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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Saturday, June 21, 2003
 
I'm Not Really a Lawyer

But I'll be playing one all week over at Ipse Dixit while Dodd saunters off to Belize.

Hmm, let's see if I can rig the Caption Contest for this week...



Friday, June 20, 2003
 
Remember, Bloggers Aren't Journalists

Seems to me we can keep reading journalists and pundits pontificate on the relationship between blogging a capital-J-journalism, or we can keep doing what we do and let the chips fall where they may. I am again reminded of a quip in the book The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder, where the head of Data General made a commercial (never aired) where he said something to the effect of, "Some say that IBM's entry into the microcomputer market legitimizes it. The bastards say, 'welcome'." No, we aren't journalists, but I don't regard that as a bad thing.

Way to go Mr. Simon.



Thursday, June 19, 2003
 
The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. LXXXVII

(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.)

Fifty years ago today Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage. On the way home from work, I listened while NPR did a bit of a puff piece on them with their son Robert Meeropol. He acknowledged that at least one of them were probably engaged in espionage, though he was quite elusive about which one, bouncing back and forth at times implying it was one or then the other. But he was quite certain that they were not guilty of passing the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. I don’t recall the word TRAITOR coming up at all in the discussion, though Michele Norris couldn’t quite keep her leftist sympathies from coming through. She wondered whether Mr. Meeropol was catching any grief from some folks about even admitting that perhaps his parents were anything less than completely innocent. Well, duh. Only the red Kool-Aid drinkers can ignore evidence from the Soviet Archives that leave little doubt as to the Rosenberg’s guilt. Problems associated with the trial don’t lessen their guilt or absolve them of their crimes. They deserved to die and they did. Some of the responsibility for the blood of so many throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia for 35 years after their executions also falls on their souls.

I’m not going to give Mr. Meeropol a hard time. I have no doubt that he has had a hard life through no fault of his own, and he’s probably been exposed to nothing but propaganda for most it. I really do feel for him. As for the hard-nosed journalists of NPR, that’s another matter. They have no excuse for pandering to the disgraced martyrs of the left. As a result, I’m swearing off NPR for a month. A puff piece on the Rosenbergs is just too much to swallow. The daily commute goes back to CDs for a while. And, of course, any expectation they had of getting any more money is gone.

Which brings us to Richard Cohen. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that he picked today of all days to open another can of whiny ass about the death penalty in Case of Conscience in New York:

CERNOBBIO, Italy

Ah, another place Richard goes, but I cannot. Richard must be homesick.

Here on the shores of Lake Como, Mario Cuomo is attending an international conference.

I guess Mario has a lot of free time to search for Perry and Luigi since the demise of his syndicated radio gig. I guess the competition is pretty tough when the same message is available on all the over-the-air television news stations, most daily newspapers, and taxpayer-funded NPR. I can’t wait for GoreTV!

I sought out Cuomo because of something that just happened back in his home state. Three men were freed on bond after serving 18 years in jail for a rape and murder they probably did not commit.

Probably. Richard and I have to hedge a bit here. I’ll hedge because if these men are innocent then it’s another tragedy that we need to rectify as best we can and try to see that it doesn’t happen again. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Dick to suggest that perhaps they are guilty.

Cuomo long opposed the death penalty.

As is his prerogative as a free citizen of this country.

The New York case is an example of why.

We’ll see.

The crime, back in 1984, was just the sort that often draws the death penalty. A 16-year-old girl, Theresa Fusco, was found raped and murdered. The previous year another girl, Kelly Morrissey, 15, had disappeared while heading for a video-game parlor. She had been a friend of Fusco's. Some months later, a third young woman, Jacqueline Martarella, 19, also disappeared in the same Long Island area as the other two. Her body was later found.

Sounds like the death penalty is warranted if the perpetrators are apprehended and convicted.

The police arrested three men, and after a lengthy interrogation (18 hours) one of them confessed. He said he and the two other men had picked up Fusco at a roller rink and driven her to a nearby cemetery. There, two raped her and a third -- the one who confessed -- strangled her. They then dumped the body. They were sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

I thought this was about the death penalty? Jeez, if Dick's going to rant and rave about the injustice of the death penalty, could't he at least find a case where it applied?

