony flap, so I'll lay out what I understand and hope someone can correct me. As I understand it, she's agreed to testify to the commission in private, and she appeared on 60 minutes, but she won't testify to the committee in public, on the grounds that separation of powers requires that discussions between the president and his advisors be privileged.

If that inhibits public testimony, why doesn't it inhibit private testimony? On the other hand, if she's already testified in front of CBS, nobody could really expect that "public" testimony in front of a CSPAN audience would really be more public, can they? Is the expectation that the committee would ask her different questions? Is the administration's concern that it would be harder for her to decline individual questions than in either other forum? Someone help me out here.

::: posted by dWj at 8:06 AM

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The UConn women's basketball team did better than I expected in beating Penn State by about fifteen. This is the fifth year in a row that they've made the final four, which is a record.

Every time a women's team and a men's team from the same school have made the final four, neither team has won the title. This is out of four or five occurrences, IIRC. Eight or ten teams. This year, UConn has sent both teams to the final four, and Duke is likely to do the same. I could easily see the streak ending.

::: posted by Steven at 12:36 AM

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Monday, March 29, 2004 :::
I'm going to play first-paragraph/last-paragraph in quoting this one:
Descendants of black American slaves are to sue Lloyd's of London for insuring ships used in the trade.


"Previous claims regarding slavery involving Lloyd's have been dismissed with prejudice."
Between the age of the claims and the fact that slavery was legal at the time, I just don't see it. Link from the Corner.

::: posted by Steven at 11:55 PM

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In a discussion of gay marriage a few months ago, I proposed a compromise: each marriage should consist of two people, at least one of them a woman. Lesbians would be allowed to marry each other, but not gay men. I had some defenses for this -- women are traditionally more stable than men, whereas men need the stablizing influence of a woman; lesbian relationships are generally more monogamous and longer-lasting than male homosexual relationships; etc. -- but the real purpose of the proposal was to suggest a "compromise" that would, if enacted, really piss off both sides.

The Massachusetts legislature, though, has really out-done me.

To recap: amendment of the Massachusetts constitution, if initiated by the legislature, requires a majority vote of the legislature-as-unicameral (each senator and each representative getting a vote) in two consecutive sessions, followed by a majority vote of the people.

The current session of the legislature has given final approval to an amendment which would define marriage as a heterosexual institution, but would "establish civil unions to provide same-sex persons with entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, privileges and obligations as are afforded to married persons". I can see why that would appeal to some people who wouldn't go for my proposal, but it's hardly any more rational, and I can't see who's going to lobby in its favor if it reaches the ballot in 2006.

UPDATE: "Lesbians would be allowed to marry each other, but not gay men." -- To clarify, lesbians would still be allowed to marry gay men, but gay men would not be allowed to marry each other. I apologize for roughly half of any confusion I may have caused.

::: posted by Steven at 11:09 PM

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Jacob Levy has been quoting an article by a liberal about differences between liberals and conservatives. The following reads, to me, as though someone reversed the labels:
Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end. Politics, for liberals, stops at the water's edge; for conservatives, politics never stops. Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition. Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes. Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them. Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal. Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency -- conservatives always find cases of emergency -- the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.
Now, there's quite a bit of room for disagreement on what the labels "liberal" and "conservative" mean. When I think of a conservative, I'm inclined to think of a small-government type, primarily, I'm sure, because I think "conservative" is a better label for me these days than "liberal", and I'm a small-government kind of guy. But when I see something like this, I question how different someone's world-view has to be from mine in order to come up with that. I'd love to see more examples of what the author is thinking of as "liberal" and "conservative".

I'm especially struck by the first sentence, "Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end." Politics is the individual art of influencing corporately-made decisions -- or is there a better definition? Liberalism, as understood in contemporary america, is the celebration of corporate decision-making, whereas those most supportive of putting decisions in the hands of individuals (i.e., libertarians) are usually considered "conservative", and even non-libertarian conservatives (e.g., Russell Kirk) are usually more supportive of federalism than modern liberals. Am I wrong?

::: posted by Steven at 6:10 PM

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All White House nominees will be blocked. That's right: every single one.

That's the word from Sen. Charles Schumer's office, which released a statement on Friday saying that Senate Democrats plan "to hold nominations until the White House commits to stop abusing the advise and consent process."
That's right -- Chuck Schumer is accusing the Bush administration of abusing the Senate's role of advice and consent.
"This White House is insisting on a departure from historic and constitutional practices," [Senate Minority Leader Tom] Daschle said. "At no point has a president ever used a recess appointment to install a rejected nominee onto the federal bench, and there are intonations there will be even more recess appointments in the coming months.
I agree that it would be inappropriate for the administration to use a recess appointment to install a rejected nominee. And I hope that Bush will continue not to do so.

I hope that he does continue to install filibustered nominees with majority support in the Senate, so that they can get started in their jobs while waiting for the Senate to get around to acting on their nominations.

::: posted by Steven at 5:21 PM

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Last night, I pointed to a Virginia Postrel post about Scalamandre, a textile company, moving operations from New York to South Carolina. My friend David Trumbull happens to be the Director of Member Services at the National Textile Association. He sent me the following (with emphasis added by me):
Regarding Scalamandre's jacquard weaving operation relocating from New York to South Carolina, the [New York Times] got the story wrong. The wage difference between New York and South Carolina was not the reason for moving South. Scalamandre is a successful company in an extremely high-end niche market in a capital (not labor) intense industry. And Scalamandre is growing and paying rather good wages, despite foreign competition and a general weakness in the domestic textile industry. In fact Scalamandre's growth is exactly what prompted the move. Land is very expensive in New York, taxes are very high in New York, and (likely the biggest factor in the decision to move) it is all but impossible to get the needed environmental okays and other government permits required to expand a manufacturing operation in the metro region.

