Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lawyer: Media unfair to whore

Well, this is rich:
The lawyer for the call girl linked to the downfall of Gov. Eliot Spitzer lashed out at the media on Friday for thrusting the 22-year-old woman into the "public glare" without her consent and publishing revealing photos.
Since her identity was disclosed, newspapers and Web sites have splashed photos of Ashley Alexandra Dupre in suggestive poses on front and inside pages. Dupre was known as "Kristen" in court documents accusing Spitzer of paying thousands for prostitutes' services.
Her attorney, Don D. Buchwald, said she did not consent to the use of her photos in this manner, and the usage may be a violation of federal copyright laws.
(Via Memeorandum.) Oh, that dreadful "public glare"! Oh, the shame of those "revealing photos"!

Hey, Buchwald: Your client is a whore. She was peddling that stuff to the highest bidder. And since prostitution is a crime, Ashley Alexandra Dupre's "revealing" photos -- to the extent that they were used to advertise her illegal services -- were arguably instrumental to her criminal conduct.

Jammie Wearing Fool shares my amusement:

She's an attention-seeking whore, yet somehow now has a problem everyone is seeing her photos?
Buchwald, you don't have a leg to stand on, and you know it. If you ever dared to bring any legal action on this pathetic claim, you'd be laughed out of court. Why don't you concentrate on trying to keep your whore client out of prison, which is what I presume you're getting paid to do?

Better yet, Buchwald, why don't you get creative? Contact MTV and try to sell them on a new reality series, "High-Priced Whore." If you work the deal right, Ms. Dupre could soon be an even more infamous whore than she already is.

UPDATE: While looking for more photos, I came across this story in the Boston Globe, which might be called "A Whore's Tale":
She left a broken home on the Jersey Shore at 17 and came to New York City to work the nightclubs as a rhythm-and-blues singer. . . .
In a series of telephone interviews on Tuesday night, she said she had slept very little over the past week due to the stress from the case. "I just don't want to be thought of as a monster," the woman said.
(Not a monster, just a whore, Ashley.)
Born Ashley Youmans but now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupre, she spoke softly and with good humor as she added: "This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated." . . .
(I'm sure all the guys who went to high school in New Jersey with Ashley Youmans are now laughing themselves silly: "Spitzer paid $4,000 for that? Man, I used to get it for free -- and it wasn't that good.")

She left "a broken family" at age 17, having been abused, according to the MySpace page, and has used drugs, "been broke and homeless." . . .
Carolyn Capalbo, 46, Dupre's mother, said that she attended Wall High School in Belmar until her sophomore year, when she moved to North Carolina. "She was a young kid with typical teenage rebellion issues, but we are extremely close now," Capalbo said in a telephone interview yesterday. . . .
Capalbo said that she was "shell-shocked" when her daughter called mid-last week and told her she had been working as an escort and was now in trouble with the law. She said she was not sure Dupre realized who Spitzer was when he was her client.
"She is a very bright girl who can handle someone like the governor," Capalbo said in a telephone interview yesterday. "But she also is a 22-year-old, not a 32-year-old or a 42-year-old, and she obviously got involved in something much larger than her."

Add your own punchlines, folks.

UPDATE 12:50 p.m.: My friend James Joyner at Outside the Beltway appears to take seriously the legalistic arguments that newspapers that published MySpace photos of Ashley/"Kristen" are guilty of copyright infringement. Nonsense.

Look, I've got a 3 p.m. appointment 100 miles from here, so I'll have to make this quick:

Ashley/"Kristen" is a criminal, who is in a world of legal jeopardy. She has engaged in prostitution as part of what prosecutors say is an interstate (and perhaps international) prostitution ring. She is implicated in potential federal money-laundering charges, as well as possible violation of the Mann Act. As far as we know, Ashley/"Kristen" used her MySpace photos to advertise her call-girl services.

Furthermore, by the highly-publicized nature of her crimes -- which destroyed the career of the governor of New York -- Ashley/"Kristen" has arguably become a public figure. Thus, all photos of Ashley/"Kristen" can be considered fair game at this point.

Remember those pictures of the Columbine killers brandishing their weapons? Do you think anyone got permission or paid a royalty to publish those photos? I don't think so.

The same principle applies with photos of Ashley/"Kristen." Who would be the plaintiffs in a copyright suit? The whore herself? Authorities are going to let her out of jail so she can testify in freaking copyright case? And what kind of judge or jury would award damages in such a case?

So, yeah, Buchwald can sue the NY Post and cause them to have to spend money hiring lawyers to handle the case, but it would just be a nuisance action, and would never result in damages?

Whatever the fine points of the law in this case, the practical reality is that the newspapers that published the photo are in the clear -- and they know it, which is why they didn't hesitate to publish them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

This won't work, Barack

Obama's anti-American minister "resigns" from the campaign:
Obama’s campaign announced that the minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., had left its spiritual advisory committee after videotapes of his sermons again ignited fierce debate in news accounts and political blogs.
Obama did not clarify whether Wright volunteered to leave his African American Religious Leadership Committee, a loose group of supporters associated with the campaign, or whether the campaign asked him to leave.
(Via Memeorandum.) I believe the correct term is "thrown under the bus" and, given the timing, this could also be termed a "Friday night massacre." However, it doesn't solve the essential problem that Wright represented to the Obama campaign.

Wright was not a hired staffer on the Obama campaign. Nor was he merely a dignitary appointed to a titular position in order to lend prestige to the campaign (as was true with Geraldine Ferraro's position with Hillary Clinton's campaign).

As Obama himself has written, Jeremiah Wright has been his pastor for 20 years. Obama tries rather ineptly to distance himself from Wright's inflammatory anti-American rhetoric:
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.
Whoa! Look at the defense of Wright's "black theology" offered by Trinity Church, which was cited by former Trinity congregant Kesha Boyce Williams in Wright's defense. According to Wright's defenders, this "black theology" -- which was what the minister was supposedly expressing in his America-bashing rants -- is part and parcel of the Trinity experience, and Obama was just fine with that, until it became a political embarrassment.

So Obama spends 20 years in this church, proudly claims the minister as a spiritual mentor, and then when Wright's anti-American rants make the network news, suddenly Obama is shocked, shocked to discover that his minister harbors such unpatriotic sentiments?

No. Uh-uh. This won't work.

UPDATE: Doing a little roundup of reaction to this affair, I note Ragnar's post highlighting Wright's anti-Israel rhetoric:
[America] supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic.
This is just historical ignorance talking. America certainly has not ignored the Palestinians. The problem is that the Palestinian leadership has been fanatically dedicated to the liquidation of Israel, which tends to make negotiation difficult, if not altogether moot.

As to Wright's accusation that America "supported Zionism," this charge dates back to the Cold War era. Back then, U.S. support for Israel was largely a response to the fact that the Soviet Union was arming and training the Arab armies that sought to destroy Israel in successive wars. And the Soviet didn't just back Israel's enemies in conventional warfare. What most Americans today don't know is that the Soviet Union for many years trained and sponsored international terrorist organizations (a fact documented in a once-famous 1981 Heritage Foundation treatise), and thus today's terrorist threat can be said to have roots in the old "Evil Empire."

UPDATE II: Andrew Sullivan is more charitable toward Obama, calling the dismissal of Wright "a classy move." Well, if you accept that there's a "classy" way to throw someone under the bus . . .

The Hot Air crew has an extensive roundup. Nobody over there seems to think Obama's move was particularly "classy," either.

You know what I haven't seen yet? Any accusation that the Hillary campaign was behind the ABC News report that turned Wright's rants into a major story. You'd never be able to prove such a thing, of course -- Hillary's people aren't stupid -- but you'd think that at least one pro-Obama blogger would think to ask, "Cui bono?" So far, I haven't seen any such suspicion expressed. C'mon, Obama people: Do you really think ABC News just stumbled onto these videos and decided to do a story without any prompting from anyone?

