Cato's Gene Healy writes in the Washington Examiner today about an alarming government trend:
The Founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offenses, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law.
Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalization the first line of attack -- a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it's corporate scandals or e-mail spam.
At one point on Tuesday, Breyer protested: "I thought there was a principle that a citizen is supposed to be able to understand the criminal law." Good luck with that.
There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done. If teams of legal researchers can't make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don't stand a chance.
(Update: See this follow-up post on the school district's push-back against press reports.)
(Updated below with details from the Associated Press, video from New England Cable News, and other commentary.)
Just in time for Christmas, some soulless, bureaucratic automatons at Maxham Elementary in the hamlet of Taunton, Massachusetts suspended a second-grader from school and ordered him to receive a psychiatric evaluation for drawing a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross. Looks like zero-tolerance idiocy strikes again.
Here is the story, according to the Taunton Gazette:
A Taunton father is outraged after his 8-year-old son was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.
The father said he got a call earlier this month from Maxham Elementary School informing him that his son, a second-grade student, had created a violent drawing. The image in question depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross. The boy wrote his name above the cross.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re violating his religion,” the incredulous father said.
He requested that his name and his son’s name be withheld from publication to protect the boy.
The student drew the picture shortly after taking a family trip to see the Christmas display at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, a Christian retreat site in Attleboro. He made the drawing in class after his teacher asked the children to sketch something that reminded them of Christmas, the father said.
“I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent,” said Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center.
I'm not certain that the school violated the boy's religion, although it wouldn't be the first time a school trampled on a student's First Amendment right to portray religious themes in art. If nothing else, school officials violated common sense.
The drawing supposedly "violated the code of violence in the school handbook," according to the Washington Times. But this wasn't a case of a Cub Scout bringing a camping tool to class or even an older student having a knife locked in his car. This was a picture. Even the "violence" depicted in it is relatively benign. And in any event, school officials make a grave and fundamental mistake when they equate pictures of violence with actual violence. (Interestingly, a number of schools suggest "writing stories or poems or drawing pictures" as a prevention tool. Makes sense. It's cathartic.)
Turns out, the boy is a special education student, but he reportedly has no history of discipline problems. Could that have influenced the school's decision?
Naturally, the district superintendent justifies the school's overreaction with the usual butt-blanketing bureaucratic balderdash: "Generally speaking, we have safety protocols in place," Superintendent Julie Hackett told the Taunton Gazette. "If a situation warrants it, we ask for outside safety evaluations if we have particular concerns about a child’s safety. We followed all the protocols in our system."
I believe that is correct -- they followed "all the protocols." Does that not suggest something is very, very wrong with the protocols? And isn't it funny how the protocols almost always exclude or present parents with faits accompli about what needs to be done to their children?
Update: Oh, dear. According to the AP:
Chester Johnson told WBZ-TV that his son made the drawing on Dec. 2 after his second-grade teacher asked children to sketch something that reminded them of the holiday.
Johnson said the teacher became upset when his son said he drew himself on the cross. Johnson, who is black, told WBZ he suspects racism is involved. He said he thinks the school overreacted and wants an apology.
Hard to say, from this distance, whether or how race was a factor in the teacher's response or the school's decision. But certainly the school overreacted in any event. The Associated Press story also fleshes out some details about 8-year-old Johnson's reaction to his circumstances:
The boy was cleared to return to school on Dec. 7 after the evaluation found nothing to indicate that he posed a threat to himself or others. But his father said the boy was traumatized by the incident and the school district has approved the family's request to have the child transferred to another school.
"They owe my family an apology and the kid an apology and they need to work with my son (to) the best of their ability to get him back to where he was before all this happened," Johnson told New England Cable News.
Too late. The school can't undo what it's done. In an effort to play it safe, the school harmed this child. Does anyone think that Chester Johnson's son will ever forget what happened to him when he drew a picture of his savior? So stupid.
Here is the video of the story from New England Cable News.
Update: Ed Morrissey writes:
It’s hard to imagine a more clueless, knee-jerk response than the one given by this school. First, Jesus on a crucifix has been a symbol of Christianity for two millenia. Since Christmas is in fact a Christian holiday, at least nominally, the crucifix in this drawing clearly came from Christian symbolism and not some latent threat of a reenactment of the last scenes of Spartacus from a second grader. How dense or deliberately obtuse must a teacher and administrators be not to understand the symbolism involved in this drawing?
