Saturday, April 19, 2008

Texas cult: The Oprah factor

Rusty Shackleford says the Texas FLDS compound story has "stunk to high-heaven from the git go," and look at the way Rusty puts two and two together:
Houston Chronicle: "The Texas Rangers told us [hoax suspect Rozita Swinton] was obsessed with the FLDS. They confiscated tons of material on the FLDS (in the search of Swinton's home). She even gave real addresses and real names of FLDS people."
Rusty: Hence, how Swinton would be able to "identify" the man who "Sarah" was allegedly married to, but didn't know that Dale Evans Barlow, the man originally pegged as the "50 year old husband", didn't actually live in Texas, but in Arizona.
Right, and now let me add something else to the equation: Notice that the middle (maiden) name for "Sarah" was "Jessop" -- "Sarah Jessop Barlow."

Well, Flora Jessop is the executive director of the anti-polygamy group quoted in that same Houston Chronicle story. And if you do a Google search on "FLDS" and "Jessop," you immediately discover that Carolyn Jessop is the author of a bestselling book, "Escape," about her life inside FLDS -- and that Carolyn Jessop appeared on "Oprah" in November 2007!

Bingo! So what must have happened is that Swinton:
  • Watched this "Oprah" episode in November;
  • Became obsessed with the FLDS cult;
  • Read about the compound in Texas;
  • Learned the name Dale Evans Barlow from reports of his prosecution;
  • Combined Barlow's name with "Sarah," a common female biblical name, and "Jessop," the name of the two prominent ex-FLDS women, to create a name for her fictional 16-year-old victim; and
  • Then did a Google search to find the phone number of a domestic-abuse hotline near the FLDS compound in Texas.
OMG! More than 400 children have been seized by the state of Texas because of an "Oprah" episode?

Also I wonder if Swinton became an Obama delegate for the same reason she became obsessed with the FLDS, namely, she saw it on "Oprah"?

UPDATE: The "Oprah" Web site includes an excerpt from Carolyn Jessop's book, including this bit about physical abuse among FLDS:
[T]he women we'd see in the community when we went shopping were wearing dark sunglasses. I was surprised when a woman took her glasses off in the grocery store and I could see that both her eyes were blackened. I asked my mother what was wrong, but the question seemed to make her uncomfortable and she didn't answer me. My curiosity was piqued, however, and every time I saw a woman in dark glasses, I stared at her to see if they were covering strange, mottled bruises.
Hmmmm. Remember how the hotline tipster "Sarah" talked about beatings? And then this:
We were taught that outsiders were "agents of the devil" who wanted to kidnap us and take us away. They were seen as evil people who wanted to destroy the work of God. If they could get access to the children of God's chosen, then they would try to hurt or destroy us.
Right -- another theme in the tip from "Sarah." But perhaps the telltale clue here is this:
[Oprah producer Lisa Ling's] guide in Colorado City is Carolyn Jessop. Carolyn was raised by three mothers and has 36 brothers and sisters. At 18, she says she was forced to marry a powerful 50-year-old FLDS leader, Merril Jessop. Carolyn had eight of Merril's 54 children, but she says she was always desperate for freedom.
The tipster "Sarah" likewise was "was forced to marry a powerful 50-year-old FLDS leader." But whereas Carolyn Jessop was 18 when she was married, the Texas hotline hoaxer Rozita Swinton decided fictional "Sarah" should be 16, having been forced to marry at 15 -- i.e., conveniently below the legal minimum marriage age in Texas, so as to constitute the basis for a search warrant.

Nearly every element of the story that "Sarah" told in her calls to the abuse hotline was included in the November "Oprah" episode or in Carolyn Jessop's book.

UPDATE II: Rusty notes the "fake but accurate" angle on Swinton's hoax, and says:
Sure, she lied about everything, but isn't the goal of removing children from parents who's lifestyle we don't approve of trump truth? . . .
Let's just go into any community and take away all the kids since we know that some of them are abused, some get knocked up young, and some are molested. In some communities, these phenomena are pervasive. . . .
There is a bright line which government cannot cross under normal circumstances. That line is the home.
A raid on an entire community, without probable cause, in peace time is tyranny, plain and simple.
What next, raiding a hippie commune because we know they must smoke dope and we know they practice free love?
As I've pointed out earlier myself, "if every pregnant 16-year-old in Texas is cause for a paramilitary raid, they're going to need more SWAT teams."

UPDATE III: Sorry if these updates are creating a thread longer than God's arm, but stuff just keeps popping up. This is from a Salt Lake Tribune story that Rusty linked:
FLDS women who were in state shelters with their children until Monday say investigators appeared desperate to find "Sarah" and were grilling girls by that name. ...
On Monday, hours after being separated from the children taken into state custody, FLDS women claimed authorities appeared driven to find Sarah.
"They are trying to pin it on anybody named Sarah," said Annette, who is back at the YFZ Ranch after more than a week in custody with her six children and five nieces and nephews she is raising.
Sarah is a common name and several are in custody, she said. One by one, the Sarahs have been interviewed, she said. "They find out and then let them go, then grab another one and try to find out and the let them go."
"There is just not a Sarah that fits what they said," said Annette.
Investigators have zeroed in on one Sarah in particular, Annette said. The girl, who has a 5-month-old daughter, is petite and looks young, so the investigators don't believe she is 18, she said.
So while the Texas attorney general says "the case really doesn't hinge upon that particular 16-year-old," investigators spent days grilling every teenager named Sarah from the Texas ranch -- including one 18-year-old who merely looks young. Sounds to me like Texas officials know they've got a credibility problem in this case.

'Underage sex cult'

'Underage sex cult'

Once again, the British press demonstrates its superiority at tabloid headline writing:
Brilliant: Put "sex" and "children" within a couple of words of each other in a headline, and you'll be getting Google-search traffic for years.

Where the Fleet Street boys go for blatant sensationalism and exploitation, the American press sticks with bland incompetence:
A judge ruled Friday evening that 416 children seized by authorities during a raid on a polygamous sect's compound are at risk of sexual abuse if they stay with the group and must remain in state care.
Texas District Judge Barbara L. Walther's ruling came after a chaotic two-day hearing that featured several hundred lawyers and two buildings filled with witnesses, reporters and members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormon Church in the 1930s. Its members believe in divinely inspired, polygamous marriage involving underage girls.
Walther ordered sect members to provide DNA samples for maternity and paternity tests. State witnesses testified that more than 20 of the children involved appeared to have been born to underage mothers. And authorities have said that it has been difficult to sort out family ties because the children have given vague answers since being taken into custody.
In other words, according to Texas officials, the FLDS parents are guilty until proven innocent and if their children -- more than 100 of whom are under age 4 -- give "vague answers," that will be construed as further evidence of guilt.

Why is nobody questioning this judge's order for DNA testing? It's going to take weeks for a lab to process and compare the DNA for 416 children and their parents. If officials have reason to suspect that any minors at the FLDS compound have given birth, routine OB-GYN examinations can determine that pretty easily. Stretch marks? Lactation? For crying out loud, if there are any 15-year-old mothers in the FLDS and a physician can't tell from a pelvic exam whether they've given birth, the doctor's license should be revoked.

The characteristic incompetence of the MSM is apparent not only in the complete lack of common-sense skepticism toward the actions of the judge and the Texas child-protection workers, but also in their apparent indifference to the hoax-call angle.

A Colorado woman has been arrested for making fake calls about the Texas FLDS cult -- whether she was the alleged 16-year-old abuse victim "Sarah" has not yet been revealed -- but that's not even mentioned until the 10th paragraph of the story!

Isn't that kind of important? A search warrant possibly based on a hoax call results in 416 children being ripped from their parents' arms, and the potential hoax is relegated to the 10th paragraph, after the reporter has already found space to tell us that the FLDS women appeared in court "dressed in full-length dresses and sporting tightly plaited hair." What? Are these women being charged with violating the Texas Fashion Code?