What followed has become depressingly familiar. The confession was recanted. The three men insisted on their innocence and spurned plea bargains. After their convictions, their case was joined by sympathetic lawyers and organizations, including the Centurion Ministries and the indefatigable Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project. Altogether, four DNA tests were conducted on semen found in the dead woman. The last, conducted about two years ago and using more advanced techniques, eliminated all three men. None of them had raped Fusco.

But I’m still a little hazy on whether or not they murdered her. I’m sure there was more evidence than this, but who knows? Richard Cohen won’t bother to tell us, although he did give a hint earlier when he would only go so far as to say that they “probably” didn’t kill her.

This was precisely the sort of crime -- the rape and murder of a young woman -- that, in another state at another time, might have resulted in the death penalty. But Cuomo, who was governor at the time, opposed capital punishment.

And how many murderers of whom they is absolutely no doubt as to their guilt were let live due to the principled magnaminence of Governor Cuomo?

Seven times over the course of his three terms he vetoed death penalty bills.

This almost sounds biblical. I can picture Charlton Heston as Moses saying this dramatically as he stares off into the distance.

He was pilloried for that, and it was used against him by George Pataki in Pataki's winning 1994 campaign.

How dare Governor Cuomo be criticized for a good illiberal position! Damn the proles and what they want!

It's hard to say that he lost on account of it -- and Cuomo does not claim as much -- but it helped his adversaries paint him as a hopeless liberal, soft on crime and all of that.

Seven coats of hopeless liberalism were applied during three terms of softness on crime.

Here in Europe, the death penalty has been almost repealed.

Except for the innocent victims of murderers and genocidal maniacs.

There are many explanations for that, including the fact that in recent history it has been abused for political reasons -- Nazis, communists, etc.

Et cetera? In recent history?

But when it was eliminated, it still was supported by majorities in most countries -- although that is not the case today.

But I thought popular will was bad. Isn’t that what got Governor Cuomo thrown out on his ear?

The difference between America and Europe is that politicians -- protected somewhat by a parliamentary system -- did what they are supposed to do: lead.

Oh yes. And which European leadership are we admiring today? Blair and Berlusconi? Or Chirac and Schroeder?

In America, politicians have followed the polls, the money, the talk-show bombasters -- anything but their own consciences.

You see, if you disagree with Richard Cohen, you cannot be wrong, you must be evil.

Cuomo understands. He was a politician himself.

As long as Socrates was mortal, I think Dick thinks Mario was evil.

Still, he points out that political conservatives, who don't think the government can do anything right, trust it to take a life.

If political conservatives don’t think the government can do anything right, why is federal spending rising 9% this year? But are we a government of the people or not? Jeez, if they can't be honest with themselves, how do we expect them to be honest with us?

Only when it comes to capital punishment does the system operate perfectly.

I dare anyone to find me an instance of any elected conservative saying the justice system works perfectly. What an illiberal utopian statist ass.

Such is the thinking, if it can be called that, of George Bush himself.

Such are the straw men of Richard Cohen.

No one has presided over as many executions as he did as governor of Texas -- and with as little doubt about guilt and as much faith in his own righteousness.

Texas – bad. Executions – bad. Faith – bad. Righteousness – bad. Did I miss anything?

DNA testing proves, as Cuomo has long maintained, that capital punishment is nothing less than "a willingness to take innocent life."

Proves? Proves?

Any politician knows that -- or by now ought to.

So any politician who opposes the death penalty is stupid, or evil, or both. But we already knew that.

About 130 former prisoners -- many of them once on death row -- have been freed by DNA testing.

Good! Sounds like we are doing what we can to make our system of justice as good as we can. Dick prefers to ignore the non-utopian standard of guilt of beyond a reasonable doubt, where mistakes can sometimes be made.

Some of them confessed. Some were fingered by witnesses. Yet none of them committed the crime for which he was convicted.

That statement is a little too bold. With the mistakes that have been found in the DNA labs of the FBI that led to false positives, isn’t it possible that there have been mistakes in other labs that led to false negatives? Especially where there might be an incentive to find a negative result? I’m not saying this is what happened, only that a DNA mismatch is not necessarily evidence of innocence.