And a commenter at Joanne Jacobs's blog reiterates what I've been saying all along about zero-tolerance rules:
This kind of incident does not enhance the public view of the education establishment and those who inhabit it. There’s a toxic combination of silly, “zero-tolerance” policies and no common sense or judgment in their application. It’s a total cop-out on the part of the perpetrators; a refusal to accept the responsibility to make sensible judgments and accept the consequences. It’s the same mindset that sees bringing an aspirin or a plastic knife as deserving of expulsion.
The Taunton Gazette editorializes:
Why didn’t the teacher just talk to the child when he was drawing the picture and ask what it meant? Couldn’t that have spared everyone the grief?
The child was just doing his assignment. He wasn’t drawing this picture to cause any harm. He was just doing his schoolwork.
Yet the school district has turned this into a major story that is now gaining some national notoriety.
All for a little picture.
Related posts on school zero-tolerance policies run amok:
• Vindication for Zachary Christie
• No vindication for Matthew Whalen... yet
• Who is George Goodwin?
• Where is the school board on Lansingburgh's insipid, mindless zero-tolerance policy?
• Well, OF COURSE Lansingburgh school administrators overreacted
• Vindication for Matthew Whalen... maybe soon
• On zero-tolerance policies: "Schools' get-tough rules cross the line"
• No vindication for Matthew Whalen
A revised edition of Angelo Codevilla's classic book, "The Character of Nations," has been published this year, and it too is an education in itself. "The Character of Nations" is less focussed on immediate domestic political issues-- though it does analyze the contrasting responses of the intelligentsia to Sarah Palin and Barack Obama-- but it is focussed more on the underlying cultural developments that affect how nations work-- or don't work.
The very title of "The Character of Nations" is a challenge to the prevailing ideology that denies or downplays underlying differences among individuals, groups and nations.
I reread "The Character of Nations" earlier this year, in tandem with Codevilla's latest book, "Advice to War Presidents" (which I see Amazon is offering at a bargain price).
My friend John Kienker included Codevilla on his list of in the Claremont Institute's Christmas gift symposium. He writes:
Newly updated and expanded to take account of the September 11 attacks and the 2008 bailout, Codevilla surveys dramatic changes in prosperity, civility, family life, religion, and national defense around the world, with examples drawn from the Soviets to the Swedes, from Italy to Israel, and a dozen other countries. When he turns his attention to modern-day America, he no longer finds the nation of free citizens described by Tocqueville, bound together by a devotion to limited, constitutional government; but one that more and more resembles Europe or even the Third World: a nation of favor-seekers profiting from their connections to government and content to be ruled by a powerful, decadent elite.
I agree. And, although it might seem a bit dour for the holiday, I really can't recommend "The Character of Nations" highly enough.
Michael Leahy's Washington Post feature today on the travails of California State Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Claremont, and a bunch of other disparate Foothill and High Desert communities that have more to do with the scourge of gerrymandering than fair or rational representation) deserves more than I can give it just now -- which means I'll probably never get back to it.
Leahy seems to think Adams's problems in California say something about the condition of the Republican Party nationally. Well, nuts to that. Happily, Bill Voegeli, who discovered the story by way of John Judis's snarky take at The New Republic's blog, offers his own astute and witty assessment at NoLeftTurns.
Three quick points, however:
• Recalling Adams was always a bad idea. That is not the same as saying that Adams does not deserve to be ousted. I hope he's back manning a cash register in Hesperia come 2011. But the recall should be reserved for the most egregious cases -- malfeasance, fraud, rank incompetence and the like. Bad as Adams' budget vote was, it simply doesn't rise to that level. (I find myself disagreeing here with Rep. Tom McClintock, with whom I agree on just about everything else. So it goes...)
• Note the reason Adams gives Leahy for voting for the budget that will doom him at the ballot box next year: "State people were not getting paychecks. We faced the possibility of paying those people off in IOUs for quite some time...." State people. His concern, in other words, was for the public employees and not the taxpayers who bear the burden of paying the public employees' salaries (to say nothing of their pensions, but that's another matter...)