It's easy to sneer at the nudge-nudge innuendo of the British tabloids, but the American press has no right to claim superiority.

UPDATE: This was probably inevitable:
National polygamy rights leader, Mark Henkel, who is the Founder of the (non-Mormon) organization, offered clarity and balance to all media reporting on the raid of the Mormon-based sect in Eldorado Texas, the FLDS. Said Henkel, "As we have always made clear, the national polygamy rights movement for consenting adults has always opposed the FLDS, its leader Warren Jeffs, and any underage marriage. Although the government tactics of the raid itself raise very alarming and troubling questions, that does not change our view of the FLDS itself. The FLDS do not represent polygamy, polygamists, or the polygamy rights movement whatsoever."
Is "polygamy rights" the next frontier of the sexual revolution? And if so, will the Texas cult case result in some sort of landmark Supreme Court ruling?


The 'Republican talking points' meme

A good measure of how leftward the Democratic Party has drifted in the age of Howard Dean, DailyKos, and Media Matters is the "Republican talking points" meme that spread like a virus in online news media and in liberal blogs after Wednesday's debate.

The virus appeared to originate with The Nation, spread from there, and so quickly buried itself into the Left's consciousness that by Friday, when Eli Pariser of wanted to fire back at Hillary for dissing the Democrats' "activist base," he said:
MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points.
Keep an eye out for this meme. What the Left is trying to do is to intimidate the MSM, so that if the media report any negative information about the Democrats, the media will be slammed for using "Republican talking points."

This intimidation is aimed at erecting a sort of media force-field around the eventual Democratic nominee. Given the rabid vitriol directed at ABC News in wake of the Philadelphia debate, other news outlets that report negatively on the Democrats can expect similar fusilades this year.

The crowd, having captured the DNC by such tactics, now wants to bring the MSM to heel . . .

UPDATE: NYT's Bob Herbert offers a variation on the theme:
The big issues of our time are being left behind as pettiness and mean-spirited partisanship carry the day. . . .
That raucous laughter you hear in the background is coming from the likes of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, President Bush and Senator McCain. They can’t believe their good fortune.
(Via Memeorandum.) One of the pet conceits of liberals is that, if only the benighted American electorate could be compelled to focus on the real issues -- "the big issues of our time," in Herbert's phrase -- then progressive Democrats would triumph and finally inaugurate a full-blown Scandinavian-style socialist regime in America. Instead, the Right Wing Noise Machine distracts the voters with silly distractions about how the Democratic candidates are corrupt, dishonest or hypocritical, and the "big issues of our time" (i.e., how to Swedenize the U.S. health-care system) are neglected.

The Bob Herberts of the world often claim to want to see the issues debated among Democrats, but what they really want is for them all to sing from the progressive hymnal in perfect unison: Diversity through homogenization.

UPDATE II: Ed Morrisey spots another variation on the theme: "What Will Karl Do?"
Huffington Post writer Tom Edsall reveals that a union has developed an extensive and detailed attack on Barack Obama’s connection with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, the former Weather Underground terrorists, while at the same time deriding it as “McCarthyism.” . . .
Not only can they indulge in what they call McCarthyism, they can blame their bete noir Karl Rove for it before he even utters a word.
Simple rule for Democrats: When in doubt, blame a Republican.

Woman on top

Hillary Clinton regains political dominance:
Gallup Poll Daily tracking shows that Hillary Clinton now receives 46% of the support of Democrats nationally, compared to 45% for Barack Obama, marking the first time
Obama has not led in Gallup's daily tracking since March 18-20.
These results are based on interviewing conducted April 16-18, including two days of interviewing after the contentious Wednesday night debate in Philadelphia and the media focus that followed. . . .
There has been no change in the general election trial heats, with Obama's margin over Republican John McCain at 45% to 44% among registered voters nationally, and Clinton's margin at 46% to 44%.
  • Hillary will win Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary with at least 54 percent of the vote and a double-digit margin over Obama.
  • The MSM will pronounce themselves shocked -- shocked! -- at the size of the margin.
    Hillary's Amazing Comeback(TM) will dominate the media narrative all next week.
  • Obama's supporters will detect subliminal racism in the MSM coverage, and repeatedly claim that Karl Rove has something to do with this.
  • And you know what's weird? Hillary was leading by double digits in Pennsylvania up until a month ago, so there is really nothing shocking about her winning the primary. This isn't really a comeback.
If it weren't for the MSM going gaga -- and I predict that Tuesday night they'll be searching their thesaruses to find synonyms for "incredible" and "landslide" -- there wouldn't be any "bounce" in Pennsylvania for Hillary. She's played expectations game perfectly.

Blue-collar TV news?

Minnesota liberal Democrat (but I repeat myself) Peter Smith:

A lot of inside the beltway talking heads and journalists have claimed a special understanding of working class Pennsylvania voters lately.
They say they understand working class Pennsylvanians because they come from Pennsylvania themselves. Or because their fathers belonged to a union. Or worked in a factory. Or drank beer. Or owned a gun. Or bowled.
I would submit that if, as a journalist, you have to explain your working class bona fides, then you probably don't have working class bona fides. That if you're commenting on working class voters in the national media, your perspective may be somewhat distorted by all those tax brackets between you and your subject.

(Via Memeorandum.) Smith makes a good point about faux-proletarian media types, but his conflation of "talking heads and journalists" bothers me. He is perpetuating the myth that journalists make big money.

TV talking heads make big money; journalists don't.

People who aren't in the news business read about the multimillion-dollar contracts of top on-air TV talent -- Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams -- and leap to the erroneous conclusion that journalism is a high-paying industry. It's not.

The people you see on TV news make big money not because they're journalists, but because they're on TV.

A TV news anchor is a TV star, so he's paid like a TV star. The rest of us poor slobs -- especially the miserable wretches in the rapidly collapsing newspaper business -- are paid less than post-office workers. Or truck drivers.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Columnists for the New York Times reportedly make $300,000 a year, but none of those guys are actually journalists -- i.e., they never worked as reporters covering fires, floods, county commission meetings, etc. Say what you will about ex-theater-critic Frank Rich, he actually worked at a newspaper before before becoming a columnist, which is more than can be said of Paul Krugman or Bill Kristol.

The popular misconception of journalism as a high-paying career has been propagated in part by how Hollywood portrays the news business. In my lifetime, at least, there has never been a Hollywood portrayal of a newsroom that wasn't so laughably wrong as to become an instant joke among actual newspaper people. An example is the classic TV/movie depiction of the "investigative reporter" as a sort of detective or spy, sleuthing around in dark alleys. It's just not like that.

So when Peter Smith (who is, in point of fact, an advertising executive) writes about "all those tax brackets between" journalists and the working class, he's propagating a dangerous myth.

Why is this myth of journalism as a high-paying career dangerous? Because some otherwise bright and promising young person might go into the news business thinking it pays handsomely, and thereby consign himself to a life of poverty. A tragic fate . . .

Slow week at CNN?

This is why they get the big bucks:
CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.
Quest, 46, was arrested at around 3:40 a.m. after a cop spotted him and another man inside the park near 64th Street, a police source said. . . .
Quest was initially busted for loitering, the source said. Aside from the oddly configured rope, the search also turned up a sex toy inside of his boot, and a small bag of methamphetamine in his left jacket pocket. . . .
Quest's lawyer, Alan Abramson, had a much more innocuous version of events.
"Mr. Quest didn't realize that the park had a curfew," Abramson said. He was simply "returning to his hotel with friends."
Returning to his hotel with friends . . . and a dildo and some meth and a rope around his scrotum.

