Sine Qua Non Pundit

And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? ------ ------ ------ ------ E-mail: charlesaustin@earthlink.net

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Wednesday, April 24, 2002
 
Won't My Daughters Be Surprised!





which children's storybook character are you?

this quiz was made by colleen


But Richard Cohen shouldn't be.




 
Back Monday

Now it's shower, shave, off to work and then nothing will finer than to golf in Carolina all weekend. I will be completely out of touch with the web until Monday. I may have to take Monday off just to catch up!

Note the posting times last night and this morning. I am dieing for my art.

Actually, I just wrote that to offset the complaints of anyone who thinks that my blogging has slown down. As for me, I can stop anytime I want to...




Tuesday, April 23, 2002
 
BlogSpot Hell

I've posted The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XVIII last night but it hasn't shown up. Maybe in the morning.

UPDATE: Edited this morning at 0611 CDT and reposted. My apologies to anyone that missed it..




 
The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XVIII

(Ed. – The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

My friends, I'm not sure I have the strength to Scourge adequately this evening, but a Scourge delayed is a Scourge denied, so I'll suck it up and proceed. Due to time and energy limitations, perhaps this should be considered a lower-case "s" scourge, but it will have to tide you over until I return. Must get up in 5 hours to go to work again and then drive to North Carolina for a long golf weekend near Pinehurst with some old friends. For my Axis of Weevil friends, I am a proud member of the Dixie Dog Boys and we'll be looking to open up another can off whup-ass on the Yankee scum from the North (mostly Northern Virginia -- but that's still the North to us).

Richard Cohen's column today is a tired, oft-repeated litany of complaints about the death penalty. I shant recount the many times we have rehashed these same arguments again here, so the burden must fall on the reader tonight to look through the archives for the past scourges if you want more info. This is the fifth Scourge to directly address the death penalty, so there's yet another reason for a minor scourge as we take on Cohen's death of faith in Ashcroft's Faith in Death:

Ray Krone owes his freedom to the simple fact that whoever killed Kim Ancona drooled on her. The killer also sexually assaulted her, but no semen was ever recovered, and he also bit her, leaving tooth marks that one expert in such matters said matched Krone's. As sometimes happens, another expert held another view -- but the jury was never told this. Krone was sentenced to die.

A sad case, no doubt. But mistakes like these are made in non-capital cases as well. And it's hard to argue that there isn't sufficient time to correct any problems since he had been waiting ten years for his sentence to be carried out. I don't mean to be glib, but the system isn't 2% as bloodthirsty as Richard paints it to be -- even in Texas.

Earlier this month, he became the 100th person freed from prison after having been on death row. He had already served 10 years before a DNA test proved that the saliva found on Ancona could not have been Krone's. He was free to go on his merry way -- and sorry about those 10 years, Ray.

I am sorry that he was wrongly convicted, but what's that got to do with the death penalty? All things considered, if he had got life, the holier-than-thou types might have never bothered pursuing the evidence that ultimately freed him. Would Richard Cohen have ever heard of Ray Krone then? Would he have cared?

What would have happened, you might wonder, had the actual killer just kept his mouth shut? In that case, you would have had your run-of-the-mill murder, a stabbing in which DNA played no role whatever -- nothing to prove, nothing to disprove. This is usually the case with murder. Shoot someone from the customary 10 paces, and you get no exchange of bodily fluids. If the wrong man is convicted, tough. The wrong man is executed.

In the last paragraph, Richard stated that 100 "convicted" men had been freed, so this beeline to execution hypothesis is a bit of a farce. And is Richard encouraging murderers to be more careful in their killing?

This reality is totally lost on John Ashcroft.

I feel more comfortable saying this fantasy is lost on John Ashcroft.

Since Ashcroft supposedly does not read newspapers, I can say what I want about him without hurting his feelings.

Richard Cohen, the compassionate knee-jerk liberal.

He's thick. What do I mean by that? I mean he's uneducable.

How is one supposed to rebut something like this? Let's see, Bush is stupid. Anybody who works for Bush is even more stupid. Ashcroft works for Bush. Therefore, Ashcroft is stupider than stupid Bush. Quod est demonstratum.

I mean he knows of all the studies done about capital punishment, including the one recently issued in Illinois, yet his confidence in capital punishment remains unshaken. The Illinois study concluded, if I may paraphrase, that the only way to ensure that no innocent person is ever executed is either to be God or do away with capital punishment.

Excellent! The classic utopian pitfall. Richard must have perfection or we can have nothing at all. I grow weary of having to refute the same nonsense over and over and over.