• Anthony Adams has the worst mother-in-law in the world.
Oh, one more point. Adams mentions, "This Taliban mentality: it's trying to get rid of people in our party. It makes it impossible to grow the party." The absurdity of the former statement undermines the wisdom of the latter.
Put more succinctly: Taliban mentality, my... foot.
Ben Stein has a charming piece at the American Spectator about his recent visit with some Marines at Camp Pendleton.
"They had the kinds of faces you used to see in Jimmy Stewart movies, all-American faces, white, brown, black, Asian, but all smiling, all eager to do something for their country," Stein writes. "They did not have the kind of conniving, weasel-like faces I usually see around me in Beverly Hills. They looked like straight shooters, in a word. I guess they are, since every Marine is a rifleman."
Steven Hayward has a short-ish op-ed in Sunday's New York Post that sums up the "Climategate" scandal beautifully.
The piece is a nice abridgment of Hayward's 6,000-word take on the Climate Research Unit e-mail row that appeared last week in the Weekly Standard.
I'm up to my eyeballs in California land-use regulations, so I didn't actually listen to President Obama's speech in Oslo today and just read it quickly. I haven't quite digested it enough to have an opinion, but I see that Joel played off of Justin Paulette's analysis at NoLeftTurns. I think Joel is a bit to quick to dismiss "just war" theory, what with its centuries-old intellectual pedigree and all.
I do think Daniel Drezner's post-speech challenge is worth highlighting, however:
A contest for readers: pour over the speech and look for evidence suggesting Obama favors the following approaches:
• Neoliberal institutionalism
• Social construcivism
• Democratic peace theory
• Feminist IR theory (I think it's there, but you have to squint)
• Human security
It's easy... and fun!!
The Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll seems to have noticed the same thing, but offers a more dour take: "What comes first — freedom or peace, interests or values? For those with a taste for textual deconstruction, President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech offers ample opportunity."
Jules Crittenden, rarely one to play coy, praises the speech with faint damns: "Maybe, like Nixon going to China, it takes an Obama to make the defense of freedom acceptable. I wonder what happened to him in that Situation Room. Hard, inescapable dose of responsibility?"
Even Commentary's Jennifer Rubin found much to like: "But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics... It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House."
Obama is no neoconservative, and just as it was too early to hand him this rather overblown "honor", it's still too early to say whether this administration is waking up to reality. As always, I recommend anything and everything Angelo Codevilla has to say about foreign policy generally, and Obama's foreign policy in particular.
"The skills required to maintain a happy harem take practice, patience, and a bit of internal discipline, not unlike perfecting one’s golf game," advises Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Call Girl and its sequel, Diary of a Married Call Girl. Funny thing is, those are the same skills required to maintain a happy marriage. And, challenging as that can be, it seems much less complicated -- and far more honorable -- than either golf or "harem management" to me.
(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
My friend Doug Bandow has a provocative article on National Interest Online about Switzerland's vote to ban new minarets on mosques. Bandow believes the vote violates the religious liberty of Muslims living in Switzerland. But he also believes that Muslims living in nations that violate the rights of Christians are in no position to criticize the Swiss.
Indeed, as Bandow demonstrates, the loudest protests have come from countries where Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities suffer varying degrees of discrimination and even persecution.
"Switzerland is a beacon of liberty and reason compared to the Muslim nations," Bandow writes.
When will our current president stop blaming every difficulty on "the previous administration"? I'm guessing sometime around year three of his second term.
Barack Obama on the TARP program, December 8, 2009:
"Launched hastily — understandably, but hastily under the last administration — the TARP program was flawed. And we have worked hard to correct those flaws and manage it properly."
Barack Obama on the floor of the U.S. Senate, October 2008:
"There may be other plans out there that had we had two or three or six months to develop might be even more refined and might serve our purposes better. But we don't have that kind of time. And we can't afford to take a risk that the economy of the United States of America and as a consequence the worldwide economy could be plunged into a very, very deep hole."