According to his CNN bio, Quest is from England, has a law degree from Leeds University and once worked for the BBC:
Quest is firmly established as an expert on business travel issues and currently works as a CNN anchor and correspondent. His regular programs include ‘CNN Business Traveller’, as well as his own hour-long feature program, ‘Quest’. . . . Quest attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, every year, and in this, as with every case, he lends an incredible wealth of modern business knowledge to the coverage, coupled with his inimitable reporting style.
So, Quest is "an expert on business travel issues," but doesn't know that Central Park has a curfew?

There's more. The New York Post reports:
He was reportedly once offered a position for the English-language version of the controversial Al Jazeera network, but said he turned it down because being gay and Jewish, he didn't think it would be a good fit.
And his CNN bio reports:
He anchored CNN’s coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II, live from Rome.
So CNN chose a gay Jewish man to anchor the Pope's funeral? Does that make any sense at all? You would think somebody at CNN's headquarters would say, "Hey, wait a minute, don't we have . . . oh, I don't know, maybe a Catholic who could anchor this broadcast?"

Seriously, I'm not being bigoted here. It just seems to me that, given who John Paul II was and as a basic programming consideration, you'd want somebody anchoring the Pope's funeral broadcast who was knowledgeable and respectful about the religion whose faithful followers would be tuned in by the millions.

Aren't such considerations involved in why CNN uses Iran-born Christiane Amanpour for all its major coverage of Islam and the Middle East?

Assigning Richard Quest to anchor the Pope's funeral is like assigning Ann Coulter to cover Yasser Arafat's funeral -- and I don't think there's any danger of Ann being arrested in Central Park at 3 a.m. with a dildo in her boot.

(Via Memeorandum.)

Obama delegate in cult hoax?

UPDATE 4/20: Welcome Jawa readers. Check out the "Oprah" factor in this case.
* * * * *
If this pans out, it's going to be huge:
Texas Rangers participated in the arrest of a Colorado woman who allegedly pretended to be a girl locked in a basement. The Rangers were in the state as part of their investigation into the Texas polygamy custody battle, local police told ABC News.
It was unclear if the arrest was related to the phone call from a woman who claimed to be a 16-year-old girl, a phone call that sparked what has become one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history.
Officials in Texas raided a polygamist compound and took 416 children into custody after an abuse hotline received a series of phone calls from the purported teen who said she was being held at the compound. The girl, who called herself Sarah, said she was being physically and sexually abused by her adult husband, court documents say. . . .
ABC News has learned that Texas Rangers flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., and participated in the arrest of a 33-year-old woman who was charged with filing a false report.
The FBI also told ABC News it is assisting local police in the investigation. Colorado Springs police said in a statement that "The Texas Rangers were in Colorado Springs Wednesday as part of their investigation involving the compound in Texas." . . .
Colorado Springs police said they arrested Rozita Swinton last night on local charges of pretending to be a girl locked in a basement, claiming abuse and calling authorities for help.
So if this Swinton woman does indeed turn out to have faked the "Sarah" call, it's national news because (a) this Texas polygamy cult story has been all over cable TV news, and (b) well . . . Rusty Shackleford:
Rozita Swinton, the woman arrested today for falsely tipping off the police that she was an abused child bride at the FLDS polygamy cult in Texas is a PLEDGED BARACK OBAMA STATE DELEGATE!!
Rusty links to Patterico, who discovered the Obama angle. Rusty's finely tuned B.S. detector led him to suspect something fishy about this teen-bride story from the get-go. If it is indeed true that Swinton faked the raped-and-abused-virgin-cult-teen call -- man!

A freaking Obama delegate! Does it get any weirder than that? I'm just wondering what her motive could have been.

UPDATE: Houston Chronicle:
It sounded so genuine: a terrified voice of a young girl expressing fear that if rescued from a religious cult, blacks might harm her.
The calls to the Child Protection Project, run by a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were recorded at the request of the Texas Rangers. . . .
The calls to the former sect member, meanwhile, led the Rangers to Colorado Springs, Colo., where police Wednesday arrested Rozita Swinton, a 33-year-old black woman. . . .
Child Protection Project founder Linda Walker and the Phoenix-based group's executive director, Flora Jessop, said Friday they were stunned when they learned the woman's identity.
"In her little baby voice, she said, 'If you rescue me, and I get out of here, do you think the black people will hurt me?' "
Walker said. "She had done her homework. She knew it was a racist cult. We know that these kids are very frightened of black people.
"The Texas Rangers told us she was obsessed with the FLDS. They confiscated tons of material on the FLDS (in the search of Swinton's home). She even gave real addresses and real names of FLDS people."
Walker and Jessop hesitated to say that Swinton was the person who called the Texas hot line to describe sexual and physical abuse by a 50-year-old husband at the ranch outside Eldorado, but they endorsed the resulting actions of Texas authorities.
"Regardless of who made these calls, the system worked exactly as it was supposed to work," said Jessop, a former FLDS member whose cousin, Merrill Jessop, runs the ranch.
Oh, man! How totally off-the-wall can a news story get? So even though it appears that a hoax call led to the raid, this lady says "the system worked exactly as it was supposed to work"?

Note the bizarre circularity of this thing:
  • Critics of FLDS publish material detailing bizarre cult practices and beliefs, including racism.
  • Black woman becomes obsessed with FLDS, collects material from critics.
  • Officials get call from black woman, pretending to be cult victim, expressing racist fears.
  • Based on hoax call, officials raid compound, seize 416 children.
  • Call is exposed as hoax, black woman arrested.
And she's an Obama delegate! I'm sure the Clinton campaign brain trust is huddled up trying to figure out some way to exploit this for the Pennsylvania primary. Maybe George Stephanopoulos can ask a question about it on "This Week" . . .

UPDATE II: Linked by Dad29, who says, "One is reminded of the phone call which engendered the Lawrence case." Indeed -- also a Texas case.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's good to be the kleptocrat!

Russian gossips are whispering about Vladimir Putin and a 24-year-old gymnast:
This sudden frenzied interest in a woman who, until yesterday, was frankly a rather obscure Russian athlete, comes after a Moscow newspaper reported that Mr Putin recently split with Ludmilla and is preparing to marry the young and very pretty Miss Kabaeva.
Mr Putin today appeared to relish being linked to a beautiful gymnast less than half his age as he gave a press conference alongside Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi -- himself no stranger to allegations of womanising.
Denying the claims of a divorce and marriage plans, 55-year-old Mr Putin seemed to enjoy playing up the image of a ladies' man.
"In other publications of the same type, the names of other successful, beautiful young women from Russia are mentioned," he said. "I think it won't be unexpected if I say that I like them all -- just as I like all Russian women."
All in all, I'd rather have a president who was rumored to have an affair with the impressively agile Alina Kabaeva than to have a president who was rumored to have an affair with a telecom lobbyist.

BTW, the Daily Mail's headline writer misuses the word "nubile," a word specific to young women, meaning "of marriageable age," and derived from the same Latin root as "nuptial." To call Miss Kabaeva a "nubile 24-year-old" is redundant. All unmarried 24-year-old women are "nubile."

"Nubile" is one of those words whose meaning gets corrupted by writers who read it in a book and, from the context, think they know what it means, then use it in that (mistaken) sense. The misusage then gets picked up by another half-ignorant writer, and thus transmitted to other readers. Bad usage spreads like an etymological virus.

So, to clear up the misconception, I will state clearly that "nubile" is not a synonym for "sexy" or "hot" or "hard body" -- all terms that could be applied to Putin's putative paramour with some justice.

I've gotten used to corrupt politicians, but corrupt language still bothers me.

Deport the Pope?