I do not know the management at Scalamandre, but I do speak frequently with other textile executives with plants in the New York metro area and have heard comments is that there is an unwritten government policy of eliminating manufacturing jobs from the metro area.

::: posted by Steven at 1:48 PM

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I'm advised that Baskin Robbins has a 24 oz chocolate shake with 1130 calories, and the effect this news has on me is surely the opposite of that intended by the source.

::: posted by dWj at 12:39 PM

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The NFL may add a wild-card team to each conference. Money at the expense of the integrity of the playoffs, but it looks like the odds lean against it for now.

(I support strongly having at least one wild-card team from each conference, and the case for two is decent. A third wild-card team will almost always be no better than about fifth in the conference, regardless of how tough games break or schedule strengths differ, and the arbitrariness of a single-elimination tournament starts to overwhelm these arbitrarinesses.)

::: posted by dWj at 12:24 PM

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Anyone who cares about my NCAA tournament contest, be sure to read why the trading rules were so complicated, and how they failed anyway.

::: posted by dWj at 10:40 AM

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I'm not always as suave as I like to think. Last week, for example, when a female coworker told me, "You look good," and I answered, "So does your pastry." Or the time a month or two ago when I asked someone to dance and failed utterly to hide my surprise when she said yes. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm as bad as Al Gore, who last Thursday at the Democrat Unity Dinner defended Kerry from a supposed charge of having been annointed by the leadership by rattling off a long list of Democratic luminaries, starting with Gore himself, who opposed Kerry's nomination. I can't find a transcript of this on the web; if someone else can, please help out.

::: posted by dWj at 9:56 AM

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In my NCAA tournament contest, Kate Malcolm now has 89 points, and mad props and high kudos to her for the Xavier pick, which is currently the second most valuable team in the field, and finishes no worse than fourth — better than that unless UConn beats Georgia Tech in the championship. I'm running second with 79, and my brother has 70. Aside from me, the only team anyone has in the final four is Georgia Tech, and we all have Georgia Tech, so my brother has clinched last place. Thanks for playing.

I also have Connecticut and Oklahoma State. If either wins the championship, I win the contest; if either ACC team wins, so does Kate.

This could change with trading, which is allowed, but I suppose would require that I put one or both of my teams on the block; I'll get back to y'all shortly about that.

Update: I might ought to offer up one of my teams for 25. If my brother decided he wanted me, rather than Kate, to win the contest, he could bid on the team. For Kate to have any chance, she would have to outbid my brother and hope that team won the championship.

The reason the trading rules are as complicated as they are is to try to prevent this sort of thing; if there were hundreds of entrants, others could also offer these teams, but at lower prices, and throw the wheels off conspiracies of this sort.

I don't think my brother would do something like that, but I also don't think anyone wants to buy the teams at a price at which I'm interested in selling. (Indeed, 25 would not be out of line with the price at which I offered them last week, especially Oklahoma State, which has since beat St. Joseph's.) So in the interest of appearances as much as simplicity, I'm not offering either team for sale. If we do a contest like this next year, the trading provision is contingent on a certain number of entries in the contest.

(I don't know whether I explained this here, but the reason I'd like to have trading, with an efficient market, is to give a better idea as to who is really "ahead" at any given point. As with traditional brackets, a contestant with a lower score after two rounds may have more teams left in the contest; a market price for each of the teams would give a more accurate measure of how well anyone is doing at a given time.)

::: posted by dWj at 9:21 AM

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Virginia Postrel noticed a story in some New York paper about a local firm losing jobs to South Carolina. She found a story about the same event -- though with a somewhat different tone -- in a South Carolina paper. Read all about it.

Speaking of Postrel, don't miss this:
Remember when putting troops on the ground in Afghanistan was a sure ticket to disaster, a military action hardly more conceivable than launching a nuclear attack? Remember the lessons of the Soviets and the British? Judging from this week's discussions, not many people do.

::: posted by Steven at 2:56 AM

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The Tennesee basketball team squeaked by Baylor last evening. With a tie game and fewer than ten seconds left, a Tennessee player got a turnover and had a clear path toward her basket at the other end of the court. She ran down there and missed the lay-up. In the confusion of the rebound, Baylor was called for a foul with .2 seconds left.

This is women's basketball, of course -- if Tennessee has a men's basketball team, I haven't heard of it.

The Iowa State women lost in the NIT semifinals Sunday. The Iowa State men also reached the NIT semifinals, and I was holding out hope for a double NIT championship. I'm willing to settle for one title -- the men play again Tuesday night.

Finally, though, the UConn women play Penn State tonight at 7:00 Eastern. It should be a good one.

::: posted by Steven at 1:30 AM

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No posting from anyone all weekend?

I got spam from a blood-for-oil moron. They quoted G.W. Bush as having said, in 1999, something close to "there should be limits on freedom..." They ended with an elipsis, which means I assume they quoted a half-sentence, no doubt taken out of context. But the thing that got my attention was how poorly they did it -- surely, they could have come up with a damning sentence fragment from some time in Bush's public career. But instead they attribute to him, "there should be limits to freedom." I classify myself as libertarian, but I certainly agree that there should be some limits to freedom.

::: posted by Steven at 1:30 AM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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