Not only is that a red-handed gotcha quote, it points to the fact that when Obama blames "the previous administration" — be it for TARP or domestic spending in general — he is, in fact, equally culpable. If there was "haste," he was advocating for it on the Senate floor. And it's not as if Bush took all these actions on his own. Congress (and Obama) voted for TARP — and Obama's soon-to-be Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was among its biggest advocates. Congress (and Obama) voted for more domestic spending, which added to a debt that Obama inherited ... but has managed to triple in six months.
Enough, already. I'd hope even Obama supporters have had it up to here with this "tic" of the president, as Charles Krauthammer put it tonight on "Special Report."
Duke Hefland of the L.A. Times has a predictable story today about the American Humanist Association's campaign to promote secularism during this month of religious holidays. I say "predictable" because, of course, such "offbeat" and contrarian features are more likely to get into print than articles about this or that denomination's efforts to minister to the sick, the homeless and the lonely during this season. According to the story:
The group, consisting of atheists and others who say they embrace reason over religion, has launched a national godless holiday campaign, with ads appearing inside or on 250 buses in five U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco starting today. The placards depict smiling people wearing red Santa hats with the slogan: "No God? . . . No problem!"
Just as predictably, some religious organizations think the atheists' $40,000, five-city ad campaign amounts to... (sigh)... "an assault on religion." Hefland does his best to sample the reactions of Catholics, Jews and Muslims. I found myself wincing at the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, nodding at Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and feeling my eyes widen at the pronouncements of Imam Muzammil Siddiqi.
Now, Joel and I tackled the "war on Christmas" for the Scripps-Howard column a couple of weeks ago. "All most people want is to say "Merry Christmas" without a bunch of politically correct Grinches and litigious Scrooges getting bent out of shape," I wrote. "We've traveled a long way to reach this absurd point in American life."
Indeed we have. But the American Humanist's ad campaign doesn't bother me one bit. First, because it doesn't seem to be aimed at anyone other than co-relig... er, fellow skepto-agnostic-Americans. They're preaching to the converted, for the most part, and trying to reassure the faithless that doubt is indeed safe. (As if there was any doubt about that.)
Second, because the ads betray a certain insecurity. As the Times story notes, "Humanist leaders say the... ad campaign... is meant to counter a barrage of religious messages during the holiday season, letting free-thinking atheists and agnostics know that they are not alone." Well, no kidding. Is the American Humanist Association worried that 30 days of incessant department store sales, 987 covers of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night," and the odd broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life" will lure their members into the embrace of monkish superstition or evangelical Christianity? Dawkins forbid! Seems like the opposite would be more likely.
Although my own faith isn't what it used to be -- and that may well be an understatement -- I've never understood the weird, embattled sense of entitlement espoused by some atheists and agnostics. Is it the idea that so many people believe "nonsense" that grates? As if secularists aren't prone to irrational flights of fancy. I realize that it's impossible to simply "live and let live," but the Christmas season was so much more pleasant and peaceful when people swallowed their personal grievances for a flawed but nevertheless greater good.
If the holidays are supposed to teach anything, regardless of whether or not you are a person of faith, it's that it isn't about you. If you drop the "faith," you're still left with "hope" and "charity" -- and two out of three ain't bad.
Today is the 68th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. For decades, "Remember Pearl Harbor" served shorthand for reminding Americans to be ever-vigilant against threats foreign and domestic, to ensure that we would never again be caught off guard by a scheming enemy. That changed on September 11, 2001. The lessons learned -- or not learned -- from both days of infamy haunt us still.
The Detroit Free-Press today publishes a story about the struggle on behalf of the dwindling number of Pearl Harbor veterans to keep the memory of that day alive.
The article, "Another generation's 9/11 lives in infamy," highlights the stories of a few of the men who were there and still live to tell the tale:
Vincent Rosati, 89, of Macomb Township was a Navy gunner's mate aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix, one of several battleships moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island. A retired Stroh Brewery Co. employee, Rosati said the element of surprise was the most striking similarity between Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
"At Pearl, we should have known better, though," he said. The war had been raging for more than two years by December 1941. "It seems like every generation has to learn the hard way through bloodshed," he said.
"The lessons of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are that someone's always out to get us and we need to be on the alert," said Francis Rogers, 87, of Westland, a retired donut shop owner who was an Army Air Corps gunner on Oahu that morning.