I think that's what Michelle Malkin's saying:
Open borders benefit Catholic churches looking to fill their pews and collection baskets. The Vatican and American bishops, led by radical L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony, have long promoted immigration anarchy and lawlesness. Their campaign continues . . .
And then this AP story:
"Americans have always been a people of hope," he said. "Your ancestors came to this country with the experience of finding new freedom and opportunity.
"To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves." . . .
Following a White House visit, a joint statement from the U.S. and the Vatican hinted that Benedict raised concerns with President Bush about punitive immigration laws. It said the leaders discussed "the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially the humane treatment of immigrants and the well-being of their families."
You want to talk about "injustices," Herr Ratzinger? No, I don't think you want to go there.

Instead, let's talk about that little American history lesson you recited. I don't know about other people's ancestors, but my ancestors came over in wooden sailing ships, at a time when the trans-Atlantic crossing was a dangerous journey. My ancestors risked their lives to reach an America that was then a roadless wilderness of dark forests, wild beasts, deadly diseases and (potentially) hostile savages.

My ancestors didn't just hop a bus to Laredo or book a flight to LAX. My ancestors didn't overstay a tourist visa. My ancestors didn't come to a fully developed industrial nation of 300 million people, a representative democracy c0mplete with air conditioning, cable TV, interstate highways, public schools, and a generous welfare state.

My ancestors fought and bled for America. Dad took a nice hunk of shrapnel while fighting the Nazis in France. So, please, Herr Ratzinger, don't talk to me about my ancestors as if their experience somehow legitimizes your open-borders ideology.

That kind of moral-equivalence crap doesn't fool me. America is our country, and if somebody else wants to come here, they have to ask our permission and follow our laws.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Dean's thumb on the scales

Obama bombs in a debate, and suddenly somebody is not willing to wait until the primary voters have their say:
An increasingly firm Howard Dean told CNN again Thursday that he needs superdelegates to say who they’re for – and “I need them to say who they’re for starting now.”
“We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time,” the Democratic National Committee Chairman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We’ve got to know who our nominee is.”
Dean's hostility toward the Clinton machine is well known so his push for an early commitment is intended to help Obama. The superdelegates aren't helping Hillary:
[I]nterviews on Thursday with a cross-section of these superdelegates — members of Congress, elected officials and party leaders — showed that none had been persuaded much by her attacks on Mr. Obama’s strength as a potential Democratic nominee, his recent gaffes and his relationships with his former pastor and with a onetime member of the Weather Underground.
In fact, the Obama campaign announced endorsements from two more superdelegates on Thursday, after rolling out three on Wednesday and two others since late last week in what appeared to be a carefully orchestrated show of strength before Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary.
If the Democratic presidential race were a poker game, by now you'd have to suspect that Barack Obama's campaign is dealing from the bottom of the deck: Rarely a day goes by when it doesn't slap another ace down on the table. The aces in this (possibly strained) metaphor are endorsements, and it often seems as if the Obama operation has an inexhaustible supply at its disposal. In the past week alone, it has announced the support of congressmen from North Carolina and Indiana; the Utah state party chair; the Oklahoma state party's chief fundraiser; 25 South Dakota state legislators; the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers; and, not least, The Boss. Some of these endorsers are super-delegates, and thus of no small consequence to the outcome of the race. Others are simply window-dressing, deployed to create a sense of ineluctable momentum in Obama's direction. But none have the particular resonance of the endorsement that's coming -- unbeknownst to the campaign -- a little later today.
The endorsement in question is that of Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Labor and a friend of both the former president and his wife for four decades. Around 1:00pm EST, Reich informs me, he intends formally to declare his support for Obama on his blog.
Robert Reich, the Red Dwarf. A small endorsment, as it were. Despite all this strategic pressure from Dean and the Obama campaign, Hillary still sees hope:
With Sen. Hillary Clinton widely expected to win Pennsylvania's Democratic primary on Tuesday, most of the focus is on the margin. Anything less than a double-digit victory could solidify the perception that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is the inevitable Democratic nominee, sparking a flow of superdelegates to his side.
But even if Sen. Clinton wins strongly, she still will remain behind in delegates, so her goal must be to change the dynamic of the race, raising doubts about Sen. Obama's ability to carry states like Pennsylvania and lifting her chances of replicating the win in Indiana on May 6.
Most important, a strong Clinton victory would send a message to the superdelegates -- whose support she needs to win the nomination -- or might at least persuade them to stay neutral longer to see if a similar pattern plays out through May.
When I saw Hillary in Greensburg, Pa., last month, I was impressed with her apparent determination to stick it out all the way to the convention. She may lose, but she won't quit. That's an important distinction, and she'd rather be a loser than a quitter.

(Links via Memeorandum.) Pro-Hillary blogger Taylor Marsh also sees Dean's move as a "freaked out" reaction to the debate.

UPDATE: Further evidence of the debate freakout motive from, which declares that the ABC News moderators "hurt the country" by asking Obama tough questions. Michelle Malkin:
The Soros water-carriers say they will run an ad against ABC -- Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulous photoshopped as Hitler and Eva Braun? Nah, too subtle -- if they gather 100,000 signatures.
Ah, now we see the puppet strings. Remember in 2004 when declared their ownership of the Democratic Party and installed Howard Dean as DNC chief? That alliance is now trying to push Hillary out of the race, so the Deaniacs can avenge his 2004 primary defeat. It's like George McGovern's nomination '72 vindicating the Gene McCarthy '68 campaign. If the analogy holds true, that means John McCain is . . . Richard Nixon?
Dean can only stop this runaway train if he can convince one candidate or the other to withdraw. If Hillary wins Pennsylvania by anything more than three points, he won’t have a prayer of succeeding.

Bill Ayers: Online terrorist

Garance Franke-Ruta notes that Bill Ayers is now part of the blogosphere:
It turns out that Ayers -- known in Chicago as Bill -- is not much of a fan of how he has been characterized in the press recently, either. And so he's taken to his blog,, to write about it. On April 6, Ayers responded to his increasingly prominent role in the Democratic presidential nominating contest and what he described as "some fantastic assertions about what I did, what I said, and what I believe," including accusations that he is "an unrepentant terrorist" . . .
In fact, Ayers says, those who tied to stop the "illegal, murderous, imperial war against Viet Nam ... recognize that our efforts were inadequate: the war dragged on for a decade, thousands were slaughtered every week, and we couldn't stop it. In the end the U.S. military was defeated and the war ended, but we surely didn't do enough."
Nor does Ayers believe his actions with the Weather Underground were terrorism. "I've never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently," he wrote.
Ayers was the leader of a Marxist terror cult that planted bombs and called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. He can spin it any way he wants, he can try to define his crimes out of existence, but the facts are the facts. Does Ayers really expect us to believe that the infamous 1969 "Days of Rage" in Chicago were not terrorism?

Ayers tries to fool people into believing Weather Underground was strictly an anti-Vietnam protest group. In fact, Ayers and his Underground colleagues continued to advocate revolution long after U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and their terrorism did not end with the bombings of the 1970s.

Ever hear of the 1981 Brinks armored car robbery? That was perpetrated by some of Ayers' radical comrades, including one of his former disciples, Kathy Boudin. So if the Weather Underground was all about ending the "imperial war against Viet Nam," why were Ayers' disciples still engaged in terrorist crimes more than five years after the fall of Saigon?

The '60s Left still seems to believe its own propaganda, but there's no reason that the rest of us have to buy into their lies.

