Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Freedom and the Law

Here is my favorite line from the Fox News article cited in the post below:

Women weren't allowed to be police officers under former dictator Saddam Hussein but very few say they would have wanted to.

"The word 'law' didn't exist prior to the war," said Intsar Adood. "The police officers were to follow the word of Saddam, which is not the law."

This insight is so obvious to many of us that it is almost a bromide. But we forget that this view of law was once a revolutionary concept held only by an insignificant people lodged precariously between the two great empires of Egypt and Babylon. The default political philosophy throughout much of human history has been that the will of the king is the law. The biblical view that the king should be subject to a higher law would have been seen as controversial if not insane:
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them. That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

It is often not remembered in our public-schooled version of US history, but this principle was instrumental in our own struggle for freedom as well. Thomas Paine -- in addition to giving a rather thorough exegesis of the biblical view of monarchy expressed in I Samuel -- had this to say about the basis of American freedom:
But where, says some, is the King of America? I'll tell you. Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony, be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is. (from Common Sense)

I still maintain that true freedom can only exist within a Christian worldview, but clearly there is a lot of benefit in even an indirect Christian influence. My hope is that as the Middle-East explores this new-found concept of freedom, that the people will turn their hearts to the only foundation for such freedom.

Iraqi Police Women

What Angie Dickinson did for the US in 1974, Rabab Adood is now set to do for Iraq. Only she is doing it in real life, not on TV:

Rabab Adood never had much experience with guns before she entered the Baghdad Police Academy. But now she's at the top of her class … and she's on a mission.

Adoos and her sister, Intsar, are two of 39 women who are now enrolled out of the academy, along with about 2,500 men.


And as far as these women have come, they still aren't allowed to patrol on the street next to the men. When they graduate, they'll be in office jobs or working security checkpoints inside buildings.

But many of these women say that will change one day — and when it does, they'll be ready.
This doesn't quite come under the heading of babe theory, but there is some sense to the maxim that a country is judged by how it treats its women. We cannot expect to see a free Middle-Eastern society spring full-grown from the head of George W. Bush, but there are signs that the birth pangs are going to be less severe than even the optimists among us had predicted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Pro-Life Useful Idiots for the Left

The Anchoress notes that the lunatic fringe of the Terri Schiavo vigil is making the rest of us look bad and possibly scaring off the moderates:

I wasn't going to discuss the Krugman piece, which is a pulling -all-the-alarms-and-throwing-the-dress-over-the-face-aria "...dangerous extremists belong to the majority religion and the majority ethnic group, and wield great political influence." It's one of Krugman's standard scripts: the danger of the evangelical right in America.

But I'm so angry that some Christians are playing into this script that that I have to comment.

Yes, Christians are playing to the script. They're playing to every nasty stereotype of them that the left has ever constructed. We have that media-hog and rabble-rouser Randall Terry getting WAY too much air and mic time. I began to really worry the moment I saw him being interviewed as a family spokesperson. Fortunately, they've given him the boot, but too late. In the short time he had the cameras trained on him, Terry has done what he always does when he gets before the cameras; scared the hell out of non-believers and made moderate Christians rush to reassure their secularist friends, "I am NOT like that! That is NOT my idea of Christianity."

Meanwhile, other Christians are calling the President Bush and Governor Bush - the two politicians most sympathetic to their cause - all sorts of names. "Pilate", and "wimp" and "traitor." Their rhetoric has been so remarkably inflamed, that the president and the governor are very likely loathe to make moves they might have made otherwise, for fear of it being interpreted by the media as pandering to these extreme people, and for the even greater fear of their moves being interpreted by these angry Christians as a victory, and a validation of their tactics.
One of the disadvantages of my anti-TV policy is that I sometimes miss little tidbits like the fact that Randall Terry has entered the fray. I generally don't like to criticize fellow Christians in public, even when they are embarassing, because I feel that deep down I have more in common with even the snake-handling faction than I ever can have with the most urbane of unbelievers. Or, more precisely, that what we have in common, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, goes deeper than my disgust with their tackiness and anti-intellectualism.

But I think what the Anchoress points out here is that this is more than merely tackiness:
The 2004 elections and the "morality" meme that followed them served to tempt some Christians - a distinct minority - to the sin of Pride. It was heady to look at the red/blue map and realize that the democrats only successes were in the monied, cosmopolitan areas on either coast. "God has brought victory to the lowly," one Christian wrote to me, crowing. It was tempting to believe, I admit it.

Pride. It goeth before a fall.
In fact, I would say that she is being a bit too generous. If she is right in her diagnosis -- and I think she is -- then these people are imperilling something far more precious than the 2006 elections: they are imperilling their own souls. This kind of pride is of diabolical origin and, though it may begin with a love of life, it ends with a hatred of our neighbor. It is this sin, call it pride or self-righteousness, which motivated the Pharisees to crucify Jesus on the grounds of defending the purity of their religion.