Only one is an option.

Ok, I choose to be God. Happy now?

Ashcroft is hearing none of this. He has, literally, a religious faith in capital punishment.

Is Richard drinking from the same water source as Paul Krugman these days?

Recently, Ashcroft announced the indictment of Darrell David Rice on four counts of murder, two for each of his alleged victims. Julianne Williams and Laura S. Winans were killed while camping in the Shenandoah National Park in 1996. Rice is currently in jail for another crime.

It is the government's intention to prove that the crime for which Rice has been convicted -- attempted abduction of a woman -- and the one for which he has been charged are linked by motive: He hates women and homosexuals. Maybe that's the case, and maybe Rice's alleged biases were a motive for the crime. But upon that "maybe" the government has constructed a capital case. After all, if it had hard evidence -- DNA, etc. -- it would not have waited until now to seek an indictment. Rice has been in jail since 1998. It seems instead that what the government lacks in evidence it will make up in motive. Rice is a hater. That's why he's a killer, too.

Possibly. But this use of a hate-crime provision to compensate for the lack of hard evidence is troubling. If, as it seems, the government is going to buttress its case by showing Rice hated women and homosexuals, it's going to have to resort to what witnesses say he said or -- maybe -- to the testimony of a jailhouse snitch. This is precisely the sort of evidence that eventually figures in the release of innocent people from death row. With Rice, though, DNA can never free him, because there is no DNA to begin with. Maybe he's guilty. But with the death penalty, why take the chance?


I wrote something attacking this disjointed logic, but deleted it since I think it was in really bad taste and I can't think clearly enough about it to be sure I want to be associated with it. Even I have limits. But suffice it to say that Richard just isn't clever enough to sneak by the implication that it's a game of chance when it comes to the death penalty.

One hundred men, once on death row and now free, can testify to the fact that the system is far from perfect. Another attorney general might pause and wonder about what this all means. Ashcroft does not pause at all. He thinks he is doing God's perfect work, but he is doing it, as we all must, as an imperfect man. He can be forgiven his mistakes.

It is getting real hard to stomach this blowhard at this point. I hope I'm never in a position where my fate depends on Richard Cohen divining my motives for some action.

He cannot be forgiven his arrogance.

Arrogance? John Ashcroft's flashlight of arrogance cannot be detected when placed next to the radiating luminescence of arrogance exuded by Richard Cohen. I'm not a fan of John Ashcroft, but does anyone in public life deserve to be slandered the way Richard Cohen treats him today? Given the hatred he admits he feels for the opponents of Bill Clinton over how they treated the Big He, how can Richard Cohen treat any of his opponents this way? Unless his moral certainty has intoxicated him to the point that his own arrogance seems justified, because God must be on his side -- whatever it is that God means to Richard Cohen.

Bottom line is that arguments need to be made against the system for determining guilt, not the application of the sentence. If Osama bin Laden is found and taken alive, should he be spared the death penalty because some indigent wanderer had a lawyer who fell asleep in Texas? This is absurd. The problem in this hypothetical is with the lawyer and the determination of guilt in that case, not with the death penalty per se in all cases. If I had more time and a clearer head I could probably attack this as a logic error of generalization from specific instances. Richard Cohen and like-minded people seem to base all their arguments against the death penalty on the necessity for the absolute avoidance of error. Hmm, by that logic, I guess civilian casualties in war must also be limited to zero, since they involve the death of innocents as well, and generally a hell of a lot more of them. Again, this is absurd. I have stated many times that there is a great need to tighten the rules for determining guilt in capital cases, but if a guilty verdict is reached, there are definitely crimes that merit the death penalty. And no amount of knee-jerk liberal hand-wringing is going to change that.

So give it a rest, Dick.




 

Mark Byron

Wrote a kind note here. This helps indicate why I do not try and compete with the current events specialists. I can't. I'd like to think I came up with the ideas independently, but there's no way to be sure since I've been in a daze most nights when I've gotten in and I haven't been able to peruse as many sites as thoroughly as I'd like lately.




 

... And the Sky is Still Dark

According to the War Liberal, CNN.com ran a story that said:

'Star Wars' could turn space into a wasteland - April 23, 2002

So, when did space stop being a vast wasteland?




 
Midwest Blogbash

It's all tentative, but nominally on or about 1900 CDT on May 17, at TNGs in Webster Groves, all the St. Louis area bloggers are going to have a do.

We would gladly welcome any bloggers from anywhere that would like to join us.

Current attendees are:

Charles Austin
J. Bowen
Juan Gato
Christopher Johnson
Mark Nugent

and a few other folks whose names I don't yet know...