McCain's 'unorthodox strategy'

  • Step One: Win Republican nomination.
  • Step Two: Lose in November.
Pretty simple, but Jonathan Martin tries to make is seem . . . nuanced:
For reasons of financial necessity, personal preference and plain politics, John McCain is gearing up to run one of the least traditional presidential campaigns in recent history.
The problem is that even prominent strategists within McCain’s own party wonder if his unorthodox strategy will work.
Facing the prospect of competing against a Democrat who is on track to shatter every fundraising record — and confronted by his own inability to rake in large bundles of cash — McCain and his keyadvisers have largely been forced into devising a three-pronged strategy that they hope can turn their general election weaknesses into strengths.
McCain will lean heavily on the well-funded Republican National Committee. He will merge key functions of his campaign hierarchy with the RNC while also relying on an unconventional structure of 10 regional campaign mangers.
And finally — and perhaps most importantly — McCain will rely on free media to an unprecedented degree to get out his message in a fashion that aims to not only minimize his financial disadvantage but also drive a triangulated contrast among himself, the Democratic nominee and President Bush.
"Free media" = MSM. Yeah, we all know how the MSM love to lavish positive coverage on Republicans. This plan is genius -- genius, I tell you!

Also note that the McCain campaign is planning to raid the RNC treasury big-time. So anybody who gives a dime to the RNC will effectively be giving money directly to McCain '08. News of that scheme ought to dry up the RNC's small-dollar donations overnight.

Am I the only one who sees the omens of a colossal Republican disaster in November?

Obama: No thanks, Hamas!

When it rains, it pours:
Mr. Obama's campaign yesterday was forced to reject an unsolicited endorsement by the Islamist terror group Hamas as the candidate worked to reassure leery Jewish voters, and his supporters derided Wednesday's debate as unfair. . . .
"Senator Obama has repeatedly rejected and denounced the actions of Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of many innocents, that is dedicated to Israel's destruction," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
"As president, Obama will work with Israel to isolate terrorist groups like Hamas, target their resources, and support Israel's right and capability to defend itself from any attack."
Hamas' top political adviser, Ahmed Yousef, embraced the Obama campaign Sunday in an interview on WABC radio, saying, "We like Mr. Obama. We hope he will [win] the election."
He compared the Illinois senator to President John F. Kennedy, saying he was a "great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance."
So suddenly Obama finds himself having to distance himself from a key Democratic constituency, Palestinian terrorists.

Texas cult case: Where's Sarah?

UPDATE 4/19: Amazing news update. Rusty is, indeed, a god.
* * * * * * *
A week ago, Rusty Shackleford said of the Texas polygamy cult case:
From the beginning my 'something not right about the way this is being reported' detector has been going off.
Rusty may be onto something. Remember 16-year-old "Sarah"? Nearly two weeks after the raid, Texas officials say they still haven't found her:
The raid was prompted by a series of phone calls in late March from a 16-year-old who officials referred to as Sarah, who said she had been beaten and forced to become the "spiritual" wife to an adult man. FLDS members have denied that the girl, supposedly named Sarah Jessop Barlow, exists.
Upon arriving at the ranch with law enforcement officers the evening before the raid, the men who met them at the gate told them there were no Sarahs there, [Child Protective Services investigator Angie] Voss testified.
However, she said, in interviewing 20 women 17 or younger at the ranch, investigators learned that there were five Sarahs -- and one of them, like the caller, was 16 and had a baby, although her name was not Sarah Jessop Barlow. The women told investigators they did not know where that Sarah was. It remains unclear whether the 16-year-old who made the calls has been located by authorities. . . .
Earlier Thursday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said on CNN's "American Morning" that "the case really doesn't hinge upon that particular 16-year-old."
He said once investigators could "in good faith . . . go into the compound and determine whether or not there was any kind of wrongdoing, the case is on its own after that."
"In good faith?" Remember, this hearing is about the state of Texas seeking custody of all 461 children from the FLDS cult. The case began with this one allegation of abuse, the state has failed even to locate the person who made the allegation, and yet hundreds of children are in danger of being taken from their parents?

As Rusty said, it's the way the media is reporting the case that causes suspicion. The media has tried to portray this as a "children endangered" case, repeating Texas officials' claims that girls were "spiritually married" as soon as they reached puberty. But if there is any actual evidence of that, it didn't come out in the first day of court hearings:
A child protection supervisor testified Thursday that she encountered several pregnant teen girls at a polygamist ranch who called each other "sister wives" and who believed it was acceptable to be "spiritually united" with a man at any age.
"It was the belief that no age was too young to be married," said Angie Voss, a supervisor for investigation at Texas Child Protective Services. . . .
Voss said officials were concerned over the sect promoting "children having children," but added: "It's not about religion, it's about child abuse." . . .
Voss said about 130 of the children removed were under the age of 4 and that girls as young as 13 had conceived children at the ranch.
"She said," but where's the evidence? If the state can produce actual evidence of pregnant 13- and 14-year-olds -- and obstetric examinations could determine that very easily --then they've got a serious case. So far, though, there has been no report of any such evidence. So far as can be determined from this CNN/AP story, they've found one 16-year-old with a baby, but if every pregnant 16-year-old in Texas is cause for a paramilitary raid, they're going to need more SWAT teams

Polygamy is illegal in Texas, and officials can prosecute those cases if they wish. Likewise, they can prosecute every case of statutory rape involved in these "spiritual marriages." But to take 130 children under the age of 4 away from their parents? That's extreme.

Of course, the FLDS sound creepy enough, especially if they were indeed forcing teenage girls to become the fourth or fifth wives of the cult's "elders." Still, Texas officials need to produce a lot more evidence if they want to justify taking all the children away from all the parents.

You know what this is starting to remind me of? The McMartin Preschool case.

UPDATE: Rusty has reiterated his suspicions:
I'm sorry, many of the charges being laid at the feet of the polygamy cult are just way too over the top to believe and I've been saying this from the beginning. Young girls forced to have sex ... in the compound's temple... while others watched [and I'm getting this from TV reports] ... doesn't this sound like something out of a bad move made for Lifetime TV? . . .
It could turn out that some of the allegations against the FLDS are true, such as claims of widespread statutory rape. But I have a pretty strong feeling that most, if not all, of the more sensationalist stories will turn out to be just that: sensationalist stories.
Exactly. Statutory rape and polygamy are both against the law, and FLDS members may be charged with either crime. But lurid tales of young virgins forcibly raped in temple rituals by their "spiritual" husbands as soon as the girls reached menarche? Sounds like media hype to me.

Republicans for Obama?

Rusty Shackleford's post is headlined "The Two Wars in Iraq & Mistaken Republican Support for Obama," but he really doesn't provide any evidence that "Republicans for Obama" represents anything like a significant slice of the electorate:
After years of support for the war, some in the center and on the right have decided that the initial invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They feel like their initial support was in error or that they were duped [notoriously, John Cole]. Lacking any other vocabulary, they lash out at the war or at the Bush Administration for starting it.
Because McCain supports the war in Iraq they have no other recourse than to support Obama who was against the war. A vote for McCain is a vote in support of the war, which they now see as a mistake.
Rusty argues for a rhetorical separation of Iraq into two wars: The initial invasion that quickly routed the Iraqi military (a decisive U.S. victory), and the long, bloody occupation fight against insurgents and terrorists (not yet a victory):
The First Iraq War may have been "optional", as many of the critics say; but
the Second Iraq war is not. We must win it. The price of victory may be high, but the price of defeat is higher.
Interesting argument. I would never vote for Obama -- I don't vote for Democrats -- but I'd never vote for John McCain, either.

John McCain is not a conservative. In fact, John McCain hates conservatives, as he has made clear on many occasions in many ways.

Republican propagandists have tried to scare conservatives into voting for McCain by telling us all the terrible things that will happen if Obama or Hillary get elected. But American survived eight years of Bill Clinton, and I refuse to reward the GOP for doing the wrong thing. If the Republican Party can nominate a non-conservative like McCain and still get the votes of conservatives, where is the incentive for the GOP ever to nominate a conservative?

John McCain may yet win in November, but he won't get any help from me. Frankly, I expect him to lose -- and lose badly. But if somehow he does win, his presidency will be bad for the Republican Party, bad for the conservative movement, and bad for America. Remember: "The people who know him like him least."