Obviously not all of the people who are registering dismay about the Schiavo case are committing this sin, and a lion's share of the culpability goes to the media who seek out the wackos in order to impugn the rest of us. But I have noticed a certain level of hysteria even among people that I otherwise respect. I am going to give the Anchoress the last word on this subject:
Pray for Terri Schiavo. But then display the faith you so loudly proclaim by trying to comprehend that more is at work here than mere earthly machinations which are being played to. Attach yourself to the things of the spirit and leave aside things of the world, or the world will entangle you and distort your message.

Update: Dan at Regnum Crucis has similar thoughts.

More on IceRocket

Responding to my mild criticism of their search priority algorithm, Blake Rhodes from IceRocket sent this via email:

In response to your blog about our search results placement for blog search I will say that we place in order of date. We search content of blogs and place in order of most recent. So for example if you had an entire blog devoted to the NCAA basketball tournament but you had not written anything for a few days, you most likely would not be anywhere near the top. Hopefullly that explains it a little bit, feel free to email me anytime with questions or suggestions.
Fair enough. I wasn't really complaining, just noting the possibility for improvement. I still think that future iterations will probably benefit from being able to select sorting by popularity vs currency, perhaps as an option in the Preferences tab, but I am on the whole very pleased that they are doing this at all.

Note: the email was actually on Friday, but I didn't get around to reading it until today. Obviously this company is putting extra effort into responding to potential customers. Sandi got a similar email, when all she did was link to my post.

Update: Blake responds:
I agree 100% and this is something we are working on. For me personally I like the new, fresh stuff and that is what I hate about regualr web searches, the content and results changes very little and you see the same stuff over and over again. I like to know whats new and so do the other IceRocketeers, so thats where we started.

That being said, we do need an option based on relevacy AND date, but you then have to some up with a formula that ranks certain blogs as more important. We are getting there, believe me...

Unpopular Opinions

Friend and fellow parishoner Andrew Matthews has upgraded to a Blogspot account. (His previous hosting company evidently considered blogging an afterthought.) This means I can now link to individual posts. It also means, I think, that he will be encouraged to post more frequently. Perhaps now we can engage the debate on Monarchy vs Democracy.

Update: Ironically, Blogger ate the first version of this post as well. Sheesh. Still, I stand by my advice to convert to blog-centric software from mere web-hosting.

Vista on Current Events

I linked to Sandi's post on the Campaign Finance scam on my updated roundup Thursday, and she has been kind enough to blogroll me:

While checking trackback pings today I found one from Jack Of Clubs who has an very good website, and is going on my blogroll.
Her site is hereby added to my blogroll as well.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Global Warming for Fun and Profit

Kendra at the Commons posts a challenge to the conventional wisdom about global warming that I have often wondered about: if the climate really is getting warmer (which is not proven as far as I can tell), is this necessarily a bad thing?

An article from discusses the potential benefits of global warming.

Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, says that humanity has flourished in warmer periods.

But an activist takes issue with Peiser's claim, saying that a heat wave in 2003 killed thousands of people in Europe.

Dr. William Keatinge, an emeritus professor at Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, cast doubt on that assertion in the British Medical Journal, saying that "few of these deaths are recognisable clinically as being due to heat." Simple interventions are the best way to prevent the deaths of vulnerable people, such as the elderly, in hot weather. Moreover, Keatinge points out elsewhere that deaths from cold far exceed those from heat.
It seems that environmentalists can never consider the possibility that changes to a natural ecosystem might be changes for the better. While I grant that we ought to be aware of unintended consequences of our technological advances, it does not follow that unintended always means harmful. And it seems that the same concerns can be raised about the unintended consequences of environmental protection policies, such as the DDT issue I mentioned almost a year ago, and which is now being discussed at Belmont Club.

Update 03/29: This post was temporarilly unavailable due, evidently, to server issues with Blogspot. When I couldn't find the post this morning, I naturally assumed it was gone for good so I re-posted a shorter version. That post got eaten as well as did five other retries. Finally about 1:00 PM all seven showed up and I couldn't get back in to delete them until now (5:00 PM). Sorry to anyone who was confused.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bipedal Octopuses?

Two interesting videos.
(Via BoingBoing)

al-Khaiwani Free

Jane at Armies of Liberation deserves much credit for spear-heading the fight to free prisoner of conscience Abdul-Karim Al-Khaiwani:

President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared amnesty to Abdul-Karim Al-Khaiwani, editor-in-chief of Al-Shoura Newspaper, a day after a Sana’a appeal court confirmed the primary court verdict.
Our efforts in bringing the petition or the weight of our combined readership may have played some part in his release. We’ll never know exactly what happened but somehow he’s out.

I am not surprised by the way you all responded. Nor am I surprised that so many stood up so strongly for the Yemeni people and Mr. al-Khaiwani. It was a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
I did little more than sign the on-line petition, but it is a good feeling to be part of another blow against tyranny. Thanks, Jane, for keeping us all posted.

UPDATE: There is also this interesting piece of news:
from what I understand and I’m not sure I have this story straight: he refused to leave the jail cell because it was an amnesty not a reversal of the bogus charges. His friends had to drag him out. He’s got the courage of his convictions alright. It shows the enormity of the challenges the people in the Middle East are facing. And it brings up the important point that the massive crackdown on the press is ongoing with many other Yemeni journalists under seige and without recourse. The problem is far from solved. There’s still no free speech in Yemen.