Nathan Weiser, 93, of Dearborn was an Army Air Corps mechanic and radio operator stationed on Oahu when the attack occurred. A retired owner of an iron and metal business, Weiser said, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little concerned about people forgetting about Pearl Harbor."
Bill Muehleib, national vice president of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said approximately 4,600 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are still alive. Muehleib acknowledged concerns from some veterans that the nation will someday forget, but he said he believes those fears are misplaced.
I'm not quite as optimistic as Muehleib. Constant vigilance is impossible. Memories are short. Ignorance is bliss. War might have been foreseeable in 1941, yet most Americans went about their daily lives largely unconcerned about the bloodshed and conquest on the far shores of Europe and Asia. Most Americans in the 1990s paid little mind to the threat of radical Islam, and few people knew the name Osama bin Laden before 2001.
What's remarkable today -- and what contrasts our 9/11 from their 12/7 -- is how little most Americans know or understand about the war we're in. The effort to link our current enemy to the old one -- "Islamonazis" or "Islamofascists" -- has not resonated beyond the listening audience of certain radio talk show hosts. And the debate about what to do in Afghanistan has only confused the issue further. Who the hell are we fighting and why? Is this war ever going to end? And what does victory look like?
Even more remarkable is the failure to draw the right lessons from the respective attacks. The myth that America had been totally surprised at Pearl Harbor formed the basis of the rationale for creating the Central Intelligence Agency. The failure to "connect the dots" leading up to 9/11 formed the basis for the rationale for creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. But more bureaucracy and insularity hasn't protected the country or made its leaders any more intelligent or capable. On the contrary, our foreign policy decisions are as mushy-headed as they have ever been.
There seems to be a lesson in there somewhere, if only our wise statesmen would choose to heed it.
Update: Here is Rick Moran on Pearl Harbor and the "mystic chords of memory":
Where does Pearl Harbor fit into our historical consciousness today? We like to take “lessons” from history but in truth, this is nonsense. The currents and eddies underlying the historical tides on which we are but reluctant passengers are too complex, too obscure to glean what we might commonly refer to as “lessons” to be learned from historical events. In this respect, Pearl Harbor was the culmination of decades of history; the rise of Japan as a westernized imperial power went back to the turn of the century, for instance.And from the moment of the opening of Japan in the middle of the 19th century, the prospect of a collision between their imperialist ambitions, and our own commercial empire building in the Far East was virtually assured.
Nothing is ever as easy as it appears as far as history is concerned. And that’s why it is easy to fall into a “false” historical consciousness when it comes to events like 9/11 or even Pearl Harbor. Rather than history teaching us anything, it is far better to have it inform us, animate our spirit, and act as an undergird to our most closely held beliefs and values.
I have some problems with Obama's Afghanistan speech tonight, but I think it's important to begin by excerpting a laudable passage that (gasp!) George Bush could have delivered — and often did.
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions — from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank — that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
We have not always been thanked for these efforts, and we have at times made mistakes. But more than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades — a time that, for all its problems, has seen walls come down, markets open, billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress, and advancing frontiers of human liberty.
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for — and what we continue to fight for — is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
Bravo! A welcome declaration from a president who, heretofore, has emphasized America's mistakes and has seemed loath to speak of the triumphs for liberty and unparalleled generosity that preceded his administration. Then again, Obama wasn't speaking tonight before a foreign audience, but a gathering of West Point cadets — about as "domestic" as you can get.
Obama needs to emphasize this point more if he really believes that the Afghanistan project shares this noble context.
When I was co-moderating RedBlueAmerica.com, I had an excellent intern/editorial assistant/researcher by the name of Charles Johnson. Charlie -- or Chas, or Chuck -- is an industrious and entrepreneurial student at Claremont McKenna College who blogs at the Claremont Conservative. Though a man of the right, Charlie interned for Alan Dershowitz... in high school. In his short but illustrious career, Carlito has worked for Scripps-Howard, Amity Shlaes, the Kauffmann Foundation, and the Claremont Institute. I told Chuck not too long ago that I'd be working for him some day, and I wasn't kidding. He's going places.