The case of the three New York men is complicated, and Cuomo cautioned me not to jump to any conclusions.

But why stop now?

Yet it is a fact that none of them raped Fusco, and what once seemed so certain is now a muddle.

Maybe they didn’t rape her. or perhaps it was these three men and some others. And clearly there must be some other damning evidence here, or Richard would be jumping to more conclusions quicker than this.

Who knows what happened?

So let’s just give up on the justice system shall we?

I asked Cuomo whether he felt he had saved lives. He demurred.

Perhaps Mario is more familiar with George Ryan’s acts than Richard Cohen seems to be. Even Illinois' new Democratic Governor was appalled.

But the fact remains that he set a standard for political courage that most American politicians cannot even begin to meet.

Puhleeze.

Some of them, of course, genuinely favor capital punishment -- I am convinced of Bush's sincerity, for instance.

Oh? Surely Dick hasn’t already forgot these words: Only when it comes to capital punishment does the system operate perfectly. Such is the thinking, if it can be called that, of George Bush himself. No one has presided over as many executions as he did as governor of Texas -- and with as little doubt about guilt and as much faith in his own righteousness.

But when faced with the choice, they would prefer the death of the occasional innocent person to that of their own careers.

Or maybe, they believe their “careers” are best helped by honoring the oaths of office each took to uphold and enforce the law – even if they don’t agree with it. To equate that with self promotion over the corpses of innocents is reprehensible.

They are not soft on crime. They are hard in the heart.

And Dick’s not hard on crime. He’s soft in the head.



Wednesday, June 18, 2003
 
Insert Meta-Corruption Joke Here

God, it's going to be fun to watch the EU Constitution take shape over the coming years. Vee have vays of making you not talk:

A Paris court last night halted publication of a book by a former investigating magistrate that claims France is institutionally corrupt.



 
I Want My GoreTV

Now look at them yo-yo's,
That's the way you do it.
You spin the public on the GoreTV.
Aw that ain't workin',
That's the way you do it.
Not knowin' nothin'
And your lunch for free.
Naw, that ain't workin,
That's the way you do it.
Let me tell you,
These guys are dumb.
Maybe put Al Franken up against Rush Limbaugh.
Maybe bore the audiences numb.

We gotta keep Estrada and Owens
From Supreme Court vacancies
We gotta win back the House and Senate
We gotta beat Bush and Cheney

Some little maggot just a shriekin' with a Snakehead.
Yea, buddy, that's his own forehead.
That little maggot just a railin' 'gainst the rich folks.
That little maggot, he's a millionaire.

We gotta keep Estrada and Owens
From Supreme Court vacancies
We gotta win back the House and Senate
We gotta beat Bush and Cheney

I shoulda learned to respect freedom.
I shoulda learned there's nothing wrong with guns.
Look at that Hillary,
She got it stickin' in the camera.
Man, we could have some fun.
And who's up there, what's that?
French-looking hoser?
He's banging on the Pres'dent
Like a chimpanzee.
Aw, that ain't workin,
That's the way you do it.
Not knowin' nothin',
And your lunch for free.

We gotta keep Estrada and Owens
From Supreme Court vacancies
We gotta win back the House and Senate
We gotta beat Bush and Cheney

DOWNDATE: My muse finished. Any chance we could get Mark Knopfler and Sting to re-record this classic?



 
Smell the Desperation

Times are getting hard for single-digit candidates:

Kerry says Bush misled Americans on war

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Wednesday that President Bush broke his promise to build an international coalition against Iraq's Saddam Hussein and then waged a war based on questionable intelligence.

Is he calling President Bush stupid again? Seems to me we did have an international coalition, unless the French-looking Senator requires French participation to merit an "internationale" label. As to the questionable intelligence, has everyone at the UNSCOM been lying all these years? Keep talking, big-hair man. When the bad stuff shows up, you're going to look stupid. Sorry, I mean even more stupid. But how "presidential" is this?

Kerry said it is too early to conclude whether or not war with Iraq was justified.