Drop me a note and I'll add you to the list. See y'all soon!




 
Sun Not So Bright ...

According to Drudge, The UK Sun (no link now available) ran a headline about the french election titled Le Leper.

Wouldn't a headline of Le Per have made a lot more sense?




 
Twilight Zone

I'm only asking, because I know less about French electoral politics than most other things I freely pontificate on, but what happens if Chirac suddenly becomes incapacitated before the election? Is it possible that Le Pen could actually win somehow? And to be safe, let me be very clear that I do not in any way consider this possibility even remotely as a good thing.




 

Al Gore is Not a Small "d" Democrat

Let's get something clear. We are a nation of laws. We have rules and procedures for the conduct of public business and we do our best to follow them. We also do our best to improve the laws as best we can, realizing that they are not static or perfect. The laws regarding the presidential election were in place a long time ago, everyone knew what they were, and generally speaking, both sides did their best to accomplish their goals within the law.

Once again, Al Gore has made some reference to winning the popular vote in a speech in a way as to imply that this should make him president. This is despicable. Has it ever occurred to his woodenness that if the presidency was decided on the popular vote, that the strategy and tactics during the campaign would have been different? I know this isn't an original thought, but it bears repeating frequently. If the contest had been competed on those terms, there is no guarantee that Al Gore would have won the popular vote at all. I mean, why not just elect the president on the basis of the vote in Washington, D.C.? After all, that's the seat of the federal government and who should know more about who should be president?

I understand James Carville and other partisans trying to forward this idea that Bush is illegitimate because he didn't win the popular vote, but I cannot stomach it from Al Gore himself. There are many reasons to not want Al Gore to be president, but his Huey Long imitiation has to be about the best (or worst depending on your perspective) I've ever enountered.




 
Prelude to the Evening of a Scourge

It's Tuesday so it must be time for another Richard Cohen column on the death penalty. Richard is seriously running out of material, or he's just mailing them in, since every fifth column since the Scourge began in February has been about the great evil of capital punishment. As for the title of the column, "Aschroft's Faith in Death," Richard is, at best, only looking at one side of life's equation. I'm sure that Mr. Ashcroft would label himself pro-life if asked.

Hopefully my Blogspot archive problem will be fixed by this evening so I can take this one down.

And my apologies to the memory of Claude Debussy. See, not eveything French is bad.




Monday, April 22, 2002
 
Da Gall

According to the BBC, "Other" got much more than twice as many votes (47.08%) as Chirac (19.88%), Le Pen (16.86%), or Jospin (16.18%).

From this we may conclude:

(a) The two party system is a good thing.
(b) Chirac is almost as big a loser as Jospin.
(c) The French are as dumb as we think they are.
(d) The EU as a concept is starting to get a bit ripe.

I don't know too much about Le Pen, but I wonder if the best US analogy to him wouldn't be George Wallace before he was shot? What other explicit racist has garnered that much real support in the US since the US Civil War? While Pepe Le Pen may be in line with David Duke philosophicaly, David Duke's support is mostly a figment of the DNC's imagination. Even Pat Buchanan has never got that level of support in the US and while I think Pat is pretty far out there, he's probably not as bad as Le Pen.

And what does that say about the state of French society?

I think it's time the US starts treating Europe (but especially France) about the same way we treat Russia, China, India, and Pakistan. Why? Because:

(a) They are all socialist countries with nukes. This will get to be a problem as their declines worsen.
(b) None of them are really our friends. All of them would be happy to see the US fall.
(c) They have no moral superiority over the US. Puhleeze.
(d) Their best years are probably behind them. Except maybe for Russia, freedom is a difficult concept for them. Hard to believe, isn't it?
(e) They all have imperialistic ambitions over their neighbors. Yep.
(f) Most of this group firmly believes they are better than everyone else in the world. And with remarkably little cause.

Time to wake up and smell the coffee.

UPDATE: My friend Buzz writes:

I would like to add one other thing to your list of things we can conclude, and it should be at the top of the list.

(a) The electoral college is a very, very good thing.

One may argue that the two party system accomplishes the same thing. That may be partially true. However, the electoral college is the main substance and driving force (from a Presidential election standpoint) that protects our Republic from the radicalism we see in France and elsewhere in Europe. The two party system is merely the form that that substance has currently taken in the United States. Remember the Founders didn't set up a two party system, they set up a constitutional republic of sovereign states. The Democratic and Republican parties -- like the Libertarian, Green, Reform parties today, and the Whig and Federalist parties of yesterday -- are just means to organize like minded citizens.