Truth to Power?

Chris Bowers has a coniption over the fact that Obama advisor Samantha Power was forced to resign after the Scotsman quoted her calling Hillary a "monster." The quote was accurate, but Power claimed she didn't know she was on the record.

After the Scotsman explained its decision as to what is and is not on the record, Bowers complains:
There seems to be no appreciation that Peev and her editor were personally responsible for ending someone's political advisor career over something really, really stupid. This strikes me as very much hiding behind vague institutional rules and regulations in an effort to elide personal responsibility.
Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left doesn't buy it, citing the standard principle that everything is on the record unless previously agreed otherwise:
If Chris does not know this most basic rule of journalism, if Samantha Power does not know it, then they have no business, in Power's case, representing a political campaign, and in Chris' case, critiquing a journalist. This critique from Chris is simply an absurdity.
(Via Memeorandum.) Certainly this is rule about what is on the record is valid when dealing with a presidential campaign, where Power was a key advisor giving her off-the-cuff assessment of the rival candidate. That's an important and arguably newsworthy statement.

At the same time, over the course of more than two decades in journalism, I've learned that it's best not to play "gotcha" by quoting people's casual remarks. As a reporter, I want sources to feel that they can trust me, and to be comfortable enough to talk freely. You learn more that way, even if you can't report everything you learn. To "burn" a source by quoting their casual remarks in a one-on-one conversation is not going to encourage sources to trust you.

Still, by the standard rules of the game, Bowers has no basis of complaint against the Scotsman. If he wants to complain, he should complain about the Obama campaign's gutless decision to sack Power on the basis of that one remark. After all, Hillary's well-known bad temper is enough to justify the "monster" label. So Obama fired Power for speaking the truth.

Also without basis is Bowers' effort to portray Power as a victim because of the damage to her "political advisor career." Oh, puh-leeze: She's a tenured professor at Harvard. Samantha Power almost certainly makes at least twice what that Scotsman reporter makes.

Among the principles of journalism that Chris Bowers has probably never heard of is this one: No journalist shall ever feel pity for tenured academics.

Yeah, that's my own private principle, but I think it's a good one.

Who's "ignorant"?

Yesterday I blogged about Obama's anti-American pastor. Today Tim Graham at Newsbusters addresses how the media spent months ignoring Jeremiah Wright's rants.

At Inside Charm City, Jeff Quinton quotes one of Wright's defenders, Kesha Boyce Williams:
I was a member of Trinity when I lived in Chicago. People who attack the church without having experienced Trinity are missing the whole point. . . .
Trinity is being attacked because of its belief system.
Williams then links a statement on Trinity's Web site, which asserts that the church's critics "are completely ignorant when it comes to the Black religious tradition." Furthermore:
Black theology is one of the many theologies in the Americas that became popular during the liberation theology movement. They include Hispanic theology, Native American theology, Asian theology and Womanist theology. . . .
To have a church whose theological perspective starts from the vantage point of Black liberation theology being its center, is not to say that African or African American people are superior to any one else.
African-centered thought, unlike Eurocentrism, does not assume superiority and look at everyone else as being inferior. . . .
This hardly qualifies as a defense of Trinity and its minister -- in fact, it seems like more of an indictment. Christianity is Christianity. Christ died for all mankind, and while the practice of Christian faith may vary in some ways from culture to culture, Christian theology requires no modifiers. There is no "Hispanic" or "Asian" theology distinct from mainstream Christianity, nor is there a "Black theology."

What this statement on Trinity's Web site is saying is that Trinity's theology is not strictly Christian, but is diluted or corrupted by ideas that are not part of legitimate Christian faith. In its departure from orthodoxy, of course, Trinity is hardly unique -- some churches now seem more excited about preventing global warming than they are about preaching the gospel and saving the lost. But simply to cite "black theology" as an excuse for Wright's rantings will not suffice.

Biology is destiny?

Mariel Leonard at Everyday Idealist takes notice of the latest sociobiological argument:
Basically, the more prevalent pathogens are, the more likely a society is to practice collectivism, in order to provide defence against the dangers posed by pathogens.
Mariel links to the original article and Ronald Bailey's take on this theory.

I think the key phrase here is "more likely." In other words, what is being argued is a correlation between two factors -- more germs is "positively associated," as the scientists say, with more collectivism. However, any student of social science must be aware, correlation is not causation, and even where causation can be demonstrated, there are exceptions to every rule.

Biology-based theories of human behavior were purged from the academy in the mid-20th century, when "nurture" topped "nature" as the preferred explanation, in part due to the influential theories of Sigmund Freud and Franz Boas.

Since the 1980s, discoveries in genetics and neuroscience have swung the pendulum back the other way, and now "nature" tops "nurture." This is largely a positive development, but sometimes lay readers carry these theories beyond the point justified by pure science. One example of this extra-scientific argument is the claim of a "gay gene," which is really a political argument seeking to justify gay-rights legislation.

While it is possible that some genetic anomalies might be associated with a greater tendency toward homosexual behavior, such a theory cannot account for (a) those who have the same genetic trait and yet are heterosexual, or (b) those who lack the genetic anomaly and yet are also gay. In other words, there is not an exact correlation between the trait and the behavior it's supposed to provoke.

Thus, homosexuality is not (as gay rights advocates claim) legally analogous to race, because race is an hereditary trait that is generally unambiguous. Of course, in our "melting pot" society, a person's racial ancestry is not always apparent. But since the object of civil-rights legislation is to prevent harmful discrimination (especially in housing and employment), a person whose race can't be determined by appearance is unlikely to be the object of illegal discrimination, so this sort of ambiguity is effectively moot.

This points back to the problem with laws establishing sexual preference as the basis of protected status. Since the only way to know if a person is gay (other than direct sexual involvement) is by their own declaration, it is difficult to locate the danger of discrimination that gay-rights laws are intended to prevent. What such laws seem intended to do, in fact, is to create legal protections for those who desire to publicize their homosexuality. Of course, homosexuality is not the only imaginable deviation from traditional sexual norms -- hey, everybody's probably got a few secret kinks in their system -- but it is the only such deviation that now commonly demands legal protection for its public expression.

What is relevant here, of course, is how the assertion of a genetic basis for differences in sexual orientation has been used by gay-rights advocates to justify their civil-rights campaign. But the "DNA made me do it" argument has consequences that have not been widely considered by either friends or foes of the gay-rights agenda.

Sorry, Jimmie, no barbecue yet

Jimmie at The Sundries Shack decides to comment on the threatened feud down home:
If my knowledge of the code duello is correct, both of you will need a second. Having heard the word "BBQ", I gladly offer my services.
Unfortunately for Jimmie and his barbecue appetite, it appears that une affaire d'honneur has been averted, for now. However, Jimmie if you ever make it to Lithia Springs, Ga., I recommend world-renowned Wallace Barbecue on Bankhead Highway. (A few years ago, Wallace moved about a half-mile east, across the Cobb County line into the city limits of Austell, and Bankhead Highway has been renamed Veterans Memorial Highway, but it's still the same thing.)

As to the prospect of a duel, outsiders tend to think this tendency to fighting over women is because Southern men are barbaric. In fact, it's because Southern women are so hot.

Today, Carol Fields sent me this photo of her wedding to Tommy two years ago. Now maybe you can understand why we Southern men tend to get violent over our womenfolk.

Heck, Carol's the same age as me, and she's barely aged at all. Tommy, on the other hand . . . Well, it's like my friend Scott says, the problem with fighting an old man is that if you win, all you've done is to beat up an old man. And if the old man beats you up, you'll never live it down.

Megan: I don't concede the point

Talking about the Eliot Spitzer case, Megan McArdle at The Atlantic Monthly writes:
[C]an we all concede that at least part of the reason that women do not want to be prostitutes is that there is a severe social stigma attached to women who are promiscuous, and particularly to women who rent their promiscuity to men -- a stigma far, far greater than that which attaches to their clients?
(Via Memeorandum.) McArdle then references (without linking) Kerry Howley's argument for the de-stigmatization of promiscuity.