The architects of "National Greatness" say we should support John McCain, which is good enough reason for me not to support John McCain. Is conservatism nothing more than GOP cheerleading? Is it just "jobs for the boys," so to speak?

Which is weirder?

The Texas polygamy cult, or Yale University?
Art major Aliza Shvarts '08 wants to make a statement.
Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.
The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts' project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.
But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for "shock value."
"I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," Shvarts said.
"Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone."
(Via Memeorandum.) Even if the "miscarriages" are apparently a hoax, the idea of using abortifacients to "make a statement" art-wise is as sick as anything that went on at the FLDS compound in Texas.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trying to care. Really.

The Democrats debated. Some people watched. I didn't. Some people cared. I didn't. But I'll blog about it, because you might care. And I care about you.

Marc Armbinder:
Keeping the score card, there's no way Obama could [have] fared worse. Nearly 45 minutes of relentless political scrutiny from the ABC anchors and from Hillary Clinton, followed by an issues-and-answers session in which his anger carried over and sort of neutered him.
Ed Morrisey:
Thanks to a surprisingly tenacious set of questions . . . from ABC moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous, Barack Obama got exposed over and over again as an empty suit, while Hillary cleaned his clock.
OK, so that's two judges scoring it a decisive victory for my close personal friend, Hillary. Why do I suspect Obama's supporters are going to be screaming bloody murder? Let's see.

The Nation:
And the winner of the 21st debate of the Democratic presidential race is . . . Right-Wing Talking Points. . . .
Instead of engaging in a needed discussion about economic issues -- especially the trade policies that are devastating the Keystone State and so much of the rest of the country -- the Democratic contenders sounded as if they were reading outtakes from a particularly lame Bill O'Reilly program. . . .
The line of questioning from ABC "News" personalities Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos -- Wednesday night's moderators, who pummeled Obama for most of the night -- almost made a viewer long for a long-winded intervention by the CNN's self-absorbed but reasonably serious Wolf Blitzer.
Call the suicide-prevention hotline! You know a political journalist has lost hope when he starts pining to watch Wolf Blitzer.

But seriously, did you catch the left-wing spin there? The Democrats are convinced that the economy is going to be a big winning issue for them in 2008, so if the debate moderators want to talk about anything else, the moderators are accused of being GOP shills.

Similar angle from Greg Mitchell (!) at HuffPo:
In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia. They, and their network, should hang their collective heads in shame.
Right. On consecutive days this week, Mitchell's HuffPo columns expressed outrage that anyone would suspect Obama of Marxism. (Heh.) The Democratic debate that an Obama supporter like Mitchell wants is one in which the moderators deliver slow-pitch softballs over the heart of the plate, so that the Democratic candidates can take turns denouncing the Bush administration.

In Greg Mitchell's (wet) dream debate, Charlie Gibson would ask, "Senator Obama, please tell us how you plan to reverse the horrendous damage that the criminal Bush regime has done to the Constitution?" And then Obama would give a two-minute lecture about the Fourth Amendment and why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should have been read the Miranda warning and given a pro-bono lawyer from the ACLU.

Instead, Obama has to answer a question about why he's buddy-buddy with Weather Underground terrorist mastermind Billy Ayers, and Mitchell condemns this as "trivial."

Oh, did I mention that Greg Mitchell is -- I kid you not -- the editor of Editor & Publisher, the leading professional journal of professional journalism?

Obviously, I would never argue that people with strong political opinions can't be professional journalists; such an argument would be self-defeating. I am merely wondering if E&P ever prints columns and articles by such professional journalists as Patrick J. Buchanan, Tony Snow, Cal Thomas and Michelle Malkin. And I'm also wondering if E&P has any staffers who post their opinion blogs at or

I am wondering these things, but I don't really care. Honest, I don't. The collapsing viability of the journalism business is not something I take personally, so when the editor of the newspaper industry's leading professional journal starts shilling for Obama on Huffington Post, I view the subject with a serenely Olympian detachment.

Why am I so placid? Because I am objective and neutral, as are all professional journalists.

UPDATE: Speaking of professional journalists, Andrew Sullivan is heartsick over Obama's "lifeless" performance in Wednesday's debate. Anyone doubting my assertion that complaints about Wednesday's questions are a barometer of support for Obama should note how Andrew -- a flaming Obamaphile -- laments the way his idol was "subjected to [a] series of attacks on his integrity, faith, patriotism, decency and honesty."

And while I'm at it, does anyone think it somewhat . . . unseemly that George Stephanopoulos, a lifelong Democratic Party operative who was a Clinton campaign aide and Clinton administration staffer, should be asking questions of Obama and Hillary in a crucial debate? Isn't it possible that his partisanship or his Clintonian loyalties might make some people -- Obama supporters, for instance -- suspect that Stephanopoulos isn't being entirely fair?

Not that I care about it. However, I suspect that such an issue might be of interest to Greg Mitchell, who is an eminent journalist and an arbiter of professional ethics.

Headline of the Day

While writing a joke about political coverage, I wanted to drop in the name of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, so I Googled it, and just happened to stumble on a story with this headline:
Clinton Pushes Housing Market Fixes As Campaign Manager Sits on
Board of Bankrupt Lender
Isn't that amazing? The story's from March, but I just saw it today, so that qualifies it for Headline of the Day under the official rules, which I make up as I go along. (I'm Clintonesque that way.)

And since I get to make up the rules to suit myself, The Other McCain can choose more than one Headline of the Day:
All My Rowdy Friends (Are Getting Busted)
One must do what one can to help uplift the downtrodden. Noblesse oblige, and all that.

'No more fun of any kind!'

UPDATED & BUMPED (AGAIN!): Adding new material at the end, plus discussion of the WaPo's disgusting coverage of the case, and video of Jason Talley talking about the incident on NBC-4:

Very interesting how schoolkids on a field trip to the Memorial cause far more noise at midday than did 20 dancers at midnight. "Officer, arrest those third-graders!" By the way, there is now a legal defense fund to help defray Brooke Oberwetter's court expenses.

* * * * *
The Washington Post's coverage of this case is so infuriating that I will not even link to the story. As Radley Balko notes, the story gets wrong one basic fact about the arrest, a fact that anyone with two eyes could see. Plus, never mind calling her "Mary" when everyone knows she goes by Brooke.

Down lower in this (very long) post, I crack a lot of jokes in an effort to add the healing balm of humor to a situation involving friends of mine. But I became extremely angry -- in a very serious way -- when I saw that the WaPo reporter had included some personal information about Miss Oberwetter's family that was entirely extraneous to the story.

The first time I met her, she was working at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Several of my friends work at CEI and one of them told me about her family background. So the second time I met Miss Oberwetter, I mentioned this, and she became furious: "Who told you that?"

Miss Oberwetter is her own person, and doesn't go around trying to impress people. So my friend who let her secret slip to me -- a journalist, for crying out loud! -- got himself an earful the next time he encountered Miss Oberwetter.

That's why when that WaPo reporter twice referenced her family -- getting it into the third paragraph of the story -- it kind of boiled my blood. That bit of biography was entirely irrelevant to the story of her getting arrested for dancing. The reporter invaded Brooke's privacy. She's an independent 28-year-old (she had to put her blog on hiatus because of her job), her father is not a politician, and her arrest had nothing to do with her father.