In 1970, there was a major movement to abolish the electoral college in favor of direct election of the President. Here is a brief excerpt from the minority report, which was thankfully adopted. I found it interesting that Strom Thurmond was one of its authors. Looking at current events in Europe, and the 2000 election, the initial points seem rather prescient. We are not immune to the disease currently spreading in Europe, as your David Duke and George Wallace comments illustrate. However without the electoral college, we would have hundreds of David Dukes, and George Wallace (or someone like him) would have been a serious presidential candidate.

From the report: "Direct election of the President, we believe, would --
-- Destroy the two-party system and encourage the formation of a host of splinter parties;
-- Undermine the Federal system by removing the States as States from the electoral process;
-- Remove an indispensable institutional support for the separation of powers;
-- Radicalize public opinion and endanger the rights of all minorities by removing incentives to compromise;
-- Create an irresistible temptation to electoral fraud;
-- Lead to interminable electoral recounts and challenges;
-- Necessitate national direction and control of every aspect of the electoral process.

Direct election is a simple and easily communicable idea. ... Human hopes and fears are complex; politics is complex; and the Constitution is complex. Still, simplicity has its charms, and not the least of them is the capacity to conceal danger." -- from the 1970 Senate Judiciary Committee Minority Report on Direct Election of the President

The full report can be found here.


UPDATE UPDATE: Is this the "Other" that Edward Said has said we are afraid of?




 
Poor Zimbabwe

According to the United Nations World Food Program:

... more than 700,000 Zimbabweans are now facing hunger but it says the international community has been slow to respond.

But why so many are starving?

Severe drought and the redistribution of farming land have created widespread food shortages.

No one has learned to control the weather, but I think the international community has responded forcefully in dealing with the redistribution of farming land. Robert Mugabe has been prevented from travelling in the EU and had his bank accounts frozen, and let's not forget the very strong words used to condemn his actions.

So why are people still starving? Think real hard about why the redistribution of land is causing people to starve.




Sunday, April 21, 2002
 

Telephone Call for Ms. McArdle

Someone got to the site this evening by Googling "Megan McArdle." Cool, but what's weird is that since this site was #126 on that list, someone is going to great lengths to find out something about her.




 
Errata

Rereading this week's Scourges, I noticed that I had made several errors in spelling, several more in grammar, a mistake or two cross-referencing blogs, at least one historical error, and mixed more than few metaphors. Well, I won't apologize for the last one, but if anyone cares, I'll go back and revise them for posterity, noting each correction carefully.

Bottom line, you have a choice between Richard Cohen who writes to maintain his A-list dinner party reservations with near flawless rhetorical mechanics (most likely with the aid of a paid editor or two), but whose ideas would have a higher batting average if he flipped a coin to decide between right and wrong; or me writing frantically on a deadline for the love of the game with a quick once over trough bleary eyes to check for English 101 errors, but with ideas that have been tested in the harsh forge of reality since the last large black monolith appeared to our distant ancestors.

In the immortal words of MTV, Choose or Lose.




 
Mind If We Call You Arthur to Avoid Confusion?

I took the 'Which "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" Character Are You?' quiz and came out as King Arthur, as seemingly almost everyone else did. Perhaps it's an inside joke and all bloggers will be known as Arthur, just as all Australian philosphers are named Bruce.




 
Hey, You With the Potato Juice

The Blackhawks lost to the Blues again tonight and looked really bad in doing so. Must be some form of penis envy. Maybe this is Pejman's punishment for eating the pepperoni.




 
Meanwhile, in Harare ...

Robert Mugabe is doing his best to improve his situation by making sure that no bad news gets out:

Two newspaper editors and one reporter were arrested and charged this week: Geoff Nyarota, editor of the country's only independent daily, the Daily News, was charged under the new law for publishing a story that alleged Mr Mugabe's officials rigged the election; and Iden Wetherell, editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, and the paper's senior reporter, Dumisani Muleya, were charged under the new act for publishing a story about the Mr Mugabe's brother-in-law.

... (snip) ...

The government also prevented the top international analyst John Prendergast from entering Zimbabwe. The former advisor to Bill Clinton on African affairs, who is now with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels think tank, was refused entry to the country on Wednesday although he had a valid visa.


Not a top international analyst mind you, but THE top international analyst.

The UN HRC still can't seem to grasp that what is happening to Zimbabwe is not a good thing:

However, the 53-member UN human rights commission did not vote on a resolution on Zimbabwe, sponsored by the European Union, which criticises the allegedly rigged presidential election in March and political intimidation by the ruling party, after Nigeria blocked the discussion.