One Up on Google?

For the past month or so Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been complaining about an apparent bias in Google News' listing of bloggers. (Here is the first post on the subject and he has had several more since.) This has a whiff of conspiracy theory about it, but I have noticed that when trying to find out what blogs are saying about a subject, Google is usually not the best resource. Technorati is usually good, but since they only do blogs, it can be hard to remember to look there while researching a news story. What we really need is a general purpose search engine that can focus specifically on blogs when necessary.

Just as I was thinking this I received, to my surprise, the following email this morning:

I found your blog from my company's blog search feature. I just wanted to let you know that we have your blog indexed and if one of our users searches a term that you have in your blog content, your blog will appear within our results.

I read some of your blog today and I have also added it to my favorites list, keep blogging!!

Blake Rhodes

P.s. Please checkout the blog search, I think you will like it. IceRocket blog search.
Obviously the flattery in the last line is mere marketing, but I did, in fact, check them out and they look like a potentially good resource. I addition to the usual categories of Web, News and Images, they also have one devoted to Blogs.

This section could probably use some work since it is not clear how search results are prioritized. I did a search on Ward Churchill (which is Instapundit's most recent topic at the time of this writing) but Instapundit is nowhere on the list, despite being the number one blog and having covered this topic extensively. In fact I didn't recognize any of the sources on the first two pages (Vodka Pundit was on page 3). However, to be fair, I tried searching for "Eason Jordan" and came up cherries with Captain's Quarters at the number 1 spot. So maybe the indexing needs a little tweaking.

Still, I certainly appreciate the attempt to fill a need that has been bugging me for quite a while. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the coming months. I wonder if this will challenge Google to add such a feature, since after all they own the Blogger software on which this humble post was written. (Similar point made here.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You've Come a Long Way, Babe

I was somewhat light-heartedly discussing the "Babe Theory" of political movements with my wife last week. Little did I know that it was to become a full-blown political philosophy. Here are its key principles:

Where and when there are hot babes, an exponential number of men will show up. If 100 cute girls with voluptuous bodies are protesting for freedom, you can count on a thousand men being there as well.

If sexy babes are involved in a peaceful political movement, it has a far greater chance of succeeding. If there are no good-looking women involved, the odds of a successful (and peaceful) movement fall dramatically.

Where and when alluring women are excluded from demonstrations, you can expect greater chances of strife, rioting, and failure.


An alternate view of the Babe Theory holds that attractive women are drawn more to successful political movements than to fringe movements. In other words, if the ideas behind a political movement has value, if the fight has a noble purpose, if it has worth, it will attract lovely young ladies, who then become the face of the movement.


Another view of the Babe Theory holds that a society will not be ready for democratic reforms if it does not have babes. Babes, you see, are a sign of a certain minimal level of affluence. In international relations circles, there is a belief that a society must have a certain level of wealth before it can truly become free and democratic.
Damned if this doesn't start to make a certain amount of sense after awhile.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Possible Good News about Terri Schiavo

Via Michelle Malkin (Go to that link for a lot of info):

President Bush signed emergency legislation that will allow Terri Schiavo's parents to ask a federal judge to extend their daughter's life, AP reports.

However, the judge that will hear the case is a Clinton appointee:
The federal judge that has been given this case is a Clinton appointee. She has not ordered the feeding tube to re-instated. Instead, she wants to wait until 3 pm to hear...what? The fate of a disabled, abandoned woman while we twidle our thumbs?
I probably won't be able to stay on top of this story so go to one of the above sources if you want further info. Or go here.

Campaign Finance Scam hits the Journal

John Fund at the Wall Street Journal is on the Pew-Scam story:

What Mr. Treglia revealed in a talk last year at the University of Southern California is that far from representing the efforts of genuine grass-roots activists, the campaign finance reform lobby was controlled and funded by liberal foundations like Pew. In a tape obtained by the New York Post, Mr. Treglia tells his USC audience they are going to hear a story he can reveal only now that campaign finance reform has become law. "The target audience for all this [foundation] activity was 535 people in [Congress]," Mr. Treglia says in his talk. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot. That everywhere [Congress] looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

The truth was far different. Mr. Treglia admits that campaign-finance supporters had to try to hoodwink Congress because "they had lost legitimacy inside Washington because they didn't have a constituency that would punish Congress if they didn't vote for reform."

So instead, according to Mr. Treglia, liberal reform groups created a Potemkin movement. A study last month by the Political Money Line, a nonpartisan Web site dealing with campaign funding issues, found that of the $140 million spent to directly promote liberal campaign reform in the last decade, a full $123 million came from just eight liberal foundations. Many are the same foundations that provide much of the money for such left-wing groups as People for the American Way and the Earth Action Network. The "movement" behind campaign-finance reform resembled many corporate campaigns pushing legislation. It consisted largely of "Astroturf" rather than true "grass-roots" support.