Stunning, isn't it. Makes you wonder how bad it would have to be to be clearly justified in Senator Kerry's eyes. But he still wants it both ways:

Kerry supported the war and said Wednesday, ''I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone.''

Such a bold stand. Even if it isn't justified.

DOWNDATE: I think what the haughty French-looking Senator from Massachussetts, who incidentally served in Vietnam, is trying to say is that it is a good thing that Saddam Hussein has been deposed but that he wouldn't have done it based upon the evidence he's seen, his vote in the Senate on the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein notwithstanding. Nor were the mass graves, children's jails, snuff films, torture chambers, and other miscellaneous evils of Saddam and the Baathist regime of Iraq sufficient justification for their removal, even though he's glad there gone. I thought it was Vermont Governor Howard Dean's schtick to say he guesse it is a good thing that Saddam is gone. I assume we could count on a haughty French-looking President Kerry, who incidentally served in Vietnam, to wait for another attack on US soil before responding since it is apparently beyond his feeble grasp of of logic and WMD technology to imagine that an attack could be planned and executed in a matter of months, if not weeks, if we allowed insane dictators to operate without intereference. So, what exactly is the apporach of the haughty French-looking Senator from Massachussetts, who incidentally served in Vietnam, toward disarming North Korea before they do something insane? I'm not worried about Iran. That problem will be solved long before I wake up in a cold sweat from a nightmare that the haughty French-looking Senator, who incidentally served in Vietnam, has managed to win a majority of the electoral college votes.



 
Moose Pinched

No, this one isn't about puerile management fads at the NY Times.



 
But the Inspectors Only Needed a Couple More Months...

Anybody remember that argument? Here's why it didn't hold water:

In the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle, the still air soars to 130 degrees and sweat stains the soldiers' desert camouflage uniforms as they patrol central Iraq, hunting for insurgents. When the ramp door drops, the soldiers scramble into the blinding sun and a hot wind fails to cool them through body armor and helmets.

Keep in mind that our soldiers' fear of chemical or biological attacks is much, much lower now than it would have been if we had waited a couple more months. The impracticality of wearing the HazMat suits in this weather wasn't overlooked by anybody. The duplicitous (to use a felicitous phrase of Alexander Haig's) French and their Axis of Weasel allies still piss me off.

Don't forget our troops who are still doing the right thing under harsh conditions a long way from home.




 
We'll Always Have Paris...

Chris Johnson went into irony overload when he read this from Reuters (where else?):

20 percent of Germans said they would be more likely to visit France due to its anti-war position

Perhaps the other 80% aren't exactly worried about a bellicose France anyway.

Submit your best riposte to this snippet of non-news in the comment section.



 
What a Maroon

If Orrin Hatch got his way and the government sanctioned the destruction of your computer for downloading music after two warnings to cease and desist, how long would it be before we saw a virus whose sole "evil" act was to download music to your computer to trigger the government sanctioned destruction of your computer? And couldn't this virus then be used in an information warfare scenario to cripple the Internet and disable the computers of civil governments, businesses, and even the defense infrastructure which is dependent on the Internet these days?

Maybe Orrin needs to retire to the House of Lords where he can discuss the unwanted proliferation of potted meat in his mailbox with other "learned" men ignorant of the technology they wish to control.



Monday, June 16, 2003
 

Woo Hoo!

I won again, though it was a weak effort in a weak week. But this week's contest ought to bring forth some inspired entries.



 

Back...

The anniversary is over, though the kids are staying with my parents for a week, so maybe the party's not over for another week!

We started by dropping the kids off with my parents who live about 10 miles outside of Jackson, TN -- where the tornadoes hit about 5 weeks ago. The tornadoes hit some of the same areas hit about three years ago and some of the same homes that had been previously destroyed and rebuilt then were hit hard again this time. But this group of tornadoes did even more damage, devastating an old part of town and wiping out a large section of low-income housing. Seeing it 5 weeks on, it is truly amazing that larger numbers of people weren't killed, over and above the 13 that did perish. I've seen the aftermath of tornadoes many times, but this was as wide a path of devastation as I've ever seen. Striking as it did in the evening, the commercial enterprises that were demolished had few, if any, employees there or the casualty figures would also have been much, much worse. A heavily-wooded golf course I had played on many times was also destroyed, with over 1,800 trees felled and most of the rest severely damaged. I only mention the golf course because it was shocking how badly the tornado mangled a "natural" area. Kind of puts a damper on thoughts of a celebration when you see how many houses are still missing roofs or significant parts after more than a month and knowing how many families have been hurt. I have to put in a nice word for FEMA as well, with what they are doing and how they are helping out in Jackson and the surrounding areas. Even so, this small town in Tennessee and the surrounding rural areas are going to be a long time recovering from this tragedy. Just something to remember as you watch the next set of tornadoes somewhere in the US on the Weather Channel this week or next.