McArdle's argument separates reason from reality. In reality, there is a severe stigma attached to men who patronize prostitutes, which was a big part of the reason Spitzer was so secretive about his whorehopping adventures.

The stigma against patronizing prostitutes is very strong among men, since when a guy has to pay for sex, this implies that he can't attract partners otherwise. Maybe McArdle is part of a different social scene, but I don't know any men who would admit -- must less boast -- of having engaged the services of a prostitute.

However, to the extent that prostitutes are more stigmatized than their clients, it is most likely because the prostitute tends to engage in vice routinely and on a long-term basis, while their clients' involvement is occasional or episodic in nature.

Even conceding that the prostitute, per se, is more stigmatized than the client does not mean (as Howley argues) that patriarchal sexism is to blame for the difference. Consider the case of the male prostitute. Despite the Hollywood fantasy of American Gigolo, in fact nearly male prostitutes serve the homosexual desires of a male clientele. Is "rent boy" the sort of career that a guy would brag about? I don't think so.

Megan has stumbled into these errors by accepting Kerry's unstated premise that promiscuity has no objective demerits, and that stigmatizing promiscuity is therefore irrational. In reality, however, promiscuity creates all sorts of social problems. Even if the consistent practice of "safe sex" could eliminate the medical issues associated with promiscuity -- and that is a hypothetical stipulation -- there are yet other social factors to consider.

What both Megan and Kerry (and many other women) find objectionable is the fact that while promiscuous women are routinely stigmatized as "sluts," there are contexts within which promiscuous men are celebrated as "studs," "players," et cetera. I suppose it would be possible to deconstruct this status differential, as the academics might say, but I don't know that such a deconstruction will really end the argument.

Whatever the origins of the stronger bias against female promiscuity, it is far from obvious to me that the appropriate remedy is to destigmatize promiscuity altogether. Given the negative social impact of promiscuity, shouldn't Megan, Kerry and other women direct their efforts toward increasing the stigma on male promiscuity?

Look, ladies: Next time a guy cheats on you, just dump him and start spreading the word that he's a man-slut, a two-timing tramp who's probably gotten himself infected with loathsome diseases by now, and that any girl who goes out with him now is just buying herself a one-way ticket to Syphilis City.

Flying the unfriendly skies

I've written before about Pepper Ellis Hagebak, my cousin who is a columnist for the LaGrange (Ga.) Daily News. She wrote Sunday about a recent airline trip:
I don’t like airplanes much. The very thought of being trapped inside a tiny metal tube hurtling through the atmosphere gives me the heebie-jeebies. Any plane trip that I take is spent sitting bolt upright, clutching the arms of the tiny little torture chair, buckled in the entire way.
Beyond the fear factor, what I can't abide is the confinement of air travel, which is not limited to the time spent on the plane. The security procedures instituted since 9/11 have turned airport terminals into concentration camps.

People seem to take this extra security for granted. Maybe they've forgotten what it used to be like. Just a few short years ago, I remember my wife and kids walking me all the way to the boarding gate, and then being there waiting for me at the gate when I returned.

Now, of course, you have to stand in line to have your Fourth Amendment rights violated by federal TSA employees -- am I the only one who remembers the 2002 debate in Congress over whether to federalize airport security guards? -- and once you clear security, you're all alone in the airport.

Passengers are commonly told to be at the airport at least two hours before boarding time. If you heed that advisory, then after you clear the security checkpoint, you're going to spend at least an hour just sitting around in the terminal. And you'll be sitting there alone, because only ticketed passengers are allowed past the security screen.

This federally-imposed solitude is a perfect example of how government typically responds to problems with idiotic non-solutions that bear no relation to any real-life situation. Think about it: Was 9/11 caused by a guy's wife and kids walking him to the airport gate? Has there ever been any terrorist incident involving a passenger's relatives going out to the terminal to greet the returning traveler? No, of course not.

Another favorite: You can never put down your carry-on bag in the airport. Once you carry it into the airport, you must keep it with you at all times, even when you go to the restroom. Try to enjoy browsing a magazine rack at the terminal newsstand while lugging a carry-on bag. Never mind, of course, that every carry-on bag goes through an X-ray machine at the security checkpoint. If left alone in the terminal, your pre-screened carry-on bag is considered a security threat.

Like all government regulations, the security procedures instituted after 9/11 were designed to suit the bureaucrats who are in charge of enforcing the regulations. A little regulatory overkill doesn't bother the bureaucrats. Having more regulations to enforce just gives them an excuse to go to Congress and demand more money to hire more bureaucrats. And in case you haven't noticed, TSA employees frankly don't give a damn about the taxpayers whom they hassle on a daily basis. (Being bossed around by bureaucrats is "for your own safety," after all.)

These degrading and inhumane procedures -- "please remove your shoes and place them in the tray" -- should be considered a preview of what our medical system would be like, if we ever go to "universal" government health care.

Stop, thief!

Republican officials say they've caught a swindler at their congressional campaign committee:
The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and possibly as much as $1 million -- of the organization's funds into his personal accounts, GOP officials said yesterday, describing an alleged scheme that could become one of the largest political frauds in recent history.
For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, allegedly used wire transfers to funnel money out of NRCC coffers and into other political committee accounts he controlled as treasurer, NRCC leaders and lawyers said in their first public statement since they turned the matter over to the FBI six weeks ago.
"The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the NRCC chairman.

Who is this Ward character, and how did he become so "highly respected and trusted"? Did nobody at NRCC notice that their treasurer was living a little too large?

This isn't petty cash we're talking about. According to the NRCC's own public report, at the end of the year 2006, the coffers were nearly $1 million light; as of Jan. 31 of this year, accounts were short $740,000.

Inevitably in these kinds of cases, there will be either a trial or a plea-bargain hearing, at which point the newspapers will report a long list of stuff the perp bought with his swindled loot. It will be interesting to see what Ward got from looting the NRCC treasury.

All of this is merely alleged fraud and embezzlement, I hasten to add. But with the FBI involved and the NRCC issuing public statements, things don't look good for Ward.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Children are expensive'

Peter Robinson offers an explanation of the demographic death-spiral of Europe:
Children are expensive, and they require a sacrifice of time and interest by parents. ... Prof. Thornton says Europeans are not reproducing because “the dolce vita lifestyle does not include children.” A Europe that is drawn to instant pleasure has little interest in investing in either children or the future of the Europe.
That's a major point, and might be a sufficient explanation if the demographic decline was only an upper- and middle-class phenomenon, but it's not. Probably the most startling cultural shift in Europe over the past 40 years is the disappearance of large families among the working class, where big broods were once commonplace. (If you've seen Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, you may recall the hilarious image of the Yorkshire woman with so many children she doesn't even notice the birth of another.)

Childlessness may be relatively rare among working-class and poor women, but it is no longer common for such women to have four or more children, as was quite customary in the past. The fact that the birth rate has declined sharply even among the European poor (and the trends are similar in America, even if the decline has not been so drastic) indicates that Professor Thornton's dolce vita explanation is insufficient.

Many other factors might be cited. The use of oral contraceptives -- "The Pill" was viewed with some moral skepticism back in the '60s and '70s -- has now become widespread, even among women raised in Catholic homes, and condom use has also become much more common.

One factor in declining birth rates that is seldom discussed is increased practice of surgical sterilization. In the United States, tubal ligation -- surgery that renders a woman permanently infertile -- is now the most common method of contraception in America. (You can look it up.)

Understand that most of the women who undergo tubal ligation already have children, and the fact is that the OB-GYN community actually encourages such surgery once a woman has two children -- the "two and tie 'em" mentality.