The successful stealth campaign by the eight liberal foundations means we now have to live in the Brave New World of McCain-Feingold. Bradley Smith, a Federal Election Commission member, made news this month by warning that bloggers could face federal regulation because a federal judge had thrown out their legal exemption from campaign finance regulations. The Internet has been burning up with concern that bloggers could be hauled into court for, as Mr. Smith puts it, "any decision by an individual to put a link [to a political candidate] on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done." Mr. Smith warns that "it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated" by the FEC unless "Congress is willing to stand up and say, 'Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear.' "

McCain-Feingold did little in last year's elections to limit the influence of money in politics, but a great deal to benefit incumbents and harm true grass-roots politics. Its ban on using soft money to run issue ads in the 60 days before an election mean that such ads will run earlier, make campaigns longer and allow incumbents to avoid criticism of their voting records. David Mason, who serves with Mr. Smith on the FEC, says that the incredible complexity of the bill is likely to lead to "invidious enforcement, singling out disfavored groups or causes" and "subjecting regulated groups to harassment by political opponents."

The next time Congress debates further "reform" of the rules for conducting elections, it would behoove all of us to learn who is really behind the effort, and what their true motives might be.
Fund's article doesn't add any new information that you couldn't have found out if you watched the videos. But the news here is that the story has received prominent national attention. Sometimes it isn't what you say but where you say it that matters. We need to make sure that this story doesn't go away. Click here for a roundup of other bloggers and media that have covered this so far.
(Via Rosemary by email)

UPDATE: Instapundit comments:
Ironic, isn't it, that a movement supposedly about getting secret money out of politics seems to have been fueled by just the sort of behavior it deplored.

Reader John Steele emails: "They never deplored money in political speech, they just wanted to make sure that theirs was the only money and speech involved."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Looks Like We May Have Lost This One

Terry Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed:

A spokesperson for Michael Schiavo says Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed Friday.


Schiavo is expected to be able to live a week to 10 days without her feeding tube.
There are some last-minute attempts at stopping this, but it looks like governmental remedies have been exhausted. There is always a possibility of a miracle of course, but short of that her death seems inevitable. Sometimes the good guys lose, even given the power of blogs.

Here are a couple of things I think we should take away from this, in the interest of understanding what happened and possibly in order to prevent its happening again:

This is in some sense an inevitable outcome of the death with dignity argument. Once we acceded to the notion that not life itself but quality of life is the ultimate value, it became impossible to avoid the loss of innocent life in the interest of mercy or dignity.

We could have delayed this by legislating that only in the case of a living will could an unconscious patient's life be terminated -- and, indeed, there are such laws -- but any such legislation survives at the sufferance of the interpreting judiciary. If we allow the issue to be framed as a matter of denying a patient's right to die, the judiciary will inevitably feel itself duty-bound to nullify any merely statutory legislation. In fact that is the sense of these comments by Michael Schiavo's lawyer:
"What we experienced today in the subpoena issued by the United States House of Representatives is nothing short of thuggery [...] It is absolutely shocking that according to the House of Representatives, any committee member or subcommittee member can issue a subpoena directed to any American forcing them to have medical treatment to have medical treatment against their will."
Thus evil becomes good and good becomes evil. Losing the moral high-ground is not merely an academic exercise. It is a matter of life and death, as we see here.

We talk about euthanasia and abortion as being part of a culture war, but we are not fighting it as if it were a war. From my perspective it seems more like a playground brawl where the stakes are not very high and we can afford to take a shot whenever we see an opening. But this is not the way to win a war. If the latter is our goal we must take a longer-term, strategic view. This entails controlling the institutions of cultural creation, the churches and the schools, and restraining the power of the courts. Nothing else matters. It is true that journalism and the arts/entertainment industry have a significant impact on culture but they are ultimately secondary. They transmit culture but they do not create it

Looking around I see little concerted effort in these areas. To be sure there are several groups that focus on these three strategic institutions, but they are generally perceived as having less urgency than saving a particular life or protesting a particular law or judicial decision. But if I am right, many more bad laws will be passed due to our lack of strategy and that will ultimately result in many more lives lost (to say nothing of lost souls).

I don't want to disparage the efforts of those who have worked on behalf of Mrs. Schiavo since every life is precious. But in the big picture, if it hadn't been Terri, it would have been someone else. Focusing on such activities may be necessary in emergencies, but we must view it in military terms as akin to charging up San Juan Hill. It may serve as a rallying point, but it also invites counter-attacks and if we are not careful we can end up losing more ground than we gained.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Traction Alert

Here is a partial round-up of blogs linking to the story mentioned in the post below:

Instapundit links without much comment.

Powerline calls it the Story of the Day. (Let's hope it lasts a bit longer.)

Q and O has commentary.

PoliSciFi Blog gets the big picture.

The Great Satan also has thoughts.

Geek with a .45 is livid.

The Blog from the Core thinks this conforms to the law ... just not the law you might think.

I hear Voices telling me this smells.

JennyFromTheHood doesn't have a blog but she comments on Sager's that, after leaving Pew, Treglia was appointed to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

That same Election Law site also has a current post.