Anyway, we were going to have a subdued anniversary, having planned a family vacation to San Diego later this summer, so we just took a few days in Memphis to eat, drink, and relax. I've been to Memphis several times before, though I've never really spent much time there. The last time I remember going there was for Bear Bryant's last game when Alabama played Illinois (my alma mater) in the Liberty Bowl back in 1982. I won't digress this time, though I am tempted...

I'm sure I might get an argument from some folks, but we couldn't find any reason to stay in Memphis for more than about two days. Get your ribs at Rendezvous or the Blues City Cafe, hang out on Beale Street (or is it Beale Block now?), visit a couple small museums -- Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park and the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, drive over the bridge into Arkansas and come back to see the Memphis skyline, tour Mud Island if you like -- we didn't, watch the duck walk at the Peabody Hotel, and take the tour through the Elmwood Cemetery. Deeply repressed longings that I have for my roots, we weren't going to pay $50 to see Graceland either. Shoot, all I have to do is attend a family reunion to see Elvis impersonators, clothes and cars from the 60's, and other related memorabilia.

Beale Street was a major letdown after spending time in the blues bars in Chicago, New Orleans, and even St. Louis. I'm sure it was great at one time, but now it's maybe 2-1/2 blocks that don't draw name acts, much less locals or tourists. We saw Ruby Wilson, the Queen of Beale Street, at B. B. King's Blues Club, and it was fun, but without enough other quality acts up and down the street to warrant the reputation Beale Street has managed to keep. But what really disturbed me were the 14 parked police cars and literally dozens of police officers patrolling a three block area. There must have been 1 policeman for every 10-15 non-policeman there at the busiest times on Friday. This is not an inspiring thing, and I doubt that the civic cost to the community is worth it for the limited tourist dollars it brings in. Memphis can't even do sleaze real well, squandering the best thing it had (outside of Graceland) for tourism.

There was a lot of renovation going on in the area, so maybe Memphis will have a lot more to do and see in 10-15 years. They'll at least have a new arena for the Memphis Grizzlies -- who now have an oxymoron of a name to rival the Utah Jazz -- with the construction of FedExForum scheduled for 2004. Linda thought that they are really wasting the riverfront, though perhaps the Mississippi is just a little too volatile to try to make too much out of it.

It was still good to get away and as time permits I should be able to get a little more blogging in this week. I'll also take a whack at all the e-mail that's been piling up and try to respond to the folks that were kind enough to leave comments and pleasantries.

Later...




 

The Real Reason Gephardt Stepped Down As House Minority Leader

U.S. stocks end sharply higher on recovery hopes

Of course, why's he's still running for president with the stock market booming is a mystery.

DOWNDATE: Especially considering this:

Missouri Republicans are taking delight in a statewide poll by Research 2000 of Rockville, Maryland. The survey, conducted for KOMU-TV in Columbia, shows President Bush would emerge the winner in the state in a head-to-head presidential match-up with native son Richard Gephardt of St. Louis. According to the poll, Bush has the support of 52-percent of those surveyed, compared to 38-percent for the Congressman. What particularly satisfies Republicans is the demographic breakdown. Bush leads 49-percent to 40-percent against Gephardt among women. Bush also leads Gephardt in St. Louis - 48-percent to 41-percent.

Those last two sentences are stunners and are beginning to make me wonder if we aren't about to witness a huge sea change in the makeup of Congress in the next election.



 

US To World: "Bite Me"

Poll suggests world hostile to US

The funny thing is that they still think we care what they think.





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