When my wife was pregnant with our twin sons (we already had a daughter), her OB-GYN tried to pitch her this way: "You know, if you want to get your tubes tied, it's cheaper to do it at the time of delivery and your insurance will cover it. If you wait until later and do it as a separate procedure, it's more expensive." My wife managed to maintain her composure in the doctor's office, but by the time she got home, she was crying: "It was like he was telling me I'm not a good mother and I shouldn't have any more kids!"

I resisted the urge to do what I should have done, but I guess the headline "Journalist Beats Local Physician Into Coma" wouldn't have been so good for my career.

The fact that such "helpful" advice has become standard practice typifies the kind of culture shift that underlies the demographic changes that Peter Robinson and Professor Thornton seek to explain. Fifty years ago, most women would have recoiled with horror at the thought of undergoing surgery that would render them permanently infertile. But years of careful work by the obstetrics community have steadily increased the acceptance of this practice. Once most OB-GYNs became active agents of the population-control agenda, it was hard to find an "expert" voice to oppose that agenda.

Of course, it's not just about OB-GYNs and contraception. The culture shift is everywhere. Young people, especially, seem to just take it for granted now that the maximum number of children is two. And since almost no one nowadays has four or more children -- you should see people's faces when I tell them my wife and I have six -- the possibility of having that many kids strikes most young people as some kind of science-fiction fantasy, like flying to Mars. They can't even imagine it.

So while I think that the dolce vita factor -- the desire for leisure and luxury -- has some role in the demographic decline of Europe, I think this problem is deeper, wider and more generalized in the culture. It took a long time for this anti-family culture to take root, and if it is ever to be uprooted, that too will take a long time.

Oh, one more thing: Children are not expensive, not really. The notion that children are massively expensive is rooted in certain modern middle-class conceptions of what is necessary to childhood.

For example, many people think that it is absolutely essential that their children be raised in an owner-occupied single-family detached home in a "good neighborhood" with "good schools." When our oldest child was born in 1989, we lived in a small $300-a-month rental home, and then moved to a $275-a-month apartment. Our next address, in 1992, just before the twins were born, was a house we bought for less than $33,000 in a blue-collar neighborhood. Then in late 1997 we moved to the DC area, where we lived in a 3-bedroom apartment for five years as our next three children were born. Then in 2003 we moved into faculty housing on the campus of a Christian school.

So, no, children are not expensive. What is expensive are the material expectations of the suburban middle class -- and screw all that. I'd rather have six kids.

Obama's anti-American pastor

Maybe Obama needs to change churches:
Sen. Barack Obama's pastor says blacks should not sing "God Bless America" but "God damn America."
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism." . . .
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda's attacks because of its own terrorism.
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.
"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost," he told his congregation.
(Via Memeorandum.) The pastor's criticism of the atomic bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, in particular, is nothing less than a declaration of his own historical ignorance. Any American familiar with the strategic situation that the U.S. military faced in the summer of 1945 -- especially the fearsome prospect of invading the Japanese home islands -- must understand that dropping those two atomic bombs surely saved millions of lives, most of them Japanese lives.

In-jokes and irate husbands

Wednesday, I made a little in-joke on the blog:
Plans for an 11 a.m. update got scratched when I got a call from an old friend in Atlanta. Well, she's more than just an "old friend," but I wouldn't want her husband to beat me up. (A joke! That's just a joke, Mr. Fields!)
"Mr. Fields" is Tommy Fields of Atlanta, who is married to the former Carol Purdy. I had a terrible crush on Carol when we attended Lithia Springs (Ga.) Elementary School together. Her father was Scoutmaster of my troop.

Alas, my affections were unrequited, and our love was not meant to be. Carol was a Methodist and I was a Baptist, which was sort of like the Montagues and Capulets back in the day. More to the point, Carol was beautiful, and I was just a skinny fool (some things never change). If Carol ever consented to let me hold her hand, I don't remember it. I think she had a crush on my older brother at one point, but that didn't do me any good.

I saw Carol last year at our 30th high school reunion, and she got in touch recently to compliment me on the blog. So I thought it was funny to say that she was "more than just an old friend," and then to feign fear that I had offended Carol's husband.

This joke also amused Carol, Tommy, and Tommy's golf buddy, Bill Holloway, who responded via e-mail with a joke of his own, which he CC'd to Tommy:
Dear Mr. McCain,
I was pleased to have been referred to your recent blog. As suggested your writing is interesting and thought provoking.
I do, however, feel compelled to tell you that you may well have crossed a very dangerous line when you publicly humiliated Mrs. Field's husband. Being a man of strong southern heritage (and few written words) his only real means of retribution is likely to take on a physical form. That has certainly been his historical response.
As a close personal associate of Mr. Fields I will try to keep him off the plane but I do know the ticket has been purchased.
Best Wishes
Bill Holloway
(For years, I've tried to explain to people up North that threats of violence can be terms of endearment in Southern culture. Your best old friend in the world, whom you haven't seen in a while, might greet you by saying, "Boy, I ought to whup your a--! Where you been lately?")

Since Mr. Holloway is clearly a fine gentleman of excellent humor, his jest deserved an appropriate response. And noticing his reference to Mr. Fields' Southern heritage, I immediately conceived such a response, which I sent via reply e-mail, CC'ing the message to Carol, her husband, and her brother:

Mr. Holloway: Your insinuations against my honor, implying that my youthful affections for Mrs. Fields were anything other than chaste and respectable, are duly noted. I must further note that, by these grievous insults, you have simultaneously impugned Mrs. Fields as a woman of low character. Therefore, it is you, and not I, against whom Mr. Fields should rightly direct his wrath in vindication of the lady's good name.
I copy this message to Mrs. Fields' brother, George Purdy, who might just decide to beat the hell out of whatever's left of you when Carol's husband gets through with you. My advice? High-tail it for Alabama, while there's still time to run.
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Robert Stacy McCain,
Member, Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 469, Sons of Confederate Veterans

One so seldom gets a chance to invoke the code duello in postmodern America, even in jest, since people take everything so seriously nowadays. People don't even know how to use that kind of language anymore. Back in the old days, if the words "honor," "impugned" and "insult" were used in the same paragraph, it generally meant somebody was bound to die a violent death pretty soon: "Pistols at dawn, sir!"

Speaking of things that people don't get nowadays, while I lived in Rome, Ga., I was indeed a member (for one year) of Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 469 of the SCV. (My great-grandfather, Winston Wood Bolt, was a private in the 13th Alabama Infantry and was captured during the opening assault at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.) The SCV is a fine organization chiefly dedicated to historical preservation, and Gen. Forrest is a great hero to folks in Rome, a city which Forrest's cavalry saved from destruction by Col. Abel Streight's Yankee raiders in May 1863.

The philantropic nature of the SCV and the heroic status of Gen. Forrest in Rome, however, are unknown to Yankees who, to the extent they know anything at all of Gen. Forrest, know him as a former slave dealer and reputed founder of the KKK. So when I say I was once a member of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- well, you can picture the Yankees choking on their hors d'ouevres. The conflation of Southern heritage with racism is virtually automatic up here.

Just this once, however, it will be safe to use a bit of downhome levity, since I'm writing this one for the home folks.

Flake slams Cuba embargo

Reporting for
Current U.S. policy prohibiting trade with Cuba “bears no relationship to reality,” according to one conservative Republican congressman.
“After 49 years, I think it’s time to re-evaluate,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday, adding that the policy “has been the biggest enabler” of the Cuban regime by making America a convenient scapegoat for the island’s communist dictatorship. . . .
Last year, Flake introduced legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) that would end the travel ban. Flake visited Cuba in 2006 as part of a congressional delegation and said the experience was the kind of “valuable lesson” that should be more widely available.
“Every American should be able to see the mess that man [Castro] has made of that
island,” Flake said Wednesday night at an event in Washington hosted by Reason Magazine, a libertarian journal. “You can see what happens when government controls everything.”
Some have predicted that if the United States lifted the travel ban, Cuba would respond by imposing its own restrictions on U.S. travelers, by Flake said he could accept that. “If anybody’s going to limit my travel, it should be a communist,” he said. . . .
Read the whole thing. Reason Magazine hosts monthly policy discussions at their offices north of DuPont Circle, and they always attract an interesting crowd -- not least because of the free food and free drinks. Last night's event featured a cocktail called a Cuba libre, which is basically a rum-and-Coke with a twist of lime.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer career death watch

UPDATE 11:49 a.m. -- "My private failings"? He used that phrase twice. But crime is not a "private failing," and prostitution is a crime -- to say nothing of the suspected money-laundering that led to this revelation. Will update. ...