Hugh Hewitt says this needs wide dissemination, but that's all he says so far. (In fairness, he was writing in haste before heading off to Colorado.)

Rich Lowry, of the Corner, congratulates Sager.

New World Man has a long post with background.

Reason Hits and Runs.

Chris Muir's cartoon reminds me that tomorrow is another Day by Day.

UPDATE 03/18/05:

Captain's Quarters now has coverage.

Kevin at Wizbang muses that bloggers would be all over the story if it were happening today.

He also links to this long piece by Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation.

Publius Pundit responds via email:

I don't usually blog about things going on in the United States, but that is one hell of a damning article. And I'm more than upset about the issue given that McCain is my senator. And it goes without saying that regulating political speech is totally party-centric and detrimental to our government overall. I wrote a short essay on McCain-Feingold about a year and a half ago. Maybe you should put a poll on your site, or ask people to leave a comment, because I really want to know: How many bloggers or blog readers have actually read the full text of McCain-Feingold? I hate it. The language used actually makes soft money look like a world tragedy.

Rosemary at My Newz 'N Ideas promises to write about this as soon as she wakes up. (Update: Here is her post. She also sent this via email to which I will dedicate a separate post.)

Juan Non-Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy offers some cautious analysis. (I don't see how Sager's charges could not be true, since he provides the actual video.)

UPDATE 03/24/04:
Sorry for not keeping up with this. Here are some more posts on the subject.

Brain Terminal suggests "McCain/Feingold should be repealed, and it should be repealed now."

A Sailor in the Desert points out that "this is not some thing we can depend on the MSM to cover or investigate. As I have posted before, it is up to us to pressure our representatives..."

Cracker Barrel Philosopher at Country Store predicts a bull market in pond scum.

Danica at heliotrope sees a connection with abortion on demand arguments.

reconsider... does.

Derek Rose asks about "Checkbook Journalism".

The Key Monk may have found George Will's "scare" column.

MoonOverPittsburgh doesn't see a connection with the Armstrong Williams case that Mickey Kaus suggested.

Right Minded Thinking sees the ugly truth coming out.

SoCal Pundit calls this criminal bias.

Rip and Read has a PodCast.

Betsy isn't holding her breath.

More links from Election Law including Washington Times and New York Sun editorials. (The latter is subscription only but here is the summary from their search page.)

Hube's Cube and Jeff the Baptist form a mini food chain.

Chuck is mouthing off about this.

Sandi at Vista also smells something. (And evidently she is Mother Theresa!)

The Spanish Inquisition finds this damning, as we might have expected.

Cheat Seaking Missiles is on target.

John Lott has the longest hyper link I've ever seen.

Pstupidonymous has two successive posts.

Former Naval Person doesn't trust Pew.

Midwest Journal News sees vested interests.

Plonderings sees a Liberal Dirty Trick.

Anthroblogogy wants to screw the FCC!

Sharks with Lasers: funny business.

Politically...Direct links this to the Social Security debate.

Transterrestrial Musings wants to reform the reformers.

Conservative Contrarian: "seriously damaging to the moral high ground and credibility of the artificial pro-CFR caucus."

Nixatron was on this as early as the 3/18.

OK. That is the first two pages of a Technorati search on the keyword "Treglia". There are a total of 8 pages with 147 links, but not all of them are on topic. I think I have about reached my limit in this roundup. Any new developments will get a separate post.

Campaign Finance Scam

Ryan Sager at the New York Post exposes the fraud that influenced the passage of McCain-Feingold:

CAMPAIGN-FINANCE reform has been an immense scam perpetrated on the American people by a cadre of left-wing foundations and disguised as a "mass movement."
But don't take my word for it. One of the chief scammers, Sean Treglia, a former program officer of the Pew Charitable Trusts, confesses it all in an astonishing videotape I obtained earlier this week.


Charged with promoting campaign-finance reform when he joined Pew in the mid-1990s, Treglia came up with a three-pronged strategy: 1) pursue an expansive agenda through incremental reforms, 2) pay for a handful of "experts" all over the country with foundation money and 3) create fake business, minority and religious groups to pound the table for reform.

"The target audience for all this activity was 535 people in Washington," Treglia says — 100 in the Senate, 435 in the House. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot — that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

It's a stark admission, but perhaps Treglia should be thanked for his candor.
I have a different idea about that, since this information could have been obtained through honest reporting, as Sager points out at the end of his piece:
"But you know what the good news is from my perspective?" Treglia says to the stunned crowd. "Journalists didn't care . . . So no one followed up on the story. And so there was a panic there for a couple of weeks because we thought the story was going to begin to gather steam, and no one picked it up."

Treglia's right. While he admits Pew specifically instructed groups receiving its grants "never to mention Pew," all these connections were disclosed (as legally required) in various tax forms and annual reports. "If any reporter wanted to know, they could have sat down and connected the dots," he said. "But they didn't."
Here are some details of what this scam entailed:
* In September of 2000, less than two years before the passage of McCain-Feingold, the liberal magazine The American Prospect put out a special issue devoted to campaign-finance reform. With incredible hypocrisy, the magazine failed to tell its readers that the "Checkbook Democracy" issue was paid for with a $132,000 check from the Carnegie Corporation — which, again, has spent $14 million promoting the regulation of political speech in the last decade.