My Charles Johnson, in other words, shouldn't be mistaken for this Charles Johnson. He's not going anywhere.
A man who considers Robert Stacy McCain to be a "fascist" doesn't know what fascism is. (Update: McCain replies to Johnson.) A man who believes opposing abortion is akin "throwing women back into the Dark Ages" doesn't understand history or the present. A man who believes Hot Air and Ace of Spades are redoubts for "raging hate speech" debases the language. A man who conflates the tea party movement with the birther conspiracy has parted ways with his judgment and taken leave of his senses.
I don't begrudge Johnson his success, his reach or his influence. Then again, until I saw his post linked from Memeorandum earlier tonight, I hadn't read his site in months.
These are strange, unsettled times in our politics. The Republicans are struggling and the Democrats are dispirited and confused. The old left-right, conservative-liberal paradigm no longer seems adequate to the task of explaining or understanding where we stand or why vote the way we do. But I would not recommend conflating or confusing Johnson's peculiar prejudices, eccentricities and self-absorption with the political independence many Americans now embrace. His constituency is a cult. Once you understand that, it's easier to see the service Johnson has done explaining why he's "parted ways with the right."
Put another way: I wouldn't go to the wall for Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or a particular Charles Johnson.
Monkey friend and frequent comment contributor Rick — otherwise known as Deregulator — sent me an email asking why I haven't been all over the collapse of the global warming fraud. Thanksgiving week explains most of it. And there is also the fact that there is just so much fraud to expose and comment upon.
Since the blogosphere is already well down the field on the Climategate scandal — I like the term "Climaquiddick" — I'll contribute here by sharing what a columnist from the Toronto Sun found when trolling through the incriminating emails that expose the global fraud meant to reorder the societies of the Western world. Actually, the columnist didn't find it. The nerd the global warming statists hired to analyze the data found it.
From a column aptly titled "Botch After Botch After Botch," the nerd put in charge of trying to make sense of the data upon which the United Nations (and our Congress) would impose punitive taxes and force us to live more "green" ... well, could make no sense of it. This matters because this guy is a programmer, and he could make no sense of the program that crunched the "science is settled" data:
"But what are all those monthly files? DON'T KNOW, UNDOCUMENTED. Wherever I look, there are data files, no info about what they are other than their names. And that's useless ..." (Page 17)
"It's botch after botch after botch." (18)
"This surely is the worst project I've ever attempted. Eeeek." (31)
"Oh, GOD, if I could start this project again and actually argue the case for junking the inherited program suite." (37)
"... this should all have been rewritten from scratch a year ago!" (45)
"Am I the first person to attempt to get the CRU databases in working order?!!" (47)
"As far as I can see, this renders the (weather) station counts totally meaningless." (57)
"COBAR AIRPORT AWS (data from an Australian weather station) cannot start in 1962, it didn't open until 1993!" (71)
"What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah -- there is no 'supposed,' I can make it up. So I have : - )" (98)
"You can't imagine what this has cost me -- to actually allow the operator to assign false WMO (World Meteorological Organization) codes!! But what else is there in such situations? Especially when dealing with a 'Master' database of dubious provenance ..." (98)
"So with a somewhat cynical shrug, I added the nuclear option -- to match every WMO possible, and turn the rest into new stations ... In other words what CRU usually do. It will allow bad databases to pass unnoticed, and good databases to become bad ..." (98-9)
"OH F--- THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done, I'm hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases." (241).
- "This whole project is SUCH A MESS ..." (266)
Looking at this bit of evidence, Toronto Star columnist Lorrie Goldstein asks:
And based on stuff like this, politicians are going to blow up our economy and lower our standard of living to "fix" the climate?
Are they insane?
Yes. But are we?
I have a new op-ed in Friday's Sacramento Bee about the folly of Race to the Top, which is the Obama Administration's futile exercise in imposing innovation on the schools from the top down. Because if at first you don't succeed, spend hundreds of billions over four decades until you can claim some semblance of success. (Save your wisecracks about America's misadventures abroad, please.)
My piece is a rebuttal to The Bee's Sunday editorial urging the Assembly to pass legislation that would make California eligible for up to $500 million in Race to the Top grants. The Bee argues that the money could help patch over the state's horrific budget situation.