UPDATE NOON -- In many ways, Spitzer's resignation statement was classy, and notably lacked the kind of "accuse the accusers" tactic that Bill Clinton taught us to expect from Democrats caught red-handed.

However, Spitzer's repeated use of the phrase "my private failings" was a dishonest evasion. What would Spitzer, as a former prosecutor, say about an accused dope dealer who spoke of his crime as a "private failing"?

In patronizing prostitutes, Spitzer was engaged in a criminal act. Crime is an offense against the citizenry, which is why the prosecution of Spitzer for federal money laundering charges -- if such a prosecution is indeed pursued -- will be called "United States vs. Spitzer." And no crime can be more public than a crime committed by a powerful public official, such as the governor of New York.

In his statement, Spitzer spoke of the importance of taking responsibility, yet in the same statement, by using the term "private failings" to describe his crime, he engaged in a rhetorical attempt to evade full responsibility.

UPDATE 12:30 p.m. -- Jan LaRue, writing for the Culture and Media Institute (CMI), reacts similarly to the "private failings" bit and then goes much further:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has joined the rogue's gallery of adulterous politicians who appear before the press to confess their "failures" while using their wives as supportive props. . . .
Even if the wife wants to be there, you'd think they'd have the guts to stand alone and take the heat. It would feel less egregious if he hired another "escort" for the occasion. ...
But the wife is there because the wimp's personal ambitions and desire for public rehabilitation apparently outweigh his desire for marital reconciliation. . . .
Public officials who hire a hooker haven't merely committed a "private" failure. These are people who swear an oath to uphold the law but have violated the public trust. Consorting with criminals opens the door to extortion and bribery.
And to any wife who appears as a prop beside her meandering man because she values status, power, and a lucrative lifestyle more than her self-respect, you might want to reflect on the message you're sending your children.
Ouch. Well-said, Dr. LaRue.

UPDATE 1 p.m.: Jammie Wearing Fool has what he believes to be an image of a (not safe for work) ad for "Kristen," Gov. Whorehopper's Feb. 13 tryst. My first impression? She's lying about being 105 pounds; judging from the photo, she's at least 115 pounds, if not 120. My advice to Democratic politicians: Beware of hookers who lie about such trival details.

Meanwhile, City Room has the full text of Spitzer's statement.

I'll have to stop blogging for the day now, since I must prepare for Reason Magazine's Cuba policy event with Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), where I'll excoriate Dave Weigel for not linking my blog in his Spitzer roundup and apologize to Kerry Howley for my harsh tone in last night's post. (Hey, it's not just Spitzer who has "private failings.")

** Earlier **
Wed., March 12, 10:20 a.m. -- Fox News morning anchors now babbling idiotically. But that's not news. The chryon at the bottom of the screen, however -- "Spitzer to resign at 11:30 a.m." -- that's news, buddy. Via Memeorandum, New York Post reports the same. Will update. ...

10:40 a.m. -- Fox News just interviewed Rep. Peter King (R-Schadenfreude), who could barely contain his glee. By the way, here's a link to my long analysis blog from yesterday, "Whores and NY Democrats." Stay tuned for more updates. ...

10:50 a.m. -- This is the kind of story, frankly, where I'd rather be blogging it than covering it as news. Everybody already knows how the story ends, and you could go ahead and set the headline now:
Spitzer resigns, blames 'right wing' for scandal
A print reporter could cover this thing by watching it on TV. The poor shlubs who are physically present for the New York press conference are just there to provide the immediacy of an on-the-scene dateline and a bit of "color." I pity them.

More updates to come ....

11:10 a.m. -- Plans for an 11 a.m. update got scratched when I got a call from an old friend in Atlanta. Well, she's more than just an "old friend," but I wouldn't want her husband to beat me up. (A joke! That's just a joke, Mr. Fields!)

Fox News was just showing a helicopter shot of a black SUV pulled up in front of the apartment building where Spitzer's "brief announcement" is supposed to take place in 20 minutes.

More updates to come ....

11:20 a.m. -- While waiting for Gov. Whorehopper's much-anticipated resignation, I was reading Kimberly Strassel's Wall Street Journal column about on the Gov's media enablers:
Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer's stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices. . . .
Read the whole thing. Well, not right now. We're 10 minutes away from a historic occasion, complete with historic amounts of cable-news hype.

Expect further updates . . .

11:30 a.m. -- More babbling from Fox News talking heads while Gov. Whorehopper's motorcade is en route. This is the part of 24/7 cable news I hate the most: The big live-coverage deal, where they just keep up a nonstop chatter in order to fill the time. It's annoying, if you're literate enough to read for yourself the same news articles the TV people are referencing.

Expect further updates . . .

11:35 a.m. -- The planned 11:30 press conference delayed by traffic in Midtown Manhattan. I guess I should point out that I'm not hammering on Fox News specifically, but as a generic example of the idiotic babbling common on all TV news channels when they're just filling time while covering live news. I'm sure the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC are equally annoying right now, if not more so.

Expect further updates . . .

11:40 a.m. -- OK, they're getting ready to start. The Fox News babe just asked Rich Lowry, "Could [Spitzer] have stayed on?" Duh.

Expect further updates . . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Whores and NY Democrats

UPDATE: Linked at Blogs for Victory, where my friend Matt Margolis (co-author of Caucus of Corruption) notes the reports from the New York Sun and WCBS that Spitzer is expected to resign Wednesday.
* * * * *
As co-author of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party, I was asked Tuesday afternoon for my reaction to the Eliot Spitzer scandal.

First suggestion? Read Iowahawk and laugh yourself silly:
At a hastily scheduled morning press conference at the headquarters of New York's exclusive Emperors Club prostitution ring, high priced call girl "Kristen" announced that she would temporarily step aside in the wake of charges that she had engaged in sex with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
"I made a serious mistake and betrayed the trust of my co-workers, my many clients, and my pimps," she said in a quiet voice cracking with emotion. "I will be taking a leave of absence to earn their forgiveness, and redeem myself in the eyes of the entire expensive whore community." . . .
Read the whole thing, and when you're through wiping the tears of laughter from your eyes, pay attention to a few points worth making:
  • Why hookers? Spitzer is successful and powerful, so it is reasonable to ask why a guy like that is patronizing prostitutes. One word: Discretion. A bigshot like that figures that if he engages in an ordinary affair, the woman might tell somebody -- and if the affair breaks up, there's the "woman scorned" factor to worry about. But because prostitution is a criminal enterprise, a guy like Spitzer figures the prostitutes will keep things hush-hush. And maybe if this had been just an occasional fling, Spitzer might have gotten away with it. But doing hookers for six years? The law of large numbers finally caught up with him.
  • The Tammany factor. The revelation of Spitzer's hooker habit highlights the significant role that prostitution played in the history of the Democratic Party in New York, going back to the heyday of Tammany Hall. As explained in Chapter 3 of Donkey Cons, during the 1800s, Tammany Democrats formed close alliances with criminal gangs in New York City, alliances that endured for many decades. A famous Tammany boss and saloon keeper, "Big Tim" Sullivan, controlled New York's police on behalf of pimps and gamblers. Sullivan was so influential that when he died with advanced syphilis in 1913, his funeral was attended by 16 congressmen and four U.S. senators.
  • The irony. Hailed by liberals as the scourge of greedy Wall Street capitalism, Spitzer was destroyed by his enthusiasm for sex of the most capitalistic sort. Spitzer supposedly cared so much about the poor underprivileged "little guy," but didn't mind paying $2,000 a night for the privilege of demanding unsafe sexual acts from prostitutes. (Hey, they're just stupid whores, right? Don't all Democrats expect whores "to do things you might not think were safe"? Or is Spitzer a lone wolf in this regard?)
  • The bright side. Spitzer's downfall apparently triggered Wall Street's biggest day in five years.