* Since 1994, National Public Radio has accepted more than $1.2 million from liberal foundations promoting campaign-finance reform for items such as (to quote the official disclosure statements) "news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making." About $400,000 of that directly funded a program called, "Money, Power and Influence."


* Lastly, the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation accepted $935,000 between 1995 and 2001 from liberal foundations promoting campaign-finance reform for things like a "training initiative to help television, radio and print journalists provide better news coverage of the influence of private money on electoral, legislative and regulatory processes."
There are some qualifications that I have ommitted here to conserve space, so read the whole piece. Sager also links to a partial transcript of Treglia's speech. (The transcript page includes a video link.) Here is an interesting quote from Treglia that didn't make it into Sager's article:
...I knew, having worked on the Hill, and having run several campaigns, Congress wasn't going to vote for a full public-financing bill, and frankly no one in America was going to support a full public-financing bill. It's welfare for politicians.

There were the same old advocacy groups ... who were calling for reform, and they had lost legitimacy inside Washington because they didn't have a constituency that would punish Congress if they didn't vote for reform...

We wanted to expand the voices calling for reform to include the business community, to include minority organizations and to include religious groups, to counter the Christian Coalition....[emphasis mine]
This is a much bigger story than Rathergate because this was a fraud that actually worked. I hope the blogosphere gets on top of this one to help bring down McCain-Feingold.
(Via: Instapundit)

UPDATE: Sager has more video clips on his blog. I originally assumed that these were the same clips on the NY Post page but three of them are new.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Betraying the Betrayers

David A of In Search of Utopia almost feels sorry for these guys (NOTE: Beware of sexual content and possible nude pictures):

Men are stupid!

I had an ad on this site called "Adult Friend Finder" My profile was pretty specific with what it was I was seeking and what I wasn't seeking. I posted a g-rated photo (you can and they do post naked photos). I was surprised at the type of email and the men that had emailed me. My surprise quickly turned to amused. I can't tell you how many emails I received and yet not one even came close to what I was seeking. I heard a lot about fake profiles, web sites, hookers and such from some in their emails to me. Out of amusement I decided to create a "fake" profile,
I wanted to see what a "slut" would generate from the site. I copied word for word from some other female profile, got the photographs off some porn website and posted it. Took all of a new email address and 10 minutes of my time.
As it turns out the same men that emailed me at my real profile, the same ones that claimed we had a lot in common are emailing the slut. OH MY GOD these men are acting like teenagers in puberty.
I decided to create this little journal and post some of what is said.

I did form a community dedicated to the ones I despise. It is called legznmore2 That is where I am posting some of my favorites. Leaving thoughts along with the posted emails. Join in!

I don't feel particularly sorry for them at all, but I do have a couple of problems with Legs' methodology. First, not all of the men she exposes are married. I don't have a problem with betraying a trust of confidentiality when the man in question is betraying his own wedding vows, but the single guys are not in quite the same moral category. You could argue that they are worthy of shame because they are committing (or trying to commit) the sin of fornication, but I don't get the impression that that is her issue here.

Second, since she is posing as a slut rather than her original G-rated profile, she really doesn't have much moral leverage for mocking the guys that are attracted to that type of girl. In law-enforcement terms this is called "entrapment". If she had got these responses from an "innocent" profile, I would have far less objection.

However, all that said, I would like to see more women do this kind of thing. Adult Friend Finder provides a cover for people who want to flout the mores of society (to say nothing of Biblical morality) without consequences. If this practice bacame more wide-spread people would never know if their activities could become public, so would presumably be more likely to limit themselves to things they weren't ashamed to admit to.

Of course, some of these guys might not be all that ashamed, but that would be another story.

Bubble Wrap

Just pop it. (You know you want to.)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Joining the Insurgency

I have mentioned before that I don't like stating the obvious, but this seems to be a worthy cause to make an exception: the McCain-Feingold Insurrection. According to the rules posted by GeekWithA.45, in order to be a member

At minimum, you should assert that you view your blog as a sacred expression of your first amendment protected right of free speech, and that you will continue posting whatever the hell you want.
Well, I think my comments on this post made that pretty clear, but just to make it fully explicit: yes I intend to post whatever I think regardless of whether or not it crosses the line of the McCain-Feingold regulations or any similar laws passed in the future. I don't tend to advocate particular candidates and my low velocity of posting and miniscule readership are not likely to bring me to the attention of the Feds. But I am fully committed to solidarity with anyone who runs afoul of this illiberal and unconstitutional piece of... legislation. That includes verbal and written defense, financial support and any thing else that seems likely to be effective.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Afghan Women's Fitness Club

The country's first fitness club for women started 2 months ago with the participation of a dozen women. It has already logged some success. Women from different ages exercise at this club, especially those women who have difficulty with mobility because of their weight. Most women are happy for the positive changes in their bodies in two months.