Well, sure it could -- for about a year or so. One of the problems with Race to the Top, like so many other reforms that emerge from Washington D.C., is that the mandates they create last forever.
But that isn't the only drawback. My piece could just as easily be a rebuttal -- albeit indirectly -- to the commentary that appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal under the byline of Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner, and Eli Broad. The authors worry that the feds are "being pressured to dilute the program's requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform."
I argue that those reforms in and of themselves are inadequate to the task. What fundamentally ails the schools isn't a lack of competition or accountability -- although those are surely disabilities -- but what E.D. Hirsch has called the anti-curriculum ideology. So more charter schools won't help if they're using the same curriculum as the traditional public schools, for example.
I'm pretty sure that the Legislature will come through at the last minute anyway, with predictable results: "But if history teaches anything, it's that these mad dashes for dollars amount to little in the long run. Just look at the expensive results of Title I, Head Start, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. In five years, when we're debating the next great reform initiative -- call it 'Speed to Success' -- it's a fair bet we'll ignore the wreckage of Race to the Top as well."
One last thing: Good grief, I really need to get a new headshot. I've lost weight since that photo was taken. And I've got the Leninesque facial hair now. In all, I come off as a goober, when I should really look more like a bookish thug.
That bit of creative animation is a bit gruesome, meant to represent the 400 kg of greenhouse gasses for each passenger in a commercial flight — the weight of an adult polar bear. (By that count, private-jet-fan Al Gore has quite the pile of polar bears on his conscience, eh?). But the video below is even better.
From Portugal comes a video portraying a chimp, a polar bear and a kangaroo who commit suicide rather than try to eke out a life on a world despoiled by humans. Call me cold, but I found it hilarious.
The worst part about this video? It presumes chimps — chimps! — are stupid enough to not only buy into the global warming scam, but take their lives over it. Maybe so. But we orangutans come from smarter stock.
I believe that Joel, for one, said he was looking forward to watching AMC's mini-series "The Prisoner." My colleague, Sam Karnick, over at The American Culture was not impressed. And a smart observer — a veritable scholar of the original series — notes in the comments just how awful this reboot was, and is well worth reading.
I also left a comment there, which contains spoilers so I won't repeat it here. But I'm curious about the reactions of other Monkeys and Monkey Readers.
Here is Edward Skidelsky writing about "words that think for us" in Prospect:
As a society, we strive to eradicate moral language, hoping to eliminate the intolerance that often accompanies it. But intolerance has not been eliminated, merely thrust underground. "Inappropriate" and "unacceptable" are the catchwords of a moralism that dare not speak its name. They hide all measure of righteous fury behind the mask of bureaucratic neutrality. For the sake of our own humanity, we should strike them from our vocabulary.
There's more. It's brief, and well worth reading.
(Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily)
"Is Eric Holder attorney general of the United States or some unctuous motivational speaker?"
James Taranto raises a question or two about Eric Holder's Senate testimony this week.
If I didn't know any better — that is, that Democrats really don't want to fight back in the war jihadists have declared against us — I'd say some wily neo-con made up this quote from Sen. Pat Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to make him look bad But, no. Leahy really is this thick-headed ... and dangerous.
If the U.S. captures Osama bin Laden, there's no need to interrogate him, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Thursday.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of that committee, said that arguments raised by Republican senators about whether bin Laden would be afforded Miranda rights if he were captured was a "red herring."
"The red herring that my friend [Sen.] Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was covering is not realistic," Leahy said during an appearance on "Washington Journal" on C-SPAN.
"For one thing, capturing Osama bin Laden — we've had enough on him, we don't need to interrogate him," Leahy added.
No need to interrogate him? The question is a "red herring"? Seems it's germane, and was answered by Leahy — who is admitting that if he had his way, bin Laden would indeed be read his Miranda rights. And we'd do nothing to try to glean information to stop any an all attacks that would surely be attempted upon his capture.
But don't worry. The law enforcement method of fighting a war against jihad will keep us safe. Just take the word of Leahy and the Obama administration for it. They know what they're doing, unlike Bush — who actually did prevent another attack on U.S. soil for seven years.