For more blogger reaction to Spitzer's Hookergate debacle, check out Memeorandum.

UPDATE: I've just been informed that the title of this post may tend to suggest a disparaging (and potentially libelous) comparison. Therefore, I hasten to point out that, unlike New York Democrats, some whores are actually decent human beings.

UPDATE II: Unlike "Kristen," who was warned about Spitzer's appetite for unsafe acts, another call girl, this one 22 years old, tells ABC News that Spitzer's sexual interests were "clean." Lots of good stuff in the ABC story:

Federal investigators say there is no evidence Spitzer used state money or campaign funds to pay the prostitutes, but that the way he moved an estimated $40,000 through various accounts violated federal money laundering laws. . . .
A prison term is one of the issues holding up the governor's resignation as well as whether or not he pleads guilty to criminal charges.

Heh. An ex-prosecutor in prison. He would be very popular there, I bet. But there's more from ABC:

Other than that, lawyers close to the case say New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is prepared to resign and has his letter written.
Spitzer spent his day at his 5th Avenue apartment in New York City. His wife and three daughters left without him mid-afternoon as he prepared to step down as governor and end what even his political enemies called a once brilliant career.

"His wife and three daughters" -- yeah, prostitution is a victimless crime.

UPDATE III: I love the the New York Post for its tawdry tabloid mentality, but this is just bad writing:

She was waiting for him near the king-sized bed in Room 871, a stunningly sexy, petite brunette who called herself "Kristen."

She knew Client-9 had paid good money -- $4,300 -- for what would be their few hours of steamy sex together at Washington, DC's historic Mayflower Hotel on the day before Valentine's Day, in a deal brokered several days earlier by her pimp back in New York. . . .

Spitzer was a regular with Emperor, according to the complaint that contains the extraordinary details of the governor's tryst with the curvy bombshell: haggling over the price - and a down payment on future services - as well as the kind of sex the governor wanted. (Emphasis added.)

Good writing doesn't waste time with useless adjectives, and good reporting sticks to the facts. According to the affidavit, "Kristen" is 5-foot-5 and 105 pounds. Even though Emperor VIP advertised her as "petite," 5-foot-5 is about average height. My wife is 5-foot-6, and would never describe herself as "petite," a description that generally should be reserved for women 5-foot-2 or less.

"Kristen" is not petite. She is slender, slim or thin. If the writers at the Post want an elegant word for a skinny woman, they might try willowy, or perhaps coltish.

"Kristen" was advertised as "very pretty," but on what basis do the Post writers turn that datum into "stunningly sexy"? Have they met this woman? Is she really that hot? Are they writing a news story or promotional copy for a new DVD re-release of Pretty Woman? And what the heck kind of adverb is "stunningly," anyways?

The Post writers then go on to declare that "Kristen" and Spitzer engaged in "steamy sex." Really? Have they seen a video, or what? I would have a tough time applying the word "steamy" to any sexual act involving Eliot Spitzer, who ain't exactly Brad Pitt. Aesthetic judgments aside, there is no factual basis for the Post writers to say whether the sex in Room 871 on Feb. 13 was "steamy" or not. It's just another wasted adjective.

The real clunker in the Post story comes when the writers decide that the 5-foot-5, 105-pound "Kristen" -- whom they've previously (and erroneously) described as petite -- is now worthy of designation as a curvy bombshell.

No. No. No. A thousand times no. Whatever else you say about a woman who's 5-foot-5 and 105 pounds, she is most definitely not a "curvy bombshell." To have any serious curves, much less "bombshell" curves, a woman who's 5-foot-5 would have to weigh at least 15 pounds more than "Kristen."

Excuse me for venting so much spleen on a few paragraphs of this one article, but it's bad writing, and bad writing annoys me.

UPDATE IV: Holy crap! $80,000 worth of hookers?

The Associated Press, quoting unnamed law enforcement officials, said Spitzer's running tab for the trysts could have been as high as $80,000.

Wow. Spitzer was the Charlie Sheen of governors. After he resigns tomorrow, Spitzer should hop a flight to L.A. and become a Hollywood movie producer. He'd fit right in.

UPDATE V: Just woke up, checked the Site Meter and discovered that somebody had reached my blog by Googling "Spitzer" and "unsafe acts." Obviously, someone's curiosity was aroused by reports that the governor of New York was considered a "difficult" client, known to request that prostitutes "do things you might not think were safe."

What kinky and unsanitary vice was involved? Perhaps it was some kind of group scene, a sort of fantasy-fulfillment fetish involving Greg Gutfeld and Kerry Howley (who've been known to talk about hookers):

UPDATE VI: What is it with Kerry Howley and hookers?

I’m fascinated by the Spitzer-inspired discussion of prostitution on blogs that identify as feminist, most of which seem to be conflicted but marginally pro-decriminalization.

Miss Howley then struggles to discover what might be called a "pro-sex" feminist lesson in the case of "Kristen" and Gov. Charlie Sheen, to wit:
Anti-prostitution laws add a layer of legal sanction to all of our worst intuitions about the treatment of sexually independent women; they strengthen and validate the idea that women who bed men with any frequency are sick, marginal, pariahs.
OK, Miss Howley: Is it the laws or the idea with which you are arguing here? Arguing about laws is fair game, and no one's feelings get hurt. It's just politics, right? However, when it comes to your argument against the idea (which you caricature rather unfairly) of chastity as a virtue, and promiscuity as a vice, you seem strangely ... intolerant.

Don't people have the right to their own opinions? If so, then they have the right to hold sluts in low esteem. You seem to be suggesting, Miss Howley, that people who have a negative opinion of sluts -- or, to employ your euphemism, "sexually independent women" -- are all reactionary lowbrows or moralistic prudes, unfit for polite society. But if "polite society" is to be limited to those who enthusiastically approve of rampant sluttishness, well, it's going to be a rather small society (and not very polite, since it will include lots of "Girls Gone Wild" and Britney Spears fans).

As Ayn Rand might say, you need to re-examine your premise.

The Killer Commie: Che chic

Allison Aldrich clues in college kids about the guy whose face adorns their trendy left-wing T-shirts:
In a passage from his famous "Motorcycle Diaries," he quotes himself as saying, "My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood." . . .
Fidel Castro recognized this ruthlessness about Guevara, and placed him in charge of La Cabana prison in Cuba, where he was judge, jury and executioner. . . .
Several men who survived La Cabana prison recall a night when a 14-year-old boy was shoved into their holding cell. When asked what he did, he gasped that he had tried to defend his father from the firing squad, but was unsuccessful.
Moments later, guards dragged the boy out of the cell, and Che Guevara himself ordered the boy to kneel down.
The jailed men screamed "assassins!" and watched out of their cell window as Guevara took out his pistol, put the barrel to the back of the boy's neck, and fired.
Maybe Hollywood will do an Oscar-winning films about that Che. But don't hold your breath. For some reason, liberals don't like to think about the millions of people killed by the Left's communist heroes.

Last year I wrote about the Young America's Foundation's "Victims of Che" poster:
"The Victims of Che Guevera" poster, produced by the Young America's Foundation . . . uses tiny photos of those killed by Cuba's communist regime to compose the face of the Marxist guerrilla, who has become a popular T-shirt icon.
"Che is one of the heroes that the left idolizes," said Patrick X. Coyle, vice president of YAF. "But a lot of kids don't know anything about him. We thought this would be a great way to highlight his atrocities."
YAF's "Victims of Che" poster is free. (Isn't capitalism great?)