Nima, the head of the club, who also carried the Afghanistan flag at the Athen's Olympics, said in an interview "I am keen to solve the problems of the women". During her tours abroad as an athlete she collected various sports and exercise equipment now in use at the club.

Women can now exercise in a safe place wearing blouse pants and sports shoes. The club administration said due to demand she would establish clubs in other areas of the capital if she can find suitable premises.

Welcome to the civilized world.

(Via Waheed, who is evidently Afghanistan's first blogger.)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Happy 69th Birthday...

...Antonin Scalia. Fellow conservative, fellow Pisces.

Online Coalition for Free Speech

Captain Ed points to this open letter to the Federal Election Commission:

Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Shays v. FEC, 337 F. Supp. 2d 28 (D.D.C. 2004) and the FEC’s upcoming rulemaking process may have on political communication on the Internet.

One area of great concern is the potential regulation of bloggers and other online journalists who distribute political news and commentary exclusively over the web. While paid political advertising on the Internet should remain subject to FEC rules and regulations, curtailing blogs and other online publications will dampen the impact of new voices in the political process and will do a disservice to the millions of voters who rely on the web for original, insightful political commentary.

Under the current rules, “any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication,” is exempt from reporting and coordination requirements. It is not clear, however, that the FEC’s “media exemption” provides sufficient protection for those of us in the online journalism community.

As bipartisan members of the online journalism, blogging, and advertising community, we ask that you grant blogs and online publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media, newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal Election Commission’s “media exemption” rule.

In order to ensure that there are sufficient measures taken, we also request that the FEC promulgate a rule exempting unpaid political activity on the Internet from regulation, thereby guaranteeing every American’s right to speak freely and participate in our democratic process.

Finally, we ask that you clarify the rules and definitions related to “coordinated activity” to protect bloggers and journalists from running afoul of Commission rules regarding the republication of campaign materials.

The Internet is a fundamental tool in the American political process. Just this week, we learned that 75 million Americans used the Internet to gather news, read commentary, discuss issues, register to vote, and generally join in the democratic process during the last election cycle. We believe the Internet is the primary driving force behind increased participation among traditionally under-represented groups of voters, and we applaud the Federal Election Committee for crafting rules that have allowed the Internet to flourish as a political communications medium.

Like the town hall meeting, online political activism is a vital part of American civic life. We encourage the FEC to provide bloggers, online journalists, and everyday cyber-citizens with the same freedoms that individuals and traditional journalists are free to exercise elsewhere. The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 was intended to prevent unlimited soft money contributions and regulate electioneering advertising, not to stifle free speech or grassroots activities on the Internet that serve the common good.
I signed the letter (#676 in case you are wondering) because I think it is a step in the right direction, but I don't think it goes far enough. Exempting bloggers and other "online journalists" from regulation is all very well but I don't agree that "paid political advertising on the Internet should remain subject to FEC rules and regulations." I don't recognize the right of the government to regulate political speech of any sort. There is a part of me that thinks it might be good for this issue to go to court, since that might very well show the severity of the current attack on free speech that masquerades as "Campaign Finance Reform". But, of course, that would assume that the courts could recognize a violation of the first ammendment when they saw it.

In any event, by all means sign the letter, since a major popular response may well serve the same purpose without the risk. And it is always better to exercise that other 1st Ammendment right --petition for a redress of grievances -- before resorting to civil disobedience.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Vietnam: Another Iraq?

Claudia Rosett thinks it is possible:

There's been a lot of talk since Sept. 11 about how President Bush's war-lovin' ways have galvanized terrorists, recruiting jihadis to the ranks. What's increasingly evident, however, is that the character suffering the real blowback is Osama bin Laden, who, as it turns out, jolted the U.S. into a global recruiting drive for democrats. Faced with an unprecedented attack on American shores, Mr. Bush smashed the mold for Middle-East policy, and with the invasion of Iraq lit a beacon for freedom-lovers in a part of the world that until quite recently was widely seen as having none. [When she says "recently" she means "up to and including January 29" -- Jack]

As it turns out, there are many. Already, Mr. Bush has been answered by the breathtaking election turnout in Iraq, the uprising in Lebanon, the tremors in Syria and Iran, the stirrings in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But the effects hardly stop with the Middle East. In many places, people trapped under tyrannies are now watching. Ballots cast in Baghdad echo way east of Suez.

So it happens that a message reached me last weekend from within one of the world's most repressive states: Vietnam. Word came that the Sharansky of Saigon, democratic dissident Nguyen Dan Que, had been released from his latest stretch in Vietnam's prisons.


Dr. Que does not have access to the daily diet of news that feeds the free world. But given the feats of modern technology to spread information, he knows enough about what is now happening in the Middle East so that he wished to share his views on how America's intervention in Iraq is like the war in Vietnam, and how it isn't. The similarity, he says, "is the same fighting spirit for freedom." The difference, he adds, is that in the fight for freedom, the side America is on "will triumph this time."

"The world is changing," says Dr. Que. "There are more opportunities than ever."