Still . . . why do I now suspect that if she were the daughter of a Democrat, the WaPo story would be more sympathetic to her plight?
An eyewitness account of "The Jefferson 1" incident at last reveals the name of the terpsichorean perpetrator:
Organized by Bureaucrash, the youth-oriented libertarian affiliate of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Thomas Jefferson Dance Party looked to revive the dancing-as-freedom meme with a dedication to many free marketeers' favorite founding father on the occasion of his 265th birthday.
The plan was simple enough: Freedom-loving individuals . . . would gather in the Jefferson Memorial just before midnight, April 13, and spend ten minutes bopping, swaying and moonwalking to honor the author of the Declaration of Independence.
So as not to disturb any fellow memorial visitors, the group . . . opted to wear headphones and listen to their own iPods. As it turned out, the half-dozen or so unrelated onlookers who happened to be on-hand (the park is open 24 hours) appeared mostly amused by the spectacle.
Security personnel assuredly were not amused. Within two minutes of the event's start, they began moving to disperse the crowd, ordering the dancers to leave immediately, forcibly laying their hands on some and hurling profanities at others.
A few party-goers attempted to explain the nature of the event, but memorial staff were in no mood to discuss political theory. At 11:59, just four minutes after the event's start, U.S. Park Police had detained and were handcuffing the aforementioned "Jefferson 1" -- 28-year-old occasional Spectator contributor Brooke Oberwetter -- ostensibly for unauthorized dancing.
OK, so now her name is out there. Brooke is a friend, someone I know from attending various free-market events around D.C. Most recently I saw her at the Media Research Center "Dishonor Awards" gala -- she's shown here at the gala reception with Derek Hunter and J.P. Freire:

To know Brooke is to gain a deeper appreciation of John Randolph of Roanoke's famous declaration, "I love liberty. I hate equality. I am an aristocrat." Like Randolph, Brooke is a libertarian aristocrat. If she were to write a self-help book, it would be called Get In Touch With Your Inner Patrician.

Brooke has a sort of innate dignity, and you can imagine the horror her friends felt when they saw two cops shove her up against a column of the Jefferson Memorial and put her in handcuffs. In the video of the incident, you can hear Jason Talley mutter: "Holy f---ing s---!"

I had been invited to the dance party, and had hoped to attend. Unfortunately, I had an assignment to cover Bob Barr's appearance in Burlington, N.C., that day, and was still driving back home when the midnight hour arrived.

About 10 minutes after the arrest at the Memorial, I was rolling through Virginia on I-95 North when my cell phone rang. It was Lene Johansen, a science writer who is the current Warren T. Brookes Fellow at CEI. "Stacy, you've got to get down here!" Lene said. "They just arrested Brooke!"

Lene filled me in on the situation, but by the time I could reach the D.C. area, it would be far too late -- and I would be far too tired -- to do any reporting. By dawn, however, the blogosphere had jumped into action, with Megan McArdle and others blogging about the incident.

Other bloggers were not naming the arrestee, and I followed suit. Then Radley Balko posted a video in which eyewitness Nicki Kurokawa used Brooke's first name in describing the incident, so I thought it was safe to begin using the first name. But then somebody asked that I stop that, so I edited the name out and referred to her instead as "name witheld" or "B."

Well, now her identity is public, and I suspect the Spectator story will not be the last we hear of "The Jefferson 1" incident.

We should all be grateful that the incident ended without any bloodshed. Which is to say, it's a good thing I was in North Carolina instead of at the Memorial that night, because those cops would have had to shoot me before I would have stood by while they manhandled Brooke and dragged her away in cuffs.

Sir Walter Raleigh was also an aristocrat, you know.

As to the issues of liberty-vs.-order involved in the "J1" incident, the Spectator's Phillip Klein -- also an eyewitness to the arrest -- offers his perspective:
I make my debut as a Nazi collaborator in the third video, about 4:30 in. My voice can be heard off camera. As the dancer is being detained, libertarians are yelling about the oppressive state, and the legacy of Japanese internment to a puzzled officer who (to my knowledge) wasn't responsible for the arrest. Though I agreed that the arrest itself was absolutely ridiculous, I made an ill-fated attempt to argue to a crowd of perturbed libertarians that lobbing anti-statist rhetoric at an officer who didn't seem to know what was going on, wasn't the most productive course of action. Needless to say, it didn't go over too well with my companions, and I was soon reminded that, "Adolf Eichmann said he was just doing his job!"
Despite my chivalrous offer to take a bullet for Brooke, my own longtime policy is: Never argue with the police.

When the state trooper says he clocked me at 89 mph, I might politely suggest that perhaps his radar was miscalibrated. I might offer some lame excuse and ask if maybe, just this one time, he could let me go with a warning. I might even accidentally have a $50 bill in my hand while I'm handing him my license and registration. ("Oops, my mistake, officer. That was supposed to be a hundred.") But I never argue with the police.

Of course, it's a free country, and others are entitled to their own policy vis-a-vis law enforcement. But I spent my formative years in Douglas County, Ga., when the mere name of Sheriff Earl Lee was enough to frighten even the most hardened criminal, and was an absolute terror to juvenile delinquents like me. When one of those Douglas County deputies showed up in his brown uniform, the time to argue was over. Run, yes. Argue, no.

Spending one's adolescence as a ... uh, freelance pharmaceutical distributor tends to teach the value of a non-confrontational approach toward the law-enforcement community. When you're a 15-year-old trafficking in felonious quantities of controlled substances, the last thing you want to do is get busted for a two-bit misdemeanor because you mouthed off at a cop.

It's all about personal perspective, I guess.

UPDATE: Matthew Vadum, one of the most respected young investigative journalists in Washington, posts a thoughtful comment:

You are probably right that in most situations one should not argue with law enforcement personnel, but does asking a sincere question of an officer when one doesn't know that she is possibly breaking a law constitute arguing with the police? . . . These officers appear to have exceeded their authority and their actions might give the arrested individual the right to sue the police force they work for. I know [Brooke], as you do, and can't imagine her defying an officer and persisting in a supposedly unlawful behavior after said officer has explained his concerns. What happened was wrong, plain and simple.

Of course, Mr. Vadum makes an important point here, and I would not dispute his judgment. I was merely relating the fact that I, due to my personal experience, am in the habit of trying to avoid confrontation with policemen. When such a confrontation accidentally occurs, my habit is to disengage as quickly as possible. So if a cop says, "Jump," I don't even pause to ask, "How high?"

These are my own personal habits, and I explained how and why they became ingrained in my personality. I did not say that the cops were right or the dancer was wrong, and I said nothing that might be prejudicial to any legal action. All I said was, as soon as a cop tells me to move along, I move along -- unless, of course, chivalry requires that I sacrifice myself to the dictates of honor.

SUGGESTION: Next time a flash mob plans to dance at a national monument, some advance preparation would help: Bring a couple dozen donuts for the cops.

Give a cop a Krispy Kreme, you can get away with murder. OK, maybe not literally murder, but at least dancing.

UPDATE II: Just got an e-mail from a guy who says he used to make the I-95 run smuggling illegal guns and cocaine from Miami to Philadelphia, and he questions my suggestion of Krispy Kremes:
Two words, dude: Dunkin' Donuts. Never saw a Jersey trooper who could resist
'em. We always used to stop at a Dunkin' Donuts down in Delaware and pick up a
dozen, just in case.
My correspondent is correct about the NJ trooper's known affinity for Dunkin' Donuts, but remember that I'm a native of Atlanta, and the Georgia State Patrol has always been partial to Krispy Kreme.

Now that the subject of regional differences in confectionary preference among law enforcement personnel has been introduced, I guess I might as well share my own discovery about Maryland State Police. MSP seem to be immune to either Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme. However, I was once running late for an important meeting in DC, and just happened to have with me a plate of my wife's homemade cinnamon rolls . . .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Backyard gunfire



My 15-year-old twin sons are currently taking turns at target practice with their .22 semi-automatic rifle.

A few minutes ago, I was on the phone talking business with a friend, and had to ask him to hold on while I told the boys to hold their fire until I finished my conversation.

"That's the good stuff," my friend said, referring to the pleasure of watching one's children grow up.

He's right, of course.


'Extremely gloomy'? That's me!