'Republican tactics,' oh, my!

For various reasons, I can't just wade in and do continuous daily current-news blogging, so there's no sense in my adding further derision to the mocking scorn now being heaped on Elliott "Had To Pay For It" Spitzer (a/k/a "Client Nine").

However, I will take note of Barack Obama's accusation that the Clinton campaign is using "Republican tactics."

Perhaps Obama meant to use "Republican" as a synonym for "successful" (and let's face it, most successful people are Republican), in which case he was merely saying that Clinton has staged an amazing comeback by using successful tactics.

But I'm pretty sure that wasn't what Obama meant at all. What he really meant to do was to use a cheap partisan smear against a member of his own party.

Democrats who attribute GOP political success to "tactics" are engaged in intellectual dishonesty, an effort to avoid discussing the failures of Democratic ideas, Democratic policies and Democratic politicians. If Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had been successful leaders, if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were innovative and effective legislators, then the Democratic Party would not be such a mess, and "liberal" would not have such negative connotations.

Democrats routinely use this "tactics" smear against Republicans -- e.g., accusations of "Swiftboating" and stealing elections -- as an aggressive means of explaining Democratic electoral failures. For Obama to use this "Republican tactics" smear against Hillary Clinton is a desperate low blow.

Linda Hirshman is boring

Feminist academic Linda Hirshman is whining because she "got the boot" from the TPM cafe at Talking Points Media -- which, in case you don't follow these things, is a big liberal group-blog site.

Hirshman blames her loss of TPM blogging privileges on an intra-liberal political dispute over something she wrote for the WaPo. It apparently doesn't occur to her that maybe TPM dumped her because she's dull as dirt.

I don't know about her blogging, but the op-ed she wrote for the WaPo was totally lame. A (mercifully brief) sample:

Female governors, lifelong feminists, union leaders, moms rising -- all rushing into the Obama camp. What's going on?
Maybe Obama is the best candidate, and these highly educated women, with their greater political savvy, have recognized his value. A less charitable explanation is that college-educated women don't need the social safety net as much as their less fortunate sisters do, so Clinton's early stand on family leave or her slightly more generous health-care plan aren't as important to them.
About as interesting as an AAUW pamphlet. Hirshman's thesis involves a gender-race-class theory of why so many upscale white women are supporting Obama rather than Hillary. It might be possible to do something interesting with such a thesis, but Hirshman didn't. Her op-ed has no legitimate merit as analysis; it's just special-pleading from a Hillary supporter.

What makes the Hirshman op-ed (and her subsequent whining about TPM) so annoying is her flimsy effort to suggest that there are important policy differences between Hillary and Obama, a difference that has some relevance to her whole gender-race-class theory. But this is absurd on its face. Policy-wise, Hillary and Obama are quite nearly clones. Both are doctrinaire liberals. They differ primarily in style, rhetoric and biography, not in policy.

For liberal Democrats, the real question should be, which of these two equally liberal candidates is most likely to win in November? I think that explains the Obama surge: He is a very telegenic candidate, with a strong voice and pleasant personal demeanor. He is likeable in a way that Hillary never could or will be. Obama looks and sounds like a winner, and thus more Democrats who want to win in November are supporting him.

Hirshman's dullness as a writer is exceeded only by her arrogance in thinking that the people who read her WaPo op-ed can't see that she's just a cheerleader for Hillary.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Uganda aids South Sudan

Important news from Uganda:
The government of South Sudan is discussing a deal in which the country’s students in Ugandan public universities will pay the same tuition as their counterparts.
Yesterday, the South Sudanese media reported that this was one of the issues President Salva Kiir discussed with President Yoweri Museveni during his two-day visit here last week.
“I have signed with the Uganda president to allow all our students to pay the same tuition fees as their natives,” Kiir told Sudanese students at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe on Friday. . . .
It was, however, not clear whether the deal applied to private universities. Uganda has five public universities: Makerere, Kyambogo, Mbarara, Busitema and Gulu. The arrangement is part of the cooperation that includes pacts on transport and communication, health, culture and the media.
This cooperation between Uganda and South Sudan is a very positive step toward peace and prosperity in the region.
South Sudan (also known as "New Sudan") won autonomy from Khartoum after a 22-year civil war that ending in 2005. That war was caused by radical Islamicist elements in the Khartoum government, which sought forcibly to impose sharia law throughout Sudan. The Christians in southern Sudan -- under the leadership of Col. John Garang -- fought back and paid a heavy price for their freedom. Many from the South were carried away in slavery to the Islamic North, and atrocities were widespread. Khartoum sided with Saddam Hussein after he invaded Iraq in 1990; For five years (1991-96), Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were based in Sudan.
One consequence of the long civil war was that it produced what has been called a "lost generation" of Sudanese who have had little or no formal education. Among the South Sudan war veterans I met during my February trip to Africa were some who joined the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) as young as 11.
However, I'm not sure that "lost generation" phrase -- with its overtones of hopelessness -- is entirely fair to the Sudanese. These veterans (such as my Dinka friend Santino, shown in the photo) are Christian men with the kind of personal dignity that befits such military heroes. Their long years of army discipline will surely make them valuable citizens in peace.
Nonetheless, the opportunity for South Sudanese students to attend Uganda's universities at standard tuition will be a tremendous aid to South Sudan's efforts to rebuild its economy and civil society.

The Remarkable Museveni
The mention of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in this Monday news story gives me an opportunity to discuss this amazing historical figure. Museveni has been controversial and he definitely has his critics (a Kenyan man who attends our church is one of those critics), but what he has accomplished in Uganda is truly remarkable.
Given that Museveni came to power 22 years ago as the result of a successful "war of liberation," it would be easy for Westerners to think of him as just another of the "strong man" rulers who have been so common in post-colonial Africa. It would be easy to think that, but it would also be ignorant and wrong to do so.
While in downtown Kampala with Sam Childer's assistant, "Nineteen" (his African name sounds exactly like "Nineteen" in English), I visited a street market and asked a used-book vendor if he had a recent history of Uganda. The vendor sold me, for a modest sum, a 1990 paperback book called Mission to Freedom: Uganda Resistance News, 1981-85.
I didn't realize it at the time -- not until I got back to the States and tried to find it online -- but there in that street market, I had purchased quite a rare volume. Mission to Freedom is a collection of original dispatches from what might be called the "underground newspaper" of the National Resistance Movement, which was then an outlaw guerrilla resistance effort against the dictatorship that ruled Uganda.

A very brief history: When Uganda gained its independence in 1962, a guy named Obote became the prime minister. In 1966, Obote effectively made himself dictator and pursued a socialist economic policy, with predicably bad results. Obote's dictatorship was dependent on the support of the military. In 1971 (again, predictably) the military decided it didn't need Obote, so while he was out of the country, there was a coup that installed as the new dictator Obote's longtime military henchman, Idi Amin. Of course, Amin became one of the most heinous dictators in history. He was finally deposed in 1979, and in 1980, Obote returned to power in an election that was widely considered fraudulent.
Museveni had been one of the Ugandans who went into exile in Tanzania during Amin's dictatorship, and was a key figure in the alliance of Ugandan exiles and Tanzanian army troops that deposed Amin. After Obote's fraudulent election, Museveni went into the countryside and organized a resistance movement. In February 1981, Museveni led a daring raid on a Ugandan military installation, seizing weapons and equipment, thus starting the five-year "war in the bush" that eventually made Museveni president.
OK, standard Third World "war of liberation" stuff, right? So it seems, until you read Museveni's declarations of his principles, written during the war, as reprinted in Mission to Freedom.
Though he had been a campus Marxist leader in the late '60s, and had written his senior thesis on the nihilistic intellectual Franz Fanon, clearly Museveni's worldview had changed in the intervening decade -- probably from the experience of watching the dictatorship of Amin in action. Museveni's writings in Mission to Freedom deal chiefly with military and political affairs, but he also condemns tribalism and "backwardness," and emphasizes "the rule of law" and "economic revitalization."
If he were an American academic, the Museveni of Mission to Freedom would be right at home at a Cato, AEI or Heritage seminar. As I was reading this book, I had the distinct impression that at some point Museveni had spent part of his exile reading Hayek.