(HT: The Corner)
The White House is a real meat grinder when it comes to personnel. You might have heard about the departure last week of White House Counsel Gregory Craig. Craig was in charge of the failed effort to close Gitmo by President Obama's January deadline.
Anyway, Craig is yesterday's news. His replacement is attorney Robert Bauer. Or, as he's been called in the news stories, Bob Bauer. Bauer is the husband of Anita Dunn, the White House communications chief who led the clumsy effort to stigmatize Fox News and who named Mao Tse Tung and Mother Teresa as two of her inspirations in a very bad speech.
The name "Bob Bauer" rang bells with me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. Then I saw this item at The Corner today:
No one should forget that it was Bauer, as the general counsel for the Obama presidential campaign, who wrote a letter to the Justice Department on October 17, 2008, asking that a special prosecutor investigate Republicans like John McCain for talking publicly about voter fraud. According to Bauer, such talk was not only evidence of a “partisan political agenda,” but supposedly intended to “suppress voting” by harassing voters and impeding “their exercise of their rights.”
The spurious claims made in the letter were pretty outrageous at the time, but what is even scarier is that we now have a White House counsel who has asserted that anyone who talks about voter fraud, including the type of massive voter-registration fraud committed by ACORN, should be investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department for voter intimidation.
AHA! That Bob Bauer. He was one of the inspirations for the headline on this occasional series of posts. The ACORN business was just one of his efforts to use the hammer of government to stifle Obama campaign critics. Here is what I wrote about him last year concerning an earlier incident: "The censorious antics by Obama campaign attorney Robert Bauer deserve further scrutiny and perhaps even official sanction." Read the entire post for more background and context. Suffice to say, no sanction or scrutiny was forthcoming, and it appears that Bauer's thuggish perfidy has been rewarded with a plum White House job -- or a place at the front of the meat grinder conveyor belt, take your pick.
Keep an eye on this man and this administration's worrisome posture toward the First Amendment.
(Update: I changed the headline. It didn't quite fit with the previous two posts on "California's coming dark age.")
It's at once too late and too early for coherent commentary on the lead story in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, but the headline is enough to give you nightmares: "California faces a projected deficit of $21 billion."
According to Shane Goldmacher's story:
Less than four months after California leaders stitched together a patchwork budget, a projected deficit of nearly $21 billion already looms over Sacramento, according to a report to be released today by the chief budget analyst.
The new figure -- the nonpartisan analyst's first projection for the coming budget -- threatens to send Sacramento back into budgetary gridlock and force more across-the-board cuts in state programs.
The grim forecast, described by people who were briefed on the report by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, comes courtesy of California's recession-wracked economy, unrealistic budgeting assumptions, spending cuts tied up in the courts and disappearing federal stimulus funds.
"Economic recovery will not take away the very severe budget problems for this year, next year and the year after," said Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.
In fact, after two years of precipitous revenue declines, the new report projects relatively stable tax collections for the state, said those who were briefed. But that won't stop the deficit from climbing to nearly $21 billion.
And it gets worse from there.
Dan Weintraub spoke ominously in our podcast about the coming budget reckoning in the Golden State. Truth is, there must be more cuts. But there might be tax increases on top of cuts. In a over-regulated state such as California, with one of the highest unemployment rates and worst business climates in the nation, tax hikes would be another body blow to a battered economy. It's well past time that the state government scaled back its ambitions.
But about that, more anon.
I guess we're supposed to conclude that President Obama's bow to Japan's emperor was no big deal. I conclude that good, old-fashioned American anti-monarchical republicanism went by the boards a long time ago. Pity.
UC Berkeley economist and former Clinton Treasury Department official Brad DeLong suggests that the economy could get a lot more depressing before Happy Days Are Here Again:
For 2 1/4 years now I have been saying that there is no chance of a repeat of the Great Depression or anything like it--that we know what to do and how to do it and will do it if things turn south.
I don't think I can say that anymore. In my estimation the chances of another big downward shock to the U.S. economy--a shock that would carry us from the 1/3-of-a-Great-Depression we have now to 2/3 or more--are about 5%. And it now looks very much as if if such a shock hits the U.S. government will be unable to do a d----- thing about it. (Bowdlerization in the original.)
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