Craig Henry knows how to pick 'em, including my "extremely gloomy" outlook in his roundup on the future of the newspaper industry. Part of my assessment is that the decline of literacy, rather than liberal bias, is the primary factor in the downward spiral of the industry:
[T]he reason I know that liberal bias is not a sufficient explanation for this decline is the fact that small "hometown" newspapers -- which have never reflected the liberalism that plagues the major metro dailies -- have suffered equally, if not worse, from the decline.
Craig takes issue with my appraisal of liberal bias at "hometown" newspapers, responding:
I’ve lived in a bunch of different places over the years. Some were liberal communities (Madison, Wisconsin) while others were conservative (Carlisle, Charlotte). In every city and town, however, the local paper was and is more liberal than the community it serves. In Madison, the papers were very liberal, here in Carlisle the Sentinel is only a little to the left of center. This is a striking stance, though, in a community that voted for Bush 60/40 in two elections.
I would agree with Craig that in most cases, newspapers are more liberal than the communities they serve. Journalism, as a profession, attracts a lot of liberals -- sic semper hoc.

Good points, but a few points in reply:
  • If the newspaper in Madison is "more liberal than the community it serves," then it must read like a Symbionese Liberation Army manifesto.
  • The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer is much larger than the kind of "hometown" paper I meant.
  • The Observer has been part of the Knight-Ridder chain for more than 50 years. The conglomeration of newspapers into chains is a major factor in the loss of connection between newspapers and their communities. Editors and reporters are shifted around within the chain, and so you see journalists with what you'd call a "transcontinental" resume, where they've worked at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa, Tennessee, Arizona, etc. As a result, you get a sort of bland, standardized product -- the McDonaldization of newspapers.
The worst offender in this regard among newspaper chains is Gannett, which is an intensely top-down operation where all the basic guidelines are dictated from the central command. The "Local Gannett Paper" (LGP) has become the sick joke of American journalism -- a thin, weak gruel of blandness.

The LGP is the newspaper equivalent of a mayonnaise-on-Wonderbread sandwich. But there's one twist: Gannett corporate guidelines include a sort of mandatory PC "diversity" quota, so that reporters are expected to quote a certain number of sources who are female or minority.

This LGP quota system is notorious within the newspaper industry, because it yields such laughable results in towns without large minority communities. Imagine working as a reporter at a Gannett paper in some town in Nebraska or Maine and trying to find Hispanic or Asian-American sources to quote in a story about the county commission's plans to install a traffic light at the intersection of Church Street and Highway 301. It's absurd.

I've got 22 years in the newspaper industry, but I'd dig ditches before I'd ever work for Gannett.

Being in job-search mode right now -- with a family of eight, I've got to have a full-time gig with benefits to support my freelancing/book-writing/blogging habits -- I'm keenly aware of the difficulties facing the newspaper business, so my expression of interest in the ditch-digging industry is not just empty hyperbole. Nobody cares about the politics of a man with a shovel in his hands.

The obligatory Iranian brothel post

General Reza Zarei, chief of the Iranian vice squad, was arrested in a Tehran whorehouse with six hookers.

In Iran, couples can get hassled or arrested for holding hands in public, and homosexuals can be sentenced to death. Yet prostitution flourishes, and the exploits of Gen. Zarei suggest why this is so. A little bribe, a little corruption, a little hypocrisy.

Actually, this arrest is perhaps a promising sign for Iran. If the whole society was into the fanatical Shi'ite Islam trip, then prostitutes and pimps would live in fear of their lives. Their neighbors would inform on them to police, or they would be beaten to death by mobs of devout Shi'ites. Instead, the whorehouses proliferate, the people look the other way, and the police are in on the scam.

Ergo, Islamic fundamentalism is not really pervasive among ordinary Iranians.

Kinda funny ...

... even if it is the Village Voice slamming on conservative bloggers.

The best? Ace of Spades has a "stupid/evil" ratio of 1/99.

Don't worry, Ace. Speaking on behalf of my fellow morons, I vow to help maintain the level of Fratboytarian stupidity until you eventually get that perfect 0/100.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Headline of the Week (Again)

In addition to being voted Best Conservative Blogger and CPAC Blogger of the Year, Ace of Spades has now accomplished the heretofore unimaginable feat of winning the prestigious Other McCain "Headline of the Week" prize twice in one week.

First, there was his headline on Obama's "Bittergate," and now this:
And you know what? That isn't even the funniest thing in the post. I haven't laughed so hard since the fall of Guernica. And wait until you see the morons in the comment field.

Taxes and Teddy

My friend Jason Mattera does an ambush interview with the Chappaquiddick Swim Champ:

(Via Michelle Malkin.) Probably the best thing in the video is Jason's grin at the end.

Folks, I did my taxes today and got totally raped, especially on Maryland state taxes. The thing about Maryland is, they don't give any break at all for parents of children. It's like they're anti-child or something. As the father of six, this means that I end up owing extra taxes to Maryland every year, even when I get a refund from the feds.

What it is, I think, is that Maryland's tax structure assumes that all children attend public schools, thus imposing a cost on the state. Ergo, a tax break for parents would shift the cost of education onto non-parents, which would be unfair.

But my children have never attended Maryland public schools. The only time any of my kids attended a public school was 1994-95, when my oldest daughter attended one year of kindergarten in Rome, Ga. Since then, all of our children have either been homeschooled or attended private schools.

"Well," some people might say, "if you can afford private education for your kids, that means you're rich, so you can afford high taxes."

Most of the people who say such idiotic stuff make more money than I do -- including public school teachers.

That's been one of my pet peeves for 20 years, this false claim that public school teachers are underpaid. Underpaid? Compared to whom? I've been a professional journalist since 1986, and my annual salary at no time has exceeded the salary of a public-school teacher with five year's experience.

Teaching kids to read and write may be tough, but it's not open-heart surgery, so why do public-school teachers feel entitled to demand higher salaries and better benefits than the average salaries of the taxpayers who are footing the bill?

Yet because the teachers can lobby the legislature for higher pay and more benefits -- paid for with your tax dollars and mine -- they spend all their time whining about how horribly underpaid they are, and what atrocious working conditions they endure.

The whining of the teacher lobby boils my blood, expecially when I am forced to remember -- as I was reminded today -- that their whining is ultimately done at the expense of my children.


Good morning, Romania!

Yesterday, I saw I'd been linked by a blog called Gradinariu. The subject was Barack Obama and my assessment of his Marxist interpretation of small-town Pennsylvania culture, but it was written in a language I didn't recognize.

It was a Latin-derived language, that much was clear, but it was neither French nor Spanish nor Italian. I guessed it must be Romanian -- Romania being one of the easternmost redoubts of Latin-influenced language.

My guess was right, it turns out. The blogger left a comment today saying that in Romania, they pay their taxes on Christmas Eve. A legacy of Ceausescu, I suspect.

Well, then .... Greetings, my Romanian friends!

I apologize to Romanian readers for any translation difficulties caused by my colloquial English. For example, I sometimes get bored with politics and click over to WeSmirch, pick up some trashy tabloid thing about a Hollywood celebrity and blog about that. But I'm not sure that "trashy tabloid" translates easily into Romanian.

What does translate? Kim Kardashian.
Talk about the universal language, huh? You may or may not understand American politics, but I know you guys in Bucharest are looking at Kim right now and saying, "Yeah, baby." (Or whatever the equivalent of "yeah, baby" is in Romanian.) So by posting this, I'm engaged in something I call "babe-blogging," which I will define thus:
Babe-blogging -- The practice whereby a political blogger seeks to attract more readers by gratuitously posting photos of attractive women. (See also: "traffic bait")
Some political bloggers refuse to engage in this practice, and look askance at those who do. But my traffic's down today, it's been a while since I've got a link from Ace of Spades, and I figured, what the heck, why not give it a try?