Museveni & Uganda today

Uganda's gross domestic product ranks 13th in Africa, although a good bit lower (24th among 59 African nations) when calculated on a per-capita basis. However, considering that it is a relatively small landlocked country, considering that it has only recently suppressed the terrorist depradations of Joseph Kony, and considering that its northern neighbor Sudan has been embroiled in civil war so long, Uganda's economic situation is very good.
Uganda's economic situation is especially good if you keep in mind the historic context: First, the socialist insanity of the Obote regime, then the barbaric despotism of Amin, and then the five-year guerrilla war that brought Museveni to power in 1986. Recovering from such a history takes a long time. Even if Uganda's per-capita GDP of $1,800 a year doesn't sound impressive (although it's double the per-capita GDP of neighboring Tanzania), the country has obviously made great strides, and the stability of Museveni's government is a big reason for that.

Politically, Museveni's government has held true to its declaration during its "resistance" years, seeking to eliminate "backwardness" and discourage tribalism.
Like many of my conservative friends in America, I understand tribalism as being in some sense intrinsic to the human experience, and I suspect some of my America friends will look askance at the phrase "discourage tribalism." Trust me, friends: What the Ugandan government is doing is perfectly Burkean. I'd need 5,000 words to explain it, but it's a good thing.
I could (and eventually plan to) write a lot more about Museveni's policies, but it's getting late, so let me just give you one brilliant example. This is a photo I took of a roadside sign near downtown Kampala put up by the Uganda election commission:

"For Democracy, Reject Ignorance: Listen, Analyze and Choose." I don't know about you, but I'd sure like to see some signs like that in America.

Finally, to any of my American friends who might wish to visit Uganda, let me offer some travel advice:
  • Fly British Airways. They're the best, and you'll just love listening to the crew speak with those cool Brit accents.
  • Don't get freaked out by all the recommended vaccinations. Get the shots, but don't get the idea that you're heading to a rendezvous with certain death. Also, beware of medication interactions. About four or five days into my trip, I stopped taking my anti-malaria medicine because of the weird side effects.
  • Also, don't get freaked out by the "traveler's advisories" from the State Department. The U.S. State Department is evidently run by a bunch of neuraesthenic, agoraphobic, hypochondriac scaredy-cats who get paid to convey the official U.S. government position that a trip to Uganda is a rendezvous with certain death.
  • After arrival at Entebbe Airport, take the shuttle bus to the Kampala Serena Hotel. It's a five-star resort, located adjacent to the central government offices in downtown Kampala, and thus within a security perimeter similar to what you'd find at the White House or the Capitol. It's $375 a night, but wait until you see the fabulous gardens, the beautiful swimming pool with its dramatic waterfall, the poolside cafe, the dinner buffet, et cetera. We visited the Serena mainly to use their business center and Wi-fi service, but I also got a bit of leisure relaxation time there. It's excellent.
  • Of course, smart travelers know never to drink tap water or any beverage with ice in a foreign country. The bottled water in Uganda is fine (Perrier is available), but if you prefer stronger beverages, allow me to recommend Bell Lager, a fine Ugandan beer.
  • For shopping, I recommend the Garden City Mall in downtown Kampala -- it's the only mall I've ever seen that also includes a casino. I didn't visit the casino, but I did visit an ice cream shop, clothing store, grocery store and Internet cafe at the mall. Internet service in Uganda is much slower than what I used to in the States, but the Internet cafe at the mall had a connection as fast as the one in the business center at the Serena Hotel, for a lower cost.
  • Your first day in Uganda, study the currency and exchange rate, so (a) you've got some idea what things actually cost, and (b) you'll be able to properly tip waiters, bellhops, etc. You will find that if you make a point of learning the name of your waiter your first day at the place, and give him a healthy tip (i.e., 20%), your service on all subsequent nights will be excellent. (Of course, this is true wherever you travel; I'm just pointing out that this principle applies in Africa, too.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Peace in South America?

After my post on the American Chavezistas, a friend sent me an e-mail suggesting a follow-up. And indeed, there is relevant news today:
The crisis over a Colombian military raid in Ecuador was resolved Friday in the Dominican Republic, at an annual meeting of Latin American leaders. The Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe, apologized to President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who shook his hand and said, "With the commitment of never attacking a brother country again and by asking forgiveness, we can consider this very serious incident resolved."
The latest from Reuters:
Colombia must make sure neighboring countries are never again affected by its war against the leftist guerrilla group FARC, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.
Correa has said it will take time to restore diplomatic ties with Colombia even though the countries have resolved a week-long crisis over a Colombian military raid against guerrillas hiding in Ecuador.
In Latin America's worst diplomatic crisis in years, leftist-led allies Ecuador and Venezuela sent troops to their borders with Colombia, cut ties with Bogota and condemned the March 1 raid, which killed more than 20 guerrillas.
Ah, so we see that Ecuador lines up with Chavez in de facto support of the vicious FARC terrorists. The struggle caused by Chavez's expanding influence extends to Peru:
The new Latin American version of the Cold War is especially fierce here in Peru, where President Alan Garcia ... is now a staunch Washington ally and apostle of free trade. ...
Like pro-U.S. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Garcia detests Chavez, whom he derided as a "midget dictator with a big wallet" during the hotly contested Peruvian presidential campaign in 2006. Chavez in turn labeled Garcia a liar, thief and U.S. lackey. Garcia ultimately beat back a challenge from a Chavez supporter, generating a deep sigh of relief at the White House.
So, America has the leadership of Columbia and Peru on its side against Chavez's neo-Marxism. It has been suggested that the Chavez regime has ties to U.S. foes in the Middle East.

Colombia's raid on the narco-terrorists killed two senior FARC commanders. That raid may have been just one part in a coordinated plan to bring counter-pressure against Chavez's expansionist efforts.

Peace? Not likely, so long as Chavez remains in power. It's like the '80s and the Evil Empire all over again, except this time, the Kremlin's in Caracas.

Not worth killing for

I love karaoke, but some folks take it too far:
A gunman in Thailand shot-dead eight neighbours, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their karaoke versions of popular songs, including John Denver’s Country Roads.
Weenus Chumkamnerd, 52, put his gun to the head of a respected female doctor and seven of her guests as they partied at her home in Songkhla Province, South Thailand. ...
He said he was so furious with their awful singing that he did not notice he had murdered his own brother-in-law.
"I warned these people about their noisy karaoke parties. I said if they carried on I would go down and shoot them. I had told them if I couldn’t talk sense into them I would come back and finish them off," he added.
As long as you give fair warning, I guess that makes it OK, huh? Don Surber suspects the gunman may have been seeking to avenge the honor of West Virginia, Mountain Mama.

Some may fear that liberals in the Thai government will use this as an excuse to ban karaoke. But I say, "Bad karaoke doesn't kill people. Insane guys named 'Weenus' kill people."

There should be a proverb

"Three liberals in a row, just say no"? Or something like that (via Fausta):
A council of world leaders launched by former President Nelson Mandela is sending a three-person team to try to help ease tensions in the Middle East, the organization known as The Elders said Friday. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia April 13-21
Since liberals almost always achieve the exact opposite of their proclaimed goals, I'm pretty sure we can expect an outbreak of all-out war in the Middle East on or about April 22. That is, unless the mere prospect of a visit by these three clowns causes a war to start before then.

Meanwhile, on a related note, Soccer Dad viciously mocks Hillary's infamous "politics of meaning" guru, Michael Lerner, who can scarcely be mocked too viciously for my taste.