He is right, and if the world is changing, it is because the U.S. is hardly alone in prizing freedom. In every country are people who care about liberty--and in most places there are a few willing to pay dearly and take extraordinary risks to lead the way. Dr. Que is one, and as we watch the Middle East, it bears remembering, as he says, that these are "universal values," that in many places there are people who given any chance at all will answer freedom's call.

The parts I snipped out give some cautionary details that are good to remember, so read the whole article. We shouldn't get too cocky about this whole "wave of the future" business. But, I think the general point is valid. What stopped us from winning the war in Vietnam the first time was the threat of a nuclear Soviet Union and a fifth column of "war protestors" who were essentially on the USSR's payroll. (Figuratively in most cases but literally in many others: check out The Sword and the Shield.) The former threat has been eliminated and the latter is becoming increasingly irrelevant. This could all change, of course, so vigilance is still necessary, but for the present the wisest course seems to be to pursue our advantage as far as we can.

Via Instapundit, who remarks "VIETNAM: THE NEXT IRAQ? Heh. I want bumper stickers that say that."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Prisoner of Conscience

Jane at Armies of Liberation sent me this via email:

(Dear Friends and Fellow Freedom Lovers,
[...] we the blogosphere recieved the following letter from Mr. Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani smuggled out of the central prison in Sana’a, Yemen.

I have been advocating for his release since his imprisonment in September as I am convinced that he is a politcal prisoner. He is a newspaper editor, a pro-democracy advocate, and a Yemeni patriot. There are several articles on my sidebar that explain his case more fully.

Kindly read his letter, portions of which are deleted as he is already in jail for insulting the president. If upon hearing from him directly, you wish to stand in solidarity with this man, kindly sign this petition. Futhermore, please feel free to copy the letter to your site and link to the petition not to me.

The petition will close on March 20th. Please consider taking a stand in support of freedom and a free press. For a professional and objective view of his case, the sidebar at the petition site links both the World Association of Newspaper Editors February protest letter and the Amnesty International January Appeal page. The Amnesty page carries his photo. The poor guy thinks I’m a real journalist but lets see what the blogosphere can do here.

Dear Ms. Jane Novack,
The American journalist and political analyst,

I hereby express my deepest gratitude and most sincere thanks from behind the bars of the central prison in Sana’a, the capital of Republic of Yemen, for your articles on the freedom of press issues including my imprisonment.

Your opinions have genuinely touched my and the reader’s conscience as you have expressed your commitment to support issues of rights and freedoms and emphasized the true understanding of the Middle East issue. Hence you know well that freedom, democracy, and equality are the key solutions to the region’s problems.

Ms. Jane,

Since fifteen years, we have experienced democracy and multi-party system as well as breathed the fresh air of freedom, all which are the achievements of Yemen Unification. Soon later, a regression occurred in this experience after the summer of 1994 civil war. These achievements were emptied from their core cause leaving a margin of press freedom through which we battled to defend democracy, freedom, human rights, equal citizenship, and independent judiciary system, all being conditions for a better future and means to combat corruption and absence of law.

############ force, power, and oppression####### neglecting concepts of separation of powers. The head of the judiciary system is the president of the republic############ Here I am, in a battle which can least be described as unfair. My crime is public humiliation of the president. ########## I was deprived even from my right to self-defense. ########### you can imagine how I was handled by prison and police officers.

Furthermore, solidarity with my issue was prohibited and people in solidarity were punished and even terrorized to visit me in prison or declare their solidarity. In addition, the journalists’ syndicate is falling under tremendous pressures. I believe in democracy, freedom, equality and rights and am willing to sacrifice for their sake simply because I do not wish my children to suffer dictatorship and I will strive to provide them with a better future.

Dear Madam,

Leaders in our region transform into Gods. They even become to believe in their fake holiness which we aim to shatter so that they know they are humans just like us. Democracy and freedom are not granted by a leader or a regime, it is a world-wide human achievement of all the free people on earth.

According to the official interpretation of what is considered criticism of the president - based on this fake holiness- my criticism of the president is a crime that can cost me my life , not necessarily through Justice, but probably in prison by a murder convict. This could be attempted again inside or outside prison at any time. Nevertheless, I am not occupied by this matter, but more occupied with deep-rooting the concept of freedom.

I am also concerned that all Yemeni journalist gain the legal commitment of not being prone to imprisonment because of their opinions. I am also concerned that no other journalist will be imprisoned after me and suffer all that I have suffered. This we can achieve through your support and the support of all democracy and freedom advocates in the world as individuals or organizations.

Dear Madam,

Democracy and freedom are the global language with which I address you, probably too intimately and in detail which might have inconvenienced you. But, my trust in your values and your openness encouraged me to convene this information on our reality and issues to you. I highly value your writings and your advocacy role to democracy and defending rights. ###########

I repeat my thanks to you Ms. Jane Novack, and apologize for consuming your precious time in reading this letter.

With my sincere regards,

Abdul Kareem Al Khaiwany
Central Prison- Sana’a

(This letter was sent through ############)

(PLEASE CONSIDER SIGNING THE PETITION. It only says we support a free press. This guy deserves to hold his kids again. He has no advocate but us. If the free world does not throw its weight behind him, no one will.)