Come to think of it, why would the US want to be a memeber of this organization anyway?

Time for some more stern words, I suppose.

And if Hillary Rodham Clinton is named to the UN Human Rights Commission for the US someday, then she can be addresed the UN HRC HRC US.




 

Canadians! Respondez!

One of our many Canadian friends needs to explain David Suzuki to those of us South of the Border. (And no I am not referring to Pedro's.)

Here's a few choice excerpts:

"If you have a sports utility vehicle, you don't give a shit about the environment obviously"

"Canada is the only industrialized nation that does not massively subsidize public transportation. I just find that humiliating."

"I felt, all these years I've been warning people about what we're doing wrong, I have a responsibility now to say there's solutions"

"Is it not murdering people if you know that there's something that's killing them (Ed. note: Beware of what Mr. Suzuki thinks is killing people) and you don't take the steps that exist to save them?

"If we had proportional representation, government would be taking much more seriously the issues that environmentalists raise today."


But what about the gopher killers? Will they be allowed proportional representation as well?




 
Mon Dieu!

It would seem to me that the results of the election in a shitty middle-sized country have a lot less to do with the threat of Pepe Le Pen than the disgrace of Lionel Jospin. Perhaps, even the cheese eating surrender monkeys are beginning to see that the socialist emperor has no clothes -- and what a dreadful sight it is! Maybe this excerpt from an opinion piece by Madeleine Bunting in the Wanker can give the intellegentsia a clue as to what went wrong:

Across Europe, a major battle is developing over work. How hard do you need to work? What kind of job security can you expect? How you organise the workplace, the kind of workforce you develop, the impact of those decisions on social capital (the care of children, the vibrancy of communities, the wellbeing of the population) - these are the threads of a debate that has gathered strength across Europe. They will have a significant impact on the next round of the French presidential elections and the German elections in the autumn, and they were dramatically demonstrated in Italy's general strike last week.

The conflict lies between those who argue that the European labour market must be reformed, that greater flexibility is desperately needed if Europe is to close the gap with the US whose GDP is more than 25% above that of the EU, and create the jobs needed to bring unemployment down. The European Central Bank spelled out what it meant by flexibility in a report last month - it urged European governments to make it easier for employers to sack workers, allow higher wage differentials and reform tax and benefit systems to encourage people into work.

... (snip) ...

Thanks, but no thanks: if that is the price of creating wealth, a significant number of Europeans are stubbornly insisting that they are not interested. They argue that there are characteristics of their quality of life - time for their children, time for pleasure, a degree of social cohesion, security and continuity of communities - that they value more than higher GDP. The French proudly talk of a "right to be lazy" and one of Jospin's most significant achievements was the 35-hour week.


But strangely enough, after cataloging the nonsense that has depressed the EU job market, Ms. Bunting goes on to argue that Britain should chuck the whole US managemetn style down the drain (because it's done nothing for them!) and resort to a more continental approach to wage labor. Amazing, but a desire to go down the toilet economically is not limited to the continent.

But let's keep kicking the French while they're down, shall we? Clare Short (the UK's International Development Secretary) fries the French with an accusation of genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda:

Short was being interviewed for the political magazine Prospect, to be published this week, when it appears she lost her temper with the journalist writing the article, Richard Dowden. Dowden is a highly respected expert on African politics and has discussed the continent's developmental issues with officials at Downing Street. Dowden asks Short about Britain's attitude to the Tutsis, who are now largely in control of the Rwandan government and have invaded large parts of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. He suggested that Britain is turning a blind eye because they were the victims of the 1994 genocide. 'You just want the government to fail,' Short says. 'It's people like you and the French who create genocides in Africa. That's disgusting. What you are saying is completely wrong; you haven't done your homework.' Dowden reports that Short then threatened to have him thrown off the plane.

Thrown off the plane? Damn prols don't know their station, right Clare?

I'm certainly not going to defend Ms. Short, but read this:

Short is believed to be saying in public what many members of her department believe in private. France has been repeatedly accused of backing the Hutu-dominated government in Rwanda and, most damagingly, of giving it military support during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. Three months after the killing began, it sent 2,500 troops to western Rwanda to establish a safe area for the Tutsis but was accused of actually using the force to prop up the Hutu regime. Although the French government refused to comment on the article yesterday, it is known to be extremely sensitive over the issue.

So it's ok for the Hutu's to have a de facto death penalty, but not ok for the US to have a de jure death penalty. Sacre bleu!






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